The Royal Rumble is probably one of the prime pay-per-view events in the WWE, as the excitement of the annual match builds up a sense of intrigue and anticipation for the crowd, who hope for their favorite superstar to book his ticket to Wrestlemania and cement himself as a top dog in the company.
Even though the Rumble match itself is full of entertainment--which includes surprise returns by former WWE superstars, debuts and a whole load of other stuff that keep us fixed to the edge of our seats--many times it disappoints because of the outcome, where a seemingly undeserving wrestler wins the match over someone far more deserving.
So what if the WWE hadn’t gone with their generic ideas and instead had gone with some of the more deserving wrestlers? The entire organization might look different today. With Royal Rumble now just months away, let’s take a look back at the years where the WWE pushed the wrong guy to win, and let's consider who should have won instead.
15 Dolph Ziggler - Royal Rumble 2012
Dolph Ziggler has been undermined by the WWE for years now, as he’s lost so many matches to the point that many don’t even care on placing a bet on him winning anymore. Ziggler has an impressive record in Royal Rumble matches, as he has featured in over 5 of the Royal Rumble matches but hasn’t seemed to win it in the end. 2012 was a perfect Rumble for Ziggler to go over and win the match, as he entered in the much optimistic number 18 and was having quite a year before that as a very good heel. Ziggler was in the match for almost 20 minutes and had 3 eliminations in his bag, before The Big Show came on and eliminated him, as Sheamus went onto win the Rumble. Sheamus winning didn’t make much sense and everyone hated it (inspite of him being a face) as WWE should’ve let Ziggler win the match and then go onto face Daniel Bryan for his title at WrestleMania 28, as the heel Ziggler and tweener Bryan could’ve pulled off a hell of a match and not the shoddy mistake that Bryan-Sheamus was. Even AJ could’ve turned heel on Bryan, letting him turn face early and Ziggler could’ve won the big title at the grandest stage of them all in a cheating manner, which would’ve greatly developed his character and reputation to himself.
14 British Bulldog - Royal Rumble 1995
The British Bulldog won it all in the WWE, but the WWE title always evaded him and even though the WWE had kept him in a strong light, they never pushed him to winning the WWE Title. Easily one of the better wrestlers of his time, The British Bulldog had the potential to carry himself as the first British WWE Champion and 1995 was one of the times he was peaking and should have gotten his opportunity at the big title. The Bulldog entered the Royal Rumble match at No #2 and stayed until the whole of the match before being eliminated by eventual winner, Shawn Michaels. Even though Michaels was amazing as a heel then, the WWE should’ve waited on him and had the Bulldog win the match in the end and go onto face Diesel for the WWE Championship in a match which would’ve been more hard-hitting and having the Bulldog win at the grandest stage of them all would’ve had a proud feeling for the Britishers and escalated WWE’s popularity in that area. The British Bulldog deserved this win and should’ve won the WWE title at WrestleMania XI, but had to step aside for the rise of Shawn Michaels which could’ve easily been delayed for sometime.
13 CM Punk - Royal Rumble 2009
When CM Punk voiced out that overdue rant in his “pipebomb” promo in 2011, many had this feeling that this was coming because of Punk constantly being under-pushed and stacked into weird story-lines which couldn’t have ever made for a main eventer. Punk should’ve originally been pushed way earlier, and having him win the Royal Rumble match would’ve broken him to stardom as he’d get quite a lot of eyes on him in that case. 2009 was a perfect year for it as the upcoming sensation of Punk was gaining ground in the main roster, and entering at no #18 they could’ve easily taken him to sneak his way into winning the Rumble. Having Orton win it was predictable and if Punk would have won, it would’ve sky-rocketed his popularity a lot and he could’ve replaced Big Show as the 3rd participant in the Triple Threat match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and even if he lost at Wrestlemania, he could’ve rode on the momentum of the Rumble win and eventually got his limelight push way earlier than 2011 and cemented a better legacy for himself.
12 Mr. Perfect - Royal Rumble 1991
Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig was an amazing innovator in the ring, as he pulled of some iconic moves at his time and was definitely one of the best wrestlers of his time, but couldn’t win the big gold because of the WWE not allowing him to. The Royal Rumble was probably the perfect way to sky-rocket him from a mid-carder to main-event status, as the 1991 Royal Rumble match was the stage for Mr. Perfect to become a bonified star. Entering at no #23, Mr Perfect was probably at his peak to win the Rumble match, but was eliminated after surviving 16 minutes in the match, as the golden boy of Vince McMahon Hulk Hogan went onto win the match for the second year running and went onto main event WrestleMania (AGAIN). Perfect needed to be pushed to the main-event level here and we could’ve seen a more iconic image of him if he went onto main event WrestleMania that year and even win the WWE title in the process, as WWE wasted their opportunities at making him into a bonified star at the time and Mr. Perfect remained as one of the most under-rated superstars of all time.
11 Wade Barrett - Royal Rumble 2011
Wade Barrett was another star who got completely ruined by the WWE towards the end, as he had really structured himself as this very good heel during his Nexus days as their leader, and even after being “buried” by John Cena later on, he managed to keep a good state to his character and looked main eventer quality for a long time. Barrett was always this mid-carder who didn’t get the kick-start to the main event status, but having him win a Royal Rumble match would’ve definitely solidified himself as something to be taken seriously. The Royal Rumble match in 2011 was the first ever 40 man Royal Rumble, which ended horribly with Alberto Del Rio eliminating Santino Marella, as everyone thought the match and its ending to be underwhelming. Barrett was on a good run at the time, and should’ve won the match with some help as him and his team “The Corre” would’ve been established as a dominant stable and Barrett could gone onto challenge Edge for his World Heavyweight Championship, and even wrestled hard against him and cheated to win. Afterwards Edge would tell himself to be retired due to injuries and Barrett would have mad heat on him for “retiring” the legendary superstar and this could’ve easily solidified him as a top heel of the company and taken him to great lengths, but the WWE never seemed to be that high on him for some weird reason.
10 Dean Ambrose - Royal Rumble 2016
Dean Ambrose was booming for a main event spot throughout of 2015 and eventually got it some months back in 2016, but he should’ve originally had gotten a better path to his WWE title with the Royal Rumble match earlier this year being the perfect path for him to attain his first title win. In a match where the WWE Title was on the line, Ambrose should’ve earlier dropped the title to Kevin Owens(after suffering a seemingly bad injury) and then defy the odds to appear in the Rumble match and show unbelievable resiliency to maintain his own in the match. The underdog story for the day would’ve suited him perfectly, and having him win the title rather than Triple H(who just won it to put over Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania 32) would’ve made for a more intriguing bout at Wrestlemania 32 where many possibilities could be taken into perspective. Having the Lunatic Fringe win the title at Royal Rumble rather than cashing in Money in the Bank briefcase would’ve made for more legitimacy to his character and turned him into a much more popular, resilient face and saved him off that horror match vs Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania.
9 Chris Jericho - Royal Rumble 2013
It’s rather surprising to realize that the Ayatollah of Rock n Rolla hasn’t won the Royal Rumble match inspite of having a very impressive record in the matches he’s competed in, as that victory to this extravaganza of a match had evaded throughout his WWE Career. Going by how good Jericho has remained in his entire WWE career, not many would complain if he does win a Royal Rumble match because he’s that damn good! So when Jericho came back from a hiatus in the Royal Rumble 2013 match, it was the perfect opportunity for him to win the match and going by the fact that he can last Royal Rumble matches for a long time, him winning from No #2 wouldn’t have been a surprise. The WWE could’ve easily booked John Cena vs The Rock some other way and given Jericho the opportunity to shine in this match and win it, and even if he couldn’t win the gold at Wrestlemania 29, we still would’ve gotten him winning the title and a potential match for the World Title against Alberto Del Rio, which definitely would’ve been way better than his horrific match against Fandango as WWE really should’ve repaid Jericho for his services of the company by making him win the match this one time.
8 Bob Backlund - Royal Rumble 1993
Bob Backlund is one of the longest reigning WWE Champions in the history of the company, but that fact seems to be forgotten by everyone these days. Backlund was definitely one of the better personalities during his time, with his more heel-like persona shining out all the time and he created a record which is yet to be bested in the Royal Rumble. Entering the 1993 Royal Rumble at no #3, Bob fought and sneaked his way into remaining in the match until the very last and lasted in the Royal Rumble match for over an hour, besting Ric Flair’s longevity record in the Rumble as well. So WWE had him break the record but get eliminated nonetheless, as Yokozuna won the match which all culminated in that horrible Wrestlemania IX string of main event matches. Backlund deserved to be winning that Royal Rumble considering his achievements, and having him feud with Hart for the title at Wrestlemania would’ve been way more entertaining and competitive than Yokozuna vs Hart, as Backlund was really screwed out of an opportunity to shine and main event Wrestlemania which would’ve solidified him at one of the absolute all time greats.
7 Triple H - Royal Rumble 1999
Triple H was greatly under-valued during the Attitude era, inspite of being of the prime members of the most entertaining faction at the time in D-Generation X and was always overshadowed by the likes of The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Triple H started to get more and more influential once Shawn Michaels had to leave DX to look after an injury, as Triple H made himself the leader and the group ran wild under him. Triple H was one of the big names entering the 1999 Royal Rumble match, as he came in at number #23 and really should have won instead of Mr. McMahon, who won after eliminating Austin in the absolute last moment. Triple H could’ve sneaked a win by eliminating Austin in the end and they both could’ve challenged The Rock for the WWE Title at Wrestlemania XV in a triple threat match, where Triple H could’ve turned heel and sided with the McMahon’s and begun a really good rivalry with either Austin or the Rock or maybe even both. Triple H may have won 2 Royal Rumble matches, but the 1999 should’ve been the one which solidified him as one of the prime heels in the company and ushered for more intriguing story-lines.
6 Daniel Bryan - Royal Rumble 2015
Probably amongst one of the most controversial Royal Rumble matches of all time, the 2015 Royal Rumble match which took place in Philadelphia is remembered for the fans booing Roman Reigns out of the building and even a #CancelWWENetwork emerging from the angry fans after the event. The fans basically wanted one of their favorites (Bryan, Ziggler, Ambrose) to win the match and with many knowing the result beforehand, they went mental at Roman winning. WWE should’ve just scrapped this and made someone else win it, and who better than the most over guy in the roster at the time in Daniel Bryan, who had a disappointing outing by his standards. He was there only for 10 minutes and fans were shocked to see him eliminated early on, which increased their anger. The WWE should’ve just kept Roman aside and let Bryan win the match with another ultimate underdog story where he kept staying in the match and won it finally, and a David vs Goliath match like Brock Lesnar vs Daniel Bryan would’ve definitely been something many hoarded to watch. Bryan’s dedication to the company made him deserve this win and WWE could’ve easily made for another fairy-tale story instead of over-pushing Roman Reigns in the match and got the “YES!” guy the opportunity at the big belt once more.
5 Randy Orton - Royal Rumble 2006
The 2006 Royal Rumble match wasn’t even the main event of the show, as it was almost WWE’s dedication to Eddie Guerrero as they had his pal Rey Mysterio win the match, as he entered from No #2 to create history himself. Even though Mysterio’s victory was a crowd pleaser, it made no sense to push him as a tribute to Eddie when Chavo Guerrero(Eddie’s cousin) was in the company and then have Mysterio lose his spot to Randy Orton later on. Mysterio’s fairy-tale journey was pretty flawed because of this, as WWE should have gone with Randy Orton to win the Royal Rumble match that year, as he deserved it for being in his best shape and also to properly go on with the story. Orton who entered at No #30 could’ve eliminated Mysterio at last to win the match and then feuded with him, as Mysterio could then get added to the Triple Threat match and win the title at Wrestlemania. Orton’s winning of the Royal Rumble would add to his status in the company, as well as enhancing his heel persona as WWE ruined the Rumble by giving Mysterio this victory like that, and should have gone with Orton to win the match to progress story-lines and bring legitimacy to the No #30 spot as well.
4 Andre The Giant - Royal Rumble 1989
Andre The Giant was probably one of the ultimate attractions for Vince McMahon’s WWE in the 80s, as his mammoth size and wrestling skills made him a legend. But surprisingly Andre never won the Royal Rumble match, inspite of almost being the double size of all the competitors in the match when he competed in the 1989 match. He entered at No #3 as he towered over everybody in the ring and did dominate for a point of time, but eliminated himself horribly after spotting Jake Robert’s Snake in the ring and freaking out because of it. This made no sense at all, as this Giant of a man being scared of a snake enough to eliminate himself from the ring sounds extremely ridiculous, as Andre should have won the Royal Rumble that year ahead of Big Jon Studd to assert his dominance in the WWE and add another achievement to his amazing legacy. As the Royal Rumble winners didn’t get an instant shot at headlining Wrestlemania in those days, it wasn’t necessary for Andre to challenge for the title but this achievement of winning the Royal Rumble would’ve enhanced his legacy even more and a man as big as him winning the match only makes sense, and he definitely deserved it alright.
3 Roman Reigns - Royal Rumble 2014
Roman Reigns might have been booed when he won the Royal Rumble in 2015, but his amazing performance in the 2014 Royal Rumble when he absolutely tore through his competitors was the one which really deserved the title for him. Coming in at No #15, the powerhouse of the Shield went ballistic on his enemies as he continued to eliminate whoever threatened his path, eliminating 12 superstars by the end of the match before himself being eliminated by Batista. Batista’s victory was booed by the fans who started to cheer for the heel Reigns towards the end, and this match should have been won by Reigns who could’ve replaced Batista in that Triple Threat Match, and with his Shield brothers with him made it more difficult for Bryan to execute that underdog story and Bryan would’ve been probably more over had they booked it that way. In that case Reigns wouldn’t necessarily get to main event the next Wrestlemania and could’v gained some more experience from this victory too, as Roman winning after 12 eliminations only makes sense and could have put him over with the fans early on before they turned on him.
2 Jake “The Snake” Roberts - Royal Rumble 1988
Jake Roberts might have been one of the most calculative heels of all time, but he really doesn’t have the achievements to back it up with as he didn’t really win any title in the WWE(not if you count the Million Dollar Championship) and wasn’t ever really pushed to the main event status during his time in the company. But the WWE had a golden opportunity to escalate “The Snakes” status in the company with the first ever Royal Rumble match, where he entered at No #5 and was one of the star performers of the match, staying in the match for over 20 minutes. The WWE eventually went with “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan to win the match(for America) and Jake would go back to feuding in the upper-mid card but wouldn’t really be ever pushed as a main eventer. But winning Jake the Rumble match(maybe with the help of Damien) and then pushing him as a top heel again as he reached the finals of the Vacant WWE Title tournament would be developing him as one of the top stars in the company, and the WWE should’ve put the title on him as well during the tournament to kick-start a feud with the top stars of the company at the time, as Jake winning the Rumble could have kick-started his time in the top of the company as he was one of the best heels of all time and definitely deserved gold around his waist.
1 Kane - Royal Rumble 2001
The Big Red Monster Kane is one of the most terrorizing figures in the Royal Rumble, as he holds the record for most eliminations in the history of Rumble with 44 total eliminations, but surprisingly hasn’t won any Royal Rumble match. The most perfect stage was set for him in 2001, when he was at his peak and entered the Royal Rumble match and wrecked havoc in the ring, eliminating 11 superstars when he was in the ring before being eliminated himself by eventual winner Stone Cold Steve Austin. Austin winning for the 3rd time was really unnecessary as he didn’t need another attempt at winning the WWE Title in 2001 and Kane should have won the match after a performance like that, as he would then go onto challenge for the WWE Title at Wrestlemania and get his own moment, and considering how much he has dedicated for the company, he deserved to get his moment in 2001 by winning the Rumble convincingly and then going onto main event Wrestlemania, as the Big Red Machine is one of the guys who was really screwed over by the WWE from winning a Rumble match as he might have a record, but no trophy to back it up with.