Let the Road to WrestleMania begin, right? As many of you know, the Royal Rumble is singularly my favorite event and match of all-time. While the Internet will be flooded with reports, rumors, and preposterous predictions over what will happen at the first pay-per-view of 2011, I'd like to humbly submit my own commentary with some historical perspective.
After all, it was just under a year ago I started writing for Bleacher Report with, you guessed it, five Royal Rumble articles ranking the Top 50 moments in Rumble history. This article, however, brings in some statistical nightmares and tries to make sense of the science behind the Rumble rather than the odds of one man returning and/or winning the match.
Warning! Entertainment approaching in Rumble-esque content!
Number, in total, of eliminations made by Shawn Michaels. Currently, the Heartbreak Kid's milestone record is likely lower on the totem pole than most of what he has ever accomplished.
During the 2010 Royal Rumble, Michaels eclipsed Stone Cold Steve Austin for first place on the all-time charts (Austin previously eliminated 36 competitors). Though he came up short in his effort to win the match in Atlanta, HBK would still make his way into the main event at WrestleMania XXVI.
Among Michaels' favorite targets in the Rumble, however, is Shelton Benjamin, who HBK tossed out three consecutive years (2006-08).
While HBK's 41 overall eliminations are impressive, they are spread out across 12 years, giving him an average of 3.4 eliminations per match. That's only half the consistency of Hulk Hogan, who eliminated 27 men in four years for a stellar 6.8 average.
Hogan also managed to win a pair of Rumbles back-to-back and was in the final three in 1992. Save for the Twin Towers and Sid Justice, nobody could solve how to eliminate Hulkamania.
From an on-average standpoint, here are some other leaders who have competed in a minimum of four Rumble matches:
-Stone Cold Steve Austin: 6 eliminations per match
-Chris Benoit: 3.5 eliminations per match
-Undertaker: 3.4 eliminations per match
-Triple H: 3.2 eliminations per match
-Kane: 2.5 eliminations per match
Total number of seconds Santino Marella has competed in a Royal Rumble match for both 2008 and 2009. Though Santino was absent from the 2010 affair, his memorable and brief appearances in the other two Rumbles made him somewhat legendary for his comedic approach.
Conversely, Santino has been eliminated by both the Undertaker and Kane, one of only a small handful of superstars to share such a dubious honor. Officially, only Val Venis, Billy Gunn, Goldust, Al Snow, Scotty 2 Hotty, The Godfather, and Matt Hardy are also on that list.
More interestingly, five of these eight men are former Intercontinental Champions.
Number, minimum, of RKO's Randy Orton hit en route to winning the 2009 Royal Rumble Match. A favorite to win the match from the beginning, Orton used his Legacy allegiance and stunning finisher to outlast the competition and challenge for the WWE title at WrestleMania XXV.
After watching this video, you'd think guys would wise up and not try to spin him around rapidly.
The Royal Rumble is one of the biggest events in wrestling and tends to migrate across the country, right? Well, in principle, the answer is yes. But the Rumble has emanated from the Sunshine State four times since its inception, more than any other state in the union.
The most recent Rumble in Florida, the 2006 affair at Miami's American Airlines Arena, saw the improbable run of Rey Mysterio to the top of the wrestling world. Also, a main event featuring Mark Henry. I'd say the WWE owes Florida another Rumble, preferably one without Henry headlining. Seriously.
If the Royal Rumble is all about the "luck of the draw," then Rey Mysterio must have forgotten to pack his four-leaf clover. In four Rumble appearances, Mysterio has drawn the numbers 1, 2, 4, and 8. Think about that for a second.
Rey Mysterio, has had four attempts to draw a number that is nearly 70 percent better than any of the numbers he has drawn instead. I'm not saying that this is rigged ... but then again ...
And if the Mysterio luck was any indicator, then the Undertaker is simply too lucky to stand. Despite only winning the Rumble match once (as many times as Mysterio mind you), the Deadman has certainly had his fair share of golden opportunities.
The Undertaker entered the Rumble match dead last not once, not twice, but three times. First in 1997, then again in 2003 and finally on his victory lap in 2007. To say that he's drawn several random numbers up and down would be a modest estimate.
Though he was once number one and number eight, Taker's average draw is 18.7. Mysterio's average draw was a whopping 3.8.
Big difference, huh?
Official in-ring time for Danny Davis in the 1988 Royal Rumble match. This one may not seem significant, but hear me out. Davis was a perennial referee during the mid-80's before he aligned himself with the Hart Foundation and became an evil heel wrestler.
A wrestling referee? Not the world's greatest gimmick. Still, he logged nearly 18 minutes of action in the inaugural Rumble, good for fourth most among the competitors that year (behind only Jake the Snake Roberts and the aforementioned Hart Foundation). Since then, the following once credible stars never eclipsed such a mark in the Royal Rumble Match:
-The Ultimate Warrior (twice)
-Andre the Giant (twice)
-Vader (Three times)
-Ahmed Johnson (twice)
-Ken Shamrock (twice)
-Faarooq (many, many times, DAMN)
-Booker T (six times)
-The Great Khali (three times)
"Dangerous" Danny Davis, indeed.
Since 2008, the WWE has made it a point of announcing only a partial list of Royal Rumble entrants for the 30-superstar brawl. And since that time, we've had two surprise winners (John Cena & Edge), a couple of legends (Roddy Piper & Jimmy Snuka), a couple of comebacks (Rob Van Dam & Hacksaw Jim Duggan), and even our second Diva (Beth Phoenix).
One of the biggest reasons in the past decade that fans have tuned in to see the Rumble is also to see just who is coming through the curtain next. With rumors flying wildly that the Undertaker, Triple H, Evan Bourne, and Christian could all be surprise entrants as well as any number of other wild accusations (Kevin Nash, anyone?) flying about, it should come as no surprise that everyone wants a surprise.
As long as that surprise isn't Chavo Guerrero ridiculously competing in the contest while holding the ECW title, then I think we'll be okay.
This one is the most telling statistic. In the modern, 30-man Royal Rumble era, only one man has ever won the match drawing a number from the range of 10-20. That would be Shawn Michaels in 1996, when he drew number 18 (he would be eighteenth in 2010 as well).
Including the co-winners of 1994, the average number that a high-drawing Rumble winner has come in at is 26th. Though no winner has ever actually entered at that number, it is, of course, an average.
From the low-draws, the average entry is third. Third?!
Something about drawing those middle numbers just doesn't seem to fit or cater to the superstars who emerge victorious from the 30-man over-the-top-rope battle royal. If anything, it shows how WWE creative books and writes a Royal Rumble match for execution.
Despite what each match has to offer, few of them are really all that different from other through the years. Finding the standouts is a whole different story, and perhaps that's why the 1996 Rumble is quite memorable.
Will 2011 bring with it a different schematic altogether?