Written by CaptainAmeriDave
After the hustle and bustle that is the holiday season, it’s nice to wind down and relax with ROYAL RUMBLE SEASON! The most exciting hour in wrestling where anything can happen and often does. During this time, I’m always drawn back to those old matches for the nostalgia of it all. One of the things that is most enjoyable about those matches are those wrestlers who were so close to winning that, even we, the audience, could taste it. For this list, I’ll be going mostly in chronological order. Now, join me as we take a look at wrestlers I wish had won the Royal Rumble, but didn’t.
Honorable Mention: Curtis Axel – 2015
Curtis Axel (and all the other wrestlers who either never made it to the ring or left under the top rope and never came back). It’s worth mentioning Curtis and the rest of the crew, because while they didn’t win, they never really lost either. Royal Rumble rules are clear that to be eliminated, you must be thrown (or just exit) over the top rope with both feet touching the floor to be eliminated. These guys never really got their day in the sun, but Curtis came the closest by constantly campaigning for the title shot he never received. Let’s face it, they never really had a chance anyways, but it is fun to think about what might have been.
1989 – Ted DiBiase & 1990 – Mr. Perfect
I’m grouping these two together because they were consecutive years and the reasoning is very similar. Both of these wrestlers were the runner-up in their respective year and both were very popular/likeable heels. Because neither of these wrestlers won, it would be five years in before we ever got to see a heel win, and Yokozuna was much more of a straight villain. It would’ve been an awesome push and legacy for either of these guys to have won a Rumble. Who do you think deserved it more between these two?
1994 & 1997 – Bret Hart
I don’t really mind that Bret had to share a win with Lex Luger. I like Lex Luger, but ultimately it didn’t really help either of them. Hogan ended up winning at Wrestlemania in ’94, which stole both of their thunder. Then there’s the ’97 Rumble. Bret had a lot going for him in this one, and to see a comeback win with an injury would’ve been cool. Oh, there’s also the fact that HE ACTUALLY WON! I mean, come on, Stone Cold cheated! Anyways, Bret did get a title shot out of this and he did win the belt, but his name isn’t listed as the winner and, come Wrestlemania 13, he wasn’t in the title picture anymore. It just feels like Bret should have had the opportunity to have the spotlight for at least one of these.
2000 – Big Show
Remember that last entry where someone won the Royal Rumble and didn’t get credit for it. Well, here we are again. So, this one’s a straight up botch. Rock was supposed to win and that skin-the-cat he pulled off would’ve been super sweet if it had worked. But it didn’t, and Rock touched the floor first. They did acknowledge this to some degree and Big Show even ended up in the main event, but I think it would’ve been cooler if they had given him credit for the win. Sometimes, you just have to admit when you make a mistake. They could’ve earned some points for that.
2001 – Kane
Kane definitely got mileage out of his appearance in this Rumble. For the next 10+ years, every rumble would tell us about his record 11 eliminations. But frankly, Kane deserved more. Stone Cold was the right choice for Wrestlemania, but he could’ve come by that a different way, and this was a turning point for Kane. Positioned right, he really could’ve become a force more on the level of the Undertaker. I don’t think he ever would have been as big as him, but it was an opportunity to show how scary and unstoppable the Bid Red Machine could be.
2010 – Shawn Michaels
I’m not lamenting the fact that Edge won, that was awesome. Overall, this was a great Rumble. But the lead-in to this Rumble was fantastic. Everyone was waiting to see if HBK would get a title shot and force a rematch with the Undertaker at Wrestlemania. That match was huge anyway, so he didn’t need the win. But that would’ve been an incredible moment in rumble history and I think it would’ve cemented HBK as the best Rumbler in history.
2011 – Santino Marella
There are some moments where WWE really had the opportunity to pivot and make an incredible moment. This is one of those. Everyone thought Del Rio had won, and then Santino stumbled back into the ring and hit him with the Cobra. The look on Santino’s face said it all and the crowd was totally behind him. It probably wouldn’t have led to anything, but it would’ve been a classic moment to rewatch over and over again.
2012 – Chris Jericho
This is a very underrated Royal Rumble. I think that’s mostly because Sheamus won and that wasn’t super exciting. He did win at Wrestlemania in that squash match with Daniel Bryan, but that was also a letdown. A win for Jericho would’ve put him among the best Rumblers of all time, especially because around this time he held the record for most overall time spent in Rumbles. So, in hindsight at least, it would’ve meant more if Jericho had won.
2014 – Anyone but Batista & 2015 – Anyone but Roman Reigns
Wow! What a weird time for the Royal Rumble. Two years in a row, the winner gets booed out of the arena. And I’d argue that it still took a few years to fully get back the magic of the event. These were especially bad, because even though the fans don’t love it when a heel wins, at least the heel is excited. But both of these guys were ‘supposed’ to have the crowd behind them, and it just didn’t happen. I could write a lot about both of these, but to touch on them really quick, Batista would probably not have been booed if his appearance hadn’t been spoiled, but it was. WWE probably knew it wasn’t going to go over well. In an ironic twist of fate, Roman Reigns would have been praised for winning in 2014, but instead, a year later, he is booed even worse with the Rock standing right next to him. A missed opportunity? By the time 2015 came around, they should’ve known better after pushing him, and pushing him only made things worse. I don’t have a pick for 2015, but it didn’t take a Rocket Scientist to figure out Reigns was the wrong choice.
2016 – Dean Ambrose
Another missed opportunity for the Shield. The criminally under-pushed Ambrose ends up with an opportunity to win the title and his first Rumble. I love Triple H, so I’m not mad that he got a second win here. But, Reigns and Triple H at Wrestlemania didn’t really help either of those guys. A heel turn for Reigns against his former Shield buddy who swooped in and took his belt would’ve been pretty awesome. And it also would’ve given Ambrose some much deserved time in the spotlight. It may have even cemented a main event status for him that would’ve kept him from leaving the company.
2010-2020 – Kofi Kingston
Ah, that ever-important rule, ‘both feet must touch the floor’. I know Kofi’s never been a runner-up, but man how awesome would it be to have Kofi win a rumble after he’s been thrown out and saved himself like four or five different ways. You could have every other wrestler in the ring freaking out because they just can’t find a way to eliminate him, and he’s just standing with a grin on his face, enjoying the fact that he’s unstoppable. That’s a win and celebration I’d love to see!
Did you enjoy this year’s Royal Rumble? Who do you think should’ve won this awesome match? Sound off in the comments below!
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