Sixteen years after the Royal Rumble concept debuted at the Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario, a Canadian – Chris Benoit – has finally won the grueling match and a championship title match at WrestleMania. I know what you are thinking. Bret Hart won it in 1994. Not really though. He shared the win with Lex Luger when they took each other out of the Rumble at exactly the same time. That Rumble was declared a tie. Benoit’s is the first, legit solo Canadian win.
Though the Rumble triumph is a milestone in Benoit’s storied career which includes a World Heavyweight Title reign in a little known outfit called World Championship Wrestling, the victory is a little hollow for fans who’ve appreciated his renowned work ethic and incredible technical wrestling ability over the years. Benoit, a native of Edmonton, Alberta, will face whomever the Smackdown! WWE Champion is at WrestleMania XX not the WWE World Heavyweight Champion from Raw. As the WWE’s official site states, the Raw and Smackdown! superstars were ‘vying for a shot at their respective championship.’ Since that’s the case, it is likely that Benoit will be facing off against Brock Lesnar, the man who tapped out to Benoit’s Crippler Crossface at last year’s Survivor Series pay-per-view. Chants of “You tapped out!” have haunted Lesnar since that time. It looks like he will be able to answer his critics come WrestleMania.
The first man into the Rumble, Benoit outlasted 29 other superstars to take home the win. The last four participants were Benoit, Big Show, RVD and Jericho. As the biggest man, Show was also the biggest target and suffered through finisher after finisher. Throwing caution to the wind, Jericho battled Show alone locking him in his Walls of Jericho submission move. Big Show tapped out but it meant nothing in the scope of the Rumble where a wrestler must be thrown over the top rope to be eliminated. Big Show suffered through The Walls, hoisted Jericho up for a chokeslam and hurled him over the ropes making the Rumble finale an all Smackdown! contest.
Kurt Angle, who had prematurely dedicated his Rumble win to the U.S. troops, seized the opportunity to attack and laid both Show and Benoit out with an Angle Slam. Showing more bravado, Angle had the gall to then ask the crowd whether it would be Show or Benoit he tossed out of the ring. Angle leapt upon Big Show slapping his Ankle Lock on him. Show tapped out again and again it was meaningless. In a bizarre but effective move, Show simply rolled over the top rope and landed on the apron. Angle, however, hit the floor.
Seeing Angle gone, Benoit dove off the top rope nailing Show with a body block of sorts. Unfortunately for Benoit, Show landed back in the ring. Show tried for a chokeslam but Benoit twisted and turned it into a Crippler Crossface. Show tapped out. You know the drill. Grumbling “It’s all over, son!,” Show lifted Benoit up for a chokeslam but this time Benoit wrapped his arms solidly around the Big Show’s head. as he went over the ropes and landed on the apron. Slowly but surely, Benoit forced Show to flip over the ropes, out of the ring and onto the concrete floor to secure the Royal Rumble victory.
Allowing fan favourite Benoit to come out on top was a sure-fire crowd-pleaser for the WWE. The rest of the card was anything but. Oddly enough, most of the undercard matches were shorter than the promos that hyped them. All the bouts that is except for the obligatory World Title defence by Vince McMahon’s son-in-law and perpetual WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Triple H, who because of his pull behind the scenes is already a shoe-in for the main event at WrestleMania. All that has to be decided is who Triple H is defending the title against. Ho-hum. Last night at the Royal Rumble though, it was his former Degeneration-X pal Shawn Michaels in a hard-worked but ultimately displeasing and predictable Last Man Standing bout.
In the eighties, Hulk Hogan’s seemingly infinite WWF World Heavyweight Title reign was the bane of pro wrestling. Hogan won the belt from the Iron Sheik in 1984 and destroyed all challengers until Andre The Giant defeated him in 1988. The WWE’s refusal to allow anyone else to carry the gold made their main events stale as no matter who Hogan was up against, you just knew he would demolish them in the end. History is now repeating itself with Triple H whose matches and title reigns are as predictable as Hogan’s were. Case in point, his match against Shawn Michaels at the Rumble. There have been some bad finishes to WWE matches in the past but this one definitely takes the cake.
It was bad enough Triple H made a point of clearing off the two announcers’ tables in the match’s opening moments (signaling to the fans that some amazing spot was about to happen) and then did nothing but drop to the ground after HBK halted his plans with a punch to the chops. It just got worse when he clearly dominated the second portion of the match. All Triple H did after HBK mistakenly dove into an announcers’ table and bloodied himself up later on is knock HBK down with steel chairs and high-powered maneuvers, back away and wait for the referee to makes his count. Not exactly enthralling viewing even with Michaels playing his usual “wounded man battling back” role. The final nail in the coffin came as both men hit the canvas, never got up and the match was declared a draw. Triple H was wheeled back on a stretcher while HBK got off his and stumbled up the entrance ramp with some assistance.
Viewers definitely smelled a rat when ring announcer Howard Finkle made it known that as per the rules of a no contest decision, Triple H would hold onto the WWE World Heavyweight Title. Fans in the Wachovia Center shot to their feet and shouted “Bullsh-t! Bullsh-t!”over and over again. To mitigate the damage, the telecast cut away to some promos to drown out the unflattering audio. When the broadcast returned to the announce desk, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler defiantly fought off the lingering chants by arguing that Triple H and Shawn Michaels had “given their all” during the match.
The next WWE pay-per-view is the Smackdown!-only No Way Out on February 15th.
‘WWE Royal Rumble’ 2004 Results
Dudley Boyz (challengers) versus Ric Flair, Batista (champions) (WWE World Tag Team Titles – Table Match)
- At approximately five minutes long, fans who went to grab a beer, missed out on this one. Not that it mattered much. Mucho brawling and one cool table spot with a table being slid across the ring and into Batista. Coachman interferes. The Dudleys focus their attention on him. Batista sneak-attacks D’Von and chokeslams him through a table. Poof. It is over. The next-to-nothing effort on everyone’s part is booed by fans.
- Winners: …and still WWE World Tag Team Champions…Flair, Batista at 5 minutes and 20 seconds.
- Match Rating: 2 / 10.
- John Cena is interviewed backstage. He breaks out into a rap about him being the “franchise” of the WWE. RVD steps in declaring he will win the Royal Rumble. Cena can’t keep a straight face after that one. Funny stuff.
- An empty chair at ringside is for Mick Foley. He hasn’t arrived yet. Lawler calls Foley a “chicken.” Hey. At least he didn’t demand Mick show his puppies.
Jamie Noble (challenger) versus Rey Mysterio Jr. (champion) (WWE Cruiserweight Title Match)
- Just barely a match. Three minutes is just enough time for Rey and Noble to bounce around a bit. Nidia reaches into the ring. She trips-up Noble. Noble snaps. Rey pins him. Noble chews Nidia out. She claims it was Mysterio she was reaching for.
- Winner: …and still WWE Cruiserweight Champion…Rey Mysterio Jr. at 3 minutes and 15 seconds.
- Match Rating: 2 / 10.
Chavo Guerrero versus Eddie Guerrero
- Not bad but not enough time to allow the Guerreros to really let loose. Eddie refrains from punching Chavo several times. Chavo’s dad is back and makes his presence felt by ramming Eddie’s head into the steel ring steps. Eddie wins though with a Frog Splash. For no apparent reason, Eddie goes ballistic…after the match is over. He lays into Chavo with some punches and busts him open. He then pummels Chavo Guerrero Sr. and chokes him by tying his tie to the bottom rope. To add insult to injury, Eddie drags Chavo across the ring by his face and talks trash to Chavo Guerrero Sr.
- Winner: Eddie Guerrero at 8 minutes and 22 seconds .
- Match Rating: 6 / 10.
- Benoit is being interviewed about the Rumble. Before he can even get a syllable out, Evolution (minus HHH) is on the scene. Flair has a bottle of champagne. Orton will win the Rumble. Evolution is great. Benoit will “choke” again like he always does. Blah. Blah. Blah. Flair fires off some champagne.
Hardcore Holly (challenger) versus Brock Lesnar (champion) (WWE Championship Title Match)
- Fans are actually thankful this one is brief and to the point. Who wanted to see this match-up on pay-per-view? Holly jumps Lesnar before the bell is even rung. Lesnar regains the advantage which he rarely gives up in the bout. Holly attempts to ‘break’ Lesnar’s neck with some full-nelsons and such. Tired of fighting a guy who used to be the car-racing wrestler in the WWE, Lesnar powers out of a full nelson and drives Holly to the mat with an F5 like he could’ve all along.
- Winner: …and still WWE Champion…Brock Lesnar at 7 minutes and 17 seconds.
- Match Rating: 3 / 10.
- Triple H is in his dressing room taping up his wrists. HBK is praying in his. Neither says a word.
Shawn Michaels (challenger) versus Triple H (champion) (WWE World Heavyweight Title – Last Man Standing Match)
- Winner: …and still WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Triple H, at 23 minutes and 12 seconds.
- Match Rating: 4 / 10.
- Bischoff comes down to the ring. A Raw superstar will win the Rumble because Raw is the superior show with better athletes…and of course…a better general manager. He rips on Heyman for running shows in bingo halls…of all places. Heyman appears and attacks Bischoff. Sound of breaking glass. The sheriff is in town. Austin demands to know who started the fight. Heyman and Bischoff are wasting precious pay-per-view time. You know the boring Austin drill now. He Stunners both men, drinks some beers and then rides off into the sunset. Too bad it wasn’t for good.
- Goldberg is yapping in the dressing room. Lesnar interrupts. He doesn’t care. Nobody does. The only thing that matters is that Brock Lesnar is still the champ. Lesnar reminds Goldberg that last time, they spoke Goldberg was a World Champion…now he isn’t. Goldberg insists that he will win the Rumble and regain the title at WrestleMania. Goldberg jokes like Hardcore Holly is in the room. Lesnar searches for him. Goldberg laughs. Made him look!
- Mick Foley’s chair is still empty. Geeze. To think there are many destitute wrestling fans who would love to have that seat. Tazz gets Jim Ross to admit that Foley is a “coward” for not showing up.The Royal RumbleHappenings…
- Wrestlers are coming in every minute not two minutes like in previous Rumbles.
- Tajiri put the Tarantula on Mark Henry.
- At entry 13, we hear The Undertaker’s theme song. Kane looks to the entrance way and gets tossed out for being so easily distracted. Spike Dudley comes out. Kane chokeslams Spike onto the steel entrance ramp. Spike never enters the Rumble and is never really booted.
- At the halfway point, Benoit and Orton (the first two entrants) are in the ring fighting alone.
- With Benoit and Orton out cold, The Cat enters the ring and dances like a madman. Benoit and Orton get ticked off and throw both The Cat and his attendant out.
- Test is found knocked out in the back. Austin berates someone off camera and demands they take his place. Mick Foley does as asked. He ends up knocking Orton and himself out of the Rumble with his running clothesline deal. Orton and Foley brawl at ringside with Foley taking some nasty chair shots and Orton being strangled with an electrical cord. Back on the rampway, Foley readies Socco. The buzzer goes off. The next participant arrives. It is Nunzio. Foley locks The Mandible Claw on Nunzio. Orton breaks it up with a low blow.
- Nunzio hides on the outside. John Cena sees him as he comes down and throws him into the ring.
- Chris Jericho and Christian act as a tag team. Jericho eventually turns on Christian and throws him out.
- Goldberg cleans house dishing out Spears when he enters the Rumble. Lesnar appears out of nowhere, hits Goldberg with an F5 then leaves. “You’re next, you son of a bitch!” snarls Goldberg. While he is distracted, Angle throws Goldberg out.
Royal Rumble Stats
Number Drawn Elim. Order 1. Chris Benoit. 1. Bradshaw. 2. Randy Orton. 2. Tajiri. 3. Mark Henry. 3. Mark Henry. 4. Tajiri. 4. The Hurricane. 5. Bradshaw. 5. Scott Steiner. 6. Rhyno. 6. Kane. 7. Matt Hardy. 7. Rhyno. 8. Scott Steiner. 8. Matt Hardy. 9. Matt Morgan. 9. Rene Dupree. 10. The Hurricane. 10. Matt Morgan. 11. Booker T. 11. Rikishi. 12. Kane. 12. Booker T. 13. Spike Dudley. 13. A-Train. 14. Rikishi. 14. Shelton Benjamin. 15. Rene Dupree. 15. The Cat. 16. A-Train. 16. Rico. 17. Shelton Benjamin. 17. Randy Orton. 18. The Cat. 18. Mick Foley. 19. Kurt Angle. 19. Christian. 20. Rico. 20. Charlie Haas. 21. Mick Foley. 21. Billy Gunn. 22. Christian. 22. Nunzio. 23. Nunzio. 23. Goldberg 24. Big Show. 24. John Cena. 25. Jericho. 25. RVD. 26. Charlie Haas. 26. Jericho. 27. Billy Gunn. 27. Kurt Angle. 28. John Cena. 28. Big Show. 29. RVD. Did not enter ring = Spike Dudley. 30. Goldberg. 2004 Rumble Winner: Chris Benoit.
- Match Rating: 7.5 / 10.
- Total Event Time: Two hours and 45 minutes.
- Overall Event Rating: 7 / 10.