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The Royal Rumble match is similar to a battle royal, a wrestler is eliminated when leaving the ring over the top rope, with both feet touching the floor. The idea behind the Royal Rumble match is credited to Pat Patterson. Before the match begins, the contestants draw spots in the Rumble. The match consists of thirty men, beginning with the two men who chose entry numbers one and two in the ring. At regular timed intervals, usually ninety seconds, one of the remaining 28 wrestlers enters the ring. Participants must eliminate all other opponents, and the winner of the event is the last wrestler remaining after all others have been eliminated. A referee, who is situated at ringside, must witness an elimination in order for it to be valid. A wrestler who is eliminated without a referee noticing may sometimes sneak back into the match. For example, Stone Cold Steve Austin was eliminated during the 1997 event, but he re-entered without the referees' knowledge and eventually won the match. Moreover, a wrestler who exits the ring without going over the top rope is not eliminated from the contest. During the 1999 Rumble match, both Vince McMahon and Steve Austin left the ring, only to return later in the match. In the 1994 match, the last two participants Bret Hart and Lex Luger were declared co-winners when it was decided that both of their feet touched the floor at exactly the same time. A similar situation occurred in the 2005 match, however the match was restarted after Batista and John Cena eliminated each other at the same time. Batista eliminated Cena afterwards to win the match.

The reward for the 1992 Royal Rumble was the WWF Championship. The tradition of granting a WWE Championship match at WrestleMania started in 1993. Beginning in 2004, the winner had their choice of a World Heavyweight Championship or WWE Championship match at WrestleMania. Due to the revival of the ECW World Championship as a brand championship in mid-2006, the 2007 event added this championship as a choice to the winning stipulation. From 2001 to 2007 the Royal Rumble match winner has gone on to win a World Championship title at WrestleMania. After winning the 2008 match, John Cena became the first to use his championship opportunity at an event other than WrestleMania. He also became the first man since 2000 to win the Royal Rumble match, but fail to win the title in his championship opportunity as a result.

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