The Royal Rumble is not only one of the most entertaining gimmick matches WWE has to offer, but it’s a bit of a rite of passage to win. Considering how the winner is supposed to get a title opportunity at WrestleMania, it makes sense that it’s supposed to be yet another way to paint wrestlers as a big deal. It’s an exclusive club, won by just a couple of dozen wrestlers.
There are some wrestlers who never get to win, but they do pretty damn well for themselves. Maybe they last a long time or eliminate a ton of opponents or make it to the very end. Maybe all of the above! This list is about celebrating the Royal Rumble participants who couldn’t quite pull it off in the end, but certainly made their impact.
A couple of notes to get started:
First, Big Show’s not on the list because I’m counting his Royal Rumble 2000 “victory.” For those who don’t know or don’t remember, he lost at the end to the Rock, but had the decision overturned at a later date. Many years later, Rock conceded that Big Show was the real winner. So the way I see it, they both won.
Second, Kofi Kingston’s not on the list either. Yes, he’s done some cool shit over the years, but he never really accomplished anything outside of being memorable at the match. He staved off elimination only to be eliminated a minute later. It’s a moot point.
30. SANTINO MARELLA
On one hand, as the go-to comedy character, Santino will go down in history as one of the worst Rumble competitors. Not only does he have the record for quickest elimination, but almost all of his runs in the Rumble have lasted for mere moments, and the only elimination he’s pulled off in his entire career is Ricardo Rodriguez.
Unfortunately, based on a technicality, I have to include him on this list because he came very, very close to winning the 2011 Rumble. Upon entering the ring, he got knocked out and rolled to the floor. He came to after Del Rio cleared the ring of Randy Orton, seemingly making Del Rio the winner of the match. Santino snuck back in, delivered the Cobra, took too long celebrating, and ultimately got thrown out when trying to capitalize.
29. BIG CASS
Big Cass is another technicality like Santino. He got the wonderful #49 spot at the Greatest Royal Rumble and outlasted his opponents long enough to make second place. The only things of note during this time was how he eliminated an exhausted Daniel Bryan and took a nasty botch of a suplex attempt by Bobby Lashley that turned itself into a real brainbuster.
Still, second place in the biggest WWE Rumble ever is worth noting, even if Cass was out the door within the next couple months.
28. RANDY SAVAGE
When it comes to the Royal Rumble, Randy Savage is a lot like Santino. The difference is Santino is a comedy character whose ineptitude is played up while Savage is a main-eventer and all-time great who is just not that good at this match. His performances were okay at best, but he never left his mark.
But at least there’s Royal Rumble 1993. Savage entered at #30 and ended up as Yokozuna’s final victim. By moving out of the way of a running Yokozuna at the right moment, Savage caused Yokozuna to fall to the mat for the first time in the sumo’s career. Savage smartly followed with an elbow off the top rope, then stupidly followed with a pin attempt.
Snap into a silver medal.
There have been so many iterations of Crush in WWF alone that it’s interesting to watch him evolve through his Rumble appearances. Too bad we never got Surfer Dude Crush to make a Rumble appearance. I really liked him.
Crush had done fine in these kind of matches, but his showing in 1995 was a rather interesting aberration. Crush had left the company for a few months and was fated to be arrested shortly after his reappearance, so they give him a boost in the 1995 Rumble that would never amount to anything. Coming out at #30, he took out five opponents, which was more than British Bulldog did despite being there for the entire match. Crush eliminated Fatu, Adam Bomb, both Smoking Gunns, and helped Shawn Michaels get rid of Lex Luger.
Crush ended up in third place, as Bulldog got the best of him.
26. THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR
Warrior has only been in two Rumbles with just one worth mentioning. The 1990 Rumble was won by Hulk Hogan, but it was a vehicle to get Warrior over just a little bit more and setup the main event for WrestleMania VI. Warrior appeared at #21 and mixed it up with the full ring of wrestlers, showing no signs of taking damage. Once Hulk Hogan arrived a few spots later, the two cleaned out the ring within moments. Warrior eliminated six men and then went head-to-head against Hogan.
Warrior got thrown out several minutes later, but at least he looked pretty damn unstoppable for a man who lasted 14:29.
25. NIKKI BELLA
Nikki Bella got a late enough draw in the first women’s Royal Rumble at #27. During that time, she took out Carmella, helped throw out Nia Jax, and betrayed her allies Sasha Banks and Brie Bella. Unfortunately for Nikki, she got rid of her backup too early and Asuka turned her into a mere runner-up. Friendship and family, Nikki! Did cartoons teach you nothing?!
Nikki failed to win, but she did get to main event the first-ever all-women’s WWE PPV. Rumble winner Asuka got to…stare at James Ellsworth for a while and lose to Carmella.
24. RICK “THE MODEL” MARTEL
In the fourth Royal Rumble, back in 1991, Rick Martel entered at #6. Although part of a pretty hot angle with Jake Roberts at the time, Martel wasn’t expected to be a top contender to win the match, even if this was before the Royal Rumble meant an automatic title shot. Regardless, Martel endured much of the match and had four eliminations under his belt. By the time the British Bulldog threw out Martel near the end, Martel was in there for over 52 minutes.
Back then, it was the record for the longest Rumble time and although it was shattered by Ric Flair a year later, Martel still spent the next few years riding that wave. He appeared in the next several Rumbles despite having nothing else going for him, merely because his 1991 performance was so memorable.
23. SASHA BANKS
How fitting that the woman who made waves by main-eventing NXT TakeOver with an Iron Woman match would be the iron woman of her first Royal Rumble? Sasha Banks appeared at #1 and endured to fourth place. Outside of helping get rid of Vickie Guerrero, Sasha didn’t really do much until her final minutes, where she stabbed her best friend Bayley in the back and eliminated both her and Trish Stratus. Had she sided with Asuka against the Bella Twins, Sasha might have had a shot at winning, but sealed her fate by going the 3-on-1 route.
Almost 55 minutes in the ring is nothing to sneeze at.
22. FINN BALOR
Finn Balor is another competitor who started the match and came so close to being the last man standing. He entered at #2 and did all right for himself. Baron Corbin, Aiden English, Dolph Ziggler, and Rey Mysterio all acted as his victims. Even at fourth place, he was in a good place, as he lost to John Cena, Roman Reigns, and eventual winner Shisuke Nakamura. No shame in that.
By the time Cena dumped him out, Balor lasted over 57 minutes.
21. DEAN AMBROSE
When it comes to the Royal Rumble, Ambrose has always been in Roman Reigns’ shadow. Ambrose lasted over a half hour in 2014, but that was as an accessory to Roman reaching the finals and breaking the record for most eliminations in one Rumble. Ambrose was around for about ten minutes in 2015, only to be fed to Big Show and Kane in hopes that more fans would cheer for Roman in response. It didn’t work.
Then came the 2016 Rumble, where Roman was the focus. The ending, where Triple H came out at #30 to win, was far from surprising, but it did give us an exciting finish. Roman was eliminated, leaving Triple H vs. Dean Ambrose. Ambrose lost, but he looked good enough that this truly felt like the first real step in WWE taking him seriously as a main-eventer, especially considering that earlier in that same show, Ambrose went through a grueling 20-minute Last Man Standing match with Kevin Owens.
20. MR. PERFECT
As the new hotness, Mr. Perfect set the longevity record in 1989 at 27:58. Not exactly the most impressive nowadays, but not a bad way to make a Rumble debut. Perfect had a shorter tenure in the 1990 Rumble thanks to his #30 spot, but he made second place before falling victim to Hulk Hogan’s sporadic invincibility.
Perfect’s other appearances were all very good, but the way he made a comeback in 2002 still boggles the mind. Sure, he didn’t get a single elimination to his name, but he still took on Austin and Triple H at the same time and survived for over fifteen minutes. He ended up making third place in that match. Somehow.
19. BRAY WYATT
Even though his stock had dropped pretty badly at the time, Wyatt performed really well in the 2015 Rumble. Appearing at #5, Wyatt proceeded to help clear out the ring of Bubba Ray Dudley and Luke Harper. Erick Rowan was there too, but he wasn’t officially in the match. Wyatt ruled the empty ring and swiftly took out oncoming challengers the Boogeyman, Sin Cara, and Zack Ryder.
Daniel Bryan appeared at #10 to at least put an end to Wyatt’s hold on the match, but about ten minutes later, Wyatt eliminated Bryan. Wyatt essentially broke that year’s Royal Rumble.
Wyatt stopped eliminating people, but he remained in the ring for 47:29, making him the iron man of that year. He was eliminated during the spot where Big Show and Kane would snuff out the young stars and dump them out so to make Roman Reigns seem more important. It was so horrifically meta.
In 2017, Bray would go on to make third place, though he didn’t get any eliminations.
Ryback’s Royal Rumble-ography is a good look at how the company felt about him over the years. 2013 was a great showing for him. He appeared at #30 and eliminated the likes of Damien Sandow, Sin Cara, the Miz, Randy Orton, and Sheamus. He made it to the finals, where he was eventually ousted by John Cena. That was Ryback’s last true moment of looking like a top guy.
In the following years, he went on to eliminate nobody and last only long enough to be fed to one of the older monsters, like Batista and Big Show. It became increasingly hard to recall that he was once so close to being the top guy in the company.
Rusev is a big dude, but he’s not a BIG dude. For whatever reason, they treated him like the latter in his main roster debut when it took four guys to throw him out of the ring in the 2014 Rumble.
In 2015, he had a stronger year. He eliminated six guys, although it wasn’t the most impressive list of victims out there. It was an over-the-hill Diamond Dallas Page, Fandango, Damien Mizdow, Adam Rose, and Kofi Kingston and Big E from before anyone cared about New Day. Regardless, Rusev lasted for 35:40 and got knocked out of the ring, under the top rope, long enough that he could chill out on the outside while the ring cleared itself.
By the time Roman Reigns fought off Kane and the Big Show thanks to the Rock’s help and the fans in attendance were none too happy about it, people seemed to recall that Rusev was still in play and cheered him on. He returned to the ring, got speared, and lost anyway. Oh, well. He still got second place.
16. KURT ANGLE
Not only is Kurt Angle one of three men to eliminate Steve Austin from the Royal Rumble, but Kurt Angle has eliminated Steve Austin AND Bill Goldberg.
Angle’s been in four Rumbles and he’s done well in two of them. In 2002, he entered at #26 in a match where the latter third was overwhelming with main event players and came out of it in second place. In 2004, he made third place. Then in 2005, he was eliminated within seconds, but the guy already had a championship match earlier that night, so it’s slightly less embarrassing.
It’s worth noting that in 2004, when SmackDown did a 15-man Royal Rumble, Angle drew #1 and once again made second place. This time after a very long final battle with winner Eddie Guerrero.
15. TED DIBIASE
Ted Dibiase is the man who feuded with the Royal Rumble itself. He was the rich man trying to use his money to hedge his way into winning the violent lottery. Although the 1989 Rumble did not include any title shots, Dibiase still spread his wealth around to fix it so that he’d win via illegal backstage trades. Big Boss Man and Akeem had back-to-back draws and Dibiase came out at #30 with the plan on being that the Twin Towers would work as Dibiase’s hired muscle. The plan hit a slight snag in that Boss Man got eliminated, but he still had Akeem while most of the heavy-hitters were gone anyway.
Unfortunately for Dibiase, he still had to deal with Big John Studd. Even with the two-on-one odds, Dibiase lost Akeem due to a miscue and Studd thrashed Dibiase for a little while before tossing him out like a piece of trash.
In his remaining Rumble appearances, Dibiase ended up with single-digit entries as karma. While he was eliminated almost immediately in 1992, his 1990 appearance did net him the then-record of 44:47.
Earthquake introduced one of the classic staples of the Royal Rumble back in 1990, where it took a handful of wrestlers to swarm him and force him out via pure numbers. A great way to keep him from winning the Rumble, but at the same time protecting him and making him seem like a massive threat.
A year later, Earthquake was more fully-formed and was at the tail end of his Hulk Hogan feud. Earthquake did enough damage by eliminating Tito Santana, Animal, Bushwacker Luke (which is still one of the best Rumble moments), and the British Bulldog. Then he ended up in the final two against overly-patriotic Hulk Hogan and that was that.
The less said about his time as Golga the better.
13. ONE MAN GANG
The very first Rumble was a snoozer with little to really remember outside of a decent ending. They at least knew that the biggest heel in the ring might as well be treated as the biggest threat and we got that with One Man Gang. Coming in at #19 in a 20-man match, One Man Gang took out a whopping six people (B. Brian Blair, Jake Roberts, Hillbilly Jim, Ultimate Warrior, Don Muraco, and accidentally Dino Bravo). Adjusting for the amount of competitors, that’s like nine eliminations in a regular Rumble!
One Man Gang also made second place, failing to finish off Hacksaw Jim Duggan in the end. While he didn’t set the world on fire the year after as Akeem, he still made it to third place.
12. BOB BACKLUND
Backlund’s Rumble career is mostly made up of being in and out in an instant (94, 95, 2000), but 1993 told a different story. Despite being WWF Champion for years, Backlund was this weird man out of time who left and came back after the company and business changed its DNA. He was the odd man out, coming off as this vanilla grappler compared to all the colorful characters. He was an anachronism whose days had passed.
It’s rather ironic that he was used to erase – or at least downplay – the accolades of Ric Flair, whose time with the company was also coming to an end. A year earlier, Flair entered at #3 and lasted an hour to win the Rumble, making him a record-breaker and trendsetter. In 1993, Flair was a day away from losing a Loser Leaves Town match against Mr. Perfect, so they needed someone else to have that longevity record.
Flair came in at #1 with Backlund at #2. Backlund outlasted Flair and stayed active for the entire match, up until the final minutes. Although he only eliminated Fatu and Rick Martel, Backlund earned the praise of the crowd and they were fully behind him when he took on the unbeatable Yokozuna by himself. Unfortunately, Backlund wasn’t up to the task and got tossed out.
He made third place and lasted an hour, one minute, and ten seconds. It was a record that wouldn’t be broken for another eight years and until the Greatest Royal Rumble happened in 2018, Backlund would have the record for longest time in the ring for someone who didn’t win.
Whether a Samoan savage or a guy trying to make the streets a safer place, Fatu has been enough of a regular on the WWF roster that he ended up making ten whole appearances. He didn’t truly get his footing as a major name until the Attitude Era, where he became a funky sumo with a felching addiction. He was in this weird gray area where he was over as a comedy act while just as over as a main event threat and Royal Rumble 2000 really brought both of those sides to life.
Rikishi appeared at #5 and proceeded to help clear the ring until it was just him and his good buddy Grand Master Sexay. Out next was Scotty 2 Hotty, who convinced the two to join him in their trademark dancing. Rikishi clotheslined his partners and threw them out. He then eliminated the next entries Steve Blackman and Viscera before Big Boss Man decided to wait out the entrance so he didn’t have to fight Rikishi alone. Rikishi lasted over sixteen minutes before it took six men at once to lift him out, but he acted as the most memorable part of the entire match.
While Rikishi has never been a finalist in any of the mainstream Rumbles (he got third place in the 2004 SmackDown Royal Rumble), he’s still accomplished some noteworthy eliminations. Not only did he take out Steve Austin in the 1996 Rumble, but in 2001, he singlehandedly defeated the Undertaker thanks to the power of his invincible Samoan skull.
10. THE GREAT KHALI
In the beginning, Khali was treated as the ultimate heel threat. He first showed up by absolutely crushing the Undertaker without any foul play. When it came time for Khali’s Royal Rumble debut in 2007, he conquered the ring like no other. Not only did he pull off seven eliminations despite coming in at #28, but he laid waste to everyone around him. He left a giant pile of bodies around the ring and eventually got around to picking up the lifeless carcasses and flinging them into the distance.
The idea was that Khali was such a monster that the only person to prevent him from winning was #30, the Undertaker. Undertaker took care of Khali and basically saved all the would-be victims left littered in the ring.
After that, Khali stopped being treated seriously in the Rumble and would usually show up, chop a couple people, then get thrown out to no fanfare.
9. CHARLOTTE FLAIR
As of this writing, Charlotte’s only taken part in the 2019 Royal Rumble and when watched from her perspective, it’s a bit of a tragedy. Of all the women who drew for that match, she was the only viable option. She entered at #13 and proved her worth, even eliminating her lesser doppelganger Lacey Evans. Over her 50 minutes of in-ring time, she also took out Tamina, Xia Li, and Carmella. She even got the assist in removing Nia Jax.
Charlotte made runner up, having lost to Becky Lynch, a woman who wasn’t even supposed to be in the match in the first place, but had herself added in as an arguable #31. Then again, Becky’s knee was busted, so Charlotte owes part of her loss to her own hubris.
She ended up getting that WrestleMania main event challenger spot anyway, so whatever.
8. SID JUSTICE
Sid only fought in one Rumble – 1992 to be exact – and despite showing up at #29, he stood out in a ring full of world champions and main eventers. The moment he stepped in, nearly all of the eliminations had his name on it, including Sergeant Slaughter, Warlord, Rick Martel, Roddy Piper, Randy Savage, and Hulk Hogan himself.
Sid even made runner up and would have won had it not been for Hogan helping Flair cheat to win. Sid never appeared in the Rumble again, but at least he looked like a god in his one outing.
Diesel’s appearance in 1994 is pretty legendary. Early on, he appeared and proceeded to demolish anyone in his way. Scott Steiner, Kwang, Owen Hart, and Bart Gunn all fell to his power, leaving Diesel alone in the ring. For the next several minutes, Diesel would await his next opponent, annihilate them, and wait for the next entrant. He went through Bob Backlund, Billy Gunn, and Virgil until Randy Savage ran out to put a stop to his streak.
The ring filled up enough over time that a group effort was able to heave Diesel out of there. The fans cheered him on as he walked off, despite being a heel, as sometimes you don’t need to win the match to get over.
Diesel returned to the Rumble two years later and had another strong performance. Appearing at #22, he eliminated Hunter Heart Helmsley, Owen Hart, Tatanka, Duke Droese, and Kama. He lasted to the very end and ate a superkick from Shawn Michaels, sending Diesel to the floor and earning him second place.
At least Nash would go on to win World War 3 in WCW. You know, for what that’s worth.
6. CODY RHODES
Here’s one of the most unexpected stats about the Royal Rumble: Cody Rhodes has spent over three hours competing in the Rumble when you combine all of his appearances. 3:08:30, to be more precise. Only six other wrestlers trump him on that time and they’ve all at least made second place. Cody’s highest ranking is third place in 2009, in a match where he’s little more than a forgettable goon.
Cody has never really been seen as a Rumble MVP, but he’s always done at least okay in each appearance. He’s never gotten clotheslined to the floor immediately or anything like that, even during his Stardust days.
His best showing is easily the 2012 Rumble, where he came in at #4 and lasted until Big Show stepped in at #30. Not only did Cody go for 41:55, but he also had the most eliminations, taking out Mick Foley, Santino, Jerry Lawler, Great Khali, and Jim Duggan.
Man, the 2012 Rumble kind of sucked.
5. DANIEL BRYAN
In his initial years, Daniel Bryan never did all that well in the Royal Rumble. He might get an elimination or two, but he was usually around for just a few minutes before being discarded. The longer he was with the company, the more this became a thing. And then his Royal Rumble days were over completely as he retired due to a history of concussions.
Several years after that, he was cleared to wrestle again and returned at WrestleMania. Shortly after, he was entered into the Greatest Royal Rumble, which featured fifty competitors. Bryan didn’t get the win on this one, but they did throw him a bone by letting him put his endurance to use by entering at #1 and lasting as long as third place. He only eliminated Mark Henry, Viktor, and Dash Wilder, but the dude still lasted a whole one hour and sixteen minutes, demolishing the pre-existing record set by Rey Mysterio.
Even then, he spent the final minutes taking it to eventual winner Braun Strowman until Big Cass eliminated Bryan.
4. THE BRITISH BULLDOG
Davey Boy Smith had been in many Rumbles and was definitely one of the better players. His debut in 1991 got him into the final four before being overwhelmed by Earthquake and Brian Knobbs. He also made the final four in 1996, losing to Shawn Michaels. He was a dominant force in the 1992 Rumble and made Ric Flair’s life Hell for over twenty-three minutes.
Bulldog’s best performance is easily the 1995 Rumble, where he entered at #2 while Michaels was at #1. The two started the match and ended it. Even though they only had one-minute intervals that year, they still looked impressive as they weathered the storm in the nearly-forty-minute battle. Bulldog clotheslined Michaels over the top rope and seemingly won to the point that his theme music was playing. Instead, Michaels hung on with only one foot hitting the floor, pulled himself back into the ring, and ambushed Bulldog for the win.
Bulldog then went on to curtain-jerk WrestleMania. Bollocks…
3. CM PUNK
Punk’s always done great in these kinds of matches, but there are three that really allow him to stand out. In 2010, he lasted about ten minutes, but he spent that time outright controlling it all. He cleared the ring, grabbed the mic, and then started up a sermon about being straight edge. As others would enter in the following minutes, he’d continue to clear the ring, pick up that microphone, and verbally go to town until the next entrant. Before losing, he had a respectable five eliminations to his name.
Then in 2011, he entered at #1 and was soon accompanied by his New Nexus flunkies. They controlled the match even more thoroughly this time and allowed Punk to rack up the score. Daniel Bryan, John Morrison, Mark Henry, Chris Masters, Tyler Reks, Vladimir Kozlov, and R-Truth all fell to Punk’s hand…with a little help. Then John Cena had to ruin everything, causing Punk to last for just over thirty-five minutes.
Once again, Punk appeared at #1 in 2014. Originally, it was a match he was penciled to win, but then they decided to go with the returning Batista and we all know how that turned out. Punk went the distance and got a couple eliminations before being legitimately knocked silly by the Shield’s triple powerbomb. Concussed, he endured the battle until making it into the final four, where Kane returned from elimination to unfairly pull Punk out of the ring and drill him through a table.
Lasting at 49:11, it would be Punk’s final WWE appearance. Well, except for that Backstage show he’s occasionally on, but nobody watches that.
When you combine Glenn Jacobs’ various gimmicks, he’s been in the Royal Rumble 19 times as of this writing. It helps when you’re a company man, safe enough to rarely be injured, and are known for being the harbinger of destruction. Kane’s times in the Rumble vary from cleaning house for a minute and then getting heaved out to being one of the threats standing around after #30’s entered. His most impressive Rumble run is 2001, where he entered at #5, lasted 53:46, eliminated 11 wrestlers, and made runner-up.
Not only does Kane have the record for Rumble appearances and a combined time of 3 hours, 38 minutes, and 46 seconds, but he also has the career record for most eliminations. From 1996 to 2016, Kane has taken out a total of 44 opponents. Damn.
1. CHRIS JERICHO
Despite Kane’s accomplishments, I can’t give him the number one spot. Instead, I give it to the most understated MVP of the Royal Rumble, Chris Jericho.
Jericho first appeared in the 2000 Rumble, already having competed in an Intercontinental Championship match earlier in the night. He lasted only a couple of minutes and didn’t appear in the Rumble for another few years. Once he started showing up more, he basically made it his home. Unless he had a very late entry, he tended to last somewhere between a half hour to a full hour. His record remains 1:00:13 from 2017, with 50:50 from the 2016 match as second place, followed by 47:53 in 2013.
Chris Jericho has appeared in ten Rumbles and while he’s been in just over half as many as Kane, he’s made more of the opportunities. Right now, Jericho has a combined five hours, one minute, and thirty seconds of Rumble time. That’s over an hour more than Triple H, who has second place.
Then again, Jericho really shouldn’t be on this list in the first place, considering he was meant to win in 2012 and only failed because WWE figured it would be more shocking not to go with the original ending. He still looked great in it, as he and Sheamus went at it for long while before Jericho finally lost. Then in 2017, he was once again pencilled to win until Brock Lesnar suggested the idea of a Lesnar vs. Goldberg title match at WrestleMania.
These days, Jericho is at the twilight of his career and is spending it building up AEW, so his Royal Rumble days are behind him. Jericho will never get his much-deserved win, but he’ll be leaving a mark in the record books for a long, long time.