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 (orshe) 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 usually two minutes, but it's been as low as one minute in the past, 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 feet. (Something Shawn Michaels knows about all too well.)
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 2005 note the year after Chris Benoit exploited a loophole in the Royal Rumble winner's contract and jumped brands from SmackDown! to Raw to challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship 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. 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.The first Royal Rumble, held in 1988 had only twenty participants. From 1989 to 2010, the match featured thirty paricipants. 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:
1997, 1998 and 2001 - "Stone Cold" Steve Austinnote In the 1997 event, Austin was actually eliminated, but no referee saw it as they had their hands full with brawls of other eliminated wrestlers. He used this as an advantage and re-entered the ring.
2000 - The Rocknote The Big Show actually eliminated him to technically win the match, but no ref saw it, so Rock came back and eliminated him. Big Show in compensation got a match with the Rock for his main event prize, and Show won.
2005 and 2014 - Batistanote In the '05 Rumble, Batista and eventual-runner-up John Cena were simultaneously eliminated similar to the 1994 event. Vince McMahon rushed to the ring and ordered the match to be restarted, hence Batista winning.
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, Alberto Del Rio in 2011. Austin's and Batista's respective wins in 1997 and 2005 are possible examples depending on how you viewed their characters at the time.
Brick Joke: In the 2011 Rumble, Santino Marella, who at this point had averaged about 15 seconds in two 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 the 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.
Continuity Nod: The Three Month Rule often gets put on the backburner during the Royal 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.
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 who got to challenge the WWF champion at Wrestlamania. Due to Shawn Michaels vacating the title in February 97, the fourway became a title challenge, which Bret Hart won. The Undertaker eventually wound up challening Sycho Sid at Wrestlemania for the title that year and won it
Sheamus 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.
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.
Enemy Mine: Feuding wrestlers may put aside their differences momentarily to work together and defeat a bigger and more powerful foe.
Muhammad Hassan provoked this reaction. Not because he was a major threat, or he'd attacked everyone, but simply because everyone was sick of his "Everyone is prejudiced against me, the Muslim" shtick. He slid into the ring, and everyone promptly beat the crap out of him before dumping him out of the ring.
Early-Installment Weirdness: The first Rumble in 1988 only had 20 entrants, and the prize of a Wrestlemania world title shot that now signifies the event wasnt added until 1993.
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.
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 Royal 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.
Subverted in 2012. 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 of The Shield holds 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.
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 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 later Fatal Four Way with Mick Foley joining so Rock main evented anyway.
Extra special mention goes to Kofi Kingston for having found his way on the security barricade around the entrance ramp, and then making the several feet jump across back to the ring.
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 superstars (And on rare occasions, superstars simply holding a grudge) entering the ring & eliminating a superstar still participating in the Rumble.
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 & 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 the WWE had unified the WWE & World Heavyweight titles & eliminated 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.
New Rules as the Plot Demands: Whether or not an elimination counts if the person doing the eliminating has already gone over the top rope himself depends on how Vince is feeling that year.
Most notably 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.
Early in the PG era, Finlay was eliminated by disqualification for using a weapon.
Actually it was for entering the match before his number was called, but still...
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 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, the Oh Crap moment came from the one who enters the ring. In that case, Scotty 2 Hotty was awaited by The Undertaker and Kane, who were working in tandem to eliminate everyone. Scotty, who usually danced his way to the ring, sombrely walked to the ring instead with look on his face that clearly said "This Is Gonna Suck".
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.
Ring OldiesCameo: 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.
Still Got It: This is the chant that usually accompanies their performance in the Rumble.
Running Gag: Jerry Lawler's predictions turning out badly. Has been repeated with a few other commentators like Tazz also.
Sore Loser: Some wrestlers (Kurt Angle in 2005, Booker T in 2007) have responded to getting eliminated very badly. A rare non-heel example 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.
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 Royal Rumble. Since this was during the Brand Extension and Cena was on Smack Down 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 would win.
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.
Tonight In This Very Ring: The Royal Rumble match usually main events the Royal Rumble PPV, 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.)