The Royal Rumble has been WWE’s big January show since 1988.
WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson is credited with creating the Royal Rumble concept and since then several organizations have done their own version of it (ROH Honor Rumble, Impact’s Gauntlet for the Gold, New Japan Rumble, etc.).
1989 was a momentous year for the Royal Rumble event and the titular match. It became a pay-per-view event and the expanded from 20 to 30 competitors.
The match would expand again to 40 competitors in 2011. That Rumble was won by Alberto Del Rio who would go on to challenge future WWE Hall of Famer Edge at WrestleMania XXVII for the World Heavyweight Championship (meaning the Big Gold Belt). Edge would retain the title by pinfall in what would sadly be The Rated R Superstar’s final match. In 2012, the Rumble returned to 30 competitors.
The event has seen many memorable moments (Kofi Kingston’s yearly self-preservation, Ric Flair’s 1992 championship win, Bret Hart and Lex Luger’s 1994 tie), iconic spots (The Undertaker standing tall in the ring after winning in 2007, Shawn Michaels’ hometown championship win in 1997, Rey Mysterio’s record setting win in 2006 in memory of the late great Eddie Guerrero, and surprises (The 3 Faces of Foley in 1998, The return of Bubba Ray Dudley in 2015, Beth Phoenix eliminating The Great Khali in 2010).
There have also been moments that made viewers say “What were they thinking?” (The announce team competing in 2012, Drew Carey “competing” in 2001, Hornswoggle and El Torito competing in 2008 and 2014 respectively).
We should see new entries in many of these categories this year.
Here are a few trivia questions to ponder:
1. Who won the first Royal Rumble?
2. Who was the first Royal Rumble winner to be guaranteed a title match at WrestleMania?
3. Who are the only brothers to each win a Royal Rumble?
(Answers at end of article)
The Royal Rumble has also been the starting point for the main event pushes of future Hall of Famers (Brock Lesnar, Batista, Roman Reigns). Each of those three earned their first WrestleMania main event matches as a result of winning the Rumble. Of those three, only Lesnar had been a world champion before winning the Rumble as he had won the WWE Championship (now held by AJ Styles) at SummerSlam 2002 before losing it to The Big Show at Survivor Series 2002. Batista is the only one of the three to win the Rumble twice (2005 and 2014). The Animal is also the only of the three to compete at WrestleMania for the World Heavyweight Championship (meaning the Big Gold Belt). He beat Triple H to win it in 2005. Roman Reigns is the only one not to win a WrestleMania title match earned by winning the Rumble. At WrestleMania 31, Seth Rollins turned it into a triple threat match including then WWE Champion Brock Lesnar by cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase and won the title by pinning Reigns. That match is also the only time Lesnar has competed in a match at WrestleMania and not won. Lesnar beat Kurt Angle at WrestleMania XIX to win the WWE Championship.
This year’s event guarantees even more history, as for the first time there will also be a Women’s Royal Rumble match. It will be the first over the top rope women’s battle royal since the February 20, 2006 episode of Monday Night Raw. That was the night Ashley Massaro broke her leg when she landed awkwardly on the floor after being eliminated along with Mickie James by the winner of the battle royal, Candice Michelle. By winning that battle royal, Candice became No. 1 contender to the original WWE Women’s Championship. After that night, the rules of women’s battle royals were changed to make eliminations possible by simply throwing an opponent out of the ring over, under or between the ropes. This match, like the men’s Rumble also promises some surprises. Could we see some the female legends from RAW 25 in the match? It’s quite possible. At least two of them have said they would be open to a return to WWE if the circumstances were right. Two more have already said they training to make a return to WWE. Will any of the four show up Sunday night? We’ll see. One thing we do is in the words of WWE Hall of Famer, the late great Gorilla Monsoon “History will be made.”
Enjoy the Rumble and we’ll see you next time!
- The One Man Gang on October 4, 1987. Hacksaw Jim Duggan won the first televised Royal Rumble in 1988. Duggan’s win aired on the USA Network. The Royal Rumble became a pay per view event in 1989.
- WWE Hall of Famer the late great Yokozuna was the first Royal Rumble winner guaranteed a championship match at Wrestlemania. Yokozuna won the 1993 Royal Rumble. He defeated WWE Hall of Famer Bret “Hitman” Hart at Wrestlemania IX to win the WWE Championship. Yokozuna would lose the title seconds later to Hulk Hogan in an impromptu challenge match.
- Bret Hart and the late great Owen Hart, who did so within days of each other. Owen Hart won an untelevised Royal Rumble at MSG on January 17, 1994. Six days later in Providence Rhode Island, Bret Hart was a co-winner with Lex Luger at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view.
Extra non Royal Rumble trivia fact: Bret and Owen Hart are one of two sets of brothers to hold the tag team championships, but not together. Bret Hart was a tag team champion twice alongside brother-in-law Jim Neidhart as the Hart Foundation. Owen Hart was a four time tag champion, twice with Yokozuna, once with the late great British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith and once with Jeff Jarrett. Bret and Owen did compete for the tag team titles together once at the Royal Rumble event in 1994. The other set of brothers to pull of this feat are Roman Reigns and Rosey. Reigns was a tag team champion with Seth Rollins, while Rosey was a tag-team champion alongside The Hurricane. Reigns’ brother Rosey passed away in 2017.