Wednesday, February 1, 2017

2017 Royal Rumble: By The Numbers

Don't be fooled by him getting the business end of William the Umbrella; this Rumble was all about Jericho
Photo Credit:
In the modern WWE, there’s not a Royal Rumble without a prominent Roman Reigns narrative. He’s been in four of them, in which time he has finished first, second (twice) and third, set a single-night eliminations record and moved into seventh place on the career eliminations list and 15th place on the all-time minutes list. Only by virtue of entering at No. 30 in 2017 did he tank his career minutes per Rumble average, which tumbled from first place 40:20 to 31:28 — which still is good enough for second on the list, but still.

Fortunately, the 2017 Rumble was not all about Roman Reigns. And what’s better, there were a few actual unprecedented happenings that don’t require too much weird data crunching.

When Baron Corbin eliminated Braun Strowman 22:32 into the match, it was the ninth elimination of the night. We’d then wait a record 17:23 before another entrant’s feet touched the floor. That’s the biggest gap between eliminations since a 13:38 span between the 20th and 21st eliminations in 1997. There also was a 14:48 gap between the opening bell and the first elimination in 1996 — and last night’s Rumble gave us our second longest wait for the first ouster, 8:26 until Jack Gallagher hit the floor. (Gallagher also comes in second place on the list of two all-time Rumble entrants born after the first Rumble in 1988 — Bo Dallas is more than four months younger.)

Back to the unprecedented, that tenth elimination was Kofi Kingston, and he was dumped at the same time as his New Day teammates Big E and Xavier Woods. That was the 15th time tag team partners were eliminated by the same opponent(s) at any point in a match, but the first time it’s happened to a three-man team (Rusev dumped both Big E and Kingston in 2015, but Woods was not in that Rumble).

It’s a little sour, but Sami Zayn set a record in 2017 — at 47:14, he shot past Bob Holly (39:42 in 1996) for the most time in a single Rumble without an elimination. But if you zoom out to the top 30, there are four other 2017 entries on this list of futility: Miz (fourth, 33:16); Dean Ambrose (11th, 28:05); Bray Wyatt (15th, 25:10) and Rusev (18th, 23:09).

Speaking of Wyatt, he becomes the first person to make a final four without an elimination since Santino Marella finished second in 2011. Speaking of the final four, Randy Orton made his sixth, tying him for first all time with Glenn Jacobs, who made the 1997 final four as Diesel and then did it five times as Kane.

Undertaker was the 16th oldest entrant in Rumble history (Goldberg was the 23rd), but he set a record by entering Rumble 26 years after his first in 1991. That surpasses Jim Duggan’s gap of 24 years between 1988 and 2012. Undertaker also moved into sole possession of second place on the list of most Rumbles with at least one elimination. He’s been in 11 Rumbles and made at least one elimination in each. Randy Orton and Chris Jericho each have eight.

Speaking of Jericho, that brings up the last “first” of 2017. Jericho’s 1:00:13 is the longest by a nonwinner, and it also is 96.94 percent of the overall match time. Aside from Austin and Davey Boy Smith, who went wire-to-wire without winning, it’s the largest share of ring time without winning — barely eclipsing Roman Reigns in 2016, who had 96.92 percent. More importantly, it rockets Jericho past Triple H as number one on the list of time spent active in a Rumble. He’s now at 4:58:23, 53:18 ahead of second place.

Putting that in context if you watched every second of Jericho in a Rumble, it would take longer than if you did the same for the following entry positions (from most to least): 14, 21, 3, 16, 25, 20, 24, 26, 28, 30, 29, 27.

Orton now has 2:49:39 for his career, good for eighth place. That said, his winning turn didn’t make many waves. His 21:22 was the 14th longest by a winner, the 24th oldest winner and he had the fewest eliminations by a winner (one) since McMahon in 1999.

In other career milestones, Miz and Sheamus each cleared the two-hour mark; Mark Henry and Rusev each passed an hour. Miz is now first all time for most time in a Rumble with no final fours, passing Bob Holly by 10:25. Kofi Kingston is third just 2:05 behind Holly. Oh, and the Undertaker tied Steve Austin for third place with 36 career eliminations.

Looking at some big picture thoughts on the match itself, the official time between bells was 1:02:07. The average gap between entrances (the counter hitting double zeroes) was 2:00 even — the largest since 2002’s average of 2:11. And while I was all set to get worked up about the three minutes even between the entrance of number 28 Goldberg and number29 Undertaker (or even the 2:58 between No. 9 Big Show and No. 10 Tye Dillinger, I was quickly reminded of the 3:01 in 2016 between no. 27 Bray Wyatt and No. 28 Dolph Ziggler.

A total of 18 entrants had zero eliminations, bringing the average up to 16.57 per year. While it wasn’t unprecedented, the 2017 Rumble did tie the record for most previous winners. As in 2016, the 30th entrant was the fifth former winner. It was the 17th Rumble where there was never only one wrestler active and the first such match since 2014.

There were six men in the match when final buzzer sounded, the same as 2016. The average is 7.8 (the average number of opponents remaining is 8.3; the figures are skewed by the 40-man Rumble in 2011). There was only 6:12 between No. 30 and the final elimination, which is 24th all time, but the 19 seconds between the final two eliminations trails only 2009 (three seconds) and 1996 and 1997 (four seconds) for shortest.

And now, in order, something about each of the 30 entrants:
  1. Big Cass was the first rookie to draw number one since 2004.
  2. Chris Jericho, entering second for the third time, posted the best number two finish since Mysterio won in 2006.
  3. Kalisto was the third straight unannounced Rumble rookie to enter at number three, and the first of those three to fail to make an elimination.
  4. Number four was a professional wrestler named Mojo Rawley.
  5. Jack Gallagher was the first rookie to enter fifth since Lance Storm in 2002, and the first fifth entrant to be the first person eliminated since Santino Marella in 2013.
  6. By five months and two days compared to Chris Jericho in 2016, Mark Henry is the oldest man ever to enter at number six.
  7. Seventh entrant Braun Strowman made seven eliminations — as did the seventh entrant in the seventh Rumble, Diesel. (Diesel posted 18:05 in the match and was the 13th person eliminated, whereas Strowman lasted 13:48 and was ninth out.)
  8. Sami Zayn’s 47:14 from the eighth spot is second only to Orton’s 48:47 from that position when he won the 2009 Rumble.
  9. In his 12th Rumble, Big Show was both the most experienced number nine ever. Glenn Jacobs entered ninth in his tenth Rumble in 2006.
  10. When the clock hit double zeroes for tenth entrant Tye Dillinger, there were only 23 opponents remaining, the fewest since 2010, when Ted DiBiase Jr. entered with 22 opponents remaining.
  11. When the buzzer for number 11 James Ellsworth sounded, the match had been going for 17:35. That’s the latest 11th entry since 2002, when 19:05 elapsed before Maven’s entrance.
  12. Dean Ambrose was only the second active Intercontinental Champion to be the 13th entrant; the first was Triple H in 1997.
  13. Baron Corbin, who entered 14th, was one of ten Rumble rookies in 2017, and the only one to log an elimination. His 33:09 was the longest for a number 14 since the Rock lasted 38:59 in 2001.
  14. No 14th entrant had been eliminated by more than one opponent since Earthquake and Brian Knobs eliminated Davey Boy Smith in 1991. That changed when Sheamus and Cesaro teamed up to eliminate Kofi Kingston.
  15. Although he lasted 33:16, The Miz was the first 15th entrant to fail to record an elimination since Carlito in 2010.
  16. Sheamus got credit for three eliminations, 15 percent of the 20 opponents remaining when he entered, the highest figure for any 16th entrant.
  17. Though 21 years separate them, Big E is the second 17th entrant with a March 1 birthday. He was born in 1986; 2012’s 17th man Booker T was born March 1, 1965. Both Rumbles took place on Jan. 29.
  18. After entering 18th, Rusev lasted 23:09, the longest from that spot since Shawn Michaels went 26:21 en route to a win in 1996. And while others have been younger when they entered, Rusev is, by about four months, the youngest living person to enter 18th (Wade Barrett, 2013, trails).
  19. There were 20 opponents remaining for 19th entrant Cesaro and nine already in the match, the most since 25 men remained for Great Khali in 2011 and since 10 were in the match for Mark Henry in 2009.
  20. Xavier Woods was the 11th man eliminated, the earliest out for that spot since Shelton Benjamin was the tenth man dumped in 2009.
  21. Bray Wyatt became the first ever 21st entrant to finish in third place. Bret Hart entered 21st when he was runner-up in 1997.
  22. There were 12 wrestlers in the match when Apollo Crews entered 22nd — that ties 2008 and 2009 for most ever at that point.
  23. Randy Orton is the second 23rd entrant to win a Rumble, but the first to do so without also sharing the honor — Lex Luger was the 23rd entrant in 1994 when he co-won with Bret Hart.
  24. Brock Lesnar eliminated 24 entrant Dolph Ziggler, just like he did last year when number 24 was Jack Swagger.
  25. The 25h man in Luke Harper, was the 22nd man out. The same thing happened to 2016’s 25th man, The Miz.
  26. Brock Lesnar was 39 years, 6 months and 17 days old, the oldest 26th entrant in Rumble history. His 9.4 percent elimination share (there were 32 credited eliminations on the night) was the most for a 26 since Big Show had 11.8 percent in 2000.
  27. A surprise entrant, 27th man Enzo Amore lasted 1:11 (from when the buzzer sounded). It was the shortest stint of the night, but the longest any Mr. Irrelevant figure since Junk Yard Dog put up 2:17 in 1988. Only two other times has the short man clear a minute — Hercules put up 1:09 in 1992 and Swat Team Two had 1:04 in 1996 (Neither entered 27th).
  28. Goldberg’s 4:26 was the least a 28th entrant lasted since Chris Jericho made it only 2:35 in 2010. He was also, by five years, the oldest 28th man ever, surpassing Batista in 2014.
  29. It might have been a surprise when Roman Reigns eliminated the Undertaker, but it was the third straight year Reigns erased the 29th entrant.
  30. Roman Reigns finished second, making it both the seventh time number 30 was the last man eliminated as well as the 11th time the winner tossed number 30 — both records.
And, as I end this piece every year, there is sadness because we’re as far away from the next Royal Rumble as possible. Waiting sucks, especially when we’ve seen that even after 30 years, the Rumble still has the chance to give us something new.


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.