Thursday, January 21, 2016

Your Insanely Meticulous Royal Rumble Numbers Preview

It's your annual Royal Rumble stats post!
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In the ever-more-crowded field of people breaking down Royal Rumble matches by the numbers (including WWE, which can never seem to get its own facts straight), you don’t stand out by stating the obvious — Steve Austin is the only man to win three times! Roman Reigns eliminated 12 men in one night! Rey Mysterio spent the longest in the ring! — you dig deeper and find the weird stuff.

Admittedly, the minutiae presented herein might be interesting to me and me alone. But on the off chance you need a little bit more to get you excited for this Sunday’s big fight, here’s a quick look at what could happen if certain chips fall the right way.

There’s only 13 announced wrestlers so far, which is a letdown for people who like to get their data in order ahead of time. While it’s uncertain Triple H will be among them, I’ve included him here a few times just in case.

For the record, has the following men confirmed to enter:
  • Big Show
  • Braun Strowman
  • Bray Wyatt
  • Brock Lesnar
  • Chris Jericho
  • Cody Rhodes (Stardust)
  • Curtis Axel
  • Dolph Ziggler
  • Erick Rowan
  • Luke Harper
  • Roman Reigns
  • Ryback
  • Sheamus
Plenty of folks have said they will enter on camera or social media, including:
  • Alberto del Rio
  • Rusev
  • Wade Barrett
  • Kofi Kingston (now confirmed via
  • Big E Langston (now confirmed via
  • Xavier Woods (now confirmed via
  • Bo Dallas
  • Adam Rose
  • Heath Slater
  • Jimmy Uso
  • Jey Uso
We know two of the following will enter — whichever pair wins the fatal four-way preshow tag team match:
  • Darren Young/Damien Sandow
  • Konnor/Viktor
  • Bubba Ray Dudley/D-Von Dudley
  • Mark Henry/Jack Swagger
And here’s my list of unannounced potential entrants, based on who has been featured on RAW of late (and also Triple H, because it’s much more likely he’ll surprise than someone like Daniel Bryan):
  • Dean Ambrose
  • Kevin Owens
  • Neville
  • Zack Ryder
  • R-Truth
  • Kalisto
  • Titus O'Neil
  • Tyler Breeze
  • Miz
  • Triple H
It’s a near certainty that high-profiled injured stars like John Cena and Randy Orton won’t enter the match (and that guys like CM Punk won’t make a surprise return) so while their names will come up on various leaderboards, it’s safe to say they won’t be padding their own statistical resumes, at least not this year.

And a reminder cribbed from last year’s preview, Roman Reigns’ single-night record of 12 eliminations, set in 2014, will never be broken (unless he brings untold shame on the company, which is not without precedent). Why? Because it makes for a boring match. There are only 29 eliminations to be had, so giving nearly half to one guy dramatically limits the ability to use an hour of wrestling to develop the character of a majority of the entrants. It would be interesting to see one person make every elimination in a battle royal, but having that play out in the Rumble format would almost certainly poison the crowd. Of course, crowd poisoning seems to be a thing with the Rumble in recent years.

That’s enough talk about understanding how and why these matches come together. The rest of the data is presented with, as best I can, the mentality that once the bell rings, Rumble statistics are as organic as the numbers on the back of a baseball card. See end for a note about my statistical methodology.

I just mentioned Reigns’ 12 eliminations. The 2016 Rumble winner would need 11 eliminations (Steve Austin had 10 in 1997) or to last longer than 62:12 (Mysterio in 2006) to take first place in either category. On the flip side, Edge won the 2010 Rumble with just past seven minutes in the ring, the shortest stay of any winner. And while Vince McMahon infamously notched just one elimination in his tainted 1999 win, take nothing away from the barely there two-elimination efforts of winners Edge (2010), Big John Studd (1989) and Alberto del Rio (2011).

Cody Rhodes needs about seven minutes to become the fifth Royal Rumble contestant to log more than three full hours of Rumble ring time. Triple H sits atop that list, about nine minutes shy of the four-hour mark. (The others are Shawn Michaels, Rey Mysterio and Chris Jericho). Likewise, Sheamus needs less than 15 minutes to join the less-prestigious two-hour club. Dolph Ziggler needs more than 30 minutes to reach two hours, so if he picks up an early entrance spot he’s got an outside chance. Kofi Kingston also is about 30 minutes away from two hours.

Speaking of Ziggler, when Big Show dumped him from the 2015 Rumble, it was the third time for those two (it also happened in 2011 and 2012) and the fifth for any one wrestler to eliminate another in three different years. Also on the list are Triple H and Kane, a pairing unlikely to happen for a fourth time in 2016. There’s a much better chance of Stardust ousting Goldust, and that would be the third time the younger Rhodes boy ousted the older (2009, 2013). Other pairings that have happened twice and could recur in 2016: Triple H tossing Cody Rhodes (2008, 2009), Big Show dumping R-Truth (2001, 2009) and Roman Reigns tossing Goldust (2014 and 2015).

Only seven times have tag team partners entered sequentially — three times in 1989 alone, which famous started with both members of Demolition. The only other time tag team partners started the match is Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie in 1998. I was really pulling for Big E, Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston to draw the first three slots consecutively and simply hold court until number four arrives, but it’s pretty clear I’ll have to wait until 2017 for that magic.

On the flipside, there have been 12 times when both halves of a tag team were eliminated by the same hand, the two most recent taking place last year when Rusev dumped Kofi Kingston and Big E, while Reigns eliminated both Goldust and Stardust. But for its total lack of precedent, one wrestler removing all three New Day members from the Rumble would be spectacular.

There has never been a Rumble with five previous winners. So far there are three previous winners as confirmed entrants (Roman Reigns, Sheamus and Brock Lesnar) with 17 spots left. On Monday’s RAW it sure seemed Alberto del Rio will be in the match, and the “By The Numbers” commercial hinted at a total of six prior winners.

There were only three Royal Rumble rookies in 2015 — cutting by half the previous record low of six, set in 1990, 2008 and 2010. So far, Strowman is the only confirmed rookie entrant, though there are three Rumble rookies in the preshow qualifier (D-Von Dudley and The Ascension). Also in 2015 there were no present or future WWE Hall of Fame members in the match, matching 2013 as the only two (so far) with zero.

In 2015, Jack Swagger took sole possession of second place for most Rumbles with no eliminations. If he repeats the feat in 2016, he’ll move into a tie with first-place Matt Bloom (Albert, Tensai). Of the ten guys who have been in three Rumbles with no eliminations, Zack Ryder is by far the most likely to enter in 2016.

Also in 2015, Goldust entered and missed the final four, moving him to first place with 10. The late Nelson “Mabel” Frazier stands alone in second place with nine, a mark The Miz could easily tie in 2016. Of those who have been in seven Rumbles and failed to make the final four, Mark Henry, Kofi Kingston and Ron Killings have a shot at joining the three men who have gone zero for eight: Booker T, Great Khali and Shelton Benjamin.

On the positive side, only one man has made the final four six times — Kane (including his 1997 appearance as fake Diesel). The only four who have done it just five times are Randy Orton, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin and Batista, which makes it highly unlikely Kane will have company after Sunday. But with Triple H and Big Show at four final fours (along with John Cena), there is a chance for some motion on the list. It also would be unsurprising for Sheamus to make his fourth final four and Reigns to reach his third straight.

In the “thanks for showing up” category, Ziggler and Kingston have been in seven straight Rumbles. After Sunday, both should join Benjamin and Khali on the list of eight straight. No one else has an active streak of more than four. Big Show will enter his 11th Rumble, and unless Goldust joins as well, Show will be alone in third place behind Kane (18) and Michaels (12). Jericho will join Nelson Frazier in fourth place at nine, and it’s possible Miz and Triple H do the same.

In winning the 2015 Rumble, Reigns eliminated Big Show and Kane — both now are the only men to have been eliminated four times by the eventual winner. Jericho could easily join that club in 2016 — and unless the Social Outcasts get to him first, Big Show is a decent bet to take sole possession of the top spot.

Four men have twice finished second: guaranteed entrant Big Show, rumored entrant Triple H, the injured John Cena, and the sought after Shawn Michaels. I don’t set odds, but a prop bet on any of those four becoming the first three-time runner-up might draw some action.

On Sunday, Ric Flair will be 66 years, 10 months and 30 days old. Should he enter the Rumble in hopes of reliving his 1992 glory, he’d be the oldest ever Rumble entrant. Currently it’s Jimmy Snuka, who was 64 years, eight months and nine days in 2008 — meaning an entry from Jerry Lawler or Vince McMahon also would set a new mark. If he does enter, Flair also would tie Jim Duggan by entering Rumbles 24 years apart from one another (Duggan won the inaugural Rumble in 1988 and entered most recently in 2012).

Looking at the Rumble by entry spot, as I did leading into the 2014 match, we have a tantalizing yet nearly impossible scenario. The number one spot leads in total overall eliminations with 64. At second place is number 30 with 54. It would be possible for the final entrant to eliminate ten men on his own and tie the mark for number one, but highly improbable. For starters, the first entrant has made at least one elimination in all but eight Rumbles. Entrant 30 has never eliminated more than six in one match — although there have been occasions where 30 hits the ring with double-digit opponents remaining.

Much more likely is for number 19, with 42 all-time eliminations, to eclipse number 15, with 43 cumulative. Also lurking are two at 40, 18 at 38 and 22 and 28, each with 37.

Among the least likely to log an elimination are the 16th and 20th entrants, each of those spots recording just 15 eliminations total over the previous 28 Rumbles. For both spots, 19 different Rumbles yielded a goose egg. Number three holds the record, however, with 21 times an entrant hasn’t made a single elimination.

Big Show has 30 career Rumble eliminations, good for fifth all time (the Undertaker is fourth with 32). Chasing both is Triple H at 27. Tenth place all time is a tie at 18 between Roman Reigns and CM Punk. It’s a virtual lock Reigns will break that tie, and possible he moves all the way up to tie or pass seventh-place Hulk Hogan’s 24 career eliminations. (Eighth place is Cena, 22; ninth is Orton, 19).

Pay attention to who comes out at numbers nine and 12— if they make the final four, it will be the first ever from either spot. (The most likely final four spots are number 30 with 14, number 28 with 11, number 29 with nine and number 19 with seven). The most common final four outcome is the number 28 entrant finishing fourth, which has happened seven times — once more than the six times number 30 has been the runner up.

Odds are the third entrant will be the first eliminated — that’s happened 13 times. No one who entered fourth has been first out, but four times the fifth man in is first out.

If the 24th entrant wins, it would be the fourth time ever from that spot; currently only the 27th entry spot has produced four winners.

And there are 14 entry spots to never produce a winner, so there’s a good potential for some first-time magic. (For the record, it’s entry positions four, six, seven, nine-12, 14-17, 20-21 and 26). The ninth spot is perhaps the worst overall, with the best number nine ever being Big Boss Man in 2000, lasting 22:47, eliminating three opponents and being the 15th man eliminated, a long way from glory.

If Stardust enters at number 13, it would be his fourth time in eight Rumbles. There are no other repeats among number 13 entrants. If the Miz or Goldust are entrants, look for them at number 16 — both men have twice entered from that spot.

Have I missed any of your favorite obscure facts? What are you looking for in the 2016 Royal Rumble? Hit me up in the comments and let’s get weird together.


NOTE: When beginning any discussion about the Royal Rumble, it is important to establish the ground rules — and to be immediately aware they sometimes conflict.

My preference is to look at each match and career in story terms as much as possible — to give credit to Rey Mysterio for his incredible bell-to-bell run in 2006 on face value, and not in acknowledgement of the backstage influence — yet some statistical compiling must take into account real-life factors such as Mick Foley entering the 1998 Rumble as three distinct characters, or the fact 28 wrestlers have been in Rumbles as multiple personas (Charles Wright racked up five), and at least two characters (Diesel and Sin Cara) have been portrayed in Rumbles by multiple wrestlers.

Also, the only plausible way to tabulate eliminations is to give each wrestler who took part in an elimination full credit for that feat. So when Mil Mascaras and Pierroth dumped Cibernetico in 1997, each is attributed one elimination. And yet, there were only 27 total elimination credits in 1997, because three people eliminated themselves, and that shouldn’t count. Neither do no-shows, or failure to make it to the ring (see Axel, Curtis, 2015). Neither does an illegal elimination, such as Kane returning to toss CM Punk in 2014 or Giant Gonzalez appearing from nowhere to oust Undertaker in 1993.

(The oddest oddity remains Bret Hart and Lex Luger eliminating each other in 1994, but being named co-winners. This is the kind of thing that drives Rumblemetricians mad.)

Other ground rules: Your time in the match begins when the buzzer hits zero, not when you hit the ring. Your time in the match ends when your body hits the floor. Wikipedia doesn’t count things this way, but I found I had to in order to preserve sanity. And if you no show (like Randy Savage in 1991 or Bastion Booger in 1994), you just get zeroes. No one is credited with eliminating you, you are not counted in the order of elimination, although clearly it does change the number of remaining opponents.