WWE Superstars get ready for Royal Rumble in Philadelphia

Will Randy Orton emerge from Sunday's Royal Rumble victorious?

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The WWE Royal Rumble, which was launched in 1988, will take place for the 27th time Sunday at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia as 30 individuals will attempt to be the last man standing and guarantee themselves a shot at the WWE World Title at WrestleMania 31 in April at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Ca. 

The Royal Rumble is a spin-off of the traditional wrestling battle royal, which features a bevy of beasts all in the ring at the same time and where elimination comes when a participant is tossed over the top rope and both feet touch the floor.

However, the Rumble match differs as it sees two individuals start the match, again, with over-the-top rope rules just as its "cousin,” and 28 surprise entrants coming to the ring to join in the action at predetermined intervals. The interval/entrance time has varied over the years but it’s usually 1-2 minutes with a countdown clock utilized, which adds excitement and builds anticipation until all 30 hopefuls have been introduced.

The Royal Rumble match continues until 29 participants have been eliminated. The sole survivor then earns the opportunity to headline WrestleMania, where fame and fortune await, against the WWE Champion. 

Many of the genre’s biggest names such as Hacksaw Jim Duggan, who won the first Rumble, Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase, Ric Flair, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Edge, Brock Lesnar, Dave Batista, Randy Orton and John Cena, are among a who’s who of grapplers who have won the main event to what is the kickoff to "WrestleMania season."

Which brings one to this question, "Who is the biggest star in the history of the Royal Rumble?"

That’s easy … it’s the creator of the concept that has become one of WWE’s most popular and unpredictable matches, 1996 WWE Hall of Fame inductee Pat Patterson.

Patterson, who for five decades kept the fact that he is gay a secret and came out during the TV season finale of WWE Legends House on the WWE Network in 2014, wrestled for well over a decade based out of the San Francisco wrestling territory. Pat is widely considered to be one of the greatest in-ring performers of all time. Pat’s individual career was stellar the world over and his tag team with another Bay Area legend, Ray Stevens, is arguably, in the eyes of many, the best tag team ever.    

One of the things that San Francisco wrestling was known for was its annual Battle Royal, which became an eagerly anticipated event for wrestling fans every January. It started as a modestly attended event in the Cow Palace on Nov. 11, 1967, but by 1969 the annual Battle Royal was selling out the famous facility — packing it with 16,000-plus fans and often times turning hundreds of others away. Much like the Super Bowl, which took until Super Bowl III to formally establish itself, it also took three years for the annual Battle Royal concept to become established as a "must-see" attraction. 

Ironically, the last event the San Francisco wrestling office, headed by promoter Roy Shire, held at the Cow Palace was headlined by a Battle Royal that drew only 6,000 fans due to the changing landscape of the Bay Area television scene, which saw the local wrestling show move from powerful KTVU, Ch. 2, to the much weaker KRBK, Ch. 44. Folklore has it that Shire lost his prime TV clearance on KTVU that propelled his entire Northern California territory because Shire dipped snuff and used the shiny floors of the KTVU TV studio where his TV show was produced as a spittoon, of which station executives strongly disapproved.     

Nonetheless, Pat Patterson was in virtually every San Francisco Battle Royal over parts of three decades and with his brilliant pro wrestling mind mastered the creative art of producing the event that generally featured a total of 18 wrestlers. To properly produce and structure this event, one had to have a creative mind, be a discerning politician and a masterful communicator. Pat Patterson was all these things and more.  

In 1988, while serving as WWE Chairman Vince McMahon’s right-hand man, Patterson created the Battle Royal-themed Royal Rumble, which has spawned countless, memorable moments for WWE fans while enhancing the careers of dozens of stars.

In 1988, while serving as WWE Chairman Vince McMahon’s right-hand man, Patterson created the Battle Royal-themed Royal Rumble, which has spawned countless memorable moments for WWE fans while enhancing the careers of dozens of stars. 

The Royal Rumble is WWE’s most unpredictable event and the stakes are noticeably tangible and are paid off in full at the ensuing WrestleMania spectacular. The Rumble also facilitates the surprise return to the squared circle of the occasional "legend" and it has also facilitated some shining moments for many young talents looking to separate themselves from their locker room peers.

Sunday’s event in Philadelphia, which sold out the home of the NBA 76ers and NHL Flyers in less than one day, again will be unpredictable as there is no clear-cut favorite to leave Philly with their WM31 main event spot intact.

My pick to win the 2015 Royal Rumble is the classic underdog/overachiever, albeit hugely talented, Daniel Bryan. Would I be willing to bet a case of JR’s Original BBQ Sauce on that prediction? No thanks, as it’s merely an educated guess. I’d also submit Roman Reigns and Randy Orton as two other potential winners of Sunday’s main event in the City of Brotherly Love, where, ironically, it’s no friends and all foes. It’s every man, or woman, for themselves, hence no brotherly or sisterly love expected. 

Pat Patterson, from humble beginnings as a non-English speaking teen from Montreal, came to Boston to begin his wrestling career in the late ’50s and had a Hall of Fame career in the ring. Pat also created a masterpiece known as the Royal Rumble that today’s sports entertainment fans have enjoyed for over a quarter of a century. Patterson’s journey has been nothing short of extraordinary and the man who turned 74 years old earlier this week will likely be in Philadelphia this weekend to see how his brain child has grown. 

Who knows, perhaps Pat Patterson will be one of those "surprise entrants” in the 2015 Royal Rumble. Stranger things have happened at this unpredictable event, which will be televised on the WWE Network. 

You can follow Jim Ross on Twitter @JRsBBQ, listen to him on the Ross Report Podcast, and see him live at RINGSIDE: An Evening with Jim Ross in Sayreville, N.J., on Friday, and in Philadelphia on Sunday. JR’s products are also available online at wweshop.com,americansoda.co.uk and beyondtheropes.co.uk