While we must acknowledge it is a small sample size, it seems there are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and Roman Reigns doing really well in the Royal Rumble.
On Sunday, Roman Reigns’ track record of rumble excellence continued as for the fourth time in six tries, the Big Dog finished as the runner-up, this year being eliminated at the hands of Drew McIntyre, who won his first Royal Rumble match. If you exclude the 2019 Royal Rumble, which Roman Reigns missed on account of his illness, this marks three straight rumbles he’s appeared in, in which he’s been the last man thrown from the ring. That’s pretty impressive in its own right but what is even more impressive is that Reigns’ rumble excellence doesn’t just span three years. It spans his entire career, as not once in six appearances has Roman Reigns finished any lower than third best.
In 2014, during the height of the Shield‘s dominance in WWE, all three members of the trio made their Royal Rumble match debuts. Up first was Seth Rollins, who entered second and lasted nearly 49 minutes. He was the 25th man eliminated from the match, courtesy of Roman Reigns. Dean Ambrose entered 11th and lasted just under 34 minutes. He was the 26th man eliminated, also by Roman Reigns. But Reigns’ Shield brethren were only two of the then-record setting 12 men thrown from the ring by the Big Dog. Other casualties included Kofi Kingston, Dolph Ziggler, Goldust, Kevin Nash, The Great Khali, Sheamus, Cesaro, Luke Harper, El Torito, and John “Bradshaw” Layfield.
In the end, Roman Reigns, whose 33:51 was the third-longest time in the match that year, reached the final two, where he was thrown out by Batista. It was an incredibly impressive debut for Reigns that would end up becoming a pattern of future success. Given he was the runner-up, lasted the third longest, and set a new elimination record (that stood until Braun Strowman in the 2018 Greatest Royal Rumble and Brock Lesnar in the 2020 Royal Rumble) passing the mark of 11 by Kane that had stood since 2001, Roman Reigns’ rumble debut was one of, if not the greatest such debuts of all time.
One might wonder, how would Roman Reigns follow-up such a strong performance? Well, in 2015, after entering the match from the 19th position, lasting nearly 28 minutes and eliminating that year’s high of six wrestlers from the match, Reigns won the Royal Rumble. It was a momentous celebration as The Rock came out to celebrate with his cousin and raise his arm in victory. But even the Great One wasn’t enough to stop the hailstorm of boos that the Philadelphia crowd reigned down on Vince McMahon’s anointed one.
Having won the rumble in 2015, Roman Reigns was guaranteed his spot in the main event of WrestleMania. It was the first of what would be four consecutive WrestleMania main events that Reigns would enjoy, all of which came despite him not winning another rumble. But who really wants to win the Royal Rumble anyway? Seemingly not Reigns as in 2016, staked with the task of entering the rumble first and having to defend his WWE Championship within the course of the near-hour long match, the Big Dog finished in a career-worst third, being the second-to-last man eliminated at the hands of Triple H.
Still though, Roman Reigns’ five eliminations that year tied Braun Strowman for the most and his time of 59:48, while disputed given how much of it was spent in the back (about 30 minutes), was the longest such time that year. But take that into consideration. A third-place finish is Reigns’ worst of his career. That’s how dominant he has been in the 30-man over the top rope battle royale.
Roman Reigns enjoyed a much more favorable draw the following year when he entered the Royal Rumble last. He was only in the match just over five minutes before being eliminated by Randy Orton, but still managed to pick up five of his own eliminations, including that of the Undertaker, setting up their WrestleMania match that year.
In 2018, as the Royal Rumble returned to Philadelphia for the first time since Reigns’ boo-laden victory three years prior, the crowd held their breath in anticipation as the final two came down to Shinsuke Nakamura and Roman Reigns. Near eliminations were had by both men in their final sequence as people pondered the question of if WWE would really have Reigns win in Philly again given the reaction the prior time. But fans could rest easy as for the third year in a row, Roman Reigns was the proverbial bridesmaid and not the bride. Nakamura won, throwing Reigns over the top rope after he had been in the ring just under 22 minutes and after he had picked up a match-tying high of four eliminations.
Continuing to recover from leukemia, Roman Reigns missed the Royal Rumble in 2019 for the first time since his match debut five years prior. In 2020, he returned by all accounts, as one of the favorites. In fact, it wasn’t until smart money came in the morning of the 2020 Royal Rumble that Reigns lost his position among the sportsbooks as the prohibitive favorite. Reigns’ odds were so good at one point, that a negligible profit would have been made by putting a wager on him. But in the end that didn’t matter. Staked to a favorable position of entrant #26, Reigns lasted just over 16 minutes in the rumble (following his brutal last man standing match from earlier in the night), and had just two eliminations, before McIntyre tossed him out.
So let’s put all of this into perspective. Roman Reigns has entered six Royal Rumbles. He’s finished in second four times, third once and is a one-time winner. That’s a career average finish position of two. Speaking of a second-place finish position, Reigns holds the record for most runner-ups, one he set in 2018 and broke this year. No one else has more than two. Reigns’ total of four doubles that.
His time of 59:48 from the 2016 Royal Rumble is the eighth-longest of all-time. His 32 eliminations across his six rumble appearances have him just 13 away from surpassing Kane’s total, which was amassed over the course of 19 rumbles. Only Steve Austin, who also appeared in six rumbles in his career, has more eliminations in such a small amount of matches wrestled with 36.
Roman Reigns' #RoyalRumble Record:
2014 – Second
2015 – Winner
2016 – Third
2017 – Second
2018 – Second
2020 – Second pic.twitter.com/2QHnlblpRQ
— WrestlingShouldBeFun (@WSBFun) January 27, 2020
And while it would seem that Roman Reigns’ strong draw has been the reason for his success, over the course of his six rumbles, Reigns’ average entry position is 19.8. All in all, that’s not that far from being close to the middle.
Reigns’ rumble track record is astonishing and historically unmatched. No other wrestler in their first six Royal Rumble matches has excelled the way Roman Reigns has and likely, no future wrestler will either. When all is said and done on his likely-to-be Hall of Fame career, Roman Reigns will be remembered for a lot of accomplishments, but perhaps none as much so as his complete and utter dominance in the Royal Rumble.
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