The WWE Royal Rumble. Short of WrestleMania itself, is any event more prestigious? Since 1988, every wrestler has dreamed of one day being crowned the winner of that world famous battle royal. Past winners include everyone from golden age greats like Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, to Attitude Era house-hold names like Steve Austin and the Rock, to modern day superstars like John Cena and Randy Orton. If you win the Royal Rumble, perhaps more than any other possible victory, you truly know you’ve made it in the WWE. But what about the people who don’t win it? And, more specifically, what about the people cursed by it? Cursed!? Oh yes. There’s a curse that comes with the Royal Rumble; entering as number 14. Number 14, the most dreaded number in the WWE locker room. And why? Well, lets take a look; 1988 – Ron Bass Before the Rumble; Granted, he didn’t have the most glittering career of all time, but you can’t turn your nose up at an upper-midcard level feud with Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake in 1987 and a whole bunch of NWA titles. After the Rumble: In relation to what we’ll see later, Bass got away pretty unscathed. He got into another feud with Beefcake, and even qualified for the final of the 1988 King of the Ring. However, less than two years later, due to a build up of severe injuries over his career, Bass was forced to retire from pro-wrestling. Verdict: Well, I suppose everyone’s got to retire sometime, and a lot can happen in two years. Maybe the curse just hadn’t had time to really develop it’s magical powers yet. 1989 – Marty Jannetty Before the Rumble: In the late 1980’s, along with Shawn Michaels, Marty Jannetty was one half of the hottest tag team on the planet; The Rockers. Together, they had won the NWA titles, the AWA titles, and had been voted the greatest tag team of the year by Wrestling Observer. After the Rumble: Jannetty’s career didn’t end up too badly. He’d go on to win a bunch of mid-card titles including the WWF Intercontinental Title, and the WWF Tag Titles. It’s only in context to his former tag partner that Jannetty comes across so badly. Shawn Michaels. Shawn “four time WWE champion, first Grand Slam winner and Hall of Fame member” Michaels. In relation to that, an Intercontinental Title and a tag team run with, of all people, Sean Waltman, doesn’t seem so impressive. Verdict: Was it Jannetty’s curse, or Michaels blessing? Marty certainly didn’t have a bad career, but he was no, you know, Shawn Michaels. 1990 – Haku Before the Rumble: A crazy Tongan who set the stereotype for all Polynesian wrestlers that have followed since. After the Rumble: Haku went to WCW and become Meng, apparently becoming Japanese in the process. He spent most of his time milling about in the lower mid-card until, because that’s what WCW did in 1998, he was given a winning streak. The winning streak was seemingly created for the sole purpose of letting Goldberg, who was also on a winning streak (naturally), break it. Verdict: Haku did pretty well in the grand scheme of things. His WCW run was pretty bad, but, hell, it was WCW, if he didn’t have to wrestle a match that involved Judy Bagwell being suspended from a forklift truck above the ring, he should consider himself lucky. 1991 – British Bulldog Before the Rumble: Probably the most successful British wrestler ever in North America. Teaming with Dynamite Kid, he was one half of the British Bulldogs, winning the WWF tag team titles for the first time in 1986. Bulldog left the WWF in 1988, but continued wrestling all over Canada and Japan before returning in 1990, where his popularity sky-rocketed. After the Rumble: Anything remotely flippant or funny about this article sort of goes down the drain on this one. In 2002, the British Bulldog passed away from a heart attack, believed to have been brought about by years of steroid abuse. He was just 39 years old. Verdict: It’s impossible to say that anyone who dies before seeing their 40th birthday has anything other than bad luck. 1992 – Hercules Before the Rumble: Formerly known in the WWF as Hernandez, Hercules had been a part of Bobby Heenan’s gang of heels, and had even taken part in a much-hyped title-feud with Hulk Hogan in 1986, which is pretty much the highest it was possible for a heel to reach in those days. He also took part in another big match with the Ultimate Warrior at Wrestlemania IV, before turning into a babyface and starting a feud against Ted DiBiase. After the Rumble: Hercules lasted less than a minute in the 1992 Rumble, compared to an impressive 40 minute performance the year before. Shortly after, he left the WWF and joined their biggest rivals, WCW, becoming Super-Invader, a gimmick which failed to get over with the fans, leading to Hercules being released before the year was up. Hercules, who’s real name was Ray Fernandez, died of a heart attack in 2004 at the age of 47. Verdict: Fired from two companies in one year is bad enough, but then it’s all topped off with another tragically young death. 1993 – The Berzerker Before the Rumble: Originally named The Viking, The Berzerker was a bizarre character. His matches usually always ended in him winning via count out, and his signature pose involved him licking himself. Oh, and he had a giant horned helmet, obviously. His highest achievement was possibly his weirdest; a feud with The Undertaker in 1991 that centred around The Berzerker’s attempts to literally murder ‘Taker on live T.V. with a giant broadsword. After the Rumble: Within a year of drawing that fateful number in the Rumble, The Berserker was gone from the WWF, packing up his longboat for the distant shores of Japan. Using his real name, John Nord, he’d return to America in the mid-90’s to join WCW, but, like Haku before him, his only role was being given a winning streak for the purpose of having Goldberg break it. In 1998, he retired from wrestling for good. Verdict: Nord’s career after the Rumble certainly never achieved the same heights it had before it, but, after the last two candidates, the fact he’s still alive at the ripe old age of 52 makes him seem positively blessed. 1994 – Doink the Clown Before the Rumble: Despite his totally insane gimmick (he was a clown, if you didn’t know), Doink actually did pretty well for himself. In the earlier 90’s, he feuded with Randy Savage, Bret Hart and Bam Bam Bigelow. He even got two Wrestlemania matches, one of which he won. After the Rumble: Again, it was less than a year before we saw the last of Doink. He was chased out of the company at the 1994 Slammy Awards by Steve Austin to chants of “kill the clown”. He wouldn’t be seen again on WWF programming until 2001, when he made a novelty appearance at Wrestlemania X-Seven. Verdict: Another guy who drew number 14, another guy who had less than a year left in the company. 1995 – Jacob Blu Before the Rumble: Jacob Blu is probably better known to readers as Ron Harris. Together with his brother Don, he’d wrestled his way through the tag team divisions of the NWA, Smokey Mountain Wrestling and ECW where they were known as both the Harris Brothers and the Bruise Brothers. They signed with the WWF in 1995, becoming the Blu Brothers, because Vince McMahon was in charge, and The Blues Brothers movie was only 15 years old. After the Rumble: Jacob lasted for 17 seconds, compared to his brother, who lasted a far more respectable ten minutes. The brothers would go on to lose a feud with The Allied Powers (although they did at least get a Wrestlemania appearance out of it) and in only slightly over a year, they were shown the door, returning to ECW as the Bruise Brothers. Verdict: I’m starting to run out of ways to say “He got fired really f*cking quickly”. 1996 – Doug Gilbert Before the Rumble: Who? After the Rumble: No, really, who? Verdict: And that was the end of the dazzling career of Doug Gilbert. Yes, that was his only ever WWF appearance, and his only appearance in any major wrestling company. Maybe it had something to do with him publicly accusing Randy Savage of being a crack addict, or maybe it had something to do with him publicly accusing Jerry Lawler of being a paedophile. Who knows? Between 1996 and 2001, the curse faltered. It seems that the Attitude Era was so, so great, that it actually completely destroyed the curse with it’s awesomeness. In those four years, the number 14 position went to Goldust, Ken Shamrock, Kurrgan and Bob Backlund, who, whilst not exactly setting the world on fire, were at least free of any specific personal or professional tragedies. The curse was broken! Hooray! But, as the WWF’s power began to wane at the turn of the century, the curse began to slowly creep back into existence, and this time, it wasn’t after new comers, it wasn’t after no-bodies, this time, the curse was ready to really start ruining things for some of the bigger names in wrestling. 2001 – The Goodfather Before the Rumble: Charles Wright is the king of making terrible gimmicks get over. Since 1992, he’s been a magical voodoo shaman, a militant black Muslim, and a pimp, so it was only to be expected when the WWE tagged him with the worst one yet; The Goodfather, a member of Stevie Richards’ Right to Censor, a parody of the Parent’s Television Council, who Vince was in a real-life feud with at the time. After the Rumble: Not even the bad-gimmick-defying powers of Charles Wright could deal with the curse of the number 14. WWF apparently forgave Wright, returning him to his role as a pimp, but the damage was done, and, by 2002, Wright was gone from the WWE. Verdict: Four bad gimmicks in a row was bad enough, but the curse tipped it over the edge apparently. 2002 – Diamond Dallas Page Before the Rumble: Page had started his run as a really notable star as a manager in WCW in the early 1990’s for the Fabulous Freebirds. It wasn’t until the mid-90’s that he became a wrestler in his own right, feuding with legends like Randy Savage, Curt Henning and Hulk Hogan. By 1998, D.D.P. had become one of WCW’s biggest self-made stars, and he was put into two high-profile matches, teaming up first with basketball superstar Karl Malone, and later with job stealing talk show veteran Jay Leno. The two events earned Page a considerable amount of attention in the mainstream media, and from then, until the death of WCW in 2001, Page was one of the company’s biggest stars. Following WCW’s demise, Page was eager to jump ship to the WWF, where he began a laughable feud with the Undertaker in which Vince McMahon got to live out all his disturbing repressed fantasies about WCW by having ‘Taker beat the living hell out Page every time they crossed paths. After the Rumble: Less than three months after this appearance in the Rumble, which had lasted just over five minutes, Page retired from wrestling due to neck injuries. Verdict: It’s hard to tell which curse effected Page worse; The curse of the number 14, or the curse of being part of WCW’s team in the invasion angle. 2003 – Eddie Guerrero Before the Rumble: Eddie was one of pro-wrestling’s last journeymen. Despite being relatively young, he’d wrestled all over the world, from Mexico’s biggest lucha-libre company, AAA, to several of the biggest federations in Japan, whilst still having time to have memorable stints in ECW, WCW and the WWF. Along with life long friends Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn, Eddie had jumped ship in the year 2000, leaving WCW and joining the WWF as a faction called The Radicalz. Although Guerrero left the company in 2001, by 2002, he was back, teaming with his nephew, Chavo Guerrero Jr., as a tag team known as Los Guerreros. After the Rumble: For a good many years, the curse looked broken. A year later, Guerrero was the WWE Champion, solidifying his position with one of the greatest moments in WWE history as he posed with old friend and fellow champion Chris Benoit at the end of Wrestlemania XX. But of course, as we’re all sadly too well aware, that wasn’t the end of Guerrero’s story. The very next year, in 2005, Eddie Guerrero was found was found dead in his hotel room from heart disease. He was just 38 years old. Verdict: It’s all good and fun talking about curses and magic numbers, but there’s nothing fun to talk about here. There’s real curses in wrestling, and they’re all too real and all too common. Steroids, pain killers, recreational drugs and a string of tragically young deaths. Eddie Guerrero is still sorely missed. 2004 – Rikishi Before the Rumble: It’s easy to forget just how long Rikishi’s been around. I had to look it up myself, but he was first singed by the WWF in 1992! Rikishi was originally a member of the stereotypical Samoan savage tag team The Headshrinkers for most of the early 90’s until he was repackaged as a sort of ghetto prophet trying to get kids off the streets. That didn’t last long before he was against repackaged as an alarmingly out of date Arabic stereotype called The Sultan. Again, this was quickly dropped, and Rikishi vanished from WWF T.V. It wasn’t until 1999 when he returned with quite possibly one of the silliest gimmicks ever. Rikishi was now an obese disco dancer with magic sunglasses who enjoyed nothing more than rubbing his be-thonged ass in the faces of as many men and women as he possible could. The amazing thing was though; it worked. It REALLY worked. As part of a three man faction of ravers known as Too Cool, Rikishi become one of the most popular characters on the roster. Things couldn’t last though. In 2000, after just a year of incredible popularity, someone made the jaw droppingly stupid decision to turn Rikishi (a fat dancing man in a thong, lest we forget) into one of the biggest heels in the company by revealing that he had taken part in a racially motivated hit-and-run attack on Steve Austin at the 1999 Survivor Series. The “who dunnit” aspect of the storyline had been playing out for the whole year, with everyone from the McMahon family to The Rock being suspects at one point or another, but the revelation that the biggest villain in wrestling was supposed to this dancing idiot was a letdown to pretty much everybody. It took less than a year for the WWF to give up on the whole angle, and they quickly attempted to reform Too Cool and pretend nothing had ever happened, but the magic had already been lost. After the Rumble: Despite winning the Tag Team Titles a few weeks after the Rumble, it was only a matter of months before it was all over for Rikishi and he was released. Verdict: Yet again, the curse puts the last nail in the coffin of a slowly declining career. 2005 – Orlando Jordan Before the Rumble: Jordan began his first real push as a part of JBL’s heel faction, The Cabinet. In this role, he was mostly used as a stooge to help JBL win, or a jobber, to help JBL’s opponent’s look good. However, his push picked up steam in 2005 when he was able to win the United States Championship from John Cena. After the Rumble: That was about the extent of his push though, and he soon began a humiliating feud with Chris Benoit, which involved him losing to the Canadian veteran three times in less than a minute. By the spring of 2006, Jordan was no longer part of the WWE. Verdict: Going from beating John Cena to losing to Chris Benoit in under a minute? The curse strikes~ 2006 – Joey Mercury Before the Rumble: Mercury arrived in the WWE in 2004 as part of the tag team MNM along with partner Johnny Nitro (now John Morrison) and manager Melina (now fired). The team won the Tag Team Championships in their very first televised match for the company and they would go on to win the titles a further two times. After the Rumble: Things seemed to be going pretty smoothly until, later that same year, Mercury was flagged for failing a drug test, forcing him out of the company for a 30 day suspension. When he returned, he bought his bad luck with him, becoming horrifically injured in December 2006 when a ladder hit him square in the face. Mercury was released from the company early the next year. Since then, he’s returned to the WWE, booked to play a pivotal role in CM Punk’s Straight Edge Society. However, a pectoral injury soon ended those plans, along with Mercury’s in-ring career. Verdict: The curse just got violent on this one. Smashing a guy in the face with a ladder AND giving him a career ending injury!? 2007 – Jeff Hardy Before the Rumble: During the later parts of the Attitude Era, Jeff had been part of the one of the hottest tag teams of all time, The Hardy Boyz. Together with the Dudley Boys and Edge + Christian, they breathed new life into the WWF’s tag division, inventing the tables, ladders and chairs match as they went. That run was derailed in 2003, when Hardy left the WWF, but he returned in 2006, reformed his tag team, and was poised for a main-event run. After the Rumble: Again, this one was a slow burner. After the Rumble, Jeff went from strength to strength, feuding with established stars like Triple H, Randy Orton, Chris Jericho and Edge, until, finally, in 2008, Jeff Hardy won his first WWE Championship. Pretty good huh? Well, to save time, let’s just bullet point what happened next; In March 2008, his house burned down In September 2008, he was banned from flying for being too drunk In September 2009, he was arrested for possession of class A drugs In March 2011, he was banned from TNA television after turning up for a match clearly extremely intoxicated In October 2011, he went to jail for drug trafficking Verdict: The whole wrestling world hopes Jeff Hardy isn’t another tragedy waiting to happen. Let’s hope that’s all that the curse, or his personal demons, has in store for him. 2008 – Umaga Before the Rumble: How many Polynesian savages have we had in this article!? Umaga (or Umanga if you’re British, apparently) popped up in the WWE as early as 2002 as part of the Three-Minute Warning, but it wasn’t until his return in 2006 that he really started to make an impact, playing the classic grass skirted islander gimmick to absolute perfection and embarking on a year long undefeated streak, culminating in an underrated feud with John Cena. He went on to play a part in possibly the biggest drawing match of all time against Bobby Lashley at Wrestlemania 23. After the Rumble: In 2009, at the age of 36, Umaga was found dead from a drug overdose. I’m really running out of things to say about these events. Verdict: Verdict? Another tragically young, and tragically avoidable, death in modern pro-wrestling. 2009 – Finlay Before the Rumble: There are few wrestlers in the modern age that some up the concept of a veteran better than Dave “Fit” Finlay. A veteran of WCW for five years, he’d go on to spend a decade with the WWE, he started his career touring Europe and Asia, wrestling in Japan, Germany, England, Ireland and Austria. Finley spent 2008 as part of ECW as a jobber to the stars, feuding with guys like Matt Hardy and Mark Henry who were being pushed as potential future main eventers. After the Rumble: As the year went on, Finlay began winding down his career, and it looked like, finally, someone was going to enter the Rumble at number 14, and retire with a happy ending. Nope. At a house show in March of 2011, Finlay, in his role as a production agent, booked a segment in which The Miz interrupted the playing of the American national anthem. Now, I’m aware this is a relatively British site, so I’ll make something clear; American’s LOVE their anthem. Interrupting the anthem is tantamount to burning the flag, and people weren’t happy, least of all the large contingent of the US Navy Marines who had been invited to the show, and who were all standing to sing along with the anthem of the country they daily risked their lives for. The fall out was instant, especially seeing as the Marine Corp are one of the WWE’s major sponsors, and Finlay was hastily fired from his job. Verdict: Just like ever horror movie fan knows; when you think you’re safe, that’s when the curse gets you. 2010 – Montel Vontavious Porter Before the Rumble: The late 2000’s will probably go down as an era of “next big things” which never happened. Of the many, MVP was one of the best. Throughout 2008, MVP and Matt Hardy engaged in one of the greatest feuds to be denied the pay-off it deserved. After that, 2009 saw MVP take part in a vague face-turn, and a mid-card feud with The Miz over the United States Championship. After the Rumble: MVP spent the next year fading slowly into obscurity, his only notable activity being the formation of a tag team with Mark Henry, but even that ended up going nowhere. By the end of the year, MVP had left the WWE. Verdict: It sounds like the classic Royal Rumble curse, but since leaving the WWE, MVP has gone on to generate real acclaim wrestling in Japan. Turns out that, with the right amount of talent, it’s possible to turn to the curse into a blessing. 2011 – Chris Masters Before the Rumble: Chris Masters story is a strange one. After a strong debut, and well protected gimmick (the masterlock challenge), Masters was suspended for his blindingly obvious use of steroids on various occasions and was even fired, before being bought back in 2009 for a feud with MVP. As the year went on, Masters transitioned from a cocky heel into a comedy babyface where, despite some genuinely great matches on Superstars, he was mostly treated as a jobber. After the Rumble: It only took three months for Masters to be fired for the second and, so far, last time. In a period when he was having the best matches of his career, the body shape he’d been bullied into having was just too dangerous for WWE’s publicity in the wake a series of steroid related deaths. Verdict: Maybe the curse is now so strong that it can ruin your career before the Rumble even happens! Scary. So, is there a curse on the number 14? Well… no… of course not, but it’s fun to think about! The real curse, it seems, is bad booking, bad life style choices and more young deaths than I care to count. The curse of the Royal Rumble? More like the curse of pro-wrestling. So keep an eye open for whoever draws that fabled number, and they’re okay this time next year. Hell, after reading some of these stories, let’s hope everyone in the WWE is okay this time next year. Somehow though, it seems tragically unlikely. CLICK HERE TO READ: The Curse of the WWE Royal Rumble Revisited: 2012 Edition CLICK HERE TO READ: The Curse of the WWE Royal Rumble Revisited: 2013 Edition CLICK HERE TO READ: The Curse of the Royal Rumble IV: How Kevin Nash ruined everything Illustrations made exclusively for Cult of Whatever by Lloyd Harvey.