Thursday, January 26, 2017

2017 Royal Rumble Numbers Preview

It's Rumble time again, so the time has come for Rumble stats!
Photo Credit:
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.

When you’re talking Royal Rumble, 30 is the magic number, and this year is the 30th Rumble. To say I’m excited is an understatement. 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 are 22 announced entrants thus far, a marked improvement compared to 2016 when only 13 names were known in advance. Some might say the more surprises the better, but there rarely are more than two major names involved in a match who weren’t touted in advance, or at least heavily rumored offscreen or, as in the case of Triple H last year, alluded to in on-screen narrative during the pre-show build.

In other words, when the preannounced field is light on starpower, that means the Rumble itself is likely to disappoint. WWE is generally going to heavily market its biggest stars to draw the most buzz, which is why there’s no doubt we’ll see former winners Brock Lesnar and Undertaker on Sunday, as well as Goldberg.

Sheamus and Randy Orton also are on the docket, bringing the number of former Rumble winners to four, one shy of last year’s record (and more than the average over the first 29 years, which is 1.97).

For the record, has the following veterans confirmed to enter:
  • The Undertaker
  • Goldberg
  • Brock Lesnar
  • Big Show
  • Dean Ambrose
  • The Miz
  • Sami Zayn
  • Dolph Ziggler
  • Big E
  • Kofi Kingston
  • Bray Wyatt
  • Randy Orton
  • Luke Harper
  • Braun Strowman
  • Chris Jericho
  • Cesaro
  • Sheamus
  • Rusev
And here are the four confirmed rookie entrants:
  • Baron Corbin
  • Big Cass
  • Xavier Woods
  • Mojo Rawley
Other potential entrants, based on who has been on either RAW and Smackdown of late, and who isn’t already involved elsewhere on the card, include Aiden English, Apollo Crews, Chad Gable, Curt Hawkins, James Ellsworth, Jason Jordan, Kalisto, Konnor, Simon Gotch, Viktor, Bo Dallas, Brian Kendrick, Epico, Jimmy Uso, Primo, Rhyno, Tyler Breeze, Fandango, Health Slater, Jey Uso, Jinder Mahal, Jorge “Sin Cara” Arias, Curtis Axel, Titus O'Neil, Jack Swagger, Mark Henry, R-Truth, Goldust and Kane.

Enzo Amore seems too hurt to go, and it remains unclear if either Finn Bálor or Erick Rowan are ready to return (a Rumble appearance would be ahead of schedule for both).

We know Seth Rollins lost his Rumble spot to Zayn Monday night, but I’d be shocked if there aren’t machinations to restore him to the match. It does seem unlikely Triple H would enter this year, but him appearing to eliminate Rollins and continue their road to WrestleMania seems almost inevitable.

Then of course there’s the NXT roster. With Saturday’s Takeover special, the entire crew is already in town, not to mention Orlando is a home game regardless. Samoa Joe couldn’t be a more obvious choice to promote in this fashion, so much so I almost wish they’d have just worked it into a storyline.

Long story short, there’s eight spots to fill and more than enough talent with which to do so, and the announced entrants list is already stacked with believable winners, so we should be in for a great match from a storyline standpoint. But how about statistics?

We start with a reminder cribbed from the 2015 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 2017 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 7:39 in the match, 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).

One virtual certainty is Chris Jericho joining the four-hour club, currently populated by only Triple H. Y2J needs only 110 seconds to hit four hours even in what will be his tenth Rumble. Given that he’s averaged 26:28 over the first nine, file this feat under “lock it down.” If he can last 6:56, he takes over first place.

Sitting at tenth place on the career match time list is Orton, at 2:28:17, less than a minute ahead of the Undertaker, 2:27:40. Both have a good chance to pass two WWE unmentionables, Chris Benoit (2:37:57) and CM Punk (2:49:05). Sheamus needs just 4:31 to reach two hours total, while Dolph Ziggler (1:36:21), Kofi Kingston (1:35:41) and the Miz (1:31:27) all have outside chances if they far outshine their career averages.

A total of 27 wrestlers have logged at least 10 career eliminations, and five are already announced entrants. Leading those names is the Undertaker, with 32 career (legal) eliminations, good for fourth place all time. One behind him is Big Show. That puts both in striking distance of third-place Steve Austin, who has 36. To do so, both men would have to exceed their career average, Undertaker sits at 3.2 eliminations per Rumble, Big Show has 2.82.

Orton has 19 career eliminations and seems certain to move into the 20s. He’s currently in tenth place all time and if he can toss six men from the ring he’d move into seventh place, passing the likes of John Cena (22), Roman Reigns (23) and Hulk Hogan (24). Jericho needs four eliminations to reach 20. Sheamus stands at 11 for his five-Rumble career.

Undertaker and Big Show have each logged an elimination in 10 different Rumbles (as has Shawn Michaels). Jacobs leads with 16, but odds are good one or both move into second place. Orton and Jericho have at least one elimination in seven different Rumbles, tying them for third with Punk, Triple H and Davey Boy Smith.

Miz has already been in nine Rumbles and has never reached the final four. That ties him with Nelson “Mabel” Frazier, two behind Goldust, who is 0-for-11. Kingston sits at eight Rumbles with no final four. Odds are this trend will continue. CM Punk reached his first final four in his sixth Rumble; 18 wrestlers have been in six or more Rumbles without a final four. Ziggler and Billy Gunn each made their first final four in their fifth try.

Kofi and Miz also are third and fourth on the list of most career match time without reaching the final four. Heading that list is Bob Holly (1:54:18 in seven Rumbles) and John Morrison (1:47:00 in six).

Conversely, Randy Orton has already been to the final four five times and this year could join Glenn Jacobs, who has done it six times. Sheamus might reach his fifth (joining the ranks of Michaels, Austin, Batista and Triple H).

If the winner dumps Big Show from the ring, that would be the fifth time in his Rumble career, which would be unprecedented. It’s also happened four times to Jacobs, and three to Jericho. One thing that’s never happened is the winner tossing the number eight entrant, so keep your eye on that one.

No one has ever entered four times from the same spot. Of the announced entrants, the only chance to make it four is the Undertaker, who was the 30th entrant in 1997, 2003 and 2007.

Four times in Rumble history one wrestler eliminated the same opponent in three different years. We’re not counting Big Show and Dolph Ziggler, show dumped Ziggler legally in 2011 and 2012, but was already out of the match when ousting Ziggler in 2015. So 2017 affords Show a chance to join the club legally.

One thing Sheamus will do for certain is become the only wrestler to enter a Rumble one day removed from his birthday for a third time. Bob Holly did so in 2005 and 2007, Sheamus already did in 2012 and 2013. This doesn’t actually mean anything, of course, but it’s something I started tracking in service of ranking winners and entrants from oldest to youngest.

Also under certainties are Big Show joining Michaels with 12 Rumbles entered (Jacobs leads with 19); Undertaker moving to 11 and Miz and Jericho each in their tenth. Ziggler and Kingston will have nine straight, second behind Jacobs (who has 13) and breaking a tie they have with Shelton Benjamin (2003-2010) and Great Khali (2007-2014).

The Undertaker first entered a Rumble in 1991. Being in one 26 years later improves on the record span of 24 years, an honor going to inaugural winner “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, who also entered in 2012. Having not entered since 2009, Taker’s span currently sits at 18 years, along with fellow dead men Roddy Piper and Jimmy Snuka. (Also Mark Henry, whose first was in 1998 and last was 2016).

Only eight times have tag team partners entered sequentially — three times in 1989 alone, which famously started with both members of Demolition. The only other time tag team partners started the match is Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie in 1998. Here’s hoping Big E, Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston draw numbers one, two, and three, and simply hold court until number four arrives.

On the flipside, there have been 14 times when both halves of a tag team were eliminated by the same hand, the two most recent taking place in 2015 when Rusev dumped Kofi Kingston and Big E, while Reigns eliminated both Goldust and Stardust. Three times it’s happened to reigning Tag Champs: Michaels eliminated both Randy Orton and Edge in 2007, Triple H tossed Miz and Morrison in 2009 and Mick Foley ousted Primo and Epico in 2012. If Sheamus and Cesaro retain the straps earlier in the night, we could see this number increase. And while I’d personally be upset, for its total lack of precedent, one wrestler removing all three New Day members from the Rumble would be spectacular.

There are only four rookies currently slated to enter. While that would be one more than the record low of three in 2015, it’s also well below the 29-year average of 10.52. There has not been a present or future member of the WWE Hall of Fame in a Rumble since 2014.

If Jerry Lawler’s recent King’s Court angle with Dolph Ziggler somehow leads to him entering the Rumble, he’d move from second-oldest Rumble entrant (he was 62 in 2012) to first, passing 64-year-old Jimmy Snuka’s 2008 entry.

Looking at the Rumble by entry spot, as I did leading into the 2014 match, there’s not much of major significance. I’d bet the house (well, yours, at least) on the number one entrant making at least one elimination, which would give that spot 70 altogether. If the number 30 entrants makes two eliminations (the average is 2.6) that pushes the spot to 60 all time.

I have a few reminders if you’re entering some sort of pool. number 16 has had the least amount of eliminations in history, accounting for just 15. It’s one of three spots (along with numbers three and five) to have 20 entrants fail to record a single elimination. 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.

And while number 27 is still tops with four winners, it still only produced five final four entries altogether. Number 30 (not surprisingly) leads with 14, and number 28 has been good for 11. Two spots have still failed to land one wrestler in the final four, numbers nine and 12.

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.

Have I missed any of your favorite obscure facts? What are you looking for in the 2017 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, though we do count those eliminations when compiling the order of finish). 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. Why? You can always count the clock, but you can’t always see when a wrestler enters the ring. Also, WWE has, over time, been staggeringly inconsistent in the way it enforces rules about what it means to legally “enter” the match. And if you no show (like Randy Savage in 1991 or Bastion Booger in 1994), you just get zeroes.