The Royal Rumble airs this Sunday on WWE Network, and you’ll be hearing a lot of “by the numbers” rundowns of who’s been in the match and for when and how long. To help bolster their presentation, we’ve collected our choices for the 15 saddest performances in Rumble history, from the quickest eliminations to the most puzzling inclusions and everything in-between. Winning the Royal Rumble is a true highlight of a wrestler’s career. These are the people who didn’t win. Didn’t win to the max.
First, a few Honorable Mentions:
The Kofi Kingston Memorial Spot Spot
The only way to guarantee you’ll never win a battle royal is by having WWE announcers decide you’re great at battle royals. No superstar exemplifies this more than Kofi Kingston, who is regularly included in Royal Rumbles not because he’s good or has a chance to win, but because he’s great at avoiding elimination. Once, usually. Whether it’s walking on his hands or using a desk chair to pogo back to the ring apron, Kofi works harder than anyone to stay in the match — that is, of course, until he’s succeeded. Once he’s done something wacky to avoid elimination he’s the easiest wrestler in the world to eliminate, and is usually gone moments after doing the impossible. Maybe he should get good at lying down and holding the bottom rope?
Owen Hart – Royal Rumble 1995
Owen spends about three seconds in the Royal Rumble, running full speed ahead into the British Bulldog and getting tossed. It’s Owen Hart, though, and I can’t find it in my heart to put him on a list of the saddest anything in history. Except, well, you know.
Ernest ‘The Cat’ Miller – Royal Rumble 2004
The sad performance that is actually amazing. It involves a man’s hair being eliminated. I watch this clip probably once every six months just to remind myself it exists.
And now, the actual 15 saddest performances in Royal Rumble history.
15. Rey Mysterio – Royal Rumble 2014
About 10 seconds before the countdown for #30, the crowd started chanting “YES! YES! YES!” Daniel Bryan hadn’t been announced for the Rumble, but he’d wrestled in the second match of the night so he was rested, right? Heading into WrestleMania XXX, Daniel Bryan was the only person who deserved a spot in the main event. He’s the one we wanted to see. The clock ticked down, and then BOOYAKA BOOYAKA, 6-1-9.
Poor Rey Mysterio never had a chance. The crowd was booing him for existing, and for not being Daniel Bryan. He ran down to the ring dressed like a thing of Jiffy Pop and did his signature spots while the crowd realized they were being spoon-fed the same old shit. Mysterio didn’t really do anything wrong, but he didn’t eliminate anyone and was out in two minutes. He could’ve been anybody. He could’ve been Darren Young and his contribution to the match wouldn’t have been any different.
If you listen closely, you can still hear the boos.
14. Jonathan Coachman – Royal Rumble 2005
Most people made this list for the short amount of time they spent in a Royal Rumble match. The Coach is the opposite of that. He lasts almost FIFTEEN MINUTES in the 2005 Royal Rumble. The guy’s an announcer. Imagine if Tom Phillips entered the 2015 Rumble and lasted 20 minutes.
At an official time of 13:48, Coachman lasts longer than Ric Flair, Kurt Angle, Shawn Michaels and Kane. COMBINED. He technically lasts almost three minutes longer than Batista, the match winner. John Cena’s only in about 90 seconds longer. Who thought this was funny enough to devote a quarter hour to in one of the biggest matches of the year, and how many DeLoreans do I need to travel time and make sure they got fired?
13. The Godfather – Royal Rumble 2013
THIS IS GREAT, MAGGLE! IT’S THE GODFATHER! HE’S ONE OF THE MOST ENTERTAINING CHARACTERS IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD WRESTLING ENTERTAINMENT. THIS IS GREAT! LOOK, IT’S THE GODFATHER! I LOVE THE GODFATHER! THE GODFATHER BEING HERE IS GREAT!
The Godfather lasted 5 seconds in the 2013 Royal Rumble. The only reason that long is because he got hung up going backwards over the top rope and lingered. It took him about 50 to get to the ring. He just rolled in, stood up, got dropkicked and left. He was too beautiful to exist in a TV-PG world, I guess. They couldn’t even call his women the “Ho Train.” JBL loosely relates them to Las Vegas and calls them the “Rat Pack.” Not much better if you’re up on your groupie terminology, but at least the Godfather’s moved up from “forcing women to have sex for money” to “hooking up with girls who want to f*ck wrestlers.”
12. Mo – Royal Rumble 1995
If you aren’t familiar with the work of Mo, he’s the guy in purple on King Kong Bundy’s shoulders. This is his entire Royal Rumble appearance, by the way.
Mo has basically the same elimination as Owen Hart, but he’s not Owen Hart so he’s making the list. Mo runs in a house afire, runs straight at Bundy and gets backdropped to the floor. That’s it. He doesn’t even get hit with an offensive move, really. He just jumps over somebody trying to stand up and gets eliminated. Not like you’d expect Mo of Men on a Mission to be a dark horse favorite to win or whatever, but he could’ve just not ran and jumped toward the ropes and saved himself a lot of anguish.
They really burned through the 95 Rumble. It’s only 38 minutes long. 8 out of 30 competitors last less than two minutes, with 6 of those 8 lasting less than one. 5 of those 6 last less than 20 seconds. Maybe “the 1995 Royal Rumble” should be its own number.
11. Epico – Royal Rumble 2012
Epico made the fatal mistake of interrupting two grown men in the middle of a sock puppet fight.
Mick Foley has a sock with a face drawn on it he stuffs down the front of his pants before matches. Santino carries around a snake sleeve that magically transforms his arm into a living, sentient snake. The snake and the sock were having a staredown when someone less important than a sock appeared: Epico, 1/2 of the tag team champions. Pfft. Epico runs right into a snake puppet, gets up, has a sock crammed down his throat and is eliminated. To my knowledge, Epico is the only man in Royal Rumble history to be eliminated via dueling laundry.
10. Tazz – Royal Rumble 2001
Here is a picture of Tazz in a garbage can. The end.
Seriously though, this is the first of two (technically three) sad 2001 Royal Rumble performances on the list. Tazz had debuted at the 2000 Royal Rumble and was hot shit, choking out Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle and riding a wave of popularity from his days as ECW’s Human Suplex Machine to center-stage at Madison Square Garden. A year later he was running to the ring dressed like a gas station attendant, getting immediately punched in the face by Kane and eliminated in a pile of garbage. He lasts 10 seconds. This was his only appearance in a Royal Rumble. You should be signing condolences cards for Tazz’s WWE career right now.
Note: A comedian who has never wrestled lasts 2:44 longer than Tazz in the 2001 Royal Rumble. Also, he goes into the WWE Hall of Fame.
9. Drew Carey/The Hardy Boyz – Royal Rumble 2001
Here, watch this.
Two things I want to point out.
– The “every man for himself” thing is one of the dumbest WWE tropes. Yeah, the Royal Rumble is every man for himself. AT THE END. If you’re Matt and Jeff Hardy and you enter together early, why the hell don’t you team up and improve your chances of winning? If it comes down to the two of you at the end, THEN it’s every man for himself. What’s the point of you punching each other in the face two minutes into the match? Better yet, what’s the value of “every man for himself” if you fight up on the outside of the turnbuckles and accidentally eliminate each other while COMEDIAN ACTOR DREW CAREY STANDS IN THE RING TAKING NO DAMAGE AND MAKING IT FARTHER INTO THE MATCH THAN YOU?
– I don’t begrudge Drew Carey for bailing and eliminating him at the first sign of trouble, but it’s pretty sad that a Royal Rumble spot was reserved for a guy who had no interest in wrestling or trying to win. That’s from a total kayfabe fan standpoint, mind you. That’s sadder than most of the examples of running in and immediately getting tossed. I guess WWE reaped that sweet ‘The Drew Carey Show’ mainstream bump.
8. Gillberg – Royal Rumble 1999
Scott Hall and Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat have never been in Royal Rumble matches, but super jobber Duane Gill doing a passive-aggressive Bill Goldberg parody character has!
Gillberg spends seven seconds in the 1999 Royal Rumble. He does his sparkler entrance, poses on the ropes and gets flipped out by Edge. His response is to land, turn around and do his taunt. What’s even better is that in addition to being in a Royal Rumble match, Gillberg held the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship for 453 days. That’s longer than Jushin Thunder Liger, The Great Sasuke and Ultimo Dragon combined.
Let that be a lesson, kids. Hard work and skill will get you far, but being willing to do whatever your boss tells you will get you farther.
7. Daniel Puder – Royal Rumble 2005
What was MMA fighter Daniel Puder’s reward for winning the million-dollar Tough Enough challenge and nearly breaking an overconfident Kurt Angle’s arm on TV? Being tossed into the 2005 Royal Rumble at #3 and having Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Hardcore Holly beat him to death for fun.
Puder cuts a promo before the match saying he’s going to be the first Tough Enough winner to win the Royal Rumble, and then the beating begins. Benoit and Guerrero take turns chopping the hell out of him and kicking him in the stomach until Bob Holly arrives, and then everyone just stands around in a circle brutalizing the guy while the crowd cheers. There’s nothing more the WWE Universe hates than a young person who wants to be a part of the show! Holly then kicks Puder in the nuts and tosses him during The Hurricane’s entrance to make sure it doesn’t get camera time.
Puder never appeared at another WWE pay-per-view and was released the following September, but hey, at least he’s still alive.
6. Kai En Tai – Royal Rumble 2000
Taka Michinoku and Funaki were promised spots in the 2000 Royal Rumble, and when those spots were taken away they got angry. They decided to bumrush the Rumble multiple times and eliminate people, but (spoiler alert) it never goes well. Funaki gets eliminated three times and Taka gets tossed twice. Why does Taka only have two? Because the second one involved him landing face-first on the floor and concussing himself. It was so brutal that Jerry Lawler ordered multiple replays and cackled about it. He was five seconds away from donning coke-bottle lenses and pretending to be Mickey Rooney from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
I mean, Lawler’s ALWAYS two seconds from being Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but you get what I’m saying. Kai En Tai earns a special place on the list for being the Rumble’s most pathetic non-entries, which is remarkable considering they interfered in the same Rumble as the Mean Street Posse.
5. Bushwhacker Luke – Royal Rumble 1991
How do you go through life knowing you’re the worst Bushwhacker?
Bushwhacker Luke confirmed our suspicions in the 1991 Royal Rumble, wherein he walked to the ring, walked through the ring, walked OUT of the ring and walked to the back. It was like Grandpa Simpson seeing Bart at La Maison Derrière. Earthquake doesn’t even really seem motivated to eliminate him … moments earlier he’d been going at it with Hulk Hogan, but he sees Luke entering and just kinda grabs him by the pants and walks him in a straight line. Luke does nothing to AVOID elimination, either. He’s just walkin’, and that’s what he’s gonna do. Four seconds for Luke. It would’ve been faster if he’d been walked out by someone under 400 pounds.
I love that Earthquake knew the great secret of the Bushwhackers: they’re basically windup toys, and if you point them in the direction of a cliff they’ll armpit-walk toward it and fall to their doom.
4. The Warlord – Royal Rumble 1989
You name’s The Warlord, man. THE WARLORD. You are the LORD OF WAR. How are you gonna last two seconds in the Royal Rumble?
The Warlord was the original bad Rumble performance. The guy gets on the apron, poses, steps into the ring and gets clotheslined out by Hulk Hogan. If that’s not embarrassing enough, his elimination is a total non-factor because Hogan then runs over and simultaneously dumps Bad News Brown and the Macho Man Randy Savage, adding fuel to that eternally burning Hogan/Macho thing. The Warlord has to just kinda silently slump to the back, carrying the shame of knowing it took him longer to paint his face than participate in the Royal Rumble.
His record of sadness would last 20 years.
3. Santino Marella – Royal Rumble 2009
Whether or not he was actually in there for less time than The Warlord is up for debate, but Santino Marella’s performance in the 2009 Royal Rumble lasted about a second and a half and is the observed “worst Royal Rumble performance ever.” Santino charges to the ring with purpose, but is being clotheslined out by Kane before he’s even up to his feet. The lights from his entrance hadn’t even stopped.
It’s hard to crank out a longform about 1.2 seconds of wrestling action, but here goes.
Speaking of Santino, if Marella had won the 2009 Royal Rumble, I planned to start my column with a scene from the Rumble post-match party. Through some mutual friends, I had arranged to hang out with Marella’s crew for what promised to be a laid-back celebration in somebody’s hotel room, probably no more than 15-20 people since Marella’s circle is surprisingly and refreshingly small. Because it was a rare chance to catch Santino in an unguarded moment — and an important moment at that — I spent most of Friday and Saturday thinking about the first paragraph and all the different ways it could start. I kept seeing Santino sitting in a chair with his right ankle encased in ice, quietly sipping a bottle of champagne with a satisfied smile on his face, and Beth Phoenix would be there, and everyone would be recapping 2009 and remembering the incredible year. I liked the thought of a famous person celebrating a historic night in such a totally normal and relatable way. And that’s what it will remain. A thought and only a thought. It never happened.
2. Spike Dudley – Royal Rumble 2004
Fun fact: Spike Dudley’s the only member of the Dudley family to ever enter a Royal Rumble, and he never made it into the ring. Technically no Dudley Boy has been IN a Royal Rumble, and Drew Carey has more Rumble appearances than all of them combined.
Here’s what you need to know: Kane had recently buried the Undertaker alive. Kane thought that meant he’d committed shoot murder and would never have to worry about his brother again, but the Undertaker is timeless or whatever and rose from his grave a la Altered Beast. The #13 entrant in the 2004 Royal Rumble was UNDERTAKER’S DONG, which scared Kane and allowed Booker T to eliminate him. It turns out #13 was actually Little Spike Dudley (making “hey, watch your ass” gestures at the sound team as he enters), and Spike gets chokeslammed on the ramp for being an accomplice to supernatural audio-visual taunting.
1. Bastion Booger – Royal Rumble 1994
And the saddest performance in the history of the Royal Rumble goes to the man who couldn’t even get to the Rumble.
Bastion Booger was supposed to be #25 in the 94 Rumble. He’d gotten a bad case of food poisoning between the morning’s “Action Zone” and the night’s pay-per-view and couldn’t make it. No, seriously, this was the angle. Bret Hart had gotten attacked by his brother Owen, getting his leg kicked outta his leg, and they needed a red herring entrant to make people think Bret wouldn’t make the Rumble. So Bastion’s spot comes up, nobody comes out, the announcers go “oh man that was supposed to be Bret Hart” and then boop, Bret comes out two numbers later. Nobody even remembered that Bastion Booger was supposed to be in the match.
The reason for Booger’s absence was explained later, Poochie style, but it didn’t matter. Dude didn’t even make it to the arena. How did THIS guy get food poisoning?