For just the second time in WWE history, the 2016 Royal Rumble will have the richest prize in the company on the line: The WWE World Championship. Back in 1992, Ric Flair put on a performance for the ages and outlasted a loaded field to take home the title. There have been other years where this could have been an option (2006 says hello) but… what if we lived in a world where each January the title was vacated and put up for grabs in the Rumble match? We are here to live in that world and rebook each Rumble to choose who the best choice to win would have been. The rules are simple: the field must remain unchanged in each year. If the actual champion was in that year’s Rumble, he is eligible to win. Otherwise, we are guaranteed a new champion. How different will things go? Or are most Rumble winners the best possible choice? WrestleMania main events must also be factored into play. Lots of questions. We have assembled a group of staff members to participate and answer them…and away we go!
1988 – Actual Winner: Jim Duggan
JT Rozzero: Right out of the gate we have a tough field to choose from, but I will stick with Jim Duggan. He was quite over and had an air of credibility on him at this point. He can get duped by Ted DiBiase & Andre the Giant and still set up the WrestleMania tournament.
Scott Keith: Yeesh, what a group of scrubs. I guess put it on One Man Gang and Hogan can win it back at a house show or something.
Ben Morse: Ted DiBiase still attempts to buy the WWF title, this time from One Man Gang, leading to the vacating of the belt and the tournament at WrestleMania IV.
Brian Bayless: One Man Gang wins and Ted DiBiase buys the title off of him. You can even make the story of DiBiase going up to all 20 guys offering them cash for the belt. He gets the bet off of Gang then they use the same set up for WWF President Jack Tunney to vacate the title, creating a 14-man title tournament at WrestleMania IV.
Chad Campbell: No one really jumps out here but I think going into WrestleMania with Ted DiBiase vs. Hulk Hogan as a feature match and One Man Gang vs. Randy Savage for the title isn’t the worst idea in the world.
Chris Jordan: Don Muraco was a freshly turned babyface and just took on former champ Superstar Billy Graham as manager.
Glenn Butler: HOOOOOOOOOOOO! I’ve got to stick with Jim Duggan.
Jordan Duncan: Going with the idea they still had a tournament at WrestleMania IV, I ask myself, “Who is most likely to sell their title to Ted Dibiase?” The two best choices to me are One Man Gang and Hillbilly Jim, who could probably use the money. But I don’t want to see that, so One Man Gang it is!
Greg Phillips: This isn’t the best field from a top-tier star perspective (at least in 1988 terms), but Jake Roberts is the best bet of the bunch, and probably the biggest star at the time.
1989 – Actual Winner: Big John Studd
JT Rozzero: I think sticking with WWF Champion Randy Savage is the easy call here. You don’t tinker with the Mega Powers exploding and you can manipulate the finish to add more heat between the two.
Scott Keith: Randy Savage should have been champion for five years instead of one. He retains.
Ben Morse: Randy Savage eliminates Hulk Hogan for the win, keeping the Mega Powers storyline on track.
Brian Bayless: Randy Savage retains the belt. Even have him dump Hogan from behind at some point in the match to heat up their eventual split.
Chad Campbell: The Mega-Powers were going to explode and there is no better spot for that happening than right here with Randy Savage eliminating Hulk Hogan to win.
Chris Jordan: Have to go with Randy Savage here in order to build up his inevitable match with Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania.
Glenn Butler: The increasingly-paranoid Randy Savage retains his title by brutally betraying his best friend Hulk Hogan. Hogan, though, always giving his buddies the benefit of the doubt, accepts Savage’s help in an upcoming tag match against the Twin Towers…
Jordan Duncan: Macho Man Randy Savage is the obvious choice here, though you could make a case for Dibiase, leading to Savage/Dibiase at WrestleMania V and the Mega Powers not exploding until the next year.
Greg Phillips: Randy Savage had to keep the strap until WrestleMania.
1990 – Actual Winner: Hulk Hogan
JT Rozzero: I am taking advantage of the set up in these early years. In no way do I tinker with the Ultimate Challenge, so Hulk Hogan is my choice. However, with hindsight, having the Ultimate Warrior win the Rumble and the title and having Hogan beat him at Mania may have been better business wise in the long run. They then could have run Hogan/Earthquake for the strap from there.
Scott Keith: No point in messing up WrestleMania VI. Hulk Hogan retains.
Ben Morse: Ultimate Warrior takes the title from Rumble winner Mr. Perfect at WrestleMania VI, doing what “Hogan couldn’t.” Hogan/Perfect runs at SummerSlam, Hogan/Warrior gets bumped a year to WrestleMania VII.
Brian Bayless: Hulk Hogan retains this year as well as it fit in perfectly with the WrestleMania VI main event.
Chad Campbell: I feel like The Ultimate Challenge is also the way to go here and don’t see someone like Mr. Perfect being ready for the championship at this point, so Hulk Hogan it is.
Chris Jordan: Hulk Hogan was the biggest star in the company at the time needing the title for his run-in with The Ultimate Warrior.
Glenn Butler: Hulk Hogan is the clear choice to retain. Let’s get some retentions in while we can.
Jordan Duncan: Another layup. Hulk Hogan retains and we still get Hogan/Warrior.
Greg Phillips: Like Randy Savage the year before, this is a no-brainer. Hulk Hogan needed the belt heading into WrestleMania.
1991 – Actual Winner: Hulk Hogan
JT Rozzero: I think Randy Savage was the choice here. Let him carry the belt into Mania and you can do career vs. title with the Ultimate Warrior or reignite his feud with Hulk Hogan.
Scott Keith: Put it on Randy Savage here and the Warrior match at WrestleMania VII can be for the title.
Ben Morse: Randy Savage wins, leading to Savage/Warrior at WrestleMania becoming title vs. career.
Brian Bayless: Randy Savage wins the title in this Rumble as he can face the Ultimate Warrior for the belt in their WrestleMania VII match.
Chad Campbell: Making Randy Savage vs. Ultimate Warrior career vs. career and for the title would have added even more prestige to an insanely memorable match. Hulk Hogan vs. Sarge was more about hate and politics anyway.
Chris Jordan: Earthquake was the monster heel at the time. You could finally book the proper blow off with Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania.
Glenn Butler: After WWF Champion Ultimate Warrior (?) lost in controversial fashion earlier in the night (?) and the vacant title was put on the line in the Royal Rumble (?), Hulk Hogan rages onward to victory to reassure a frightened and confused audience.
Jordan Duncan: My first instinct was Hulk Hogan, but I think this would be a perfect spot for Earthquake. The Rumble is a perfect place for him to look dominating, and you can have the Hogan/Quake showdown in a few months.
Greg Phillips: Hulk Hogan was still the biggest star in the company. This was his spot.
1992 – Actual Winner: Ric Flair
JT Rozzero: No reason to mess with greatness. This went exactly as it should have. Ric Flair.
Scott Keith: Ric Flair was the perfect winner at the perfect time as is.
Ben Morse: Don’t mess with perfection, Ric Flair wins.
Brian Bayless: Ric Flair wins. You really cannot script it any better than how it actually played out.
Chad Campbell: This match is booking perfection and I can’t fathom changing anything about it, so Ric Flair wins.
Chris Jordan: Still have to give it to Ric Flair here. The hottest heel in the company could face anyone from Hulk Hogan to Sid to Randy Savage at WrestleMania.
Glenn Butler: The obvious first instinct is not to mess with this one, but on second thought I can’t shake the heartwarming image of Roddy Piper winning both singles titles on the same night. Piper wins by last eliminating Ric Flair; Gorilla Monsoon barely stops Bobby Heenan from leaping to his death from their broadcast position high aloft the arena.
Jordan Duncan: Ric Flair. Let’s not get cute with it and try to change this one up.
Greg Phillips: See real life: Ric Flair.
1993 – Actual Winner: Yokozuna
JT Rozzero: Let’s give Mr. Perfect his first Royal Rumble win. He shockingly eliminates Randy Savage to win the bout and heads to WrestleMania to defend against Bret Hart in a top notch main event. I actually was going to go with Savage here originally but he has already won twice and this is Perfect’s last shot at one. Either scenario could have been great.
Scott Keith: Randy Savage wins and defends against Bret Hart at WrestleMania.
Ben Morse: Bret Hart defeats Rumble winner Randy Savage for the WWF title at WrestleMania IX in a “passing of the torch” match.
Brian Bayless: I’m actually sticking with Yokozuna here. Continuing to build him up as a monster heel works for me.
Chad Campbell: It seems when I am in doubt of who to choose, I pick Randy Savage. Savage vs. Bret Hart at WrestleMania IX is one of those dream matches you hoped for.
Chris Jordan: Mr. Perfect had just turned babyface and was red hot. He could still run Ric Flair out of town and have all the momentum for WrestleMania.
Glenn Butler: Randy Savage is, to put it lightly, a distinct upgrade from Bret Hart. Just like in this piece, I just want to fix 1993 by leaning on the older/better stars.
Jordan Duncan: Call me crazy, but I’m sticking with Yokozuna, for the same reasons as Earthquake. A battle royal is a great place for a big fat guy to win and look menacing. That gives them options of Randy Savage, Bret Hart or even Mr. Perfect to challenge him for the belt at Wrestlemania.
Greg Phillips: Randy Savage would be a great nostalgia pop and set up one last major program for him, this time against top contender The Hitman.
1994 – Actual Winner: Bret Hart & Lex Luger
JT Rozzero: 1994 is Bret Hart’s year start to finish. He should win here and hold the title right through to the end of the year. Lex Luger is also in play if you want to salvage his run but I think Hart is the right choice on this night as it was what the crowd was clamoring to see.
Scott Keith: Lex Luger wins here, drops it to Bret at WrestleMania.
Ben Morse: Lex Luger wins the title to lose the choker label and get some more mileage in his WWF career, then drops the belt to Bret Hart at WrestleMania X.
Brian Bayless: Bret Hart wins this match as we finally have a babyface get the title in a Rumble match. Bret was a strong choice for a champ at this time anyway.
Chad Campbell: Give Lex Luger his moment here and it doesn’t feel like he is that much of a choker. Everything that happened at WrestleMania X could have still happened and Lex possibly would have been more protected in the aftermath.
Chris Jordan: Lex Luger needs this win to make up for the meaningless countout win at SummerSlam.
Glenn Butler: Bret Hart is, to put it lightly, a distinct upgrade from Yokozuna.
Jordan Duncan: Bret Hart has only a few more chances to win Rumbles before he’s gone, and I think Lex Luger’s ship has sailed after SummerSlam 93. So The Hitman gets it.
Greg Phillips: Bret Hart is the company’s biggest star at the time, and its best wrestler.
1995 – Actual Winner: Shawn Michaels
JT Rozzero: Shawn Michaels seems like the easy choice but I am not sure he was just quite ready as of yet and I think I want to save his big win for WrestleMania. That leaves us with Davey Boy Smith or Lex Luger as options on the face side and I think either could work to pass the torch to Michaels at Mania. Or, you could do what I am running with and have Owen Hart mimicking his brother’s win a year earlier and then having Michaels turn face and having his big crowning moment that way instead.
Scott Keith: It was a bit too soon, but I’d still roll the dice on Shawn Michaels here anyway. You could always put it back on Diesel at WreslteMania.
Ben Morse: Heel Lex Luger serves as a sacrificial lamb for Diesel at WrestleMania XI, Shawn Michaels gets held off for a bit.
Brian Bayless: Tough choice here but I’ll go with Shawn Michaels. Taking a chance on someone who might not have been ready is at least something new and exciting during a weak year for the WWF.
Chad Campbell: A rough roster allows Owen Hart to get his shining moment and sets up possible WrestleMania matches with Diesel, a newly turned Shawn or even Bret.
Chris Jordan: I would still go with Shawn Michaels here. Top heel in the company and Diesel could challenge at WrestleMania.
Glenn Butler: Luke & Butch, The Bushwhackers, are the last two remaining. They celebrate in the middle of the ring, licking each other’s heads and showing their armpits to the masses before finally jumping out of the ring at the same time and marching to the back as the show goes off the air. Just a little bit of situational awareness would have saved the Royal Rumble, but here we are.
Jordan Duncan: This one is pretty thin in terms of guys who could actually win the belt. Rather than just stick with Shawn Michaels, I would love to see British Bulldog get a title reign.
Greg Phillips: I contemplated Owen Hart, but this was the time to pull the trigger on Shawn Michaels as a main event heel.
1996 – Actual Winner: Shawn Michaels
JT Rozzero: Shawn Michaels is again the chalk answer but let’s mix things up a bit and go with Diesel. He tosses his buddy out and turns heel to shock everyone, setting up a big No Holds Barred WrestleMania title match in Anaheim.
Scott Keith: Shawn Michaels again. Might as well.
Ben Morse: Shawn Michaels defends in the Iron Man match against Bret Hart rather than challenging.
Brian Bayless: Diesel turning heel and eliminating Shawn Michaels for the win and the title would have been awesome to see. Diesel’s edgier interviews would have made for an exciting aftermath as well.
Chad Campbell: Shawn Michaels’ big moment needed to come at WrestleMania so Diesel winning here could have set up the Good Friends, Better Enemies main event a month earlier.
Chris Jordan: Vader had just come into the WWF at the time and what better way to come in than win the title.
Glenn Butler: Owen Hart is, to put it lightly, a distinct upgrade from Bret Hart. Baby brother can do anything big brother can.
Jordan Duncan: Listen, anytime there’s a big fat dude who can realistically win, I think I’m going to pick him. It’s Vader time!
Greg Phillips: This was The British Bulldog’s best chance to be champion, and he could win it here and drop to Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania.
1997 – Actual Winner: Steve Austin
JT Rozzero: Let’s give Bret Hart his second reign. He sets up for a big match with Shawn Michaels at Mania as the two torch bearers of the New Generation era clash to settle their issues once and for all.
Scott Keith: Way too soon for Steve Austin to get the title, so I’d just go with the logical choice and put it on Bret Hart here.
Ben Morse: Bret Hart wins it, and if Shawn Michaels is healthy, the XII rematch headlines WrestleMania 13. If not, Austin challenges.
Brian Bayless: Bret Hart winning after a lengthy absence makes for a great storyline. I’ll go with that.
Chad Campbell: Another year where I say Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin for the title at Mania only adds to the already legendary match.
Chris Jordan: Bret Hart had just come back from his long layoff and feuded with Steve Austin. This could make Hart/Austin the main event at WrestleMania with huge ramifications.
Glenn Butler: The fact that the WWF didn’t have enough people on the roster and had to resort to outside help this year gives us a great opportunity to have Cibernético win the WWF World Title, absconding back to AAA with the belt. Welp!
Jordan Duncan: This is the first time I really take into account what actually happened. Having Austin win the title here is too soon, so I’m not giving it to him. I’m also not giving it to Bret, because I think the double turn at Mania was perfect, and still a bit soon for Austin to win the belt. So the next logical choice is The Undertaker, who went into Mania as champion anyway.
Greg Phillips: Bret Hart was the best choice to be champion at the time, accelerating his heel turn a bit in the process (perhaps).
1998 – Actual Winner: Steve Austin
JT Rozzero: I would stick to reality here as Steve Austin outlasts all the mercenaries and cleans house to win the title. He then defeats Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania to officially kick off the Austin 3:16 era. A second option would be to have The Rock win and pass the belt to Austin at Mania.
Scott Keith: Now you put it on Steve Austin, and thus avoid Shawn Michaels having to job to him later!
Ben Morse: Steve Austin gets screwed by The Rock in the final moments, and then goes on to still win his first WWF title at WrestleMania XIV.
Brian Bayless: Steve Austin winning here makes the most sense. His popularity was surging.
Chad Campbell: My first time doing a bait and switch as I envision Ken Shamrock having a quick reign here and dropping it to Shawn Michaels at some point in February.
Chris Jordan: Red hot at the time, Steve Austin makes the most sense here.
Glenn Butler: The Artist Formerly Known as Terry Funk outlasts 29 other men with the help of his chainsaw. He still gets murdered by Austin at WrestleMania.
Jordan Duncan: I was all set to give it to someone besides Steve Austin so he could win the belt for the first time at WrestleMania, but there’s not a lot of viable candidates. It’s too early for Rock and Faarooq isn’t at that level. I already had Vader win one, so here’s what I am going with. Owen Hart. Yes, in 1998 he wasn’t a top level guy, but there is a built in history with Austin, who could destroy him at WrestleMania.
Greg Phillips: The temptation is to put someone else over to drop to Steve Austin at WrestleMania, but this is one of the worst Rumble fields.
1999 – Actual Winner: Vince McMahon
JT Rozzero: With a super weak field here, Steve Austin goes bell to bell to win his second straight Rumble and championship, regaining the belt that Mr. McMahon had screwed him out of back in the fall.
Scott Keith: Steve Austin, duh.
Ben Morse: Steve Austin gets hosed for the second year in a row, when winner Mr. McMahon forfeits the title to a debuting Paul Wight to set up a triple threat also involving Rock at WrestleMania XV.
Brian Bayless: Steve Austin winning again, especially considering how weak the field was at the time.
Chad Campbell: Having Mr. McMahon win the match and give the title to Rock would have created more heat and set up Steve Austin wanting more revenge.
Chris Jordan: With the Austin/McMahon feud at it’s peak, what better way to screw Stone Cold than to have his #1 enemy Mr. McMahon win the title.
Glenn Butler: Chyna is already one of the most intimidating people in the Rumble. Let’s try to imagine a fantasy world in which the WWF isn’t so mired in retrograde gender-essentialist crap.
Jordan Duncan: OK, now Steve Austin wins the Rumble.
Greg Phillips: Again, a terrible field. Nobody deserving other than Stone Cold Steve Austin.
2000 – Actual Winner: The Rock
JT Rozzero: Another weak field and another no brainer win here. The Rock chucks the Big Show to win the title and then heads to WrestleMania to defend against Triple H in Anaheim.
Scott Keith: The Rock, duh.
Ben Morse: The Rock loses the title to Triple H at WrestleMania 2000.
Brian Bayless: The Rock wins this and like last year’s field, there is one person who is clearly above the other 29 participants.
Chad Campbell: The Rock was white hot in 2000 in the wake of Steve Austin being out with injury. Giving him the title and letting him be the new face of the promotion seems like an appropriate choice.
Chris Jordan: The Rock is the biggest guy in that Rumble. It would be a forgone conclusion.
Glenn Butler: There isn’t much in the way of a legitimate alternative here, so let’s stick with The Rock.
Jordan Duncan: The Rock is an obvious choice here, as is a singles match against Triple H at Mania.
Greg Phillips: Only the Big Show was a legitimate contender besides The Rock, and it was too soon to go back to that well.
2001 – Actual Winner: Steve Austin
JT Rozzero: I would have The Rock win his second straight Rumble to set up the ultimate Mania clash with Steve Austin in Houston. Kane is a good darkhorse choice as he was super over and looked fantastic throughout the match and could have had a quick run before transitioning to Rock at No Way Out.
Scott Keith: Stick with Steve Austin. Rock can always win it back later.
Ben Morse: Rock beats Rumble winner Kane at No Way Out to still set up Rock/Austin for WrestleMania X-7, but the “Big Red Machine” finally gets the Royal Rumble rub he’s narrowly missed out on and gets leveled up as a threat.
Brian Bayless: I’d have Steve Austin win this en route to his match against the Rock at WrestleMania X-7.
Chad Campbell: Steve Austin could win the match here and we would have the set up needed for Rock vs. Austin at WrestleMania.
Chris Jordan: Just coming back from injury, Steve Austin reclaims his top spot.
Glenn Butler: William Regal has the endurance.
Jordan Duncan: Keeping with the idea of taking what actually happened into consideration, Steve Austin losing makes sense to fuel the heel turn at Mania. The Rock wins – but boy did I think about giving it to Kane.
Greg Phillips: The Rock wins and everything stays the same in the buildup to WrestleMania.
2002 – Actual Winner: Triple H
JT Rozzero: Now this is a loaded field with multiple options and there are at least five strong choices to walk out of Atlanta with the gold. I am running with Rob Van Dam. He was molten hot in late 2001 and I would have taken better care of him after Survivor Series and had him have a long run in the match before dumping Kurt Angle to win it. I would have Triple H and Steve Austin eliminate each other, setting up a Mania match between them and then run with an RVD/Angle/Chris Jericho three way title match with RVD prevailing. Combine those two with Rock/Hogan and Undertaker/Flair boosts that Mania up a notch.
Scott Keith: Triple H was the only choice and would remain so even in this fantasy world.
Ben Morse: Steve Austin remains heel, wins the Rumble, and defends against babyface Triple H at WrestleMania X-8.
Brian Bayless: Kurt Angle wins this and it places him in the same class as the other top stars in the company at the time.
Chad Campbell: Triple H returning as a face had disaster written all over it. I envision him winning here and setting up his heel turn and then facing a strong face opponent at Mania.
Chris Jordan: A win here gives Rob Van Dam the push he needs to reach that next level.
Glenn Butler: Kurt Angle makes the big comeback story wait a while.
Jordan Duncan: Steve Austin winning here and setting up a Triple H/Austin Mania match that we never got sounds a lot better than Hunter vs. Chris Jericho.
Greg Phillips: Kurt Angle deserved a Rumble victory at some point anyway, and this would have set up a potentially more compelling championship feud than what we got.
2003 – Actual Winner: Brock Lesnar
JT Rozzero: 2003 is interesting because Brock Lesnar seems like an easy choice but with Kurt Angle holding the Smackdown title, I want to preserve Angle/Lesnar at Mania and there is an easy path to that. So, in this world, the Raw title is on the line and Chris Jericho walks out as champion, bringing us a big World Heavyweight Title match with Shawn Michaels in SafeCo Field.
Scott Keith: Brock Lesnar remains best choice, and again you can always put it back on Kurt Angle later.
Ben Morse: The Chris Jericho against Shawn Michaels match at WrestleMania XIX becomes for the title with Y2J successfully defending and setting up for a redemptive run as heel champion through the spring.
Brian Bayless: Brock Lesnar still wins and gets the WWE Championship as his match with Kurt Angle that took place at WrestleMania 19 remains the same.
Chad Campbell: Undertaker wins his first Rumble here and has a bevy of interesting matches that could have happened at Mania.
Chris Jordan: Brock Lesnar needs the title back after looking losing to the Big Show back at Survivor Series.
Glenn Butler: The vacant World Heavyweight Title has a bold new bearer people were recently clamoring for: Rob Van Dam. Like every new champion on Raw, he has to face off with Kane at the next show to settle the simmering tensions caused by RVD having to eliminate his partner on the way to the win.
Jordan Duncan: I’ll go with Shawn Michaels here to make Michaels/Jericho for the belt. Angle/Lesnar can still happen for the Smackdown title.
Greg Phillips: Chris Jericho wins the World Heavyweight Championship to dd to the stakes of Jericho/Michaels.
2004 – Actual Winner: Chris Benoit
JT Rozzero: I want Chris Benoit to get his big title win at WrestleMania still, so he ends up getting screwed by Evolution, working so Triple H can keep him out of the mix. That means Kurt Angle ends up using an assist from Brock Lesnar to outlast Goldberg and win the title. From there, Eddie Guerrero defeats Brock Lesnar at No Way Out to earn the Mania title match and eventually winning at MSG. Plus this gets Angle a much deserved Rumble win on his resume.
Scott Keith: Given what we know now about Chris Benoit, I’d put it on Kurt Angle here.
Ben Morse: Eddie Guerrero wins the WWE title from Rumble winner Kurt Angle at No Way Out then successfully defends against a departing Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XX.
Brian Bayless: The storyline in place set up for Chris Benoit winning so I guess I will stick with what happened as he becomes the World Heavyweight Champion.
Chad Campbell: I don’t know if Kurt Angle vs. Eddie Guerrero at WrestleMania would have been as good a moment for Eddie as No Way Out but that is the best choice I can think of with the Rumble booking.
Chris Jordan: Goldberg should win as they need to try and get a big money match out of the big guy and a WrestleMania main event is a good start.
Glenn Butler: Push John Cena. The fresh young champion quickly insinuates himself into the WWE Title picture with Brock Lesnar & Eddie Guerrero.
Jordan Duncan: This one is odd. Since it is fantasy booking, do I have to act like I have no knowledge of what would happen with Benoit? If so, I give it to him. But I’m going to say I have a crystal ball and I know what happens down the road, so I may as well get some money out of Goldberg before he’s gone.
Greg Phillips: Chris Benoit wins the WWE Championship because, remember, the story for over a month was Heyman stacking odds against Benoit on Smackdown.
2005 – Actual Winner: Batista
JT Rozzero: Well, you have built this far to have Batista snap and wipe out Triple H at WrestleMania so that has to stay the same. That leaves us on SmackDown. John Cena would be the easy choice but I like the idea of him winning the gold at Mania. That leaves us with some interesting choices, mainly all top faces, that could put Cena over in a respect type match (Benoit, Guerrero, Michaels and Angle). I think Chris Benoit was still believable enough to pull out the win and have a short run until Mania, where he puts Cena over clean in a hard fought war.
Scott Keith: John Cena gets his big win here, Batista gets his big win at WrestleMania, everyone’s happy.
Ben Morse: Batista heads into WrestleMania 21 as champion rather than challenger against Triple H.
Brian Bayless: Batista still wins and becomes the World Heayweight Champion then Triple H can turn on him to set up their feud with Batista as the babyface.
Chad Campbell: Batista needed to beat Triple H at WrestleMania. John Cena could win here and set up a down the line dream match with Batista by eliminating him.
Chris Jordan: I would still go with Batista here. He was gaining in popularity and winning the Rumble for the title would be a good move.
Glenn Butler: Push John Cena. He mows through a bunch of guys and takes the vacant WWE Title in dominant fashion despite Batista’s valiant effort.
Jordan Duncan: Another tough one, because what they actually did works better than if the belt was on the line in the Rumble. Batista winning the Rumble isn’t nearly as good as beating triple H, and the same goes for Cena finally ending JBL’s reign of terror. I still like Batista to win at Mania over Triple H, so let’s throw Shawn Michaels into the story-setting up Triple H/Michaels in February, and Triple H/Batista at Mania.
Greg Phillips: John Cena wins the WWE Championship as he was the better of the two young stars.
2006 – Actual Winner: Rey Mysterio
JT Rozzero: I would have Triple H win the 2006 Rumble and take home the vacated Smackdown title, eventually losing to Rey Mysterio at WrestleMania. Edge deserved a better fate, so in my world, he keeps the World Heavyweight Title and loses to John Cena in the main event in Chicago. Randy Orton is my other choice but I like having Hunter as a the bully douchebag at this point instead, and it keeps The Game away from Raw for this stretch.
Scott Keith: Might as well make Randy Orton the champion here and then he can lose to Rey Mysterio at WrestleMania as planned.
Ben Morse: Randy Orton wins and we get a one-on-one Orton/Rey Mysterio match in place of the triple threat at WrestleMania 22. Kurt Angle gets freed up to wrestle Undertaker there.
Brian Bayless: I’ll also keep Rey Mysterio as the winner as you can let him overcome the odds for a short title reign.
Chad Campbell: Randy Orton wins and we get a great build to Rey Mysterio’s moment at Mania without any of the Eddie in Hell stuff.
Chris Jordan: I would lose the feel good story of Rey Mysterio winning it in honor of Eddie Guerrero and give it to Randy Orton instead, who was coming into his own as top heel.
Glenn Butler: Handwave away the stuff about Rey Mysterio doing everything for the ghost of Eddie Guerrero, have Rey stay more active for the length of the match, and the man could’ve delivered an exemplary performance in winning the World Title (recently vacated by Batista’s biceps, as many have observed that you don’t need to do a battle royal for the title mere weeks before the Rumble).
Jordan Duncan: Let’s keep it as is with Rey Mysterio winning here, only he loses at WrestleMania in a short title reign.
Greg Phillips: Rey Mysterio wins the World Heavyweight Championship as it was his time. Great story to tell here, with a slightly better booked match.
2007 – Actual Winner: Undertaker
JT Rozzero: I would stick with Undertaker here and then still roll with him facing Batista in Detroit and their ensuing Smackdown war that followed. He deserves one Rumble win and 2007 is one of his best top to bottom years.
Scott Keith: I know Shawn Michaels didn’t want to be champion at this point, but too bad, it’s my fantasy booking, so he eliminates Undertaker to win it here.
Ben Morse: Randy Orton and John Cena have their first one-on-one meeting for the WWE title at WrestleMania, as it should be.
Brian Bayless: Shawn Michaels wins the WWE Championship and sets up for Title vs. Streak at WrestleMania 23.
Chad Campbell: Since John Cena wouldn’t have had a WrestleMania title win yet, this would have been a good spot for him to take it from the Rumble winner, Shawn Michaels.
Chris Jordan: The Undertaker is a strong choice here and I would still go with the Dead Man here in order to add more drama to the Streak.
Glenn Butler: Give Ric Flair one more run where he low-blows and chop-blocks his way to a Rumble win, the World Heavyweight Title, the Big Gold Belt, and a featured spot on SmackDown.
Jordan Duncan: The ultimate opportunist Edge turns on Randy Orton to capture the belt and Cena gets involved with the both of them for Mania.
Greg Phillips: The Undertaker wins the World Heavyweight Championship as I couldn’t think of a better alternative.
2008 – Actual Winner: John Cena
JT Rozzero: I like idea of Batista winning the World Heavyweight Title here and defending against Randy Orton in Orlando. I would keep Undertaker/Edge in place and present the big Evolution blowoff that we never really got. The Orton/Cena/Triple H threeway was forgettable and Batista/Umaga was a complete throwaway. This is a better use of both and Cena and Triple H can battle for pride on the undercard.
Scott Keith: John Cena’s return was a great moment and you might as well make him World champion again while you’re at it.
Ben Morse: Jeff Hardy gets his big first WWE title win over Triple H at WrestleMania, John Cena seeks revenge on Randy Orton for injuring him on the undercard.
Brian Bayless: John Cena wins in his surprise return to capture the WWE Championship.
Chad Campbell: I perpetually forget that Cena/Orton/Triple H fought at WrestleMania 24 so Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair for the belt sounds like a more memorable moment for the strap to me.
Chris Jordan: That surprise return was the right move for John Cena at the time, so give him the title.
Glenn Butler: John Cena is back for the title he never lost. Just about the simplest story there is.
Jordan Duncan: You can’t bring John Cena back and have him lose.
Greg Phillips: John Cena wins the WWE Championship, as again there is no good alternative.
2009 – Actual Winner: Randy Orton
JT Rozzero: I am going to stick with Randy Orton and have him be champion heading to a bloody brawl with Triple H at Mania. It never made sense to me to have Orton chasing in that feud and this feels a bit better. If Jeff Hardy had been in this Rumble match, he would have been my choice here.
Scott Keith: Randy Orton was the hottest guy in the promotion anyway, put the belt on him here.
Ben Morse: Once against, Chris Jericho defends a major title against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania to pay off their feud from the fall on 2008, but this time Michaels comes out the winner.
Brian Bayless: Randy Orton winning still makes the most sense as he becomes the World Heavyweight Champion.
Chad Campbell: So this will be my craziest rebook so far but I have Undertaker winning here and being challenged by John Cena at Mania. That is right, in my world Taker vs. Michaels from WrestleMania 25 doesn’t happen
Chris Jordan: We still go with Randy Orton here because of the feud with Triple H and the McMahons. Red hot as a heel here.
Glenn Butler: CM Punk is back for the title he never lost. Funny how that works.
Jordan Duncan: Another option where I keep the same result. Randy Orton wins here and keeps the Triple H feud going. Can I rebook that match as well?
Greg Phillips: Randy Orton wins the World Heavyweight Championship as he was the hottest character at the time and needed the win.
2010 – Actual Winner: Edge
JT Rozzero: With a massive main event rematch already slated to close out WrestleMania, this was a good year to tinker with the champions a bit. The way Cena/Batista played out was great so I am leaving that alone and will look to Smackdown. Edge’s surprise return was fantastic but what could have been even better is cult leader CM Punk eliminating him to kill the buzz, win the title and set up a hot Mania title feud that also called back to Punk’s cash in back in 2008.
Scott Keith: This would have been an awesome year for CM Punk to run the gauntlet and get the title.
Ben Morse: Shawn Michaels becomes the WWE champion and goes against Undertaker in a unification vs. career mega match at WrestleMania XXVI.
Brian Bayless: I loved Batista’s Hollywood character so I have him win the Rumble here and the WWE Championship then face John Cena at WrestleMania
Chad Campbell: CM Punk was really starting to gain steam around this point and him preaching around the title win would have been tremendous television.
Chris Jordan: Obviously, I’m a big fan of surprise entrants, so I stick with Edge here. Having them win after popping the crowd is always the way to go.
Glenn Butler: If there’s some way to keep the story of Shawn Michaels as the sentimental favorite because of his maniacal drive to face off with Undertaker again, despite this Rumble being for the World Title just recently held by the Undertaker, let’s go with that.
Jordan Duncan: Well, I don’t want to tinker with Undertaker/Michaels too much, so HBK isn’t winning this. No Smackdown wrestler is for that matter, so right away we are narrowed down quite a bit. Unless of course this was for the Raw title. Since it is, I’m going to have John Cena win and defend against Hollywood Dave at Mania.
Greg Phillips: Shawn Michaels wins the World Heavyweight Championship. This would have been perfect, giving Shawn the leverage he needed to convince the Undertaker to accept the rematch at WrestleMania.
2011 – Actual Winner: Alberto Del Rio
JT Rozzero: I am tempted to have CM Punk go back to back and step into face John Cena, but he didn’t need a Rumble win to have a big time match. Instead, I have John Morrison win the vacant title and defend against Miz at Mania. Then you run Punk/Cena or Cena/Rock on top of the card. Morrison was really over at this point and deserved a shot to see if he could crack the next level. He and Miz had great chemistry and there was ever a time to pull the trigger, this was it.
Scott Keith: This also would have been an awesome year for CM Punk to run the gauntlet and get the title.
Ben Morse: The CM Punk/John Cena feud gets jumpstarted early at WrestleMania XXVII, with Miz removed from the picture prematurely and Rock inserted as a spoiler.
Brian Bayless: CM Punk is the best choice to win the Rumble here as he takes the WWE Championship.
Chad Campbell: Slap on the pipe bomb and John Cena vs. CM Punk at Mania and you have a really memorable Mania instead of perhaps the most forgettable main event in Mania’s history.
Chris Jordan: The Straight Edge Savior CM Punk was quickly becoming one of the top heels due to his great mic work and in-ring skill. Having him out at #1 and lasting through 39 guys would have cemented Punk several months sooner.
Glenn Butler: John Cena is, to put it lightly, a distinct upgrade over Sheamus. Cena outlasts the New Nexus, the Corrrrrrrre, and sadly, Hornswoggle.
Jordan Duncan: CM Punk is the definite choice here, but MAN am I tempted to give it to Santino Marella.
Greg Phillips: CM Punk wins the WWE Championship. Arguably too soon given he was in the midst of a dreadful storyline, but this would have reheated Punk and set up a title tilt vs. Orton that would be better than Cena/Miz.
2012 – Actual Winner: Sheamus
JT Rozzero: This was Chris Jericho’s Rumble to win. He came back with the weird promos and silent assassin type gimmick and the prevailing idea was that he would walk out at #30 and win after everyone else had been eliminated. It would have been ballsy, but would also been pretty damn cool. Jericho takes the title and stays the course heading into a Mania that already has a mammoth main event lined up.
Scott Keith: Chris Jericho’s troll character was great for a while, so I’d give him the belt here as a reward. CM Punk could win it back at WrestleMania.
Ben Morse: Wade Barrett actually gets given a shot as World champion, and defends against Sheamus and Daniel Bryan in a triple threat at WrestleMania.
Brian Bayless: Chris Jericho wins and becomes the World Heavyweight Champion. This was really a weak Rumble field.
Chad Campbell: This was an atrocious roster in the Rumble. Chris Jericho wins and you don’t get the Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan nonsense at WrestleMania.
Chris Jordan: Chris Jericho was fresh from a return after a long hiatus, putting the title on Jericho and then having him return to his 2008 persona and then defending against Punk at WrestleMania would have added some much needed heat to that feud.
Glenn Butler: Put The Miz back on top, this time over on SmackDown. He’s a guy who does great with any little accomplishment he can crow about, so he can get a ton of mileage out of the Rumble. Plus he can reignite his perma-feud with Daniel Bryan, or team with him for a while if the Bryan heel turn is still completed.
Jordan Duncan: This one is for the Smackdown belt, because CM Punk isn’t going to lose out on a big reign due to not being in the Rumble. So I’m sticking with the actual winner and going Sheamus here. You can still do the Daniel Bryan match at Mania, having Bryan announce he will be cashing in the money in the bank at Mania rather than ahead of time on Big Show like he did.
Greg Phillips: Chris Jericho wins the WWE Championship. Pretty obvious, in my view. Jericho wins, nefariously, setting up the bout with Punk.
2013 – Actual Winner: John Cena
JT Rozzero: I stick with John Cena here but have him win the World Heavyweight Title and head over to Smackdown for a while so CM Punk and The Rock can build to a big WWE Title match to close out WrestleMania at MetLife.
Scott Keith: I would have pulled the trigger on Dolph Ziggler at this point, actually. Let him go 60 and win it.
Ben Morse: Doplh Ziggler runs the table from the number one spot and defends the World title successfully against Chris Jericho at WrestleMania, making him once and for all.
Brian Bayless: You know what, I’ll give this to Ryback. He was hot at the time and instead of shunting him right back down the card, give him the World Heavyweight Championship.
Chad Campbell: John Cena vs. CM Punk wrestle again at WrestleMania to create the new age version of Rock vs. Steve Austin. Brock Lesnar can then face Rock in a money match. This does leave Undertaker a little out to lunch but I think him and Triple H teaming up after the years with another big name to take on The Shield would have been a big special match and also create suspicion that the streak was in danger.
Chris Jordan: Dolph Ziggler may have had the Money in the Bank briefcase but he wins the title here since he was being elevated after beating John Cena at TLC.
Glenn Butler: Yes yes! No no! It’s Daniel Bryan! There’re two big plusses here: a) if Bryan actually wins one of these in his career, maybe the people in later Rumble crowds can get over themselves and not ruin anyone else’s win just because they dare to not be Bryan; 2) the premise of this post means that Bryan is nullifying The f’n Rock’s title reign. Huzzah!
Jordan Duncan: Do I dare give it to Sheamus twice in a row? No. No, I don’t. Rock wins Punk’s belt, and this helps us undo the Del Rio/Jack Swagger junk we got instead. Let’s just give Dolph Ziggler the belt now, because it would be really cool for him to be champ AND have the briefcase.
Greg Phillips: Ryback wins the World Heavyweight Championship. Why not? Give him the lesser title and see if it works.
2014 – Actual Winner: Batista
JT Rozzero: Well, we all know who probably should have won this Rumble, but of course Daniel Bryan was not in the match. I salvage CM Punk’s WWE career and give him the WWE Title, which he would later be screwed out of by Triple H, setting up Daniel Bryan vs. Batista (champion) and CM Punk vs, Triple H at Mania.
Scott Keith: Daniel Bryan! Oh wait, I guess we can’t fantasy book him into it. Well, stick with Batista I guess and he can still drop it to Bryan.
Ben Morse: Sheamus turns heel and goes Authority, becoming their avatar to face Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania XXX, while Batista and Randy Orton get relegated to a mid-card feud and “The Animal” doesn’t end up disgruntled so WWE can capitalize on his new mainstream stardom.
Brian Bayless: Seeing how Daniel Bryan was not in the match, might as well stick to the plan of Batista winning so Bryan can take it off of him at WrestleMania.
Chad Campbell: CM Punk wins the Rumble again and they try to salvage the crumbling relationship with him. Punk as the corporate champ could have been excellent going into WrestleMania.
Chris Jordan: Guardians of the Galaxy is opening soon and Batista needs the title after his return, boos or not. He can turn heel after winning it.
Glenn Butler: The People wanted Roman Reigns; might as well give it to them before they decide they don’t want it any more.
Jordan Duncan: Despite the crowd raging, I stick with Batista for that very reason. In such a surreal event, the crowd was rabid for a guy who wasn’t even in the match. This doesn’t alter any of the WrestleMania 30 plans.
Greg Phillips: This is a great opportunity to establish Dolph Ziggler once and for all as a main eventer who goes the distance to pull off the upset win.
2015 – Actual Winner: Roman Reigns
JT Rozzero: OK, NOW we go with Daniel Bryan, who deserves to win one of these Rumbles. Head into Mania however you wish, but Bryan needs to win one during this stretch.
Scott Keith: Daniel Bryan! OK, this time it works.
Ben Morse: Daniel Bryan regains the title he was stripped of, but must defend against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania.
Brian Bayless: Daniel Bryan. Roman Reigns’ push was mishandled to say the least upon return from injury so let Bryan get the title back that he never lost and defend against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 31.
Chad Campbell: GIVE THE FANS WHAT THEY WANT WHEN NO BETTER OPTIONS EXIST. Daniel Bryan!
Chris Jordan: They needed to do Daniel Bryan vs. Brock Lesnar at Mania. The champ as the underdog going into WrestleMania would have added some drama for a show that was lacking some.
Glenn Butler: You know, I could get into Cesaro eliminating his opponents through Feats of Strength alone. Can he swing a guy so high he could just chuck him over the top rope?
Jordan Duncan: Daniel Bryan is the easy choice here.
Greg Phillips: Daniel Bryan wins in a great feel-good moment, with him dropping it to Brock Lesnar at Fast Lane or WrestleMania.
2016 – Actual Winner: TBD
JT Rozzero: You have to go with Brock Lesnar this year. He is your ace and most believable champion. Let Roman Reigns take the belt off him in Dallas in a rematch from last year. That to me is a no brainer.
Scott Keith: Triple H enters at #31 and eliminates the heroic Roman Reigns.
Ben Morse: I will go with Roman Reigns because it is just way too soon to take the title off him.
Brian Bayless: Roman Reigns. Having Reigns drop the title already is going to do more harm than good, and if you are selling the show to see him get revenge on the Authority and win back the title, do not be surprised if it Is rejected by the crowd. You cannot let the fans perceive Reigns as a guy who always comes up short when his back is against the wall. Fans want to cheer guys who overcome that, not fail.
Chad Campbell: I don’t like where the booking is headed but Roman Reigns is the man now and should be protected as such.
Chris Jordan: Winning the title here puts Brock Lesnar in the WrestleMania main event.
Glenn Butler: If you’re going to finally push Roman Reigns, for goodness’ sake, PUSH THE MAN.
Jordan Duncan: With John Cena sidelined and Triple H being somewhat predictable, I’m throwing a curveball here and saying they should give it to The Undertaker. His WrestleMania opponent is gone, and he’s one guy the Authority won’t mess with, so he can OFFER Reigns a rematch for the belt. Can you imagine Roman Reigns beating The Undertaker at WrestleMania? Talk about a rocket strapped to the back.
Greg Phillips: Brock Lesnar is the biggest star, the most convincing performer, and the guy who has the most rub to give.