The following is an excerpt from our new feature, Inside The Royal Rumble 2. Please check it out in its entirety, and see our video feature at the top of the page
THE GREATEST ROYAL RUMBLE
Del Rio himself was a Rumble winner the one year that the match was composed of 40 stars instead of 30. We've seen 20, 30, and 40-man Royal Rumble matches across the three-plus decades of the historic match, but the company went one step beyond in 2018. After landing a controversial deal to see WWE run events in conjunction with the Saudi government, a 50-man "Greatest Royal Rumble" was announced.
There was plenty to remember about that match. It was the longest in Rumble history, the biggest. Daniel Bryan, now Bryan Danielson, lasted an hour and sixteen minutes. But that's not what anyone talks about. Everyone remembers Titus World Slide.
Titus O'Neil approached the ring late in the match at number 39, only to trip, stumble and slide underneath the ring in a hilarious accident.
"That was an epic Titus O’Neil slip, remember?," the former Sin Cara/Hunico told Fightful, who watched from backstage following his elimination. "I know a lot of people when they think about it, they laugh. We laughed in the back. It was crazy. But, then if you really look back, if you would have had the old wrestling ring with the screen. Imagine. He could have really hurt himself, broken his neck or something. But, good thing that the ring he could have gone underneath and there was a little barrier also in the middle and he went in the side. If he would have hit it, something really bad could have happened. So, inside of all that funny stuff that happened, that’s my way of thinking. ‘Man, you could have really hurt yourself or something really bad could have happened.’ But, I’m glad that he didn’t. It was just a funny moment and I got to live that. It was a lot of fun. He’s a good guy, too."
Brian Myers, formerly known as Curt Hawkins, was tasked with coming out shortly after, which put him in a memorable scene for that one.
"I was in Gorilla for because I was coming out right after. It was people laughing in a way I’d never seen people laugh in my life. Crippling with laughter. Wild." Myers said, clarifying that nobody thought he was hurt. "That was such an afterthought because obviously, he was fine because he popped right out. If he was under there for a minute, I think people would have got scared. But he didn’t even give them time to be concerned. He came right out. So everyone just lost it like, ‘No way that just happened.’"
The situation was a happy accident as it turned out, as he avoided any injury. During most shows at that period, where the ring apron was usually housed thick LED boards that would not have been forgiven.
Talent in the ring also said Titus trying to make up for it by violently decking everyone in the ring.
Due to the expanded roster necessary -- and as some unique demands from the Saudi hosts that included long since deceased wrestlers.
"I do remember the rumors swirling—let’s throw an ‘allegedly’ in front of this—were true, like the Saudis had a list of demands. That’s why, if you watch that thing, every freak-sized guy from NXT was randomly there, people who’d never even wrestled yet were there. I guess they asked for Yokozuna and Ultimate Warrior was the rumor," said Myers. "But then we had a legitimate sumo there, who spoke Japanese and not English, and had never wrestled before in his life. Jamie Noble’s running this huge meeting, telling us what’s going on. He’s like, ‘Alright, and then sumo brother’s gonna come out there,’ he’s standing there and has no clue what’s going on. It was kind of surreal to be part of."
Mike Bennett remembered the odd requests, as well.
Bennett said, "So random. So, what I’ve heard is they wanted Yokozuna. They wanted Yokozuna and someone had to explain to the prince that he was no longer alive. So, they were like, ‘Just get any sumo wrestler.’ Yeah. They were also gonna do a Hornswoggle match, too, that they ended up cutting. So, they actually brought over a guy, his name is Robbie Araujo, who’s an independent wrestler, they flew him over there and he did nothing. He was supposed to wrestle Hornswoggle. Flew him over there, he did absolutely nothing. I think he did JBL or J-Wee-L, or whatever they were doing at the time. But, yeah. They brought him over and then just completely canned it."
While they couldn't resurrect anyone, WWE brought in several names from the past. One of those included former World Heavyweight Champion and film star Great Khali, who never spoke the best English, which kept some of the laughs going based on one specific interaction.
Myers said "I’ve been around Khali since day one ‘cause he was a Deep South guy in ’06 before we debuted him. Me and Broski would have to stay after practice and get demolished by him. We’ve known him for a long time. You’re jarring all these funny memories. I remember seeing him that day because we hadn’t seen him in a while. We were bullshitting with him, sitting in catering and the boys kind of ball busting. We were making fun of him that he knows nobody’s name even though he’s been around us for like ten / fifteen years. ‘Hey, man,’ everyone’s just whatever. So Gallows, who knows him very well, was with him in Deep South, wrestled him a million times, is like, ‘Hey Khali, what’s my name?’ He’s like, ‘Drew.’ We’re like, ‘Holy shit! He knows his name!’ Then Windham—Bray Wyatt—tries to go, ‘Khali, what about me? What’s my real name?’ He goes, ‘Michael Hayes, man.’ You talk about a locker room pop, the boys fucking exploded."
The process of putting that Rumble together was a remarkable job simply because of its enormity. WWE had a method to their madness, with producer Jamie Noble leading the charge.
"I think they were doing it in sections," Myers said. "Basically, when you’re out you could walk away until it got down to who was up next. Braun Strowman won it. I think I do a funny spot with Braun where I run away from him and he beats the crap out of me on the ramp. I had the ramp implanted on me because it hurt so bad.No, you just got your thing and scram. It was this massive, almost an indoor soccer field we’re all standing around talking it out on.
Mojo Rawley told Fightful that the process was chaotic, even though it was streamlined about as well as it could be.
"Man, those things are all over the place, bro. Yeah, there’s usually a little list. But a lot of it’s on the fly. You might get some pointers while you’re in there. There isn’t like a setlist like, ‘Number one, this guy eliminates that guy.’ Sometimes there are, but when you got fifty people, you can’t wait in succession ‘cause it’s just gonna take too long and no one can see across the ring to know who’s been eliminated let alone know who’s left. So, it gets crazy, man. Those things can be a blur sometimes," Mojo said.
Rawley spent about nine minutes in the Greatest Royal Rumble himself. He tossed out the Breezango duo of Fandango and Tyler Breeze, but there was consideration for Mojo to have a much different role on the Saudi shows.
"That one was kind of funny, actually," Mojo said. "So, I have an Arab background. Half of my dad’s family lives in Saudi. My whole family speaks Arabic. I’m learning. So, every time we would go to Saudi, they would always send me over a week or two ahead of time. For PR, for promos, community service. Whatever we could do. I always wanted to go. I loved it. It was great and I’d get to see my family. So, that was always one of my favorite parts of the gig over the past nine / ten years was moments like this. Especially international travel. The Saudi battle royal was funny because they were trying to figure out who they wanted to be as their figurehead or spokesperson for that market. For all promos it was me. They had me in that role, but they brought in Mansoor, whose family is also from Saudi. He looks Arab. I don’t look Arab at all. They were trying to figure out, ‘Do we use them both? Do we use one?’ So, I remember, it was so funny because in the creative meeting they were like, ‘Alright, who are we going to win this thing?’ There were some people that wanted Mansoor and there were some people that wanted me. They were like, ‘Dude, Mojo’s already on the main roster. He’s already been here for promo and whatnot. Let’s use him.’ They decide to use Mansoor, and I’m so happy for him. He’s worked his butt off in a lot of different ways to be the representative there. I just remember it was funny because, I guess when they decided Mansoor was going to be the guy, they were like, ‘Well, shoot, we can’t have two Arab representatives in the ring at the same time. It’s gonna split the crowd. We gotta get Mojo out of this thing ASAP.’ So, I think, first commercial break they were like, ‘Just toss out Mojo and get him out of there so it doesn’t split the crowd,’ and that’s what happened. It was kind of funny. I was like, ‘Guys, you do realize I’ve been here for two weeks on TV every day in the region? You’re aware of this, right?’ We could do a tag team thing over here or I could always be the heel to build him up or whatever you guys want. Whatever. Well, you never know what actually goes on behind closed doors. I had just heard that this was one of the conversations that was had. So, it was funny. But, Mansoor’s done a hell of a job over there and again, he is the part but he also looks the part, too."
Mansoor has been one of the flag bearers for WWE in the country, winning a 50-man battle royal the following year that wasn't in the Royal Rumble format, and going undefeated across the last three years there.