The 1997 Royal Rumble match lasted 50 minutes and 30 seconds (50m 30s). This match featured Stone Cold Steve Austin dominating the field and then cheating his way to a victory by screwing Bret Hart.
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 1997 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), 2003, 2007, 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2015.
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 1997 Royal Rumble match was 7m 34s and the median survival time was between 6m 12s and 6m 13s.
Here is the full list of survival times for all 30 superstars:
- 45m 06s: Steve Austin
- 21m 02s: Bret Hart
- 17m 51s: Fake Diesel
- 15m 19s: Terry Funk
- 13m 01s: Rocky Maivia
- 12m 22s: Mankind
- 10m 32s: Pierroth
- 10m 05s: Vader
- 8m 28s: Owen Hart
- 8m 04s: British Bulldog
- 7m 28s: Mil Mascaras
- 6m 47s: Undertaker
- 6m 43s: Hunter Hearst Helmsley
- 6m 13s: Flash Funk
- 6m 13s: Crush
- 6m 12s: Henry Godwinn
- 5m 34s: Goldust
- 3m 54s: Marc Mero
- 3m 24s: The Sultan
- 2m 57s: Ahmed Johnson
- 2m 53s: Phineas Godwinn
- 1m 48s: Latin Lover
- 1m 24s: Cibernetico
- 1m 11s: Jake Roberts
- 0m 46s: Savio Vega
- 0m 41s: Faarooq
- 0m 28s: Jesse James
- 0m 25s: Bart Gunn
- 0m 16s: Fake Razor
- 0m 05s: Jerry Lawler
These 6 men did not survive long enough to make it to the next buzzer: Savio Vega, Faarooq, Jesse James, Bart Gunn, Fake Razor, and Jerry Lawler.
9 of the 30 superstars did not last for a full 2 minutes.
I think WWE claims that Lawler's survival time in this match was 0m 04s, but I think it is closer to 0m 05s. At any rate, Lawler had one of the fastest eliminations in Royal Rumble history thanks to his nemesis Bret Hart.
With the exception of Pierroth, every superstar who survived for at least 10 minutes was around for the final section of the match. Steve Austin was the only person from that group who was also around for any part of the first half of the match.
Austin dominated this match so thoroughly that he actually had a total time of 4m 10s in the ring all by himself.
There was a controversial ending where Austin was actually eliminated at the time stamp 50m 05s, but the referees didn't see it. After Austin re-rentered the ring and threw out Bret Hart to win it, about 2 seconds passed before the bell rang to officially end the match. I counted this as part of the match time and Austin's survival time even though it could be argued that the clock should have been stopped when Bret Hart's feet hit the floor.
The elimination of Jake Roberts took place during a superstar entrance and wasn't shown on camera. However his elimination was partially visible on the Titantron, so that's what I used to judge his elimination point.
Marc Mero and Owen Hart were eliminated at the approximately the same time, but the camera missed it. WWF did eventually show a replay of the double elimination and so I tried to use that footage to make a best guess as to their exact elimination time.
Henry Godwinn was chucked out of the ring by Undertaker, but the camera was zoomed in on their upper bodies and mostly remained focused on Undertaker while Godwinn's body sailed to the floor. Once again, I had to use a replay a little bit later to make a best guess as to when Godwinn's feet hit the floor.
The elimination of Mil Mascaras was unconventional. He threw his opponent outside of the ring and then Mascaras ducked through the middle rope and made his way to the top of the turnbuckle from the ring apron. From there he dove onto his opponent on the outside of the ring, eliminating himself.
I wasn't so sure that it should be an elimination because Mascaras climbed to the top of the turnbuckle from the ring apron after going through the middle rope, and so to me that shouldn't count as going over the top. Mascaras even re-entered the ring and tried to continue the match after that dive, but the referees told him that he was eliminated.
I stopped the clock on his survival time when his feet hit the floor after his dive, since that is when the referees judged that he was eliminated. All I'm saying though is that there might be a chance that Mil Mascaras has been in the Royal Rumble match for even longer than Curtis Axel. However the precedence for this kind of elimination was already set by Rick Martel in an earlier Rumble match, so Mascaras probably should have known better.
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 (Crush, Ahmed) are excluded because their entrances took place prior to the start of the match.
- 0m 43s: Undertaker
- 0m 31s: Austin
- 0m 30s: Sultan
- 0m 28s: Roberts
- 0m 27s: Mascaras, Vader
- 0m 24s: Mero, Bret Hart
- 0m 23s: Phineas, Mankind
- 0m 22s: Bart Gunn, Lawler, Fake Diesel
- 0m 21s: Bulldog, Owen Hart
- 0m 17s: Henry Godwinn
- 0m 15s: Pierroth, Terry Funk, Flash Funk
- 0m 14s: Fake Razor
- 0m 13s: Helmsley, Goldust, Jesse James
- 0m 12s: Cibernetico, Latin Lover
- 0m 10s: Faarooq, Rocky Maivia, Savio
WWF's countdown clock malfunctioned through the first 5 minutes of the match. Therefore rather than listening for a buzzer to start the next entrance time, I had to rely on other cues like a Titantron video or even just waiting until I saw the next entrant on camera. This didn't cause any major headaches, but it does add a few seconds of uncertainty to those initial entrance times.
The camera did not actually capture the exact ring entry point for these superstars: Fake Razor, Pierroth, and Savio Vega. Once again this didn't cause any significant issues with capturing entrance or survival times, but it adds a second or two of uncertainty to the affected superstars.
These numbers add up to about 9m 17s of total entrance time out of the entire 50m 30s match. That means that for about 18.4% of the match, at least one superstar was in the midst of his entrance.
Follow The Buzzers
Howard Finkel stated that there would be 90-second waiting intervals between each entrant. How well did WWF stick to that claim? Here are the waiting times between all 28 buzzers, in chronological order:
- 1m 45s: Buzzer 1 - Fake Razor
- 1m 27s: Buzzer 2 - Phineas
- 1m 41s: Buzzer 3 - Austin
- 1m 31s: Buzzer 4 - Bart Gunn
- 1m 30s: Buzzer 5 - Roberts
- 1m 31s: Buzzer 6 - Bulldog
- 1m 30s: Buzzer 7 - Pierroth
- 1m 31s: Buzzer 8 - Sultan
- 1m 30s: Buzzer 9 - Mascaras
- 1m 31s: Buzzer 10 - Helmsley
- 1m 30s: Buzzer 11 - Owen Hart
- 1m 31s: Buzzer 12 - Goldust
- 1m 30s: Buzzer 13 - Cibernetico
- 1m 30s: Buzzer 14 - Mero
- 1m 33s: Buzzer 15 - Latin Lover
- 1m 30s: Buzzer 16 - Faarooq
- 1m 28s: Buzzer 17 - Savio
- 1m 32s: Buzzer 18 - Jesse James
- 1m 31s: Buzzer 19 - Bret Hart
- 1m 36s: Buzzer 20 - Lawler
- 1m 33s: Buzzer 21 - Fake Diesel
- 1m 30s: Buzzer 22 - Terry Funk
- 1m 35s: Buzzer 23 - Rocky Maivia
- 1m 30s: Buzzer 24 - Mankind
- 1m 30s: Buzzer 25 - Flash Funk
- 1m 30s: Buzzer 26 - Vader
- 1m 34s: Buzzer 27 - Henry Godwinn
- 1m 29s: Buzzer 28 - Undertaker
25 of the 28 waiting periods fell within 5 seconds of the 90-second goal.
As I discussed in the previous section, WWF's countdown clock was not working correctly for the first 5 minutes of the match and those first 3 buzzers didn't actually go off.
The first and third waiting periods were the longest of the night, and it's possible that this occurred because WWF was caught off guard by their malfunctioning clock and was working to fix the issue.
The next longest waiting period was 1m 36s, and this happened when Bret Hart joined the match and had a highly anticipated one-on-one face-off with Steve Austin. The time of 1m 36s is close enough to the goal of 1m 30s that this could just be noise rather than something that was done on purpose to squeeze a few extra seconds out of Hart versus Austin.
In a perfectly timed match, the final buzzer (signaling Undertaker's entrance) would have gone off 42m 00s after the start of the match. In reality, this buzzer went off at 42m 49s. Once WWF fixed their early clock issues, the rest of the waiting periods were very accurately timed.
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 47m 12s. Given that the match lasted a total of 50m 30s, that comes out to an average of 4.5 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 chart 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|
There were 4 or fewer active wrestlers in the match for 52.0% of the time. There were 6 or fewer men in the ring for 76.0% of the match. This is one of the least crowded Royal Rumble matches that I've analyzed.
There were never more than 3 men in the ring for the first 12m 56s of the match.
From 12m 56s to 25m 22s, there were always between 4 and 7 active competitors.
Steve Austin then cleaned up and had a few one-on-one skirmishes from 25m 22s to 29m 26s.
Bret Hart joined the ring at that point and that is when the ring finally filled up and became crowded for the final burst. When Undertaker entered the ring as the final entrant at 43m 32s, he was the 10th wrestler in the ring at that point. Most of the participants who were around for this final part of the match dominated the top of the list of survival times for the match.
This crowded portion of the match included a 13m 39s time span with no eliminations, between the time stamps of 31m 05s and 44m 44s. Once Jerry Lawler was quickly eliminated at 31m 05s, nobody else was eliminated until after the final entrant entered the ring. The final 8 entrants of the match all entered consecutively without anybody being eliminated from the ring.
End of the Match
Once Undertaker entered the ring, the match essentially turned into a 10-man Battle Royal to the finish between Austin, Bret, Fake Diesel, Terry Funk, Rocky Maivia, Mankind, Flash Funk, Vader, Henry Godwinn, and Undertaker. This final segment of the 1997 Royal Rumble match lasted 6m 58s, and at that point Steve Austin emerged as the winner.
Austin was actually thrown out of the ring by Bret Hart at 6m 33s into this final section of the match, however the referees were distracted by a brawl outside the ring between Mankind and Terry Funk. So Austin snuck right back into the ring and that's when Vader, Undertaker, Fake Diesel, and Bret Hart were all thrown out of the ring in rapid-fire succession. Those final 4 men were all thrown out within 10 or 11 seconds of each other.
That's all you need to know about the timing of the 1997 Royal Rumble match. Which numbers do you find to be the most interesting?
Previous Royal Rumble analyses: