In 1987, Pat Patterson presented a revolutionary match concept to Vince McMahon that would change the landscape of professional wrestling forever.
The rules were simple:
1. 2 men start
2 men start the match in the ring.
2. Staggered entrance
The rest of the competitors enter in either 90 or 120 second intervals until all 30 competitors have entered. They would pick their entrance number at random.
Elimination is via over the top rope and both feet touch the floor, until there is one person left standing.
Vince McMahon endorsed the concept and scheduled a trial run at a house show in St. Louis, Missouri on October 4th, 1987, where 12 men participated and One Man Gang emerged victorious, earning a WWF Championship match against Hulk Hogan a month later.
The event was deemed successful, leading to Vince’s decision to make it a regular occurrence, scheduling the first Royal Rumble event for January 24th, 1988 as a television special on USA Network; a 20-man match that was ultimately won by ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan.
Starting in 1989, the Royal Rumble event became a pay per view, and the Royal Rumble match was increased to 30 entrants. In 1992, the vacant WWF Championship was on the line, which was won by Ric Flair, who lost eliminated Sid Justice. Ric Flair, upon entering 3rd, would be the first person to last 1 hour in the Royal Rumble match, and break the longevity record, lasting 1 hour and 2 seconds.
Starting in 1993, the winner of the Royal Rumble was awarded a match for WWE’s top championship, with some exceptions (1997, 1999 and 2016). 1994 saw 2 men win the Royal Rumble match, being Lex Luger and Bret Hart. Both men were awarded a singles match at WrestleMania 10 against the WWF Champion.
In 1997, Steve Austin won the Royal Rumble match but was stripped of his title due to unauthorized re-entry into the ring after being eliminated. In 1999, Vince McMahon won the event yet relinquished his championship opportunity which ultimately got awarded to runner up Stone Cold Steve Austin by Commissioner Shawn Michaels. Roman Reigns’ 2016 rivalry with The Authority reached its climax when he defended his WWE Championship in the Royal Rumble, which was won by Triple H.
The 2011 Royal Rumble was notable for its increased participant count of 40 wrestlers, which included Alberto Del Rio as the victor. The subsequent year’s event reverted back to the customary 30 participants per match.
Following that, the event largely conformed to expectations set by preceding years (with some exceptions), and in 2018, we saw something new – the debut of the Women’s Royal Rumble. Also in 2018, WWE presented the Greatest Royal Rumble, hosted by Saudi Arabia, where Braun Strowman emerged victorious and claimed the GRR Championship.
Upon taking center stage after the 2018 Women’s Royal Rumble match, professional fighter Ronda Rousey unequivocally communicated her career aspirations to those in attendance. Ronda would go on to sign her contract later in the year.
The Royal Rumble match has seen numerous surprises over the years, such as unexpected entries and comebacks from injured superstars like Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole, John Cena, and Edge. Each year, fans speculate who the special entrants will be, with much excitement.