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Match Times: The 1988 Royal Rumble

Here is a full breakdown of the timing for the first ever Royal Rumble match.

The 1988 Royal Rumble match lasted 33 minutes and 24 seconds (33m 24s). This was the first ever Royal Rumble match and featured only 20 superstars. The end result saw Hacksaw Jim Duggan reign supreme after thwarting the double-team tactics of Dino Bravo and The One Man Gang. This post includes all of the important numbers you need to know about the timing of the match.

Here is a text graphic that displays much of the information discussed below, including a chronological listing of who the longest lasting men were at any given point in the match. The graphic provides a quick visual way to understand which wrestlers dominated the 1988 Royal Rumble match as time progressed, as well as seeing how crowded the ring was at any given point. And if you really want to dig deeper, the graphic also includes time stamps for when each wrestler stepped foot into the ring as well as time stamps for each wrestler's elimination.

For comparison's sake, here are other versions of this graphic for Royal Rumble matches from 1992, 1999 (version 1, version 2), 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2013.

Survival Times

My definition of the Survival Time for a superstar is the time that lapses between the point when a superstar steps foot into the ring and the time that the superstar's feet hit the floor to signal elimination. This does not include the time it takes for a superstar to make his way from the entrance ramp down to the actual ring.

The average superstar survival time for the 1988 Royal Rumble match was 11m 11s and the median survival time was 10m 30s.

Here is the full list of survival times for all 20 superstars.

  • 25m 46s: Bret Hart
  • 21m 53s: Jake Roberts
  • 19m 06s: Jim Neidhart
  • 17m 52s: Danny Davis
  • 16m 17s: Don Muraco
  • 14m 43s: Jim Duggan
  • 14m 39s: Sam Houston
  • 12m 06s: Jim Brunzell
  • 11m 40s: Nikolai Volkoff
  • 10m 44s: Tito Santana
  • 10m 15s: Ron Bass
  • 10m 04s: Harley Race
  • 8m 13s: Dino Bravo
  • 6m 51s: One Man Gang
  • 5m 55s: Hillbilly Jim
  • 5m 50s: B. Brian Blair
  • 3m 51s: Ultimate Warrior
  • 3m 18s: Butch Reed
  • 2m 33s: Boris Zhukov
  • 2m 09s: Junkyard Dog

Bret Hart set the precedent for a number one seed going on to become the Iron Man of the Royal Rumble match.

The Ultimate Warrior had a very underwhelming showing in this match. Not only did he have one of the shortest survival times, but he also did not eliminate any of the other 19 opponents. And his elimination wasn't anything special either, as he was simply thrown out of the ring by two heels with no major setup behind it.

Junkyard Dog is one of the very few final entrants of a Royal Rumble match to also end up with the shortest survival time in that same Royal Rumble match.

This is the only Royal Rumble match in history where each competitor lasted at least two minutes.

Entrance Times

Here are the entrance times for each superstar involved. This is the amount of time that passed between an entrance buzzer going off and when the superstar finally stepped foot into the actual ring. The first two entrants (Bret Hart and Tito Santana) are excluded because their entrances were not part of the match.

  • 0m 33s: Duggan
  • 0m 16s: Muraco
  • 0m 14s: Neidhart
  • 0m 12s: One Man Gang
  • 0m 10s: Reed
  • 0m 09s: Bass
  • 0m 08s: Race, Davis
  • 0m 07s: Roberts, Zhukov, Blair
  • 0m 06s: Bravo, Jim, Brunzell, Warrior, JYD
  • 0m 04s: Houston
  • 0m 03s: Volkoff

The entrances were the hardest thing to time in this match. I always wait until the countdown hits zero before starting the clock on a superstar's entrance. That method did not mesh well at all for this this particular Royal Rumble match, as almost all of the superstars made their way down the aisle when the clock still had several seconds remaining. This is the main reason for the short entrance times here.

The most extreme example of this issue was with Sam Houston's entrance time, as he ran down most of the aisle while the clock still was ticking down, so none of that time counted for his entrance until the clock finally landed on zero.

And even though I will still refer to buzzers going off, there were no actual sounds used in this match to signify that the clock reached zero. That made it even harder to figure out how to time entrances, as sometimes the clock would appear ticking down with 4 or 5 seconds remaining, and then the clock would just disappear from the screen without ever showing when zero was reached.

In the case of Jim Neidhart, no clock was ever shown leading up to his arrival, so I just had to use the time when the crowd started making noise to signify his arrival in the entrance aisle. But the clock could have still been above zero at that point; there is no way to know for sure.

Nikolai Volkoff actually ran down the aisle right behind Don Muraco as Don Muraco was making his entrance. At this point it wasn't clear which man was the official entrant until Muraco slugged Volkoff and entered the ring. Volkoff simply waited ringside until the next waiting interval expired, and that is why his entrance time was so short.

Jim Duggan's entrance time was extended a bit by a brief scuffle with Harley Race, who had just been eliminated and was walking back up the aisle.

Time Between Buzzers

Howard Finkel stated that there would be two minutes between superstar entrances. How well did WWF stick to that claim? Here are the waiting times between all 18 buzzers, in chronological order:

  • 1m 57s: Buzzer 1 - Butch Reed
  • 1m 38s: Buzzer 2 - Jim Neidhart
  • 1m 39s: Buzzer 3 - Jake Roberts
  • 1m 30s: Buzzer 4 - Harley Race
  • 1m 28s: Buzzer 5 - Jim Brunzell
  • 1m 29s: Buzzer 6 - Sam Houston
  • 1m 30s: Buzzer 7 - Danny Davis
  • 1m 30s: Buzzer 8 - Boris Zhukov
  • 1m 59s: Buzzer 9 - Don Muraco
  • 2m 00s: Buzzer 10 - Nikolai Volkoff
  • 1m 28s: Buzzer 11 - Jim Duggan
  • 1m 29s: Buzzer 12 - Ron Bass
  • 1m 27s: Buzzer 13 - B. Brian Blair
  • 1m 31s: Buzzer 14 - Hillbilly Jim
  • 1m 29s: Buzzer 15 - Dino Bravo
  • 1m 26s: Buzzer 16 - Ultimate Warrior
  • 0m 51s: Buzzer 17 - One Man Gang
  • 1m 13s: Buzzer 18 - Junkyard Dog

If you glanced at this list without any prior knowledge, it would seem like the waiting times were supposed to be ninety seconds rather than two minutes. Only 3 of the 18 waiting times fell within five seconds of the two-minute mark. Meanwhile 11 of the 18 waiting times fell within 5 seconds of a theoretical 90-second waiting interval.

The final two waiting times of 0m 51s and 1m 13s seem to indicate that WWF was trying to finish the match up as quickly as possible.

In a perfectly timed match, the final buzzer would have gone off at 36m 00s after the start of the match. In reality, this happened at 27m 39s after the match began.

Ring Crowdedness

I also wanted to take a look at how the ring filled up with superstars as the match progressed. If you add up each wrestler's survival time, it results in a total survival time of 3h 43m 45s. Given that the match lasted a total of 33m 24s, that comes out to an average of 6.7 competitors in the ring at any given second.

Here is a better way to understand how many men were in the ring at any given time. This table shows the total time that the ring was filled with an exact number of discrete superstars at once:

Active Wrestlers Total Time Percentage of Match Time Cumulative Percentage
2 3m 08s 9.4 9.4
3 2m 52s 8.6 18.0
4 4m 11s 12.5 30.5
5 1m 42s 5.1 35.6
6 2m 24s 7.2 42.8
7 2m 44s 8.2 50.9
8 5m 50s 17.5 68.4
9 3m 09s 9.4 77.8
10 6m 18s 18.9 96.7
11 1m 06s 3.3 100.0

This was a very crowded Royal Rumble match, as exactly half of the participants were still active in the ring after the final entrant joined the fray.

The only times there were exactly two men in the ring were with the very first 2 entrants in the match as well as the final 2 survivors of the match.

The only times there were exactly three men in the ring were with the very first 3 entrants in the match as well as the final 3 survivors of the match.

At the 6m 52s mark of the match, there were 5 men in the ring. The number of men in the ring remained at 5 or more until the 30m 01s mark of the match.

Between the 19m 46s and 28m 23s marks of the match, the ring only dipped below 10 men for a total of 1m 13s.

The 20 men in the 1988 Royal Rumble match spent more total time in the ring than the 30 men who competed in the 1999 Royal Rumble match.

End of the Match

Once the final entrant (Junkyard Dog) entered the ring, the match essentially turned into a 10-man Battle Royal to the finish between Danny Davis, Muraco, Volkoff, Duggan, Bass, Hillbilly Jim, Bravo, Warrior, One Man Gang, and Junkyard Dog. This final segment of the Royal Rumble match lasted 5m 44s, and at that point Duggan emerged as the winner of the match.

That's all you need to know about the timing of the 1988 Royal Rumble match. Which numbers do you find to be the most interesting?

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