Thursday, January 24, 2013

It's Time To RRRRRRRumble!

Ask any longtime WWF/WWE fan what their favorite pay-per-view event of the year is.  Chances are is that it's the Royal Rumble.  Although WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and Survivor Series are still around, all three no longer resemble what they originated as.  WrestleMania and SummerSlam put a higher emphasis on entertainment than actual in-ring action while the Survivor Series usually only has one or two "traditional" elimination tag team matches.  The four or five-man tag matches that do make it to the show usually have little importance as far as storylines or star power.  The Rumble still thrives where the others fall short.

Always said to be the brainchild of Pat Patterson, the Royal Rumble is based upon the huge annual January battle royals held in San Francisco's Cow Palace from the early 1970's to the 1980's.  Stars from around the country would be booked for these battle royals, including the "King of Battle Royal" himself, Andre the Giant.  Patterson himself was a huge star in the territory, so it's no wonder that the Royal Rumble concept is on his long list of concepts and accomplishments in the wrestling world.

With thirty men entering the ring at random intervals and the excitement of "who's behind the curtain?" building with each entry, it's no wonder that the concept has captivated so many fans.  Reports suggest that the idea flopped in the tryout stages on a house show basis.  Once the 1988 Rumble burst upon the USA Network, those opinions quickly changed.

It's a relatively simple concept, which most good ideas in the wrestling world are.  From the most rabid member of the "WWE Universe" to the sometimes cynical and jaded fans of times past (I resemble that remark), the Royal Rumble is the one match that everyone can agree is an hour or so full of fun.  Even more fun can be had by looking at some of the great memorabilia that has come from the event.  Everyone wants to "book" their own Royal Rumble and know just who's entering the fray next.  Over the years several games and toys have enabled us to do just that.

In the past, the Royal Rumble name has been emblazoned on a number of video games, both home console and arcade.  In modern times the match itself has become a stalwart feature on the many video games produced under the WWE banner.  These latter examples have enabled Rumble fun-seekers to produce a more genuine version with as many, or sometimes more, stars as the real events have.  A pinball machine was even produced in the 1990's entitled Royal Rumble and featuring Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, and other stars of the era.

Perhaps no collectible based on the annual event is better remembered than the Hasbro Royal Rumble ring toy.  The toy was the centerpiece of a line of Hasbro mini figures released as a counterpart to their larger regular action figure line.  The figures were solid plastic but could be attached to round top-like pieces.  This enabled the figures to "Rumble" when pounded with plastic plungers situated under the ring.  Due to reasons often speculated but never ultimately confirmed, the ring itself with the six "main eventer" mini figures had a very short shelf-life.  Arriving to stores very early in the 1992 Christmas buying season, the ring came and went leaving the extra figure four packs unsold for years.

Full-sized action figures have felt the Rumble as well.  Mattel has released several Royal Rumble Heritage sets featuring stars in the outfits that they wore at the event.  The second Sheamus figure, released while it was a very hot item, was in one of these series.  It was actually a decade ago when Jakks produced my favorite Rumble figures.  The six figure series was based upon the 2002 Royal Rumble and sold very well at the time.  The best of the set was one of the few figures ever made of Earl Hebner.  A great item to take along for signings at TNA events, the photo on the packaging is actually that of Earl's twin brother Dave, despite the figure being marketed as Earl.

Many of the early Rumble's had programs specific to the event.  These programs, as well as issues of the regular WWF Magazine from the time, often offer an interesting glimpse into what may have been.  Due to publication deadlines and the ever-changing world of professional wrestling, some of these publications list superstars slated to have been in specific Rumble's that never actually showed up in the match.  The most famous example of this is the 1991 Royal Rumble where Andre the Giant, The Honky Tonk Man, and Playboy Buddy Rose were originally booked for the big match.

Perhaps the oddest example of Royal Rumble merchandise is one that most fans have never even seen.  Posted to our Facebook Fanpage last year, the 1990 Royal Rumble hot chocolate packet is indeed strange even for the WWF marketing machine.  Offbeat items were often made to promote the event and distributed to cable companies and other similar establishments.  Seeing as that a 1990 Royal Rumble mug also exists, it's my own theory that since the Rumble is held in the winter, the WWF saw a perfect tie-in.  Have a mug of Rumble cocoa while enjoying the pay-per-view extravaganza.  Thankfully, the original owner of this strange collectible must have not been a hot chocolate fan (like myself), thus it still exists unused some twenty-three years later.

Giants, pinball, mini figures, and hot cocoa.  What's not to like?  The Royal Rumble has brought all of that and more to wrestling fans for a quarter of a century.  Will your favorite win this year?  If your favorite isn't John Cena, I'm thinking you're out of luck.  One never knows, though, it is the Royal Rumble...where it's every man for himself!

1 comment:

Loneman1 said...

In all honesty, quickly skimming down through the pictures while tired several nights ago, I seriously thought that cocoa packet was a condom and thought "when did that happen????" LOL....