Greatest Superstars Never to Win the WWE Royal Rumble
One of the greatest achievements in any WWE Superstar's career is winning the Royal Rumble match. Outlasting 29 others is among the hardest challenges of the year, but it does come with the reward of a title shot at WrestleMania.
Over the years, most of the best to lace up a pair of boots have stood tall at the end of the battle royal.
Some, like Hulk Hogan, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and John Cena won it more than once. Legends such as Shawn Michaels started from No. 1 and went the distance. Others, like The Undertaker, came in right at the end and snatched a victory.
But there are still plenty of Superstars who should have won a Royal Rumble at some point in the past 30-plus years but failed to do so.
Let's look back on some of the greatest wrestlers who, for one reason or another, never managed to win a Royal Rumble match.
With 900-plus possible winners over the course of the Royal Rumble's history, there is an abundance of Superstars who should have won.
For instance, Bob Backlund had one of the lengthiest WWE Championship title reigns in history and previously held the record for the longest time in a Rumble (61 minutes and 10 seconds).
Razor Ramon never even had a chance to win as he didn't compete in a single Royal Rumble for his entire career.
Sid was a runner-up in 1992 and didn't spend too many years eligible to win the Rumble, but he was a big enough name to have won a match at some point.
Ted DiBiase, Mr. Perfect, Roddy Piper and others in the Hulk Hogan era might have won if The Hulkster wasn't such a priority to overshadow everyone else, or if the Rumble had started earlier than 1988.
Ultimate Warrior would have made sense in 1990 to lead into the "Ultimate Challenge" and his match with Hogan at WrestleMania VI. That could have been the first year the winner received a title shot at The Show of Shows if WWE had the foresight of that gimmick.
A case could be made for Booker T, Eddie Guerrero, Owen Hart, British Bulldog and so many more, but the stars just never aligned for any of them.
Kane may be the best wrestler in Royal Rumble history to have never won the match.
His record of most eliminations per match stood untested for years after he tossed out 11 Superstars in 2001 and completely stole the show.
He was the runner-up that year, losing out to Steve Austin, but he never regained that momentum in the following contests.
Overall, Kane has eliminated more wrestlers than anyone else, but he has nothing to show for thinning out the herd year after year.
Mick Foley holds the distinction of having the most entries in a single Royal Rumble when he competed as Cactus Jack, Mankind and Dude Love in 1998.
As a multiple former champion and someone who competed for the WWF Championship at WrestleMania 2000, Foley seems a given for a Rumble win. He's been the underdog many times and could have overcome the odds at some point to have a victorious moment during the Attitude Era.
Unfortunately, there were bigger fish to fry each time, mostly as "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Rock were the focal points at that time.
Diesel dominated the event in 1994 by eliminating seven Superstars, but a great first impression and strong presence was all he was booked for. Bret Hart and Lex Luger took priority as the top challengers to face Yokozuna that year.
The next year, Diesel wasn't in the Royal Rumble as he had already become champion. In 1996, he was the runner-up, only losing to a superkick from Shawn Michaels.
Had Kevin Nash stayed in WWE longer, he could have had many other opportunities to win and likely would have. However, his final Rumble appearance would be his return in 2011, which was nothing more than a guest shot to pop the crowd.
Nash did win a World War 3, which was WCW's equivalent to the Royal Rumble, but it isn't quite a Rumble victory.
One of the biggest mistakes WWE did with the Road to WrestleMania XXVIII was to put Sheamus over Chris Jericho as the Royal Rumble winner, only for it to amount to an 18-second win over Daniel Bryan.
Y2J had much more support from the fans at the time, more momentum than The Celtic Warrior and it was one of the few things left for him to check off his list of accolades.
In retrospect, WWE should have given that victory to Jericho to go straight into a feud with CM Punk, while Sheamus could have spent the next month setting up his feud with Bryan and winning over more fans.
The only other time Jericho could have feasibly won the Rumble would have been 2017 to fight Kevin Owens had WWE not decided to put the title on Goldberg for his match against Brock Lesnar. In a different world, maybe that would have happened.
Now that Jericho is with All Elite Wrestling, it's doubtful he will ever get a chance to win a Royal Rumble.
Every year, much is made about how the Royal Rumble favors the super heavyweights due to how hard they should be to get over the top rope. More often than not, though, someone finds a way.
Big Show has been runner-up twice. In 2000, he lost to The Rock and Chris Benoit outlasted him in 2004.
While the latter loss was definitive, the former is up for debate. There was a botch when The Rock's feet hit the floor first, not Big Show's. Although it wasn't the plan, Big Show should have been declared the winner.
However, he was never officially named the winner, so he remains one of the biggest Superstars in both stature and credibility to never take home a Rumble victory.
Andre the Giant
Much like Big Show, Andre the Giant's pure size should have netted him a Royal Rumble victory at some point.
His track record in these matches was so impressive that WWE named WrestleMania's multi-man battle royal in his name.
However, Andre's peak had passed before the Royal Rumble came into being in 1988.
He did compete in 1989 and 1990, but he was more of a footnote than a dominant force. In 1989, he eliminated himself out of fear of Jake Roberts' snake and he was taken out by Demolition 12 months later.
Randy Savage was perpetually in Hogan's shadow and frequently came in second place to The Immortal One.
In 1990, before the Royal Rumble would determine a No. 1 contender, Savage as champion was involved in the match and taken out by Hogan to help push along the Mega Powers storyline in preparation for WrestleMania V.
That bad luck continued when he was chased out of the building by Ultimate Warrior and no-showed the 1991 Royal Rumble.
In 1992, he forgot the rules and eliminated himself, but it was ignored. He did go on to win the WWF Championship at WrestleMania VII, but by the time 1993 came around, bad luck struck again.
Once more, Macho Man forgot the rules and tried to pin Yokozuna, which resulted in his elimination and the last chance he had to win a Royal Rumble.
There isn't a clear and obvious year that should have been the time CM Punk won the Royal Rumble.
He had a shot in 2011 with the help of The Nexus, but there were other plans for the titles that didn't involve him, so it wouldn't have worked.
2014 could have been his year had Daniel Bryan not been a hotter ticket, but WWE preferred to go with Batista and Punk checked out the next night, anyway.
It's a shame Punk hasn't committed to wrestling again and the WWE Championship isn't on Seth Rollins to set up a Royal Rumble win for The Voice of the Voiceless so he could take down The Architect at WrestleMania 36, as now might be the only time left something like that could happen.
A Laundry List of Female Superstars
As there have only been two Women's Royal Rumble matches in WWE history, only Asuka and Becky Lynch have the honor of winning one of these bouts, leaving tons of Superstars without a chance.
Had there been a Royal Rumble for the women's division in previous eras, surely Lita, Trish Stratus, Mickie James, Beth Phoenix, Melina, AJ Lee and others would have won.
On the current roster, some Superstars should be looked at as guarantees for future wins and if they don't at some point, it will be extremely shocking.
Charlotte Flair has to top that list. She's done everything else and if her track record continues, she'll check this off in no time.
Sasha Banks and Bayley will probably win one down the line, too. They're Four Horsewomen members and pioneers of the Women's Evolution just the same.
Alexa Bliss, if she can stay healthy long enough, will probably win one. She has more championships and a Money in the Bank victory to her name, which means her success on the main roster should translate here, too.
Time will tell who we look back on with the women's division, but as it just started, there is some leeway before judging anyone in the current crop as a missed opportunity.
Last, but certainly not least, is perhaps the most egregious example of WWE going with the wrong pick when Batista won the 2014 Royal Rumble.
It was painfully obvious Daniel Bryan was the right call to make, yet WWE wanted to do Batista vs. Randy Orton and tried to ignore the fans screaming at the top of their lungs for the leader of the Yes Movement.
It all worked out well in the end with WrestleMania XXX, but WWE screwed up again in 2015 in the eyes of most fans when Bryan failed to win that one, too.
In that scenario, Roman Reigns did make sense and there isn't as much to blame WWE for. However, Bryan's booking in the match was so poor that it came off like a shot at those who backed Bryan the previous year.
For chastising fans like that, WWE paid the price in Reigns being booed incessantly for years to come, which only galvanized support for Bryan even more.
2020 doesn't seem like it will be the year Bryan wins a Royal Rumble, but there may still be time to right those wrongs and give him a victory at some point in the future.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.