BEST OF BULLDOG

Five Dumb Things About The Royal Rumble

Originally published January 13, 2018

We here at Wrestling Merchandise and Memories love the Royal Rumble. Really, we do! There are even regular features that get published every year about it. It's just that.... well, here are five things about the January classic that we don't exactly love.

You don't have to stay in the ring

 

The primary rule in the Royal Rumble is that people can only be eliminated if they're thrown over the top rope and both feet touch the arena floor. Which is all well and good except there's a huge loop hole around that rule -- YOU DON'T HAVE TO STAY IN THE RING!

 

For example, Jerry The King Lawler spent several minutes hiding under the ring in the 1996 Rumble before he was discovered by Shawn Michaels and put back in the match. But that's just a comedy spot, one might argue; no one actually wins the match by doing that.

 

Not true. In 1999, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon -- the number one and two entrants in the match -- spent the better part of an hour outside the ring. And McMahon won the match only by returning to the ring at the last possible moment.

Bigger doesn't necessarily mean better

 

The way the announcers sell it, anyone over 6"9 and/or 400 pounds is practically a lock to win the Royal Rumble. But tell that to the likes of Andre The Giant, The Big Show, Mark Henry, One Man Gang, Vader and (literally) tons of other super heavyweights that enter the match every year.

 

In fact, for every extra-large Big John Studd, Yokozuna or Undertaker who have won the match.... there are dozens of regular (and even under) sized guys like Rey Mysterio, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart and Chris Benoit who have also claimed victory.

Who decides on the surprise entrants?

 

This may be one of these "don't think about it too hard" questions, but who, in kayfabe purposes, arranged for AJ Styles to debut at the 2016 Royal Rumble? Not that it wasn't an amazing moment; that's not what we're saying.... but was it a General Manager of one of the brands? Vince McMahon? Someone else?

 

We ask the question because, for every AJ Styles they bring out, there are also tons of totally random examples over the years, everyone from The Squat Team to Michael Cole, and from a way-past-his-prime Honky Tonk Man to a waaaaay-past-his-prime Superfly Snuka... people who didn't have the slightest chance of winning.

 

This concept is even stranger in an era of feuding brands. Why would the heads of Raw or SmackDown send an unsigned nostalgia act or even a hot new free agent into battle with a title shot at WrestleMania on the line unless they were absolutely sure that the surprise entrant would sign with their brand upon winning?

Outside interference is apparently just fine

 

Earlier, we referenced the 1999 Royal Rumble, which featured Vince McMahon not spending more than a couple of minutes in the ring over the period of an hour. He also benefited from his cronies in The Corporation attacking Stone Cold Steve Austin and, later in the match, The Rock doing so again to let his boss win the whole shebang. This, of course, isn't the only case, as everyone from The Wyatt Famil to Giant Freaking Gonzales has been allowed to participate in ringside shenanigans, whether or not they were actually invited participants.

 

And while we get this is professional wrestling, a sport where anything goes 99 percent of the time.... it creates a huge logic gap. What's to stop, let's just say The Miz from hiring two dozen goons to run to the ring and eliminate competitors on his behalf until he's the last guy standing? Why wouldn't some heel attempt this trick every year??

It's not a very good way to determine a number one contender

 

If WrestleMania is the most important night of the wrestling year.... then why would the challenger to the World Champion be determined in a match that has little to do with wrestling talent and a whole lot to do with luck of the draw and being able to not get tossed over the top rope?

 

Hey.... we're not saying that winning the Royal Rumble isn't an accomplishment; guys like Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, Rey Mysterio and yes, even Chris Benoit, put on stellar performances for an hour plus that show off their tremendous talents. But should the main event for the promotion's biggest show really be determined this way? Why not a tournament or multi-person match among the promotion's top competitors? Instead, what we're left with is most of those top contenders, along with a field of random entrants that, at times, has included:

 

  • Drew Carey

  • Gillberg

  • Mideon

  • Kharma

  • Hornswoggle

  • Mantaur

  • Adam Rose

  • Sam Houston

  • Mason Ryan

  • Carlos Colon

  • Los Boricuas

  • The Mean Street Posse

  • The Bushwhackers

  • Kai En Tai

  • Doug Gilbert

  • Virgil

 

At that point, even handing out lottery tickets to the wrestlers in the back seems like a better system, no?

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Wrestling Historian Mike Rickard