That’s right, Christmas is just around the corner. Well, yes Christmas is in just eight days, but I was talking more about wrestling’s Christmas, The 2014 Royal Rumble. After WWE’s final Pay-Per-View of the year took place on Sunday evening, all roads now lead to the greatest event of the wrestling year, the Royal Rumble. Over the upcoming weeks, leading to the 27th Annual Royal Rumble, I’ll take a look at some of the top moments, years, wrestlers, interesting statistics and even have a potential contest for this year’s event. Today, it is important to start with a brief history of the first nine Rumbles and a dive into the rules of the Royal Rumble
For those of you who are not familiar with this particular event, the PPV is centered around the Royal Rumble match. In this match, two “superstars” start out in the ring, and every 90 seconds a new wrestler comes down to the ring and enters the match. This will continue to happen until all 30 participants have been introduced. The decision of what entry number a wrestler will get is “random,” usually played out through drawing their number from some sort of bingo ball contraption. The only way that a wrestler can be eliminated from the Rumble is being thrown over the top rope, with both feet hitting the floor. Over the years, the WWE has really milked the “two feet on the floor” concept, giving Kofi Kingston something to do, as he’s pretty useless otherwise right now (proof) (I mean c’mon). Those are the basic rules of the Royal Rumble. There are some general concepts that get thrown in from year to year, but it’s all the same for the most part.
Now that you have the rules down, let’s take a look at the first nine Royal Rumble Matches, 1988-1996:
The Royal Rumble began in 1988, a concept thought up by former Intercontinental champion Pat Patterson. The original event only had 20 participants and was won by “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. In the next year, the Rumble match had been expanded to 30 competitors, which is still the standard for today. The only year since that has not had 30 participants was 2011, where the field was expanded to 40.
In 1989, Big John Studd walked away as the winner of the Royal Rumble as the 27th entrant. Since then, the #27 entry is considered to have the luck of the draw, as more competitors have won the event from that number than any other (Studd, Yokozuna, Hart, Austin)
In 1990 and 1991, Hulk Hogan won both Rumble matches, becoming the first wrestler to win two Rumbles, as well as the first to win consecutive competitions. It was the early 90’s, and you couldn’t go anywhere with out Hulk Hogan going all John Cena (it’s a time continuum thing, just go with it) and winning every match when the odds are against him. I’m assuming he won his two Rumbles through a strict regimen of vitamins and saying his prayers, BROTHER.
In 1992, after the WWF Title had been vacated due to two controversial matches between Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker. President (of the WWF, not the U.S.) Jack Tunney decided that this year’s Rumble winner would be awarded the abeyant championship. After being the third entrant in the match, and spending 59:26 minutes in the ring, The Nature Boy Ric Flair walked away with the WWF Championship. Afterward, he gave one of the most memorable speeches in Rumble history.
Starting in 1993, the winner of the Royal Rumble match would be awarded a WWF title shot at the upcoming Wrestlemania in March/April. Yokozuna, known for his gimmick of being a Japanese sumo wrestler (albeit born in San Francisco with Samoan heritage) outlasted 29 other competitors to win the Rumble. That being said, it was unfortunate that he had to take his title shot at Wrestlemania IX, which is universally panned as the worst Wrestlemania in history. Also, spoilers, but after he won the WWF title over Bret Hart, Hulk Hogan came out of nowhere, challenged to an impromptu match and beat Yokozuna for the title. That’s a real American right there, Hulkster.
In the seventh Rumble (1994), the strangest occurrence in the match’s short tenure happened. Bret Hart and Lex Luger threw each other out of the ring, with both men’s feet touching the floor at the same time. Hart and Luger were named co-Rumble winners, and awarded championship matches at Wrestlemania X. Luger went on to wrestle Yokozuna in Madison Square Garden, losing by disqualification. Hart would go on at the end of the evening to exact revenge on the sumo wrestler from Wrestlemania IX, winning the title.
1995 and 1996 would be the breakout years of Mr. Wrestlemania, the Showstopper, the Icon, the Heart Break Kid, Shawn Michaels. In 1995, Michaels became the first superstar to enter the match at #1 and run the gauntlet to win the Royal Rumble. His win didn’t come without controversy, as one foot touched the floor at the end of the match. This was the first strict ruling of the “two feet” clause, as he made his way back into the ring and recorded the final elimination to win. Michaels went on again to win the Rumble in ’96, becoming the second performer to win back-to-back matches. With the ’96 win, Michaels went on to have an all-time classic at Wrestlemania, defeating Bret Hart in a 60-minute ironman match.
That’s it for the first nine Royal Rumble matches. I’ll be back with Rumbles 1997-2005 next Tuesday, with more posts this month all leading up to the PPV on January 26th. Do you have any favorite moments from these first nine classics? Let me know on Twitter @rbramblet (use the hashtag #KSRWrassleTalk), or post in the comments below.