10 Times WWE Royal Rumble Winners Risked It All Before WrestleMania

Why do wrestlers continue to put the biggest match of the year on the line?

WWE Fastlane 2015 Daniel Bryan Roman Reigns

If you had one shot, or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it or put it on the line in a pointless match between the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania?

It doesn't sound the best idea, yet we've seen it happen so many times. From teasing the fans with somebody they actually want to see headline the Show of Shows, to finding ways to force more wrestlers into the main event of the Granddaddy, some of these swerves worked really well, while others made fans put their head in their hands at what they were seeing.

The Road to WrestleMania can be so simple when it's booked right. Look at Cody Rhodes and his journey to Los Angeles in 2023; it's such an organic story that people want to see end in the biggest match of the year. The less said about other paths the better, although we'll be talking about them in detail here so sorry in advance!

It's a long ride from January to the end of March/start of April and sometimes WWE decides to mix things up; you'd be surprised how often this trope is inflicted on a story that's just fine the way it is.

In the wise words of Jim Ross, watching some of these stories develop was "tougher than a two-dollar steak!"

10. John Cena - 2008

WWE Fastlane 2015 Daniel Bryan Roman Reigns

2008 was the year we discovered that John Cena isn't human.

Three months after vacating the WWE Championship because of a torn pectoral muscle, the Chain Gang Soldier made a shock return as the final entrant in that year's Royal Rumble match, winning from number 30 to guarantee he'd be in the main event of WrestleMania XXIV.

Instead of waiting for the Granddaddy, Cena threw out the challenge to Randy Orton at No Way Out instead; any GameCube owners will remember exactly the same thing happening in WWE Day of Reckoning 2. The Viper got himself disqualified and that was it, he kept the belt and went on his merry way. It was a true cowardly heel move that meant Cena's guaranteed championship match had been wasted a month before WrestleMania.

It was as if Triple H had been promised a shot at Raw's top prize before WWE knew Cena was coming back, because later that night he won the Elimination Chamber match to become number one contender. No one gets in the way of the Game's shovel, but this was the days of Cena wins lol, so after a victory over Orton on Raw, the Royal Rumble winner was back in the match.

We had ourselves a Triple Threat at 'Mania, but the Legend Killer still left with the gold in his grasp.


When I'm not trying my hardest to visit all 50 U.S. states, I'm listening to music from the 80s, watching TV from the 90s, and reminiscing about growing up in the 00s.