A College Football Primer to the Royal Rumble



Whether you are a former fan who tuned out long ago, or an ardent follower, the Royal Rumble is a date on the professional wrestling calendar that doesn’t need to manufacture excitement. Excitement is inherent. Sound familiar, college football fans?

It’s one of the two, premier wrestling events of the year, serving as the prelude to WrestleMania.

If you think of WrestleMania like the College Football Playoff, the nonstop chaos of the Royal Rumble is equivalent to a college football regular season. Championship dreams are shattered in an instant, with would-be contenders tossed aside and forgotten (quite literally in the Royal Rumble’s case).

Starting No. 1 Rarely Produces a Winner

Claiming the preseason No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press Top 25 or Amway Coaches Poll is often a good way to ensure a team will not win it all.

Year Preseason AP No. 1 Preseason Coaches No. 1 National Champion
2014 Florida State Florida State Ohio State
2013 Alabama Alabama Florida State
2012 USC LSU Alabama
2011 Oklahoma Oklahoma Alabama
2010 Alabama Alabama Auburn
2009 Florida Florida Alabama
2008 Georgia Georgia Florida
2006 Ohio State Ohio State Florida
2005 USC USC Texas

One must go back to 2004 for the last preseason No. 1 to win the national championship. What’s more, the NCAA does not recognize USC’s title that year — think of it like The Rock’s negated Royal Rumble win in 2000.

Asterisking USC’s 2004 title requires one to go all the way back to 1999 and Florida State for the last wire-to-wire No. 1.

Similarly, the Royal Rumble has not had a No. 1 entrant go all the way to victory since, yes 2004, when Chris Benoit was the winner.

Royal Rumble College Football Backgrounds

This year’s Royal Rumble favorite — at least, he would if casinos took bets on scripted sports — is Roman Reigns. Reigns further ties into our college football analogy.

You may know Reigns as former All-ACC defensive tackle Joe Anoa’i. Reigns’ signature “Superman Punch” move has obvious roots in his Georgia Tech playing days.

The Anoa’i family tree is veritable wrestling royalty, which includes former Miami Hurricanes standout Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Before he was a backwoods cult leader, Bray Wyatt was the starting offensive guard for the Troy Trojans named Windham Rotunda.

Undefeated United States champion Rusev may not have played college football, but his manager Lana — real-life girlfriend C.J. Perry — was one of the “Florida State Cowgirls” Brent Musberger discovered on the 2005 FSU-Miami broadcast.


Rusev and Lana posted a selfie from the sideline of a Seminoles game this season.


Talk about a surefire way of drawing heel heat.

Should one of the WWE’s college football veterans win Sunday, they’ll join “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan (SMU), “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (North Texas) and The Rock and Lex Luger (Miami).

Who’s Who

John Cena is Florida: Noted jorts wearer Cena won two Royal Rumbles in the 2000s. Florida, known for being a safe haven to that denim fashion faux pas, claimed two BCS titles in the 2000s.

Kofi Kingston is Boise State: Every year, Kofi Kingston does something memorable and unexpected at the Royal Rumble. Unfortunately, you know he has a snowball’s chance in hell of actually getting a shot at the top title.

Daniel Bryan is Oregon: Known for his fast-paced wrestling style, Pacific Northwest native Daniel Bryan is considered the new face of the sport. But does he have the endurance to be that face for the long haul?

Bray Wyatt is LSU (and more specifically, Les Miles): Watch a Bray Wyatt. Then watch a Les Miles postgame press conference. Tell me I’m off.

Dean Ambrose is Baylor: When Dean Ambrose hits the ring, expect a lot of high spots. It’s much like watching the Baylor offense. And, when Ambrose is on the mic, expect a memorable, if not inflammatory soundbite a la Art Briles.

The Miz is USC: The Miz proudly portrays his Hollywood gimmick and clings to the championship he won in years past.

Damien Mizdow is UCLA: The Miz’s “stunt double” just cannot get out of his partner’s shadow.

Big Show is Alabama: Plodding behemoth that has seemingly been in the main-event scene forever and can win the championship at any given time.

Dolph Ziggler is Ohio State: Like Ohio State coming into the 2014 season, Ohio native Ziggler has a championship to his credit, albeit a downplayed one. Ziggler can steal the show on given night, much like the Urban Meyer-coached Buckeyes offense, but his likelihood of winning the big one is dismissed. Ziggler could be the unlikely Royal Rumble who blows everyone away Sunday, much as Ohio State did earlier this month.