As I mentioned in an earlier post (“Why Rousey v Mayweather must never happen”) I am a fan of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and this Sunday sees my favourite WWE event the Royal Rumble. Now the favourite event of most WWE fans is Wrestlemania but mine is the Royal Rumble which is not only unique in the WWE but is rare in sport.
For in the Royal Rumble you do not know who you will see. At all other WWE events you know who are wrestling each other. At the Royal Rumble you do not. This is because of the unique format of the Main Event the Royal Rumble match itself. The match is a 30 man* Battle Royal. The catch is you do not know who is going to appear. This is because the 30 are not all in the ring at the same time. The first two wrestlers (usually decided by a random draw but not this year as I will explain later) start the match. After a fixed time (usually 90 seconds) the next wrestler enters the ring and thus carries on until all 30 have appeared in the match. Elimination occurs when a wrestler is thrown over the top rope with both feet touching the floor (a key caveat this. In 1995 Shawn Michaels was thrown over the top rope but only one foot touched the ground and went on to win the match).
What makes this match unique is that the fans do not know who is going to enter the ring until their entrance music appears. That is why I compare the Rumble to football’s FA Cup in that in the Cup a football fan does not know who their team is going to play until the result of a random draw. And it could be anybody. In the third round say Manchester United could draw Liverpool… or Leyton Orient. The Rumble is the same. I remember for example the 2002 Royal Rumble when Stone Cold Steve Austin had cleared the ring and was waiting for the next entrant. The response of the crowd when the theme music of Triple H another elite WWE superstar was played was amazing. It was like Liverpool bring drawn against Manchester United in the FA Cup!
Another resemblance between the Rumble and the FA Cup is that while usually ( but not always) a rich team/big name superstar wins you get giant killings along the way. By far the Royal Rumble’s biggest giant killing came in 2002. The Undertaker had cleared the ring and was waiting for the next entrant. It was the male winner of the “Tough Enough” reality show Maven who had barely had a WWE match. But with the help of the Hardy Boyz and Lita who distracted the Undertaker Maven eliminated the Dead Man. It would be like Arsenal being knocked out of the FA Cup by a non league team!
The one difference between the Rumble and the FA Cup is it can be a surprise when a big name wins the Rumble. Normally it would not be a surprise that John Cena or Edge won the Rumble. But in 2008 (Cena) and 2010 (Edge) they were injured and not expected to come back thus their appearance and victory was a surprise. The WWE often use the Rumble for surprise debuts/returns. For example the popular AJ Styles has signed for WWE and it would not surprise me if he made his debut during Sunday’s Rumble Match.
Talking of Sunday’s match this year’s Rumble resembles those of 1992 and 1999. Like 1992 the WWE title will be won by the winner of the Rumble match. The difference between now and 1992 is that in 1992 the WWE title was declared vacant due to shenanigans between Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker whereas now the WWE title is definitely not vacant. Reigning champion Roman Reigns is being forced to defend the title in the Rumble Match because he has gotten on the wrong side of WWE owner Vince McMahon who is determined that Reigns will lose the Rumble and the title (to no one’s surprise Reigns has been lumbered with the number one entry in a rigged lottery which means he has to go from gun to tape to win). And that is where the resemblance to 1999 comes in. In 1999 McMahon was determined Steve Austin would not win the Rumble lumbering Stone Cold with the number one entry and even entering the match himself. In fact the 1999 Rumble’s tagline and theme music were both called “No Chance in Hell” – referring to Austin’s chances of winning and still McMahon’s entrance music to this day. McMahon is determined that there will be no chance in hell for Reigns seventeen years on.
McMahon himself – with help from the Rock – won the 1999 Rumble. What I fear is that McMahon’s son in law and WWE chief operations officer Triple H will do the same in 2016. What I’d like to see is either Reigns winning against the odds or Brock Lesnar winning (preferably with Reigns the last man eliminated) thus setting up a Reigns v Lesnar main event match for the title at Wrestlemania 32 in April. Remember there was never a winner between Reigns and Lesnar at last year’s Wrestlemania because Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank so you could have them meet again to see who is the better man.
One thing is certain. The Royal Rumble will again be the most exciting hour in the WWE. All together now. 10-9-8-7….
*Usually 30 man but in four Royal Rumbles women competed. Chyna (1999,2000), Beth Phoenix (2010) and Kharma (2012). Since the WWE is now PG hopefully the abomination of male v female wrestling will not happen again.