NOTE: Originally published in The Kingston Whig-Standard on Jan. 28, 2012.
This Sunday, Jan. 29, marks this year’s World Wrestling Entertainment Royal Rumble. As a lifelong wrestling fan, it is one of my favourite events. The Rumble concept was created by WWE Hall of Famer — and Canadian — Pat Patterson.
The concept is simple: Two men enter the ring and try to throw each other over the top rope. In order to eliminate their opponent from the match, both of their opponents’ feet must hit the floor.
Every two minutes (although some years at different intervals), a new WWE superstar emerges from the back until one superstar remains and is declared the winner. The prize is the opportunity to be in the main event at WrestleMania, against a champion of your choosing; the top of the mountain.
The inaugural Royal Rumble took place in 1988 in Hamilton, Ontario. It was offered on free TV to compete against the WWE’s only rival at the time, the NWA’s Bunkhouse Stampede, which was on pay-per-view. It was a risky business decision at the time, but one that clearly paid off in the end for the WWE.
As a wrestling fan, I was mad because this unprecedented act meant I had to choose what I wanted to watch. I had to tape the Bunkhouse Stampede and watch the Royal Rumble as it happened. I scrambled up some cash and bought another VCR so I could add both to my huge tape library.
As fate would have it, a big snow storm hit Long Island, where the Bunkhouse Stampede was happening, and it affected the live feed. The first match was unviewable, while the second had just audio. Finally, deep into the third match, we had action. By this time, me and my friends were already glued to the Royal Rumble action.
The problems didn’t end there for the NWA. When my idol — WWE Hall of Famer Dusty Rhodes — won the event, parts of the live feed became choppy and I didn’t even see him win it.
But my disappointment was tempered by watching another future WWE Hall of Famer, Hacksaw Jim Duggan — a U.S.A. flag-waving good guy — battling all en route to winning the inaugural Rumble.
(On a side note, I loved how the Canadian fans would still chant Duggan’s famous “U. S.A., U.S.A.” Very classy of all of you. I don’t know if this would happen today.)
In 1989, the Royal Rumble was added as a pay-per-view. Even though I was a seasoned pro with an entire six months of training and two matches under my belt at that time, I had a pay-per-view party, which was a great way of cutting the cost and having fun with all your wrestling friends.
I remember the joy of telling one of the girls at the party that I was asked to participate in The Royal Rumble by the WWE, but turned them down that year (a desperate lie to impress her — and one, it should be noted, that worked).
I loved counting down from 10 and waited in anticipation to see who the next entrant would be. As the years progressed, the Royal Rumble had an open invitation, which added surprise entrants and made it even more interesting.
You would wait to see what person would jump ship from rival World Championship Wrestling to enter the Rumble and make their mark in the WWE or what former WWE Superstar would come back, much to the fans’ delight, even if it was for but one night.
Even during my hardcore days with Extreme Championship Wrestling, I always made sure I watched the Rumble. I always enjoyed the concept, mystique and the aura of the event. I still do.
I finally had my chance to be a part of the Rumble in 2003, and needless to say, er, in this case write, I was very excited. I may have only lasted one minute and 10 seconds, but I also joined elite company. I made a little hardcore history at the Royal Rumble, bringing weapons back to the event, like my predecessors Mick Foley and Terry Funk did in 1998. While they toted chairs and chainsaws into the event, I brought along a trash can, two trash can lids and my trusty kendo stick.
I loved hearing the ECW chants, then the collective booing and groans from the audience when I was eliminated by Canadians Chris Jericho and Christian. In my one minute-plus in the ring, Bill Demott broke his hand, Chavo Guerrero got a minor cut and Chris Jericho had a huge lump and cut on his face. It’s no wonder I wasn’t asked back until 2007.
I lasted much longer in 2007, before eventually being eliminated by Kane. In 2008, the Royal Rumble was in my hometown of New York at Madison Square Garden. I count that Rumble appearance in my backyard as one of the highlights of my career.
When my music hit, the place erupted. I was in the ring with two of the all-time greats in the phenom The Undertaker and the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels, as well as the talented John Morrison and Hardcore Bob Holly.
My sights were set on The Undertaker. I went toe-to-toe with the Deadman. The building started to, pardon the pun, rumble. People chanted “ECW,” then the hallowed halls of MSG heard chants of “Tommy Dreamer.” I owned the Garden that night. When the next entrant’s music hit, the place erupted again, as crowd favourite Batista hit the ring. I attacked him, but was promptly lifted and slammed to my back, the victim of a violent spine buster. He cleared the ring like an animal, true to his moniker.
He faced off with The Undertaker, who was going to be his main opponent for WrestleMania later that year. I went after Batista again and he threw me over the top rope, eliminating me. The crowd then did something unexpected. They booed Batista for eliminating me. I laid on the floor, with a teary-eyed smile, knowing that my fans still supported me no matter what and knowing I had achieved another boyhood dream.
I look forward to this year’s Royal Rumble. I hope you do as well.
Now maybe you can see it from a different perspective. You know some Royal Rumble history and have read a first-person point of view, and realize that no matter what the match was, I was always still just a fan and I always will be. Maybe your dream can be realized one day as well.
Thanks for reading.
Tommy Dreamer is a legendary and influential pro wrestler and a father and husband who has worked for World Wrestling Entertainment, Extreme Championship Wrestling and Total Nonstop Action and the mind behind House of Hardcore. Follow him on Twitter — @THETOMMYDREAMER — and check out his website at www.thetommydreamer.com.He can be booked for live appearances through his website. For HoH, go to houseofhardcore.net.