Forget the World Cup, the Super Bowl, even the World Series of Darts – the Royal Rumble is the single greatest spectacle in sport. A 30-man battle royal of abject chaos, ever since its debut on 24 January 1988, each year it is nailed-on to provide a new batch of Shakespearian drama, comedy, pathos and, very occasionally, genuine slip-ups. All this, from a WWE (formerly WWF) event that isn’t even its showpiece.
What je-ne-sais-quoi does the Royal Rumble possess that WrestleMania – and all other sporting events for that matter – does not? Sheer unpredictability. You know 30 competitors will enter, one will leave victorious (rewarded with a title shot at WrestleMania) and that competitors are only eliminated once both feet hit the ground (leaving ample room for foul play), but, beyond that, what goes down is anybody’s guess.
Who competes? Who the hell knows. The potential line-up is such a lottery that last year, freshly-inaugurated US President (and WWE Hall of Fame star), Donald Trump was a 500/1 shot with certain bookies. And not to simply appear, but win.
The Royal Rumble is like Disney World – young or old, hater or believer, it is basically impossible not to get swept up in the fun. And I write this as someone that hasn’t watched any form of wrestling (Rumble notwithstanding) since 2001.
Behold 30 of the Royal Rumble’s greatest moments. Spandex and face paint is not compulsory, but is strongly advised.
Roman Reigns breaks the record (2014)
Santino breaks the record… for fastest eliminated (2009)
Macho Man doesn’t understand (various)
Stone Cold slips up (1996)
A new giant steps up (1993)
John Cena’s awfully bad rap (2003)
Triple H makes a triumphant return (2002)
Edge edges out the competition (2010)
The Godfather II (2002)
Too Cool’s dance party (2000)
Hogan dumps his Macho friend (1989)
The Rock clings on for the win (2000)
The Big Show takes on all comers, then gets eliminated ‘by thin air’ (2004)
Kofi keeps the dream alive (various)
Maven boots out The Undertaker (2002)
Drew Carey narrowly escapes death (2001)
Andre the Giant narrowly escapes a snake (1989)
Seven-foot-four, 520lbs, hands the size of dustbin lids, yet runs away like a scolded child at the sight of a reptile? Pathetic. (In Andre’s defence, the snake was bloody ginormous.)
‘The King’ is dead… scared (1996)
Mick Foley divides three into one (1998)
The return of two golden oldies (2008)
Hulk meets Warrior (1990)
Rey Mysterio achieves the impossible (2006)
Chyna breaks the glass ceiling, sort of (1999)
‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan wins the first Royal Rumble (1988)
Stone Cold wins by cheating (1997)
Brett Hart and Lex Luger tie (1994)
Batista and John Cena tie, by accident (2005)
‘The Man’ prevails (1999)
Ric Flair woos the title (1992)
Shawn Michaels wins by a foot (1995)