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.
In any battle royal matches, there are some unwritten rules -- and written ones -- depending on where you are. Let the new entry get some shine, watch bumping in the middle of a crowded ring. From a story standpoint, you want to help as many people as possible. Something that has been the formula for decades now.
"I don't think [things have changed]," former WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens told Fightful. "It's so many people to contend with and so many stories to tell at one time. There's no way that it won't be chaotic. It always is chaotic, but it always turns out exciting and memorable. That's how it's always going to be, the process. You've got 30 guys in one match and you have so many things to accomplish."
Jake Hager said that even though he wasn't really keen on working Royal Rumbles, it helped him adapt to that style of match. That's pretty important considering he's been in over 40 other battle royals.
"That’s definitely a different beast," Hager said. "They say every pro wrestling match is different and every gimmick is definitely different. Being in the Royal Rumbles definitely helped me prepare with that and helped other people set their stuff up. You really have to, you’re limited, ‘cause there’s people in the ring. You want to do some cool stuff and make an entrance, but you’ve got other people in the ring. So, you’ve gotta be careful with ankles, about throwing people, and hiding in the corner so that they can have the spotlight. There’s a lot of little things that go into it. Main thing is, I feel, is you don’t want to do too much. You don’t want to get too much stuff in. I was proud of what Sonny (Kiss) and I did (in AEW's Casino Battle Royal) because it made a big shock and it made a big splash, and it was something as easy as him turning it around on me and throwing me out. I was like, 'that’s all it needed to be.'"
When it gets down the coveted last few, that's where business picks up. Bret "The Hitman" Hart knows a thing or two about that. He won the 1994 Royal Rumble and was 'cheated' out of the 1997 edition by his rival "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
"With the Rumbles, if you’re lucky enough to be in the final eight guys in there to be part of the best part of the storytelling of the Rumble, I think, if I remember correctly, the Rumble with Steve Austin in Texas and all that, where I got double-crossed and I actually won and all that. That was all, I think, Vince. Steve was such a great guy to work with, he was such a natural. He had a great chemistry of playing his heel part, especially at that time and being that badass rattlesnake heel he was trying to be. We always had such great chemistry together, Steve and I. We enjoyed the role-playing. I loved the look on Steve’s face when I walked out and he’s stunned and almost scared that I’m coming out. A lot of that was Steve, a lot of that was me, a lot of that was Vince. Everyone gelling together and having good chemistry," Hart said.
There might be some spots you look at and wonder how much planning went into them. As Shane Helms tells Fightful, even his 2004 body press on Matt Hardy upon entering the ring was discussed before the match. However, him grasping at his knee after his elimination wasn't!
"You're not going to do a body press in a Royal Rumble without the other person knowing what's coming. It's having a little moment and making the most of it. I'm not winning it, and I'm not getting paid by the hour, so let's get in and get out! (I wasn't hurt) at all, but I knew it was a weird landing, so I started to oversell my knee. They had the trainers lined up and they thought I blew out my knee. I sold you a ticket! That's what happened," Helms joyously recalled.