THE SPECIALISTS HISTORY: The Royal Rumble retrospect - highlights, attendance, buyrate, perspective
Jan 29, 2008 - 1:23:14 PM
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This year’s Royal Rumble will mark the 21st anniversary of the popular WWE pay per view. In our weekly look at wrestling nostalgia, we will review the history of one of the WWE’s core PPV’s, the Royal Rumble. Traditionally, the Royal Rumble is the second largest grossing PPV in the WWF, behind Wrestlemania. In order to understand the significance of the Royal Rumble in today’s era, we have to go back to how it all started.
Thanksgiving 1987; was a significant day in wrestling history. Vince McMahon Jr. was in the process of taking his company; the World Wrestling Federation, to national prominence. McMahon had attempted and successfully promoted 3 PPV’s; Wrestlemania I, II and III. Due to the enormous success, both in terms of profits and popularity of Wrestlemania, McMahon decided to expand his PPV universe and offer another PPV in the fall. This way, he could sell two ultra profitable PPV’s each year instead of only one, theoretically doubling his profit potential. He planned on having a PPV called Survivor Series in November 1987. Traditionally, Jim Crockett Promotions, which later became WCW when Ted Turner purchased Jim Crockett Promotions, had run very successful Thanksgiving house shows in Greensboro, North Carolina. Crockett was having financial difficulties due to a large debt load from purchasing other territories in a plan to go national and compete with the WWF. Similar to McMahon in 1985 and his gamble on the first Wrestlemania; Crockett planned on running his first PPV, the Starrcade event as the financial salvation to his company on Thanksgiving evening, 1987. However, McMahon decided to promote Survivor Series on the same day in an attempt to quash Crockett’s attempt at PPV, McMahon informed cable companies that if they chose to carry Starrcade, they would not be allowed to carry future Wrestlemania’s or other WWF events. The vast majority of companies showed Survivor Series, only five opted to remain loyal to their contract with Crockett.
After successfully sabotaging Jim Crockett’s first attempt at a PPV by creating the Survivor Series to run on PPV at the same time, McMahon devised a different strategy to counter Crockett’s second attempt at PPV. Jim Crockett Promotions announced his next attempt at PPV would be called the Bunkhouse Stampede and would be broadcast on PPV on January 24, 1988. The WWF announced a brand new event called The Royal Rumble that would be broadcast at the same time on free TV on the USA network. The Royal Rumble event was so successful that it moved to PPV in 1989 and has been on PPV every January since.
The concept of the Royal Rumble is a match that was a glorified over the top battle royal where two men start and a new competitor enters the ring at a certain time interval. The first Rumble had 20 men. Since then the number has been increased to 30. The time interval is usually either 60 seconds or 2 minutes but it has been changed periodically.
The first few years the winner of the match only received only the recognition of being the Royal Rumble champion. However, in 1992, Ric Flair won the Royal Rumble to win the vacant WWF Title. Starting in 1993, the winner would receive a title shot against the current WWF Champion at the next WrestleMania. Currently with the brand split, the Royal Rumble winner may choose which WWE World championship to wrestle for at Wrestlemania.
Here is a look at the past winners of the Royal Rumble, the attendance and the PPV buy rates.
Year Royal Rumble Winners Attendance Buy Rate
1988 – Hacksaw Jim Duggan 18,000 n/a
1989 – Big John Studd 19,000 1.5
1990 – Hulk Hogan 16,000 2.0
1991 – Hulk Hogan 16,000 3.1
1992 – Ric Flair 17,000 1.8
1993 – Yokozuna 16,000 1.25
1994 – Bret Hart & Lex Luger 14,500 0.9
1995 – Shawn Michaels 10,000 1.0
1996 – Shawn Michaels 9,600 1.1
1997 – Steve Austin 60,525 0.7
1998 – Steve Austin 18,542 0.97
1999 – Vince McMahon 14,816 1.88
2000 – The Rock 19,231 1.6
2001 – Steve Austin 17,137 1.35
2002 – Triple H 12,915 1.60
2003 – Brock Lesnar 14,712 0.95
2004 – Chris Benoit 17,289 0.98
2005 - Batista 9,642 0.83
2006 - Rey Mysterio 16,000 1.31
2007 - The Undertaker 15,000 1.25
2008 – John Cena 15,000 ? ???
Highlights of the Royal Rumble
1988 – First ever Royal Rumble match, broadcast on the USA Network in opposition to the NWA Bunkhouse Stampede PPV. Jim Duggan won the Royal Rumble. The Rumble match has 20 participants.
1989 – First Royal Rumble PPV. The Royal Rumble match had 30 participants and was won by Big John Studd.
1990 - Hulk Hogan won the Royal Rumble by eliminating Mr. Perfect. Undercard saw Ron Garvin defeat Greg Valentine in an “I Quit” match.
1991 – Hulk Hogan became the first two time winner of the Royal Rumble by eliminating the Earthquake. On the undercard, Sgt. Slaughter defeated the Ultimate Warrior to become WWF World Heavyweight Champion and Ted DiBiase and Virgil defeated Dusty and Dustin Rhodes.
1992 – Ric Flair become the WWF World Heavyweight Champion for the first time by winning the Royal Rumble. This was the first Rumble with the stipulation of the winner becoming world champion. Flair entered the Rumble as the third participant. This Royal Rumble match is generally considered the greatest Royal Rumble match in history. The undercard matches saw Roddy Piper defeat The Mountie to become the WWF Intercontinental Title.
1993 – This was the first Royal Rumble match where the winner would win the right to challenge the WWF World Champion at Wrestlemania. Yokozuna won this year’s Rumble. The undercard matches featured Shawn Michaels defeat Marty Jannetty to retain the WWF Intercontinental Title and Bret Hart defeated Razor Ramon to retain the WWF World Heavyweight Title.
1994 - Lex Luger and Bret Hart were named co-winners after they simultaneously eliminated each other. The undercard featured a Casket match for the WWF Championship, in which Yokozuna successfully defended the title against The Undertaker. In addition, The Quebecers beat Bret and Owen Hart to retain the WWF Tag Team Championship and Razor Ramon successfully defended his Intercontinental Championship against Irwin R. Schyster.
1995 – Shawn Michaels won this year’s Rumble. The final two participants in the Rumble were Shawn Michaels and The British Bulldog, who were also the first two participants in the match as well. Also, Diesel defended the WWF World Title in a draw against Bret Hart and Jeff Jarrett defeated Razor Ramon for the Intercontinental title.
1996 – The Royal Rumble match was not the main event this year. Shawn Michaels won the Rumble for the second consecutive year, while the Undertaker defeated Bret Hart in the main event for the WWF World Title by dq in the main event. Also, Goldust defeated Razor Ramon to win the WWF Intercontinental Title.
1997 – The 10th anniversary of the Royal Rumble event was held in San Antonio, Texas and drew a record Royal Rumble crowd of over 68,000 to witness hometown boy, Shawn Michaels; regain the WWF World Heavyweight Title from Sid Vicious. Steve Austin eliminated Bret Hart to win the Royal Rumble and Vader defeated the Undertaker on the undercard.
1998 – Shawn Michaels defeated The Undertaker in a “casket match” to retain the WWF World Heavyweight Title while Steve Austin defeated The Rock to win his second consecutive Royal Rumble match.
1999 – The Royal Rumble match returned as the main event in this year’s PPV. Vince McMahon defeated Steve Austin to win the Rumble match, while the Rock defeated Mankind in an “I Quit” match for the WWF World Heavyweight Title.
2000 – The Rock won his first Royal Rumble, eliminating the Big Show. In the undercard, Triple H defeated Cactus Jack in a Street Fight to retain the WWF World Heavyweight Title.
2001 – Steve Austin won his third Royal Rumble, last eliminating Kane. On the undercard, Kurt Angle defeated HHH to retain the WWF World Heavyweight Title, Chris Jericho defeated Chris Benoit in a Ladder Match to win the WWF Intercontinental Title and the Dudley Boyz defeated Edge and Christian to win the WWF Tag Team Titles.
2002 – In the main event, HHH won his first Royal Rumble defeating Kurt Angle; Ric Flair defeated Vince McMahon in a street fight and Chris Jericho defeated the Rock to retain the Undisputed WWF World Title.
2003 – This was the first Royal Rumble since the brand extension, thus 15 Raw superstars competed as well as 15 Smackdown superstars. Brock Lesnar won the Rumble, last eliminating the Undertaker. In the undercard, Kurt Angle defeated Chris Benoit to retain the WWE Championship.
2004 - Chris Benoit won this year’s Royal Rumble. Also, HHH and Shawn Michaels fought to a double count out in a “Last Man Standing” match and Brock Lesnar defeated Hardcore Holly to retain the WWE Championship.
2005 - In the main event; Batista won the Royal Rumble match, entering twenty-eighth, and last eliminating John Cena. John "Bradshaw" Layfield defeated The Big Show, and Kurt Angle in a Triple Threat match to retain the WWE Championship; and Triple H defeated Randy Orton to retain the World Heavyweight Championship.
2006 - The main event was for the World Heavyweight Championship between Kurt Angle and Mark Henry which Angle won. The main matches on the undercard were John Cena defeating Edge for the WWE Championship and the 2006 Royal Rumble match which Rey Mysterio won.
2007 – The Undertaker won the 2007 Royal Rumble match and won the right to challenge whichever WWE Champion he preferred. In the undercard matches, Batista defeated Mr. Kennedy to retain the World Heavyweight Championship and John Cena defeated Umaga in a “Last Man Standing” match to retain the WWE Championship.
2008 – Heavy favorites to win this year’s Royal Rumble were the Undertaker or HHH. To the surprise of everyone, John Cena came back early from a torn pectoral muscle and entered the Rumble at number 30 and won the Rumble by defeating HHH. Ric Flair won his match to keep his career alive against MVP in an undercard match. Also, Edge defeated Rey Mysterio for the World Title and Randy Orton over Jeff Hardy for the WWE Title.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s nostalgia review. As always, your comments, questions and feedback are always welcome. You can contact me at email@example.com.
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