Entering the 2010s, Royal Rumble winners were clocking in with an 11-5-2 in their World title opportunities afforded them at WrestleMania since 1993. In Part One we examined the winners of the 1990s, while our second part looked at the winners in the 2000s. In this final installment, we take a look at all the Rumble winners in the 2010s (and 2020), except for 2016. That year saw the second time ever that the Rumble match itself became a match to determine the WWE World Champion with one difference – while 1992’s edition saw Ric Flair win a vacant title, the 2016 edition saw then-WWE Champion Roman Reigns have to defend his WWE Championship in the match, which was ultimately won by Triple H. Here it is, the final look at all the winners of the past decade and how they fared on WWE’s Grandest Stage of Them All.
Royal Rumble: The Losers
SmackDown‘s Edge would win the 2010 Royal Rumble, last eliminating John Cena, in a surprise comeback from a torn Achilles tendon. With multiple World Titles to choose from – WWE, World Heavyweight, and ECW – Edge would ultimately choose to face Chris Jericho, who had recently defeated The Undertaker for the World Heavyweight Championship at Elimination Chamber, for the title at WrestleMania 26. The villainous Jericho would retain his World Championship that night – thanks to utilizing the belt as a weapon – and end Edge’s quest for the World Title.
Alberto Del Rio, 2011
Alberto Del Rio would win the first-ever 40-man Royal Rumble in 2011, by eliminating Santino Marella last. The SmackDownstar would challenge World Heavyweight Champion Edge at WrestleMania 27, but the Rated R Superstar would prove too much and retained his title in what would end up being Edge’s final match in WWE (until his surprise return at the 2020 Royal Rumble) – the following night on RAW, Edge would announce his retirement due to neck injuries. Del Rio would also extend the losing streak to four straight years that the Royal Rumble victor had failed to win a World title following their Rumble victory.
“The Animal” Batista had only made his surprise return to the WWE the Monday night before the Royal Rumble, after being away from the company since 2010. So it was a complete shock when he won his second Royal Rumble that January. Batista’s return, however, was immensely overshadowed by the growing “YES!” Movement surrounding Daniel Bryan in the WWE, and by the time he entered the ring for his WWE Championship match at WrestleMania 30 against former Evolution teammate and WWE Champion Randy Orton, it had become a Triple Threat involving Bryan as well (thanks to his victory over Triple H earlier that day). Not only did Batista fail to capture another World title that night, but it was also him that ultimately submitted to Daniel Bryan in the Yes Lock to give Daniel Bryan one of the greatest victories in WrestleMania history.
Roman Reigns, 2015
It was the Royal Rumble that many points to as the night that the WWE Universe fully turned on Roman Reigns when a returning Daniel Bryan was denied his comeback story and was eliminated by Bray Wyatt unceremoniously. Despite surprise appearances by Diamond Dallas Page and Bubba Ray Dudley (in his first WWE appearance since 2005), the 2015 Rumble was overshadowed by the fans’ near-unanimous displeasure for Reigns victory over Daniel Bryan’s, despite the post-match endorsement from his cousin, The Rock.
Despite what seemed like the beginning of Reigns’ monster push to the top, Reigns ended up failing in his quest for the WWE Championship. While he faced WWE Champion Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 31, it would be his former Shield teammate Seth Rollins who would make history that night, when he cashed in his Money In The Bank to interject into the match, and Curb Stomp Roman Reigns, who took the loss that made Seth Rollins the new WWE World Champion instead.
Shinsuke Nakamura, 2018
In a shocking victory in 2018, Shinsuke Nakamura eliminated heavy favorite Roman Reigns to win the men’s Royal Rumble match, who immediately declared he was choosing WWE Champion AJ Styles as his target for WrestleMania 34. The two former IWGP Heavyweight Champions from New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) had a history together overseas – including an absolute classic at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in 2016 for the IWGP Intercontinental title – and many fans were excited at the prospect of a new instant classic on WWE’s Grandest Stage of Them All. But while Nakamura had defended his IC title against Styles in Japan, ultimately it would be AJ Styles who would emerge victorious at WrestleMania 34, and the result would lead to Nakamura’s low-blowing Styles post-match and turning heel, entering into a period of his WWE character becoming arguably its stalest.
The first-ever Women’s Royal Rumble match was held in 2018, and it was former NXT juggernaut Asuka – who had an impressive 914-day winning streak – who would emerge victorious after eliminating Nikki Bella in the final moments. Asuka, who moved to Raw from NXT in September of 2017, would end up challenging SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 34 in a dream match, but in the end, it was Flair who stood tall. Asuka would have to wait until November of that year to win her first SmackDown Women’s Championship at TLC. Asuka’s win at the Royal Rumble, as historic as it was, was sadly overshadowed moments after her victory by the shocking debut of former UFC champion Ronda Rousey making her WWE debut.
Royal Rumble: The Winners
Following four straight years of Rumble winners failing in their WrestleMania matches, in 2012, Sheamus rectified this quickly. He dominated in the Royal Rumble (but was easily outshone by Kofi Kingston‘s hand-walk move that year) and eliminated Chris Jericho to win the Royal Rumble. He would challenge Daniel Bryan for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 28 but despite all the fanfare, it proved to be the quickest title loss in WrestleMania history. In the opening match of WrestleMania 28, Sheamus (thanks to a well-placed kiss from AJ Lee) defeated Bryan for the title in only 18 seconds.
John Cena, 2013
John Cena won his second Royal Rumble in 2013 and at the time of his victory, was now slated to face one of his rivals, CM Punk, for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 29. But by the end of the night, all of that changed. The main event for the 2013 Royal Rumble wasn’t the actual Rumble itself, but a WWE Championship match between CM Punk and his challenger, The Rock. Just over 23 minutes into the match, it was The Rock who would stand victorious, holding in his hands his 10th World Title. Despite the previous year’s match-up between Cena and The Rock being billed as “Once In A Lifetime”, it was now set to happen again a year later, only this time with higher stakes – the WWE Championship. Cena avenged his loss to The Rock at WrestleMania 28 the second time around, sending Dwayne Johnson back to Hollywood and capturing his 13th World title.
Randy Orton, 2017
Randy Orton would win his second Royal Rumble in 2017 and was hoping to fare better than he had after his 2009 victory. At the time, Orton was a member of the Wyatt Family, having recently held the SmackDown Tag Team Titles with Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper. Following his victory, Orton was intent on taking the WWE Championship from John Cena, but at Elimination Chamber that February, Bray Wyatt shocked the world by beating John Cena clean to become WWE Champion. Upon Wyatt’s victory, Orton forfeited his Royal Rumble privileges, out of loyalty to Bray Wyatt.
A new Rumble was contested on SmackDown that saw AJ Styles and Luke Harper co-win (both men’s feet touched at the same time), with AJ Styles eventually beating Harper for the #1 Contenders spot for WrestleMania 33 against Bray Wyatt. But shortly after Styles won the match, Orton appeared on video declaring he was going after Wyatt’s title, as he burned down the Wyatt Compound. Orton would go on to defeat Styles in a #1 Contenders match to regain his Royal Rumble reward, and at WrestleMania 33 defeated his former Family leader Bray Wyatt to win the WWE Championship for the 9th time.
Becky Lynch, 2019
Becky Lynch wasn’t originally in the 2019 Women’s Royal Rumble – she had competed earlier in the night in a loss to SmackDown Women’s Champion Asuka. But a pre-match injury to Rumble competitor Lana opened up a slot and Lynch entered the Rumble at #28. In the end, Lynch would eliminate Charlotte Flair to win the Royal Rumble, and the following night she would challenge RAW Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey for WrestleMania 35, continuing a rivalry that had begun in 2018’s Survivor Series. The feud between Ronda Rousey and “The Man” Becky Lynch was amplified when it was determined that Lynch had suffered a leg injury during the Rumble and was deemed medically unfit to compete.
Defying WWE officials, she was suspended on several occasions, with Vince McMahon finally declaring he was stripping Lynch of her title shot and awarded it to Charlotte Flair instead. When she was finally medically cleared, and her suspension lifted, she defeated Charlotte at Fastlane to regain her spot in the match, but it would now be a Triple Threat Match for Rousey’s RAW Title. Shortly before WrestleMania 35, Charlotte defeated Asuka for the SmackDown Women’s Title, and the title match, now the main event for WrestleMania 35, would become a Winner Takes All Match. The match would become an iconic moment for Becky Lynch, who gave Rousey her first pinfall defeat in the WWE and won both titles simultaneously.
Seth Rollins, 2019
Seth Rollins won his first Royal Rumble in 2019, despite the surprise entrants from NXT like Johnny Gargano, Pete Dunne, and Aleister Black, and the return of Jeff Jarrett to a WWE ring for the first time since losing his WWF Intercontinental Championship to Chyna back in 1999. Rollins last eliminated Braun Strowman to win the Rumble, and the following night on Raw, declared he was going for the WWE Universal Championship held by “The Beast” Brock Lesnar. Surprisingly, Rollins vs. Lesnar opened up WrestleMania 35, and Rollins – following a low blow and three Curb Stomps – defeated Lesnar in two minutes and 30 seconds to win the Universal Championship and becoming “The Beast Slayer.”
Charlotte Flair, 2020
Despite NXT’s Shayna Baszler entering the Women’s Royal Rumble and tying the women’s record with eight eliminations, ultimately it was Charlotte Flair who won the Rumble by eliminating NXT’s Queen of Spades. She would consider both RAW Women’s Champion Becky Lynch and SmackDown Women’s Champion Bayley, but eventually decided she wanted fresher competition and chose NXT Women’s Champion Rhea Ripley as her target, marking the first time a Royal Rumble competitor had selected the main title of a brand other than RAW or SmackDown. At WrestleMania 36, Charlotte would defeat Ripley and capture the NXT Women’s Championship, a title she had held previously in 2014 for 258-days. Her second reign would only last 73 days, however, losing it to Io Shirai in a Triple Threat with Ripley at NXT TakeOver: In Your House this past June.
Drew McIntyre, 2020
In 2020, the Royal Rumble saw the WWE Champion compete in the tournament for the first time (in a non-title match situation) since WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan did so in 1990, when Brock Lesnar entered the field in an attempt to take the night off at WrestleMania 36. But despite a truly bestial display by Lesnar in the Rumble – who eliminated 13 opponents in the first five minutes – it was Drew McIntyre who finally eliminated “The Beast” at the 34-minute mark and ultimately won the 2020 Men’s Royal Rumble. The next night on RAW, McIntyre made it official – he was coming for Lesnar at WrestleMania 36. And much like the previous year, when Seth Rollins attacked Lesnar quick and hard, McIntyre did much the same – in just over four minutes, McIntyre unleashed a barrage of Claymore kicks (after suffering multiple F-5’s earlier on by Lesnar) to finally win the WWE Championship and fulfill his destiny from 2009 as “The Chosen One”.
From 2010 until 2020, winners went 7-6 in their World title matches, with only a 53.8% margin. In the end, Royal Rumble winners (since the inception of the World title opportunity at WrestleMania) are 18-11-2 in their respective World title matches – only victorious in 58% of the matches – showing that a Rumble victory is not nearly as synonymous as a world title reign as many fans seem to think it is. So maybe in the future, we can relish the fact that our favorites have simply won the prestigious Royal Rumble event and not constantly moan that their Rumble win was wasted – as history has shown that it’s much tougher than it seems.
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