As a service to fans who have a general interest in WWE but might not have watched a match since Survivor Series, or even SummerSlam, we're happy to provide this FAQ as a guide to Royal Rumble 2020, which is Sunday at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
Q. The Royal Rumble is at the home of the Houston Astros this year?
Yes, and the countdown to each new entrant must be signaled by someone dressed like AJ Hinch methodically banging on a trash can near the dugout.
Q. Remind me again about the format?
It's an over-the-top battle royal featuring 30 men or women, with a championship match at WrestleMania on the line. Two wrestlers begin the match and then another competitor runs in every 90 seconds. OK, make that "90 seconds or so." The Royal Rumble has the estimated time accuracy of a 9-year-old telling their parents "I'll be down in a minute."
Q. Where does the Rumble rank among the WWE's biggest annual events?
We'd put it second to WrestleMania, which still wins on sheer spectacle and wrestlers that, not coincidentally, up their games for the year's biggest payday.
But the Rumble match itself is a perfect storm of the best aspects of the WWE: Unpredictability and aesthetics.
Outside of an inkling about the ultimate winner, there's no forecasting exactly how the match is going to play out: Witness last year's random Andrade, Dolph Ziggler, Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman final four. There are always surprise competitors, either wrestlers returning from injury or from NXT or cameo appearances by nostalgia acts. Many fans will walk into the stadium convinced they're going to see a returning John Cena or Edge, because the Rumble invites it.
Another part of the fun is seeing how current storylines are threaded through the match. How Rollins, currently doing some of his best work in the WWE with a nefarious messiah complex, will interact with rivals Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe. How Bobby Lashley and Rusev continue their frequently absurd feud without the benefit of a giant wedding cake. That kind of thing.
Q. And the aesthetics?
Aesthetically, the Rumble is the perfect vessel for those of us who mark out when a wrestler's music hits, because it happens 30 times. That was actually part of WWE executive Pat Patterson's motivation in creating the event: Everyone loves a run-in during a match, so here's a bunch of legal ones. Combine the aesthetics and the unpredictability, and you get unforgettable moments like Diesel returning in 2011 and AJ Styles debuting in 2016. That's what makes the Rumble special.
Q. Give us some Rumble history, statistically.
Listen, I'll try to do it justice, but you can click here for a far more detailed analysis.
The men's match is the 33rd edition of the event. The longest anyone has lasted in the match is 1 hour, 16 minutes, 5 seconds by Daniel Bryan at 2018's "Greatest Royal Rumble" event in Saudi Arabia. The shortest appearance was by Santino Marella in 2009, lasting one second. Strowman holds the record for eliminations with 13 at the "Greatest Royal Rumble." Glenn Jacobs, better known as Kane, holds the record for Rumble appearances with 19 and is expected to make it 20 this weekend. The most wins have come from the No. 27 spot, which has produced four of them. Overall, wrestlers entering the Rumble at No. 22 or above have won 18 of the 32 matches. No. 30 has won three times. Brock Lesnar is attempting to become the third wrestler to win from the No. 1 spot and the eighth wrestler to win multiple Rumbles, having previously won in 2003.
Q. Wait ... isn't Brock the WWE champion? Why isn't he defending the title instead of being in the Rumble?
Short answer: Because Brock Lesnar didn't feel there was anyone on the Raw brand worthy of a title shot.
Real answer: Because this is the ideal bit of unpredictability we were talking about with the Rumble.
Will Lesnar bludgeon the field like Sauron at the Battle of Dagorlad, or will he become a shocking early elimination? What new feuds will be forged for Brock in the Rumble -- perhaps against someone like NXT's Matt Riddle -- that aren't currently there for him on Raw? And if he wins, do we get that incredible moment of chaos when Paul Heyman announces that "my client chooses to challenge for ... his own belt" at WrestleMania, leading to a match where Lesnar throws himself around the ring like Edward Norton in "Fight Club"? Everything is on the table!
Q. If not Brock, then whom?
We actually know many of the participants already that have "declared" they're in the Rumble, like it's college recruit signing day or something: Lesnar, Roman Reigns, King Corbin, Ziggler, Shinsuke Nakamura (the Intercontinental Champion), Strowman, Erick Rowan, Styles, Randy Orton, Elias, Rey Mysterio, Ricochet, Drew McIntyre, Otis, Tucker, Rusev, Lashley, Aleister Black, Owens, Samoa Joe and the new Raw tag team champions Buddy Murphy and Rollins.
Among the wrestlers mentioned in the betting odds are Cain Velasquez, last seen losing quickly to Lesnar last October in Saudi Arabia, Tyson Fury, who fought Strowman at that same event, and CM Punk, who's made a "soft return" to the company as a WWE Backstage guest. Frankly, it would be the easiest heel heat in the world for someone who isn't Punk to come out to his music at the Rumble. Looking at you, Corbin or Ziggler.
The Universal champion is "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt, who is defending the belt against Daniel Bryan in a highly anticipated strap match earlier in the card.
Yes. This feud started when The Fiend ripped out Bryan's hair as he pulled him into the darkness found underneath the ring. Bryan returned better groomed and with a thirst for revenge. The old-school "strap match" was Bryan's idea as a way to prevent The Fiend from "running away" from him.
So his plan was to strap himself to a demonic weirdo whose gimmick has been to literally frighten other wrestlers into submission?
As Bryan said himself: "It's not a good idea. And it's really, really not a smart idea."
Let's assume The Fiend retains the title. One can easily see Roman Reigns, the WWE's top babyface (in concept, if not execution), facing The Fiend at Mania. And let's hope that WWE has the good sense to enter his alter ego, depraved children's TV host Bray Wyatt, into the Rumble, because that would be fun.
Getting a prime spot at Mania has been rumored for quite some time and the path there is fairly clear: His "falls count anywhere" match with Corbin at the Royal Rumble could blow off that feud while also wearing down Reigns to the point where he's a physically drained "underdog" in the Rumble later that night.
What about the women's Royal Rumble match?
Think of the most perfectly constructed hype for a major wrestling match. Now think of the opposite.
Are you picturing the 2020 Women's Royal Rumble? Because with four participants -- Charlotte Flair, Alexa Bliss, Nikki Cross, Sarah Logan -- officially listed for the match as of Tuesday, the third all-women's Rumble remains a frustrating mystery. Last year, we had six members of the NXT roster in the women's Rumble. Could that total rise this year?
The winner can challenge for the Raw or SmackDown women's championship, which are both being defended on the card.
Which women's title match is the most intriguing?
Becky Lynch defending the Raw championship against Asuka, and it's not even close. The SmackDown title match between a still-unconvincing heel champion Bayley and Lacey Evans, whose character has gone from a sinister Southern debutante to a spin on Liberty Belle from "G.L.O.W." Maybe if Bayley started speaking with a Russian accent, we'd have something here.
But Lynch vs. Asuka could steal the show. Asuka has always been Lynch's equal, or her better, as an in-ring performer, and currently owns real estate inside the champion's head. Her character has had a major revitalization as a villain who spits green mist into the faces of opponents, as she did to Lynch during their ill-fated contract signing in the middle of the ring two weeks ago.
Seriously, you'd think these wrestlers would know how dangerous contract signings are after all these years? Two lawyers and a bike messenger could get this thing done a lot safer, to be honest.
Any other matches currently on the card?
Yes. Humberto Carrillo, who was injured after an attack by Andrade in December, returns to face him for the U.S. championship at the Rumble. He made a surprise return after Andrade won a brutal ladder match on Raw over Rey Mysterio Jr.
Will this be worth watching?
Absolutely. The Royal Rumble is like Weekend Update on "Saturday Night Live." No matter who's in it, and no matter what greatness and/or misery surrounds it, the institution is always good for some base level of satisfaction, some surprises and heaping spoons full of predictable comfort food. Even in its worst moments, the Rumble manages to entertain. And by that, we of course mean Titus O'Neil taking a header under the ring while attempting to enter the match: