The early years of the Royal Rumble event were a great success. The added stipulation in 1993, that the match winner would headline Wrestlemania opposite the WWE Champion made the event that much more anticipated.
As the Royal Rumble gimmick entered a third decade, WWE experimented with the format, increasing the number of participants to 40 men in 2011 and then 50 for the Greatest Royal Rumble show in Saudi Arabia in April 2018, making much longer contests. However, as of this writing, WWE are yet to repeat either gimmick and the 30 participant Royal Rumble match appears destined to remain the de-facto version of the event. WWE finally added an all-female Royal Rumble match in January 2018, which was won by Asuka.
So coveted were spots in the Royal Rumble that qualification became a necessity in the 2000s, with a large roster vying to earn a spot in the match wherein big prizes awaited the winner.
Between 2008 and 2018, the conversion rate between 'Rumble' victories and title wins at Wrestlemania, dramatically reduced. However, the luster of the event remains.
The Rumble match nevertheless remains a major platform for an up-and-coming superstar to become a bonafide headline mega draw. By winning the Rumble, they would earn a first class ticket to the top of the business.
However, the margins between success and failure are small and for the great success experienced by most Rumble winners, disappointment and a return to the drawing board were experienced by those wrestlers who missed out on victory and were runners-up in the annual spectacular.
In this the third of three articles (you can read my first here and second here), SK revisits the most recent Royal Rumble matches and looks at the runners-up and what became of their careers after they missed out on victory.
Royal Rumble Runners Up 2008-10
2008 - Triple H
Triple H found himself in the final two of the excellent 2008 Royal Rumble match with the newly returned John Cena. However, it would be Cena's night as he became the second consecutive winner from the number 30 spot.
The Rumble loss did not affect Triple H's Wrestlemania title ambitions, however. Despite the defeat, he competed in a triple threat bout with Cena and Randy Orton at Wrestlemania XXIV though he would come up short in that bout.
Cena's return in such a short duration is one of the all-time mark-out favorite moments in WWE history and Triple H's expression pretty much summed up just what all of us had in mind.
2009 - Triple H
"The Game" finished second for the second Rumble match in a row. He was eliminated by long-time rival Randy Orton.
However, his Wrestlemania ambitions were once more not dimmed by defeat. Triple H would win the WWE Championship inside the Elimination Chamber the following month and would end up defending the title against Rumble winner, Orton. Not only that, but he would pin Orton to defend the title.
Triple H has been one of those superstars who has found a method to redeem himself time and again and this is just another example of bis tenacity.
2010 - John Cena
The 2010 edition of the Royal Rumble had a strong field and the final four saw Shawn Michaels, Batista, John Cena and a returning Edge square off.
It would be Edge who last eliminated Cena to win.
Cena would find his way to the title match at Wrestlemania though as he challenged Batista for the WWE Championship whilst Edge challenged world champion Chris Jericho instead.