Best Royal Rumble Winners
1992: Ric Flair
Why: Historic win, did a tremendous job making a short title reign seem longer than it actually was. Flair’s mini-invasion of the then World Wrestling Federation was the closest we’ll over get to Vince McMahon letting amazing outsider gain the upper hand inside his company.
1994: Lex Luger & Bret Hart
Why: Hokey as hell. Perhaps it would’ve been better to just have Bret win straight up. Luger’s time was SummerSlam, but WWE wussed out. Nonetheless, it set the stage for a unique WrestleMania with two world title matches and Bret to complete his redemption arc
1997: Steve Austin
Why: It wasn’t the Austin 3:16 promo that initially got the Texas Rattlesnake over. All it did was pigeonhole him in a match against the over the hill Yokozuna at SummerSlam. It was his 1997 run and feud with Bret Hart that shot him into the stratosphere. Initially, Bret was slated to win the rumble, but not to set-up his rematch vs Michaels for the world title he loss the previous year. The ensuing chaotic months leading up to WrestleMania was supposed to culminate in a Sycho Sid vs Undertaker title match – like in real life; and Bret facing HBK in a non-title match. Austin was slated to square off against The British Bulldog.
The unknowing catalyst for Austin’s victory was none other than Vince Russo. No, Russo didn’t push for Austin to win the rumble. On a WWE Tv show “LiveWire” Russo made it abundantly clear to the audience Bret was going to win the rumble, thus giving away the finish and enraging Vince McMahon.
So Russo’s flippant remark showing his distain for the ultimate straight-man once again winning the rumble inadvertently set up the hottest wrestler we’ll ever see. Without it there would be no Austin vs Bret feud. The historic submission match never occur and Austin doesn’t turn face. We don’t get, arguably, Bret’s strongest run in the WWE as a heel.
1998: Steve Austin
Why: It was Austin’s time to shine. His arrival. Nothing more to say.
2000: The Rock
Why: Same goes for Rock. Though WWE fucked it all up by not putting him over at WrestleMania over The Game. WrestleMania is where stories meet their climax. Never treat the Grand Daddy of them all like a B-list PPV.
2001: Steve Austin
Why: It’s Austin
2003: Brock Lesnar
Why: 2003 was an odd year for Lesnar. The year prior he took the belt from Rock, was supposed to feud with Triple H, but instead went over on Undertaker twice. Turned face after Paul Heyman betrayed him and aligned himself with Big Show. While his ill-fated face turn didn’t work, Lesnar remained incredibly over with fans and his matches vs Kurt Angle stands on its own. If anyone could have saved WWE from the fall from grace it’s suffered over the last two decades it was Brock.
Why: Nobody won the Royal Rumble in 2004. Curious.
Why: Simple enough. Batista languished as Triple H’s muscle long enough and was ready to take on the world as a singles competitor. Imagine how stronger his career would have been if he wasn’t transferred to the weaker brand, or at least remained a heel?
2020: Drew McIntyre
Why: Hard worker. Salvaged his career at ICW, Evolve and numerous independent promotions until Vince brought him back. McIntyre is a stoic champion carrying himself with a quiet poise and dignity. Like the olden days.
Worst Royal Rumble Winners; Who Should Have Won:
2019: Seth Rollins – Kofi Kingston
Why: Rollins as a face was never going to work. He is too whiny and once he embraced his arch nemesis Triple H the night after ‘Mania he lost all credibility to me. Faces rebel against authority, not cozy up to it. Kofi had the momentum. Kofi was more over. His match with Bryan was the best on the card. He needed that win more than the established singles star Rollins.
2017: Randy Orton – Roman Reigns
Why: An absolute star studded rumble. All the stars align and WWE gets everyone they could have possibly asked for. And they pick the lukewarm, champion one too many times Orton as the winner. Bullshit. Roman vs Goldberg or Bray Wyatt was the way to go. Even that so-so match vs Undertaker could have been salvaged if it was a title match.
2016: Triple H – Dean Ambrose
Why: Dean was the guy. Roman wasn’t the guy. Dean and Roman should have switched places at ‘Mania. Roman winning the I.C championship and Ambrose conquering Brock Lesnar at ‘Mania.
Or, have Chris Jericho win the rumble and do the same exact thing you did only with Y2J in HHH’s place. Trips puts down talent, Jericho elevates them.
2015: Roman Reigns – Daniel Bryan
Why: Again, Roman wasn’t the guy. Daniel Bryan never lost the title and deserved another go. Or at least book it as a triple-threat match. Instead, Bryan played ball, did the J.O.B for Roman and all he received was a lousy eighty-day run as Intercontinental Champion.
2013: John Cena – Brock Lesnar
Why: In “The Worst Year of John Cena’s Life” he wins the Royal Rumble because bullshit. Fuck it. You had The Rock as champions. C.M Punk still super over. Your franchise in Cena. And a returning star in Lesnar. These four forces should have collided at ‘Mania.
2012: Shaemus – Chris Jericho
Why: Fuck Shaemus. He sucks.
2011: Alberto Del Rio – Jerry Lawler
Why: Fuck Alberto Del Rio. He sucks. 2011 was a solid year for Lawler. Had awesome matches vs The Miz and a title program with Lawler as champion vs Cena as the main event at ‘Mania would have been more enthralling than Miz – as much as I respect him.
2010: Edge – Shawn Michaels
Why: Edge isn’t a face. Edge is an opportunistic son-of-a-bitch. This was Michaels last rumble and he needed to win to set up the ‘Taker match that should have been for the title. No matter what you did, HBK’s final match was going to relegate that year’s ‘Mania to a one match show.
2009: Randy Orton – Edge
Why: In the “Age of Orton” Randy should have never lost the title he retained in the triple-threat at ‘Mania XXIV until ‘Mania XXV. Either Edge or Rey Mysterio should’ve won. No Triple H. No John Cena.
2008: John Cena – Randy Orton
Why: Nobody cares Cena was injured and relinquished the title.
2002: Triple H – Hulk Hogan
Why: Nobody was having Triple H as a face. Case and point the cold crowd for the ‘Mania main event vs Jericho. That wasn’t Y2J’s fault. The invading NWO should have helped Hogan win the rumble and then the title.
1995: Shawn Michaels – Diesel
Why: Diesel was the man Vince wanted to push. Perhaps Nash was too inexperienced and not talented enough to have a successful title run. But WWE opting for the slow burn would have helped.
Nondescript Royal Rumble Winners:
Why: It was okay. Yokozuna had a solid 1993/94. Would have preferred Randy Savage winning the rumble – and then the world title from Bret.
Why: Yeah, it served its purpose – albeit unintentionally. In a perfect world Batista and Brock main event ‘Mania XXX.