The annual Royal Rumble pay-per-view takes place this weekend, an event at which WWE stars both past and present get a chance to shine in the ring.
As always, the event will be topped off by the Royal Rumble matches themselves, which will see 30 men and 30 women duke it out for a chance to compete for a championship belt of their choosing at Wrestlemania in April.
The event will be emanating from The Dome at America's Centre in St. Louis, Missouri on Saturday 29 January, and fans will be hoping for a night of high-octane action.
Here is everything you need to know about it.
What is the Royal Rumble match?
The Royal Rumble match has been a fixture of WWE’s yearly calendar for over three decades, and is a spectacle exciting enough to entice even lapsed fans back to the professional wrestling company.
The match rules differ greatly from those of a ‘traditional’ one-on-one wrestling bout, but are still simple enough.
Two competitors start out in the ring. After five minutes, another wrestler is added to the mix. From then on, more grapplers enter the ring at 90-second intervals, which can make the squared circle rather busy at points.
The aim of the game is to be the last man or woman standing at the end of it all, and competitors are eliminated by being thrown over the top rope, with both feet hitting the floor.
The format of the matches usually leads to a lot of exciting surprises, with former rivals teaming up to take out former friends (and vice versa), and all sorts of dramatic escapes from elimination.
Who could be making surprise returns?
Then of course, there are the surprise returns and entrants.
Each year, a number of the 30 slots in each Royal Rumble match are left empty by WWE, and are usually filled by legends and older wrestlers making surprise returns, or even celebrity entrants.
Ahead of 2022’s show, a couple of “surprise” entrants have been revealed before time.
In the men’s match, health-and-safety shy stuntman Johnny Knoxville will be taking his chances (no doubt in a bid to promote the upcoming Jackass Forever film).
In the women’s match, former WWE star Mickie James will be making her return. The interesting thing here is, James is currently the “Knockouts” World Champion for Impact Wrestling, traditionally a rival company in the professional-wrestling landscape.
That WWE will be acknowledging their competitors on air (it’s rumoured James will be permitted to walk to the ring with Impact Wrestling’s title belt) signals a shift in their usual unwillingness to make reference to the wrestling world beyond their own bubble.
Aside from the announced surprise entrants, some of the rumoured names going around for this weekend are Cameron, Melina, Shane McMahon, rapper Bad Bunny, WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle, Asuka, Kairi Sane, and Ronda Rousey.
“There will also be some NXT Superstars in town for the event,” say WrestlingInc, “including NXT Champion Bron Breakker, Gunther and Raquel Gonzalez.”
What other matches will there be?
Aside from the main event of the Royal Rumble matches, there will be plenty of other showcase fights for fans to get excited about.
Dominant WWE champion will take on long-time friend Bobby Lashley in a battle for the title.
The pair were famously both part of WWE’s mythical ‘Class of 2002’ trainees, which also included John Cena and Randy Orton, but have clashed in recent weeks.
It’s Ireland vs. Scotland for the WWE Raw Women's Championship, as Becky Lynch takes on Scotland’s Doudrop, and there’ll be mixed-gender tag team action as two real-life couples in Edge and Beth Phoenix, and The Miz and Maryse go head to head.
Finally, Roman Reigns - the longest reigning WWE champion of the modern era - will take on former ‘Shield’ partner for the WWE Universal Championship, a match in which Jimmy and Jey Uso (Reigns’ real-life cousins) are banned from ringside, to prevent any outside interference.
When is the Royal Rumble 2022?
Traditionally taking place on a Sunday, this year’s Royal Rumble will instead be happening on Saturday 29 January.
However, the time difference between the UK and America means that it will be happening in the early hours of Sunday morning for British fans.
The show is scheduled to begin at 8pm Eastern Time on 29 January, which translates to 1am on 30 January for us here in the UK.
How can I watch it?
The event will air on pay-per-view worldwide, and will also be available to stream through the WWE Network internationally, including the UK.
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