The WWE Royal Rumble is, by its very definition, chaotic and disorganized. Thirty individuals, entering at two-minute intervals, must throw each other over the top rope with both feet touching the floor for a title shot at WrestleMania. The Rumble usually takes about an hour to complete, and its choreography is a bit like setting up dominos. Every wrestler must know:
- His entry number
- Who he's supposed to toss out
- Who's supposed to toss him out.
- When 2 is supposed to happen.
- When 3 is supposed to happen.
If one guy misses his spot, the match can get very, very messy, very quickly. Say for example that a wrestler—who was meant to get tossed out near the end of the match—accidentally loses his grip and falls out of the ring at the beginning of the match. What happens to the wrestlers that he was supposed to throw out? How do the remaining wrestlers keep track of their responsibilities while covering for the guy who made the mistake?
Here are all the notable times that the Royal Rumble went off-script, for real, and WWE had to scramble so the audience wouldn't know anything was amiss. When the 2018 Royal Rumble goes live on the WWE Network this Sunday, the wrestlers will have these blunders nagging in the back of their brains.
Shawn Michaels Gets Kicked in the Nose
Shawn Michaels is the unofficial "Iron Man" of WWE. He won a legendary 60-minute Iron Man match against Bret Hart at WrestleMania XII, but he's also known for his enduring performances during Rumble matches. He was the first man to win the Rumble as the No. 1 entrant in 1995, where he lasted close to 40 minutes in the ring. But his most underrated feat was in 2008, when Bob "Hardcore" Holly, a mid-card wrestler infamous for working stiff, stomped directly on Michaels' upturned face at the beginning of the match
Usually, a wrestler would "recover" quickly from such a basic move. But Michaels covered his face with his hands, and crawled to the side of the ring to confer with officials. He then forced himself to stand and got back in the match, albeit woozily. Michaels lasted in the ring that evening for over 30 minutes, despite having what looked like a bloody, broken nose.
Alex Riley Accidentally Gets Eliminated
In 2011, Alex Riley was a new face on the main roster. He was getting a ton of exposure as The Miz's lackey. He had the look and the build to make it big. What better way to increase that hype than getting accidentally eliminated from your first Royal Rumble match?
Riley was being pummeled in the corner by both John Cena and Kofi Kingston. This is a typical "rest spot" in a long match, but instead of hanging on for dear life, Riley tumbled over over the top rope and hit the floor. Riley was supposed to eliminate Cena much later in the match. And for the next several minutes, you can see the referees scrambling outside the ring to relay messages and talk Cena through Plan B.
It's funny how fate works. What could Riley have been, had he been the one to eliminate Cena? We'll never know for sure.
Steve Austin Botches His Rumble Debut
In 1996, Stone Cold Steve Austin was The Ringmaster, a cold, calculating, technical wizard and the top guy of Ted Dibiase's Million Dollar Corporation. Austin hated the gimmick. But still, he was slated for great things, and he was given an amazing opportunity in his debut Rumble: He was booked to last all the way to the final four participants.
Unfortunately, he was fighting Fatu (Rikishi), who was slick with baby oil. The rope squirted out of Austin hands, and he found himself outside the ring. The elimination happened in the background, where almost nobody noticed it. It's only in the last several years fans have learned that this was no accident.
Taka Michinoku Kisses the Floor
This is what happens when your opponent pushes you a little too hard, and you jump a little too high without hanging on to the top rope.
Taka Michinoku was one half of Japanese tag team Kaientai; their gimmick was to walk to the ring speaking badly dubbed English (courtesy of Bruce Prichard). They had a fairly unremarkable run, and since they were smaller than a lot of their opponents, they were booked in lots of matches against monsters, so that they could bump hard and put them over.
This, however, went above and beyond what was expected. Taka reportedly suffered a concussion and a separated shoulder from the incident. You could see blood squirt out of his nose when he hit the floor.
Randy Savage Pretends He Didn't Get Eliminated
Macho Man Randy Savage was man known for his thoroughness (he liked to script out his matches beforehand rather than calling them on the fly) and for his intensity. And he got a bit carried away with the latter in 1992.
The storyline was that Jake The Snake Roberts was tormenting Savage and his wife, first by hiding a snake in one of their wedding presents, and later by tying Savage up in the ropes and having a cobra bite him. During the Rumble, Savage got some measure of revenge by eliminating Roberts over the top rope. But then, he did a high flying move over the top rope onto Roberts, which technically meant that he eliminated himself.
What followed is awkwardness and improvisation. At first, commentators Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan reported that Savage was eliminated. But then, they doubled back and said that an individual had to be thrown out of the ring by an opponent; self-elimination doesn't count.
And while this is happening, Undertaker nearly breaks character by getting out of the ring (he slid out through the bottom ropes like he was supposed to) and throwing Savage back in. The match then continued as normal.
Kofi Kingston Concusses CM Punk
The 2014 Royal Rumble is, to date, the last time anyone saw CM Punk in a wrestling ring. He was burnt out, angry at management, distrusting of the WWE doctors, and suffering from a full-blown staph infection.
He entered at No. 1, and he lasted over 50 minutes in the ring. Still, he looked a little slower than usual. And he later revealed on Colt Cabana's podcast that he had suffered a concussion from Kofi Kingston's flying clothesline early in the match. He crawled to the side of the ring, and in his own words:
"I motion to Doc. I go, 'I have a concussion.' And he was like, 'What do you want me to do?' And I just started laughing and I was just like, 'Doctor, you are one of the most worthless pieces of s*** I have ever met in my entire life."
Punk ended up getting pulled out of the ring earlier than planned by Kane. He walked out on Raw the following day, and that was the end of his WWE career; the company fired him on the day of his wedding to AJ Lee.
Batista and John Cena Go Over the Top Rope Together
This mistake was so impressively handled that at the time, that no one even knew something went wrong.
Batista and John Cena were the last two men in the 2005 Rumble. Batista was supposed to win by eliminating Cena. But by accident, both men tumbled out of the ring together and hit the floor at the exact same time.
The referees quickly reacted. Half the referees held up Batista's hand. Half the referees held up Cena's hand. They were stalling for time until they got word from backstage on how to proceed. This was a pay-per-view; the feed was going to get cut off from paying customers in mere minutes, and WWE officials had to think fast.
Eventually Vince McMahon himself came to the ring and restarted the match. Cena and Batista fumbled their way through the finish—you can hear Cena yell, "Spinebuster!" right before Batista delivers one—and Batista was crowned the winner.
Vince McMahon Tears Both Quads
To add to the comedy of errors, Vince McMahon tore both quads while getting in the ring to restart the match. And once he realized he couldn't stand, he began barking orders at everyone, hands on his hips, from a seated position at the side of the ring. Meanwhile, everyone else in the ring tried to pretend that this was normal
In a later interview with the Wall Street Journal, McMahon stated:
"Seven weeks ago, I severed both of my quadriceps tendons doing a stunt in the ring… I didn't stretch and that unfortunately is major surgery."
Always warm up before engaging in physical activity, folks.