CM Punk left WWE in January 2014 and retired before returning in 2021 with AEW

5 Superstars who nearly won the WWE Royal Rumble

Danny Wolstanholme
ANALYST

In the history of the Royal Rumble match, there have been 39 victors to date, with a handful of those winning it multiple times.

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Of course, between 1988 and 2017, the Rumble match was restricted to male superstars only. However, the occasional female performer entered the bout over the years; legends like Chyna and Beth Phoenix competed in the contest.

In 2018, as part of WWE's Women's Evolution, the company introduced a Rumble match for the female superstars as well. The 30-woman over-the-top-rope battle has been contested annually ever since. The company has taken steps toward recent years for equality, and this progress has also been reflected elsewhere in the sport.

Whilst the WWE Universe isn't always in agreement, many of the Royal Rumble winners over the years have certainly earned their triumph. Drew McIntyre, Bianca Belair and Becky Lynch have been some of the best examples of fan-favorite winners.

Thank you 🖤 twitter.com/ComplexSports/…
The first Black woman to win the Women's Royal Rumble. The second Black wrestler to win the Royal Rumble.

We talked to @BiancaBelairWWE about her historic Royal Rumble Win and her plans for Wrestlemania. #BlackHistoryMonth

READ: bit.ly/2Yxigpa
5:44 AM · Feb 1, 2021

But on the flip side, others garnered quite a negative reaction. Batista was booed out of the building when he won the Rumble match in 2014. At the time, the WWE Universe was disappointed that Daniel Bryan had not entered and won the match to secure his place at WrestleMania.

Bryan was massively over with fans, as he built up a natural wave of support with the "YES!" Movement. Fans soon learned that there was a much larger story at play, which would eventually lead him to the main event of WrestleMania 30. There, he won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in a historic win that reflected the way the company changed its initial plans.

Likewise, there have been several scenarios where superstars were initially slated to win the Rumble, but WWE's plans ultimately changed.

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That being said, let's take a look at five superstars who nearly won the WWE Royal Rumble. You can also watch the video here:


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#5 The Rock almost won the 2019 Royal Rumble match

In 2019, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was set to win the Royal Rumble for a second time.

The trusted Twitter account WrestleVotes reported that The Great One was considered to be a favorite for the match. Prior to the bout, the betting odds were also in favor of the former WWE Champion.

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Rumble tidbit: Plan at one point was for The Rock to win the Royal Rumble & face Roman Reigns at Mania. That’s obviously not happening. Can Rock still win it & face Lesnar? I guess. Depends what kind of agreement Rock and WWE have. Once plans changed, Rock may have reconsidered.
8:45 AM · Dec 8, 2018

The Rock was booked to face Roman Reigns at that year's WrestleMania. But the plans changed due to the latter's battle with leukemia. While Reigns did return in time for The Show of Shows, he faced Drew McIntyre at the event instead.

Of course, there is speculation once again that we may see The Rock vs. Roman Reigns at WrestleMania somewhere down the line. Time will tell whether this dream match finally becomes a reality.

#4 Shayna Baszler almost won the 2020 Women's Royal Rumble match

JUST. LIKE. THAT.

@QoSBaszler has TAKEN OVER the Women’s #EliminationChamber Match. #WWEChamber
10:29 AM · Mar 8, 2020

The Queen of Spades was set to win the 2020 Women's Royal Rumble match, but these plans changed.

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Shayna Baszler eventually earned a title shot the following month at the Elimination Chamber event. She went onto face then-RAW Women's Champion Becky Lynch at WrestleMania 36. But in hindsight, winning the Rumble could have been an even bigger moment for the rising superstar.

At the time, Dave Meltzer suggested the change was made on January 14 that year, as betting odds shifted in Charlotte Flair's favor that day. Charlotte, of course, went on to win the match. The reason for the change remains a mystery, but it shows that things in WWE are extremely fluid, especially during WrestleMania season.


#3 John Cena almost won the 2012 Royal Rumble match

January 29th 2012, Royal Rumble. Sheamus eliminated Y2J to win the Royal Rumble. @WWESheamus #WWENetwork #RAW #WWE http://t.co/681eRYE5FC
8:08 PM · Jan 29, 2015

In 2012, John Cena was seemingly meant to face a remarkable dilemma on the road to WrestleMania, according to Wrestling Inc.

The report suggested that Vince McMahon pitched having John Cena be torn between challenging for the WWE Championship or facing The Rock at The Show of Shows. The company wanted this dilemma to play out on television each week until Cena finally made a decision.

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Eventually, these plans were scrapped. Sheamus was ultimately chosen to win the Rumble match, and Cena didn't enter the contest at all.

#2 Mr. Perfect almost won the 1990 Royal Rumble match

January 21st 1990,Royal Rumble. Hulk Hogan eliminated Mr.Perfect to win the Royal Rumble @HulkHogan #RoyalRumble #WWE http://t.co/8MaAo4XBzQ
8:25 PM · Jan 21, 2015

"Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig was one of the finest wrestlers of his generation, and according to IMDb, Mr. Perfect was scheduled to win the Royal Rumble match in 1990.

While it has been speculated that Hulk Hogan lobbied hard for himself to win the bout, it was ultimately Vince McMahon who made the call. In the end, The Hulkster got the win, ironically, by last eliminating Curt Hennig.

Though no championship shot was on the line, a victory in this contest could have been another accolade on Mr. Perfect's Hall of Fame resume. It was Hogan, though, who got the nod to aid in his push leading into that year's WrestleMania. At the biggest show of the year, he defended the WWE Championship against The Ultimate Warrior.


#1 CM Punk almost won the Royal Rumble match in 2008

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fun fact: CM Punk was originally booked to win the 2008 Royal Rumble, however a speedy recovery from John Cena caused a change of plans.
10:27 PM · Mar 25, 2021

Had John Cena not returned to the 2008 Royal Rumble at Madison Square Garden, CM Punk might have had his WrestleMania main event match.

One of Punk's ultimate desires in WWE was to main event The Showcase of the Immortals, and he almost had this opportunity early in his career with Vince McMahon's promotion. Punk later revealed on WWE Backstage on FOX that he was penciled in to win the match before Cena's return.

Cena had been out with injury, but he returned earlier than anticipated, which forced WWE's hand. They ultimately booked Cena to win the contest after he entered it as the thirtieth entrant. He went on to compete in the high-profile WWE Championship match at WrestleMania 24.

Despite this setback, CM Punk still scored a big victory at WrestleMania by winning the Money in the Bank Ladder Match.

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Edited by Colin Tessier
 
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