The following is an excerpt from Fightful's Inside The Royal Rumble feature. For the full story an additional context, please visit the full article at this link, and when posting quotes from this piece, please link to the original article.
30 men or women, in rare instances 40 or 50. That's a pretty huge task to tackle when you're laying out a battle royal with peripheral stories involved. WWE employs agents and producers to help direct traffic, but it's the creator of the match that is often credited with making sure the first 20 or so went off without a hitch. In speaking with nearly 20 superstars who had participated, Pat Patterson's name constantly came up.
"Pat Patterson set those up," said 1996 #30 entry Duke 'The Dumpster' Droese. "He sits everyone down, usually it’s in the catering area. He’ll have a big white dry erase board. He’ll give everybody the order that you’re going out to the ring. Then he will tell you, ‘Then you go out of the ring after you see this wrestler go out.’ He tells you who is going to throw you out of the ring. That’s basically how it works. It’s like, what number you go into the ring, and then, basically, what number you go out. Because you watch to see and you go out after a certain person. You make sure the right person throws you out of the ring. That’s how it works. The rest of it is just a big ol’ mish-mosh in the ring and people goofing off and making each other laugh, basically, is what it is and ribbing each other."
Years ago, when Fightful began work on the Inside The Rumble project, MLW founder Court Bauer recalled Patterson having plenty of help as the years went on. Especially with Michael Hayes, a man known for having the ability to create high spots and big moments for other wrestlers.
"Michael was the day-to-day guy on that (when I was there)," Bauer said. "So, Michael has kind of come up with entertaining scenarios and collaborating with talent and seeing what they can add to it to sprinkle in. That’s starting, really, right around early December / late November and you go through January. Sometimes you know you’re destination and it’s assumed everyone knows, everyone’s on the same page. We know who the winner’s going to be. Other times it can almost be up to a game-day decision. It just depends on how stable the operation is, the creative direction, how healthy the talent is, what opportunities come in at the eleventh hour for WrestleMania that may require the creative team and the chairman to rethink the game plan for the Rumble. So, there’s so many variables that can come into play that can change up anything and everything. But, you try, in your best effort, to have a game plan and hopefully stick to it. But, year to year it’s different, and regime to regime it’s different within WWE."
Bauer wrote for WWE for several years and witnessed how the match came together from a creative perspective. With as many people that were involved in the actual match, it took a lot to make the magic and turn it into the finished product.
"Well, it’s a collaborative process. Everyone has their opinions, their thoughts, their vision for the Rumble, which is essentially the big bang for the year for WWE. It kicks off WrestleMania season and that then takes you into late spring into summer. So, everyone has their vision how they see the year playing out and the tent poles throughout the year. Rumble, then Mania, etc, and so, you’re constantly having informal conversations in the hallways at the arenas or Titan Towers. You’re having a flurry of e-mails traded back which has everyone on it. Once in a while, Vince will jump in and bark something or put over something or just not feel it at all. You have guys like Michael Hayes who had taken over the day to day operations of being the architect for the Royal Rumble from the days when Pat Patterson was real hands-on, and he still contributed to it. ‘Cause he's a phenomenal finish man. Just laying out matches, he’s just a wizard at it. You're collaborating for the few weeks going into the Rumble. It can be fine-tuned and stuff, but right now, Michael Hayes, Pat Patterson, Shane McMahon will be in a hotel suite they'll rent out in Stamford, Connecticut. They'll have a lot of food and there will be some liquor and they will game plan the Royal Rumble: the entrances, the eliminations and by the end of the week, the last week going into the holiday, they'll then pitch and present their game plan to the creative team and Vince McMahon. This is what it was like for 2006, at least," Bauer noted.
Pat Patterson was widely regarded as one of the best creative minds and "finishers" within the wrestling industry. Even respected Hall of Famers who were known for such a thing themselves spoke to the way that Patterson was able to bring certain things to life.
"When they lay out the strategy or the psychology of the match, Pat was always one of the best to lay it out," Bret 'The Hitman' Hart told Fightful. "He always had a great vision. Pat was one of those kinds of guys that, if you had an idea, and you were talking to Pat, if you said to Pat, ‘How about this?’ and then you explain the idea to Pat, Pat had an ability to visualize what you’re talking about while you’re talking. He could visualize it and recognize right away whether or not it would work. I can remember when I first started in WWF, it wasn’t a Rumble or anything, but I could remember I’d been there for about two years. I remember Pat coming up to me, he was kind of out of ideas and I said, ‘How about this?’ I ran a whole finish by him that we used to do in Calgary with Stampede Wrestling. I just remember I laid it out to him and Pat goes, ‘You can do all that?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I can do all that. We’ve done it lots of times.’ He goes, ‘I want to see it. You do everything you just told me, and I’m going to go out and watch.’ We went out, did the whole match like clockwork and he came back and he was just blown away. He was like, ‘I can’t believe how good that match was and how you had so much in there. It didn’t look rehearsed or practiced.’ We had done it a million times. I think that was when, if I can pat myself on the back, I think that was when they started realizing that I was a good finish guy. I could come up with my finishes. I always liked that, and appreciated that respect that they had for me."
Nowadays, Jamie Noble is considered one of the minds behind the men's Royal Rumble. Also, Fightful learned that both Shane McMahon and Hayes helped out in creating the 2020 men's Match, which had significant input from the wrestlers themselves.
An anonymous current WWE talent told us "Noble is always one of the ‘go-to’ guys at Royal Rumble, but it's always a handful of producers who are involved and when it comes to ideas, anyone can make a suggestion. So it really is a group effort, but Jamie would be responsible for being able to answer the question ‘what’s supposed to be going on right now’ at any given moment once the Rumble match has started."
According to other people involved in the 2020 match, things were set up and then those who were supposed to be involved at the end were split off into another group to work things out privately. About half of it was simply Brock Lesnar running through people.
Even though the Royal Rumble holds a special place in the hearts of many, not everyone loved the match, or what went into it.
"Definitely not one of my favorite matches," said AEW's Jake Hager, who was in six Royal Rumbles. "Depending on who you’re in there with, you’ll have levels of creativity and you’ll have levels of restriction. There was a group of three or four guys who decide the whole storyline throughout the thing. Then you would try to implement your stuff to make it a fit to your storyline type deal and it can be easy or it can be difficult."