Handicapping the Royal Rumble

Title: Handicapping the Royal Rumble
Date: January 26, 2008
Original Source: The On Deck Circle
Synopsis: And so began my infatuation with gambling on pre-determined events, specifically the WWE.

Hey guys, thought I’d post this YouTube video quickly before WWE finds it and takes it down. It was a funny segment from the Royal Rumble on Sunday and is sports relevant. Skip ahead to the 2:55 mark when Santino enters and he cuts a pretty hilarious promo about New York Sports teams. Click Here to check it out! (Note made at 10am on Tuesday the 29th)

Note: I am not really all that familiar with WWE’s product anymore, so a lot of the storyline information and information on particular wrestlers has come from the past few weeks of television and from wwe.com and pwinsider.com.

I am fully aware that this article is a dangerous one to post on the site. Foremost, it could hurt my credibility as a legitimate sports writer. Additionally, it could be a sad attempt at outside-the-box writing, limiting me to a particular style moving forwards. Finally, and most importantly, it will likely ensure that I “never, eeeevvvvver” (Chris Jericho) get a girlfriend, “again!” With that risk calculated and deemed insufficient to keep me from moving forward with this piece, here it is: The Royal Rumble, in gambling terms.
 More after the jump!
This Sunday, January 27, 2008, the WWE will hold its 21st annual Royal Rumble, a pay per view extravaganza like no other. This event takes place every January and signifies that it is the beginning of wrestling’s high time of the year, the build-up for WrestleMania, the “Granddaddy Of ‘Em All.” As a kid, the Royal Rumble was definately my favorite event, not so much for the matches, which take a back seat to the main event, but for the interesting dynamics of the main event match. For those not in the know, the main event is a 30 man Battle Royale where two wrestlers start in the ring and a new one enters every 90 seconds. You eliminate an opponent by throwing him over the top rope and having both feet touch the floor outside the ring. The last man standing, usually after about an hour, is declared the winner and receives a title shot in the main event of WrestleMania, which is the pinnacle of a professional wrestler’s career, similar to playing in the SuperBowl. Before we look forward to this year’s event, it’s necessary to look back at past events.Royal Rumble Winners (from Wikipedia.com)(click to enlarge)

Royal Rumble by the Numbers (adapted from a WWE.com video, which was awesome)

Usually the event is fairly predictable, with a few wrestlers very obviously at the heart of the build-up for the match, and the winner is not usually a big surprise. This year is different, though, in that WWE hasn’t pushed any particular wrestlers as the odds-on favorites, and there aren’t any overtly obvious storylines waiting for the winner. This year, more than any I’ve seen before (granted, I haven’t really followed wrestling avidly since 10th grade), it is wide-open. There are some general rules you can look at, though, when trying to predict a Royal Rumble winner. These rules take logic into account, and strongly consider the fact that the outcome is predetermined and thus storylines/characters/business sense have an impact.Rumble Rules
* This year, since both World Champions are heels (bad guys), it makes sense for a babyface (good guy) to win
* If you have had a recent or current storyline with a champion, your odds improve
* Size is irrelevant, since little guys winning tells a good story but big guys are difficult to eliminate
* Entrance number is irrelevant (see numbers above)
* Being an established guy is a huge advantage, as they have rarely used the match to promote an ‘up and comer’
* If you are from ECW (instead of Raw or SmackDown), you probably have no chance since nobody watches that show
* If you are in a tag team, you probably won’t win, but a showdown with your partner is imminent
* If you are a comedy character, you have a good chance of getting the spotlight for a bit and/or being eliminated immediately
*If you are currently involved in a top storyline, you probably have no chance of winning (why disrupt a good feud?)

With those rules and the history of the Rumble established, I pose a question: Why, in a sports culture that is becoming more and more obsessed with gambling, is there no medium to gamble on pre-determined outcomes like the Royal Rumble? Sure, WWE stands to make a lot of money by simply betting on the winner with the longest odds and having him win, but as fans I feel we should be given the opportunity. Last year, Stu and I gambled on every match at WrestleMania and it made the event far more interesting for two people who aren’t on the up-and-up with current storylines. Well, I don’t think its fair to the average sports fan (who no doubt loved or still secretly loves wrestling) to be deprived of this, so what follows is the odds for Sunday’s Royal Rumble pay per view event. The odds are based on the rules above and current storylines (I skimmed through Raw and SmackDown the past few weeks to catch up), and the odds may seem long but remember that the ‘average’ competitior has 30:1 odds against him. To get us warmed up for the Rumble odds, I’ll first set the line for each of the undercard matches.

Chris Jericho (-240) vs. JBL (+180)
I give JBL almost no chance here since Jericho has just returned and JBL has been kicking his ass for the entire build-up. This feud sucks.

MVP (+240) vs. Ric Flair (-400) with Flair’s career on the line
They have been pushing Ric Flair’s retirement run lately and his next loss, according to Vince McMahon, will force him to retire. Clearly, this could be a huge WrestleMania match with Flair having one last run on the biggest show, so even though MVP is my favorite (he plays a cocky athlete who wears fancy suits, is overpaid, and wears a lot of bling) I give him almost no chance here.

Edge (-260) vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. (+160) for the World Heavyweight Title
This feud has been pretty decent but Edge hasn’t had the title long so it makes no sense for him to lose it. Also in terms of WrestleMania, it makes sense to have a heel champion and have the good guy chasing the gold, so Edge will probably retain.

Randy Orton vs. Jeff Hardy (no line) for the WWE Championship
The build for this match has actually made me want to become a full-time wrestling fan again. The video packages (check wwe.com) hyping up each competitor and the match itself have been incredible, and Jeff Hardy is (apparently) a top star now, cutting good promos and jumping off of cags and scaffolding to kill Orton. Originally I thought Hardy had no chance, but the feud has been good enough that he could win here and continue the feud to WrestleMania, so it’s a push.

The Royal Rumble Odds
The Favorites

Undertaker: 9:1 – Has an existing storyline with Edge, established star, won it last year
Triple H: 9:1 – Is married to Vince’s daughter in real life, story with Orton would make sense, previous winner
Batista: 9.5:1 – Has an existing storyline with Edge, established star, previous winner
Shawn Michaels: 10:1 – Has a history with Orton, 2 time winner, always a safe bet

The Contenders
Mr. Kennedy: 13:1 – Great up-and-comer, recent feud with HBK was solid, right on the fringe of main event status
Hornswoggle: 14:1 – Despite being a midget, he is Vince’s storyline son, and a story with the boss can’t hurt
Finlay: 16:1 – Hornswoggle’s caretaker, he is a part of that story with Vince and is a top babyface
Kane: 17:1 – Always a contender, probably the best Rumble participant to never win (see stats above)
Big Daddy V: 19:1 – The former Viscera/Mable is now a top guy and is believable as a monster
Umaga: 19:1 – A second-tier heel, he is my pick for ‘most eliminations’ this year
Tommy Dreamer: 21:1 – Only ECW guy with a shot, playing up a Rocky Balboa type story (one last run)

The Long Shots
Mark Henry: 24:1 – The former Sexual Chocolate and World’s Strongest Man is a legit monster now
The Great Khali: 32:1 – The Longest Yard product has had top feuds but has recently been a joke
John Morrison: 39:1 – An up-and-comer, he has held the ECW Title and has potential
The Miz: 55:1 – The former reality TV star is Morrison’s partner, good promo skills
Mick Foley: 58:1 – I didn’t even know he was back, but could be a good Rocky Balboa story

No Chance
Shelton Benjamin: 82:1 – Former U of Minnesota wrestler is exciting to watch, recent push but not great on the mic
Chuck Palumbo: 90:1 – Had a big heel turn this week but is still far off from a top guy
Carlito: 99:1 – One of my favorites, he is now more a comedy character than anything
Cody Rhodes: 124:1 – Son of legendary Dusty Rhodes, he just debuted not long ago
Santino Marella: 142:1 – Maybe the best promo guy they have, he is hilarious but is more of a comedy guy
Jamie Noble: 166:1 – Is heavily involved in a storyline and is a cruiserweight, though he is hilarious
Snitsky: 332: 1 – They always try to push him as a monster but this ‘Roid freak sucks
Hardcore Holly: 999:1 – 1 chance in 1000, he has been around forever and had 1 title shot…ever, alright wrestler though

The Field (30:1)
Like always, WWE has left a few spots (6) open in the Rumble for surprise entrants. Usually they are retired wrestlers or comedy characters, but there are some stars left out this year with a chance.
Anyone from an earlier match – Usually saved as a surprise, any one of the guys from the four other matches is a main-event guy and could steal a win
Big Show – he signed a new deal with WWE to return and this would be a good way to bring him back
CM Punk – Just lost the ECW Title and has a ready-made feud with Edge, best shot of any unestablished guy
Matt Hardy – Returning from an appendectomy soon, will probably feud with MVP (they broke up as partners and had been feuding for months in the 2007 Feud of the Year)
Elijah Burke – Former amateur boxer (103-1 record), he is great on the mic and in the ring but isn’t established yet
Others with a shot – William Regal (GM of Raw), DH Smith (son of British Bulldog), Kofi Kingston (just debuted), and Edge’s look-a-like tag team (could just give him the title shot if he lost to Rey) all have a chance to be in there
Others without a shot – Charlie Haas, Funaki, Balls Mahoney, and The Boogeyman are the only other names I recognized on the wwe.com roster pages but are mostly comedy characters or jobbers
Retirees – Guys like Roddy Piper, IRS, Ted Dibiase, and other retired guys that return frequently for cameos are always likely to participate, never to win
Surprise – Not sure about the wrestling world’s Free Agent landscape or young guys WWE could bring up, but there is always a surprise or two in the match (I’d love to see Brock Lesnar return and win it, right before his UFC debut)

So that’s the Rumble, and this is what the world would look and sound like if we could gamble on pre-determined outcomes. While still not a wrestling fan in the old-school, grades 7-10 sense, I do find it entertaining to watch occasionally, as embarassing as that is. The wrestling on SpikeTV (TNA) is much better wrestling and stories but with an equal amount of dumb stuff as WWE. I wish that wrestling companies would focus on realistic stories and not stupid stuff like Leprechauns, paternity suits, and other Vince McMahon stuff so that I wasn’t ashamed to admit that yes, the last few weeks following WWE has sucked me back in a little bit, and I probably will watch the Rumble and WrestleMania in March…with money on the line, of course.

Oh, and my picks are as follows: Jericho, Flair, Edge, Orton, and Undertaker, obviously, since I made the odds and they’re all favorites. Hit the comments sections with feedback, your picks, or the most likely case, ripping in to me for writing a wrestling article.

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