Last year’s WrestleMania was heavily focused on the showdown between The Rock and John Cena, a bout that was promoted as a “Once in a Lifetime” meeting. Apparently the WWE has a different take on that phrase than most, as the events that unfolded in Phoenix at the 2013 Royal Rumble on Sunday night have the two wrestlers on a collision course for a rematch.
Cena entered the Rumble match in the 19th position and held on to win for the second time in his career, earning himself a shot at the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 29 in April. And while things could certainly change before then, he looks like he’ll be trying to win the title from The Rock. The full time actor and part time wrestler ended the 400-plus day title reign of CM Punk in the night’s main event –- but not without some last second plot twists along the way.
The Rock set the early tone by clotheslining Punk out to the floor, where Heyman tried to settle his client down. The champ made a point of putting the top back on the Spanish announce table in a rare magnanimous gesture. Rock rejoined him on the outside as they continued to brawl.
Heyman got in a shot to The Rock’s back, followed by a clothesline from Punk. Rock was thrown back into the ring as the fans tried to pump him up with support. A snap mare set up a body scissors as Punk looked to wear The Rock down. Rocky elbowed his way out but took a knee to the midsection and had to kick out of a pinning attempt.
Right hands and an inverted atomic drop connected for The Rock, but Punk came off the ropes and resumed working on Rock’s midsection. The announcers sold possible internal damage for The Rock after his attack by The Shield while the champ kept up the pressure. Michael Cole also wondered if Punk tweaked his surgically repaired knee coming off the top rope.
Rock switched his attack to that knee before getting tossed to the floor, where Punk was on target with a suicide dive. He returned to the ring and missed a move that left him vulnerable to more stomps from the People’s Champion. A Russian Leg Sweep led to a pinning attempt for the challenger, but Punk was able to kick out at two.
Both men’s finishers were countered, and Punk rolled through a Sharpshooter attempt to set up the Anaconda Vice. Rock rolled it into a pinning attempt, forcing Punk to kick out again. A DDT led to another Rock Bottom which was also countered, but this time The Rock got the Sharpshooter applied. Punk managed to crawl enough to reach the ropes, breaking the hold.
The action returned to the floor, where The Rock felt differently about the Spanish announce table. A short sequence ended with both men atop the table, where the champ called for the GTS. The Rock looked for the Rock Bottom, but the table collapsed first in what looked like it could have been a painful surprise. After a brief recovery, Rocky hit the Rock Bottom on the floor instead.
He went back inside the ring for a pin, but Punk kicked out. Both men ended up on the canvas yet again. The Rock rose first to attempt a People’s Elbow, which was interrupted when the lights went out. The cameras couldn’t catch anything in the darkness, though Cole was insistent that The Shield had put The Rock through the regular announce table with a triple power bomb.
The ref also saw nothing, leaving Punk to laugh about his good fortune. He limped out to throw Rock back in, made the cover, and that was that. Or maybe not, as Vince McMahon made his way out. Even though we didn’t technically see it, Vince knew what happened, and he wanted to strip the title due to The Shield’s interference. But The Rock would have none of it, groggily asking for the match to be restarted instead. Vince agreed, and it was back on.
Punk was livid after claiming his innocence, and he laid right into Rocky. The champ went up top and dropped the elbow, but The Rock kicked out at two. Punk called for the GTS again only to run headlong into a spinebuster. The People’s Elbow found its mark, sealing the match for The Rock.
Cena’s victory in the Rumble match wasn’t quite as dramatic. Surprise returnee Chris Jericho’s elimination left him in the ring with a power packed group of Randy Orton, Dolph Ziggler, Sheamus and Ryback, and it was Orton who flexed his muscle first, clotheslining everyone. But what comes around goes around in the Rumble, and a Ryback clothesline sent Orton packing.
Ziggler was next, despite surviving for nearly 50 minutes after entering the match first. He managed to evade numerous elimination attempts along the way, but Sheamus’ Brogue Kick was one brush with the floor too many, ending his run.
Sheamus and Cena exchanged a quick look with each other before joining forces against Ryback. That alliance was brief as Cena attempted his Five Knuckle Shuffle on Sheamus only to be stopped by a Ryback Meat Hook. Sheamus in turn hit White Noise on Ryback, but the ever hungry superstar recovered quickly to eliminate Sheamus and trim the field to two.
A back and forth battle saw Ryback escape the STF. That couldn’t end the match, but it wore down Ryback enough that Cena was able to get the bigger man to the floor just past the 55-minute mark, wrapping up his spot on the WrestleMania card and making possible what once seemed a very unlikely rematch.
The next WWE pay-per-view is Elimination Chamber on February 17th.
In a tradition as old as some of JBL’s references, Dale’s thoughts will appear in italics while Nick’s musings are in plain type.
So the show kicks off with a backstage segment. Alberto Del Rio and Ricardo Rodriguez run into Bret Hart, who gives the champ a huge endorsement. And Ricardo goes total fanboy on Bret.
The Hitman also fires up the DeLorean, goes back to the 80s, and gets his trademark sunglasses to give to Rodriguez. That’s fitting, since Ricardo is “The Best There Is” at rolling his Rs during Del Rio’s ring entrance.
The Big Show (challenger) vs. Alberto Del Rio (champion) – World Heavyweight Championship Last Man Standing Match
Alberto del Rio retains his World title over The Big Show.
Big Show overpowers Del Rio with sheer force for the first few minutes of the match. The Champion turns the tables with a low dropkick to the knee and follows with a seated senton off the top rope. Del Rio gets up with a kick the head and looks for the cross arm breaker. Show powers out, dropping Del Rio to the mat. Big Show grabs a chair from the outside, but Del Rio cuts him off with a dropkick to the gut. The champion fires away with the chair as the crowd lets loose with the “Si!” chant. An overconfident champ walks into a choke slam, but he manages to get to his feet before a count of ten. The fight spills to the floor as Show slams the champ on the outside. Del Rio makes the ten count before retreating up the ramp. Del Rio connects with a low blow and kicks the challenger in the head. The ref starts the count, but Show is able to stagger to his feet. The two combatants fight to the set, where Show sets up a table and climbs up part of the set, taking Del Rio with him. The champ is choke slammed off the set and through the table. Del Rio barely makes the 10 count, and Show can’t believe it. Show drags a still woozy Del Rio back to the ring. Show loads the KO punch, but the champ is able to roll out of the ring. Show grabs the steel steps as Ricardo runs interference. Ricardo pays the price, but the distraction is enough for Del Rio to recover and avoid a spear from Show that sends the challenger crashing through the security barrier. The champ crushes the arm of Big Show between a chair and the ring steps, and he follows that up by spraying the big man in the face with a fire extinguisher. Del Rio gets Show back in the ring to lock in the cross arm breaker while Ricardo duct tapes Show’s feet to the bottom rope. Del Rio breaks the hold and as the ref starts the count. Show is unable to free his feet from the tape and can’t make the 10 count.
Winner… and still World Heavyweight Champion… Alberto Del Rio at 16 minutes and 57 seconds.
Match Rating: 8/10
They do say duct tape can solve anything. Apparently that includes how to defeat a much larger man in a Last Man Standing Match.
|WHAT YOU THINK|
What did you think of the Royal Rumble PPV?
It was great – 22% It was okay – 28% Didn’t like it – 15% Didn’t see it – 35%
Matt Striker wants a word with Dolph Ziggler, or as AJ prefers to call him, “My Ziggy.” The Show Off decides to go out number one since that’s what he is. When Striker starts to point out how difficult it is to win from there, AJ tells him to run as fast and far as he can in five seconds. A surprisingly eloquent Big E Langston takes over the interview from there, allowing Ziggler to finish his boast that he’ll win the Rumble and go on to claim the WWE title on the grandest stage of them all.
Antonio Cesaro likes his chances tonight, since the last three winners were not American. Other superstars also give their thoughts. Wade Barrett says this will be the first time the Intercontinental Champion wins the Rumble.
I enjoyed the fact that the Prime Time Players were in that segment. For one of them to win, they’re going to have to pay off someone in creative to the tune of… millions of dollars, millions of dollars!
Rhodes Scholars (challengers) vs. Team Hell No (champions) – WWE Tag Team Championship Match
As Daniel Bryan and Cody Rhodes face off to start the match, JBL quips, “It’s like a hair explosion against a jacked up Freddy Mercury.” The champs look good in the opening minute, working over both Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow. Kane sends both challengers out to the floor, where Daniel Bryan flies to take both of them out. But Bryan runs into trouble on the outside, and it only gets worse for him back between the ropes. A desperation DDT on Rhodes finally helps Bryan tag out, and Kane gets a quick two count with a side slam on Sandow. Kane misses off the top rope, allowing Sandow to get a two count with a swinging neckbreaker. Bryan makes a blind tag and hits a big missile dropkick on a surprised Sandow. Rhodes is tossed into a choke slam by Kane while Bryan applies the No Lock on Sandow. Damien appropriately makes the smart move and taps out.
Winners… and still WWE Tag Team Champions … Team Hell No at 9 minutes and 24 seconds.
Match Rating: 6/10
The awesome video package is shown running through all of the numbers involved in the Royal Rumble match.
Team Hell No is feeling pretty good backstage, but running into Vickie Guerrero can bring anyone down. They get their entry numbers from the managing supervisor, and Kane finds Bryan’s interesting. Is he going to show Bryan his number? No. I show me mine, you show me yours, says Bryan, but Kane thinks Daniel would feel very inadequate. #notpg
The Royal Rumble
Royal Rumble Stats
|No. entered||No. eliminated|
|1 Dolph Ziggler||1 Santino Marella (by Cody Rhodes)|
|2 Chris Jericho||2 Drew McIntyre (by Chris Jericho)|
|3 Cody Rhodes||3 Titus O’Neil (by Sheamus)|
|4 Kofi Kingston||4 David Otunga (by Sheamus)|
|5 Santino Marella||5 Goldust (by Rhodes)|
|6 Drew McIntyre||6 Brodus Clay (by a group)|
|7 Titus O’Neil||7 Tensai (by Kofi Kingston)|
|8 Goldust||8 Darren Young (by Kingston)|
|9 David Otunga||9 Kofi Kingston (by Rhodes)|
|10 Heath Slater||10 The Godfather (by Dolph Ziggler)|
|11 Sheamus||11 Heath Slater (by John Cena)|
|12 Tensai||12 Cody Rhodes (by Cena)|
|13 Brodus Clay||13 Rey Mysterio (by Wade Barrett)|
|14 Rey Mysterio||14 The Great Khali (by Kane)|
|15 Darren Young||15 Kane (by Daniel Bryan)|
|16 Bo Dallas||16 Daniel Bryan (by Antonio Cesaro)|
|17 The Godfather||17 Zack Ryder (by Randy Orton)|
|18 Wade Barrett||18 Antonio Cesaro (by Cena)|
|19 John Cena||19 Jinder Mahal (by Sheamus)|
|20 Damien Sandow||20 Wade Barrett (by Bo Dallas)|
|21 Daniel Bryan||21 Bo Dallas (by Barrett)|
|22 Antonio Cesaro||22 Damien Sandow (by Ryback)|
|23 The Great Khali||23 Sin Cara (by Ryback)|
|24 Kane||24 The Miz (by Ryback)|
|25 Zack Ryder||25 Chris Jericho (by Ziggler)|
|26 Randy Orton||26 Randy Orton (by Ryback)|
|27 Jinder Mahal||27 Dolph Ziggler (by Sheamus)|
|28 The Miz||28 Sheamus (by Ryback)|
|29 Sin Cara||29 Ryback (by Cena)|
Winner of the Royal Rumble: John Cena
Time of the Rumble: 55 minutes and 4 seconds
Match Rating: 8/10
Most Eliminations: Ryback with five
Shortest time in ring: The Godfather at one second
Longest time in ring: Dolph Ziggler at 49 minutes and 46 seconds
The John Morrison Memorial Award for longest time in the ring without an elimination goes to Damien Sandow, who spent 16 minutes and 27 seconds in the ring without tossing anyone over the rope.
Kofi topped his handstand from last year, but using an eliminated Tensai as a platform to the announce table. It looked like he was going to make a leap of faith from announce table to the ring, but instead he borrowed Bradshaw’s chair to pogo himself over to the apron. It was all for naught, though, as Kofi was almost immediately eliminated.
Bryan eliminated Kane before getting chucked over the top rope and finding himself in an awkward position clinging to the Big Red Monster. Though he begged his tag team partner to return him to the apron so he could continue in the match, Kane eventually gave Bryan a taste of his own catchphrase and dropped him to the floor.
As pointed out by honorary SLAM! Wrestling WWE historian Brian Whorl, The Godfather may be the first entrant in the Royal Rumble not to outlast his entrance music before elimination.
Bo Dallas won his way into the Rumble earlier in the week. The NXT grappler managed to eliminate Wade Barrett, who returned the favor by dragging Dallas to the floor after he had been thrown over the top rope onto the apron.
The Great Khali and The Miz were eliminated in the same position as they were last year, number 14 and number 24 respectively.
The Rock gets a short interview with Josh Mathews, and it doesn’t look like he wants to talk about The Shield. Instead, he gives an inspirational speech about overcoming adversity.
The Rock (challenger) vs. CM Punk (champion) – WWE Championship Match
Winner… and new WWE Champion… The Rock at 23 minutes and 23 seconds.
Match Rating: 7/10
Total Event Time: 2 hours and 50 minutes
Event Rating: 8/10
Dale Plummer and Nick Tylwalk may not be doing PPV recaps for SLAM! Wrestling much longer after they trademark the phrase “Twice in a Lifetime” and make millions selling it to the WWE. Until then, follow Dale on Twitter at @DPlummer627 and Nick at @Nick_Tylwalk.