We’re now one week away from the 2017 Royal Rumble and unlike in many Rumbles in the past, this one may be the hardest to predict the outcome of. So hard in fact that I’m not even going to attempt to in this article. There are too many story lines currently going on, any of which could potentially headline Wrestlemania, that I decided I’d dedicate an article to looking back at the history of one of the WWE’s big 4 focusing on defining moments, past winners and record holders.
The Early Days
The first Royal Rumble took place all the way back in 1988 and as the WWE likes to remind us was won by “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. The idea for the match was pitched to Vince McMahon by WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson who liked the idea of a “reverse battle royal”. The WWF at the time wasn’t really known for innovative match types, we were still decades away from the Elimination Chamber or Hell in a Cell. This was also before the winner got an automatic title match at Wrestlemania, but we’ll get to that more later.
Running the Table
Only 4 wrestlers have entered the Rumble as either #1 or #2 and gone on to win, those being Shawn Michaels (1995), Vince McMahon(1999), Chris Benoit (2004) and Rey Mysterio (2006). Vince McMahon’s victory is not without controversy as he ran away from the ring after being beaten on by Stone Cold Steve Austin and only returned at the end of the match and eventually eliminated Austin with a bit of assistance from the Rock. McMahon not a full-time wrestler and not wanting to fight the Rock decided to give up his title shot at Wrestlemania, which then WWE Commissioner Shawn Michaels awarded to Stone Cold Steve Austin. Mysterio would actually lose his title shot to Randy Orton before eventually being added to a triple-threat match at Wrestlemania.
“Memorable” is a very subjective term, but in this case I’m using it to mean “significant” The 1992 Royal Rumble was just that as the winner of the match was awarded the vacant WWF World Heavyweight Championship. Ric Flair would enter that years Rumble at #3 and outlast 30 others to win his first WWF gold. He became the first person to win starting with a number below 12 and Bobby Heenan’s commentary, “It’s not fair to Flair” throughout the match was incredible. Starting in the year after Flair’s victory the winner would be awarded a title shot for the Championship of their choice (RAW, Smackdown or later ECW).
Roman Reigns became the first person to ever have to defend their title in the Rumble when he entered at #1 in 2016. Triple H coming more or less out of retirement and entering at #30 won the match and his 14th World Championship. Another notable match was the 2011 Rumble which was won by Alberto Del Rio. This was the first and only 40-man Royal Rumble in the now 30 year history.
Two Royal Rumbles have ended in controversy. One on purpose and one not so much so. The first controversial finish was in 1994 when both Bret Hart and Lex Luger went over the top rope at the same time. This was of course the planned finish, something that had been seen before in steel cage matches with both referees claiming that different wrestlers had won. This ultimately led to Wrestlemaina 10 featuring two Heavyweight Title matches. The second controversy was in 2005, this time with John Cena and Batista botching the planned finish and both men legitimately tumbling out of the ring in a heap. Vince McMahon was irate and marched to the ring to get the match restarted. However, as he slid into the ring he tore one of his quadriceps and as he tried to stand up he somehow tore the other one. This made for one of the oddest moments in Royal Rumble history as the owner of the company screamed for the match to be restarted while sitting as he was unable to stand. Batista would go on to win the Rumble once it was finally restarted.
I’m going to finish up this article by running down some interesting records and facts. As a fun game you can see how many of them come up during the actual Rumble match.
Most Victories: Stone Cold Steve Austin (1997, 1998, 2001)
Longest time spent in single Rumble Match: Rey Mysterio 1:02:12 in 2006
Shortest time spent in a single Rumble Match: Santino Marella 0:00:01 in 2009
Most eliminations in a single Rumble Match: Roman Reigns (12) in 2014
Most combined eliminations and most Rumble appearances: Kane (44) and (19)
Of the 22 winners that have gone on to a title shot at Wrestlemania only 13 of them have actually won the title.
That’s all I got. What do you think? Are you watching the Royal Rumble next weekend? Tell me in the comments.
Image from wwe.com