WWE Royal Rumble 2018: Former Winners with Worst WrestleMania Showings
WWE's Royal Rumble is coming up on January 28. While fans surely already have their favorites in mind, it's a bit too soon to know what direction the company will take.
The Royal Rumble match is important because the winner will go on to challenge for the WWE Championship or Universal Championship in the main event WrestleMania 34. That spot is the biggest WWE can offer any talent, and it's on the biggest night of the year. The Grandest Stage of Them All is the pinnacle of the pro wrestling business, so the main event on that night is consequently the most important.
But over the years, two major issues have become apparent. Not only has the Royal Rumble winner found himself not going on last, but he's also found himself coming out on the losing end.
The spot WWE has always promoted as the most coveted doesn't always translate to success for the Royal Rumble winner. The fact the company continues to advertise the 'Mania main event in relation to the Royal Rumble is a bit odd, to say the least.
Rumble matches were supposed to be about elevating Superstars so they could realize their dreams at WrestleMania, but that's no longer the case.
Even the most popular WWE Superstars have found themselves winning the Royal Rumble yet not walking away from 'Mania with victories. It's not about the kind of matches they had. It's about winning and losing. In many instances, the booking fell flat.
Lex Luger, WrestleMania X, 1994
1994 was supposed to be Lex Luger's year.
He was a major focus of WWE, as the company seemed committed to elevating him as the next top guy. He was the heir apparent to Hulk Hogan, and fans didn't need CEO Vince McMahon to admit that.
But perhaps fans rushed to judge Luger before they were certain of his fate.
Luger's star was burning bright heading into 1994's Royal Rumble match. However, its outcome that began to dim it. Luger did win the Battle Royal, but so too did Bret Hart. Was WWE heading in a different direction?
Was the confidence in Luger suddenly gone? The answer to those questions was apparently yes, as Luger did not main-event WrestleMania X. He also did not win the WWE Championship that night. Fans have debated for years what would have happened had Luger won the title that year, but he never attained the top spot in the company.
Any rumors Luger would become the next Hogan died almost as quickly as his main event run.
Randy Orton, WrestleMania XXV, 2009
One of the main criticisms leveled at WWE is the company is obsessed with putting over the McMahon family. Vince and his clan book themselves in top storylines, top matches and top spots. It happens all the time whether fans want it or not.
That was especially true in 2009.
Randy Orton won the Royal Rumble that year, which meant a WWE title shot at WrestleMania XXV. But this was not going to be just any title match; this was going to be against Triple H.
Orton's heat with Hunter went back to their days in Evolution. The Game had kicked Orton out of the group, and The Viper never forgave him for it. Orton's rage boiled over, and that meant the entire McMahon family was once again on the main stage.
The Apex Predator targeted the McMahons and took out his wrath on every member of the family. Triple H did the best he could to push Orton back, and their feud went all the way to The Viper's home. Their showdown was inevitable, and 'Mania was the best event for it.
But fans knew the feud was booked for the babyface to win, which meant Triple H retained the WWE Championship. Orton did the job, and once again a Royal Rumble winner had not brought home the gold.
Alberto Del Rio, WrestleMania XXVII, 2011
Alberto Del Rio has received mixed reviews from WWE fans over the years.
His love-hate relationship with the crowd is due in large part to his ability in the ring, which has been tempered by his personal life. His actions outside the squared circle have made him unpopular, and that has translated to his pro wrestling character.
But when it comes to the 2011 Royal Rumble, ADR wasn't exactly the worst choice to win.
However, even with that momentum, Del Rio did not capture the World Heavyweight Championship from Edge. The match itself was fairly entertaining, but it suffered a bit from Christian, Brodus Clay and Ricardo Rodriguez's inclusion at ringside.
Del Rio's loss was overshadowed just one week later, when Edge was forced to retire from in-ring competition. Christian went on to become world heavyweight champion, defeating Del Rio to win the gold.
Del Rio was the right heel at the right time, so it can be argued he was the best choice to face Edge at 'Mania. This was not the end of ADR's WWE career, and he became WWE champion later in 2011. Interestingly enough, that win came over CM Punk, a man whose own momentum was squashed to a great extent by the loss.
Batista, WrestleMania XXX, 2014
2013 saw the rise of Daniel Bryan in WWE. His explosion in popularity was one of the most organic events the company has ever seen, and no one can deny he earned every great thing that came his way during that time.
He also earned the win in 2014's Royal Rumble. But not only did he not win—he wasn't even booked in the match.
Batista paid the price for WWE's bad booking here, as his victory in the Royal Rumble match spelled the end of his babyface run. Batista had just returned to the company and was supposed to carry his renewed popularity all the way to the main event of WrestleMania, but that was just not to be.
Fans hated him because he won. They wanted Bryan, and they did not get him.
So WrestleMania XXX saw a heel Batista face off against Bryan and WWE world heavyweight champion Randy Orton. Batista and Orton played their parts in the match, but this was Bryan's night. And WWE would not keep it from him. The leader of the Yes Movement reached the top of the pro wrestling world, and he deserved it.
WWE could have booked Bryan in the Rumble and given him the win. Batista could still have been included in the 'Mania main event, and if he had been, he may not have needed to turn heel. However, regardless of how it was booked, it all turned out for the best.
Bryan became the man, and Batista had a hand in making it happen.
Triple H, WrestleMania 32, 2016
Triple H's Royal Rumble win in 2016 came as quite a shock.
He was the surprise No. 30 entrant, and when he won, he became WWE world heavyweight champion. Fans popped for him as the nostalgia flowed. The Game had stunned everyone and was back to being on top in more ways than one.
But then reality set in, and the same fans who cheered him suddenly began to realize why all of this was happening.
This was not about Hunter; it was about Roman Reigns. WWE wanted to officially crown Reigns as the new top guy, and it was up to Triple H to make it happen. Once the wheels of the creative process began turning, fans mentally tuned out.
It seemed no one wanted anything to do with this match.
The bout itself was not bad, but it had a heavy shadow hanging over it. Hunter should have been the crafty heel, the grizzled veteran who would stop at nothing to keep Reigns from the title. Instead, he was cheered. Reigns should have been the monster babyface on a mission to dethrone Triple H and dismantle The Authority once and for all. Instead, he was booed.
This may have been a match that had to happen in WWE's eyes, but no one else appreciated it. Hunter lost for the right reasons, but it was a showdown fans did not want.
Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Bleacher Report. His podcast, Tom Clark's Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, iHeartRadio, Windows Phone, Amazon Android on online at boinkstudios.com.