I Bet on WWE's Royal Rumble, Which I Realize Is Scripted, Using This Scheme

Gamble on this Sunday's wrestling melee as a beefy roulette wheel.

Smart gamblers will tell you to bet on sure things only. I’ll take that one step further. If you’re going to bet on a rigged game, as I do, make sure no one has any idea who they’re placing money on.

I’m talking, of course, about the Royal Rumble, which confers upon its champion the Intercontinental title of WWE events (compared the Heavyweight belt of Wrestlemania). It’s a lesser light only because America hasn’t yet figured out how to Super Bowl pool it or March Madness bracket it. In other words, we haven’t adopted it as a venue for friendly, recreational gambling. I’m here to help change that, though. Unlike most pro-wrestling events, where the draws are mostly one-on-one grudge matches, the Rumble is a 30-man battle royale where the winner earns the right to challenge for a championship belt. Entrants make their way to the ring one at a time by random lottery, and the only way for a contestant to be eliminated is if he’s thrown over the top rope and hits the mat below. Like this guy:

Obviously the outcome is scripted backstage, but you’re not going to bet based on who you think is going to win. That would be like betting on who gets to take the Iron Throne, and while Vegas oddsmakers will take your money it doesn’t make for much of a party game. No, what you’re going to do is lean into the element of chance that, among all the jewels of Vince McMahon’s domain, is unique to the Rumble. You’re going to lean on the randomness of the entrant selection.

All you need are pieces of paper numbered one through 30, one for each man who will be running into the ring. Then for the price of a buck or two or five per draw (it’s your party) your fellow gamblers will get to randomly draw a number. Whichever numbers they draw will match up to whichever wrestler comes out in that order, effectively turning the whole thing into a horse race in spandex. Winner takes the pool.

For instance say you draw the number 5 and the number 5 entrant turns out to be this dude:

Now you’re feeling pretty good about your chances.

On the other hand, if this dude runs out at number 5, you’re probably not making any beer money that night.

For this reason, I advise everyone pay in for at least a few numbers, just so you aren’t immediately deflated if you draw a Doink the Clown (or, lord help you, a Jon Stewart). With skin in the game, I’ve seen the most impassive wrestling agnostics turned into wild-eyed degenerates, hopelessly tearing their hair out that Sheamus might somehow hang on to that top rope.

I call this the “Kendall Method” because I learned about it from friend and Between the Ropes contributor Justin Kendall, who has seen many a man broken on fortune’s wheel come Rumble time. Kendall walked me through the method’s history:

“I saw this in a dirtsheet, the Pro Wrestling Torch, probably 15 or 20 years ago. I loved the idea, so I got a bunch of friends together and we did our first one. I don’t remember what year, but we’ve done it ever since. Sometimes, we’d give out a ‘prize’ to the person whose guy was thrown out first. One year, it was a gaudy Diamond Dallas Page shirt. Last year, the person whose numbers were all gone first had to hang a framed poster of John Cena in their home.
I think you may have won the biggest pot that I’ve ever seen. That may have been the 40-man Rumble. Use numbers, not wrestlers’ names. The mystery of the Rumble — not knowing who owns which number’s allows you to preserve the mystery. What fun is it getting Triple H, Brock Lesnar, or Roman Reigns, knowing they’re the odds-on favorite? Anyone who got Kalisto would be instantly pissed.
Tips: You can do a $1 a number or $2 a number or, if you’re rich, $5. Winner takes the biggest share. You can also pay out the fastest elimination, most eliminations or longest lasting wrestler in the Rumble. The more money you have in your pot, the more options you have.”

And if by the universe smiles on you, you will achieve a happiness to rival even the proudest athletic victory.

None of this is Titanic Thompson-level gambling innovation. We’re not replacing coin-op slot machines with printed receipts, or inventing an in-table camera that can televise a poker player’s hole cards. And you’re probably not going to get rich on a Rumble, though you might pull together enough scratch to pay for the keg. The real mind-blown revelation here is that you easily can bet on any damn thing you want — even a scripted event! — so long as the the things you’re betting on and the selection of those things are both randomized. Usually you’ll lose, but along the way you’ve given yourself a chance to win, and made whatever you’re watching just that much more interesting.

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