10 Things We Learned From WWE Royal Rumble 2011

The one with 40 men...

We didn't know what bloated was. In April 2018, the 50-man monstrosity that was Greatest Royal Rumble (complete with Performance Center dwellers and a Yokozuna cover band) cracked a window into just how colossal WWE's roster really is. Seven years earlier, the 2011 Royal Rumble begged the question of, "How much is too much?" when it expanded the field to accommodate 40 contestants. We thought we knew what big was. We didn't.

Even with 10 extra wrestlers helping to comprise the largest Rumble in history to that point, it's not as though the match were improved by the additional humanity. Whoever the bottom 10 per cent were in terms of popularity and prestige could've been excised in favour of a stronger cast, but what's done is done. Other than two monumental returns, a nifty John Morrison elimination save, and a fake-out ending that had a cynic like me buzzing, the match was 70 minutes of basic. Despite having the overhead to pull off a 40-man match since, WWE hasn't (save for the paid-for match with the green belt).

The 2011 Royal Rumble was a basic show, as basic as a crack in the sidewalk, with a few quaint moments that kept things above the current. Given some of the tedium and rage-fodder that lay ahead in the coming years, basic's good.

10. By Process Of Elimination


Well, something had to open the show, and given that there were four scheduled matches, Edge vs. Dolph Ziggler for the World Heavyweight title was as good a choice as any. The match may have been the best of the quartet, with fast-paced action and a little "it could go either way" drama down the homestretch, with main event newcomer Ziggler holding his own.

This would mark the first time that a World title (WWE or World Heavyweight, not ECW) match opened a Big Four pay-per-view. And it certainly wouldn't be the last, as the two Rumbles following this, as well as next two WrestleManias, would see the Big Gold Belt put up for grabs in the curtain-jerker. That was some mercy-killing when they unified the straps at the end of 2013.

9. Spoiler Alert


Initially, the Divas' title match was advertised to be Natalya defending the gold in a triple threat match against Michelle McCool and Layla. However, just before the bell sounded, the anonymous Raw GM (later revealed to be #23 Rumble entrant Hornswoggle) added Eve Torres into the match. And go figure, Eve captured the gold after some abbreviated action.

The inclusion of Eve into the match would've been much more surprising had the official event t-shirt not included her name among the participants in the match. The shirts were already being sold at the in-house merch stands, so anyone walking to their seat while reading the printed line-up would've been a bit confused as to why Eve was listed in the title bout. So thank you, Hornswoggle, from making sure the shirts were not incorrect.

8. Room For Newbs


The landscape of WWE had changed quite a bit in the one year from the dawn of 2010 to that of 2011. While the expanded field did open up more spots for undercarders that may not have been afforded a shot in the match, the advent of NXT as a reality show meant that we were probably due for a lot of Rumble debuts.

Indeed, 14 of the 40 entrants were Rumble first-timers, including five of the original eight Nexus members (Daniel Bryan, Wade Barrett, Heath Slater, Justin Gabriel, and David Otunga), as well as other NXT contestants like Alex Riley, Husky Harris and Michael McGillicutty. Sheamus made his Rumble match debut after working in singles action the prior year, and eventual winner Alberto Del Rio also took part in his first. The others: Ezekiel Jackson, Mason Ryan, Tyson Kidd, and Tyler Reks.

7. No Room For You


Even with the inflated space to house 10 more contestants, there were still a few wrestlers that didn't get the chance to compete. Three initially-scheduled competitors would be pulled, one of them for kayfabe reasons. Cody Rhodes had his "dashing" face smashed by Rey Mysterio in a recent SmackDown match, and pulled himself for reasons of histrionic vanity. He was far too damaged, you see.

Meanwhile, two other scheduled competitors were taken out without there being a storyline reason: Darren Young and David Hart Smith. It's not clear who the official replacements were (could've been the two surprises, could've been other undercard guys), but neither was in a prominent spot anyhow - Smith would be released that summer, while Young would tread water until finding new life as one half of the Prime Time Players.

6. Fickle On The Push


The first two entrants into the Rumble match were rec-center rivals-turned-future WWE Champions CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, the former acting as Nexus frontman and the latter a humble and happy US Champion. Bryan lasted more than 20 minutes in the match, eliminating Justin Gabriel and Zack Ryder before eventually meeting his end at the hands of Punk himself.

Those who are quick to cry foul whenever Bryan is "misused" will love this one - this was Bryan's last PPV match for six months. Infamously, he and Sheamus would be pushed to WrestleMania 27's pre-show, and he would wrestle in two other dark matches - vs. Ted Dibiase at Elimination Chamber, and against Drew McIntyre at Over the Limit. His next time on PPV wouldn't come until he won the blue-case Money in the Bank opener in a bit of an upset.

5. Luck Runs Out


To add a little comic relief to the middle of the Rumble match, Hornswoggle was dispatched to the ring, and he would assist John Cena in cutesy beatdowns of Tyson Kidd and Heath Slater. He lasted nearly 10 minutes in the match before being taken out by Sheamus, the comedy portion of the night over, at least until an accidental elimination that we'll soon cover.

For Hornswoggle, this would mark his final match on a PPV main card for WWE, prior to his release in mid-2014. Hornswoggle would engage with El Torito in a pair of overachieving pre-show matches just before that release (for both men, actually), but otherwise, he existed in primarily a mascot role, without much in the way of higher profile matches before leaving.

4. Trucking Up To Boston


The familiar horns blared for "Big Daddy Cool" at the number 32 spot, signalling the one-night return of Diesel to WWE. It was a bit of a surprise to see Kevin Nash in WWE once more, considering that he had just signed a new deal to return to TNA as part of a Main Event Mafia revival.

Fellow Rumble returnee Booker T turned down an offer from TNA, but Nash did indeed sign, with the plan to return at the tapings the day after the Rumble. When WWE contacted a TNA-contracted Nash about a comeback, he managed to coerce a release from Dixie Carter, though it's not clear why she agreed to release him. TNA would get a small measure of revenge when they were able to re-sign Sting, preventing a planned match with Undertaker at WrestleMania 27.

3. Another World Order?


Diesel's return drew a sizable pop from a crowd that was thrilled to see the legendary figure make a guest appearance. That same crowd wasn't too happy to see Nash bounded out by Wade Barrett after less than three minutes among the action. The somewhat-hostile response to Diesel's elimination apparently inspired what happened next.

As Diesel headed up the aisleway, he passed by number 35 entrant Big Show, whom Nash knew quite well from their time in WCW as nWo-mates, as well as arch-nemeses. The two shared a somewhat tense glare in passing, perhaps hinting at locking horns down the line. The staredown was reported to be an ad-lib, as referee Charles Robinson pointedly tells Nash something after his elimination. As the reports go, WWE wanted to use the Nash-Show confrontation as a way of satiating fans annoyed by Diesel's quick elimination.

2. Something To Rage About


WWE Champion The Miz accompanied protege Alex Riley to the ring, joining in on commentary while Riley entered into the battle. Riley was eliminated less than three minutes later, dumped out by John Cena and Kofi Kingston. The commentators, Miz included, missed this development, and they weren't even looking for it - because Riley wasn't supposed to be eliminated there.

Riley failed to stay latched onto the ropes in that spot, which was bad, because he needed to be there to help facilitate Cena's elimination (along with Miz) late in the fray. So what did WWE do? They simply sent Riley back down the aisle when the time came to distract Cena, so that Miz could dispose of his rival. And that's what happens when a wrestler gets eliminated at the wrong time in the Rumble - if they were due to play an important role later on, WWE simply finds a workaround.

1. Epic Length


With 40 men entering and 39 getting the old heave-ho, you knew that this wasn't going to be a comparably-brief Rumble, unless one-minute intervals made a comeback. They didn't, and the lengthy brawl pressed on, coming 11 seconds short of a full 70 minutes. That's only 27 seconds longer than the 2002 Rumble match, but this one wasn't burdened with a Triple H entrance that's longer than most cross-Atlantic trips.

Unofficially, the 2011 Rumble match is either the fourth or fifth-longest match in WWE history. Bruno Sammartino matches with Waldo Von Erich and Pedro Morales were reported at 81 and 75 minutes respectively, though those times are in dispute. Two matches in 2018 would top this Rumble, as the 77-minute Greatest Royal Rumble match and the 105-minute seven-man Raw gauntlet both etched their own places in WWE history.

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Justin Henry

Written by Justin Henry

In addition to writing lists and commentaries for Cultaholic, Justin is also a features writer and interviewer for Fighting Spirit Magazine, and is co-author of the WWE-related book Titan Screwed: Lost Smiles, Stunners, and Screwjobs.