Greatest Royal Rumble Losers
The Royal Rumble is the greatest gimmick match ever invented. 30 wrestlers enter one at a time for the chance to have a world title shot at Wrestlemania. Winners have gone on to be some of the biggest names in the business.
But there have only been 30 different winners. What about the losers? Out of the 1000+ participants, there have to be some great performances! And there are. These failures’ performances have become equally career-defining and deserve to be recognized by the fans.
Some are on this list for a single achievement. Some are on here for years of dominance. But no matter the reason, these are the 10 greatest showings by Royal Rumble losers.
*Note: This is excluding the Greatest Royal Rumble as that is a separate event*
10. Ted Dibiase – 1990
The Million Dollar Man may be the greatest heel in all of wrestling. He stuffed 100 dollar bills in his opponents’ mouths. He had a manservant who did the dirty work for him. He even kicked a basketball away from a little kid! But Dibiase was still an impressive wrestler and he proved this in the 1990 Royal Rumble.
Some backstory: In 1989, Ted Dibiase entered the Royal Rumble at #30. This was because he paid Slick, the manager for Akeem “The African Dream,” for Akeem’s spot in the Rumble. Dibiase made it to the final two and was eliminated by Big John Studd, despite attempts at bribery.
As punishment for all of this bribery, Dibiase entered again in the Royal Rumble in 1990. But this time, it would be at #1. Most thought that The Million Dollar Man would be done quickly, but he stuck around with no cheating and no bribery. Just grit and tenacity. He wound up eliminating 3 people and almost lasting 45 minutes, a record at the time.
Ted Dibiase may best be remembered for his greed and evil tactics, but in the 1990 Royal Rumble, he proved just how tough he is.
9. Mick Foley – 1998
Mick Foley is one of the most beloved wrestlers of all time and for good reason. Not just the greatest hardcore wrestler ever, Foley also created 3 different personas that became instantly popular and have stood the test of time. And in 1998, the WWE universe got a taste of all of them.
The match started off with Foley entering as Cactus Jack, a character he popularized in WCW and ECW. Throwing trash cans into the ring with him, he was soon joined by Terry Funk as Chainsaw Charlie, a frequent rival and ally. They would eliminate Tom Brandi together before Jack was eliminated by Charlie.
15 spots later, Foley was back! This time as the masked lunatic Mankind. He’d get revenge on Chainsaw Charlie, but was quickly eliminated by Goldust.
That is until spot 28, where Foley came back a THIRD time as the fun-loving Dude Love. He eliminated Bradshaw and Henry Godwin before getting eliminated himself by Bradshaw’s partner Farooq.
Sure, Foley only eliminated 4 people total and he lasted less than 20 minutes across 3 different entrances. But damn, Mick Foley put on one hell of a show. Speaking of a show…
8. The Big Show – 2000
The Royal Rumble is the match where a big man will shine and there is no man bigger than The Big Show. He has had an impressive record of 32 total eliminations over 12 Rumbles. However, there is one match where Big Show stands out.
The big show came in at number 26 and had some truly impressive eliminations, including a massive gorilla press to X-Pac. But his big highlight was at the very end where it was just him and The Rock.
Everyone knew The Rock was going to win. He was the most popular wrestler in the company. But he was staring down The Big Show. And after a spine buster and a People’s Elbow didn’t finish the job, The Big Show choke-slammed The Rock and hoisted him onto his shoulders. But as he went to throw him over, The Rock grabbed the rope and used his momentum to send The Big Show to the ground and win the match.
But here’s the thing: he didn’t win. The Rock’s feet hit the ground first, even though The Big Show fell to the ground. This led to a massive feud between the two and a disappointing main event at Wrestlemania.
Of all the people on this list, The Big Show is the only one who should have won. It’s true. Just ask Dwayne Johnson himself.
7. Rikishi – 2000
While The Big Show made it to the very end, the beginning was dominated by Rikishi. While The Samoan Stinker is often remembered as a joke (seriously, look at his nickname), he has competed in 10 Royal Rumble pay-per-view events. And while he’s only done 12 total eliminations, 7 of them happened in one match.
Rikishi came in at #5 and, along with the help of Grand Master Sexay, eliminated three of the first four entrants. The duo was then joined by Scotty 2 Hotty and, since all of Too Cool was present, they did what Too Cool did best. They danced! And then immediately, Rikishi eliminated both of his teammates. Don’t worry, they’re cool.
Rikishi then proceeded to eliminate the next two entrants with no issue until Big Boss Man entered and just waited outside the ring until Test entered and forced him in. It then took the next six entrants working together to finally eliminate Rikishi.
Sure, Rikishi is mostly known for the Stinkface and dancing like a fool, but in 2000 Rikishi proved that he is a wrestler that deserves to be taken seriously.
6. Diesel – 1994
The 1994 Royal Rumble is filled with oddities. There were a ton of substitutions of wrestlers and for the first and only time, there were co-winners (Bret Hart and Lex Luger). But the most pleasant surprise was Kevin Nash as Diesel.
At the time, Diesel was a cocky biker who the crowd loved to hate. But after he entered that Rumble everything Changed. Diesel came in at #7 and almost immediately eliminated four of the six wrestlers who came before him. He then took out the three that came after him. Afterwards, he had to be eliminated by five other wrestlers at once. As he left, the crowd erupted in applause.
This changed everything for Nash. Throughout the next year, he would win the Intercontinental Championship, The Tag Team Championship, and the WWF Championship. Diesel entered the Royal Rumble seen as a common thug, but he left a star.
5. Bob Backlund – 1993
At one point, Bob Backlund was the face of the WWE. When he won the WWWF Heavyweight Championship in 1978 and held it for over five years. But if he was a big wrestler in the ’70s and ’80s what the heck is a ’90s Rumble doing here?
Well, Backlund had re-joined the newly named WWF and seemed a little out of touch. He would mainly wrestle mid-card matches and no one was too fond of him. But that all changed with the 1993 Royal Rumble.
Backlund started out at #2 with Ric Flair as #1, starting the Rumble with two former world champions. Flair would be eliminated after 15 minutes, but the 54-year-old Backlund would last for over an hour. He fought tooth and nail to survive, before finally being eliminated by Yokozuna near the end.
Fans were blown away. Suddenly this old-timer who couldn’t keep up with the ways wrestling was changing suddenly held the record for most time in a single Royal Rumble (later to be broken by Rey Mysterio).
1993 marked the comeback of Bob Backlund. Because of his showing in this match, Backlund was back in the public’s eyes. He would win the WWF Championship again 18 months later, setting a record for most time between world title reigns.
4. Chris Jericho – 2003
Chris Jericho is easily one of the greatest wrestlers of the past 2 decades, having won the Intercontinental Championship a record nine times and been a world champion six times. Not only that, but Jericho is probably the greatest wrestler to never win a Royal Rumble. While there have been many impressive rumble performances by Y2J (check out 2017 and 2013), the most impressive outing was in 2003.
This was Jericho’s second foray into the Royal Rumble and his first was not that impressive, lasting only three minutes and forty-seven seconds. So if he wanted to prove that he was the best, he’d have to make a statement immediately.
The match started off with Shawn Michaels, one of the greatest wrestlers of all time and winner of 2 Royal Rumble events in a row. The crowd was immediately hot. Then came Chris Jericho. And he just beat him senseless. It was brutal. There was a chair shot. There was blood. It was unbelievable. Jericho then eliminated Michaels after only two and a half minutes.
Jericho wound up eliminating five other people and lasted 39 minutes before Michaels came back and got his revenge by distracting Jericho, causing Test to eliminate him.
But the message had been sent. Jericho would go on to be one of the most dominant wrestlers in the Royal Rumble of all time, having cumulatively lasted almost 5 hours.
3. The British bulldog – 1995
This one is another heartbreaker. Davey Boy Smith is probably the greatest runner-up in all of wrestling. He had almost won the WWF Championship numerous times. He had almost won the World Heavyweight Championship numerous times. And he almost won the Royal Rumble in 1995.
Just like with Chris Jericho, the match started out with Shawn Michaels. Smith was second and the two went at it for a long time. How long? THE ENTIRE MATCH. This was the first time that the first two participants were also the final two participants.
Smith threw Michaels over the top rope and began to celebrate. Suddenly, Michaels came back. He hit Smith with a double-axe handle from behind and threw him over the rope. Michaels had won.
While The British Bulldog did send Shawn Michaels over the top rope, only one of his feet touched the floor. And both feet have to hit the floor to be eliminated.
This was one of the saddest losses in Royal Rumble history and, of course, it had to happen to The British Bulldog.
2. Kofi Kingston – A Lot
Every other wrestler is on here for either the amount of eliminations they’ve made or how long they lasted in the ring. But there has never been anyone nearly as entertaining as former world champion Kofi Kingston.
Kingston’s elimination avoidances have not only been the highlights of Royal Rumble events but for the whole year. Each one reminds you that the Royal Rumble isn’t about eliminations. It’s about survival. And wrestling isn’t just about feats of strength. It’s about entertainment. The incredible handstand in 2012. The hilarious chair pogo stick in 2013. That inhuman leap from the barricade in 2014. These are just some of the incredible feats Kofi has performed in Royal Rumble pay-per-views for 11 years straight.
Unfortunately, Kofi’s rumble streak ends this year. After suffering a gnarly jaw injury from a match against The Hurt Business at TLC, he has publicly bowed out from the match and his entry number was taken by Mustafa Ali. Here’s hoping that this is all a work and we’ll see The Dreadlocked Dynamo this Sunday.
1. Kane – 2001
It had to be Kane. Glenn Jacobs holds the records for most Royal Rumbles appeared in (19) and most total eliminations (44). He has been consistently dominant and yet, the final victory has always eluded him. But he was never more devastating than in the 2001 Royal Rumble.
Admittedly, his journey started off weak. Drew Carey (yes, that Drew Carey) was the only man left in the ring. And then the flames went off. And there has never been someone more terrified than Drew Carey staring at Kane. Carey runs away and Kane’s domination begins.
Kane proceeds to eliminate eleven people. That’s right. Eleven. Raven, Perry Saturn, Tazz, and The Rock are just some of Kane’s many victims. And each one is brutal.
In the end, there are two men standing: Kane and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Kane tried to hit Austin with a chair but was countered with the Stone Cold Stunner. Austin then proceeds to hit Kane in the head with the chair three times and clotheslines him over the rope for the win.
Genuinely, Kane’s performance here is a sight to behold. The eliminations, the strength, and the longevity not only make this the best showing by a wrestler who’s never won the Royal Rumble but one of the best Royal Rumble performances period.