The first WWE pay-per-view in 2004 was the Royal Rumble, which was the 17th year for the Royal Rumble event. It was a show that featured both Raw and Smackdown matches. The brand extension started in the spring of 2002, so it was almost two years into it by this point.
I originally wrote this review live in 2004 and then I tweaked it again in a re-post in April 2017 as I have gone through mid-2000 WWE PPVs.
This show was used to set up WrestleMania 20 (read my review here). Throughout this review, I will add current thoughts in blue font as well – most of those were written in 2020.
WWE Royal Rumble
Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
January 25, 2004
There was a cool video package to start hyping up the Rumble match as well as the key rivalries like Triple H/Michaels. They always did a good job with the video packages. The pyro went off in the arena. It was a hot crowd in Philadelphia as usual.
We start out with the introduction of the announcers. The Raw crew is Jim Ross, Jerry “The King” Lawler and Jonathan Coachman. The Smackdown crew is Michael Cole and Tazz as usual. The Spanish announce team is also at ringside.
World Tag Team Titles Tables Match (Raw):Ric Flair & Batista vs. Dudley Boyz
(Pre-match notes: Flair & Batista were the heels that were part of Evolution. Dudleys were the faces.)
Dudleys come out first. Batista and Flair are next. Batista did a promo on his way to the ring. Batista says the Dudleys are losers just like the Philadelphia Eagles. Cheap heat always works.
Dudleys work on Flair. Set up a table. Batista moves it before they can suplex him through it. Batista & D-Von go to the outside. Bubba sets up a table vertically in the corner. He gets Flair with the dancing elbow. Batista comes in to take out Bubba with a tough clothesline. Batista stomps on D-Von on the ground. D-Von fights out and gets Flair with a clothesline. Batista misses a charge on Bubba. He moves, so that Batista’s shoulder hits the post. Flair kicks Bubba in the knee. In the corner, D-Von charges at Flair and eats a back elbow. Flair to the top. Bubba slams him off. Never seen that before, eh? Dudleys set up a table. Coach leaves the announce table, going on the apron. Bubba rips his shirt off, exposing his taped ribs. Wassup Drop is stopped by Flair, who throws out Bubba. He gets a clothesline on Flair. Batista in. Spinebuster on D-Von through the table. The match is over at 4:23.
Winners: Batista and Ric Flair
Post match, Coach interviews Flair and Flair says it was a big win for Evolution.
Analysis: 1/2* That was weak. Not much of a match. Seemed very rushed since they went to a finish very quickly, but that’s okay since this was the least hyped match on the show. It was designed to put over Batista as a big threat.
(I had no memories of the match. It was bad probably because Batista was so green here, but he did improve a lot as the year went on. As I said, it was all about putting over Batista.)
John Cena was interviewed backstage by Josh Matthews. Rob Van Dam interrupts him to say that he’s gonna win the Royal Rumble. Cena insists that RVD is on “Mary Jane.” Cena ended up rhyming with that by talking about his candy cane. At the end, Cena ended by saying “Word Mother Frickin’ Life” and showed his fists that had those words “Word Life” on some brass knuckles. Nice promo.
(Cena was in face mode at this point. Good set up with RVD showing up as Cena went with the obvious marijuana-related remark.)
Cruiserweight Championship: Rey Mysterio vs. Jamie Noble (w/Nidia)
(Pre-match notes: Mysterio was the face champion. Noble was the heel with Nidia, who was “blind” during this point in her career.)
Rey is out first. Noble is next with Nidia. Rey gets started with a hurricanrana, but Noble countered a 619 by slamming Mysterio into the mat stomach first. Noble suplexes Rey stomach first on the top rope. Noble with a kick to the back, Mysterio got a rollup and Noble hit a running clothesline for two. After Noble grounded Mysterio for about a minute, Mysterio hit an impressive dropkick followed by a spinning headscissors and a unique bulldog for a two count. Noble blocked a cross body block with a knee to the ribs. Noble was near the ropes and Nidia grabbed Jamie’s leg because she couldn’t see who it was. Rey hit a 619 kick and a springboard leg drop to the back of the head for the pinfall victory. Match went 3:12.
Winner by pinfall: Rey Mysterio
Analysis: * A quick match to put over Mysterio while also showing the problems with Noble and Nidia since she was blind. It was more of an angle to put over Nidia’s blind status and her mistake cost Noble the match.
Post match, Noble yells at Nidia for screwing up. She said she thought it was Mysterio.
(The blind gimmick was silly. Once it ran its course, the gimmick ended and Nidia didn’t last that long in WWE.)
A video package aired to set up Eddie Guerrero vs. Chavo Guerrero Jr., who was Eddie’s nephew. They were a great tag team for a couple of years, but they started to have problems. It led to Chavo blaming Eddie for losing the Smackdown Tag Team Titles and the issues continued from there. Kurt Angle played a role in the feud as a guy that supported Eddie. After losing a Tag Title rematch to the Bashams, Chavo bet up Eddie and left him bloody. That set up this match.
Chavo comes out with his father, Chavo Sr., for support. Cole & Tazz bicker about what Chavo Sr. is doing there. Eddie comes out next in a yellow, orange and black low rider. Looks like Eddie got a haircut. It’s a good look. Shaved on the side with a little on top.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Chavo Guerrero (w/Chavo Sr.)
(Pre-match notes: Eddie was the face and Chavo was the heel.)
Chavo sneaks out of the ring before the bell. Huge Eddie chants to start. The crowd is into it. Hard lockup to start. They break up eventually. Chavo slaps him hard in the face. Another Eddie chant. Eddie drives him into the corner. Ref Nick Patrick makes him break it. Eddie grabs an armbar, then a tight headlock. Chavo pushes him into the corner and gets a big chop on him. Another lockup. This time Eddie wins it and gets a huge chop to him. He’s laughing at him now. Eddie whips him in, Chavo gets a shoulder knockdown and another. They exchange chops. Thumb to the eye for Eddie. Eddie’s reluctant to punch Chavo in the face. He wants to outwrestle him. That’s the story so far. Eddie grabs an armbar on the mat. Chavo leaps and gets a hurricanrana that sends them both down to the floor by going over the top rope. Eddie tries to climb up the steps. Chavo Sr. trips him down. Chavo Jr. throws Eddie head first into the announce table. He rolls Eddie in and pounds Eddie into the face. Eddie gets him in a mounted position, but he won’t throw a punch. Chavo takes him down and throws some more punches. Eddie gets an armbar on Chavo as he’s trying to punch at him. Chavo gets to the ropes. Chavo gets a back suplex for two.
Chavo hits the triple vertical suplex. Eddie flips out on the second one. He shoves Chavo into the corner. Swinging DDT by Chavo is blocked by Eddie. Headbutt by Eddie. Another headbutt. Rolling vertical suplexes by Eddie, three of them. Eddie goes to the top. Frog splash hits for the three count at 8:03.
Winner by pinfall: Eddie Guerrero
Analysis: **1/4 Pretty good match for the time given. I wish it went a bit longer. Then again, I understand needed a lot of time for the other matches and the Rumble match. Strong win for Eddie, though. That’s what he needed. I totally understand that decision because it put him over in a big way.
(I remember thinking Chavo might win because I thought Kurt Angle would cost Eddie the win. It didn’t happen that way. Considering Eddie won the WWE Title at the next PPV – No Way Out 2004, it made sense for him to win here.)
After the match, Eddie teased leaving. Eddie comes back in the ring and kicks Chavo Sr. in the nuts. He punches him down. He punches Chavo Jr. in the face repeatedly. Eddie ties Chavo Sr.’s tie to the bottom rope, then kicks him a few times. Chavo Jr. is bleeding now. Eddie kicks him down in the corner. Eddie pulls Chavo Jr. out by using his mouth. That was pretty sick. Eddie elbows Chavo in the head. The crowd was quiet during all that. When Eddie’s music started playing, they popped huge.
(It was part of the story of building Eddie to the main event level. The reason Chavo bladed is because they had Eddie bleed in the build-up to the match. I didn’t expect Eddie to win the WWE Title at the next pay-per-view, but that’s what happened.)
Backstage, Josh Matthews interviews Chris Benoit. Benoit says that there are 29 guys that he has to go through. Ric Flair, Batista and Randy Orton interrupt with all of them holding titles. Flair’s got champagne. Flair says Chris may be the best technical wrestler in the world, but Benoît can never get the job done. Flair says it’s about Evolution. He tosses some champagne on Josh Matthews. Benoit just stares. Tazz says that Benoit cannot win the big one.
(Benoit was never a great talker, so they used Flair to trash talk him and get the crowd to sympathize for Benoit that way.)
A video package aired to set up Brock Lesnar vs. Hardcore Holly for the WWE Title. During a Smackdown television match on September 12, 2002, Lesnar picked up Holly for a Powerbomb and Holly landed right on his head/neck. It led to Holly missing a year of action due to major neck surgery. Holly returned to get revenge on Lesnar and was given a WWE Title shot even though he was never at that level his entire career.
(The neck injury was an accident although there were stories that Holly didn’t go up easily when Lesnar picked him up. That doesn’t make a lot of sense because if you don’t trust a guy to give you a Powerbomb you’re going to get hurt like Holly was. Since then, Holly has done interviews and written a book noting that it was just an accident.)
Holly is first out. He got a midcard pop, at best. Lesnar is next with the WWE Title and he got a bigger reaction even as the heel champion.
WWE Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Hardcore Holly
(Pre-match notes: Lesnar was the heel WWE Champion. Holly was a face challenger.)
Holly jumps on him after the fireworks. Lesnar tries for the F5, but Holly pounds on him. Holly to the top. Shoulderblock is missed as Brock moves out of the way. Lesnar kicks him when he’s down. Suplex by Lesnar. To the floor, Lesnar drives him back first into the side of the ring. Back in the ring, he gets a two count. Lesnar gets a bearhug on the mat. He pounds on Holly’s ribs. Delayed fisherman’s buster for Lesnar gets two. Another gut wrench (reverse bear hug) on the ground. The crowd is dead. Holly fights out with some punches. He charges off the ropes and Lesnar hits a very sharp overhead belly-to-belly suplex. On the mat, Lesnar grapevines the waist with his legs and wraps his arms around Holly’s neck. The crowd is still quiet. Holly fights out with back elbows. Lesnar whips him into the turnbuckle. Clothesline for Holly doesn’t knock Lesnar down. Another clothesline knocks him down. Dropkick. Alabama Slam by Holly. Cole is going hyper as if that’s some deadly finisher. Holly instead opts for the full nelson to break Lesnar’s neck. Brock’s in the ropes. They roll out still in the hold. Holly finally breaks it, then goes back in the ring. On the apron, another full nelson by Holly. This time, Lesnar drops down so that Holly’s neck snaps back off. Full nelson by reversed into an armdrag. F5 for Brock for the pinfall win at 6:30.
Winner by pinfall: Brock Lesnar
Analysis: *1/2 Boring match with a decent finish. It was a short match to put over Lesnar in a big way. The crowd was dead for everything Holly did. I think the Bob Holly experiment is over. Lesnar was awesome in this match. Nobody watching this thought that Holly could win the match, which hurts it as a title match.
(I don’t think Holly should have received a WWE Title match just because Lesnar hurt his neck in September 2002. The fans didn’t see Holly as a big enough star and that’s why they barely reacted to him. Holly was just there as somebody Lesnar could beat on the road to WrestleMania.)
Backstage, Triple H is shown getting ready. They show Shawn Michaels praying.
A video package aired to set up Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels for the World Title. It showed their good times together in Degeneration X followed by Triple H turning heel on him setting up their classic SummerSlam 2002 match. They had an incredible World Title match on Raw in December 2003 that was one of my favorite matches that year.
(I liked the rivalry a lot because they were great friends that had perfect chemistry. Hunter always wanted to prove himself and Shawn was always trying to show he belonged as a top guy. Easy story to follow and they played off each other well.)
The rules of the match are explained by Howard Finkel. The loser of the match will be the man that can’t answer the ten count. Shawn Michaels is out first. Triple H is out next, by himself. The crowd is popping huge to these two entrances. The referee is Earl Hebner, for those wondering.
Last Man Standing for the World Heavyweight Championship: Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels
(Pre-match notes: Triple H was the heel World Champion and Michaels was the face.)
They talk some smack to start things off. Lockup to start. Hunter gets some punches in the corner. Michaels fights back with chops. They exchange blows for about a minute straight. Chops and punches throughout. Hunter with a takedown, Michaels bridges out. HHH buries a knee to the ribs. Shawn fights back, throws him in the ropes and Hunter counters with the patented knee to the face. Shoulderblocks in the corner for Hunter. Cross corner whip to Shawn that sends him down face first. One more time, but this time it leads to a big backbreaker for Hunter. Backbreaker attempt reversed by Shawn, but Hunter knocks him down with punches. Shawn catches his leg and leg drags him down. Michaels gets a figure four leglock. Jim Ross plugs the Flair DVD during that. Nice job, Jim. Hunter’s screaming while in the hold and Shawn breaks it eventually. Dropkick to the right knee of Triple H. Referee starts up a count that gets to three. Shawn charges, but Hunter pulls down the ropes. HBK goes flying over to the top to the floor. Hunter takes the cover off the Spanish Announce table. He also takes the cover off the Smackdown announce table. He slams Michaels head first into the steps. He climbs onto the Smackdown table. Suplex attempt is reversed by HBK. He fights off with punches, sending Hunter off the table. The crowd boos a bit, wanting a table spot.
Back in the ring, HBK goes to the top. Double axe is blocked with a knee. Pedigree near the ropes leads to a backdrop over the top by HBK. Hunter’s on the floor while HBK is slowly crawling to his feet. Springboard plancha, but Hunter ducks, so Shawn is on the apron. Springboard crossbody to the floor! Hunter ducks! HBK goes through the Spanish announce table. Damn, that was a nasty bump. He’s busted open now. He’s up at six. Hunter comes out to deck him with a punch to the head. He rolls HBK into the ring, opening him up even more with some punches. Shawn’s got a nasty cut on his head. If you like blood, you’ll like what HBK is looking like right now. He’s up at the 10 count at the number seven. Hunter knocks him down with some punches as Hebner counts again. They show a couple of replays of the springboard crossbody. That was nasty, man. He’s up at seven again. He tells Hunter to bring it on. More punches send HBK down. Hebner counts again. HBK is up at six again. Hunter yells at him, telling him to stay down. HBK tells him to bring it once again. HBK gets in a few punches finally. Whip into the ropes by Hunter leading to a spinning spinebuster. Hebner counts. Michaels is up again, this time at seven.
Hunter gets a punch to knock him down. He heads to the floor, grabbing a steel chair. Stiff chair shot to the back sends HBK down face first. That was very hard. Shawn doesn’t move until the ref gets to seven. He’s up again. Pedigree on the chair is reversed, sending HHH’s back onto the chair. Slingshot by HBK sends HHH face first into the ringpost. They’re both down now. Back up, HBK gets a huge chair shot to the face! Huge pop for that. HBK’s blood is reminiscent of the one he had during the Hell in a Call match with Undertaker back in October 1997. Hunter’s busted open now too. HBK throws some punches. Hunter gets a knee, but HBK springs out with the patented flying forearm. They’re both down till seven. Michaels kips up. He’s throwing punches at Triple H. Atomic drop and a punch send Hunter down. Shawn stumbles to the top rope for the patented top rope elbow. It hits. “Are we seeing a miracle here?” asks JR. The crowd is going nuts now as HBK warms up the band for Sweet Chin Music. Superkick is missed as Hunter ducks and punches him in the nuts! What a cool reversal! They note that it would be illegal in a regular match, but it’s legal here. They’re both up at eight.
Both up now, they exchange punches in the middle of the ring. Michaels whips him into the ropes and grabs a sleeper. The visual is pretty disgusting because they’re both bleeding very heavily. In a sick kind of way, it’s an awesome visual. After about a minute, Shawn lets him go so that the ref can count him down. Triple H is up at eight. Punches by HBK, HHH shoves him back. Michaels’ punch is ducked and HHH hits with a DDT in the middle of the ring. Hebner counts them down as HHH gets up at around five while Michaels is up at eight. Hunter whips him into the turnbuckle, which HBK bumps upside down. Hunter goes for a back suplex off the top. Michaels lands on top of him on the way down. Ten count once again. They’re both up by eight. Kick to the gut for HHH followed by a Pedigree. This could be it. Hunter is up at about four. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight and HBK is up by nine with one knee. Hunter turns back to face him and Michaels hits the sweet chin music! The crowd is going bonkers. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Michaels almost gets up at six, but falls down. He couldn’t get to a knee. They’re both still down! The referee calls for the bell. The match is ruled a draw. Triple H retains the title because it was a draw. The bell officially rang at 22:46 to end it.
Match Result: Draw. Triple H retains the title.
The crowd booed at the decision. Evolution comes out to help Triple H. Doctors and officials are out as well. The crowd chanted “BULLSHIT.” They both got carried out on a stretcher. Michaels got off the stretcher and stumbled up the aisle.
Analysis: ****1/4 The match was great, but a notch below their contest at the end of 2003 on Raw. just think that match had a faster pace and had a more exciting story. The last ten minutes of this were absolutely fantastic. I think the draw finish can cause a bit of frustration to some wrestling fans, but I think it fits this story in terms of what they had next. When you book a draw, it shows that both guys are evenly matched.
(This was one of the bloodiest matches of this era. It’s not talked about as much as some other matches, but they were both bleeding heavily and for a long time. The draw finish was done to set up the triple threat at WrestleMania 20 with the Royal Rumble.)
A video aired for the Royal Rumble match.
Eric Bischoff comes out to say that a Raw competitor is going to win because Raw is superior in every way. He says that Paul Heyman is just a joke. He makes fun of ECW, saying that Paul ran a “rinky-dink” promotion in Philly. Here comes Paul Heyman. Heyman takes down Bischoff with a clothesline to a huge pop. They have a weak fight. The glass breaks.
Steve Austin comes out on a buggy. Austin asks what is going on and says they’re wasting everybody’s time. I agree. Austin says they are breaking the law. Heyman says Bischoff started it. Stunner for Bischoff. Glass breaks. Austin gets some beer and he gives Heyman a beer. Stunner for Heyman. He sold it better than Bischoff, for those wondering. Austin drives off with a beer in hand. Nice and responsible.
(It was just done to create a rivalry between Raw and Smackdown while using Austin to pop the crowd after the previous match ended in a draw.)
Terri interviews Goldberg in the locker room. Brock Lesnar interrupts. Brock asks Goldberg where his belt is. Goldberg says that after he wins the Royal Rumble he’ll go back to WrestleMania to get his title. He says “Ain’t that right, Hardcore?” even though Hardcore Holly is not there. Brock looks around, but then stares at Goldberg again. Goldberg says Mick Foley isn’t a coward. He’s insinuating that Lesnar is.
(This was a tease to set up Lesnar vs. Goldberg at WrestleMania 20. At this point, we knew Goldberg was likely leaving WWE after WrestleMania. We didn’t know that Lesnar was going to leave the company after WrestleMania 20 as well. At this point, he was considered the future of the company.)
The 30 Man Royal Rumble Match
The announcers are Jim Ross of Raw and Tazz of Smackdown. I was excited about this team because I thought Tazz had surpassed Lawler by this point. The intervals are back to 90 seconds.
Chris Benoit is #1 as we know and Randy Orton is #2. Benoit stomps him down in the corner. Snap suplex by Benoit. Orton fights out with kicks and forearms. He stomps Benoit in the gut while he’s in the corner. Hard lockup. Knee to the ribs by Benoit. #3 is Mark Henry. Benoit’s trying to toss Orton out. Henry comes in, going after Benoit with headbutts. He stomps Orton down in the corner. Benoit chops on Henry, but he shrugs him off. Orton gets decked by Henry. Tazz says Big Show is his pick. Benoit stomps on Henry in the corner. Henry & Benoit fight in the corner while Orton waits. #4 is Tajiri. Orton gets kicked all over by him. Handspring elbow on Orton. Two German suplexes by Benoit. Orton goes to throw out Henry in the corner. Henry tries to toss Orton, but he hangs on. They pair off with Benoit and Tajiri and Orton and Henry. #5 is Bradshaw. He gets clotheslines on Orton, Henry and Tajiri. Benoit reverses a clothesline into the crossface. Bradshaw ties to toss him out, but Benoit holds on and Bradshaw falls out. Benoit eliminates Bradshaw.
In the #6 spot is Rhyno, who goes after Benoit. Tajiri kicks at Henry. He gets the Tarantula on Mark Henry, with only one leg. Meanwhile, Rhyno gores Henry and that sends Tajiri out. Cool spot. Benoit charges at Henry, shoving him out of the ring. Huge pop for that. Rhyno and Orton double Benoit, but he holds on. Replay showed that Tajiri used his mist. With Benoit, Orton and Rhyno in the ring, #7 is Matt Hardy. He goes after everybody. Side effect on Rhyno. Benoit tosses Hardy, but he hangs on. Rhyno with a shoulder tackle to Hardy in the corner. JR and Tazz are awesome together as a team. #8 is Scott Steiner. Steiner clotheslines all four people in the ring. T-Bone Suplex on Orton. Side belly-to-belly suplex to Benoit. T-Bone suplex to Rhyno. Benoit reverses a suplex on Steiner, hitting two German suplexes on him. JR notes that there are no former Rumble winners in this match. First time ever for that. Orton’s almost out, but holds on. #9 is Matt Morgan. JR calls him a blue-chipper. Didn’t take long. Six in the ring now. He decks Matt Hardy with a big boot. Steiner suplexes Rhyno. JR called him a hoss. Took 30 seconds! Hardy tries to throw out Steiner. Rhyno helps him with that, but Morgan breaks that up. Rookie mistake, the announcers say. #10 is the Hurricane. Hurricane comes in with cross body blocks on just about everybody. Morgan catches him and tosses him off his shoulders all the way to the floor. Impressive. Morgan almost throws Hardy out. It was close, but he hangs on.
There’s Booker T at #11, who JR notes is a favorite. Steiner goes at him, exchanging blows. There are seven in the ring now. Booker gets a scissors kick on Orton. Morgan chops down Benoit. Booker gets a big kick to the jaw of Steiner. #12 is Kane. Steiner just got eliminated although we never saw it. The replay shows that it was Booker. Kane gets a chokeslam on Benoit. Morgan’s powerbomb on Kane is reversed to a backdrop. Chokeslam on Morgan. Sidewalk slam on Hardy. Rhyno’s gore is blocked with a big kick. RKO by Orton is reversed to a chokeslam by Orton. Kane has dominated everybody. #13 sounds and it’s the Undertaker’s music. Booker goes up from behind Kane, eliminating him by tossing him out. #13 is really Spike Dudley. Kane chokeslams him on the steel rampway before Spike could ever come down. No sign of Undertaker. Benoit tries to throw Hardy out. There are six in the ring now, trying to throw eachother out and Spike’s in the aisle, still technically in the match. #14 is Rikishi. Rhyno charges at Benoit, who sends Rhyno out over the top with a backdrop. Rhyno is out. Stinkface on Matt Morgan. The six in the ring now are Benoit, Orton, Hardy, Booker, Morgan and Rikishi. Spike Dudley should be in too, but he’s not even on the ramp anymore. Not much going on. They’re just trying to toss eachother out. #15 is Rene Dupree. Hardy goes for a Twist of Fate, but it’s reversed. Dupree suplexes Hardy on the top rope and knocks out Hardy. Dupree does his dance. Rikishi hits a sidekick to send Dupree out. I marked out for that dance a little bit.
A-Train is #16, the sixth man in the ring. Benoit eliminates Matt Morgan as they are brawling in the corner. As Rikishi is trying to eliminate A-Train, Orton throws out Rikishi. He quickly throws out Booker T. soon after. A-Train works on Benoit in the corner. There are only three in the ring now. Shoulderblock by A-Train on Benoit. #17 is Shelton Benjamin. Benoit backdrops A-Train out of the ring. Benoit and Orton are on a roll. That’s the story so far. Benjamin is working on Orton. Sidekick misses Orton, crotching Benjamin on the top. Orton throws him out. It’s just Benoit and Orton in there now. Their heads collide, sending them both down as the next entrant comes. The Cat’s butler introduces #18 Ernest Miller. Nobody cares. Especially me. While Benoit and Orton are still down, The Cat dances. No reaction the entire time. Tazz is hilarious, though, as he sings the theme song. Benoit tosses Lamont the butler. Orton tosses The Cat. They got pops for that. Can’t blame the crowd. Why is The Cat employed? JR says that The Cat will have plenty of time to call his momma now. #19 is Kurt Angle. He goes after Orton. Benoit clotheslines him down twice. Chops on Angle by Benoit. Benoit charges. Angle decks him with a big clothesline. Suplex by Angle. Angle goes to lift Benoit out, but he’s hanging on. Orton attacks Angle from behind. #20 is Rico. Rico comes in working on Orton, kicking him down. Angle is trying to toss Benoit on the other side. In the middle, Benoit hits three German suplexes on Angle. Orton gets the RKO on Rico. He picks him up on his shoulders and tosses him. Benoit to the top for the headbutt on Angle. Angle pops up, crotching Benoit. He can’t toss him.
The #21 entrant is supposed to be Test. He never comes out. Orton gets the RKO on Angle. Test is shown backstage laying on his back. Austin shows up, yelling at somebody that they are the 21st entrant now. We never see who it is. Car Crash! Mick Foley is #21! Orton looks shocked. He’s got the flannel! They meet in the middle, exchanging blows. Foley pounds him in the corner. Orton is hanging on the ropes. Foley with the Cactus clothesline sending Orton and himself out. Benoit & Angle are alone in the ring. On the outside, Foley tosses him headfirst into the steps. Foley chokes Orton with a cord on the outside. #22 is Christian. He’s beating him up out there. He picks up the steel steps, hitting an official. Orton comes back at him with chair shots. One shot to the knee and one to the face. Orton beats him up down the aisle, slamming the back of Foley’s head on the steel. Foley fights back with a punch to the back. Clothesline on the ramp. They haven’t shown the in-ring action since then. #23 is Nunzio. Foley gives him the Socko Mandible Claw for some reason. Orton kicks Foley in the nuts. Foley and Orton head to the back. Awesome brawl with them. The crowd was nuts for Foley, with good reason.
In the ring, Christian and Benoit are trying to throw Angle out. Nunzio is on the floor, saying he doesn’t want to win. Benoit’s been in for almost 40 minutes now. Angle comes back out, German suplex on Christian and one on Benoit. Nunzio is still on the floor, not going in the ring yet. Angle can’t throw out Christian. Benoit is opening up on Angle. #24 is the Big Show, Tazz’s pick for the winner. Benoit’s working over Christian in the corner. Show goes after Angle, knocking him down with a kick. Chops on Christian, then one for Benoit. He pounds on all three guys in the ring. Big hiptoss on Christian. #25 is Chris Jericho. He goes after Angle. He and Christian double team on Angle. Big Show grabs them, head butting them both at the same time. Another headbutt on Jericho. Christian jumps on his back. Now all four gang up on Show. Tazz says he might go because the Smackdown guys (Benoit & Angle) are helping. Show fights all of them off. Angle & Jericho exchange blows.
There’s Charlie Haas in the #26 spot. Jericho & Christian give a double suplex to Haas. Nunzio is still on the floor. Jericho and Christian toss Benoit, but he hangs on. Jericho turns on Christian, but Jericho holds on. He backdrops Christian out to the floor, eliminating him. #27 is Billy Gunn with no reaction. Fameasser on Angle. Fameasser on Jericho. Fameasser on Big Show. Impressive, but he still sucks. They show Nunzio on the floor again. In the ring are Benoit, Angle, Jericho, Big Show, Haas and Gunn, as well as Nunzio who is on the floor. Benoit gets a German suplex on Jericho. #28 is John Cena, wearing a hometown Philadelphia Phillies jersey, who comes out to one of the bigger pops. Show is waiting for him. Cena sees Nunzio on the ground. He tosses him in. Show chops Cena hard in the chest. Nunzio tries to throw out Show, but he eats a chop to the back instead. Cena’s firing away on Big Show. Big Show is getting doubled by Gunn and Nunzio. Cena & Jericho teaming on Show. #29 is Rob Van Dam. One more left after this. RVD opens up on Big Show with a dropkick. Spinkick for Jericho. Everybody’s paired off. Cena gets the FU on Kurt Angle. He can’t toss him out, however. #30 is Bill Goldberg, as we know. This is it.
Goldberg gets a spear on Big Show. Spear on Billy Gunn. Punch to Angle, Jericho, RVD and a slam to Haas. Nunzio jumps on his back. Goldberg tosses Haas out with Nunzio on his back. He slams Nunzio down. He gets the spear on Nunzio. Goldberg clotheslines Billy Gunn out. Press slam on Nunzio by Goldberg, so he’s out. Show is going for a Jackhammer on Show. Brock Lesnar comes in out of nowhere and gives Goldberg the F5 to HUGE heat. Goldberg says “You’re next you son of a bitch.” Angle comes up from behind Goldberg, tossing him out. There are six left. Benoit, RVD, Angle, Jericho, Show and Cena. Cena, Angle, Jericho, Benoit and RVD all gang up on Big Show. He tosses them all off. He clotheslines them all down. Headbutt to Jericho. Slam to Cena is prevented by Angle with a chop block. Jericho with a Lionsault on Show. RVD with a frog splash on Big Show. Cena with a five-knuckle shuffle drop. Benoit with a headbutt. Great sequence of spots. Angle orders them to toss out Show. All five of them can’t even lift him. Show shoves them out. He tosses Cena out over the top, eliminating him. Van Dam tries to monkey flip Big Show out of there. Show blocks him, sending him out.
The final four are Benoit, Angle, Jericho and Big Show. Show tosses Jericho, but he skins the cat, hanging on just barely. Another attempt by Show is blocked by Jericho. Jericho comes back with a bulldog off the middle rope. Jericho gets the Walls of Jericho on Big Show. He taps. It doesn’t matter, though. Jericho is trying to toss Angle. Show slams down Benoit, then goes after Jericho. Chokeslam on Jericho to the floor! Jericho is out. That was huge. Show takes down Angle and hits Benoit with a chokeslam. The final three are all Smackdown people, Tazz notes. Angle’s German suplex doesn’t work on Show. He does get an Angle Slam, however. Benoit goes after Angle. He eats an Angle Slam. Show is up with a chokeslam, but Angle rolls through into the ankle lock. Show gets ropes. Angle doesn’t let up. Show is standing up in the ankle lock. He uses his momentum to flip Angle out over the top. Awesome elimination there. Very unique.
The final two are Big Show and Chris Benoit. Show is on the apron, leaning over the top rope with his head in the middle of the ring. Benoit to the top. He gets a headbutt on Show while he’s leaning over. Sick spot there. Benoit’s been in there for exactly one hour now. He charges, but Show gets a goozle on the throat. Benoit reverses to the crossface. Show taps again. That’s the third time now. Doesn’t matter. Show gets to his feet, dropping Benoit down on his side. The crowd is waiting for something to happen. Show gets up first, onto one knee. Show picks him up in the press slam position. Benoit fights out of it, grabbing him in a headlock. Benoit’s on the apron while Show is in the ring. He pulls him, pulls him, pulls him and Big Show falls out. Chris Benoit wins it and the crowd cheered wildly for the win.
Winner: Chris Benoit
The match ended at 61:30.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS on the Royal Rumble match
– This match did a tremendous job of elevating Chris Benoit to the next level, which is what it needed. I think the best Rumbles are the ones where the winner is somebody that hasn’t been at that main event level before and all they need is the push of the Rumble to get there. It told the story well of Benoit overcoming the odds to get the victory in the end. He started the match, he carried the match and he won it with heart at the end.
– They really did a nice job booking Orton as a heel. He wasn’t even in the previous year’s Rumble, but by this point they had started to really push him. The Foley angle was really hot and would lead to a fantastic feud that went into WrestleMania and Backlash. He was the story of the first half of the match with Benoit. He did very well. Later in the year he’d become the youngest World Champion in company history.
– The Lesnar/Goldberg thing was a huge deal. We had heard rumblings of a feud starting between them and they touched on it a bit before the match too. Little did we know that two months later they’d have the match at WrestleMania that would be the last time either guy wrestled in WWE? I marked out huge when Lesnar attacked Goldberg with the F5, though.
– Big Show’s elimination of Angle was fantastic. I remember thinking at the time that they’d have the Benoit/Angle showdown since Benoit didn’t beat Angle in the feud they had a year earlier (a fantastic match at the 2003 Rumble). It would have been nice to see that, but Benoit using all of his strength to get rid of Show was a fantastic visual too. He literally dragged him out.
– I really didn’t like Ernest Miller, but Tazz singing his song was a fantastic moment. What? I had nothing else to add.
FACTS & OPINIONS about the Royal Rumble match
Person that lasted the longest: Chris Benoit at 61:30
Most Eliminations: Chris Benoit with 6.
Best Performers (3): I’ll leave the obvious choice out because it was the Benoit show. You can tell that by watching it or reading about it, but it’s hard to celebrate it. I’ll just add that Randy Orton and Big Show also had very good showings in this Rumble.
Best Elimination: Benoit eliminating Show at the end is one of the best finishes to a Rumble ever. I thought Show’s elimination of Angle was very clever as well.
Match Rating: ***3/4 This match did a tremendous job of elevating Chris Benoit to the next level, which is what it needed to do. I think the best Rumbles are the ones where the winner is somebody that hasn’t been at that main event level before and all they need is the push of the Rumble to get there. It told the story well of Benoit overcoming the odds to get the victory in the end. He started the match, he carried the match and he won it with heart at the end by eliminating Big Show.
(This was a great Rumble match in terms of taking a midcard guy like Benoit and elevating him up to that next level where he was thought of as a main eventer, which is what the fans wanted at this point. The pop at the end of the Rumble will tell you that. It’s just hard to love the moment because of what happened with Benoit three years later.)
The crowd cheered heavily as Benoit celebrated the win in the ring. Replays aired of the finish and Benoit’s celebration continued as the show ended.
The show had a run time of 2:41:44 on WWE Network.
Show rating (out of 10): 6
It was a two-match show for the second year in a row for the Royal Rumble event. Watch it again if you love Royal Rumble matches because this was really well booked although I know some people don’t want to watch it for Benoit reasons. I get that. Also, if you want to see a good Triple H/Shawn Michaels match then it’s worth checking out, but they had better matches than this. They did a nice job of advancing the Eddie Guerrero storyline that got him ready for his main event push. The rest of it was largely forgettable.
Best Match: Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels (****1/4 out of five)
Worst Match: Ric Flair & Batista vs. The Dudley Boyz in a Tables Match (1/2*)
Five Stars Of The Show
- Randy Orton
- Big Show
- Triple H
- Shawn Michaels
- Kurt Angle
I don’t include Benoit here, but obviously based on his performance, he would have been first here.
Check out the WWE Royal Rumble review archive right here.
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