Royal Rumble: Thrills, Spills and Over the Rope: History and Preview

James MortimerAnalyst IJanuary 19, 2009

The countdown continues to the event that many believe is second only to Wrestlemania as the premiere wrestling event on the planet.

Indeed, such has been the evolution of this grand event that the winner receives the ultimate prize, a world title shot of their choosing at the grandest stage of all—Wrestlemania 25.

At the Joe Louis Arena, in Detroit, we will again watch 30 of the elite gladiators of the great sport march down the aisle. Every 90 seconds, we shall see one of our favourite behemoths enter the fray. 

Of course, we remember the first Rumble in 1988, when Tito Santana and Bret “The Hitman” Hart entered the ring as the first-ever participants.

The first Rumble included a memorable ending, when it appeared Dino Bravo (who set the unofficial bench press record of 700+ pounds) and the One Man Gang would overpower “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan—but the all-American conquered the odds to become the inaugural winner.

Afterward, Jesse Ventura claimed that Hacksaw pulled the rope down to eliminate Gang. But he also downplayed Hacksaw's strategy by saying Gang was eliminated "because he was stupid and tripped."

In 1990 and 1991, Hulk Hogan won consecutive Rumbles—and also in the latter year, we bore witness to one of the great wrestlers of all time, The Undertaker, making his debut in the event.

The following year, in 1992, the immortal Ric Flair made history by coming into the event having drawn position No. 3.

He would survive the entire match, finally eliminating Sid Justice. This year was also significant because the winner was awarded the WWE championship.

In 1995, Shawn Michaels survived coming into the Rumble despite being a huge underdog. Of further note was that he eliminated the British Bulldog to win, who himself had entered under the nickname the “Showstopper," a label that Michaels still uses today.

In 1997 and 1998, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin won back-to-back titles—becoming the third wrestler to achieve multiple wins at the event. 

He recorded his third win in 2001 to set a new record; this year was significant because Drew Carey became the first celebrity entrant and because Kane eliminated 10 superstars, which is a record that still stands today.

2004 was significant as Chris Benoit won the Rumble, becoming only the second man to win the event in the No. 1 position. He used the victory to challenge Triple H at Wrestlemania XX for the WWE championship—whom he beat to become World Champion.

Ideally, in this unique Battle Royale situation, superstars wish to enter the ring as late as possible, which naturally keeps them fresh and able to put themselves in the best position to win the event.

The benefits of the final position were evident in 2007 and 2008, when the Undertaker and John Cena, respectively, won the Rumble coming in at number 30.

Already we have seen an impressive cadre of superstars confirmed for the glamour event this year—which, if continued, could see us bear witness to one of the great Royal Rumbles.

Twelve-time World Champion Triple H has been confirmed and will enter the championship as one of the favourites—with the King of Kings still aware of the manner in which he lost the WWE championship. The 2002 winner will look to again reclaim his throne as wrestling’s preeminent superstar.

The Dead Man has been confirmed, and the nine-time Rumble competitor will have a special goal to win the Rumble, knowing that victory will not only allow him a title opportunity, but also the chance to improve on his 16-0 record at Wrestlemania—arguably pro wrestling’s most impressive record.

The world’s largest athlete, The Big Show, who has benefited recently with his professional relationship with Vickie Guerrero, will contest another Rumble in his ninth year in WWE. Not having won championship gold since being ECW champion, he knows his immense size will be a considerable advantage in the Rumble.

While there will be other wrestlers with considerable presence, both generally and when it comes to Rumbles, such as Kane, this year’s 30-man field will no doubt go down as one of the greatest Rumble events ever, especially with so many quality title matches on the card.

Let us just hope that the WWE dispenses the high drama that has been missing in recent months.

So begins the road to Houston and the famed Wrestlemania...