'I always wanted to do something that’s never been done': The story behind the Royal Rumble Match

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January 21, 2014

“If at first an idea is not absurd, then there will be no hope for it.” — Albert Einstein

No single match on the WWE calendar holds the same intrigue, boasts as devoted a following, or is as widely anticipated as the Royal Rumble Match. The 30-Superstar classic made its pay-per-view debut in January 1989, but the first time that a national audience bore witness to the over-the-top melee was a full year earlier, on national TV. Unlike the now tried-and-true 30-man lineup, the match that took place Jan. 24, 1988, which was something of a proof of concept, featured 20 Superstars.

But how did this enduring tradition come to be? What inspired WWE — still riding high off the success of WrestleMania III the year before — to reinvent the wheel yet again and launch a brand-new match type?

To find out, WWE.com went straight to the source and asked the man credited with inventing the Royal Rumble Match, Pat Patterson. In this exclusive interview, the WWE Hall of Famer explained the humble beginnings of one of the most enduring match types of all time. Sprinkled into the conversation are excerpts from a previously published WWE Magazine article in which the Superstars who participated in the 1988 Royal Rumble Match shared their memories from that fateful night.

Along with Patterson, here are the players involved:
BRET “HIT MAN” HART — The first entrant in the 1988 Royal Rumble Match, Bret "Hit Man" Hart lasted more than 25 minutes before being eliminated by Don Muraco. He was the co-winner of the 1994 Royal Rumble Match.

“HACKSAW” JIM DUGGAN — Drawing No. 13, "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan won the 1988 Royal Rumble Match. He last appeared in the annual brawl in 2012.

TITO SANTANA — As the second entrant, Tito Santana kicked off the Royal Rumble Match with Bret Hart. He competed in six Rumbles during his WWE career.

JAKE “THE SNAKE” ROBERTS — Noted ring psychologist Jake Roberts was the fifth entrant into the Royal Rumble Match. He helped eliminate two Superstars before being ousted by One Man Gang.

HILLBILLY JIM — One of WWE’s most popular personalities of the 1980s, Hillbilly Jim entered at No. 16 and eliminated Jim Neidhart in his sole Royal Rumble Match appearance.

HARLEY RACE — The sixth Superstar to enter the contest, Harley Race was eliminated by Don Muraco after lasting more than 10 minutes.

Pat Patterson Bio, Videos, Photos, and News Articles Jake "The Snake" Roberts Bio, Videos, Photos, and News Articles Bret Hart Bio, Videos, Photos, and News Articles Hacksaw Jim Duggan Bio, Videos, Photos, and News Articles

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