WWE revealed yesterday that the upcoming Royal Rumble match will be the biggest ever, with 40 participants in the match rather than the usual 30. WWE obviously hopes that the new super-sized Rumble will be a selling-point that will help boost buy rates (although the Rumble typically does better than almost any PPV this side of WrestleMania anyway.) But there are those out there who believe adding ten more wrestlers to the match will serve only to water it down.
For my part, I’m willing to take a wait-and-see approach to this fairly significant overhaul of one of the wrestling’s most cherished gimmick matches.
On one hand, I get the concept of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” For 22 years, the Rumble has worked just fine with 30 competitors. And although some Rumbles have been more exciting than others, I’ve never once heard anyone argue that what the match needs is more participants.
There are several reasons not to make the change. For one, there’s a likelihood that the added wrestlers will actually take away from the action in the ring, rather than add to it. Different than a typical battle royal, where all the competitors are in the ring at the same time in what could only be described as a cluster-you-know-what of flailing arms and legs, the Rumble has historically benefitted from the staggered entrances of the competitors.
The format usually allows for no more than 10 to 12 wrestlers to be in the ring at the same time. With that few participants competing at once, fans are able to focus in on particular match-ups in the ring, and wrestlers are able to deliver intricate sequences that you typically wouldn’t see in a battle royal.
There’s been nothing to indicate that WWE will increase the allotted time for the entire Rumble match, and so I’d bet that, with 10 more wrestlers to get into the match, the intervals at which they enter will be significantly shortened to a minute or less. That will mean many more wrestlers in the ring at any given time, and less space and opportunity for each of them to do anything that really stands out.
What’s more, regardless of how many wrestlers participate in the Rumble, the reality is that on any given year there are no more than two to three participants who stand much of a chance of winning it and headlining WrestleMania. Assuming that anyone who wrestles elsewhere on the card won’t compete in the actual Rumble match, I’d say that this year the only real candidates to win the Rumble are John Cena and a returning Triple-H. Longer shots include CM Punk, Rey Mysterio and Sheamus.
And so, those ten extra competitors aren't going to change the odds at all. Every Rumble has that dull middle-stretch where all the lower card guys enter the match. That stretch will now include ten more guys who have no realistic chance of winning the Rumble. Are we really supposed to believe that Trent Baretta or Darren Young may headline WrestleMania?
All that said, I’m willing to reserve judgment until I see the match play out. The fact is that there’s nothing magical about the number 30 that makes it the perfect amount of competitors for the Rumble match. Yes, fans have generally been pleased over the years with the format, but who’s to say that they won’t love the match even more with ten more guys thrown into the mix? If it doesn’t work, WWE can always go back to 30 next year.
One major reason why WWE would want to inflate this year’s Rumble match may have to do with the Nexus. Between the six members of CM Punk’s new Nexus on Raw, and Wade Barrett’s three members of the original Nexus on Smackdown, you’d already have nearly a full third of a 30-man Rumble’s entrants associated with the Nexus. That would only leave 21 spots for the approximately 50 other active WWE wrestlers, not including NXT Season 4 participants, if WWE decides to allow them in the match.
There may also be a specific booking reason WWE has for wanting to inflate the Rumble. If so, it will come to light sometime during the night, and we’ll all be saying, “Oh, THAT’S why they added ten more guys!”
Whatever the case, the Rumble is always one of the most fun nights of the year to be a wrestling fan. And whether there’s 40 people in the match or 400, I’m looking forward to having a good time counting down: “10! 9! 8! 7!...”