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31st Jan 2021

30 reasons why WWE’s Royal Rumble is the greatest night of the year

From Ric Flair to Stone Cold to John Cena, this is why we love the Rumble.

Wil Jones

Wrestlemania might claim to be the Superbowl of wrestling, but we all know that it’s the Royal Rumble that is truly the greatest event in the WWE calendar

The Royal Rumble rules are simple: two wrestlers start in the ring, and another enters every 90 seconds, until all 30 have arrived. You get eliminated by being thrown over the top rope, the winner is the last one standing, and the prize is (usually) a shot at a world title in the main event of Wrestlemania.

It’s the most perfect format for sports entertainment every created: a wonderful mish-mash allowing for dream-match face-offs, genuine emotion, and campy comedy, all at the same time, with the constant stream of entrants meaning it never gets dull. You’re only every 90 seconds away from the next surprise.

The thirty-first Rumble takes place this Sunday night, and part of the fun is waiting for all the little clichés and callbacks that happen every time. Here are the 30 reasons – one for each competition – why the Rumble is the best night of the wrestling year.

1: The stats video

Every year, before the Royal Rumble itself, we get the now-traditional ‘By The Numbers’ video, reeling off stats like pro-wrestling’s version of Opta Joe. Yes, it might all be pre-determined, but going through the data completely straight faced like this never fails to get me instantly hyped.

2: The big names in at number one

There number one spot is the worst position to be in, but it sets someone up for a heroic, epic performance. It wouldn’t be the same is Al Snow and Funaki came out first, would it?

3: The surprise entrant

There’s always a big name who hasn’t been seen for a while, and having their music hit at the Royal Rumble is one of the biggest pops in wrestling. Key examples: John Cena in 2008 and Triple H in 2016.

4: The surprise returning legend

OMG Bubba Ray Dudley is back! The Godfather is back! The Boogeyman is back!

5: The surprise debut

AJ Styles stepping into a WWE for the first time in 2016 is still one of the most spine chilling moments in Rumble Rumble history – having torn it up in TNA, the indies, and in Japan, Styles was the biggest name in wrestling to never actually compete in the Fed. Mysterious new music hitting, and then him facing up to Vince’s golden boy Roman Reigns was instantly iconic.

6: When the ring get cleared and there’s just one guy left waiting, so he grabs a microphone and starts talking

See: CM Punk in 2010, at the height of his Straight Edge Society glory, dispensing jobbers between sermonising.

7: When someone is eliminated by their tag team partner or ally

To pick just one of many examples: Remember when Rikishi danced with his boys Too Cool….

… then chucked them out of the ring?

8: When an old tag team face each other, and team up again

The Shield have reunited! D-X are together again! Er, Booker T and Goldust back together again!

9: “How are they going get the Big Show out of the ring!?!”

He’s 7ft tall, and 500lbs! Just think of his size, and his experience – he’s got to be favourite, right!?! JR / Tazz / JBL just can’t fathom him not winning.

10: The above, but for Kane.

11: The above, but for The Great Khali

12: The moment when all the other wrestlers team up to get The Big Show / Kane / The Great Khali out of the ring

13: When someone eliminates themselves

When Randy Orton was still just a cocky young upstart, he became embroiled in an under-rated feud with then-commissioner Mick Foley, spitting in his face and banishing him from Raw. But in one of the most exhilarating Royal Rumble moments, the Hardcore Legend would make a surprise return to bundle Orton over the top rope, taking himself over as well.

14: When one member of a mid-level tag team enters, but his partner inexplicably doesn’t

Why does Headbanger Mosh get a shot at the Wrestlemania main event, but not Thrasher? We’ll never know.

15: When a non-wrestler enters

Like when rotund 90s comedian Drew Carey inexplicably entered the Royal Rumble and found himself starring up to Kane – so quickly climbed over the ropes and ran off. Or Vince McMahon himself, who went and won the whole damn thing in 1999, because Vince is a crazy person.

16: When someone ‘skins the cat’

ie, the bit where someone goes over the top rope, but flips themselves back into the ring using just their upper body strength. Shawn Michaels was the master of it.

17: The Kofi Kingston spot

High flying Kofi Kingston bounced around the WWE for half a decade before striking gold with The New Day – but he could always be relied upon to do something utterly magnificent to avoid both feet touching the floor at the Rumble. He’s walked on his hands, hung on other wrestler’s backs, bounced around on office chairs, taken incredible leaps off the barricade, and even rode around on Big E’s shoulders.

18: The absolute beast who gets most eliminations

In 2001 Kane ran riot, taking out eleven other competitors in a single Rumble – a record that stood until 2014 when Roman Reigns got one more.

19: The Iron Man

The guy who doesn’t win it but puts in an extra-long shift. A 46-year-old Chris Jericho managed to go a full hour in 2017.

20: The guy who gets eliminated straight away

21: When someone who’s finisher is a submission does it in the middle of the ring, and the commentators scream “But they can’t win the match that way!!!!”

When will people learn!?

22: The Final Four

The point when it gets serious, when down to just the top guys. Possibly never stronger than 2001, when it was Steve Austin, The Rock, Kane and, er, “The One” Billy Gunn.

23: Drinking games and sweepstakes

You all put a fiver in, everyone draws numbers and if your guy wins, you get the lot. Bad luck if you draw Heath Slater. There’s also plenty of drinking games out there, but we’d never condone that sort of thing.

24: The big face off

The two guys who’ve been kept apart finally coming face to face. Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior. Goldberg and Brock Lesnar.

25: Watching it with people who haven’t following wrestling since they were a kid, and constantly ask if Randy Savage or Andre The Giant is still there

The Rumble is always the best thing to get a lapsed fan back on the bandwagon.

26: The delirium that UK wrestling fans get that comes from staying up till 4am and knowing you have work on Monday morning.

(This applies to all WWE PPVs, but is even more noticeable in the cold month of January).

27: The simple joy of counting down from ten to one

28: When a guy you completely forgot was still employed by WWE comes out to no reaction

R-Truth is still there!?!

29: Just the sheer adrenaline of waiting to see who comes out next

The thing with the Rumble is that even the bad ones are never dull – no mater what’s happening, you are never more than 90 seconds from a potential CM Punk or Kenny Omega appearance. Even if it just turns out to be Rhyno.

30: The ecstasy of the underdog winner

Sure, not every Royal Rumble is fantastic, but when they have an underdog enter early, get his head down and toil away, to eventually emerge victorious, there’s nothing like it. Rey Mysterio and Christ Benoit’s victories stand out in particular (even though we don’t talk about the later).

But nothing will ever beat Ric Flair entering at number three and lasting a full hour to take the title in 1992, aka the greatest Rumble ever.

(That whole match is on WWE’s YouTube for free, if you have an hour to spare)