Winning the Royal Rumble is an impressive accomplishment for a wrestler, but main-eventing WrestleMania is the primary reason Superstars value the match so much. Wrestling in the main event of the biggest show of the year is the pinnacle of a wrestler’s career, but there are an unfortunate bunch who lost their WrestleMania title shot.
At WrestleMania 27, Edge defended the World Heavyweight Championship against Alberto del Rio. The winner of the 2011 Royal Rumble was Vince McMahon’s shiny new toy that drove Ferraris and Bentleys to the ring, and was destined for greatness. Unfortunately, his WrestleMania match against Edge did not pan out the way he wanted.
The WrestleMania match against del Rio was Edge’s last match in WWE. He retired the following night on Raw, citing his neck injuries as the drawbacks of his incredible career. As for del Rio, he won the Money in the Bank briefcase at the MITB PPV, cashing it in on the WWE Champion CM Punk.
WrestleMania 34 played host to a genuine dream match. WWE Champion AJ Styles defended his title against the 2018 Royal Rumble winner Shinsuke Nakamura. Despite a rocky start to his main roster run, Nakamura recovered all the momentum he lost from his poor run in 2017. Fans expected to see a replica of their 2016 Wrestle Kingdom classic, but it fell short by a big margin.
Nakamura wasn’t successful in beating Styles, who reversed a Kinshasa attempt into a phenomenal Styles Clash to retain. After the match, an irate Shinsuke low blowed Styles as he bowed down to present him with the title. The subsequent rivalry was intense, but the disappointment surrounding his Rumble win going to waste was palpable.
The 2015 Royal Rumble match is the worst in the event’s history. Roman Reigns won the match to a chorus of boos from the Philly crowd, and even the Rock couldn’t put him over. His match against Brock Lesnar was not at all what fans wanted, but the duo put on a brutal slugfest that had fans drooling for more.
Every one fondly remembers the match for the ending, when Seth Rollins cashed in his MITB contract. The crowd in the Levi’s Stadium rejoiced when Seth pinned Reigns after the match-winning Curb Stomp. It is unfortunate that Reigns lost his first WrestleMania main event, but at least we got an unforgettable moment out of it.
Batista’s WWE return was quite underwhelming, as it came smack bang in the center of the Yes Movement. Daniel Bryan’s war with the Authority was the focal point of WWE in 2014, and fans completely ignored Batista’s return.
Daniel Bryan’s popularity ruined Batista’s Rumble win. Bryan’s popularity and his already well established rivalry with Randy Orton led to him entering the WrestleMania main event too. He beat Triple H, Randy Orton, and Batista in the same night to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Batista’s run in the company ended a month after he tapped out to the Yes Lock.
Edge made a stunning return at the 2010 Royal Rumble and went toe-to-toe with his former tag team partner Chris Jericho. The duo turned rivals after Edge suffered an injury and forced the team to vacate the tag titles. Once Jericho won it again with the Big Show, he discarded Edge and took the credit for the team’s success.
The Canadian legends met at WrestleMania 26 in a match for the World Heavyweight Championship. Jericho won the title from the Undertaker at the Elimination Chamber and entered WrestleMania as the champion. He shockingly retained the title in a technical classic by pinning Edge with a Codebreaker out of nowhere.
At WrestleMania 25, Randy Orton faced his former Evolution stablemate Triple H. The rivalry between the two would become incredibly personal after Orton delivered a Punt Kick to his father-in-law Vince McMahon. Randy committed another despicable act, hitting Stephanie McMahon with a draping DDT, and kissing her with Triple H handcuffed to the turnbuckle.
Orton eliminated Triple H himself to win the Royal Rumble. Triple H won the WWE Title at the Elimination Chamber, booking the main event of WrestleMania. After a dull 25 minutes of plodding action, Triple H hit a Pedigree to nullify Orton’s Rumble win.
At the 2008 Royal Rumble, John Cena made his WWE return and Rumble win to a huge pop. The over-confident Cena cashed in his Rumble win at No Way Out, but the WWE Champion Randy Orton got himself disqualified to retain the title.
On the same show, Triple H won the Elimination Chamber match to become the new No. 1 contender for the title. Cena defeated Randy Orton in a non-title match on Raw to become the second No. 1 contender, leading to a triple threat match at WrestleMania. Orton retained the title, despite the odds stacked against him.
Shawn Michaels and the Rock also lost their title matches at WrestleMania. Lex Luger and Bret Hart both won the Royal Rumble in 1994, but only Bret beat Yokozuna for the title.
Will the 2021 Royal Rumble winner be unlucky like the aforementioned bunch, or will they triumph at WrestleMania?