Every Royal Rumble Winner Who Never Won A WWE World Title

Royal Rumble 1989

The Royal Rumble originated 35 years ago in January 1988 as a television special. The concept proved so successful, it was upgraded to pay-per-view status in 1989.

From 1993 onwards, the winner of the 30-Man Royal Rumble match was awarded a WWF/E World Title bout at WrestleMania. Traditionally, the ‘Rumble winner would lift the World crown either at ‘Mania itself or soon afterwards.

However, on rare occasions, the ‘Rumble victor would never claim a WWF/E World Title throughout their respective careers. This feature looks at the four wrestlers who have won the Royal Rumble match but never won a WWE World Championship.

‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan – Royal Rumble 1988

Royal Rumble 1988 - Jim Duggan

The inaugural Royal Rumble only featured 20 participants and was a television special on the USA Network. The bout lacked star power and featured exclusively mid-card and tag team wrestlers.

‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan won the bout by last eliminating The One Man Gang. At this point in time, there was no prize for winning the Royal Rumble match, therefore Duggan did not earn a WWF Championship match.

Duggan was never a headline act in the Federation and was never considered for a World Title run anywhere.

Therefore, ‘Hacksaw’ holds the distinction of being a ‘Rumble match winner who never held a WWF World crown.

Big John Studd – Royal Rumble 1989

Royal Rumble 1989 - Big John Studd

In 1989, the number of ‘Rumble entrants increased from 20 to 30 participants. The event was also upgraded to pay-per-view, becoming the fourth annual supercard on the WWF’s calendar.

The star power in the bout also increased with headliners such as Hulk Hogan, Andre ‘The Giant’ and ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage involved.

However, somewhat surprisingly none of those wrestlers won the bout. The first 30-Man ‘Rumble was won by Big John Studd, who last ejected ‘Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase to win.

Studd’s victory was meant to signal the start of a push, which never truly developed, as he departed the company several months later, never to return.

Studd, much like his long-time rival, Andre ‘The Giant’ was seen as an attraction and therefore rarely featured in World Title feuds. He was never close to being considered for a WWF World Title run, despite his ‘Rumble victory.

Lex Luger – Royal Rumble 1994

Royal Rumble 1994 - Lex Luger

The 1994 Royal Rumble match saw two men declared winners for the first time in history. WWF Chairman, Vince McMahon was undecided on who to crown WWF Champion at WrestleMania X, so hedged his bets by booking Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart and Lex Luger to eliminate each other at the same time.

As co-winners, Hart and Luger both received shots at WWF Champion, Yokozuna at ‘Mania. It would be Hart who ended WrestleMania X as champion after Luger failed to wrest the gold from the gargantuan, Yokozuna earlier on the card.

Luger was disqualified by the special referee, Mr. Perfect after he had shoved the referee for failing to count when he had the champion defeated. WrestleMania X marked the end of Luger’s headline run in the WWF. He slid down the card and left the promotion in 1995 for a headline spot in WCW, wherein he would claim his second WCW World Title (for six days) in August 1997.

He would never wrestle for the WWF again, and thus never had the opportunity to add a WWF World Title to his resume.

Shinsuke Nakamura – Royal Rumble 2018

Royal Rumble 2018 - Shinsuke Nakamura

When Shinsuke Nakamura won the 2018 Royal Rumble bout, most onlookers expected him to lift the WWE Championship at that year’s WrestleMania.

However, it was not to be. Squaring off with AJ Styles in what was a dream match following their classic encounters in New Japan, Nakamura came up short in his quest for the gold.

Regrettably, their bout disappointed and the most memorable aspect of the contest was the post-match angle in which Nakamura turned heel by low blowing ‘The Phenomenal One.” That led to a series of rematches, which were also a letdown in terms of match quality. Nakamura was defeated in every rematch too.

Following his series with Styles, Nakamura was shunted down the card and has never returned to the main event scene. Therefore, he appears destined to be another Royal Rumble victor to not hold a WWE World Title.

You can watch every Royal Rumble match exclusively on the WWE Network.