Friday, January 3, 2014

The Royal Rumble by (Entry) Numbers: 8

The best 8 ever, but also one of the best in Rumble history, overall?
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Winners: Randy Orton (2009)
Final four: Batista (3rd, 2008), Rey Mysterio (4th, 2005)
Multiple draws: None
Longest: Randy Orton (2009), 48:27.
Shortest: Bob Backlund (1994): 0:41.
Most eliminations: Six — Undertaker (2002)

Of the top ten spots, No. 8 is the last one to produce a winner. In 2009 Randy Orton, entering eighth, and Triple H, entering seventh, put a spin on the “top two guys go the distance” plot by each lasting nearly 50 minutes to be the final two in the ring — also setting up a WrestleMania main event in the process. But Orton was the winner after 48:27 and three eliminations.

The ring time was good for fifth-longest by a winner, but it’s also the longest any person has been in the ring while logging only three eliminations. Batista entered eighth in 2008, was in the ring for almost 11 minutes less and still made three eliminations and finished third. Of course the entrance interval was two minutes in 2009 for Orton and 90 seconds in 2008 for Batista, so the actual impact on the match is close to identical. Then again, Orton and Triple H were joined in the 2009 final four by the other members of Legacy — Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase Jr. Batista’s final four included Triple H, Kane and winner John Cena.

Yet don’t sleep on Orton as one of the great Rumble participants of all time. He’s one of just four men to make the final four five times (the others are Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin and Glenn “Kane” Jacobs) and was twice eliminated by the eventual winner. He’s eighth all time with a total of 2:26:53 in the ring. He’s ninth all time with 19 total eliminations. He’s averaged nearly 21 minutes per Rumble, good for 19th all-time among wrestlers who entered at least two, but third among the 23 men who have been in seven or more (and first among those who have been in only seven).

And for all those numbers, 2009 was the best of Orton’s best. He was clearly the best No. 8 of all time. It took until 1997 for the eighth entrant to log even one elimination (Davey Boy Smith dumping the Sultan). Blackjack Bradshaw was No. 8 the following year, and one of six men credited with eliminating Kurrgan. There was another dry spell until 2002, when the Undertaker plowed through six contestants in just 7:40 before Maven dumped him in one of the most telegraphed “surprising” Rumble moments in history.

In all, 17 of 26 men who entered eighth failed to log a single elimination. Only five eighth entrants managed to eliminate more than one competitor. Duration hasn’t been an issue — only six who came in eighth failed to last five minutes — but the lack of impact on the match is undeniable.

However, No. 8s have been part of great Rumble moments. In 2000, after Rikishi had made the first six eliminations — interrupted by a memorable dance spot with both members of Too Cool, whom he subsequently dumped simultaneously, to the delight of the Madison Square Garden crowd — he stood in an empty ring as the clock hit zero and Viscera’s music hit.

“This man is bigger than Rikishi,” Jim Ross proclaimed. “This is the old ‘unstoppable meats the immovable,’ ” Jerry Lawler added, proving he’ll never be Gorilla Monsoon. But 85 seconds (and three superkicks) later, Viscera was on the floor. The showdown, brief as it was, still lingers in the memory of ardent Rumble fans.

Of a more recent vintage was the 2012 Rumble. After Mick Foley entered seventh and started tossing dudes, the St. Louis crowd was in for an even bigger surprise when the buzzer went off for No. 8 and the music of the injured Alberto Del Rio, who’d won the year before, blared through the Scottrade Center. Yet instead of Del Rio’s signature luxury vehicle and a returning hero, out rolled a junky 1985 Datsun 280ZX (worth about $600 per Booker T) driven by Del Rio’s personal ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez, dressed like his employer and aping his mannerisms.

The crowd chanted his name as Rodriguez entered the ring, warmly greeted Foley and Justin Gabriel and set about whaling on Cody Rhodes. He and Foley teamed up to dump Gabriel. Yet… “Things just got even more goofy” Michael Cole proclaimed as No. 9 Santino Marella hit the ring. He had beef with Rodriguez — after finished second to Del Rio the year before — and the two did a bit of “chain wrestling” preceding a wedgie and an ouster for Rodriguez, setting the stage for a Socko-Cobra showdown.

Even more recently was 2013. Again with Cody Rhodes among the men in the ring, the crowd was stunned when the opening credits to another Shattered Dreams production aired and Goldust made a surprise appearance. He stayed nearly ten minutes, perhaps foreshadowing a full-time return later in the year — and an eventual run as tag team champions with Cody, who eliminated him from the 2013 Rumble (the same thing happened in 2009). And if the two are indeed headed for a singles showdown at WrestleMania XXX, what better time to sow the seeds of a breakup than during this year’s Rumble?

Both Rey Mysterio (2005) and Batista (2008) deserve praise for making the final four from the eighth spot, though Mysterio’s two eliminations came fairly early in the match. By contrast, Batista dumped four contestants, including the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place finishers.

Bob Backlund wears the rusty crown for worst No. 8 ever, lasting just 41 seconds in 1994. The year before he survived more than 61 minutes. The only thing keeping this from being Backlund’s worst Rumble showing is a 16-second embarrassment in 1995. So far Backlund is the only No. 8 who couldn’t last a full minute. That’s No. 8 in a nutshell: one winner, only one complete humiliation, and almost everything else entirely middling.

Year
Wrestler
Dur.
Out
El.
Elim. By
Elim. By 2
1988
Sam Houston
0:14:39
7
0
Bass

1989
Ron Bass
0:12:36
7
0
Jannetty
Michaels
1990
Bret Hart
0:16:16
9
0
Rhodes

1991
Butch
0:10:07
5
0
Undertaker

1992
Barbarian
0:12:55
11
0
Hercules

1993
Max Moon
0:01:56
3
0
Lawler

1994
Bob Backlund
0:00:41
7
0
Diesel

1995
Doink the Clown
0:04:50
7
0
Kwang

1996
Dory Funk Jr.
0:10:53
5
0
Vega

1997
Davey Boy Smith
0:08:04
8
1
O. Hart

1998
JBL (Blackjack Bradshaw)
0:35:45
15
1
Love

1999
Dan Severn
0:05:43
3
0
Mabel

2000
Nelson Frazier (Viscera)
0:01:25
7
0
Rikishi

2001
Al Snow
0:07:08
8
0
Kane

2002
Undertaker
0:07:40
10
6
Maven

2003
Tajiri
0:05:41
6
0
Jericho

2004
Scott Steiner
0:06:49
5
0
Booker

2005
Rey Mysterio
0:38:25
27
2
Edge

2006
Bobby Lashley
0:04:17
6
1
Big Show
Kane
2007
Gregory Helms
0:06:50
5
0
Booker

2008
Batista
0:37:40
28
4
Triple H

2009
Randy Orton
0:48:27
-
3
(Winner)

2010
Triple H
0:17:51
17
3
Michaels

2011
Yoshi Tatsu
0:05:35
5
0
Henry

2012
Ricardo Rodriguez
0:02:19
5
1
Marella

2013
Goldust
0:09:41
5
0
C. Rhodes