7 Secret Versions Of Classic WWE Matches
The WWF debuted the Royal Rumble match in 1988 as part of a televised special on the USA Network.
Ahead of a meeting with Dick Ebersol, Pat Patterson pitched a variation on the standard battle royal to Vince McMahon. To circumvent the mass of static flesh, Patterson's creation would see two men start the match, with the remaining field entering the ring at timed intervals, thus substituting minutes of tedious non-action for calculable drama. That way, when the field fattened out, the sense of anticipation would sustain the interest of the crowd throughout the epic duration.
Vince McMahon didn't green-light the pitch with a booming "That's such good sh*t"; instead, he casually dismissed it as "stupid" before failing to improve on the idea and running with it, anyway. He trusted Patterson's genius at a time when he was more receptive to collaboration.
The WWF tested the concept the year prior in St. Louis. CBSSports later collated an excellent oral history of the first, underwhelming-at-best experiment. Featuring just 12 men undirected by the absent Patterson, the talent had no idea how to work the match, and the crowd had no idea how to react to it without the visual countdown cues and the unflappable Howard Finkel's famous breakdown of the convoluted rules.
One Man Gang won the first-ever Rumble, but doesn't have much recollection, suppressing the memory alongside that time he was made to perform as a deeply problematic white black man.