I started watching wrestling in the beginning of 1991 and Royal Rumble was my first ever PPV. By that point, there were only three installments before it and I kept checking it out every January. I’ve written a bunch of articles on the subject on this website, which are updated annually. Whether it’s from owning the box set of the first 20 years of the show on DVD or the creation of the WWE Network, I’ve seen each Rumble match multiple times. There are a lot of matches, sure, but the well has run dry and sometimes I just want more.
And yes, there are a couple of extra, official Royal Rumbles out there. There was the Corporate Royal Rumble, the Royal Rumble for the vertically-challenged, the awesome 15-man one on SmackDown back in 2004, and even a couple unaired 1994 Rumbles only available through fan camcorder footage.
That’s STILL not enough.
Luckily, there are still plenty of options to please the Royal Rumble sweet tooth. Maybe the rules are a little different here and there, but various wrestling promotions tend to have their own over-the-top-rope I Can’t Believe It’s Not Royal Rumble. Even WCW had one once!
So here’s a field guide for where else to look for staggered battle royal action. The dates are for when the matches aired for ones that were taped.
EXTREME CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING’S KING OF THE HILL BATTLE ROYAL
December 24, 1996
If you have the WWE Network, then fantastic because this one is available to watch in their ECW Hardcore TV library. You’ll have to deal with all the licensed music being switched out, but you can still hear the fans chant, “YOU FAT FUCK!” at Bubba Ray and Balls Mahoney, so there’s that.
This is a must-watch for any ECW fan or even anyone who has ever enjoyed the product at any point. This Rumble match is crammed with practically all of the iconic names from ECW’s heyday. Guys like Sandman, Tommy Dreamer, Sabu, the Dudleys, the Blue World Order, the Eliminators, the Gangstas, and so on. The only two really missing are Raven and Taz, but Taz makes a major appearance in the beginning and Raven’s presence is felt enough as his cronies fill the ring.
What makes this different from the regular Royal Rumble is that in the King of the Hill Battle Royal, teams are given a choice. The winner is to earn a big amount of cash (yes, this is an easy Paul Heyman joke setup). Tag teams are allowed to enter together as one entity, but that means that if they were to win, they’d have to split the money. You wouldn’t win as much, but at the same time, it means that Saturn and Kronus could drop people with the Total Elimination without having to wait it out and hope for the best.
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING’S COUNTDOWN TO ARMAGEDDON
October 18, 2000
In terms of huge battle royal matches, WCW is mainly remembered for World War 3. The 60-man battle royal with three rings is a gigantic mess and none of its four instances are worth watching other than seeing how it went wrong. Looking past that car wreck, there was an actual Royal Rumble match on WCW soil. It was on an episode of Thunder, meaning it’s also available on the WWE Network.
The good news is that the format for Countdown to Armageddon is 30ish wrestlers coming out in staggered entrances with the winner getting a championship title shot. The bad news is that instead of 90 seconds, every new entrant arrives in 30 seconds. They simply rush through what should be one of the most fun latter-day WCW bouts and don’t even try to make it seem random. Various tag partners come out one after the other. Even Kronik show up together at the end rather than have their own spots.
WCW’s on borrowed time at this point, so even though you have the likes of Kevin Nash, Sting, and Scott Steiner, you also have time capsule names like Kwee Wee, Mike Sanders, David Flair, Corporal Cajun, and so on. Goldberg is barred from competing, but he still chooses to cause a little trouble.
TOTAL NON-STOP ACTION’S GAUNTLET FOR THE GOLD
June 19, 2002-October 20, 2019
Whether it’s NWA-TNA, Impact, Global Force Wrestling, or whatever, I’m just calling it TNA. Lipstick on a goddamn pig.
From their very first show, TNA had their Rumble counterpart in the Gauntlet for the Gold. What separates it from the Royal Rumble is the ending, where the final two competitors have a sudden singles match and have to settle things with pinfall or submission. It’s a unique enough take with its ups and downs. On one hand, I like the idea of the finale of a battle royal having more to it than a guy slipping on a banana peel and being nudged out of the ring. On the other hand, if the ending match goes on long enough (especially with late entries for finalists), it really kills the buzz.
Not only did TNA use this format to crown their first champion, but in the early days, they used it to figure out the Knockouts Championship, the X-Division Championship, and even Tag Team Championship when each was vacated. Otherwise, they tend to be for the #1 contender spot of whatever title.
They crank these out 2-3 times a year, so there’s a lot of them to choose from. As of this writing, there are 21 in the can. Only one of them involves Toby Keith suplexing Jeff Jarrett, though.
WRESTLING SOCIETY X’S WSX RUMBLE
January 30, 2007
For those who don’t remember, Wrestling Society X was a very short-lived wrestling program on MTV. I wrote a whoooooole thing on its history. The short of it is that it was an over-the-top show featuring high-fliers from the indies and known wrestlers who were unwanted by the likes of both WWE and TNA. Most notably, it had Seth Rollins as an angry emo guy who hadn’t yet discovered CrossFit and therefore didn’t have a midsection made of chiseled marble.
In the first episode (ten in total, though only nine would air), about half of it was built around the WSX Rumble to figure out who would be the inaugural champion. Keep in mind, the show was only a half hour with commercials and they also had a musical guest and an opening match, so they had to rush this baby for ten minutes. By the time they hit the end of the match, the show cut right to the credits.
The 10-man Rumble featured lots of hazards set up around the warehouse. Ladders, tables, explosives, and so on, just to give the eliminations an extra shot in the arm. Once the tenth competitor hit the ring, two contracts would lower from the ceiling. While over-the-top-rope eliminations were still in effect, to actually win, you had to be one of two to climb up a ladder and retrieve a contract. The two winners would face off for the title the following week.
Since this was filmed during the pilot, four of the ten men involved would be long gone from the show as of episode 2.
RING OF HONOR’S HONOR RUMBLE
July 26, 2008-April 6, 2019
At ROH New Horizons, Ring of Honor held their first ever Honor Rumble. Unfortunately, it was a dark match, so you can’t even watch it off ROH’s streaming service. I don’t even know if it’s on the DVD! It’s a shame, since the inaugural match featured Bushwacker Luke rubbing elbows with all that sweet 2008 indie talent. Plus, from what I hear, it was more of a gauntlet match instead of a straight-up Rumble.
A year later, they did an aired Honor Rumble with tag teams involved, though unlike most tag-based battle royals, a team is only eliminated when both members are gone. From there, the match type became kind of a crapshoot. Sometimes it would be for a title shot, sometimes it wouldn’t. Sometimes it would be on TV. Sometimes it would be on PPV. Sometimes it was just a house show attraction.
The latest installment was part of the G1 Supercard, a Madison Square Garden event done in conjunction with New Japan Pro Wrestling. Not bad.
CHIKARA’S INFINITE GAUNTLET (AND OTHERS)
December 12, 2008-May 11, 2019
Goofball comic book promotion CHIKARA had a couple minor Royal Rumble matches over the years before settling on a concept. First up was a match called Super Fun Times Over-the-Top Rope Elimination Style No-Holds-Barred Masked-Dudes-Welcome Battle Royal of Doom (and Honor), which opened the show Face With a View at the end of 2008. It was nothing more than a filler opener featuring a bunch of novelty names from the past (including Botchamania favorite Dragon Dragon) and midcarders with nothing going on.
In 2010, they did a 30-man Royal Rumble with one-minute intervals at Young Lions Cup VIII: Night 3. For this match, the Countdown Showdown, the winner got a “golden opportunity,” meaning an automatic title shot back in a day when the company only had tag titles and a solo title for younger wrestlers. Still, much like ECW’s King of the Mountain Battle Royal, this is a Rumble taking place at the sweet spot of a promotion’s roster. 2010 was the peak for CHIKARA both in terms of talent and story, so it’s a must-watch for fans.
There was supposed to be another one a year later, but it was canceled due to a blizzard.
In 2016, they introduced a match called the Infinite Gauntlet. Because comics. 33 wrestlers would compete, entering every 88 seconds. Elimination comes from going over the top rope to the floor, pinfall, and submission. The winner would get a golden opportunity, which is better these days because there’s a Grand Championship to fight over. Hell, the Grand Champion can even enter the match because why wouldn’t you want to have an automatic title shot in your pocket just in case? Other notable entrants include a one-off appearance by Gene Snitsky and a local news anchorman.
Infinite Gauntlet has become an annual part of CHIKARA, not only showing up in 2016’s Season 16 and 2017’s Season 18, but also in the secret Season 17 that happened in-between. Yes, this wrestling company filmed an entire prequel “year” of shows. Crazy.
BIG JAPAN PRO WRESTLING/DRAMATIC DREAM TEAM/KAIENTAI DOJO’S NEW YEARS RUMBLE
December 31, 2009/January 1, 2010
Oh man, this is a mindless good time. Back in 2009, three Japanese promotions got together and decided to have the biggest Royal Rumble match ever. At Tenka Sanbun No Kai: New Years Eve Special, tons of wrestlers took part in a 108-man Rumble with one-minute intervals where pinning counts. They started this during the latter moments of 2009, meaning that at one point everyone ran out to the ring to count down the New Year, celebrate, and then run back to the locker room.
Then one guy had to turn around mid-run because he was the next entrant.
Don’t worry about drama, storylines, and iron man showings here. Just watch it for the bizarre hilarity of seeing a guy get eliminated, then him finding out another one of his personas is the next entrant, so he washes the makeup off his face. Or a guy who defends himself with mental powers. Or a wimpy man dressed as a schoolgirl for some reason. Or seeing a Hulk Hogan blow-up doll pin a man after hitting a Yoshi Tonic.
INSANE CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING’S SQUARE GO!
January 22, 2012-February 24, 2019
Weapons don’t show up in Royal Rumble matches as much as they really should, considering the so-called claim that anything goes. ECW types like Raven and Sandman have brought in weapons, Austin defeated Kane with a chair in 2001, and Finlay got disqualified for using his shillelagh (or for jumping the gun on his entrance. Or both).
UK’s ICW promotion had an event in 2012 called the 1st Annual Square Go! The event was built around the Square Go! match, which is essentially a Royal Rumble with two big changes. One, the winner would get a title shot in the form of a Money in the Bank briefcase. Instead of a set title shot, the winner would have their choice of any place and any time.
The other change, which is a ton of fun, is that “luck of the draw” doesn’t just count for getting a late entry. Five of the thirty entries allow the wrestler to bring a weapon into the ring. It could be a kendo stick, barbed wire baseball bat, or whatever. It simply adds to the violent chaos of it all.
As guessed from the first show’s name, the Square Go! match has been an annual tradition for ICW. Smartly, they tend to do them right before or after WWE’s done their Royal Rumble, when interest would be at an all-time high.
NEW JAPAN PRO WRESTLING’S NEW JAPAN RUMBLE
January 4, 2015-January 4, 2018
Wrestle Kingdom is NJPW’s biggest show and much like WrestleMania likes to throw in as many wrestlers as possible and bring in surprise old school names, New Japan took care of that in one fell swoop with the New Japan Rumble. Starting with Wrestle Kingdom 9, each event’s pre-show would feature a Rumble with pins and submissions featuring less than twenty competitors.
There’s really no story to it and it’s merely a haven for anyone who doesn’t have anything going on in the main show. You’ll see random legends, newcomers, midcarders, and such. It’s a good time-waster, but remember that it’s only there to warm up the crowd for the hours of jaw-dropping awesomeness that’s about to follow.
Sadly, the tradition has been put to pasture as it wasn’t part of Wrestle Kingdom 13.
LUCHA UNDERGROUND’S AZTEC WARFARE
January 7, 2015-June 13, 2018
Lucha Underground went a few months before crowning its initial champion. They did so with Aztec Warfare, a 20-man match where elimination only comes from pinfall or submission. Simply falling out of the ring isn’t enough. Considering the hour-long format of the show, Aztec Warfare takes up an entire episode.
Even with there being an established champion after that initial match, the other two installments put the title on the line all over again. For the second one it was because of a corrupt authority figure and for the third one it was due to a corrupt authority figure’s confidence in the champion.
The second installment of Aztec Warfare is a fantastic watch, partially because it’s the debut of Matanza Cueto, a character hinted at since the beginning of the first season. They spent so long building him up as an absolute monster and Aztec Warfare II is where it starts to truly pay off. The show hits a new gear the moment he steps into the Temple to wreck shit.
DEFIANT WRESTLING’S KURT ANGLE INVITATIONAL RUMBLE AND NO REGRETS RUMBLE
September 10, 2016-April 28, 2018
I mainly know Defiant WRestling (formerly known as What Culture Pro Wrestling) as that English promotion advertised when I don’t back out of a YouTube top ten list video fast enough. But hey, they’ve done Rumble matches and I might as well talk about them.
The first instance was from WCPW Loaded #8, where they held a 15-man Rumble for the chance to wrestle Kurt Angle one-on-one. Not that he had any title or anything. It was more that Angle himself was a big enough deal to have a Rumble match centered around him where pins count.
They would go full 30 entrants at the PPV No Regrets. The story going in the initial one was that WCPW Champion Drew Galloway was going to go back to WWE as Drew McIntyre and WCPW wasn’t too happy with that. Even though he was going to relinquish the title, it was felt that they could save some face by having him lose it in a bullshit situation. Therefore, they put Drew in at #1 for a 30-man Rumble for the title.
It’s on the Defiant YouTube channel and I highly recommend it. It’s a great Rumble match with good booking and a strong list of entrants, including a couple funny surprises. Plus Stu Bennett/Wade Barrett is on commentary and his voice is like the angry Welsh Morgan Freeman.
ALL ELITE WRESTLING’S CASINO BATTLE ROYALE
May 25, 2019-August 31, 2019
All Elite Wrestling made the scene in 2019 and within its first few shows, they wanted to work on building their inaugural champions for both the men’s and women’s divisions. Each time, they did it through a mini-tournament. Two wrestlers would face off in a high-profile singles match and everyone else had to take part in the Casino Battle Royale. The winners would advance to the finals for a match at a later date and the winner of that would be the first champion.
At Double or Nothing, the men’s Casino Battle Royale was the very first official match of the company. At its heart, the match type is a 21-man Royal Rumble with batched entrances. Prior to the show, everyone would pick a playing card. The five who drew hearts, the five who drew diamonds, the five who drew clubs, and the five who drew spades would each enter at the same time. Lastly, the lucky guy who picked up the joker card would come out last and alone.
While the women’s match at All Out worked out well enough, the men’s match at Double or Nothing was a mixed bag at best. Retroactively, it did a good job introducing fans to the likes of Luchasaurus, MJF, Adam Page, Marko Stunt, and Orange Cassidy among others, but it was also a big circus of a match that had a bit too much weirdness for its own good. Having everyone come out in clusters added more confusion than excitement, as the fans either didn’t know most competitors or didn’t know how to react to five of them at once.
Any good ones I’ve missed? Sound off in the comments.
Read and download the Den of Geek Lost in Space Special Edition Magazine right here!