It seems like every other Sunday brings us another WWE Pay-per-View, but Sunday night was one of the old guard — it was time for the Royal Rumble. The prevailing opinion was that Shawn Michaels was a good bet to win in his hometown, but 29 other superstars had something to say about that.
Last year, the Rumble match was mysteriously buried in the middle of the show. No such problems this time out, as the most famous gimmick match in wrestling was restored to its rightful place at the top of the card.
The Great Khali got the early glory, as his stream of headbutts and overhead rights — his entire arsenal, really — left everyone else prone in the ring. A series of eliminations followed, with Khali eliminating six men in a span of about 90 seconds.
Mercifully, the Undertaker, who entered the ring 30th, was able to eliminate Khali. M.V.P. followed a few seconds later, leaving a final four of Taker, Shawn Michaels and tag team partners Randy Orton and Edge.
Orton struck first, taking a chair offered by M.V.P. and using it to take down the Undertaker. Randy turned and delivered an RKO to HBK, allowing Michaels to roll out under the bottom rope and temporarily escape the carnage.
Rated RKO was free to double team the Dead Man, who felt the effects of a Spear and another chair shot. Edge grabbed a second chair and set up for a one-man Con-chair-to, but Michaels picked that time to return to the action and eliminate Orton and Edge in quick succession.
With the Rumble down to just two men, both Michaels and Undertaker found themselves in trouble on the apron but were able to escape. The fight went up to the top turnbuckle with Taker looking to throw HBK to the floor, but Shawn was able to knock him back into the ring and hit his trademark elbow drop.
Rallying his hometown fans, Michaels tuned up the band. Undertaker was able to block Sweet Chin Music and deliver a chokeslam, though it wasn’t enough to win the match. A second dose of Sweet Chin Music found its mark, and it looked like the hometown boy might win his record-tying third Royal Rumble.
With Undertaker along the ropes, Michaels rushed in to go for the kill. But the Phenom turned the tables, flipping HBK out to the floor and winning the Rumble at just under an hour. Undertaker became the first person to enter the Rumble last and win the match, and appears headed for a showdown with Batista at WrestleMania.
The next WWE pay-per-view is the Smackdown only No Way Out on February 18.
If you’ve been with us for the past few years, you know the drill by now. Nick’s comments will be in plain type with Dale’s remarks in italics.
MNM vs. The Hardys
This match is a good example of how the brand split is largely inconsequential, as the WWE throws matches like this together whenever it works for them. Not that that’s a bad thing. The Hardys score a couple of quick near falls, then leap from opposite corners and connect from the top turnbuckles. Johnny Nitro shakes the cobwebs off and tags in Joey Mercury, leading to Jeff Hardy getting double teamed for several minutes. A first hot tag is denied by the ref, but Jeff finally gets Matt tagged in to clean house. MNM makes a brief rally and appears to have the Snapshot set up, but Jeff comes to his brother’s aid. Matt hits a Side Effect and a Twist of Fate on Nitro before he’s tackled by Mercury. Jeff manages to tag his brother on his way out of the ring, making himself the legal man for a Swanton Bomb that wraps up a victory for the Brothers Hardy.
Winner … The Hardys at 15 minutes and 28 seconds.
Match Rating: 6.5/10
With all of the media focusing on two African-American coaches leading their teams to the Super Bowl, the fact that two African-Americans call the shots on Raw and Smackdown has kind of slipped through the cracks. Coach and Teddy Long prepare to randomize the Royal Rumble entry numbers for the wrestlers to pick, and they have help from Kelly Kelly is on hand as the “Official Royal Rumble Tumbler.” Ahem. Edge and Orton appear to still have a little tension between them as they pick their numbers. Orton tells his partner “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours,” which disturbs the arriving King Booker. Quotes out of context are funny!
Test (challenger) vs. Lashley (champion) — ECW Title Match
Um, didn’t we see this on Tuesday for free? I don’t think anyone ordered the show for this. Test slaps Lashley, and the champ responds with a spear. Lashley follows with a delayed vertical suplex. Test rolls outside. Lashley follows, but Test catches him on the apron, slamming Lashley into the ringpost. Lashley sells the shoulder injury, dropping Test during a press slam. Test takes advantage with a big boot but can only score a two count. Lashley knocks Test out of the ring with a clothesline. The ref starts the count. Test grabs the ropes at eight, but then decides he has had enough and allows himself to get counted out.
I think allowing yourself to be counted out is pretty much as antithetical to the spirit of the original ECW as it’s possible to get. I’m sure glad they brought ECW back so we could see… this.
Winner … and still ECW Champion … Lashley at 7 minutes and 9 seconds.
Match Rating: 2/10
Lashley hasn’t had enough, though. He chases Test down and throws him back in the ring. Lashley picks Test up and power slams him to the mat.
In the trainer’s room, John Cena is getting checked out by the doctor. Vince McMahon interrupts and tells Cena he can’t see him…as WWE champ, and he can’t see him beating Umaga later tonight.
Ken Kennedy (challenger) vs. Batista (champion) — World Heavyweight Title Match
Kennedy gets a quick two and begins a running theme by going to work on Batista’s knee. A long submission hold keeps the pressure on, but Batista is able to escape and bloody the challenger’s nose. The leg attacks continue with Batista (mostly) selling the damage until he’s able to strike with a spinebuster. A forward roll slam follows, but Kennedy regains the upper hand. He has the champ dead to rights but takes out the ref in the process, meaning there’s no count coming after his DDT. The ref recovers while Kennedy is coming off the ropes, but Batista catches him in mid-air with a big clothesline. One Batista Bomb seals the deal for the champ, who continues to attempt to sell his knee on his way back up the ramp.
Winner … and still World Heavyweight Champion … Batista at 10 minutes and 26 seconds.
Match Rating: 5/10
Obviously I’m not watching enough Smackdown, because this is the first time I’ve ever seen Finlay’s buddy Little Bastard. He’s there to pick a number, but turns his attention to attacking Coach after he makes a joke at Bastard’s expense. The Great Khali takes three numbers, throwing two of them on the floor when Coach tells him he only needs one. Kelly Kelly retrieves them, stating that they are the two biggest balls she’s ever held. Ron Simmons’ response? Damn!
Umaga w/ Armando Estrada (challenger) vs. John Cena (champion) — WWE Title Match — Last Man Standing
Umaga hits Cena in his damaged ribs, sending the champ to the floor gasping for breath. Cena beats the ten count, but Umaga tosses Cena into the ring steps. The two trade punches up the ramp before heading back into the ring. Cena cuts off Umaga by hanging him up the ropes. The champ follows up by hitting Umaga in the head with the ring steps. Umaga get up after an eight count.
Back in the ring, Umaga sets Cena up against the ring steps in the corner. Cena avoids the charge, and Umaga crashes into the steps. Cena slams Umaga with the steps again. The champ goes up top for a flying body press, but Umaga catches him. Cena is slammed to the mat. Umaga climbs the ropes and drops on Cena. He goes to the well one too many times, though, as Cena gets his knees up into Umaga’s nether regions. The champ side slams Umaga onto the steps, and follows with the five-knuckle shuffle. Cena picks up Umaga, but can’t hold him. Umaga falls onto Cena, driving the champ’s head into the steps. The ref starts to count, but Cena gets up at nine.
Umaga hits an ugly Samoan drop and goes for the Samoan Spike. Cena catches Umaga’s arm but gets head butted. Umaga hangs the champ in the tree of woe, but Cena is able to sit up before the flying head butt can connect. The champ climbs the turnbuckle and hits a leg drop. He then tosses Umaga into the ringpost and hits him in the head with a monitor. Umaga still gets up, rolling to the outside.
Umaga slams Cena into the ring post and lays him on the announce table. Umaga runs across two of the announce tables and splashes onto Cena, but the champ moves at the last second, and Umaga catches all table. And he still gets up. Estrada unscrews the top rope as Umaga hits Cena in the gut. Umaga tries to hit Cena with the turnbuckle, but Cena ducks and F-U’s Umaga. Cena then takes the top rope and wraps it around Umaga’s neck. Cena locks in the STFU while choking the big Samoan. Umaga tries to get up, so Cena locks it in again. Cena breaks the hold, and Umaga stays down for the count.
Winner … and still WWE Champion … John Cena at 23 minutes and 5 seconds
Match Rating: 8/10
The Royal Rumble
|1 Ric Flair
|1 Ric Flair
|2 Kenny Dykstra
|3 Kenny Dykstra
|3 Tommy Dreamer
|4 Matt Hardy
|5 Gregory Helms
|6 Tommy Dreamer
|7 Super Crazy
|8 Gregory Helms
|8 Jeff Hardy
|9 Shelton Benjamin
|9 Matt Hardy
|10 King Booker
|11 CM Punk
|12 King Booker
|13 Super Crazy
|14 Jeff Hardy
|14 Shelton Benjamin
|15 Johnny Nitro
|16 Randy Orton
|16 Kevin Thorn
|17 Chris Benoit
|17 Chris Masters
|18 Rob Van Dam
|18 Hardcore Holly
|19 The Miz
|20 Johnny Nitro
|21 Kevin Thorn
|21 CM Punk
|22 Hardcore Holly
|23 Shawn Michaels
|24 Chris Masters
|24 The Great Khali
|25 Chavo Guerrero
|26 Randy Orton
|28 The Great Khali
|28 Shawn Michaels
|29 The Miz
|?? Chris Benoit
|30 The Undertaker
Most Eliminations: The Great Khali with six (and maybe seven, see below)
Shortest time in ring: The Miz at under one minute
Longest time in ring: Edge at just over 37 minutes
Longest time in ring without an elimination: Finlay at 32 and half minutes. (Shattering Tatanka’s mark of 20 minutes last year.)
Despite his name, Super Crazy was neither super or crazy… Not sure why the refs prevented Finlay from bringing in his shillelagh but allowed Sandman to bring in his kendo stick. Not that it mattered… Viscera was eliminated by about six wrestlers, so we just put his elimination down as “group”… Good thing there’s no instant replay in wrestling or Benjamin may have been eliminated earlier when it looked like both of his feet may have hit the floor on one of the “skin the cat” moves that have grown so popular now… CM Punk was the only Extremist to get any love as the other ECW entrants didn’t last very long… On TV it wasn’t clear who eliminated Benoit or when; it seemed like it may have been during Khali’s elimination spree, which would have given the big oaf seven.
Match Rating: 7.5/10
Total Event Time: 2 hours and 44 minutes
Event Rating: 7.5/10
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