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Who Were the Runners Up in the 1988-1996 Royal Rumble Matches?

Paul Benson
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The Royal Rumble match has seen it's
The Royal Rumble match has seen it's
of winners and losers

The Royal Rumble match was originally conceived by WWE booker and Hall of Famer, Pat Patterson.

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It was first promoted in January 1988 as a television special, to ostensibly damage rival, the NWA's Bunkhouse Stampede pay per view that was being broadcast on the same night.

It succeeded. WWE's Royal Rumble event set a network record viewership for a wrestling event, pulling an incredible 8.2 rating.

The NWA's Bunkhouse Stampede drew poorly in comparison and was a PR disaster as only 6,000 attended because the wrong start time was published on tickets; 7.30pm instead of 6.30pm, meaning the majority of fans missed the first half of the show.

So, successful was the Royal Rumble event, that WWE decided to broadcast the show as a pay per view the following year and it has been a much-anticipated part of their annual pay per view calendar ever since.

When the company devised the stipulation in 1993, that the match winner would headline Wrestlemania opposite the WWE Champion, the event became even more anticipated.

The 'Rumble match had grown in importance and was now 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 was experienced by those wrestlers who missed out on victory and were runners-up in the annual spectacular.


In the first of three articles, SK revisits every single Royal Rumble event and looks at the runners-up and what became of their career after they missed out on victory.

#1 Royal Rumble Runner Ups 1988-90

Ted DiBiase begs off before his elimination at Royal Rumble 1989
Ted DiBiase begs off before his elimination at Royal Rumble 1989

1988 - One Man Gang

The inaugural Royal Rumble match saw Hacksaw Jim Duggan last eliminate One Man Gang to win. As an experimental match, there were no long-term plans for the winners or runner-ups.

Neither Duggan or One Man Gang would ever advance beyond the opening match of WWE supercards over the course of their careers. It would not have made a lot of difference to either man if the result had been reversed.

1989 - Ted DiBiase

The "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase would have made a more memorable winner than the man who did take the crown, Big John Studd.

However, in truth, DiBiase's headline career in WWE had peaked the year before, when he "bought" the WWE Championship from Andre the Giant in February 1988.

He was immediately stripped of the title but reached the final of the WWE Championship tournament at Wrestlemania IV, just over a month later before he was defeated by Macho Man Randy Savage.

Post-Royal Rumble, DiBiase was pitted in a mid-card feud with the likes of Brutus Beefcake and Jake Roberts and would never crack the main event again, before his eventual retirement in late 1993. It's debatable whether a win here would have substantially altered his eventual career trajectory or not.

1990 - Mr. Perfect

Original plans called for Mr. Perfect to win the Royal Rumble match and feud over the WWE Championship with Hulk Hogan. However, the Hulkster having not yet won the Royal Rumble in his career, felt that he should win and convinced the booking squad to change the result.

Although he did not lose by pinfall, this was the first time Perfect did not win in WWE, thus removing his "perfect" record as a WWE superstar.

This negated his gimmick somewhat and things got even worse when Perfect lost by pinfall to Hogan's buddy, Brutus Beefcake at Wrestlemania two months later.

As a reward for these high profile jobs, Perfect was given the Intercontinental Championship and contested some stunning matches as that belt's titleholder, but after his brief flirtation with the main event, never became a headliner in WWE.

It could have been very different for Perfect had Hogan not protected his spot and changed those booking plans. A credible main event heel Perfect would have made the perfect opponent for Hogan's successor as WWE Champion, The Ultimate Warrior.

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