Royal Rumble Behind The Curtain

Kevin Kelly

Gearing up for my favorite Pay Per View of the year, the Royal Rumble and I wanted to take all of you backstage as the 30-man event goes on.

First, this event takes enormous planning and the Creative is critical leading up to it. More than any other show of the year, it is a must that as many guys are over as possible. This year, while just about everyone expects either Triple H or Batista to win it, just about every entry will get a decent to good reaction.

So, how is the Royal Rumble executed? Just like every good story, the Royal Rumble starts with the end… who’s the winner. Add to that the question of who does the winner finally eliminate to have his hand raised. Also, who is the unlikely guy to go a long time. Kane and Bradshaw were two bigger guys who surprised everyone by hanging in for 45 minutes plus during my time with the company.

Every Royal Rumble has guys that the crowd will fart on and one great element of the match is proper positioning of this dubious group. Seeing where they put Mark Henry, Big Daddy V and Snitsky this year will be a challenge.

Subplots are integral to the Royal Rumble’s charm. Two memories of subplotting from my days there were the Three Faces of Foley and the Drew Carey entry in 2001. Also, I will never forget when Too Cool danced in the Garden in the midst of the second most popular event of the WWE’s year. It takes skill to write a match that will hold the audiences’ attention for over one hour.

The brains behind the Royal Rumble each year is Pat Patterson and he always comes up with great spots and paces the match to perfection. I read on WZ that Pat and Michael Hayes worked on this year’s event, which might make this one the best ever.

On the walls of the backstage area on Royal Rumble day, WWE Superstars will find their order of entry and order of elimination and usually who does the eliminating. The only thing that isn’t written on that sheet is who eventually wins.

A mid-afternoon meeting of the talent and agents is where the stories for the match are laid out. This reminded me of a bizarro football locker room, with Pat as the French-Canadian coach getting most of the players’ names wrong and throwing many F-bombs about to make his points.

It’s “all hands on deck” for the agents and talent minutes before the Rumble. There are no excuses for not being within earshot of the Gorilla position as timing is critical. The pyro crew works harder than any other time of the year, presetting as much as they can but hustling in and out for over an hour.

Of course, it doesn’t always go as planned. Remember a couple of years ago when Vince blew a gasket and came down to ringside? Tearing both quads in the process? That was the biggest “oops” in Rumble history that I can remember.

Two classic “non-Rumble oops” moments? How about Survivor Series 1998 when Bossman forgot about his involvement in Stone Cold’s elimination from the Deadly Game tournament. Brisco had to whack Austin with the chair and it was an unforgettably weak chair shot. They ribbed Brisco about it for years, mocking Gerry, quietly saying “tink”, while feigning the arm movement. Also, we all laughed out loud when Stone Cold was on the hunt for Mr. McMahon backstage at the Rosemont Horizon after being “fired” at No Mercy.

While the Texas Rattlesnake is opening doors and ready to strike, he opened the door to the Production Office, where Owen Hart, who had “retired” the week before was on the phone.

Stone Cold–“Hey, you seen McMahon?”

Owen–“No, um, I’m retired.”

Classic Owen… and a classic backstage oops.

Back to the Rumble, time between entrants can be rather liquid. It’s never set in stone that it’s :45 seconds or a minute between buzzers. Keep an eye on the time and you may find some get more or less than they bargained for.

One of my favorite Rumble memories is Howard Finkel reading the rules to the crowd. Smile on his face and hand behind his back, Howard barks out the rules and we are on our way. Listening on headset, however, allowed me to hear some brutal criticism of Howard, which was funny, biting sarcasm. Poor Howard… No matter, he’s still the greatest of all time.

It’s tough on the announcers too. I’ll be interested to hear the mix of announcers they use for this year’s Rumble match because JR and the King have been better than ever but Cole/Coach and Styles/Tazz will probably get time.

And the WWE will get my money for this one. The Royal Rumble is one event I always catch and just like you, I can’t wait for this Sunday.

And before I sign off for this column, I wanted to applaud my WZ compadre, Scott Hudson on his most recent entry. Just brilliant! Kudos and huzzah to Mr. Hudson!

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