I’ve been a wrestling fan for a pretty long time now and I’ve seen quite a bit of the sport over the year. This includes all kinds of wrestling from around the world, including reviews of over 6,000 shows. There isn’t much I haven’t seen in one form or another, but there are certain things that I keep coming back to in one way or another. In less than a week, we will be back to it again, and this time I’ll be there in person. This weekend is the Royal Rumble, and this week we’ll be taking a general look at the match and talking about why it works as well as it does.
Scott Hall once called the battle royal the easiest match to explain to a non-wrestling fan. There’s nothing about a pin, a submission, grabbing a contract or a wrestler beating a ten count. You have thirty people in the ring and the last one left inside gets a prize. That doesn’t require a history of watching wrestling or any kind of a backstory. It’s literally a big free for all where the last person standing wins. That’s the easiest concept to get and it has worked for the better part of ever in wrestling.
That’s not all for the Royal Rumble though, as there is another layer added on. In the Royal Rumble, the whole thing is built around the clock, as each entrant comes in on a timed interval (and sometimes the intervals are actually close to even). That is where the fun begins, as you get to wonder who is going to be coming through that curtain. Some of the wrestlers have been announced in advance (too many these days) but the order isn’t known in advance. That means finding out who is coming through that curtain is a mystery, making those last few seconds some of the best in wrestling.
The “who’s next principle” is the lifeblood of the Rumble, as you can get all kinds of things taking place in any given match. You might see someone make their debut (AJ Styles) or their return (Big Show in 2008) or get a promotion (Damian Priest in 2021) or shock the fans by coming back for the first time in nine years after a horrible neck injury (Edge in 2020). The reactions from a surprise entrance in the Rumble can be some of the best moments in wrestling and I’m sure you can think of more than a few great ones from the match’s history.
So once you have some entries into the match, what do you do with them? That’s where you get to what really matters about the Rumble: the winner gets a World Title shot at WrestleMania (assuming you don’t go nuts and somehow get it early, ala John Cena in 2008). That is such a perfect way to set things up in a one night, as you instantly have a World Title match set. You can even milk it a little longer if you like, as there is the drama over which title the winner might pick. That can fill up a few weeks on its own, which is not a bad way to go.
There is a reason that the match has worked out so well over the years, as it is kind of a fool proof concept. The idea worked so well that four years ago, WWE introduced a women’s edition. Having the women’s edition was even more proof of how far the women’s division had come because they were having one of the company’s signature matches, but it also showed just how deep the division had come. There were enough women to have thirty involved in a match that lasts an hour (and yes some of the women were returning legends etc., but that has been the case in the men’s match for the better part of ever as well).
That number thirty means so much to the Rumble’s history. While the match has seen instances of twenty or even forty entrants, thirty is about as good of a number as you can get for something like this. It offers a spot for a good hunk of the roster, either men’s or women’s, and gives a feeling that it is an all hands on deck match. Everyone wants to win the Rumble because it means an instant path to the World Title, which is what every wrestler should want for one reason or another.
See how easy the whole thing is? You have a bunch of people who want to get in the ring and see if they can survive because it means a possible shot at the World Title. It is the closest thing you are going to get to a shortcut to the title, which commentary has brought up over the years. As commentary points out, how many of the entrants in the Rumble have a realistic chance of getting a World Title shot at some point in their career? In a lot of instances, especially those involving the lower level entrants, this is their one and only chance.
As a result, the match becomes the lottery or the golden ticket or whatever other concept you want to name. A wrestler can jump the line and go from mediocrity to the front of the line. They don’t have to get a pin or a submission, but rather throw someone over the top. It isn’t something you see very often, which makes the show feel like a special event that only comes once a year.
What it all comes down to is that the Rumble is special. It is the kind of match that you only get to see one night a year and it opens up all kinds of doors for wrestlers to jump straight into the main event scene. Maybe someone has been there before and gets a boost back up to the next level or maybe someone is getting their first chance at a higher level. That is not something you get to see very often and it is the kind of thing that can work wonders overnight.
The Rumble has been around for a very long time and some years have been better than others, but what makes the match feel important is the prestige. A who’s who of WWE names have won the match over the years and several of them have moved on to win a World Title in their subsequent title match. This match has major implications and those can go a long way to make someone career.
Just look at what happened with Drew McIntyre and Bianca Belair in recent years. They had been ready to move up to the next level for a long time and all they were looking for was a final springboard to the title picture. That is where the Royal Rumble can be a huge game changer and their wins were what they had been waiting for after a long climb up to the top.
Those are just two of the many people over the years who have used the Rumble as the last step towards the title picture. It feels like a natural progression and something that makes all the sense in the world. WWE has turned this part of the Road To WrestleMania into a personal Road To WrestleMania, which is a storyline that has been used a good many times over the years
I was excited when I found out that I would get to go to the Royal Rumble because it is a special night. While I have seen a Royal Rumble style match (the WrestleCon Rumble at the WrestleCon SuperShow 2017, which is worth your time), it is feeling like little more than a warmup. The real event is looking like a stacked card, with the show’s two namesake matches making it feel that much more important. It only comes once a year and now, after quite a long wait, it’s time to rumble again.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 60,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 6,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books
Keep up with the LATEST WRESTLING RUMORS! Click here to sign up for the exclusive Wrestling Rumors daily newsletter, delivered right to your inbox.