Wrestlemania season is almost upon us! The first stop to the biggest show in professional wrestling is the 37th Royal Rumble. Throughout the rumble’s 36 years, there have been plenty of high and lows.
That also rings true when it comes to time for the winner. WWE has had plenty of misfires, but there are names that rightfully deserved to win the Royal Rumble and go on to main event the biggest stage of them all. Unfortunately, the booking of said names didn’t pan out despite getting such a huge opportunity. Here’s the five names that deserved to win the Royal Rumble, but failed to make an impact due to creative booking.
There’s no telling the exact reason why Rey Mysterio won the Royal Rumble. However, the former WWE Champion certainly deserved it. Though Mysterio wasn’t the best on the mic (at the time), the WCW alumni was a consistent highlight inside of the ring.
Having an underdog as the top champion can create so many opportunities in terms of storytelling. Unfortunately, the booking of Mysterio following his huge win was a severe misfire. His RR win was undermined by losing his shot to main event WrestleMania the following month against Randy orton.
Though he won the Triple Threat match clean (in a short and uninspired) fashion at WrestleMania 22, Mysterio wasn’t booked like a proper champion. He immediately jobbed to Mark Henry and The Great Khali in non-title matches. Just because he’s an underdog champion, doesn’t mean that he should lose to anyone who’s taller and bigger than him. The purpose of an underdog is to showcase their heart and their uncanny ability to win.
His disappointing title reign came to an end when he lost to King Booker at The Great American Bash. It was a shame that Mysterio wasn’t taken seriously as champion because his long and intense feud with Eddie Guerrero in 2005 showcased why he belonged in the main event with the likes of Kurt Angle or The Undertaker. Thankfully, Mysterio’s career has bounced back, but WWE did him dirty by booking him to be such a weak champion.
Alberto Del Rio
The former WWE Champion is a mixed bag. When he first arrived on the scene in 2010, he showcased a strong promise and potential as a main event star. His gimmick was excellent and he had excellent mic skills. But by the time his Royal Rumble win rolled around, audiences were already tired of hearing him talking about his destiny.
Still, small tweaks to his gimmick could’ve helped freshen up his act. But Del Rio was still a welcome and fresh voice to the main event scene. Unfortunately, his loss to Edge did more harm than good to his character. Even worse, his loss to Christian the following month. The bright side of this was that Christian had a great heel run that resulted in an excellent feud with Randy Orton. The bad news was that Del Rio never fully recovered from his back-to-back losses.
Given the circumstances surrounding the controversial figure, it’s for the best that Del Rio’s push ultimately failed, but this creative slump for the former WWE Champion certainly didn’t help audiences take him seriously as a main event star.
When the former IWGP Intercontinental Champion came into the company in 2016, he blew audiences away with his incredible match against Sami Zayn at NXT TakeOver: Dallas. That calmed the nerves of many fans who were concerned that Nakamura wouldn’t be treated like a star because WWE doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to foreign talent.
To Vince’s credit, WWE did treat him like a star upon his main roster call-up. Though he has that embarrassing Jinder Mahal loss on his record, the former NXT Champion did beat Randy Orton and John Cena clean in one-on-one matches. Creative saw the value in Nakamura, so him winning the 2018 Royal Rumble wasn’t a huge surprise.
But the biggest problem is that Nakamura isn’t particularly fluent in English. It didn’t help that AJ Styles was also a babyface; WWE doesn’t do well building babyface vs. babyface matches. The build was disappointing and sadly, the match was even more of a letdown Nakamura eventually found his groove once he turned heel, but nothing ever truly came out of it other than forgettable US and IC title reigns that never capitalized off the momentum he got from his awesome heel turn at WrestleMania 34.
This one still hurts. Asuka is a STAR and Triple H did an incredible job of showcasing the former NXT Women’s Champion in a proper light. There was concern that Asuka wouldn’t be given the same treatment when she was called up to the roster, but surprisingly, Asuka kept her undefeated streak going until WrestleMania 34.
Then she lost. To Charlotte Flair. By tapping out no less. Asuka should’ve won, point blank. It’s bad enough that her streak ended for no good reason. But the worst crime is that Flair ended it. She didn’t need the win as Flair was already an established name at this point. Had they done something interesting with Asuka following the shocking loss then I would have changed my tune. There is an interesting story to tell with Asuka taking her first loss. But she became a background player that was barely featured following her WrestleMania 34 loss.
Her character didn’t change nor was there a compelling story that came after the shocking defeat. Without a doubt one of the biggest crimes committed against a Royal Rumble winner.
This was one of the most unnecessary RR wins in the past decade, but it had potential because Flair was challenging for the NXT title. In theory, Charlotte Flair going down to NXT is beneficial for the brand. Her and Rhea Ripley had an excellent match, but Flair’s NXT title run was forgettable at best. The NXT stars weren’t booked on the same level as her, which did no favors for anyone who crossed Flair’s path. Worst of all, Flair dropped the belt in a three-way where she didn’t even take the pin. At the very least, the purpose should’ve been for her to put over the woman that beats her for the belt. She didn’t, and it did more harm than good for Rhea’s career. Thankfully, she bounced back and is currently one of the hottest things going in the company right now.