Reviews

TJR Retro: WWE Royal Rumble 2008 Review (Cena wins Rumble, Orton vs. Jeff Hardy)

The 21st Rumble came to us from Madison Square Garden in New York City. On a personal note, this was the first WWE PPV I watched live since the summer of 2007 because I was pretty shaken from the double murder-suicide involving Chris Benoit. I barely kept up with WWE programming in the second half of 2007. It’s the only “break” I’ve ever had from wrestling. I barely watched Raw or Smackdown, but I always read the results. I watched the good matches and feuds while leaving out other parts. I ended up seeing all of the PPVs from that period after the fact. This was the first Royal Rumble PPV filmed in in HD. It’s so much nicer to watch. This Rumble was also a few months before WWE became a PG company.

Heading into this show, I was intrigued by Chris Jericho’s return since he was one of my favorites (he wrestled JBL on this card) and of course the Rumble match itself. It’s always been a big draw to me. After this show, I was full time into WWE again. I wasn’t writing much in 2008 since it was a busy year where I was focused on other things. It was a year later when I got back into it full time and I’ve been writing about WWE full time ever since.

This PPV also was the first WWE PPV to be shot in High-Definition because WWE started doing that on January 21. Here’s a press release from 2008 about WWE going to HD. That’s a not a big deal now, but it was in 2008!

This show was used to set up WrestleMania 24 (read my review here).

In case you’re wondering, the Royal Rumble match review was written in 2011, but the rest of the show I just wrote this year in 2021.

WWE Royal Rumble
January 27, 2008
From Madison Square Garden in New York, New York

The opening video was typical in that they showed highlights of past Royal Rumble matches and then clips of the current superstars. They also had a unique scene where wrestlers were brawling on a New York subway, which is also the promotional photo of this event. Really well done.

The pyro went off in the arena as the fans in New York City were making a lot of noise. It was sold out with over 20,000 fans (or so they say) in the building.

Ric Flair made his entrance as Michael Cole and Jonathon Coachman were at ringside to welcome us to the show. Cole and Coach were the Smackdown announce team at this point.

Flair did a pre-match promo saying it was a great honor to have wrestled for all of these years in Madison Square Garden and he agrees when people say there’s no place like it anywhere else in the world. Flair said he had first match there in March of 1976, long before most of the fans were born. Flair thanked the fans for the respect that they have shown him all these years…and here comes his opponent MVP for the interruption to get heat. MVP was the US Champion on the Smackdown brand.

Career Threatening Match: Ric Flair vs. Montel Vontavious Porter

Pre-match notes: Flair was the face and MVP was the heel. This was not for MVP’s US Title. If Flair loses this match, he will be forced to retire. Nobody thought he was going to lose. Flair was 57 years old at the time of this match while MVP was in his wrestling prime at 34 years old.

MVP with a shoulder tackle followed by MVP pushing Flair against the turnbuckle. Flair got some offense going with several chops and punches with the crowd shouting “WOO” for all of the chops. Flair with a shoulder tackle, MVP with a trip and MVP with a running boot to the face. MVP hit a neckbreaker for a two count. MVP grounded Flair with a chinlock, then Flair came back with an elbow to the face and a chop block. MVP fought off a submission attempt, Flair with an atomic drop and MVP countered with an awkward looking pin attempt for a two count. MVP worked over Flair with punches and kicks against the turnbuckle. MVP with the running kick to the face with Flair doing a face first bump. MVP covered, Flair got his foot on the bottom rope, the referee Charles Robinson counted to three and then realized Flair had his foot on the rope. Flair got a rollup for two, MVP with a clothesline and a double underhook suplex for two. MVP gave Flair a superplex while MVP was on the middle ropes, which led to a two count. Flair slipped off MVP’s back at some point again because Flair wasn’t moving around that great. They did a collision spot where Flair ran into MVP where both guys were knocked down. Flair got an inside cradle for two and a backslide pin for two. MVP with a punch to the throat and then he drove Flair’s head into the knee. MVP went for the Playmaker submission, Flair got out of that and then Flair slapped on the Figure Four Leglock submission with MVP tapping out to give Flair the win at 7:48. The fans popped for that.

Winner by submission: Ric Flair

Analysis: **1/4 It was just an average match. Flair was old and it didn’t make sense for him to have a long match. Lots of selling from Flair before he found a way to win. I don’t think anybody watching this thought MVP had a chance of winning the match because we all knew Flair’s last match was going to be at WrestleMania. Even though MVP was the US Champion, he really wasn’t hurt too much by losing this match. It was a good choice for an opener because the fans loved Flair and wanted him to win.

Ric Flair celebrated in the ring while the fans cheered for him and gave him a standing ovation. Flair was emotional a bit because this was his last match in the famous Madison Square Garden in NYC.

Vince McMahon was backstage in his office talking to his “son” Hornswoggle, who couldn’t speak at this point for some reason. Vince told Hornswoggle it is every man for himself in the Royal Rumble and you can’t even trust Finlay or anybody else. Vince told Hornswoggle he expects him to win. Fit Finlay showed up, Vince you can’t trust anyone and Vince said that Finlay can’t trust the little guy. Hornswoggle jumped in Finlay’s arms and left.

Analysis: Riveting television. Not exactly. The story would evolve where we would find out that Finlay was the father of Hornswoggle instead of Vince. What a waste of TV time that was.

They showed Mike Adamle talking while standing in the crowd. Adamle was new on the WWE broadcast team at this point. Adamle set up a video package about Chris Jericho’s feud with JBL.

Analysis: Adamle was not liked by WWE fans. He just wasn’t a good fit. Adamle has had some serious health issues in the last few years, though, so he’s had it rough.

The video package showed JBL targeting Chris Jericho following Jericho’s return to WWE a few months earlier. JBL didn’t like that Chris was there to “save us” so he attacked Jericho. It led to repeated attacks by JBL against Jericho with JBL calling Jericho a coward and wanting Jericho to tell his children that he was a coward. It was a way to make it feel like a personal feud.

Chris Jericho made his entrance with a serious look on his face. JBL was next without a limo entrance because there was no room for that in the MSG setup. The Raw announce team of Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler called this match.

Chris Jericho vs. John Bradshaw Layfield

Pre-match notes: Chris Jericho was the babyface while JBL was the heel. This feud was from the Raw brand.

There was some stalling from the heel JBL to start the match until he got in a punch when Jericho was being pulled back by the referee. Jericho came back with a forearm and punches. Jericho avoided the clothesline, went for the Walls of Jericho and JBL was able to grab the bottom rope, so Jericho had to let go. Jericho with a running dropkick on JBL on the floor. Jericho sent JBL back first into the ring apron and a whip into the steel steps. Back in the ring, JBL sent Jericho throat first into the top rope with a stun gun like move with Jericho selling the neck after JBL had attacked it earlier in the feud. JBL with some clotheslines on Jericho along with some choking across the bottom rope. JBL continued to attack the throat of Jericho by driving it into the rope again. JBL slapped on the sleeper hold, Jericho fought back with elbows and a running clothesline. Both guys were down selling for a bit and JBL came back with a big boot to the face. JBL whipped Jericho shoulder first into the steel ring post with Chris bumping to the floor. Jericho did a blade job, so he was bleeding all over the floor. When they were back in the ring, JBL was relentless as he stomped and punched Jericho repeatedly against the turnbuckle. Jericho was a bloody mess as he came back with forearms and a low dropkick. It looked like something was edited in the match as the fans booed something that happened. I read a live review of the show that the wrestlers messed up a Jericho bulldog spot, so that’s what was edited out. The boos were not edited out! Jericho with elbow drops leading to the Lionsault, which drew cheers. Jericho with a running clothesline that sent both men over the top to the floor. They were outside the ring with JBL sending Jericho face first into the top of the announce table. Jericho came back with a hard chair shot to the face! The referee called for the bell for the DQ finish at 9:23.

Winner by disqualification: John Bradshaw Layfield

Analysis: **3/4 It was a solid match with a bad finish. They probably should have had Jericho get the win in a clean manner, but I guess they felt the need to protect Jericho by doing a finish that wasn’t decisive. I liked the story of the match with JBL repeatedly going after the neck/throat area of Jericho since that what he attacked during their segments on Raw. I didn’t remember the blood in the match although Jericho did bleed a lot here.

Post match, Jericho sent JBL back into the ring and Jericho threw the chair into the face of JBL. Jericho punched JBL repeatedly. JBL grabbed a cable from ringside, he choked JBL with it and pulled back on the cable while JBL was near the ropes. The fans chanted “Y2J” for Jericho as he continued to choke JBL with the cable. Jericho did some more cable choking until referees stopped him and Jericho left. JR said that JBL paid the price for taking shot at Jericho and his family. Lilian Garcia announced JBL as the winner by disqualification, which drew boos and JBL’s music played.

Analysis: A bloody Jericho left as the loser of the match, but he won the war so to speak because of the post match attack and the choking with the cable.

There was a backstage scene with Ashley Massaro knocking on Maria’s locker room door with Santino Marella walking out of the room saying Maria was busy. Santino claimed Maria can’t seem to say no to anything or anyone and Ashley said that’s why she must be with him. Santino said that Maria is not interested in posing in her booby magazine (Playboy). Santino said he wishes he could throw her out of WWE just like they did on Survivor.

A graphic was shown noting that WrestleMania 24 was 63 days away.

The video package aired for Smackdown’s World Heavyweight Champion Edge defending the gold against Rey Mysterio. This was when Edge was a couple with Smackdown GM Vickie Guerrero. There was a Beat the Clock challenge where Rey Mysterio beat Edge (in a non-title match) because The Undertaker showed up, he distracted Edge and Rey pinned Edge. Rey told Vickie that Edge didn’t really love her and he was just using her because of her power. Edge denied that and told Rey that he would still be World Heavyweight Champion.

Edge made his entrance alone as the World Heavyweight Champion. After Edge was in the ring, Smackdown GM Vickie Guerrero was wheeled out to ringside by her assistant Teddy Long since she was selling an injury. Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins (sometimes called The Edgeheads) also joined Vickie at ringside while Long went to the back.

Rey Mysterio made his entrance and got a pretty good pop from the crowd. Justin Roberts did the championship introductions as both wrestlers stood in the ring and you could tell some fans were booing Rey while Edge was getting cheered.

World Heavyweight Championship: Edge vs. Rey Mysterio

Pre-match notes: Edge was the heel World Heavyweight Champion on Smackdown while Rey was one of the top babyfaces on Smackdown. Edge won the World Heavyweight Title one month earlier at the Armageddon in a triple threat match with then-Champion Batista and The Undertaker. Based on the crowd reactions in this match, the face/heel roles sounded different for this match.

Edge applied an armbar, Rey fought back and hit a headscissors takeover as some of the crowd was booing while others cheered. There were chants of “Let’s go Edge” with Cole noting that NYC fans surprise them every time WWE is there. Rey tripped up Edge a few times leading to nearfalls. Edge sent Rey under the bottom rope to the floor, Rey landed on his feet and Rey hit a baseball slide dropkick to knock Rey down. Hawkins and Ryder went over to Rey, they didn’t touch Rey, but referee Mickey Henson ejected Hawkins and Ryder from ringside. Rey sent Edge into the ropes, but Edge bailed to the floor where Rey attacked with a cross body block over the top onto Edge on the floor. Back in the ring, Rey hit a seated senton off the top for a two count while Vickie looked nervous at ringside. Edge sent Rey into the turnbuckle, Rey was about to jump off, but Edge kicked the left knee of Rey to knock him down. Edge was in firm control as he stomped on the left knee of Rey as fans booed Edge, but there were some cheers too. Edge grounded Rey with kneebar submission with Rey kicking Edge off him to break free. Rey with an enziguri kick that sent Edge into the ropes, but he was too hurt to connect with the 619 kick because Edge hit a powerslam for two. Edge wrenched back on the left knee again although it was a loose looking ankle lock type move with Rey kicking himself free. Edge reached under the leather pants of Rey and he tried to take off the knee brace that Rey had on the left leg. Rey came back with an impressive bulldog counter that he did many times in his career.

Rey connected with some chops while selling the left leg injury. Edge went for a sunset flip, but Rey connected with a kick to the head for two. Rey got another nearfall after a running senton splash. Rey went to the ropes, Edge met him there, Rey knocked him down and Rey hit a double foot stomp to the gut for a two count. That didn’t look great, but it was the thought that counts. Rey with a hurricanrana that sent Edge out of the ring and then a sliding DDT on the floor leading to a two count back in the ring. Rey bounced off the ropes leading to Edge hitting a boot to the face. Edge charged, Rey tripped him into the turnbuckle, Rey with a hurricanrana and a 619 kick connected. The fans were cheering for Rey now. Rey went up top, Vickie got out of her wheelchair (it’s a miracle!) and Rey hit a splash onto Edge, but when referee Mickey Henson went to count, Vickie pulled his leg to stop the count. Rey yelled at Vickie: “What are you doing?” Edge charged, Rey hit another headscissors into the ropes, Vickie hugged Edge while on the apron to save him and Rey hit a 619 kick to Vickie to knock her off the apron to the floor. Rey went for a springboard attack, but Edge hit a Spear out of midair (that was awesome!) and that got the pinfall win for Edge at 12:34.

Winner by pinfall: Edge

Analysis: ***1/2 This was a fun match even with the crowd turning on Rey for some reason and cheering for Edge, who tried his best to piss off the crowd. Rey was tremendous in terms of selling the left knee injury during the match and the comeback was exciting. The finish was outstanding. I had forgotten about it, but it was so smooth with Rey going for a move off the ropes while Edge was there to counter with a Spear. Rey had the match won and only lost because of Vickie stopping the pin. It allowed Edge to continue his title reign in a very cheap manner, which was what his character was about.

Post match, Edge checked on Vickie on the floor while Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins went back to ringside to help Edge. They helped Vickie by putting her in the wheelchair and helped her to the back.

Ric Flair was in the locker room wearing a towel with Ken Kennedy applauding him and shouting “WOO” for him. Kennedy said after he wins the Royal Rumble tonight, he will have so much time on his hands between now and WrestleMania…so then Shawn Michaels showed up. Kennedy told Ric and Shawn he’ll see them later. Shawn shook Flair’s hand, then joked that Kennedy’s gimmick will never work. Flair said he knew nobody can beat Shawn in the Royal Rumble match. Batista showed up to hug Flair. Triple H also joined the party to tell Flair to put his pants on. Hunter said that as far as tonight goes, the best man will win and Batista told Hunter the best man will win. Shawn added that the very best man will win and he’ll be wearing the brand new HBK t-shirt on WWEShop.com. Hunter and Batista left.

Analysis: Fun promo segment between Flair and some friends along with Ken Kennedy, who was ah eel. There were rumors around this time that Ken Kennedy might be the guy to retire Ric Flair. They did the smart thing and went with Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 24.

Royal Rumble Kiss Cam

Maria went out to the ring telling us it was time for the Royal Rumble kiss cam. There were some couples in the crowd that were willing kissers and one girl just touched a guy on the cheek, which drew boos. Ashley Massaro went out to the ring to talk to Maria. Ashley said she got a call last week from Hugh Hefner and he wanted to know if Maria was interested in posing for Playboy.

Santino Marella made his entrance along with somebody that had a black cover on them. Santino told Ashley the answer is no, which drew boos. Santino ripped on the crowd for being from New York while ripping on some local sports teams. Santino trashed the New York Giants saying that they will do a giant chokejob in the Super Bowl. He was wrong about that as the fans chanted “Let’s Go Giants” at him. It was a huge upset over the New England Patriots.

Maria responded to Ashley saying she didn’t know about Playboy and she asked the crowd, who cheered. Santino said that they are like sheep because if you asked them if they want Hepatitis they would all cheer. Santino said that they would talk about it a little more. Santino’s special friend walked into the ring with Santino saying since you like to see the boobies, here is something for year. It was Big Dick Johnson dancing in New England Patriots ger an then Ashley beat him up with some rubber chickens.

Analysis: This was terrible. Maria did end up posing in Playboy. Santino was funny in terms of the dialogue and he got some cheap heat.

There was a Baywatch style video with Kelly Kelly about to save a guy on the beach, but then Mae Young showed up to save the guy and gave him mouth to mouth resuscitation. It was a plug for WrestleMania 24.

There was an edit on this WWE Network version of the show because Mike Adamle said “Jeff Harvey” instead of Jeff Hardy, but that’s not on the broadcast here.

The video package aired for Randy Orton’s WWE Title defense against Jeff Hardy. There was a video package that showed Randy Orton’s journey in WWE over the previous five years from his debut to becoming a World Champion. There were also clips of Jeff Hardy showing his teenage days when he was in a wrestling ring, then his career in WWE with different looks and moments of winning titles. This led to a rivalry between Jeff and Orton with Orton beating up Matt Hardy with a Punt to the face. Jeff had a memorable moment when he hit a huge dive off the set and he jumped form about 20 feet high to put Orton through a table. It was a memorable moment.

Jeff Hardy got a big pop for his entrance. Hardy was the Intercontinental Champion at the time, but that title was not on the line in this match.

Analysis: I read a report from around this time period that noted that Triple H was originally going to challenge Orton here and perhaps win the title, but that didn’t happen since WWE put Hunter in the Rumble match. Hardy had built up a lot of momentum going into this match.

Randy Orton made his entrance with the WWE Championship on his left shoulder. This was still in the “Hey nothing you can say” theme song days for Orton. Both men stood in the ring as Lilian Garcia did the championship introductions.

WWE Championship: Randy Orton vs. Jeff Hardy

Pre-match notes: Orton was the heel WWF Champion that was 27 years old and firmly established as a top guy in WWE. Jeff Hardy was a popular babyface that was 30 years old and had yet to win a WWE World Title at this point in his career. Hardy was the Intercontinental Title.

The wrestlers locked up with JR talking about Jeff entered this match with a lot of momentum. The fans did dueling “Let’s go Hardy, Let’s go Orton” chants. Jeff with a shoulder tackle, then a side headlock and Orton did a hair pull leading to a leg scissors around the head. Jeff with an atomic drop, double leg drop a baseball slide dropkick for a two count. That’s a sequence of moves that Jeff has done for a long time. Orton worked over Jeff with punches followed by some crowd taunting. Jeff hit a clothesline that sent Orton over the top to the floor leading to a baseball slide dropkick into the barricade. Jeff launched himself over the top onto a standing Orton on the floor to knock Orton down. Orton grabbed the WWE Title from ringside, but Jeff stopped Orton from leaving and sent Orton into the top of the announce table. Back in the ring, Jeff tried a springboard attack, but Orton hit a dropkick that knocked Jeff off the apron to the floor. That was a cool spot. Orton gave Jeff a suplex on the floor and then back in the ring for a two count. Orton stomped on Jeff’s body along with a blatant choke and two knee drops to the face for two. Jeff managed to send Orton out of the ring followed by a clothesline off the apron to knock Orton down. Back in the ring, Hardy charged, Orton moved and Hardy hit the ring post with his left shoulder as Orton got a two count. Orton slapped on a chinlock leading to a body scissors, after about a minute, Jeff fought out of that and when Jeff rand the ropes, Orton hit a spinning powerslam. Orton slapped on another chinlock, Jeff got out of that and Jeff hit a neckbreaker. Jeff with punches, then a forearm, clothesline and back elbow. Jeff jumped off the top rope with the Whisper in the Wind move. Jeff with a back kick leading to a jumping dive that ended with a kick on Orton. Jeff went up top, the fans popped big, but Orton rolled to the apron. Jeff hit a missile dropkick off the apron into the floor. Jeff went up top and hit a moonsault off the top rope onto a standing Orton to knock both guys down. Back in the ring, Hardy went for the Twist of Fate, but Orton slipped right out of it and hit the RKO for the pinfall at 14:03. JR: “My god, that RKO out of nowhere!”

Winner by pinfall: Randy Orton

Analysis: ***1/2 A very good WWE Title match with Jeff coming close to winning a few times. The crowd wanted it badly, but it didn’t happen as Orton hit the RKO out of nowhere for the pinfall win. That was one of my favorite match finishes of Orton’s career because it was such a smart booking move to have Orton hit that RKO after Jeff was on offense for several moves. Also, having a competitive match like that for the WWE Title was good to see because that’s what fans want. Jeff would end up getting the WWE Title towards the end of the year, but it certainly could have happened here.

Post match, Orton help up the WWE Title in the aisle while Jeff Hardy was frustrated in the ring.

After Orton left, the camera remained on Jeff in the ring. When Jeff saluted the crowd, the fans cheered and Jeff led to a positive reaction from the fans.

There was a Royal Rumble: By the Numbers video that was shown.

The announcers for the Royal Rumble match were Michael Cole and Jonathon Coachman (of Smackdown), Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler (of Raw) and Joey Styles and Tazz (of ECW). Yes, they decided to have six announcers in this one match. They also spent the big bucks in getting famed ring announcer Michael Buffer to explain the rules and belt out his famous “Let’s get ready to Rumble” line. The intervals are 90 seconds, or so they say.

30-Man Royal Rumble Match

The #1 entrant is The Undertaker, who coincidentally won the previous year’s Rumble from the #30 spot. Huge “Un-der-taker” chant from the NYC crowd already. The “random” #2 spot goes to Shawn Michaels, who was the last guy eliminated the year before when Undertaker won. JR calls it irony. Do some fans really think this is random? I’d love to know. Undertaker gets the advantage early and nearly eliminates Shawn with a big boot, but Shawn’s able to hang on to avoid the elimination. Undertaker knocks him down with a big boot as the next entrant comes out. There’s Santino Marella at #3, who was very leery going in there. At this point he was in the angle with Maria posing for Playboy and he was jealous. Michaels superkicks Santino and Undertaker throws Santino out. Michaels tries to throw Undertaker out, but he hangs on. I’m in favor of starting with these two because the star power is immediately huge. Michaels armdrags Taker down to counter the Old School clothesline. Michaels hits the forearm, Undertaker comes back with a clothesline and The Great Khali is next at #4. Undertaker goes right at him, but Khali counters with the big chop to the head. The crowd starts a “You Can’t Wrestle” chant at Khali. That’s tremendous. The announcers don’t mention it of course. Khali and Taker have a choke off. Undertaker overpowers Khali and throws him out rather easily. Coach considers it an upset considering how big Khali is. What an idiot. Undertaker’s a top guy and it’s never an upset if he beats anybody at anything. I know the comment was to put over Khali, but it hurts Undertaker more than it helps Khali. They tried to cover their ass after with JR saying Khali got eliminated because his torso is as high as the ropes. Hardcore Holly is #5 as three of the most tenured guys in WWE are in the ring right now. Taker knocked down Holly with a boot to the face. Michaels keeps trying to throw Undertaker out, but he can’t do it and I love the counter wrestling. Michaels and Holly exchanged chops. The chemistry of these two was great. Obviously, we’d come to know how great in the coming years at back to back WrestleMania events.

We have John Morrison at #6, who wants nothing to do with Undertaker. Morrison was a heel and one half of the tag champs with The Miz. Michaels hits a top rope elbow on Morrison. Coach makes the “both feet on the ground to be eliminated” comment. Morrison puts Michaels down with a kick. The announcers aren’t talking over eachother that much. There’s Tommy Dreamer at #7 as Styles tries to tell us Dreamer would challenge for the ECW belt instead of the WWE or World Title if he won the match. I guess he’s an idiot. The ECW brand was not very strong and everybody knew it. The crowd starts a “Dreamer” chant as the announcers acknowledge that, but curiously they didn’t hear the much louder “You Can’t Wrestle” chant towards Khali. That’s selective hearing like me with one of my ex-girlfriends. Big babyface pop for Batista at #8. Batista hits a spinebuster on Dreamer, clotheslines for Holly and Michaels and a back body drop on Morrison. The crowd popped for a staredown between Batista and Undertaker after they had a memorable feud. Dreamer charged at Batista, who threw Dreamer out of the ring. Morrison charged at Batista, who took down John with a spear. Undertaker goes after Batista with kicks. The #9 entrant is Hornswoggle, who was called Mr. McMahon’s illegitimate son at this point. Hornswoggle immediately goes under the ring, which is where he “lives” as we know. Batista spears Undertaker. Most of 2007 had a Batista-Undertaker feud that was really good. Holly with a back body drop on Michaels and then Shawn held onto the ropes to avoid elimination. The #10 spot belongs to Chuck Palumbo, who had a biker gimmick and never really got far despite a lot of efforts to push him. Palumbo with punches on several superstars. Morrison hangs on from a near elimination from Undertaker. There wasn’t much going on at this point as the six guys in the ring paired off corners while Hornswoggle was still out of the ring.

The #11 man is Jamie Noble, who was a babyface feuding with Chuck Palumbo around this time. He was selling a rib injury. These days Noble is working backstage for WWE. Palumbo sends Noble to the apron and boots Noble out of the ring to eliminate Noble rather easily. A huge pop for CM Punk at #12, who is a babyface on ECW at this point in his career. Punk hits running knees on everybody, but Undertaker drills him with a clothesline to stop that momentum. Palumbo hangs on to avoid elimination, but Punk knees him out to eliminate Chuck from the match. It’s Cody Rhodes at #13, who was tag team champion with Hardcore Holly here when Cody was one of the younger guys on the show. Cod nearly got rid of Punk, who managed to hang on. Cody goes after Undertaker and puts him down with a dropkick as JR mentions we’re at the 18 minute mark. Batista with a back body drop on Michaels as Undertaker clotheslines Rhodes down. Here’s Umaga at #14, who is a heel that was the first guy to qualify from the Rumble from Raw says JR. Umaga immediately destroys a lot of people, eliminating Holly with the Samoan Spike. Umaga hits the running hip splash on Batista in the corner. Michaels nearly gets eliminated again, but he held on. Punk slammed Michaels off the ropes. It’s the pretty boy (not really) Snitsky at #15, who was a heel on Raw. Snitsky takes care of some people with the usual array of punches and kicks as well as a clothesline on Cody. Snitsky worked over Morrison with kicks and Cody nearly eliminates Snitsky, but it didn’t work. JR mentions Morrison is like a young Shawn Michaels with the athleticism he is showing. There were eight guys in the ring, plus Hornswoggle on the floor.

It was the halfway point of the match as The Miz comes out at #16. Miz was part of the tag champs (the other belts) with Morrison. They both go after CM Punk, who was an ECW rival at this point. Undertaker can’t get rid of Umaga as nothing really happened at this point. It’s Shelton Benjamin as The Gold Standard at #17. Benjamin jumps to the top rope as soon as he gets in the ring, ramming the heads of Morrison & Miz into the turnbuckle at the same time. Benjamin hits his Paydirt finisher on Punk, then he goes against the ropes and Michaels destroys him with the Sweet Chin Music to eliminate him. Shelty B was in the ring for 18 seconds. It’s “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka gets a huge pop in the #18 spot. He slowly gets out there as the crowd starts chanting for him. He chops everybody. Undertaker headbutts him, but it doesn’t hurt because one of the rules in wrestling is…say it with me kids…Samoans have stronger heads than anybody else. Another Hall of Famer at #19 is “Rowdy” Roddy Piper to a massive pop. It’s great that they put Snuka and Piper in the Rumble in NYC because of all the history each of them had there. Piper went shirtless even though he’s old. Piper points out Snuka, who shakes his head no. They have a showdown as everybody else in the ring stops. Snuka with a headbutt and chop, so Piper hit the eye poke and then they went into the corner. Then we get our next man at #20, who is Kane from Smackdown at this point without a mask on. Kane quickly dumps out Piper and Snuka to boos from the crowd. Kane delivers punches to many of the wrestlers and a chokeslam on Miz. The announcers mention Kane’s been in every Rumble since 1999. He was in a few before that as Isaac Yankem and fake Diesel as well, but we’re not allowed to remember those. Undertaker wants to get Michaels up for the chokeslam, but he gets attacked by Umaga. There were ten guys in the ring plus Hornswoggle out of the ring.

The #21 spot belongs to Carlito who immediately spits his apple into Cody’s face. Michaels has a busted nose, by the way. Punk drops Morrison with a high kick and Carlito hits a Back Stabber on Punk while Rhodes hits a bulldog on Carlito. Another legends pop for #22 Mick Foley, who also had some legendary matches in this building (Royal Rumble 2000 versus HHH is a favorite of mine). Umaga hits a Samoan Drop on Undertaker as the ring is very full. It’s Mr. Kennedy at #23, who was a heel feuding with Michaels around this time. Kennedy hits a running boot on Rhodes, and then he hits the Mic Check flatliner on Miz and Punk. Undertaker chokeslams Kennedy. Undertaker hits a running splash on a bunch of people in the corner. The ring is very full now. It’s Big Daddy V (Viscera) at #24 the heaviest man in the match. Meanwhile, Undertaker eliminates Snitsky and Michaels superkicks Undertaker while he’s not paying attention and there goes Undertaker out of match! That was sweet. While Michaels was staring at Undertaker, Kennedy throws Michaels out of the ring. Michaels lasted 32:39 while Undertaker lasted 32:33. That was a cool way to get rid of two top guys. Cole says how angry Undertaker is because he wanted a World Title opportunity. Of course, Taker ended up getting one and winning the World Title in the main event of WrestleMania anyway. Undertaker took his frustration out on Snitsky, who he put through the announce table. Kennedy and Rhodes nearly eliminate eachother. The #25 man is Mark Henry, pre KOOL-AID~! mode. And guess what? Lawler says, “Here comes your new favorite!” Threat to win, folks. Always! Kennedy nearly dumps out Miz, who hangs on and Hornswoggle pops up to pull Miz out of the ring. The future WWE Champion Miz got eliminated by the little person, who JR calls Hornswoggle McMahon. They showed a replay of Undertaker dropping the leg on Snitsky on the Smackdown announce table.

The final five men begin with #26 Chavo Guerrero, who was the heel ECW Champion. Punk goes right after him. Kane boots Morrison out of the ring to eliminate him. Morrison lasted nearly 30 minutes. Hornswoggle pops up again and he gets pulled into the ring by Henry. Finlay comes in with the shillelagh and starts destroying people with it. Finlay pulls Hornswoggle out of the ring to save him. His role at this point was the protector. It would later be revealed that Finlay was his father. This Rumble is sorely lacking in action at this point. JR mentions that Finlay was supposed to be #27, but he’s been disqualified for using the shillelagh as a weapon and going into the match earlier than he’s supposed to. I don’t think anybody ever got DQ’d in a Rumble before, so that was a weak effort in terms of claiming somebody was eliminated. It was Elijah Burke at #28, who was always somebody I liked and I’m not sure why WWE let him go to become The Pope in TNA. Batista gets knocked out to the floor under the bottom rope after Umaga hit him with the Samoan Spike to the throat. Chavo eliminates Punk by grabbing a headlock on him and pulling him over the top to the floor. A huge pop for #29, who is Triple H. Hunter was in babyface mode as King calls him the new favorite. Hunter eliminates Cody Rhodes. Hunter hits the facebuster on Big Daddy V and throws him out as the announcers are shocked the big guy gets out even though he’s lost so many times before. Triple H and Foley start throwing fists as the crowd cheers, remembering the great match in 2000 in MSG. Hunter whips Foley into the ropes and Mick ends up hitting the Cactus Clothesline on Elijah Burke, which takes Foley and Burke out of the match. The ring has been emptied a bit. Triple H works on Umaga, throwing him into the ring post twice and hitting the Pedigree. There was a ridiculously huge pop for #30…John Cena. He was out since October 1 with a torn pectoral muscle that most people thought would keep him out for about 6 months. Instead, Cena was back in for this match after just three months. JR goes nuts. Everybody goes nuts. The pope for Cena was HUGE! I did not think he’d be back for this match. I was legitimately surprised by this. This was one of the loudest ovations I’ve ever heard at a WWE show. It’s an incredible moment.

John Cena goes right after Mark Henry, hitting him with a shoulderblock. Cena throws out Carlito, Chavo and Henry in succession with the crowd popping big for him. Cena has a big face to face showdown with Triple H. There are six guys in the match at this point. Triple H puts Cena down with a spinebuster, but Umaga attacks Triple H from behind. Batista comes out of nowhere to drill Umaga with a spear and then Batista hits a clothesline on Kennedy to eliminate him. Batista hits a clothesline to eliminate Umaga.

The final four are Batista, Kane, Triple H and Cena, so they were all former World Champions. That foursome doesn’t last long because Batista and Triple H eliminate Kane together.

The three babyfaces have a big staredown with the crowd going nuts. Each guy does their signature poses to the delight of the crowd. Batista hits a back elbow on Cena and clotheslines Hunter, but they come back. Then Batista clotheslines both guys. Cena boots Batista, but Batista comes back again with spinebusters for each guy. The fans booed Batista a little bit. Cena backdrops out of a Batista Bomb and Triple H hits the clothesline on Batista to eliminate him. Batista was in the match for 37:40, which was the longest of anybody in the match.

It’s down to Cena and Triple H as the final two. Here’s the big showdown similar to Undertaker & Michaels the year before. JR says both of them can’t headline WrestleMania, only one of them can. Um, not exactly. They were part of a triple threat match for the WWE Title at WrestleMania two months after this. They each point to the WrestleMania sign as Cena reminds him that he made Hunter tap out a couple of years ago. Triple H didn’t win that Rumble match, yet he headlined WrestleMania. That’s why it bugs me when they say winning the Rumble is the only way. They start throwing punches as the crowd reacts to every punch. Cena comes back with his spinning suplex. Cena even gets booed by the crowd as he hits the Five Knuckle Shuffle onto Triple H’s face. The same fans were just screaming for this guy when he made his entrance seven minutes earlier. Cena goes for the FU (now known as the AA), Hunter counters and they ran the ropes leading to a double clothesline. Cena gets a boot up. Cena goes for the FU, but HHH fights out of it by the ropes and drops Cena with a DDT. Hunter comes close to dumping John, but Cena fights out, Cena gets Hunter on his shoulders and dumps Hunter over the top with the FU to win the match. Cena points to his surgically repaired right arm in celebration.

Winner: John Cena

The match ended at 51:26.

FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS

– The return of Cena was the big story of this match. It was a pretty good finishing sequence although they went to the well too many times with the countering finisher spot they always seem to do in big matches. With Undertaker/Michaels the year before they varied it up a bit. It was better than this, but this wasn’t terrible or anything like that.

– You could tell WWE was leaning towards Undertaker/Michaels having a match because of the finish to the 2007 Rumble and the start of this Rumble. It led to WrestleMania matches in 2009 and 2010 that are both unforgettable. It’s amazing that they had such great chemistry a decade after they last feuded. You could tell the New York crowd really loved it too.

– Hornswoggle lasted 26:57, which was the fourth-longest in the match and he never actually got eliminated. What a stupid angle with the bastard son storyline. It was supposed to be Kennedy, who would then get the big push. Failed drug tests happen, though.

– You could tell they liked Morrison more than Miz at this point. JR was especially pushing him on commentary calling him a young Shawn Michaels while Miz seemed like just another guy. That would change a few years later.

– When you look back at this match the winner meant nothing. Cena challenged Orton for the WWE Title at No Way Out, then they had a three-way at WrestleMania with Hunter involved. It was not the true main event. Meanwhile, The Undertaker, who lost his chance at the title shot according to the announcers, got his title shot in the main event against Edge where he won the World Title. In hindsight, winning the Rumble didn’t seem as prestigious as it used to be.

 

FACTS & OPINIONS

Person that lasted the longest: Batista at 37:42.

Most Eliminations: Triple H with 6.

Best Performers (3): John Cena – The fact that he came back early from major surgery is impressive. The pop he got was massive.

Shawn Michaels – Fantastic like usual.

The Undertaker (tie) – Same as above.

Batista (tie) – He lasted the longest and he had his moments where he was great.

Best Elimination: Michaels superkicking Undertaker out was huge because it came out of nowhere. Kennedy dumping Michaels immediately after was awesome. Cena’s FU to Triple H to win was pretty big too.

Match Rating: **** It was a very good match with a lot of big names that carried most of the Rumble. There were too many people in the ring in the middle portion of the match, so that slowed things down a bit. It’s the most amount of people in the ring at the same time that I can remember of any Rumble in the 2000s. Cena’s triumphant return made it a memorable moment, but it wasn’t necessarily a great match.

(I liked this Rumble match a lot when I watched it again today. There’s a lot of star power here in terms of guys in the prime of their careers and also some veterans out there adding some star power to the match. It’s a fun match with Cena’s pop being legendary because of how loud it was.)

The show ended with John Cena celebrating the win. Jim Ross was yelling that Cena would be in the main event of WrestleMania (he was not) and he was coming for championship gold. There was a nice pyro display too. That was the end of the show.

(I point out that Cena was not in the main event of WrestleMania because he was in a triple threat match in the midcard, but WWE considers WrestleMania to have multiple main events.)

The show had a run time of 2:46:38 on WWE Network.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Show Rating (out of 10): 7.5

This was a very good show that had an all-time memorable Royal Rumble moment when John Cena made his surprising return in the Rumble match. The pop Cena gets in that match is one of the loudest sustained pops in WWE history thanks to the vocal MSG crowd. The Rumble match has a lot of star power in it too with Undertaker/Michaels dominating the first half, then Cena, Triple H and Batista in the closing moments. The non-Rumble matches were solid too with Edge getting a cheap win over Rey Mysterio (the crowd hated Rey) and Randy Orton hit a memorable RKO out of nowhere to beat Jeff Hardy. The fans really wanted Hardy to win the WWE Title at this show, but it didn’t happen. Lots of blood for Chris Jericho in his match against JBL too. It’s an enjoyable show overall.

Best Match: Royal Rumble Match (***3/4 out of 5)

Worst Match: Ric Flair vs. MVP (**1/4)

FIVE STARS

  1. John Cena – The return was so amazing and drew such a huge ovation.
  2. Shawn Michaels
  3. The Undertaker
  4. Edge/Rey Mysterio
  5. Randy Orton/Jeff Hardy

Check out the WWE Royal Rumble review archive right here.

Thanks for reading. My contact info is below.

John Canton

Email mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

Personal Facebook and TJRWrestling on Facebook

 

 

 

More Reviews