A friendly affair?

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January 26, 2007

“In the Royal Rumble Match, it’s every man for himself.”

The longer you’ve been a WWE fan, the more often you’ve heard that quote. But come on…how many of you actually believe it?

Sure, the Royal Rumble Match gives 30 Superstars a chance to earn a championship match in the main event of WrestleMania. That’s not just something you’re given; in fact, there aren’t even 30 men who HAVE main evented WrestleMania in its first 22 years (if you count the final match as the main event, 28 different men have been in it).

But buddies are buddies, right? I mean, the Royal Rumble Match is just like any other Battle Royal, where alliances are formed and teammates are going to help each other out. Sometimes, it’s necessary; there’s not many men walking the planet that could single-handedly toss someone the size of Andre the Giant, Yokozuna or Big Show over the top rope. Hell, in 1994, it took SEVEN Superstars to eliminate Mabel (now known as Viscera, for you newer WWE fans) from the match.

But there’s another quote you may have heard; originally uttered by British historian Lord Acton, it’s also a lyric from a Rush song: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Using principles of substitution, this quote explains exactly why the Royal Rumble truly is every man for himself. In the case of WWE, “power” is winning the Royal Rumble Match, and “absolute power” is becoming WWE, ECW or World Heavyweight Champion in the main event of WrestleMania. No matter what anyone says, the lure of main eventing WrestleMania and possibly becoming champion can break almost any bond; friends, partners and even relatives will go tooth and nail if the situation arises.

Take 1989, for instance. Going into the Royal Rumble that year, Demolition held the World Tag Team Championship. In a cruel twist of fate, Ax & Smash drew Nos. 1 and 2, giving them two minutes in the ring against each other to open the match. Sure, they could have stood there and talked, stretched out, played Yahtzee or whatever; instead, staying true to the mantra, the World Tag Team Champions slugged it out for two minutes before Andre the Giant entered at No. 3. The WrestleMania main event stipulation was not even in effect in 1989, but Ax & Smash stayed true to the mantra of “every man for himself.”

Later that same year, Mega-Powers partners Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage were left in the ring with Bad News Brown. As Savage had Brown primed for elimination, Hogan rushed over to help. Bad News was tossed, but unfortunately, he also knocked Savage over the top rope, a fact that made Savage livid. Jesse Ventura speculated that Hogan had done it on purpose, and then gloated when his arch-nemesis Akeem & Big Boss Man were the next two men to enter the match. Even if Hogan did purposely eliminate Savage (who was the WWE Champion at the time), he didn’t do anything “wrong” according to the “every man for himself” mantra.

Natural Disasters Typhoon & Earthquake made Ax & Smash proud in 1993, as the partners had a showdown in the Royal Rumble Match. Unfortunately, this one didn’t end as amicably, as Earthquake eliminated Typhoon after avoiding his partner’s massive avalanche attempt.

In 2005, there were several situations where alliances went bad. As the World’s Greatest Tag Team, Benjamin & Haas were two-time WWE Tag Team Champions before Shelton was drafted to Raw in 2004. However, when Haas entered the 2005 Royal Rumble Match at No. 16, Shelton was already in the match. The two reunited briefly, nailing Rene Dupree with one of their signature double-team moves. Just moments later, however, Haas watched as Shelton was eliminated by Edge.

Earlier in that same Rumble, Chris Benoit & Eddie Guerrero went from enemies to friends to enemies. They entered as Nos. 1 and 2, going at it for two minutes until Daniel Puder drew unlucky No. 3. After teaming up to destroy Puder, eliminate No. 4 Hardcore Holly and beat down No. 5 Hurricane, Eddie tried to toss Benoit. Eddie’s “lie, cheat and steal” philosophy didn’t work on this occasion, but id did when he eliminated another supposed friend, Booker T, later in the match.

The third tale of 2005 is that of Evolution. Ric Flair entered at No. 30, and with teammate Batista having just entered minutes earlier, it looked as if they would dominate. They did just that for a few minutes, teaming up to decimate and eliminate Jonathan Coachman, Christian and Chris Benoit. But after Benoit’s elimination, the “Nature Boy” tried to grab Batista by the neck and toss him too. The Animal shrugged it off and Flair pleaded for Batista to spare him; he did, but Edge did not, spearing and eliminating Flair seconds later.

This Sunday in the 2007 Royal Rumble Match, there are several opportunities for various alliances to be tested. Will Matt & Jeff Hardy end up taking each other to the extreme? After Randy Orton’s actions on Raw, will Rated-RKO explode in the Rumble? Will any brotherly love between Kane & Undertaker be tossed aside like yesterday’s garbage? And what about ECW’s long-time friends, partners and rivals Rob Van Dam & Sabu and Tommy Dreamer & Sandman?

Regardless of how many friends a Superstar may think they have heading into the Royal Rumble, only one man can win the match and go on to main event WrestleMania. There’s always strength in numbers, but in this situation, any man who isn’t out for himself (and himself only) might be at a disadvantage.

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