10 Wrestlers Whose Careers Were Altered

The Royal Rumble is an iconic match which has created hundreds of memorable moments and set the stage for many a WrestleMania.

But in some cases, it had a lasting effect on a specific wrestler. While it's every man for himself... many men (and women) had their careers changed as a result of the January classic. Here are 10 such examples:

Asuka

Asuka

 

The first Womens Royal Rumble was held in 2018 and was in the main event of the evening, so anyone who would have won would be likely to be a history maker.

But for Asuka, a competitor who had impressed fans in Japan and NXT, the Royal Rumble was when she first became a mainstream hit. Her undefeated streak, which began more than two years earlier, reached a crescendo with her Royal Rumble win. And while she failed to win the title shot at WrestleMania XXXIV she earned by winning the Rumble... it was still a career-defining performance.

Batista

 

Prior to winning the Royal Rumble in 2005, WWE Hall of Fame Batista was largely regarded as the enforcer for Triple H's Evolution faction. And while he had been vastly improving and gaining popularity leading into the January event... he wasn't quite seen as an upper-echelon talent yet.

At the Rumble, Batista almost tied with John Cena (the two fell over the top rope at roughly the same time), but the match was restarted and The Animal won... setting him on a path to break free from Triple H, become a babyface and capture the World Championship in the main event of WrestleMania XXI.

Batista
Becky Lynch

Becky Lynch

 

One year after Asuka made history at the Womens Royal Rumble, Becky Lynch followed by becoming the second winner of the annual event.

And while The Man was arguably on her way to superstardom months before the 2019 Rumble even took place, it was her performance here that qualified her to compete in the first-ever womens main event in WrestleMania history, defeating both Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair to win the Raw and SmackDown Womens Championships at the conclusion of WrestleMania XXXV.

It should also be pointed out that Lynch wasn't even scheduled to compete in the Royal Rumble - she instead forced her way in.

Big John Studd

 

While WWE Hall of Famer Big John Studd isn't closely associated with the Royal Rumble, the event definitely signified a turning point in his career.

Studd returned to the WWF in early 1989 (in the Rumble match, in fact) after spending years as a heel in the Bobby Heenan Family. His appearance at number 27 changed the course of the match; now as a babyface, he dispatched of Akeem and The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase.

Unfortunately, Studd never really capitalized on the success of his '89 Rumble win; this was years before the winner received an automatic title opportunity at WrestleMania. Instead, he went to WrestleMania V as a meaningless special referee and never had a run on top of the WWF.

Big John Studd
Diesel

Diesel

 

WWE Hall of Famer Diesel (a/k/a Kevin Nash) had such a memorable Royal Rumble experience in 1994 that an entire trope is named after his run that year.

That year, Shawn Michaels' bodyguard eliminated seven men in the match, a record at the time and something that was referred to as "The Diesel Push."

And even though Big Daddy Cool didn't win, and others including Kane, Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar have surpassed his elimination record since... it's still called "The Diesel Push."

Drew McIntyre

Drew McIntyre

 

Drew McIntyre had been experiencing decent runs in WWE.... but it was his performance in the 2020 Royal Rumble that truly altered his career.

Entering at number 16, McIntyre quickly eliminated Brock Lesnar (who himself had just been given that year's "Diesel Push") and then lasted another 30+ minutes before eliminating Roman Reigns to win the entire event. The Scottish Psychopath would then go on to defeat Lesnar for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XXXVI and have a career year.

Kofi Kingston

Kofi Kingston

 

Despite appearing in the last 13 consecutive Royal Rumble matches, Kofi Kingston has never won the match. In fact, he's never really even come close.

So why is he on this particular list? Because Kofi's creative "saves" each year, which include landing on the ringside barricade, Adam Rose's entourage and the commentary table, have become one of the highlights of the annual event. And in turn, that's helped perpetuate Kofi's popularity, which led him to a WWE Championship run in 2019.

Rey Mysterio

Rey Mysterio

 

Rey Mysterio had long been seen as a top cruiserweight competitor and arguably one of the greatest luchadores of all time. But his 2006 Royal Rumble win completely altered his career.

Competing for the memory of his friend Eddie Guerrero, who had passed away the falling November, Mysterio entered at number two and lasted 62 minutes (a record at the time), eliminating The Big Show to win the event, setting the tone for a World Title run.

Ric Flair

Ric Flair

 

Wait, you may be asking yourself (assuming you're in the habit of talking back to online columns) - didn't Ric Flair already win a billion different championships before entering the 1992 Royal Rumble? 

Absolutely he did. But the WWE Hall of Famer solidified his career outside of the NWA/WCW with his Rumble performance, entering at number three and lasting nearly an hour while taking on more than a dozen future WWE Hall of Famers. When The Nature Boy won the match, he also captured the WWF World Championship, too. Woooooo!

Yokozuna

Yokozuna

 

Believe it or not... WWE Hall of Famer Yokozuna was a relative unknown heading into the 1993 Royal Rumble. He'd only debuted the prior October, and had one PPV match to his credit before he entered the Rumble.

 

The 600-pound Samoan made quite an impression in his first Rumble match, entering at number 27 and eliminating Randy Savage to win. This would also be the first year the Royal Rumble winner would receive an automatic title shot, which Yokozuna made good on at WrestleMania IX.  

  • Email
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • YouTube

Learn More About Canadian Bulldog