8 controversial Royal Rumble Match exits
The average Royal Rumble Match entrant gets just under 11 minutes to prove his mettle in the marathon bout. Come up short and that Superstar will likely suffer a hasty elimination. Exceed the average time and the enduring entrant might just punch his ticket to WrestleMania.
Of course, one can only win the Royal Rumble Match if he (or she) is allowed to compete. In most cases, only 30 Superstars receive that opportunity annually and, as Curtis Axel most recently proved in 2015, that chance can come to a crashing halt before a competitor ever steps into the ring.
Though the rules say the only way to lose a Royal Rumble Match is an ignominious exit over the top rope, the history of the endurance battle offers a few controversial examples to the contrary. Take a look at eight entrants whose bids to win the Royal Rumble Match ended before they ever started.
“Macho King” Randy Savage (1991)
The crowd inside the Miami Arena was bewildered.
Though the buzzer had blared for the No. 18 entrant in 1991’s Royal Rumble Match, no one burst through the curtains to charge the ring and seize a monumental opportunity. To make sense of the absence, however, one need only rewind to earlier that night.
“Macho King” Randy Savage’s valet, Queen Sherri, had lobbied Ultimate Warrior to grant Macho Man a title match for his WWE Championship. Despite her seductive efforts, however, Warrior refused. As a result, both Sherri and Savage interfered in Warrior’s title match later that night, causing the future WWE Hall of Famer to lose the coveted prize to Sgt. Slaughter. In the night’s main event, the Royal Rumble Match, Savage, the No. 18 entrant, suddenly developed a case of cold feet.
Critics of the Macho King’s no-show theorized that perhaps he feared Warrior’s wrath had he actually emerged in the arena. Or maybe he was simply waiting for a more opportune time to strike. In any case, Savage would eventually seize the WWE Title for only the second time in his career when he defeated Ric Flair the following year at WrestleMania VIII. — GREG ADKINS
Bastion Booger (1994)
Bastion Booger’s unabashed gluttony was part of the XXXL Superstar’s charm, but it also might have been his undoing at a most inopportune time.
Reportedly down for the count due to food poisoning, Booger forwent entry in the 1994 Royal Rumble Match — a shame considering his cherry (with ice cream sundae below) entrance number of 25 — leaving that year’s battle one Superstar shy of a complete field. Without Booger officially entering the contest, the WWE Universe will never know whether any other competitor would have been able to hoist the 400-pound brawler over the ropes for elimination. — JOHN CLAPP
The 1998 Royal Rumble Match is remembered for two things: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin winning and Mick Foley entering three different times as Cactus Jack, Mankind and Dude Love, respectively. What isn’t referenced in our frequent looks back at sports-entertainment history is that entrant number 22 never even made it to the ring.
Before the match, Los Boricuas attacked Austin — or so they thought. What actually happened was that the four Puerto Rican Superstars mistakenly mugged The Disciples of Apocalypse’s Skull in what was a case of follicular profiling. As a result of being beaten and battered, 8 Ball’s twin brother never made his entrance, and no one took his place. Therefore, the 1998 Royal Rumble Match only had 29 participants. — JOEY STYLES
Spike Dudley (2004)
A member of the Dudley family had never entered the Royal Rumble Match until Bubba Ray Dudley made his surprise entrance in 2015.
That’s only because his brother, Spike, didn’t make it to the ring 11 years earlier. When the clock ticked down to zero for the No. 13 entrant in the 2004 Royal Rumble Match, The Undertaker’s iconic funeral bells echoed through the arena as the building went dark. Kane, who had helped bury The Deadman alive several months earlier, was distracted by the ominous toll and eliminated from the melee.
The runt of the Dudley litter was in the unfortunate spot of entering the Rumble after all this went down. Undeterred, the tiniest Dudley charged straight into battle — and right into the path of The Big Red Monster. Kane viciously attacked Spike, chokeslamming him into the steel ramp and denying the Dudley family their first Rumble appearance. — BOBBY MELOK
Scotty 2 Hotty (2005)
Success as a Royal Rumble Match combatant or as a professional dancer requires many of the same skills: strength, discipline, poise and a little luck. Unfortunately, Scotty 2 Hotty learned in the marathon bout’s 2005 edition that one’s luck can run out before his entrance music even stops.
The Too Cool veteran, making his fourth Royal Rumble Match appearance, was so absorbed in his dance moves when his No. 15 entry was called that he failed to notice eight Superstars had just coordinated the elimination of another competitor. He likely also missed that the ousted entrant was in a position to take his frustration out on a grappler cavorting his way toward ringside.
Scotty 2 Hotty endured an attack so harsh that he was rendered unable to compete, turning the party-hardy Superstar into a cautionary tale for anyone looking to dance his way down the Road to WrestleMania. — MATTHEW ARTUS
Hornswoggle & Finlay (2008)
The 2008 Royal Rumble Match’s thrilling finish may have made for a memorable moment, but it also overshadowed what could have become a much larger controversy. Hornswoggle, the No. 9 entrant, was never eliminated!
After having his number called, the smallest Superstar to ever compete in the Royal Rumble Match immediately hid under the ring. The 4-foot-5 competitor revealed himself briefly to eliminate The Miz, but he was caught attempting to get rid of Mark Henry. Luckily for the master of the Tadpole Splash, his buddy Finlay rushed the ring before his No. 27 was officially called, fighting off Henry, Big Daddy V and others with a shillelagh.
The tough-as-nails Irishman and his pint-sized buddy quickly escaped the Royal Rumble Match under the top rope without ever getting eliminated. It was announced later that Finlay was disqualified from the over-the-top-rope extravaganza, but there was never an official decision made on the former Cruiserweight Champion.
Maybe Mr. McMahon wasn’t keen on the idea of seeing his illegitimate son competing in WrestleMania XXIV’s main event, but we still can’t help but wonder what might have been. — SCOTT TAYLOR
Curtis Axel (2015)
To say Curtis Axel’s showing in the 2015 Royal Rumble Match was less than perfect is like saying Pete Carroll’s goal-line play-calling in the Super Bowl was ill-advised. It’s such an understatement it barely qualifies as opinion, let alone an expression of objective fact.
However, the former Intercontinental Champion’s own misfortunes come with a big caveat: Thanks to Erick Rowan, he never entered the over-the-top-rope melee in the first place and, as the Internet helpfully pointed out, that means Axel was never technically eliminated and Roman Reigns’ victory therefore does not stand. Axel got tossed over the top rope by Dean Ambrose in a nice little “gotcha” moment when he pled his case on Raw, but that miscarriage of justice simply will not suffice.
That’s not fair to Axel. Call David Otunga. Call 1-800-Fella. Call the damn Mountie if you must, Curtis. Do whatever needs to be done to ensure your fair opportunity against Reigns, because Ax Man, you was robbed. — ANTHONY BENIGNO