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Match Times: The 2003 Royal Rumble

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Here is a full breakdown of the timing for the 2003 Royal Rumble match.

WWE.com

The 2003 Royal Rumble match lasted 53 minutes and 47 seconds (53m 47s).  This match featured Chris Jericho ambushing HBK from behind right as the match began and eliminating the Royal Rumble icon just minutes into the match.  It all culminated with a showdown between 4 behemoths - Batista, Kane, Undertaker, and Brock Lesnar.  Lesnar threw Undertaker over the top rope to secure the victory and cement his spot in the main event of WrestleMania 19.

Here is a text graphic 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 2003 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 1988, 1992, 1999 (version 1, version 2), 2007, 2011, 2013, and 2014.

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 2003 Royal Rumble match was 11m 44s and the median survival time was 9m 29s.

Here is the full list of survival times for all 30 superstars:

  • 38m 59s: Chris Jericho
  • 33m 00s: Rob Van Dam
  • 27m 16s: Matt Hardy
  • 20m 26s: Kane
  • 19m 39s: John Cena
  • 18m 48s: Test
  • 17m 13s: Charlie Haas
  • 16m 30s: Eddie Guerrero
  • 16m 09s: Jamal
  • 14m 12s: Rikishi
  • 11m 35s: A-Train
  • 11m 03s: Edge
  • 10m 56s: Shelton Benjamin
  • 10m 16s: Rosey
  • 9m 55s: Batista
  • 9m 02s: Christian
  • 9m 01s: Brock Lesnar
  • 8m 21s: Maven
  • 7m 27s: Jeff Hardy
  • 7m 10s: Chavo Guerrero
  • 6m 47s: The Undertaker
  • 6m 21s: Booker T
  • 5m 55s: Rey Mysterio
  • 4m 41s: Yoshihiro Tajiri
  • 4m 39s: Chris Nowinski
  • 2m 30s: Shawn Michaels
  • 2m 13s: Bill DeMott
  • 0m 49s: Tommy Dreamer
  • 0m 47s: Goldust
  • 0m 25s: B-2

The three men at the bottom of the list did not survive long enough to make it to the very next buzzer.

When Rikishi entered the match, Jim Ross stated that it was Rikishi's eighth Royal Rumble appearance, which was more than any other superstar in history.

Chris Jericho started the match by giving HBK a low blow from behind.  This happened right before the bell rang to start the match, and so that was not counted as part of the match time or their survival time.

The median survival time of 9m 29s shows that this match was not dominated by just a couple of superstars.  The WWE roster had impressive depth and several superstars were allowed to stick around and make their mark on this match.

Maven blindsided The Undertaker with yet another dropkick from behind, just as he did in 2002 when he successfully eliminated the Dead Man.  It did not work out so well for Maven this time, however, as Undertaker no-sold it and proceeded to eradicate Maven from existence.

Speaking of eradication, this was B-2's final televised appearance with WWE until 2011, when he returned during that awful "John Cena This Is Your Life" segment, claiming that John Cena ruined his life.

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 (Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho) are excluded because their entrances took place prior to the start of the match.

  • 2m 57s: Chris Nowinski
  • 1m 33s: John Cena
  • 0m 45s: The Undertaker
  • 0m 22s: Tommy Dreamer
  • 0m 21s: Test, Booker T
  • 0m 20s: Kane
  • 0m 18s: Rosey, Batista, Lesnar
  • 0m 16s: Matt Hardy, Rikishi, Mysterio
  • 0m 14s: Rob Van Dam
  • 0m 13s: Goldust
  • 0m 12s: Chavo
  • 0m 11s: Jamal, A-Train, Christian
  • 0m 10s: Eddie, Edge, Maven, Tajiri
  • 0m 09s: Bill DeMott
  • 0m 08s: Shelton, Jeff Hardy, B-2
  • 0m 07s: Charlie Haas

The calculation for Chris Nowinski exposes a flaw in my definition of entrance time.  I start the clock when the buzzer sounds and I end the clock when the superstar enters the ring.  But what if the superstar makes his way down to the ring yet never enters the ring?  That's what Chris Nowinski decided to do when he made it down the aisle.  Chris Jericho was destroying a bloodied Shawn Michaels, and they were the only two men in the ring when Nowinski arrived.  Nowinksi decided that he'd rather stay outside and let Jericho finish his massacre of HBK.  He waited outside so long that the next entrant, Rey Mysterio made his entrance and actually entered the ring before Nowinski did.  I counted this entire time span as Nowinski's entrance time.  Nowinski did eventually slide into the ring and lasted 4m 19s before he was tossed out by Mysterio.

John Cena rapped for pretty much the entirety of his entrance.  The final line of his rap was, "My style's like a swollen penis, you can't beat me."  This prompted JR to respond with "Word to your mother."  Rob Van Dam then stepped outside the ring and kicked Cena in the gut before tossing Cena into the ring, marking the beginning of Cena's survival time.

Here's the Matt Fact that was displayed during Matt Hardy's entrance: "Matt strongly dislikes mustard."

These numbers add up to about 10m 37s of total entrance time out of the entire 53m 47s match. That means that for about 19.7% of the match, at least one superstar was in midst of his entrance.  If you magically wipe out the outlier Chris Nowinski from the calculation, that percentage drops down to 14.8%.

Time Between Buzzers

Jim Ross stated that there would be 90 second waiting intervals between each entrant. How well did WWE stick to that claim? Here are the waiting times between all 28 buzzers, in chronological order:

  • 1m 30s: Buzzer 1 - Chris Nowinski
  • 1m 36s: Buzzer 2 - Rey Mysterio
  • 1m 32s: Buzzer 3 - Edge
  • 2m 00s: Buzzer 4 - Christian
  • 1m 32s: Buzzer 5 - Chavo Guerrero
  • 1m 36s: Buzzer 6 - Yoshihiro Tajiri
  • 1m 29s: Buzzer 7 - Bill DeMott
  • 1m 32s: Buzzer 8 - Tommy Dreamer
  • 1m 55s: Buzzer 9 - B-2
  • 1m 41s: Buzzer 10 - Rob Van Dam
  • 1m 38s: Buzzer 11 - Matt Hardy
  • 2m 01s: Buzzer 12 - Eddie Guerrero
  • 1m 33s: Buzzer 13 - Jeff Hardy
  • 1m 32s: Buzzer 14 - Rosey
  • 1m 32s: Buzzer 15 - Test
  • 1m 31s: Buzzer 16 - John Cena
  • 1m 50s: Buzzer 17 - Charlie Haas
  • 1m 42s: Buzzer 18 - Rikishi
  • 1m 30s: Buzzer 19 - Jamal
  • 1m 33s: Buzzer 20 - Kane
  • 1m 31s: Buzzer 21 - Shelton Benjamin
  • 1m 34s: Buzzer 22 - Booker T
  • 1m 42s: Buzzer 23 - A-Train
  • 1m 59s: Buzzer 24 - Maven
  • 1m 32s: Buzzer 25 - Goldust
  • 1m 46s: Buzzer 26 - Batista
  • 1m 39s: Buzzer 27 - Brock Lesnar
  • 1m 47s: Buzzer 28 - The Undertaker

It seems like John Cena's lengthy rap played a role in delaying the entrance buzzer for Charlie Haas.

The waiting period between A-Train and Maven lasted nearly 2 minutes because HBK, who was eliminated more than 35 minutes earlier, ran down to the ring and assaulted an exhausted Chris Jericho.  HBK got some shots in on a few other superstars, including Cena and Matt Hardy, and then dove outside of the ring onto Jericho's eliminated body.  Once ringside officials began to escort Michaels away, the 10-second clock for Maven's eventual entrance magically began to count down.

Overall, 14 of the 28 waiting periods landed within 5 seconds of the 90-second goal.

In a perfectly timed match, the final buzzer (signaling The Undertaker's entrance) would have gone off 42m 00s after the start of the match. In reality, this buzzer went off at 46m 15s.

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 5h 52m 05s.  Given that the match lasted a total of 53m 47s, that comes out to an average of 6.5 competitors in the ring at any given second.

Here is a more accurate 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
1 1m 38s 3.0 3.0
2 5m 31s 10.3 13.3
3 3m 04s 5.7 19.0
4 8m 06s 15.1 34.1
5 6m 17s 11.7 45.7
6 5m 41s 10.6 56.3
7 3m 41s 6.8 63.2
8 2m 49s 5.2 68.4
9 3m 03s 5.7 74.1
10 3m 01s 5.6 79.7
11 5m 37s 10.4 90.1
12 4m 32s 8.4 98.5
13 0m 47s 1.5 100.0

The average result of 6.5 wrestlers in the ring at any point is pretty high.  There were at least 6 men in the ring the entire time between the time stamps of 23m 25s and 49m 18s, which is a stretch of nearly 26 consecutive minutes.

The longest time between eliminations was 13m 19s.  This span began when Jericho eliminated both Edge and Christian at the time stamp 15m 51s.  Jericho was the lone man in the ring at that time.  The ring then filled up with 8 new superstars before Jeff Hardy was eliminated at the time stamp 29m 10s.

The match contained 4 or fewer active wrestlers for a total time of 18m 19s, which is about 34.1% of the match time.  The final four men in the Royal Rumble battled it out for 4m 10s of this time.

End of the Match

Once the final entrant (The Undertaker) entered the ring, the match essentially turned into a 9-man Battle Royal to the finish between RVD, Cena, Jamal, Kane, A-Train, Maven, Batista, Lesnar, and The Undertaker . This final segment of the Royal Rumble match lasted 6m 47s, and at that point Lesnar emerged as the winner of the match.

That's all you need to know about the timing of the 2003 Royal Rumble match. Which numbers do you find to be the most interesting?