Over the last few years I have timed all 30 Royal Rumble matches, as well as timing the last 5 full Royal Rumble pay-per-view (PPV) cards. So when Stephanie McMahon was busy making herself the focal point behind WWE’s announcement of the first ever women’s Royal Rumble match, I immediately wanted to figure out what time constraints this match might face.
One way WWE can fit in a women’s Royal Rumble match without worrying too much about time constraints is to make the main card 5 hours long, like they did with WrestleMania 32 and WrestleMania 33. For the sake of this exercise, I am going to assume there is a time constraint of 4 hours for the main card of Royal Rumble 2018.
Over the last 68 PPV cards going back to Royal Rumble 2013, WWE has allocated 54.1% of their PPV time to the actual bell-to-bell match time. The Royal Rumble events always appear at the extreme upper end of the spectrum.
Only 6 of the 68 PPV events have surpassed a match time percentage of 60%, yet all 5 Royal Rumble events from 2013 through 2017 made the cut. Here’s the list of the top 6 events based on match time percentages:
- 64.6%: Royal Rumble 2016
- 64.5%: Royal Rumble 2015
- 62.3%: Royal Rumble 2017
- 61.7%: Royal Rumble 2013
- 61.7%: TLC 2014
- 60.8%: Royal Rumble 2014
In order to figure out the timing of Royal Rumble 2018, I think it’s fair to assume the event’s match time percentage will end up between 60% and 65%, just like the last 5 Royal Rumble PPVs all have done. Perhaps the extra Rumble match means it should be expected to end up towards the high end of that range.
That means with a main card running 4 hours, there will probably be a cumulative match time of 144 minutes to 156 minutes for Royal Rumble 2018.
The men’s Royal Rumble match has been running for 30 years and so there is plenty of timing data available to dig through to estimate how much time that match requires.
3 of these 30 past Rumble matches are outliers either in total number of men included (1988 only had 20 men, 2011 had 40 men) or time between intervals (1995 only had 60-second intervals) so I am throwing them out the window for now.
The remaining 27 Rumble matches all included 30 entrants and official waiting intervals of either 90 seconds or 120 seconds.
10 of these 27 matches included 120-second waiting intervals. The average match time was 62 minutes and 33 seconds (62m 33s) and the median time was 62m 05s. On average, it took 55m 50s for all 28 buzzers to ring, and the final portion of the match (after the final buzzer) lasted 6m 43s.
17 of these 27 matches included 90-second waiting intervals. The average match time was 55m 45s and the median time was 55m 07s. On average, it took 45m 59s for all 28 buzzers to ring, and the final portion of the match lasted 9m 47s.
WWE did use 120-second intervals last year, however the last time they did that prior to 2017 was in 2002. Intervals of 90 seconds have been the norm for a long time. But the Royal Rumble 2017 main card bumped up to 4 hours in length last year for the first time ever, and so WWE went back to using the longer waiting interval. The addition of a women’s Royal Rumble match in 2018 makes me think that WWE will drop the waiting interval for the men back down to 90 seconds.
In that case, it seems fair to allot 56 minutes for the men’s Rumble match, using the simple average of the past 17 Rumble matches that included 90-second waiting intervals.
With a total match time between 144 minutes to 156 minutes to play with, that leaves 88 to 100 minutes left for the remaining matches on the card.
We know Brock Lesnar is defending the Universal Championship in a triple threat match against Kane and Braun Strowman. It seems like a pretty safe bet that AJ Styles will also be defending the WWE Championship, even though nothing is set in stone yet on that front.
I have looked at the WWE and Universal Championship matches on the Royal Rumble undercards from the last 5 years, and they all surpass 20 minutes in length. Granted there has only been one Universal Championship match, but here is the full list of those match times over the last 5 years, sorted by year.
- 24m 01s: AJ Styles vs. John Cena (2017)
- 23m 28s: Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns (2017)
- 22m 42s: Lesnar vs. Cena vs. Rollins (2015)
- 20m 56: Randy Orton vs. John Cena (2014)
- 23m 20s: CM Punk vs. The Rock (2013)
2013 also included Alberto Del Rio versus Big Show in a match for the World Heavyweight Championship, which lasted 16m 58s.
I’m not really sure that any meaningful conclusions can be drawn from these numbers in approximating a match time for Lesnar at Royal Rumble 2018. Strowman and Kane are bigger guys who generally don’t work 20-minute matches, and Lesnar has wrestled several really short matches in the last two years. It’s very possible that WWE just has these three behemoths run at each other head on for 10 minutes and that’s it. But for the sake of assuming championship triple threat matches should run longer than 10 minutes, I’ll go with a speculative guess of 15 minutes for the Universal Championship match at Royal Rumble 2018.
I have no idea who AJ Styles is wrestling on the card but it seems like 20 minutes is a reasonable guess for any AJ Styles championship match.
Therefore I’m going to subtract 35 minutes from the remaining time to account for these two championship matches, leaving me with 53 to 65 minutes to allocate.
With that much time remaining, this means WWE absolutely has time to present a full-length 30-woman Royal Rumble match with 90-second entrants and no shortcuts to save time. But if WWE starts adding any more undercard matches to the main card in the coming weeks, like tag title matches, then it’s probably a sign that the women’s Royal Rumble match will be cut down in comparison to the men.
This might seem obvious to some readers, but when I first learned about a women’s Royal Rumble match, I immediately thought that WWE might go with 20 women and use 60-second intervals to rush through it in under 30 minutes. But the numbers above indicate that there is enough time on the card for both Royal Rumble matches to receive equal treatment. Let’s see if that’s how WWE plays their hand.