WWE – The True Story Of The Royal Rumble (Cert 15)
3 Discs DVD / 2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 65 minutes approx.
The last of the “Big Four” WWE PPV’s and one of the most popular events on the calendar, the Royal Rumble, is nearing its thirtieth anniversary, so what better way to celebrate than to look back at the history of the “craziest 60 minutes on TV”!
WWE wrestlers and personalities past and present discuss the annual 30 man Battle Royale with affection and enthusiasm, a concurrent countdown narrative on the day of this year’s event. We are privy to a behind the scenes look at the arena being set up as well exclusive footage of the wrestlers backstage, including “surprise” appearances.
Quite rightly it is acknowledged upfront that Pat Patterson was the mastermind behind the Rumble when looking for a way to enhance the Battle Royale format. Interestingly, instead of exploring the history of the Battle Royale, Patterson simply proffers “Someone invented it”.
In fact the origin of the Battle Royale is found in 18th century British boxing, when it also employed grappling techniques. A multi man free-for-all match was created as a card filing spectacle that became a big drawing event, but when grappling was removed from boxing in 1743 these bouts were soon deemed barbaric and public interest waned.
Boxing in America picked up the mantle in the 19th century after black slaves in Southern US states would engage in free-for-all bouts as entertainment, using bags stuffed with cotton and rags as weapons to knock opponents out of a circle, the last two donning the gloves to decide the winner. Eventually banned in 1911 it wasn’t until the 1930’s when wrestling promoters adopted the concept for their shows.
One promoter who drew well with this match was Roy Shire in San Francisco, whose Cow Palace Battle Royale’s in the 1960’s-70’s were huge events, two of them won by none other than Pat Patterson! Back to the main story and Patterson explains how he pitched his ideas to Vince McMahon about having a Battle Royale but with the wrestlers entering at intervals instead of them all starting together, which Vince thought was stupid.
NBC president Dick Ebersol approached WWF with the idea of a prime time TV special and Vince asked Patterson to pitch his “stupid idea”. Patterson did and Ebersol loved it. So, trial runs were held at house shows in late 1987 (the first won by the One Man Gang I believe) and on January 24th 1988, deliberately put up against the NWA Bunkhouse Stampede PPV, the Royal Rumble debuted.
Won by hacksaw Jim Duggan the first Rumble match was a 20-man affair and stuck in the middle of the card but the show did huge ratings and the idea was then transferred to a PPV event in its own right. Starting in 1989 the entrant count would increase to 30 men, with the exception of 2011 when they tried a 40 man match – won by Alberto Del Rio – which has since never been repeated nor is even mentioned here.
Aside from the famous Warrior vs. Hogan face off in the 1990 Rumble, the next major milestone covered is the 1992 match in which the vacated WWF Title was up for grabs, eventually won by Ric Flair. And then from 1993 onwards the stipulation was added that the Rumble winner would earn a World title shot at Wrestlemania. Many wrestlers talked about how this made the match more important, which it did, but for fans the downside would be that the winner is often predictable for this very reason.
2005’s Cena vs Batista botch is discussed, with Vince reminding us he tore both quads getting into the ring to sort out the finish as he wasn’t going to allow a draw finish, which then took us back to the planned draw finish of the 1994 Rumble, which Dean Ambrose dismissed as “crap” and quite correctly asks why they didn’t just restart the match.
The focus then shifts to the importance of the undercard matches which again weren’t high stake matches until the Warrior defended the WWF title at the 1991 event. The late, great Rowdy Roddy Piper – openly admitting he refused to lay down for anyone – claims he only won the IC Title at the 1992 show so he could drop it to Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 8 and give Bret the rub.
Elsewhere Razor Ramon expresses his discomfort with the Goldust character at the time, telling Vince he didn’t get it and felt it was sending wrong messages about gay people. Shawn Michaels boasts about his name being responsible for selling out the Alamodome in 1997 (it didn’t) while Michael Hayes tries to convince us that Austin’s elimination from the Rumble match on that same show was a shoot (it wasn’t).
Speaking of Hayes, he wins the Unintentional Comedy Award for this release for comforting of Roman Reigns backstage after being booed by the Philly fans for winning the 2015 Rumble, saying “It’s one city. It’s not the world”. A close second is Kevin Nash’s declared refusal to eliminate Dolph Ziggler from the 2011 Rumble on the grounds it would bury the guy who “made himself” in a title match against Edge earlier in the show!
While the footage covers the 2016 Rumble event, some of the interviews are culled from older sessions, evident by Roddy Piper’s presence without a disclaimer, Daniel Bryan still in full long hair and shaggy beard phase and Renee Young also sporting long hair. Meanwhile recent roster additions like AJ Styles, Luke Gallows, Apollo Crews and The Vaudevillains also offer contributions.
There is no complaint of this event getting the retrospective treatment at all and as ever the presentation and production values are top notch, but there is a pervasive feeling that it didn’t go as deep into its subject as it could have. That said we get plenty of candour in the main documentary and some great memories in the supplementary match listing.
So, “Let’s get ready to rumblllllllllllllllllle!”
English HOH Subtitles
Ric Flair’s Return
Women In The Rumble
WWF Royal Rumble 1996 Free For All Match – Winner Gets #30; Loser Gets #1 – Duke “The Dumpster” Droese vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley
WWE Smackdown – January 24th 2004 – #1 Contender 15 Man Royal Rumble Match
WWE Monday Night RAW – January 31st 2011 – #1 Contender RAW Royal Rumble Match
WWE Monday Night RAW – January 2015 – Booker T interviews Shawn Michaels
Rating – ****
Man In Black