2020 Preview

What do we do here at Rumblemetrics? We obsess over Royal Rumble statistics, both correcting the record WWE refuses to get straight and ranking wrestlers in categories to the point of absurdity in hopes of being able to appreciate each Rumble for its unique benchmarks.

Anyone can state 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! — but here we dig deeper and find the weird stuff. Rest assured someone on commentary Sunday will be spouting facts with each entrance number, and rest assured you’ll be better prepared (and more accurate) than that chump if you spend the next few minutes crawling around this corner of my weird brain.

By now the novelty of having two 30-entrant Rumbles in one night has worn off, though it bears noting the statistics are commingled. Natalya Neidhart’s 56:01 in 2019 is better appreciated as the 11th longest duration since 1988 than simply being 75 seconds longer than Sasha Banks in 2018. And if we’re still going to have things like Nia Jax appearing in two Rumbles in the same evening, there’s little logic in trying to separate the two like church and state.

(Obligatory paragraph to link to the full essay: The “Greatest Royal Rumble” event from April 2018 is its own entity and does not count for real Rumble statistics. We will accept no arguments to the contrary.)

Lastly, this isn’t about narrative. Predictions about who will win, or thoughts about who should, guesses at mystery entrants and anything about the Road to WrestleMania are interesting but irrelevant to the raw data. The goal here is to set the stage for Sunday, to give an idea of what records are at stake and to enable a chorus of “yeah, we knew that” responses to paid commentators reading information in an attempt to sound like they did their own research.

As is tradition, we start with a reminder: 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? That makes for a boring match. There are only 29 eliminations to be had, so giving nearly half to one wrestler 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.

There are always outliers in play. The first elimination could happen in 74 seconds or fewer to beat Alex Riley’s 2012 mark, an outcome far more likely than waiting 14:49 to surpass Bob Backlund in 1996. There could be 15 active wrestlers in the match when No. 30 enters (the high mark is 14 in 2009) or just two (there were three in 2010). But broadly, what we’re looking at here is based on career trends and data, providing an idea of what to watch for as the matches play out.

After too much talk about understanding how and why these matches come together, the rest of the data is presented with the mentality that once the bell rings, Rumble statistics are as organic as the numbers on the back of a baseball card. (Click here for a note about my statistical methodology.)

We’ll start with a guarantee: the 15th person eliminated from whichever Rumble goes first will be the 1,000th person eliminated in Royal Rumble history. These will be the 35th and 36th Rumbles. Taking the 20 entrants in 1988 and the 40 in 2011, and 30 every other year, that’s a total of 1,080 entrants, which means there have already been 1,020. Subtract 35 winners in the first 34 Rumbles (thanks to 1994) and the result is 985 nonwinning entries, regardless of how they were judged out of the running.

One thing I’ve only started tracking recently — it’s largely impossible to do retroactively — is the number of announced entrants before the actual show begins. In 2016 WWE named only 13 entrants before the Rumble. In 2017 it spiked to 21. In 2018 WWE named 17 men’s Rumble entrants but didn’t list any for the women’s Rumble, aside from using images in promotional materials. Five days before the 2019 Rumbles there were 20 known men and 23 known women entrants.

The numbers are significantly more skewed this time around. At the time this post went live WWE had confirmed 24 men’s Rumble entrants and had for weeks centered the Rumble storyline around WWE Champion Brock Lesnar’s decision to enter himself in the match at the No. 1 spot. But on the women’s side, there were only five known competitors. With four other women booked into title matches elsewhere on the card, it’s completely unclear who else will fill the field.

Leaving 31 spots to mystery feeds speculation for big return or new stars, but the rising prominence of other wrestling organizations drastically limits the potential for bringing in a known unknown. On the men’s side there’s more than a dozen performers who have been regularly featured on Raw and Smackdown of late yet aren’t slated to fill the 11 remaining slots. On the women’s side, we can scrape the main roster as well as both NXT talent pools and still be left guessing.

There’s almost always a nostalgia entrant of some flavor, but if WWE had anyone of significant stature locked up, chances are good that person’s appearance would be heavily promoted (we call this the Goldberg clause), or at least mentioned on that new Fox talk show.

There is plenty of precedent for an announced entrant to be scratched, either as part of the on-screen story (directly and indirectly) or simply overlooked because plans changed and no one backstage really cares about continuity. Still, knowing how many spots are accounted and who is yet to enter enhances the excitement of watching the Rumble drama unfold.

On the men’s side, WWE.com has the following veterans confirmed to enter (number of Rumbles 2020 will make in parentheses):

  • Kofi Kingston (12, Smackdown Tag Tam Champion)
  • Dolph Ziggler (12)
  • Randy Orton (11, two wins)
  • Rey Mysterio (10, one win)
  • Big E Langston (six, Smackdown Tag Team Champion)
  • Roman Reigns (six, one win)
  • Alexander Rusev (six)
  • Drew McIntyre (five)
  • Baron Corbin (four)
  • Brock Lesnar (four, one win; WWE Champion; entering No. 1)
  • Seth Rollins (four, one win; Raw Tag Team Champion)
  • Braun Strowman (four)
  • Bobby Lashely (three)
  • Elias (three)
  • Shinsuke Nakamura (three, one win; Intercontinental Champion)
  • Erick Rowan (three)
  • Aleister Black (two)
  • Samoa Joe (two)
  • Kevin Owens (two)
  • AJ Styles (two)

Announced rookies include:

  • Otis Dozovic
  • Tucker Knight
  • Buddy Murphy (one; Raw Tag Team Champion)
  • Ricochet

We only have to go back to 2016 to find a comparison to this year’s Brock Lesnar entry, the advance knowledge of a reigning top champion entering at No. 1. That Lesnar chose this for himself is technically distinct from Roman Reigns being forced into the position, but the spreadsheet doesn’t really have room for that kind of asterisk.

(Side note: Why use Rusev’s last name but not call the crooner Elias Samson? Because Elias had only one name by the time he made his Rumble debut in 2018, while Rusev (like Big E Langston) was fully formed when he entered his first in 2014, and changing it on my spreadsheet after the fact is a hassle I don’t have to endure.)

The 2018 women’s Rumble field wasn’t specifically addressed in advance, other than to make it clear the champs at the time, Charlotte Flair and Alexa Bliss, wouldn’t be in the match. In 2019 a lot of the women’ field was announced on Twitter, which would easily happen again. But so far the pickings are slim, as the announced women’s entrants are simply:

  • Sarah Logan (will be her third Rumble)
  • Natalya (three)
  • Alexa Bliss (two)
  • Nikki Cross (two)
  • Charlotte Flair (two)

The men’s Rumble will already break history by having six prior winners — there were five each in 2016, 2017 and 2018 — but with 2012 winner Sheamus lurking on the undercard and rumors swirling around other former champs, 2020 might establish an unassailable record. It also might be the Rumble with the most active champions entered. Already there are six announced champions, matching a mark set in 2006 with two sets of tag champions (Kane, Big Show, Joey Mercury and Johnny Nitro) as well as the U.S. (Booker T) and Intercontinental (Ric Flair) Champions. Mojo Rawley and Andrade are the likeliest to set the new record, but just last year the Rumble featured the NXT North American and NXT UK champions, so there are plenty of possibilities.

Among those considered to be in the running for a shocking return is 2010 winner Edge. Unfortunately, if he does so, it unlikely won’t be at No. 3. That’s too bad, because doing so would make him the first person to enter four times in the same spot. Perhaps the Undertaker (2007 winner) could make his fourth appearance at No. 30, but otherwise this mark seems safe.

It would be less surprising to see The Big Show enter the match, as he’s been on Raw several weeks in a row. That would make his 13th Rumble, moving him alone into second place behind Glenn “Kane” Jacobs (once you count his appearances as Diesel and Isaac Yankem). Dolph Ziggler and Kofi Kingston will move up to a dozen, joining Shawn Michaels and Goldust, and Miz might do so as well. Ziggler and Kingston will have the distinction of being in 12 straight, one behind Jacobs’ 13 in a row from 19992011.

If Big Show and Ziggler are in the ring together, it would be a chance for Show to eliminate Ziggler for a third time legally. The 2015 elimination was illegal and therefore not credited to Big Show, but Show tossed the Show Off in 2011 and 2012. There are four other pairings featuring one man tossing another opponent three times, so this wouldn’t be unprecedented, but it’d be nice to lose the asterisk.

A few other matchups have happened twice and could result in a third this year: Roman Reigns tossing Rusev (2015, 2016), Seth Rollins (2014, 2018), Sheamus (2014, 2016) or Miz (2016, 2018); Randy Orton eliminating Big Show (2009, 2012) or Braun Strowman doing the honors (2016, 2017); Big Show getting R-Truth (2001, 2009); or Sheamus dumping Kofi Kingston (2012, 2017) or Big E (2014, 2017).

Across the board, career marks are certainly within play. Rey Mysterio is at 3:32:28 for career time, which is fifth place all time and not far behind Jacobs at 3:41:15. Orton lurks in sixth place at 3:10:21. Although Natalya has been in only two Rumbles, her average time of 40:58 is tops among anyone with more than one match. Rollins is in third place on that list with 37:40 over three matches and could claim second place by logging at least 44:57.

Strowman has 16 career eliminations for an average of 5.33 over three matches. Hulk Hogan’s career ended with 24 — an average of six in four Rumbles. If Strowman gets nine (unlikely) he’s the new leader.

Should Ember Moon return without eliminating anyone, and last at least 3:12, that would give her the most Rumble time without an elimination, ahead of Fit Finlay, who logged 1:02:44 in 20072009. Big E is exactly 10 minutes behind Moon in third place. He’s entered five Rumbles without tossing anyone, one shy of the record shared by Matt Bloom and Jack Swagger.

Speaking of futility, Miz and Kingston run the risk of tying Goldust by entering their 12th Rumble and failing to make a final four. But if either are among the last four standing, they’d shatter the mark for latest in a Rumble career to first make a final four, which CM Punk set in his sixth and final Rumble in 2014. It’s unsurprising then that Miz and Kingston also lead the list of most career match time without a final four. At 2:10:05, Miz holds a slight lead on Kofi (2:07:16), but don’t sleep on the recently returned John Morrison, in fourth place at 1:47:00 and well within reach of the top spot.

If Reigns makes another final four, it would be the sixth in as many tries. That would tie Jacobs and Orton for a career total, but he’s also be the first to do it in his first six Rumbles — on top of already being the first to do so in five straight years. If he’s in the final four, he stands a large chance of becoming the first person to be eliminated by the eventual winner five times. Right now he’s tied at four with Jacobs and Big Show. Reigns also needs 30:07 to break the three-hour career mark. His current 2:29:54 puts him in 13th place, even if he doesn’t gets to three hour he is a safe bet to climb up the board and possibly move into eighth place overall ahead of Steve Austin (2:52:28).

Ziggler needs to last just a bit more than five minutes to reach two hours for his career. Rollins needs seven, and Morrison needs 13. There are plenty of wrestlers who could get over the hour mark for their Rumble careers, but that’s scarcely a novelty anymore as 51 men and one woman have already cleared the bar.

Reigns is at 30 eliminations, good for sixth place. One more ties him with Big Show and Triple H in fifth place, but it’ll take a bit more effort to get between Austin (36) and the Undertaker (38). In a similar vein, the career eliminations leaderboard is increasingly clogged, as 30 different people are in double figures. The closest to joining that club are Ziggler (nine) and Rollins and Nia Jax (eight), but you’ve got to do some heavy lifting to make any waves in this regard. Even eliminating seven people in one match isn’t especially rare as that’s happened nine times on its own, and it’s been exceeded on six other occasions.

One of these years I will update my posts from The Wrestling Blog that evaluated the performance of each position since 1988. For now, I can report the No. 9 spot is 3:15 away from clearing the overall six-hour mark, while the No. 17 spot is just 3:14 back. If either 15th entrant eliminates someone, it’ll be the third spot to account for 50 total eliminations. Likewise, the fifth spot is one away from 40 overall.

A few things have never happened:

  • The winner has never eliminated the eighth entrant.
  • The ninth entrant has never made the final four.
  • A dozen entry spots have never produced a winner (4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 26).
  • Twelve entry spots have never produced a runner-up (3, 5, 8 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 16, 17, 18, 20)
  • The first person eliminated has never been someone who entered sixth or later.

A few other things are quite common:

  • The third entrant has been the first eliminated 14 times.
  • The fourth entrant has been second out 13 times.
  • The 30th entrant has been runner-up seven times. Only two spots (19 and 29) have as many as three.
  • The most common number of active wrestlers when an entrance buzzer sounds is seven — it’s happened 120 times.
  • The second most common number is six, which has happened 118 times.
  • The first entrant is most likely to eliminate someone — first entrants lead with 73 eliminations (2.3 per Rumble) while 30th entrants are second with 65 (a 2.1 average).
  • The 16th and 20th entrants are the worst at eliminations — each has only 19 total.

I put out a Twitter request for facts to include in the preview. Here are answers to those questions:

  • @boxwatcher wanted to know the average minutes for the winner and runner-up. I knew the average winner’s time was 25:43, but had to do some spreadsheet magic to answer the other half. That result? 22:43, provided we count Shawn Michaels as the 1994 runner-up, although two people had a better outcome.
  • @earthdog inquired about efficiency as measured by eliminations per minute. The list gets a little cloudy without a qualifier, so we agreed to only consider wrestlers who have five or more career eliminations. By that metric, the most efficient is Sid, who tossed six opponents in 6:06, all in the 1992 Rumble. That’s a minutes per elimination of 1:01. If we require multiple Rumbles, the honor goes to Goldberg with six eliminations in 6:51 (1:09 MPE). And if the metric shifts to double digits, the most efficient is Brock Lesnar, who has 11 eliminations in 24:05 (2:11 MPE).
  • @ksawyerpaul wanted to know “How effective is just hiding in the corner/under the ring,” which is a difficult topic to quantify, especially when you forget that’s essentially how Vince McMahon won the whole thing in 1999.

And then there’s the stuff you only start to think about when you’ve thought of everything else:

Texas joins California and Florida as the states that have hosted the most Rumble events, it also becomes the first state to host six different Rumble matches. This is the first time the Rumble has been back to Houston since 1989 — the other three Texas Rumbles all were in San Antonio.

Only eight times has a Rumble not been the main event of the evening. But that number was at six (1988, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2006, 2013) until the two-Rumble era began in 2018, which guaranteed adding to the list once each year.

Praise be, there has only been on Rumble with six broadcasters on commentary during the match (2008) and there have been three with four, including both 2019 Rumbles. But never one with five exactly, so perhaps that’s in play as well given how heavily WWE is leaning into the current brand split era.

That’s almost 3,000 words and way too much information, but that’s what we love about January. Have I missed any of your favorite obscure facts? What are you looking for in the 2020 Royal Rumbles? Hit me up in the comments and let’s get weird together.