The Royal Rumble is considered one of the WWE’s four biggest events of the year. Not only is it the first big event of the year on the WWE Network, but also the winner of the namesake match earns a world championship match at Wrestlemania 34, the WWE’s equivalent of the Super Bowl.
The Royal Rumble will take place at 6 p.m. on Sunday on the WWE Network. NXT TakeOver will start at 7 p.m. Saturday also on the network. The anticipation is building, and soon enough, fans will see the last Superstar standing, making history and changing the landscape of the WWE.
For those unfamiliar, the Royal Rumble match is a 30-person match. Two WWE Superstars start in the ring, and a new Superstar enters every 90 seconds. Superstars are eliminated if they’re thrown over the top rope with both feet hitting the floor, and the last person standing after all have entered is declared the winner. Basic rules aside, there is so much to look forward to with the event, especially knowing the full context. Here are the ten things you need to know before watching the 2018 Royal Rumble this Sunday.
1. First time the event will include two rumbles
For the first time in the Royal Rumble event’s 31-year history, there will be not one but two Rumbles: the men’s Rumble and the history-making inaugural women’s Royal Rumble. The WWE started taking its women’s division seriously in 2014. In just a few years, segments containing costume contests among Divas became main-event types of matches among female Superstars. In yet another step to advance the women’s division in WWE, Stephanie McMahon, chief brand officer, announced the first ever women’s Rumble for the event. The women’s Rumble has the same rules as the men’s event.
2. Philadelphia hosts for first time since 2015
The Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania will host the event for the second time in four years. There are many similarities between the upcoming Royal Rumble event and the one Philadelphia hosted in 2015. Both feature a triple-threat world championship match and no singles matches. Roman Reigns is a favorite to win the Rumble match in 2018, a feat he accomplished in 2015, much to the chagrin of the crowd.
3. The event the night before
While all eyes are on the Royal Rumble event, some might not know there is another event emanating from Philadelphia the night before. NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia will take place Saturday night in the same location and will feature talent from WWE’s developmental system. Don’t let the developmental part fool you, though, as past TakeOver events have often produced match-of-the- year candidates (see Bayley vs. Sasha Banks at TakeOver: Brooklyn 2015). NXT Champion Andrade “Cien” Almas will defend against Johnny Gargano in the main event, and many other stars such as Kassius Ohno, Aleister Black, NXT Tag Team Champions The Undisputed ERA, the Authors of Pain, and NXT Women’s Champion Ember Moon are scheduled to wrestle.
4. The card
To go along with the two Rumble matches, four other matchups have been announced for the show, along with a likely impromptu pre-show match or two. Brock Lesnar will defend his WWE Universal Championship (which he has held for more than 300 days) against Braun Strowman and “The Demon” Kane. AJ Styles will defend the WWE Championship in a handicap match against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. On the tag team side, the Usos will defend the Smackdown tag belts against Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin. In the Raw Tag Team Championships, the unlikely team of Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan will defend against The Bar (Cesaro & Sheamus).
5. The entrants announced so far
As of this blog post’s publication, 17 of the 30 men’s Royal Rumble entrants have been announced, nine of which are on the Smackdown brand, seven from Raw and one unaffiliated. Superstars including John Cena, Randy Orton, The Miz, and Shinsuke Nakamura will be vying for the championship match at Wrestlemania. For the women, 18 have been announced, including the undefeated Asuka, Mickie James, Becky Lynch and Nia Jax.
6. The surprise entrants
Every year, the WWE likes to bring in wrestlers and celebrities alike for the Rumble match to keep unpredictability alive. Big moments have occurred from this, including John Cena’s return from an injury months early to win in 2008 and AJ Styles’s debut in 2016. Just last year, Tye Dillinger entered at a fitting No. 10 spot to surprise the crowd. Nobody knows who might show up at this Royal Rumble, but rest assured: WWE has a few things up its sleeve.
7. Changes to the card already
Whether because of choice, injury or other factors, there have already been alterations to the match card. The first news to break involved Samoa Joe, who had to pull out of the Rumble match due to a foot injury sustained on Raw. Soon after, Paige pulled out of the women’s Rumble because of a career-threatening neck injury. A scheduled match at the Royal Rumble event between Jinder Mahal and Bobby Roode for the vacant United States Championship was moved to last week’s Smackdown Live. The biggest news and change, though, broke Monday for the cruiserweight division. Reigning WWE Cruiserweight Champion Enzo Amore was suspended and then released from the company after he was investigated for rape allegations. The release not only vacated the title but also voided his scheduled title defense against Cedric Alexander at the Rumble event.
8. The lucky numbers
In the Royal Rumble match, the number at which a Superstar enters can make all the difference. Entering last at No. 30 as opposed to first at No. 1 an be the difference between winning or losing. In the history of the Rumble, one would assume that No. 30 has produced the most winners, but it is tied for only second with the No. 24 spot, each producing three winners since 1988. The lucky number to draw is No. 27, as Big John Studd in 1989, Yokozuna in 1993, Bret Hart in 1994 and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in 2001 all won from that spot.
9. Records to break
In the 31-year history of the Royal Rumble, contestants have set many records in the match. Some seem unattainable, such as Santino Marella’s shortest amount of time in the match at one second. But other records are within reach for some of the announced participants. John Cena and Randy Orton can tie “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s record of three Rumble victories, as they each have two. Don’t be surprised if Roman Reigns comes close to breaking his own record of most eliminations in one match, currently at 12. Ironmen and women such as Shinsuke Nakamura or Bayley might challenge Rey Mysterio’s record of most time in a single Rumble match, a whopping 1 hour, 2 minutes and 12 seconds.
10. Ultimate beginning of road to Wrestlemania 34
Despite any problems fans might have with the company’s decisions in the past calendar year, the Royal Rumble events signifies a new beginning. It kicks off not only the year but also the storylines that lead to April’s Wrestlemania. The winner of the Rumble match gets a world championship match at the biggest wrestling event of the year, and other rivalries bud in the match itself. The Royal Rumble is the standard that WWE sets for the upcoming Wrestlemania and for the whole calendar year.