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Battle royal (plural battles royal, also royale) traditionally refers to a fight involving many combatants that is fought until only one fighter remains standing. In recent times, the term has been used in a more general sense to refer to any fight involving large numbers of people who are not organized into factions. Within combat sports and sports entertainment, the term has a specific meaning, depending on the sports being discussed.
Outside of sports, the term "battle royale" has taken on a new meaning in the 21st century, redefined by the 2000 Japanese film Battle Royale. This new meaning of "battle royale" refers to a fictional narrative genre and/or mode of entertainment inspired by the film, where a select group of people are instructed to kill one another until there is a triumphant survivor.
"Battle royal" implied a fight that was fit for royalty, and thus described large combative events. It originally was used to describe cockfights, but expanded around the 18th Century to include human fights, including fisticuffs combat between a large number of people, and sea-going battles between equally matched armadas. Within the 19th century, the term began to be used to describe forced combat between slaves in the United States, giving it a more negative meaning.
In professional wrestling, the battle royal is a match involving anywhere between four and 60 wrestlers that takes place entirely inside the ring — a wrestler is eliminated when a wrestler scores a pinfall or knocks out his or her opponent(s) (but rarely submissions). Some promotions allow over the top rope eliminations or enforce them exclusively, notably normal battles royal in the WWE and also in their annual Royal Rumble. Battles royal are often used to determine the top contender for a championship or filling vacant championships.
World Championship Wrestling was known for having the largest battle royal in wrestling, held annually at their WCW World War 3 pay-per-view events. The three-ring, sixty-wrestler events consisted of all sixty wrestlers parading out to the ring (usually sans formal introductions to save time) and beginning to fight at the bell. Once the number of wrestlers in each ring had dwindled down to a number suitable for a single ring, the wrestlers would all move to the designated "Ring #1" out of the three and would fight to a winner. The winners of the four World War 3 battles royal were Randy Savage, The Giant, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash.
World Championship Wrestling also held an event called Battlebowl in which 20 men started in one ring and would have to throw others into a second ring. From that ring you would be thrown to the floor for elimination. The last man in ring one would rest until one man was left in ring two. Those two men would then battle until one man was left and would be declared the winner. In 1991 Sting won the match after it coming down to him and Lex Luger. Every year thereafter Battle Bowl took place with only one ring and a normal battle royal.
Numerous variations of the battle royal also exist, including:
- World Wrestling Entertainment's Royal Rumble: an over-the-top rope elimination match which starts with two competitors and adds a new competitor every two minutes, usually up to a total of thirty entrants, with the final remaining competitor being the winner
- Total Nonstop Action Wrestling's Gauntlet for the Gold: an over-the-top rope elimination match in which the final two competitors face off in a one-fall singles match
- Tag Team Battle Royal: a standard battle royal in which teams of two, three, or four combatants compete for group victory. Variations have been used in both WCW and TNA.
Battle royale genre
In the 21st century, the 2000 Japanese film Battle Royale, itself based on the 1999 novel of the same name, redefined the term "battle royale" in popular culture. The term "battle royale" has been used to refer to a fictional narrative genre and/or mode of entertainment inspired by the film, where a select group of people are instructed to kill one another until there is a triumphant survivor. The "battle royale" phenomenon has become especially popular in the 2010s. There are a number of popular battle royale video games, films, manga, anime, and visual novels.
Along with the Battle Royale franchise itself, other examples of battle royale films include The Hunger Games franchise (2008 debut), The Purge series (2013 debut), and Assassination Nation (2018). Popular examples of battle royale games include PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (2017), Fortnite Battle Royale (2017), Knives Out (2017), Rules of Survival (2017), Garena Free Fire (2017), Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 (2018) and Apex Legends (2019).
Along with the Battle Royale manga (2000 debut), other examples of battle royale manga and anime include Basilisk (2003 debut), Bokurano (2003 debut), the Fate/stay night franchise (2004 debut), Future Diary (2006 debut), Deadman Wonderland (2007 debut), the Danganronpa franchise (2010 debut), Magical Girl Raising Project (2012 debut), Darwin's Game (2012 debut), and the Death Parade series (2013 debut).
Examples of battle royale visual novel games include the Fate/stay night series (2004 debut), Dies irae (2007), the Zero Escape series (2009 debut), and the Danganronpa series (2010 debut). Fictional battle royale video games are depicted in the manga series Btooom (2009), and the Phantom Bullet (Gun Gale Online) arc of the light novel series Sword Art Online (2010) where it is called Bullet of Bullets.
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