The Royal Rumble is just around the corner and you know what that means; WWE is about to kick into overdrive, shift gears and start on the road to WrestleMania. I used a lot of driving metaphors there. I hope you appreciated it. With WWE’s annual 30-person-over-the-top-rope-countdown-elimination-battle-royal (you can see why they named it the “Royal Rumble” now) just weeks away, now is the perfect time to cast our minds back to great Rumbles of the past and celebrate those who are members of the elite group of past-Rumble winners. Sometimes, WWE get the winner of the Rumble spot on, helping to elevate a rising star to that next level or start the ball rolling on an epic storyline to culminate at The Show of Shows. Sometimes, however, they go a bit crazy and logic, reason and fan satisfaction join 29 wrestlers in being thrown away. So, time to take a trip down memory lane (another road-based pun, I need to stop) and look back at some wrestlers who didn’t deserve their Rumble wins and some others who did deserve to win the match, but were never given that honour.
15 Never Won – Eddie Guerrero
He may have lied, cheated and stolen, but none of that ever helped Eddie win the Rumble.
Eddie Guerrero won so many championships across his wrestling career, he’d have needed a dozen low riders just to carry them all from place to place. Decorated careers in AAA, ECW and WCW (among others) eventually led to Eddie joining the WWE in 2000. In McMahon-land, Eddie won almost every championship there was to win, including the WWE Championship in a now-legendary contest with Brock Lesnar at No Way Out 2004, where Eddie did the unthinkable and defeated The Beast, all by himself. Ok, maybe he got the world’s biggest assist from Goldberg, but don’t take this away from him!
One thing that Eddie never won, however, was the Royal Rumble match. Before you get smart with me in the comments – no, the special “Smackdown” Rumble match that happened in 2004 does not count as an official Rumble match. Why? Because it only had ten people in it, that’s why. What sort of a Rumble is that? Eddie was such a talented wrestler, he didn’t need to win the Rumble to get over, but it was his charm, charisma and likeability that really made him a star in the eyes of the WWE audience. One of the most beloved wrestlers of all time, Eddie’s incredible connection with the fans was enough to make him worthy of a Rumble win, but, sadly, that’s a moment we will never see.
14 Didn’t Deserve It – Mr. McMahon
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Vince. Just not as a Rumble winner.
The 1999 Royal Rumble match is widely regarded by many as the worst Rumble match ever. Stone Cold Steve Austin was entry number one and was chasing the WWE Championship, a title he had been screwed out of by the villainous Corporation, headed by Mr. McMahon. To stop Austin from winning the Rumble (which would have earned him a title shot at WrestleMania XV) Corporation members were placed into the Rumble match, including Vince himself, who drew number two. Wow. What a coincidence. It’s almost as if wrestling is pre-determined, or something...
Vince hid on the outside for most of the match, before sneaking into the ring right at the very end and eliminating Austin, winning the match from the number two spot and joining the ranks of Austin, Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart as a winner of the Rumble. Hmm, now which one of those names doesn’t belong? Vince is a great wrestling character and a brilliant business (sometimes), but winning the Rumble should be reserved for great wrestlers and having the chairman win the match instead is a little damaging to the match’s reputation, in some people’s eyes. On a lighter note, the training montage videos of Vince and Shane in the lead up to this match – hilarious.
13 Never Won – Kane
Just remember, everyone. Kane did actually used to be cool.
Glenn Jacobs – or, as he’s been better known as for the past twenty years, Kane – is a WWE legend through-and-through. Portraying the monstrous half-brother of The Undertaker since 1997, Jacobs has given WWE fans some of the coolest matches, moments and memories of the last two decades. He also gave us Katie Vick, May 19th and the Lita pregnancy angle, but hey, no one is perfect.
One of the reasons Kane is such a legend is his history with the Royal Rumble match. The character first appeared 1999 Royal Rumble (Jacobs had appeared previously in the 1996 Rumble as Isaac Yankem, DDS) and, since then, Kane has eliminated 44 men from the Rumble in total across his career, more than anyone else in history. His 19 total Rumble appearances are also the most of any WWE star ever and his performance in the 2001 match, where eliminated 11 wrestlers in a single Rumble, was the record for the most eliminations in a single Rumble match by one man until Roman Reigns came along and broke it in 2014. For all his hard work in the Rumble match, as well as in his WWE career in general, Kane has more than earned a Rumble victory. Sadly, Kane is now in his forties and that Rumble win is almost entirely impossible. But hey, if Goldberg can be world champion in 2017, then anything is possible. Sadly.
12 Didn’t Deserve It – Alberto Del Rio
Ugh, the 40-man Rumble.
Before he became known as that dude that dated Paige, then didn’t date Paige, then dated Paige again, then who knows what, Alberto Del Rio was a pretty respected wrestler. Son of legendary luchador, Dos Caras, and nephew of WWE Hall of Famer, Mil Mascaras, wrestling is in ADR’s blood and he proved that when he etched out a pretty successful wrestling career for himself. Arriving in the WWE in 2010, Del Rio won the WWE and World Heavyweight Championship a number of times during his first run. He returned to the company in 2016 after a backstage incident got him fired a few years prior and he would win two United States Championships during this run. Then he left again and hasn’t been seen anywhere near the WWE ever since. As for their talent, well, safe to say he’s been pretty “close” to that.
In 2011, the WWE ran the first (and, thus far, only) 40-man Royal Rumble match. Presumably this was to make room for all the amazing surprise entrants, like Diesel and, umm, oh yeah, Booker T was in that Rumble, wasn’t he, and, umm... does Yoshi Tatsu count as a surprise? The long and short of it is, this wasn’t the best Rumble, especially when Del Rio, who had been on the main roster for less than a year at this point, won the whole thing. Del Rio wasn’t ready for such a high profile moment; the fans weren’t that used to him and his character hadn’t been around long enough for the crowd to hate him as the heel he was meant to be. He lost his world title match at WrestleMania XXVII and now his Rumble win is merely an answer to the question “who won the most drawn-out, boring Rumble in history?” Sorry, Alberto.
11 Never Won – Ted DiBiase
Best evil laugh in wrestling. Maybe ever.
“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase is one of WWE’s greatest characters. The “rich man who abuses his wealth” character might seem worn out in wrestling, but DiBiase made it work so well and some of his backstage skits and sketches are some of the best in wrestling history. Never a world champion, DiBiase still managed to win the Tag Team Championships a few times, as well as holding his own, self-created title, The Million Dollar Championship. Although, how valuable can a championship be once it’s been held by Virgil?
DiBiase deserved to win the 1989 Royal Rumble hands down. He was a despised heel at the time and he was a seriously-respected performer, having main-evented WrestleMania the previous year. A Royal Rumble victory would have been a great way to bolster DiBiase’s repertoire; can you imagine the bragging DiBiase could have done after using his money to buy a Rumble win? That would have been a perfect fit for his character at the time. Who knows? Maybe this would have catapulted DiBiase into a WWE Championship win. Then again, Hulk Hogan had his stranglehold on the belt at this point, so probably not.
10 Didn’t Deserve It – Sheamus
Man, hands up who forgot this ever happened.
One half of The Bar alongside Cesaro (and, by proxy, one quarter of Raw’s current tag team scene), Sheamus’ recent excellent run with the WWE is actually the first of many decent storylines with the company. Though never the main event talent the WWE saw him as, Sheamus is still a very good in-ring performer and, when booked correctly, has gotten himself over with the fans. By this, I mean when he’s allowed to just go out and be a big, mean Irish dude with a boot the size of his home country and a temper to match. That’s the Sheamus we like.
Despite being firmly planted in the tag team division nowadays, Sheamus’ run as a singles wrestler was extremely fruitful. A multiple time world champion, one of these title wins came as a result of The Celtic Warrior’s win in the 2012 Royal Rumble match, where he last eliminated Chris Jericho and defeated Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania XXVIII for the World Heavyweight title... in 18 seconds.
9 Never Won – Kurt Angle
With the trend WWE are on at the moment, expect to see Angle winning the Rumble this year.
Before he was making matches on Raw and stealing spots in Pay-Per-View matches from younger stars, Kurt Angle was one of the best in-ring performers in the world. The Olympic gold medallist put on some of the most spectacular matches in WWE history; classics with everyone from Brock Lesnar to Shawn Michaels, John Cena to The Rock. He’s also responsible for some of the funniest moments in WWE history. Seriously, that tiny cowboy hat. Gets me every time.
In his illustrious career, Kurt Angle has won the WWE Championship, World Heavyweight Championship, Intercontinental Championship, United States Championship, WWE Tag Team Championship and the King of the Ring Tournament. He also won a bunch of stuff in TNA, but WWE doesn’t care about those, so neither do we. Apparently. However, for all his successes in the WWE, Angle never won the Royal Rumble, even though he did come close in 2002. Angle did manage to main event WrestleMania without winning the Rumble, but it’s a still a big accolade missing from Angle’s career and one that definitely wouldn’t have been out of place.
8 Didn’t Deserve It – Batista (2014)
His first win was fine. His second, on the other hand...
Before he became a Guardian of the Galaxy, Dave “My Shoulders Weigh As Much As A Small Ox” Batista was one of WWE’s biggest stars. After working his way through the WWE system, Batista debuted on the main roster in 2002. And what did this massive, terrifying man debut as? A Deacon. Yep, a collection-box carrying, god-loving Deacon. Wrestling is so weird. Batista eventually found his way to the top of WWE, winning multiple world titles and headlining multiple major shows, including WrestleManias 21 and XXX. It’s the latter of those two that lands him on this list.
Our only double Rumble winner on this list, big Dave is the only man in history to have won the Rumble twice from the exact same spot – number 28, if you’re interested. His first win in 2005 was well-deserved ; he was a fast-rising star with a personal involvement with then-World Heavyweight Champion, Triple H. His second win, however, well, that was less good. When Batista returned to win the 2014 Rumble match, it was clear as day to the fans that was being done solely to gain attention off the back of Batista’s steadily-rising film career. Fans rejected Dave as a face (it didn’t help that they were madly behind someone else at the time, more of that later) and soon turned Batista into “Bootista”, rejecting his Rumble victory and putting WWE’s long-term plans in jeopardy. Thankfully, with a little help from a certain someone, WWE made this Rumble victory work. Just don’t let them tell you it was all planned out from the start. It so wasn’t.
7 Never Won – Chris Jericho
*INSERT CHRIS JERICHO CATCHPHRASE HERE*
What is there to say about Chris Jericho that hasn’t already been said? An incredible in-ring wrestler, an amazing talker, a fantastic creative mind and one of the most dedicated performers in the history of the business, Jericho doesn’t just call himself the G.O.A.T, he may well be just that. One of the most decorated WWE wrestlers ever, Jericho has won dozens of champions during his time with the promotion. World titles, IC titles, US titles, Tag Team titles. Hell, if there was a scarf-wearing or list-making or catchphrase-inventing championship, Jericho probably would have won those too.
However, One thing that Jericho can’t say he’s done in his career is win the Royal Rumble. Despite spending more total time in the Royal Rumble than any performer ever (4 hours 56 minutes, to be precise), Jericho has never won the illustrious match, despite there being not one, but two occasions where he could conceivably have won the match. The first came in 2012, where he finished runner-up to Sheamus, but then went on to face CM Punk at that year’s WrestleMania for the WWE Championship anyway. So, why didn’t you just have Jericho, a legend, win the match instead of Sheamus? Secondly, there was the most recent Royal Rumble match, 2017, where a win for Jericho could have set up a WrestleMania main event against Kevin Owens for the Universal Championship. Many fans wanted this match to happen and were disappointed when the Jericho-Owens storyline got relegated to a United States title feud. So, if Jericho had won the Rumble here, perhaps that disappointment could have been spared. Jericho is a legend of the wrestling business and was more than deserving of a Rumble win. If he had won the Rumble, you can bet that things would have never, EEEEEEEVVVVERRRRRRR been the same again! Sorry, couldn’t resist.
6 Didn’t Deserve It – Yokozuna
The first Japanese wrestler to officially win the WWE Championship... wasn’t from Japan. Oh dear.
Yokozuna (real name Rodney Anoa’i) debuted in the WWE in 1992 and, just under six months later, won the WWE Championship from Bret Hart in the main event of WrestleMania IX. Ok, maybe it wasn’t technically the main event of that show, but the less said about that match, the better.
Yokozuna earned this opportunity by winning the 1993 Royal Rumble (the first Rumble to offer the main event of WrestleMania as a prize), which he did by throwing Randy Savage out of the ring, after Savage tried to pin him off an elbow drop. Yeah, that actually happened. Yokozuna was a decent main-eventer for the time, but that’s only he was a big dude who was positioned as a foreign heel. As a wrestler, he was awful, barely being able to string two moves together without running out of breath and his matches have not stood the test of time. However, Vince McMahon’s legendary love of big Samoans got the better of him here. If you don’t think that’s a thing, just ask Rikishi, The Rock or Roman Reigns.
5 Never Won – Mr. Perfect
They didn’t call him “Perfect” for nothing, you know.
Curt Hennig, who performed under the “Mr. Perfect” moniker for WWE for almost a decade. Given the gimmick of a cocky, arrogant heel who was good at everything, Hennig played the character to perfection and backed it up in the ring with amazing matches against the likes of Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and Kerry Von Erich. Outside of WWE, Hennig also performed for TNA, WCW and was also a mildly successful country singer. No, seriously, I mean it. He was.
Perfect was actually a runner-up in the 1990 Royal Rumble, being eliminated by Hulk Hogan to lose the bout. Now, some rumours say that Perfect was originally scheduled to win this match, but plans were changed when Hulk Hogan put his big, yellow foot down and insisted it be him that win. Typical. In my mind, Perfect definitely deserved to win this match; he was in the middle of an undefeated streak that really legitimised his character, was doing excellent work as a heel and the Rumble win would have added even more value to his character, making his eventually first loss mean even more. Instead, he was chucked out of the match by Hogan, then lost for the first time on national TV to Hogan’s best buddy, Brutus Beefcake, a few months later. Thanks, Hulkster, thanks a lot.
4 Didn’t Deserve It – Big John Studd
The years where the Rumble had no prize were some weird ones, indeed.
Big John Studd, perhaps most famous for his “Body Slam Challenge” with Andre The Giant at the very first WrestleMania, is a WWE Hall of Famer known for his giant size and... well, that’s pretty much it. Studd returned to the WWE in 1988 after two years away and would win the Royal Rumble match in 1989, back when the winner of the Rumble was given the honour of refereeing Andre The Giant vs Jake Roberts at WrestleMania. Ok, maybe this wasn’t the prize, but it’s what ended up happening to Studd.
Even with the Rumble having no concrete prize, Studd didn’t really deserve to win this match. The company obviously had big plans for Studd when he came back to the company, but no one was interested in getting behind Studd, which eventually led to his push falling down. There were plenty of other wrestlers who deserved to win that year (one of whom we’ll get to soon) who could have really benefitted from winning this match. Instead, Studd’s win didn’t help himself and it didn’t help the Rumble match either, that was still without a legitimate winner.
3 Never Won – Big Show
But how could he not have won? He’s 7ft tall! I’m being sarcastic, if you couldn’t tell.
Paul Wight, AKA, The Big Show, is a real wrestling legend. From his early days in WCW as The Giant to his most recent run putting over Braun Strowman in cage matches, Show has been involved in so many memorable moments, storylines and angles throughout his 20+ year wrestling career and has won countless championships across some of America’s biggest wrestling promotions. Ok, maybe he’s had some pretty poor moments too, but come on, give the guy a break.
Despite never winning the Rumble, Show has come close on a number of occasions. He finished runner-up in 2004 and had also finished in second place four years earlier, only under much more controversial circumstances. Show finished in second place to The Rock in 2000, but, after “reviewing the footage”, it was decided that The Rock’s feet had actually touched the floor before Show’s, so the giant was the real winner of the match. This led to Show being inserted into the main event of that year’s WrestleMania, which ultimately ruined that match. Oops. The point I’m trying to make is this; if WWE engineered a story where Big Show technically won the Rumble match, why couldn’t they have just booked him to win the match for real? Show put in enough work throughout his career to deserve a Rumble victory and 2000 was the best time to do it. Although, the idea of Big Show vs Triple H headlining WrestleMania 2000 does make me feel a little bit sick. Maybe The Rock winning was a good idea.
2 Didn’t Deserve It – Lex Luger
Oh boy, it’s time for me to write about one of my least favourite people ever. Somebody check my blood pressure.
Arriving as “The Narcissist” in 1993, Lex Luger was a pretty big deal at the time. A former United States and World Heavyweight Champion in WCW, Luger had all the makings of a classic old-school wrestling main eventer; he was big, he was muscly and he had a metal plate in his forearm from a motorcycle accident. Ok, maybe not everyone had that, but it was still a nice touch. Luger was then transformed into “The All-American” in mid-1993, with the idea of Luger replacing Hulk Hogan as the company’s top babyface. This led to Luger unsuccessfully challenging WWE Champion, Yokozuna, at SummerSlam 1993, which played quite nicely into his Rumble storyline a few months later. Long term storytelling from the WWE, who’d have thought?
In the 1994 Royal Rumble, something happened that has never happened before. Bastion Booger no-showed the match because he got food poisoning the day before. Oh, and there were two winners of the Rumble match. That too. Luger and Bret Hart went over the top rope at the exact same time (or so the storyline went), leading to both men getting a shot at the WWE Championship at WrestleMania X. In my mind, Luger should have been nowhere near a Rumble victory here. Bret Hart was so over during this time period and the obvious choice to carry the company in the place of Hogan. Hart also had history with the champ, Yokozuna, having lost the WWE Championship to Yokozuna the previous WrestleMania. Luger was put in this match solely because he was big, blonde and All-American – a Hogan clone with no personality and no real in-ring ability. At least this double Rumble win meant we got to see Owen vs Bret at Mania X, which is the closest thing to me complementing Lex Luger you will ever see. Hate him.
1 Never Won – Daniel Bryan
Should Daniel Bryan have won the Rumble? YES! YES! YES!
Daniel Bryan’s story in the WWE is one of the most euphoric and tragic tales in wrestling history. In 2010, Bryan debuted on the main roster as a member of The Nexus, but was let go from the group when he was fired for choking a ring announcer with his own tie. Not a good start, Daniel, not a good start. After being rehired, Bryan showed that he was one of the most technically gifted wrestlers, not only in WWE, but in the world. Bryan slowly got himself over with the WWE fans, eventually leading to his WWE Championship victory in the main event of WrestleMania XXX, one of the biggest feel-good moments in wrestling ever. However, niggling neck problems led to Bryan taking huge amounts of time off between 2014 and 2016, eventually leading to The American Dragon’s retirement from wrestling in February 2016. Being forced to retire in the prime of his wrestling career, Bryan’s story doesn’t sound like it has the happiest ending. However, you’ve gotta remember that this is the guy who married Brie Bella, so how sad can you really be?
It’s a story that has been told thousands of times since, but Daniel Bryan should have won the 2014 Royal Rumble. 2014 was the height of Bryan’s popularity; the “Yes!” chants were deafening, chants of “Daniel Bryan” filled arenas when D-Bry wasn’t on the show and everybody was behind the former Ring of Honor Champion. Everybody except the WWE machine. Despite having an amazing match with Bray Wyatt earlier that night, Bryan did not win this Rumble match. In fact, he wasn’t even in the match. When Rey Mysterio came out as the Number 30 entrant in this match, the boos were huge, some of the biggest I’ve ever heard in wrestling match. Bryan was the obvious choice to win this, so much so, that the WWE were forced to insert Bryan into the planned main event of Randy Orton vs Batista for that show, a match that Bryan would eventually win. The story of Bryan winning the Rumble, overcoming the hurdles put in his way by The Authority and capturing the WWE Championship in the main event would have been perfect. Instead, Bryan had to go the long way to get to the main event of Mania, but hey, at least he managed to get his one big moment before his tragic retirement.