The Royal Rumble match is one of the most exciting matches that the WWE puts on for various reasons. It is typically one of the most unpredictable wrestling matches there is because so many wrestlers are in the match, and there are many moments where there are several of them in the ring at the same time.
The Rumble is also exciting as it is a platform for many exciting returns from injury, returns to the company, debuts of wrestlers, and also the return of legends for one more moment in their illustrious career. Everyone is on the edge of their seat when the countdown starts at 10 seconds until the buzzer sounds and the next wrestler enters the match.
Leading up to the 2016 Royal Rumble pay per view, there have been a total of 28 Rumble matches in WWE history. There is only one 3-time champion in Stone Cold Steve Austin, and there are four wrestlers with two wins: John Cena, Batista, Hulk Hogan, and Shawn Michaels.
While the list of Royal Rumble winners include several current and potential Hall of Fame wrestlers, Vince McMahon’s decision on a winner has been off at times (especially the past two years), and this list will cover ten of the worst winners in Royal Rumble history.
This list will include the only 3-time winner;,which could be a surprise to many. Also included are some of the early winners when the match really didn’t have as much meaning or so much on the line. This list even includes the boss himself.
10. Stone Cold Steve Austin – 2001
It would be hard to fathom that the only WWE wrestler with three Royal Rumble wins would be on this list, but he is due to a couple of factors. Austin‘s career was starting to wind down at this point as injuries were really mounting up for the rattlesnake, but he entered the 2001 Royal Rumble in at #27, so it was very late into the match.
One reason why he is on this list is because he only had three eliminations. Only one of those three was impressive as it was Kane, who set the record for most eliminations that year. The others were Billy Gunn and Haku; not necessarily gigantic names. Throw in the fact that he was only in the match for 9 minutes and 43 seconds, the second lowest for a Royal Rumble winner, he is on this list.
9. Edge – 2010
Edge is one of the greatest wrestlers of this generation, and it was a career that ended all too soon with his neck injury. When you look back at the 2010 Royal Rumble, it was genuinely a great moment to see Edge return from injury after being gone for over six months. Looking at the match and performance itself, it lands on this list.
Edge goes down with the shortest time in the match in order to win a Rumble at only 7 minutes and 19 seconds. If he would have eliminated six to eight wrestlers in the match, he would not have been on this list, but he only managed to eliminate one in Chris Jericho. Everyone did all the work for him while he reaped the rewards by surprising the guy who injured him in Jericho.
8. Alberto Del Rio – 2011
For the 2011 Royal Rumble, the WWE tried an experiment that went over like a lead balloon. Instead of the usual 30 competitors in the match, they decided to increase that to 40. This was a case where more wasn’t better as it wasn’t a great match. The reason why Alberto Del Rio is on this list is due to the fact that he, like Edge before, didn’t really do much to win.
He was the 38th entry in the way-too-long 40-man Royal Rumble. He was in the match for less than 10 minutes and the only wrestler of note that he took out was Randy Orton. While Del Rio thought he won by eliminating Orton, Santino Marella was never thrown over the top rope, and we all know there was “no chance in hell” that Santino was going to main event WrestleMania.
7. Batista – 2005
While Batista is a great wrestler and is missed in the WWE, he’s not had great moments in the Royal Rumble. That is proof in the fact that he’s the only one with multiple entries on this list. The first one in this article comes from one of the greatest flubbed endings to a Royal Rumble in history with the event in 2005.
The match came down to Batista and John Cena. Both men would go over the top rope and land on the floor at the same time, but this was not planned. The refs had no idea how to call the end, which led to a furious Vince McMahon to rush the ring only to tear both of his quads as he was trying to enter.
The match would eventually be restarted with Batista as the eventual winner, but word is Batista was supposed to hold on to the ropes, originally, to eliminate Cena.
6. Jim Duggan – 1988
The Royal Rumble match debuted in 1988, but it wasn’t until 1993 that the main even spot at WrestleMania was on the line for the winner. While winners from 1990-1992 included Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, the first two winners of this match didn’t have near the prestige of those two hall of famers.
We’ll cover the 1989 Royal Rumble winner later on, but for the first ever winner of the match, it was Hacksaw Jim Duggan. This match only had 20 participants and didn’t really have a prize for winning it. It never really lead to a push either because in Duggan’s lengthy WWE career he never held a single title.
5. Vince McMahon – 1999
While it made for an excellent moment in the middle of the Attitude Era, the entire situation during and after the 1999 Royal Rumble gives reason enough to put Vince McMahon on this list.
In what would be some of the best segments ever, Vince would go through rigorous training with his son Shane as he was going to enter the Royal Rumble at #2 to prevent Stone Cold Steve Austin (who entered at #1) from winning the match.
For most of the match, Vince would sit out and hide from Austin, and just when Austin thought he had won the Rumble, Vince tossed him out. While Vince didn’t want to face his Corporate “friend” in The Rock at WrestleMania, it set up a match where Vince lost to Austin in a cage match at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre the next month.
4. Big John Studd – 1989
Just like Jim Duggan’s Royal Rumble win at the first event in 1988, Big John Studd’s win in 1989 is equally as meaningless. In the second year of the event, they increased the amount of participants to the standard amount of 30, and Studd entered the match in at #27. He would eliminate Ted DiBiase at the end of the match to win the second ever Royal Rumble.
Again, there was no reward for winning the Rumble, and Studd basically had only a cameo on the following WrestleMania. Studd had a fairly lengthy run in the WWE, and is even a hall of famer, but just like Duggan, he wasn’t highly decorated when it came to championships. He only held one title ever in the WWE, the tag championship with Executioner.
3. Roman Reigns – 2015
One would figure that one year after the big debacle of having Batista winning the Rumble (we’ll cover that later), that they would get it right this time. Instead Vince took a huge swing and whiffed once again.
A great majority of the WWE fans are smart and know when something is getting shoved down their throats. That someone was clearly Roman Reigns. While Reigns is a great talent, the way he was being presented as John Cena 2.0 made people get tired of him.
Once Daniel Bryan was unceremoniously eliminated from this match, the writing was on the wall that Vince’s golden boy was going to win. It became even more apparent when the final four competitors were Big Show, Kane, Rusev, and Reigns.
Rusev was a much hated heel and the crowd was cheering for him to win over Reigns. They brought out The Rock to raise Reigns’ hand and get the crowd to cheer, and that didn’t even work.
2. John Cena – 2008
This is another example where a great moment in Royal Rumble history translates into the winner landing on this list. John Cena had torn his pectoral muscle and was expected to even be iffy for WrestleMania, let alone the Royal Rumble. Cena made a miraculous recovery and was entrant #30, months ahead of schedule.
The return was kept a secret from almost everyone, including Triple H who was in the ring at the time. If you look back at Triple H’s reaction, you can tell he was genuinely surprised when Cena’s music hit.
To the dismay of the Cena haters, he put himself in the main event of WrestleMania right away by disposing of four men, including Triple H. The fact that he was pushed immediately to the main event of the biggest pay per view of the year is one of the reasons the fans boo him.
1. Batista – 2014
About a month prior to the 2014 Royal Rumble, Batista made his return to the WWE after nearly four years away from the company. There was excitement for the return of one of the great wrestlers of the 2000s, but booking would completely erase any goodwill the WWE Universe would have towards Batista. It wasn’t Batista’s fault, and he even told Vince that a babyface run like this wouldn’t work, but Vince wouldn’t listen.
Once Rey Mysterio was entered in the Rumble at #30, the WWE Universe realized their beloved Daniel Bryan was not going to be in the match, raining the arena with boos. A man who hadn’t been in the company in four years would win the Rumble and be inserted in the main event at WrestleMania XXX. As we all know, the main event was changed and Daniel Bryan got his big moment to close the show.