The Royal Rumble. One of the “Big 4.” However, it’s so much more than that. This has always been the kickoff to the Road to Wrestlemania. It’s the match that lights the fuse. What we all hope for… an amazing three months of stories, fights, and entertainment. It’s no ordinary event. This is an event where all the casual wrestling fans can come back into the fold. A moment where your friends who haven’t seen it in while can get reintroduced to something that we all love, without having to follow storylines. It’s an amazing experience that is unlike anything else.
How can one match create so much excitement and intrigue? It’s the one match that is simple for everyone to understand. Two people start, every 90 seconds another competitor enters the fray. They battle it out until there is only one left standing. That winner gets a shot at THE championship at Wrestlemania. It’s repetitive every year, yet we don’t care because there’s always a chance for something new to happen. In my opinion, this match is the greatest part of being a wrestling fan. There’s nothing else like it. Now, on the flip slide of that, there are some Royal Rumbles that have been stinkers. Some missed opportunities, flubs, or just downright terrible moments that we wish would never resurface. It does, however, bring up an interesting question What makes a great Royal Rumble match? What do you need to have in order for a Rumble to have success?
It’s Simple. Angles are what drive our interest. The best Rumbles have storylines that culminate at the Rumble, some that may start at the rumble, or even just foreshadow something that we may see down the line. Angles help us set the stage, help us speculate what will happen. If it’s a really good storyline that has you hooked, then we are in. The easiest storyline to understand is starting at number 1 (or 2) and making the journey all the way to end and winning. Shawn Michaels and Chris Benoit used that moment to launch themselves into another stratosphere and it made for an incredible story for people to relate to. Rey Mysterio and Vince McMahon both on at number 2, but for completely different reasons. Mysterio for a tribute for this best friend Eddie Guerrero, and McMahon to stop Stone Cold from being Champion at Wrestlemania. This storyline alone has had many iterations but always seems to be the one we enjoy the most.
Another angle that seems to really stick out with people is having the WWE Title as THE prize for the winner of the Royal Rumble. It happened once in 92, and the other in 2016. Both for different reasons, but it gives you that extra special feeling of something incredible could be happening right before your very eyes. To this day people universally agree that the 1992 Royal Rumble is the best of all time. Now, there are many factors why, but one of the reasons is because it’s for the WWF Title. It stands out and it is special.
When it comes to the Royal Rumble there are just too many angles to count. However, the Rumble is used as a launching pad for angles, big and small. It lets fans know where we are going for the next three months. Hogan pulling Sid out the Rumble, Bret and Luger being Co-Winners, HHH returns from injury, Austin gets thrown out and still wins the Royal Rumble. It launches this incredible ride that unlike anything in sports and entertainment. This long process, the twists, and turns that lead us to a destination. The Rumble creates excitement in a way no one else can duplicate. It is a formula that has worked for over 30 years, and let’s be honest… It’s not broke, so don’t fix it.
Now, there is no ONE ingredient that makes the Royal Rumble great. But if you had to poll the WWE fans and ask them what their favorite part of the Royal Rumble match is? it’s probably the surprises. WWE does a fantastic job with the element of surprise. None more apparent than during the Royal Rumble Match itself.
The equation is simple as well. What Legend haven’t we seen in a while? Who’s injured and is making a return? Who’s debuting at the Rumble? People start speculating who it’s going to be. Sometimes it is predictable, but then there are times where you have those “Mark out moments” then send you right back to the good ole days.
I can remember hating John Cena in 2008. It had been years of John Cena being shoved down our throats. He, unfortunately, had a massive pectoral tear and wasn’t going to be in the rumble. However, it gave someone else a shot at potentially getting the spotlight. My friend told me that we were going to Wrestlemania 24. I was already excited, but the thought of John Cena being out, and someone new coming into the spot made me even more excited. I can remember the moment John Cena came out at number 30. I was so angry. No, that doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling. However, it was the ultimate surprise. Regardless of whether you like the surprise or not, it evokes a visceral reaction within you that you cannot contain.
If I can be completely honest, the surprises are what I look forward to the most. It makes you wonder, is it a one-off? Are they here to stay? You have the initial reaction, but then you start to think about the possible match-ups you want to see. That, in it of itself, is why this a key ingredient to a great Royal rumble.
We always talk about a Wrestlemania Moment. Yes, it’s been copyrighted by WWE, and it’s this imaginary thing that everyone chases. Nevertheless, I would like to argue that a Royal Rumble moment can be just as important. Being a part of the Royal Rumble gives you unlimited chances to try out new matchups, highlight numerous amounts of people, and show off athleticism in very unconventional ways. These moments can come at you in a variety of approaches, which is why the Rumble itself shines a bright light on why professional wrestling is the greatest art form of them all. Variety. These moments will make you laugh, cry, gasp, and sometimes hit the rewind button because you must see it again. Kofi Kingston has made a career out of becoming must-see in the Royal Rumble. How will he get back in the ring? Every year, Kofi comes up with something that you never thought you would see. Even though Kofi never wins the rumble, he becomes a staple of this event by using his athleticism is unorthodox tactics.
Others use comedy in ways we never thought possible. Santino Marella used the rumble to have the shortest time possible. He made history in the wrong way but also gave us an incredible moment that will be hard to top. Santino also had a moment at the end of the 2011 Royal Rumble, where for a split second you thought he was going to throw out Alberto Del Rio. Making him the most unlikely of winners, the whole crowd (including myself and my buddy Trav) lost our minds in Boston that night.
Whether it’s Taka smashing his head on the floor repeatedly during 2000, or Piper and Snuka battling it out years after they hung up the boots, or R-Truth thinking the Rumble is a ladder match, Comedy is a must-have element of this battle Royal.
The other moment that is something that WWE does so well is shock value. Something we never thought we would see. They provide us with “Water Cooler” talk that still stands the test of time. Drama, when done right, in Wrestling is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Hogan and Warrior meeting for the first time, HBK’s mental breakdown after losing his chance at The Undertaker, Hell even the shock and horror of Maven eliminating The Undertaker. (That’s for JC)
There so many things that make the Royal Rumble special. Who comes out at 1? Who comes out 30? The anticipation begins before the event and takes you on a ride all night long until the very end. If you’re one of the lucky ones that get to be in attendance, then you become part of the show in a major way. The countdown, the reactions, and the chants all become the soundtrack for the night. Each of these things adds up to one incredible evening of action.
So put away the social media, don’t look at your phones, and enjoy the Royal Rumble the way it was supposed to be. Feel it.