The WWE announced today via their corporate website that the April 27, 2018 event in Saudi Arabia, entitled The Greatest Royal Rumble, will now feature Championship Matches for seven of its current WWE titles. From the press release:
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia & STAMFORD, Conn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Following an agreement between His Excellency Turki Al Sheikh and WWE Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia invites the world to the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Friday, April 27 at 7:00 p.m. AST to celebrate the Greatest Royal Rumble event in WWE history. Tickets will be available Saturday, March 31, and this historic event will feature seven championship matches, including the WWE Championship, Universal Championship, Intercontinental Championship, United States Championship, Raw Tag Team Championship, SmackDown Tag Team Championship and Cruiserweight Championship.
In addition to the seven Championship matches, the event will also include the first-ever 50-man Greatest Royal Rumble match.
Fans will get to see WWE Superstars John Cena™, Triple H™, Roman Reigns™, AJ Styles™, Braun Strowman™, The New Day™, Randy Orton™, Bray Wyatt™ and Shinsuke Nakamura™, among others. Additional ticket details and broadcast information will be available in the coming weeks.
The King Abdullah Sports City Stadium, nicknamed “The Crown Jewel”, is traditionally used for football (soccer) matches with a capacity of just over 62,000 seats for those games. Adding in the grounds, it could bring the attendance for the Greatest Royal Rumble to closer to 80,000.
THE GREATEST ROYAL RUMBLE: NOT THE FIRST NON-PPV RUMBLE
Many fans have argued that the event should not be called “The Greatest Royal Rumble” because it doesn’t have the same Royal Rumble stipulation as the PPV Royal Rumble, in that the winner (at press time) does not receive a Championship opportunity for either the WWE Championship or the Universal Championship. But history has shown that the WWE has held other Royal Rumble matches, both on Raw or Smackdown, and at other Live Events without those stipulations. While the Royal Rumble held in January traditionally awards a WrestleMania Championship match, the Royal Rumble itself was differently named due to the change in rules of a traditional Battle Royal. In a regular Battle Royal, all competitors begin in the ring at the same time, while a Royal Rumble releases entrants to the ring at timed intervals. The tradition of awarding Championship opportunities didn’t begin until the fourth Royal Rumble in 1991, when Hulk Hogan won to become #1 Contender to WWF World Heavyweight Champion Sgt. Slaughter. Prior to that, the winner was just bragging rights (“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and Big John Studd won the first two in 1988 and 1989, and in 1990, the Rumble was won by then reigning WWF World Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan). It only became an annual tradition to win a WrestleMania match starting in 1993 (1992 saw the first time the WWE Championship was determined by the winner, when Ric Flair won the Rumble and title).
The Greatest Royal Rumble actually marks the 10th time that the WWE has held a Royal Rumble not at the actual PPV/event of the same name. In fact, the very first Royal Rumble ever was actually held at a Live Event four months before the 1988 Royal Rumble PPV that Duggan won. It was held in St. Louis in October of 1987 and only featured 12 participants, but One Man Gang won the match (last eliminating Junkyard Dog). In a foreshadow of things to come, One Man Gang won a WWF World Heavyweight Championship match against Hulk Hogan (albeit at the next St. Louis Live Event).
Shortly after the first Royal Rumble in 1988, the WWF held one to main event a Live Event in Hartford, Connecticut on March 16, 1988, that was won by “Ravishing” Rick Rude. Like the initial 1988 PPV Rumble, this one featured 20-men and Rude just won bragging rights.
They held two more Live Event Royal Rumbles after this, the next being held at Madison Square Garden in New York City on January 17, 1994. This mirrored the change in numbers of participants, as it was also a 30-man Royal Rumble. The MSG Royal Rumble was won by Owen Hart, who last eliminated Headshrinker Fatu (aka Rikishi). The next Live Event Royal Rumble (and last one until April 27 of this year), was held in Osaka, Japan on May 9, 1994, when they held an 18-man Royal Rumble for the Japanese crowd. The Undertaker walked away with the victory, after last eliminating Bam Bam Bigelow.
On June 15, 1998, Monday Night Raw aired its first Royal Rumble match, the first ever Tag Team Royal Rumble, that saw the tandem of Kane & Mankind defeat The Legion of Doom (Hawk & Animal), The Oddities (Kurrgan & Golga), The Headbangers (Mosh & Thrasher), Too Cool (Brian Christopher & Scotty 2 Hotty), The New Midnight Express (Bart Gunn & Bob Holly), DOA (8-Ball & Skull, The Harris Twins), the hardcore duo of 2 Cold Scorpio & Terry Funk, plus two rather odd makeshift teams in Bradshaw & Taka Michinoku and Faarooq & Steve Blackman. Kane & Mankind won a tag team title shot against the New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg & Billy Gunn), winning the titles in July on later edition of Raw.
January 11, 1999 saw the Corporate Royal Rumble on Raw, where members of The Corporation and D-X fought for the right to earn the #30 entry spot into the 1999 Royal Rumble. Chyna won that one (last eliminating Vince McMahon himself) before she became the first woman to enter the Royal Rumble at the PPV. Smackdown got its first Royal Rumble match on January 29, 2004, when they decided to have one of their own to crown the #1 Contender to WWE Champion Brock Lesnar for No Way Out ’04 (Raw’s Chris Benoit won the 2004 Royal Rumble, earning his shot against World Heavyweight Champion Triple H at WrestleMania XX). Eddie Guerrero won Smackdown’s Royal Rumble and would go on to defeat Lesnar for the WWE Championship.
In January 2008, the WWE held a Mini-Royal Rumble on Raw, that featured Hornswoggle facing a plethora of midget wrestlers all based on other WWE gimmicks (Hornswoggle of course won). The last Royal Rumble match not held on the actual PPV/Royal Rumble event itself was in 2011 on Raw, when a Royal Rumble match was held to name the #1 Contender for The Miz for his WWE Championship match at Elimination Chamber ’11. The Rumble was ultimately won by Jerry “The King” Lawler.
This April’s Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia marks the 10th non-Royal Rumble Royal Rumble match in the company’s history, and with the WWE releasing new details every week, there could still be a “prize” announced for the winner. And while the WWE has yet to announce whether this massive event will simply be a Live Event or a televised special on the WWE Network, Roman Reigns may have spoiled the beans so to speak, when he was interviewed on The Jim & Sam Show this past Friday March 16, when he responded to questions on the event with “Hopefully I’m not giving away spoilers here… breaking news, happening now… but I think it’s going to be a huge WWE Network special.”
THE GREATEST ROYAL RUMBLE: NO WOMEN?
In an interesting note on the card as announced so far today, the two championships not being defended are the Raw and Smackdown Women’s Championships. While WWE broke ground last year with Sasha Banks vs Alexa Bliss in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia is still incredibly conservative when it comes to its Islam, with women not enjoying many of the freedoms of other Middle Eastern countries expanding their rights for women. It’s a bold move from Saudi Arabia to even hold this event outdoors in a large open stadium – traditional Islam has forbade such Western entertainment endeavours in the past.
As Dominic Dudley reported in Forbes earlier this year in regards to the change in policy within Saudi Arabia and its relationship with the WWE, he stated:
The new Saudi contract also comes against a backdrop of liberalisation in Saudi Arabia. Some of the harsher social strictures in the country are being gradually relaxed, not least through the encouragement of greater participation in sports and the hosting of more entertainment events.
Among the most notable developments over the past year, in December the authorities announced that public cinemas would be licensed for the first time in decades and in January women were allowed into a stadium in Jeddah to watch a football match for the first time.
But with no mention of the Women’s titles being defended (at present), it may be that the newfound liberalisation in Saudi Arabia may not quite yet have room for those women who will be allowed to attend the event actually be allowed to watch any of the WWE’s women Superstars compete. Hopefully it’s just being withheld for a more historic announcement prior.