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Wrestling / Royal Rumble

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3, 2, 1! *cue the horn*

Who will be The One?

The Royal Rumble is WWE's annual January pay-per-view event; it started as a television special for the USA Network in 1988 and has been a PPV since 1989.

The show is built around the Royal Rumble match, a special battle royal featuring competitors from WWE's full roster that usually serves as the show's main event (due to the match's length and its importance to the build towards WrestleMania). Other matches are also put on, however, and world championships are usually defended. The rules of the Royal Rumble match are as follows:

  • Each wrestler draws a number that determines when he (or—albeit rarelyshe) enters the Rumble; the competitors who draw the #1 and #2 slots start the match in the ring.
  • Once the match has begun, after a specified time period,note  the next wrestler in the match will enter the ring. This continues until all of the entrants have entered the Rumble.
  • A wrestler is eliminated after going over the top rope and touching the floor with both feetnote .
  • The last wrestler left in the match is declared the winner.

Until 1992, there was no official "prize" for winning the Rumble match, although the feat itself was considered a big honor, and it was implied that there was a large cash prize for the taking. In 1992, the winner of the Royal Rumble - Ric Flair - was given the vacated WWE Championship; the following year, the match became an important part of the "Road to WrestleMania" - 1993 was the first year the winner of the Rumble was granted a guaranteed shot at the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. From 2005note  to 2013, the Rumble winner had the choice of using his guaranteed title shot to go after either the WWE Championship or the World Heavyweight Championship.note  This ended in 2014 when WWE unified the two titles into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, leaving the winner with one title to go after. In 2016, then-WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns defended his title as a participant in the titular match.

The first Royal Rumble, held in 1988, had only twenty participants. From 1989 to 2010, the match featured thirty participants.note  WWE expanded the match roster to forty participants in 2011 (mostly to include every member of the New Nexus and the Corre), but returned to its thirty participant tradition in 2012.
Royal Rumble winners:

3! 2! 1! *bzzt* The next trope to enter the Royal Rumble is...

  • The Bad Guy Wins:
    • Ric Flair in 1992, Yokozuna in 1993, Vince McMahon in 1999, Randy Orton in 2009 and Alberto Del Rio in 2011 are straight examples.
    • Austin's win in 1997, Batista's win in 2005 and Triple H's win in 2016 are possible examples depending on how you viewed their characters at the time.
  • Big "WHAT?!": Jerry Lawler got a couple in when the winner of Tough Enough season 1, Maven, eliminated The Undertaker from behind.
  • Brick Joke: In the 2011 Rumble, Santino Marella, who at that point had averaged about 15 seconds in two previous Rumble matches, would get knocked out by Sheamus within 20 seconds of his appearance and would have the fortune to fall under the bottom rope. Later on, Alberto Del Rio would be celebrating his apparent victory only to turn around and get hit with The Cobra! Unfortunately for Santino, he would take a few seconds too long to celebrate, and would instead go home as the runner up when Del Rio reversed his elimination attempt.
  • Carnival of Killers: In late 2005, after pillorying and firing Monday Night Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff on live television (and having him thrown into a garbage truck as a final insult) WWE Chairman Vince McMahon assumed full control of Raw (a position he would not relinquish until appointing William Regal the new general manager in 2007) and began to take on some of the characteristics of a Mafia crime kingpin. One of the first things he did was launch a vendetta against Shawn Michaels for refusing to serve as his lackey (just as Michaels had done in Real Life at the 1997 Survivor Series), going so far as to pay off a number of heels to eliminate Michaels from the 2006 Rumble match. But Michaels thwarted all of these efforts by eliminating the eliminators, so Vince was forced to do it himself, having his son Shane launch a sneak attack while Vince provided a distraction at ringside. (This angle then continued for most of the year as Michaels raised the stakes by reforming D-Generation X with Triple H, with the McMahons recruiting even more henchmen, including heels from SmackDown and WWE's ECW and even mentally challenged babyface Eugene, who was only interested in getting "the bounty" and whom DX bought off with the gift of a roll of paper towels.)
  • The Cameo: It's almost tradition now for one of the surprise participants in the Rumble to be a legend from a bygone era. Of course, they never actually win the event, but they almost always get a huge pop and often notch an elimination or two before going over the top rope themselves. The only subversion was the 2016 Royal Rumble (unless you were to count Sami Zayn's entry into the match), most likely because it was for the World Title itself rather than the usual shot at it.
  • Continuity Nod: The Three Month Rule often gets put on the backburner during the Rumble match; because of the sheer number of superstars involved (and the fact that the bookers probably do this on purpose), two wrestlers who had feuded some months back are bound to run into each other at some point during the Rumble. This can often result in some Oh Crap! moments for heels, particularly when the returning wrestler in question hasn't been seen on TV for a while.
  • Curbstomp Battle: Jobbers tend to get eliminated very quickly. Most humiliating of all was Santino Marella getting eliminated after only one second. Some years earlier, one of The Bushwhackers managed to last a few seconds longer but didn't have time to throw a punch, getting dumped out before he could stop doing his comical "swinging-arms" march (and not even breaking stride when his feet hit the floor, continuing to vogue-march as if nothing had happened).
  • Darkhorse Victory:
    • Steve Austin's 1997 victory, in which he caught everyone by surprise and eliminated Vader, Undertaker and Bret Hart despite having gone over the top rope. The refs didn't see him go over. Gorilla Monsoon rectified the situation by later organizing a four-way match between the four wrestlers for the right to challenge the WWF champion at WrestleMania. Due to Shawn Michaels vacating the title in February 97, the four-way became a title challenge, which Bret Hart won. The Undertaker eventually wound up challenging Sycho Sid at WrestleMania for the title that year and won it.
    • Alberto Del Rio in 2011 was one as well, though he had been bragging for weeks that it was his "destiny" to win the Rumble.
    • Sheamus in 2012 is a particularly glaring one, as he was kind of floating in midcard hell when he won. Even more shocking is that he eliminated Chris Jericho to win, seeing as Jericho was a returning superstar who was undoubtedly there for WrestleMania, and amid rumors that he was here to work a program with CM Punk, who was WWE Champion at the time. When that turned out to be true, and considering the match that occurred between Sheamus and Daniel Bryan at 'Mania, many felt Jericho should have won.
  • Determinator:
    • Frequently one wrestler will last from very early on until the final phase of the match (usually over 40 minutes), often referred to as the "Iron Man" of the match by fans. This happens so often that the absence of one in 2010 was noted as being surprising.
    • 2016 had a variation with Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose, who had just wrestled a brutal Last Man Standing match for the Intercontinental Championship earlier that night, and entered the Rumble anyway. Owens managed to eliminate AJ Styles before being eliminated himself, while Ambrose made it to the final two before being eliminated by Triple H.
  • Double Knockout:
    • First happened in 1994 when Bret Hart and Lex Luger eliminated each other. The event has been repeated itself a few times since (in 2005, for example, the match was simply restarted when John Cena and Batista eliminated each other). It is one of the few times that instant replay can be used to decide a match in WWE.
    • There are three contingencies for this event according to an episode of WWE's YouTube series, 5 Things... - declare both of the last two men the winner, as seen in 1994; order Sudden Death Overtime, and have the last two men fight until one is thrown over the top rope again, as in 2005; or restart the match in its entirety, which hasn't happened (yet).
  • Enemy Mine:
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • The first Rumble in 1988 only had 20 entrants.
    • The prize of a WrestleMania world title shot that now signifies the event wasn't added until 1993.
    • The first Rumble didn't take place on PPV like all the others, but was a television special on the USA Network.
  • He's Back: The Rumble has been used as a re-launching pad for various wrestlers for a while now. The 2002 event had a number of returns advertised beforehand, but they have occasionally thrown in some surprises since. Special mention must go to John Cena, whose entry as #30 in the 2008 Rumble was genuinely surprising as he was injured and was supposed to be out until after WrestleMania, and Edge, who was injured during the summer of 2009 and was supposed to be out for up to a year, only to return as #29 in the 2010 Rumble. Both would go on to win the match.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Zig-zagged at the 1994 Rumble; Undertaker was set to challenge Yokozuna for the World Heavyweight title, but Jim Cornette, serving as Yokozuna's "American Spokesperson," weaved a little "Smokey Mountain Magic" and was able to add the stipulation in the match contract that it would be the only opportunity Taker would have to challenge Yokozuna as long as he was the championship (a trick Cornette had pulled on Lex Luger at the previous year's SummerSlam). Paul Bearer, however, took a page out of Cornette's own playbook and weaved a little black magic of his own, and made the match a Casket Match - to win, you had to stuff your opponent in a casket at ringside and shut the lid. Since it was touted as Taker's specialty, and since Yokozuna seemed to have a severe phobia of caskets, it looked like Taker would be win the title - he was even dominating the match. But, Yokozuna's manager Mr. Fuji would have the last laugh; taking full advantage of the No Disqualification aspect of the match, Fuji arranged for more than half a dozen heels to come down and gang up on Taker, who eventually ended up getting stuffed in the "double wide, double deep" casket that he had made special for the 500 pound-plus champ.
  • Idiot Ball: As noted by Cageside Seats in its "Dumbest Ass" awards, there's at least one moment or elimination per Rumble match that can be attributed to someone picking up, if not outright juggling, the Ball.
  • Invincible Hero: Not that there's never been a heel winner of course, but it's kind of suspicious how the person who wins the Rumble is always a main eventer in the middle of getting a big push. It's pretty rare for an actual underdog to win, and a lower card wrestler never wins, despite the fact that if the winner wasn't predetermined, you'd think almost everyone would have a pretty equal chance of winning. This becomes pretty egregious when, for instance, a wrestler wins multiple years in a row. The only apparent subversion was in 2012, when the winner Sheamus's push had stalled out and he was sort of floating between beating down midcarders. Perhaps even more shocking was the fact that he eliminated Chris Jericho, who was returning after a long absence, amid rumors that he had come back for WrestleMania.
  • Joke Character: One of the popular ways of structuring the Rumble is to have one or two of these to show up partway through. Examples include Bob Backlund in 2000, Drew Carey and Honky Tonk Man in 2001, Ernest Miller in 2004 and Santino Marella in a couple of the more recent events. Tough Enough rookie Maven ended up becoming a Lethal Joke Character in 2002 by eliminating The Undertaker.
  • Kill Streak: Roman Reigns, then a member of The Shield, set the record of the most eliminations in a Royal Rumble match during his first appearance in 2014, where he picked up 12. Before that, Kane held the record with 11 eliminations in 2001.
  • Large Ham:
    • Long-time announcer Howard Finkel counts in general anyway, but some of his Rumble introductions crank the hamminess Up to Eleven. His year-after-year summaries of the rules have sometimes seeped into the territory of Overly Long Gag.
    • If a wrestler (usually a heel) manages to eliminate everyone else in the ring and there's still about a minute left until the next entrant is scheduled to appear, he will often grab a mike (the match is otherwise almost totally nonverbal) and talk to the audience, either bragging about how well he is doing or spewing some political or ideological screed. CM Punk in 2010 and Bray Wyatt in 2015 dragged this out for a ridiculously long period of time, stopping only to eliminate several competitors in succession as they entered the ring before going right back to the mike, with Wyatt even leading the crowd in an impromptu performance of "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."
    • Subverted - hilariously - by Stone Cold Steve Austin in 2002 when he simply waited quietly for each new Superstar to appear, effortlessly threw each out, and then waited some more, occasionally looking bored and miming glancing at a wristwatch.
  • Literal Cliffhanger: Expect to see a lot of wrestlers hanging to the ropes for dear life.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: With 30 (or one year as many as 40) colorful personalities scheduled to be entered, and often 10 or more competitors in the ring at the same time note , the Rumble Match is about as close to sensory overload as WWE can possibly get. In fact, it's the rule more than the exception that the match will turn into a circus, with competitors running back in after they've already been eliminated and doing more damage, outsiders who were not supposed to be in the match at all running in and interfering, and - if more than the entire roster is needed to fill out the match - bringing back semi-retired wrestlers from the past or even non-wrestlers for a quick laugh (such as the time actor Drew Carey entered the match and didn't last long).
    • When commenting for the 1991 Rumble, Roddy Piper might have put it best when things were in full swing: "What we got right now is TEMPORARY INSANITY!"
  • Loads and Loads of Roles: In 1998, Mick Foley entered the Rumble three times, once as each persona he was usingnote . In order, he entered as Cactus Jack, Mankind, and Dude Love.
  • Long Runner: It's been running since 1988.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • Because you're only eliminated if you go over the top rope, some of the more Genre Savvy wrestlers will use this clause to stay out of the ring (or, like Jerry Lawler, hide under it) until later in the match if knocked out through the middle or bottom rope, only to jump back in when everyone else involved is fatigued - or as seen in 2001, in the the midst of the Hardcore title's 24/7 era, come back armed with weapons.
      • Subverted in 2000 when, after weeks of arguing his case, Big Show proved that the Rock, the official victor of the match, did not deserve the win, as at the end he was thrown over the top rope and - though he held on and came back in to win - his feet still touched the mat and he would have been eliminated if a ref saw it, the loophole being that such decisions can't be reversed so long after a bout. This resulted in a match at No Way Out over who got to challenge Triple H at WrestleMania, and the Rock lost. Double Subverted when Vince McMahon teamed up with Rocky to make it a Triple Threat Matchnote  so Rock main evented anyway.
    • Since the rules say you're only eliminated if you go over the top rope AND both feet touch the floor, you could theoretically land on one foot, hop to the stairs, and get back into the ring and not be considered eliminated.
    • Kofi Kingston practically becomes Houdini when in the Royal Rumble match. In 2012, he did a handstand on the outside to get into the ring. In 2013, he piggy-backed Brodus Clay to the announce tables, then bunny-hopped on JBL's chair to get to the apron. And in 2014, he topped them all by riding Rusev to the guardrail, and jumping from the guardrail to the ring apron. In 2015, he was saved by Adam Rose's rosebud crew. In 2016, he rode on Big E's shoulders to stay in.
    • Also, the rules only say you're eliminated if you go over the top rope and both feet touch the floor, no matter how it happens. This has led to eliminated wrestlers (and on rare occasions, wrestlers simply holding a grudge) entering the ring and eliminating a wrestler still participating in the Rumble. It's also possible for wrestlers to eliminate themselves by going over the top rope and dropping to the floor on their own.
    • During the early days of the Brand Extension, it was believed that the Royal Rumble winner simply received a shot at their brand's champion. In 2004, Chris Benoit pointed out that it was only stated that the winner received a main event title opportunity at WrestleMania and nothing about being restricted to their current brand's title, and took the opportunity to jump ship from SmackDown to Raw and compete for the World Heavyweight title instead of the WWE title, partly because then-GM Paul Heyman had been making his life hell at the time. All future Royal Rumble winners were granted the opportunity to choose which championship they wanted to compete for, until the 2014 event, at which point WWE had unified the WWE & World Heavyweight titles, eliminating the need for the choice.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover: Particularly during the brand extension years when it was rare to see wrestlers from Raw and Smackdown in the ring together, though it always brought together wrestlers who would otherwise not be likely to fight one another, being higher or lower on the card.
  • Medium Awareness: In 2002, the match actually stopped dead for several minutes (the ring was temporarily empty) so that the cameras could show the Undertaker chasing Maven all the way up to the convention center's hallway ringing the arena and smashing him into a popcorn vendor's stall. None of the other participants were at all confused by this, and conveniently waited for the camera crew to return to the ring before entering the arena.
  • New Rules as the Plot Demands:
    • In early years, whether or not an elimination counts if the person doing the eliminating has already gone over the top rope himself depended on how convenient it was that year, until it was set that yes, it counts. This was most notable when Randy Savage accidentally eliminated himself in the 1992 Royal Rumble and then re-entered the ring, at which point the announcers had to ad-lib a reason for him still being there.
    • In 2008, Finlay was eliminated by disqualification for entering the match before his number was called to help Hornswoggle.
  • The Notable Numeral:
    • The number with the most Rumble victories is #27 with 4 wrestlers.
    • Typically, before the match they go through all the statistics that have accumulated over the history of the Royal Rumble.
  • Oh Crap!:
    • Whenever a main eventer enters. The effect is often sweetened by delaying the wrestler's entrance music for a few moments after the countdown.
    • This can also happen whenever a huge wrestler (like the Great Khali or The Big Show) enters the Rumble. They may eliminate a lot of people when they first get in, although as the past has shown, giants have a lesser chance of winning due to being ganged up on by everyone else.
    • In the 2001 Royal Rumble, there's two Oh Crap! moments during that year. First, Drew Carey realizing he has to face Kane after the Hardy Boyz were eliminated. The second is Scotty 2 Hotty realizing that the only other people in the ring were The Undertaker and Kane, who were working in tandem and just finished eliminating everyone in the ring (except The Rock who was still knocked out outside the ring, thanks to The Big Show). Scotty, who usually danced his way to the ring, somberly walked there instead with a look on his face that clearly said "This Is Gonna Suck".
    • The Great Khali's first Royal Rumble appearance in 2007, where most of the superstars stop fighting to see him. Not even a huge number of superstars were able to take him down.
    • Especially noticeable is the 2009 Royal Rumble, where when the Undertaker entered, every single superstar in the ring immediately stopped fighting and moved towards one side of the ring to await for his arrival.
    • Roman Reigns had two Oh Crap moments in the 2016 Rumble. Reigns looks confident as he waits for #3 to come out, only for it to be AJ Styles' WWE debut. He then starts pacing the ring, a look that says "Oh, what have I gotten myself into?" He even shakes his head in disbelief. Then again once #30 comes out, and it's Triple H, for the first time since Reigns attacked him at TLC.
  • Ring Oldies: It's almost tradition now for one of the surprise participants in the Rumble to be a legend from a bygone era. Of course, they never actually win, but they almost always get a huge pop and often notch an elimination or two before going over the top rope themselves.
  • Running Gag: Jerry Lawler's predictions turning out badly. Has been repeated with a few other commentators like Tazz also.
  • Still Got It: This is the chant that usually accompanies a Ring Oldie's performance in the Rumble.
  • Sore Loser: Some wrestlers have responded to getting eliminated very badly:
    • One of the first examples (and a rare non-heel one) of this is Hulk Hogan of all people; both times he was eliminated in a Rumble, he immediately screwed the person who eliminated him out of winning too.
    • The Undertaker was in an extremely foul mood after Maven took him out from behind. Cue No-Holds-Barred Beatdown to the point that Maven would be unable to continue, despite not having gone over the top rope.
    • Kurt Angle was eliminated by Shawn Michaels in 2005. Angle came back in later to eliminate Michaels and continued to attack him afterwards.
    • Booker T was eliminated by Kane in 2007, and came back in later and eliminated Kane.
    • Wade Barrett was also not too happy he got eliminated by NXT newcomer Bo Dallas, considering Wade's the first winner of NXT. Bo might have lasted a bit longer if Wade hadn't rushed back to eliminate him.
    • Shawn Michaels became almost catatonic on the outside of the ring after Batista eliminated him in 2010. Then, after a Heroic BSOD, he started manhandling and superkicking referees out of frustration despite being a face (Michaels had become obsessed with redeeming his WrestleMania XXV loss to The Undertaker, and winning the Rumble was his only guaranteed chance).
  • There Can Only Be One: Averted in 1994, but played straight since. The most notable instance of this is when John Cena and Batista had been eliminated at the same time at the end of the 2005 Rumble. Since this was during the Brand Extension and Cena was on SmackDown at the time, the referees from both brands were arguing their case — eventually, Vince ordered a redo in order to avoid a repeat of '94, and Batista went on to win.
    • Notably, this was due to the 2005 version not being planned - it was a complete accident that both men toppled over at the same time, but the referees improvised beautifully until they could get official word on how to resolve it.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • In 1993, Randy Savage seemed to forget the rules to the Rumble, attempting to pin Yokozuna near the ropes, which of course led to the big man simply tossing him right over.
    • In 2012, Jack Swagger got a K.O. Punch from the Big Show when he wasn't too happy that Big Show eliminated him outside the ring.
    • In 2016, R-Truth got his Gimmick Matches mixed up, thinking he was in a Ladder Match. He was greeted with bewildered looks and Kane tossing him right out.
  • Tonight In This Very Ring: The Rumble match usually main events the show, but it has been averted in 1988, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2006, and 2013.
  • Unnecessary Roughness: At the 1999 event, Mick Foley took ten unprotected chairshots to the head during his "I Quit" Match with The Rock. The Rock wasn't supposed to keep on hitting him, and Mick himself classified the match as "having gotten away" from both of them; i.e. they both got caught up in the drama and neither was willing to end it before the scheduled finish. This was made worse by the fact that Foley's family was at ringside, and were clearly traumatized. The Rock didn't apologize to Foley for his actions, and this later became a bitter sticking point on Foley's part, though he said that when he eventually confronted The Rock about it, The Rock thought that he had checked on Foley after the match, and was very upset upon realizing he hadn't. In his second book, Foley admits both did wrong in the scenario but he was more in the wrong. Once the Rock was made aware of the situation, he apologized immediately. Foley was aware of the slight for several months but let it simmer unknown and lead him into bitterness (mostly as fuel for a Face–Heel Turn during the Rock 'n' Sock Connection days against the Rock that never materialized.)
  • Unexpected Character:
    • The 2016 Rumble had the debut of AJ Styles. You could tell that he was the last person Roman Reigns expected to see coming down the ramp.
    • Also from the 2016 Rumble, though to a lesser extent, was the recently returned-from-injury Sami Zayn. Kevin Owens, whose night was already going less-than-ideally, had a minor Villainous Breakdown at that one, which reached its apex when Zayn eliminated him from the match.
  • Wham Line: Roman Reigns and Rusev start out the 2016 Rumble and Reigns quickly dumps Rusev out. He awaits for the #3 entrant, only for him and the live crowd to look on in confusion as unfamiliar music begins to play.
    Titantron: I am... Phenomenal.
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