As if it's already late January...it is a rough time of the year as holidays are way in the rear-view mirror yet most are still broke from buying gifts. Amidst the misery, January's end does bring in one bright spot - Royal Rumble time, baby! The Rumble is without question the most unique event of the year. Pinfalls and submissions are out the window as the ring is flooded with wrestlers who must be tossed over the top ropes one by damn one. There's certain Rumble tendencies that happen year after year, yet we still look forward to them. Hiding under the ring and then re-appearing a half hour later as if nothing happened is a personal favorite.
There's also huge implications for the winner of the Rumble as it's a prelude to WrestleMania. The last man standing is awarded a title shot at 'Mania and is billed as the headliner of the event. This year's stipulation is different as Roman Reigns' title will be on the line in the Rumble itself. This is the first time this has even happened since the Rumble's inception in 1988 (Rumble '92 was for a vacated title). The reason for this could be because this year's edition of the Royal Rumble is "extra" special, or simply because all their major stars have either left or are injured and ratings are down, and they don't know what to do anymore (you be the judge).
Nevertheless, being the headliner at WWE's biggest event of the year is a tremendous vote of confidence by the company. This is why "a random" can never win the Rumble (with the odd, horrendous exception when Vince McMahon won). There's however been more than a few Superstars that have been overlooked and have never won a Royal Rumble match. Think about it, there's 30 wrestlers in the rumble and there's only one winner. There's bound to be some high-level wrestlers that have slid through the cracks and never won.
Here are the top 15 superstars that have never won the Royal Rumble.
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15 Sgt. Slaughter
The most impressive thing about "Sarge" was his longevity. Wrestling fans are very fickle and lose patience quickly. Slaughter was a fixture in the wrestling industry from the late 1970s all the way to the early 1990s. He feuded with so many legends, including Pat Patterson, The Iron Sheik, Bob Backlund, and Hulk Hogan. When a wrestler is constantly involved in feuds with the top dogs of the company, it's a testament to their talent. Unfortunately for younger fans, the Sgt. Slaughter gimmick is a bit of a joke because in recent memory, whenever he'd storm the ring in his classic G.I Joe outfit, he'd be on the receiving end of a beat down. But the truth is that Slaughter was no joke, and at one point his popularity was even rivaling Hogan's. Amidst all his success, he never won a Royal Rumble.
14 Kevin Nash
As an unwritten rule, the bigger wrestlers never win the Royal Rumble (with the exception of The Undertaker). The commentator always boldly questions: "how can they possibly get this guy over the top ropes?"...and then it happens. It would actually be a curve-ball and a half if a bigger guy won at this point.
Kevin Nash had limited wrestling abilities but he worked well within his means. He had a great look and knew how to work the crowd. He was also the beneficiary of working with top tier talent like Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and The Undertaker. Considering his limitations, he had a fantastic career but there always seemed to be better alternatives.
13 Bob Backlund
The smiley-faced, clean cut Backlund is often left out of the discussion when discussing all-time greats. While he's billed as "the guy before Hogan," he still had an insane 5 year and 8 month title reign between 1978 and 1983. Backlund was a fantastic worker but was a victim of bad timing as his major successes took place before the Rumble's inception in 1988.
Backlund went on hiatus in the late 1980s and only returned to WWE in 1992. At this point, the industry had changed so much, and his plain baby-faced gimmick wasn't cutting it anymore as wrestling had kind of passed him by. At the 1993 Royal Rumble however, Backlund absolutely "killed it" as he lasted over 60 minutes before being tossed out, a record that stood for 11 years.
If the Rumble was around when Backlund was in his prime, he likely would have won one. But we can't operate with "if's," only facts.
12 Daniel Bryan
Did the fans push for Bryan to win last year's Royal Rumble? Yes! Yes! Yes! Did he win? NO! NO! NO! The fans got behind Bryan and supported him like no other. He actually wasn't even one of the final participants in the match as he was tossed fairly early. When his feet hit the floor, you could hear a pin drop. The silence then turned into rage as the fans were booing the rest of the Rumble (not even The Rock was immune from the boo's).
Daniel Bryan was so "over" with the fans and was on the cusp of greatness. It's such a shame that injuries have derailed his career because he was on his way to being truly special. Regardless of the injuries though, Bryan was healthy for this event and was still passed over for Roman Reigns.
11 The Ultimate Warrior
Since Warrior's passing just under two years ago, a lot has been written about him in regards to his legacy. Personally, the Warrior was a jerk. He ignored his fans (even a terminally ill child, according to Bret Hart's autobiography). He wasn't liked by his co-workers, and basically burned an entire bridge with WWE for over a decade. In regards to his success and ability to draw money, Warrior was a megastar and was even rivaling Hulk Hogan in the early '90s. For someone who didn't actually care about the crowd, he certainly knew how to gage reactions and could work it as well as anyone.
Despite all his successes, he actually only partook in two Royal Rumble matches (1988 and 1990). Most of his one-on-one contests were "squash matches" as he would blitz whom ever was placed in front of him (much like Goldberg, later on). This concept didn't translate into the Royal Rumble as he was never even a factor.
10 Eddie Guerrero
VIVA LA RAZA!
Eddie Guerrero is a Superstar that really found his niche later on his career. He certainly should have won a Royal Rumble because it would have tied in perfectly with his "we lie, we cheat, we steal" gimmick. The WWE creative team traditionally catches a lot of flak but they deserve credit for this one. Guerrero also played the role so perfectly as he'd improvise and cleverly find new ways to cheat in every single match. It was so well-done that it got to the point where they had to turn him into a "face" because the crowd was cheering for him regardless of his heel status. A wrestling crowd certainly appreciates good work, the same concept happened with the Rock in the late '90s. He was such a proficient heel that the crowd started to embrace him, and the rest is history.
Imagine how entertaining a Royal Rumble would have been where Guerrero could have worked his magic and found loop holes all the way until the end.
9 Ted DiBiase
A victim of the "Hogan Era." He was a victim in a sense that he would rarely catch wins on a big stage versus the Hulkster, but still benefited in a sense that he had the platform to perform on.
"The Million Dollar Man" will go down as one of the greatest heels of all time. He was so successful at his gimmick that he never really needed to stray from it. Unfortunately, it was an era where heels didn't win "the big one." The fans were told to "say your prayers, eat your vitamins," and the good guy would ultimately prevail. He did have a memorable Royal Rumble appearance in 1990 when he entered #1 and lasted 45 minutes. He had allegedly bought his #30 spot the previous year. As we all know: "everybody's has a price."
8 Andre the Giant
On the first entry, we spoke about how big men don't win the Royal Rumble. Well, Andre was the biggest of the biggest, standing at 7'4 and well over 500 pounds. The problem with being that big is that you're labeled as "the attraction" rather than "the guy." Take his match with Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III for example. He is always going to be remembered as the giant man that got slammed by Hogan as people barely even remember what happened in the match itself.
Don't get it twisted, when it comes to big wrestlers, Andre was in a class of his own and is the standard that all big wrestlers are measured against. But he was still never looked at as the man that could carry the company as the likes of Hogan, Bruno Sammartino, and Bob Backlund were always ahead of him during his tenure.
7 Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho spent the bulk of his WWE career a smidgen away from being the top dog. It was arguably the toughest time in the modern era for a wrestler to make his mark because of the volume of talent that was around. Take it back almost 16 years ago when Jericho started out (wait, what? Yes, 16 years!). The WWE roster included The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, Kurt Angle, The Undertaker, and Mick Foley (who was on his way out). Even when WWE finally gave Jericho the ball and made him Undisputed Champion, he was still never entrusted as "the guy" and did not receive the greatest push. It also explains why he was never chosen to win a Royal Rumble.
6 Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle made his WWE debut in the same period as Jericho and is arguably one of the most undervalued wrestlers of all time. He was underrated because he very rarely had an "off" match, even when he was ravaged by injuries, and he also delivered these epic matches with just about everyone. Angle had feuds with all the top tier talent that was just mentioned above (with the exception of Foley, had he not retired, he probably would have had fantastic matches with him too). He also had 5-star matches that flew under the radar such as his tilt with Chris Benoit at WrestleMania X-Seven and his match with Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 21.
Alright, no more a** kissing for Angle. It is astonishing when you consider how many former champions he feuded with that he never won a Royal Rumble...it's true, it's true.
5 CM Punk
It's an utter shame that wrestling is without Punk. He is as close as it comes to the modern day "perfect wrestler." Nowadays, a wrestler's ability to cut a promo or have a 15 minute trash-talk segment with other wrestlers is just as important as in-ring ability, and CM Punk was masterful at both aspects. One unique thing about Punk's mic work was that on many occasions, nobody could tell if it was part of the show or if he was "shooting." He cut arguably the best promo of all-time where he ripped pretty much everyone and his microphone got cut off as they went off the air.
He was also spectacular in the ring as he was constantly adding variations and twists to old moves. He'd also subtly incorporate stuff that he saw in MMA and use it in his matches. For example, he did the "failed spinning back-fist" that his friend Chael Sonnen attempted against Anderson Silva.
Even when he went on a crazy title-run, John Cena was still the face of the company and Punk didn't feel like he got his due. He was passed up in the WrestleMania main event in favor of The Rock vs. Cena...and was also passed up as a potential Royal Rumble winner.
4 Mick Foley
People may be surprised about how high Mick Foley ranks on this list. He was way more than a "glorified stuntman" as Ric Flair put it. Foley was a wrestler that took pride in making his opponents better. He was also one of the few wrestlers who would be would be willing to take obscene amounts of punishment in order to do so. We all know about his Hell In A Cell match with The Undertaker, but let's look at his body of work. Triple H was on the cusp of being a major Superstar, but his matches/feud with Foley catapulted him. The Street Fight and Hell In A Cell matches that these two put on were incredible. The same could be said for The Rock in that he became a major star after his feud with Foley (poor old Mick took 10 chair shots to the head in the process). Despite all his successes, he never won a Royal Rumble.
3 Scott Hall
It baffles people when they think of the duds that have held the WWE Championship at some point, yet a tremendously talented and popular Superstar never even got a sniff at the belt, or a Royal Rumble victory for that matter. Granted, Hall battled (and still does) major personal demons and may not have been the most dependable guy to make champion. But the fact that he was overlooked didn't bother him, to quote Hall in a recent interview on Chael Sonnen's podcast: "I never wanted it all...I just wanted a lot".
It was such a good quote that Sonnen immediately proclaimed to the original "bad guy" that he was stealing it, to which Hall had no objections. Despite his substance abuse issues, he didn't seem to miss a beat in the ring as he was a multiple time Intercontinental Champion and put on arguably the best Ladder match of all time with Shawn Michaels. Hall got "a lot" indeed, including a lot of money. But no Royal Rumble victory.
2 "Rowdy" Roddy Piper
It's a bit of a mystery as to why "Hot Rod" never won a Royal Rumble. As we saw in Scott Hall's case, the fact that he had a substance abuse issue likely played a role in the decision to never fully push him. But with Piper, it's not as if they didn't trust him in the main event at WrestleMania as it was quite the opposite. He actually headlined the first ever WrestleMania in a tag-team matched that featured he and Paul Orndorff vs. Hulk Hogan and Mr. T.
You can teach a hip-toss, drop-toe hold or a DDT to someone, but you simply cannot teach charisma, and Piper oozed with it. How good was he at engaging the audience? So good that he got his own freaking talk-show! Numerous wrestlers have tried to emulate "Piper's Pit" with their own spin on it, but nothing can compare. It would have been cool to see him win a Royal Rumble and get mercilessly booed out of the building.
1 "Macho Man" Randy Savage
The Macho Man captivated so many people because his gimmick wasn't that far fetched from his actual personality. His legacy has been tarnished because up until his passing, WWE did their best to pretend that he did not exist. There are rumours as to why that is but we're not going to dabble with that (cough cough, ask Stephanie McMahon cough).
Throughout his career, he has won just about everything. He is a 2-time WWE Champion (and that's saying something, during the Hogan Era). He was the Intercontinental Champion and also won the 1987 King Of The Ring. His popularity was off the charts, but one thing that eluded him was success at the Royal Rumble, and was ridiculously thwarted by Yokozuna in the 1993 Rumble. Macho Man actually went for the pinfall after an elbow-drop. Yeah, a pinfall in a match where you can only win by tossing your opponent over the top rope (as the commentators love to point out over and over). Yoko kicked out and the "impact" was apparently too much for Macho as he want flying out of the ring. It looked so stupid. You deserved Better, Randy! RIP.
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