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The Royal Rumble is a professional wrestling pay-per-view event, produced every January by WWE, a professional wrestling promotion based in Connecticut. The event's main feature is a Battle Royal-type match named the Royal Rumble, with other matches scheduled on the undercard.The inaugural Royal Rumble took place on January 24, 1988 at the Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario. The event however was not a pay-per-view but was originally shown as a television special on USA Network. The first Royal Rumble match was won by Jim Duggan. The following year's event was the first Royal Rumble pay-per-view event. The annual pay-per-view is one of WWE's "Big Four" events, along with WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and Survivor Series.
The match is based on the traditional battle royal match, in which a set number of participants aim at eliminating their competitors by tossing them over the top rope, with both feet touching the floor. The winner of the event is the last participant remaining after all others have been eliminated. A Royal Rumble match normally consists of 30 entrants. However, the inaugural match in 1988 featured 20 entrants, while the 2011 Royal Rumble featured 40 entrants, the most in the history of the event. The Royal Rumble differs from a battle royal as the contestants do not enter the ring at the same time but instead are assigned entry numbers, usually via lottery, although they can win guaranteed desirable spots via a number of other means, the most common being winning a match. This usually takes place before the Rumble begins.The match begins with the two participants who have drawn entry numbers one and two, with the remaining competitors entering the ring at regular timed intervals, either ninety seconds or two minutes, according to their entry number.These peculiarities are credited to Pat Patterson. In Royal Rumble 1995 participants would enter every sixty seconds. The match has no stipulations or rules other than that elimination must occur by a participant being placed over the top rope and both feet touching the floor. If they have any other part of the body touching they are also eliminated from the match. A wrestler who exits the ring without going over the top rope is not eliminated from the contest. A prime example is from the 1999 Rumble match, which saw both Vince McMahon and Steve Austin leaving the ring, only to return later in the match. Elimination is also valid if brought about by an external force (such as a non-participant or a previously eliminated participant). For instance, in 2005 and 2006, Shawn Michaels was eliminated from the match by Kurt Angle (who had previously been eliminated by Michaels) and Shane McMahon (who was never admitted in the match and simply was interfering) respectively. This also happened in the 1998 match when Triple H and Chyna worked together to eliminate Owen Hart. In the 1994 match, the last two participants Bret Hart and Lex Luger were declared co-winners when it was decided that both of their feet touched the floor at exactly the same time. A similar situation occurred in the 2005 match, however the match was restarted after Batista and John Cena eliminated each other at the same time. Batista eliminated Cena afterwards to win the match. Though various referees are charged with observing the match, some eliminations have remained unnoticed with the eliminated participant sneaking back into the ring to continue. For example, Stone Cold Steve Austin was eliminated this way during the 1997 event but re-entered and eventually won the match.
The reward for the 1992 Royal Rumble was the WWF Championship. The tradition of granting a WWE Championship match at WrestleMania started in 1993. Despite being introduced in late 2002, it was not until 2004 that a winner had the option to choose a match for the World Heavyweight Championship instead of the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. With the revival of the ECW World Championship in mid-2006, winners of the match were given a third option; this option was valid from 2007 until 2010. From 2001 to 2007, the Royal Rumble match winner had gone on to win a World Championship title at WrestleMania. After winning the 2008 match, John Cena became the first winner to use his championship opportunity at an event (No Way Out 2008) other than WrestleMania. He also became the first man since 2000 to win the Royal Rumble match but fail to win the title in his championship opportunity as a result. The Royal Rumble winner may also put his championship opportunity on the line in a match, if he chooses. This was first done in 1996, when Owen Hart challenged Shawn Michaels for his number one contender spot at In Your House 6, after Hart had taken credit for potentially ending Michaels' career with a devastating enzuigiri on a November 1995 episode of Monday Night RAW. Ultimately, Michaels prevailed and went on to challenge Bret Hart at WrestleMania XII. The second time this occurred was in 1999, when Stone Cold Steve Austin offered to forfeit his title opportunity to the Big Boss Man, who won third place in the Royal Rumble (Austin was actually the runner-up, but the winner, Vince McMahon, had voluntarily given up his title opportunity) if Vince McMahon could beat him in a cage match at St. Valentine's Day Massacre: In Your House, which Austin would go on to win. On another occasion, in 2006, Randy Orton goaded Rey Mysterio into putting his main event spot at WrestleMania 22 on the line at No Way Out, which Orton would go on to win. Mysterio was eventually reinserted into the main event at WrestleMania 22 and won the title.
30-Man Royal Rumble Match