The 22nd Royal Rumble started a 2009 calendar year that wasn’t an amazing one for WWE. I’ll always remember 2009 for the parade of guest hosts that would hurt Raw more often than it would help it while Smackdown was a far superior show on a regular basis.
There was some star power missing from this Rumble match with John Cena, Edge, Jeff Hardy, JBL and Shawn Michaels involved in undercard matches while Batista was dealing with one of his many injuries. When you factor all of that in, it really wasn’t a strong roster at the time. Let’s see what went down.
This show was used to set up WrestleMania 25 (read my review here).
In case you’re wondering, the Royal Rumble match review was written in 2011 while the rest of it is fresh content written in 2021.
WWE Royal Rumble
January 25, 2009
From Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan
There was an opening video package featuring highlights of past Royal Rumble events while showing images of some of the current wrestlers. The popular song “Let it Rock” by Kevin Rudolf was the theme for the show. The video package ended with a focus on Randy Orton as he started his feud against Stephanie McMahon and even Vince McMahon was about to fire Orton, but Orton slapped him and gave Vince the dreaded Punt. Considering the attention placed on Orton going into the match, it made him a favorite to win the Rumble match. The punt happened on the Raw prior to Royal Rumble on January 19.
The show began with Raw announce team Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler talking about how the condition of Mr. McMahon was being kept private. Lawler talked about a possible concussion or a neck injury. Cole said that Orton will be reprimanded with a fine, suspension or possibly termination, but the show will go on.
There was an impressive pyro display to welcome us to the show with the crowd in Detroit making a lot of noise.
The ECW announce team of Todd Grisham called the first match. Matt Hardy entered as the challenger with Jack Swagger as the champion.
ECW Championship: Jack Swagger vs. Matt Hardy
Pre-match notes: Swagger was the heel ECW Champion while Matt was a babyface challenger. Swagger won the title from Matt two weeks earlier. Swagger debuted in ECW in September 2008 and was undefeated going into this match.
The fans were chanting for Matt early on as Matt got the advantage early with some punches that knocked Swagger out of the ring. Back in the ring, Matt got a clothesline and Swagger bailed to the floor to regroup. Swagger used his amateur wrestling skills to take down Matt leading to an armbar. Matt sent Swagger to the turnbuckle and hit a running dropkick followed by a bulldog for two. Matt went to the ropes, Swagger got back up and shoved Matt over the top to the apron to the floor. Swagger took over with an armbar leading to kicks to the body and a punch to the face. Swagger pulled on the left arm of Matt against the top rope. Swagger hit a big boot to the left arm/shoulder of Matt for a two count. Swagger slapped on another armbar on the left arm. The fans were solidly behind Matt with “Let’s Go Hardy” chants as Matt broke free with a clothesline. Matt hit a neckbreaker for two. Matt hit a running bulldog for a two count. Matt was selling the left arm injury as he jumped off the middle ropes with a right-handed elbow to the back of the head for two. Swagger hit a belly to belly side slam for a two count. Swagger with an armbar takedown for a two count. Matt punched Swagger off the ropes and Matt hit a moonsault off the top for a two count. Good nearfall with the crowd popping huge for it because they thought Matt was going to win. Matt with a back elbow, Swagger blocked a slam attempt with elbows to the head and Swagger whipped Matt hard into the turnbuckle with Matt going shoulder-first into the ringpost, or at least that’s the idea. Swagger hit the Gutwrench Powerbomb for the pinfall win at 10:27.
Winner by pinfall: Jack Swagger
Analysis: **3/4 It was a solid wrestling match to give Swagger another win over Hardy to further establish Swagger as a strong champion for the ECW brand. Matt did a nice job of selling the left arm the whole match before making his comebacks, but the bigger man Swagger was able to get the win. It was easy to be excited about Swagger’s future at this point since he was a big guy that had some skills in the ring. As for Matt Hardy, it wasn’t the last time we would see him on this show.
After the match, the camera focused on Matt Hardy looking frustrated in the ring while Swagger left with the ECW Title. The camera was on Matt a lot after this loss, which told the audience there might be something more to come with Matt Hardy.
Randy Orton was shown arriving at the arena earlier in the night. They showed a lot of different people walking past Orton as they looked at him as if he was a marked man. Nobody said anything to Orton as Orton walked towards the locker room.
The Raw announce team of Michael Cole took over for the next match.
Melina made her entrance looking wonderful. Melina did her splits entrance to a big pop. This was when the company was PG, so she was no longer wrestling in the skirts. The women were covered up a bit more. Beth Phoenix entered as the champion with Santino Marella joining her.
Women’s Championship: Beth Phoenix (w/Santino Marella) vs. Melina
Pre-match notes: Phoenix was the heel Women’s Champion that won the title at SummerSlam 2008, so this was about five months into her title reign. Melina was a babyface that was a former two-time Women’s Champion. Melina is/was absolutely gorgeous and is one of my favorites of all time. Beth was a very good heel champion in this era.
Phoenix used her power early on going for a bearhug, Melina came back with a dropkick and then Beth hit a shoulder tackle to knock Melina down. Melina went for an armbar submission, but Beth powered out of it and sent Melina to the turnbuckle. Melina went on Beth’s shoulders, which led to Beth flipping Melina backward so that Melina landed hard on her left arm/shoulder. Beth with a running hip attack against the turnbuckle. Phoenix with a kneebar submission, but Melina was fighting her off. Beth slapped on the kneebar again and pulled back on the leg of Melina so much that Melina’s foot was used against her own head! That’s because Melina is so flexible. It was a unique spot. Beth with a kick to the back of the head to keep Melina down. Melina charged, but Beth caught her and hit a side slam for two. Beth went for a press slam, Melina slipped out of that and hit a jawbreaker after they messed up their original move. Melina got a sunset flip for two. Melina sent Beth into the turnbuckle, then a double knee attack to the back and Melina with a running X-Factor with a hair pull for a two count. Beth shoved Melina back first into the turnbuckle. Melina jumped off the middle rope and hit a senton to take down Beth. Melina went for the leg lariat finisher, Beth ducked it and then Melina countered a power move with a sunset flip into a pin for the pinfall victory at 5:56.
Winner by pinfall AND NEW Women’s Champion: Melina
Analysis: *3/4 A decent match with some rough patches in there. It was common for women’s PPV matches to be that short. There were times where the women got to go longer, but not that often in this time period. Most of this match saw Beth on offense, Melina selling a lot and then Melina got in some offense in the last couple of minutes leading to the counter into the pinfall win. It was booked well for a short match.
Melina was handed the Women’s Title as she became a three-time Women’s Champion. Phoenix sat in the ring with a shocked look on her face while Santino had no idea what to say. Melina’s celebration continued while Phoenix was frustrated in the ring.
The video package aired for the World Heavyweight Title match between champion John Cena and challenger John Bradshaw Layfield with Shawn Michaels. The story was ridiculous here with Shawn Michaels saying he had financial issues, so the heel JBL agreed to help him out while telling Michaels he had to help JBL get to WrestleMania as the World Champion. There was a Fatal 4-Way Elimination Match on Raw where Michaels beat Chris Jericho and Randy Orton in the match. Then Michaels willingly let JBL hit him with the Clothesline From Hell leading to JBL pinning Michaels to earn the World Title match. Michaels also pinned Cena in a non-title match after a distraction from JBL, who told Cena this isn’t personal, it’s a business decision. Michaels told JBL that taking money from a disgusting individual like JBL makes him sick, but he is doing what he has to do. JBL said that he’ll become World Champion thanks to Shawn Michaels.
Analysis: It was a story that I didn’t like that much, but I thought Shawn was tremendous in the role from an acting standpoint. JBL also was terrific as a bully that was taking advantage of a situation. Was it realistic? No, but they tried and some of it was good television at least.
John Bradshaw Layfield talked to Shawn Michaels in the locker room. JBL told Michaels that when he becomes World Heavyweight Champion, he’ll pay Michaels tonight and Shawn won’t have to work for him ever again. JBL said that Shawn can also have a spot in the Royal Rumble and go on to WrestleMania to face JBL. That led to JBL saying there was no reason to be conflicted and he left. Michaels turned back to a mirror, then back the other way where The Undertaker was standing. The Undertaker told Michaels that sometimes it is hell getting to heaven. Shawn said nothing back and left when JBL called for him. Taker just stared off into the distance.
Analysis: We had no idea at the time, but there was the tease for Undertaker/Michaels at WrestleMania 25, which would be an all-time great wrestling match.
John Bradshaw Layfield made his entrance walking out to the ring with Shawn Michaels joining him. Nice “Hey JBL, please hit the gym” sign in the crowd. He said please!
John Cena was up next as the World Heavyweight Champion with the crowd getting him with cheers for the most part although there were some boos too. The wrestlers stood in the ring as Lilian Garcia did the championship introductions.
World Heavyweight Championship: John Cena vs. John Bradshaw Layfield (w/Shawn Michaels)
Pre-match notes: Cena was the babyface World Heavyweight Champion that won the title two months earlier at Survivor Series 2008. JBL was a heel that retired about two months after this at WrestleMania 25. JBL was 42 years old at this point. Cena’s first WWE Title win came against JBL four years earlier at WrestleMania.
They battled over a headlock in the early going as the announcers kept on talking about Shawn’s presence at ringside. There were the dueling “Let’s Go Cena/Cena Sucks” chants from the crowd as Cena did a leapfrog and back elbow for a two count. JBL connected with punches and a boot to the face. Cena with a whip into the turnbuckle and a bulldog. Cena with a flipping neckbreaker that got him a two count, so JBL regrouped on the floor. Cena charged at JBL, who moved, Cena stopped from hitting Michaels and JBL sent Cena into the steel steps. Back in the ring, JBL with a short-arm clothesline for two. JBL worked over Cena with repeated elbow drops followed by a chinlock and JBL hit a sidewalk slam for a two count. Cena was on the apron, so JBL did a shoulder tackle that knocked Cena off the apron to the floor. JBL left the ring and whipped Cena into the steel steps. JBL set up Cena on the top turnbuckle, there was a superplex tease and Cena fought back with punches to knock JBL down. Cena jumped off the top with the leg drop to the back of the neck for a two count. Cena charged right into a boot and then Cena did an awkward takedown to tackle JBL. Cena sent JBL into the turnbuckle, then two shoulder tackles and the spinning slam. Cena did the “you can’t see me hand gesture” followed by the dreaded fist drop. Cena went for the Attitude Adjustment, but JBL stopped that attempt with an elbow to the face. Cena with a drop toe hold and then he slapped on the STF submission near the ropes with JBL reaching out to Michaels for help. Michaels touched the ropes, Cena let go, he kicked the ropes and JBL kicked Cena out of the ring. Cena slowly got back into the ring while staring at Michaels, which allowed JBL to regroup and JBL hit the Clothesline from Hell for…just two. Great nearfall there. Cena lifted up JBL, who got out of an AA attempt and JBL hit a boot to the face of referee Mike Chioda, who bumped to the floor. JBL and Cena did a double clothesline collision spot to knock them both down.
Michaels went into the ring while the referee was on the floor. Michaels was looking at both guys trying to figure out what to do. Michaels was staring at Cena, but instead, Michaels hit JBL with the Sweet Chin Music superkick! The fans popped big for that. Cena was happy about it too, but as Cena walked towards Michaels, Shawn hit Cena with the Sweet Chin Music superkick too! The fans cheered that as well. The Cena haters loved that Michaels would do that. Michaels went over to JBL and put his left arm across the chest of Cena, then Michaels left the ring and walked up the aisle to the back. Referee Jack Doan ran down to the ring to count one…two…and Cena got his right shoulder up to kick out. Cena and JBL were still selling from the superkicks delivered by Michaels, who is gone to the backstage area. Cena ducked a clothesline and hit the Attitude Adjustment for the pinfall win at 15:29.
Winner by pinfall: John Cena
Analysis: **1/2 It was just an average match. Their best matches together were usually the brawls where they could use weapons. This match was heavy in terms of the storyline and the possibility of Michaels helping JBL win, which did not happen. The spot with referee Jack Doan going to the ring is what bothers me a bit because if you’re going out there after you saw a guy interfere, shouldn’t you just call for a DQ instead of acting like nothing bad happened? That’s the issue with bringing in another referee. It’s not like WWE is going to explain it either. Cena winning was the expected outcome, but there was some drama in the nearfalls towards the end of the match. You just didn’t know what might happen. That’s what made it at least mildly interesting.
The video package aired for WWE Champion Jeff Hardy defending the title against Edge. Jeff was mysteriously attacked at Survivor Series with Edge saying he didn’t do it and Edge became WWE Champion that night. At Armageddon in December 2008, Jeff Hardy became WWE Champion for the first time by beating Edge and Triple H when Jeff pinned Edge. It was an awesome moment. There was an angle shown on Smackdown with Jeff Hardy and his girlfriend (now wife) being in a car accident where somebody forced them to drive off the road. During Jeff’s introduction on Smackdown, the pyro went off and the sparks went into Jeff’s face, so Jeff sold it like he was hurt by it. Jeff said he knew Edge was behind all of these attacks. Jeff told Edge there was nothing to fear, but fear itself.
Analysis: When Jeff won the WWE Title for the first time it felt like a big deal even though Armageddon is not a popular PPV like the ones with the bigger names. There were a lot of rumors about the mystery attacks about Jeff. It was assumed that we would find out who the mystery attacker was on this show.
The Smackdown announce team of Jim Ross and Tazz got to call their first match of the night.
The WWE Champion Jeff Hardy made his entrance to the “No More Words” song with some face paint and he was wearing the spinner version of the WWE Title around his waist.
Smackdown General Manager Vickie Guerrero announced that this would now be a No Disqualification Match. Vickie introduced her “husband” Edge since they were storyline married. Edge entered with Chavo Guerrero joining him at ringside with Chavo as Vickie’s nephew, so that made Chavo the nephew of Edge too? Sure it does. They stood in the ring for the championship introductions from Justin Roberts.
Analysis: The big rumor going into this match is that Christian would return to WWE at some point. Fans that read about wrestling online knew that his three-year run in TNA Wrestling was up and he was going to back to WWE. We just didn’t know when. The fans in Detroit were very aware of it, though.
WWE Championship No Disqualification Match: Jeff Hardy vs. Edge (w/Chavo Guerrero)
Pre-match notes: Jeff Hardy was the babyface WWE Champion that won the title six weeks earlier at Armageddon. Edge was the heel former WWE Champion that was a six-time World Champion going into this match.
Jeff was aggressive after he went after Edge with punches and a whip into the turnbuckle. The fans chanted “We Want Christian” because they knew about the rumors involving Christian coming back to WWE. The announcers ignored the chants. Jeff hit a running forearm to the head while Edge bailed to the floor to get away. Jeff grabbed a steel chair and Edge kicked him before he could bring it into the ring. Jeff avoided a corner charge leading to a clothesline by Jeff along with a dropkick. They went for moves by the apron, Jeff kicked Edge down, Edge avoided a dive and then Jeff hit a clothesline off the apron on the floor. Jeff tried a springboard attack back in the ring, Chavo distracted Jeff a bit and Edge kicked Jeff off the apron to the floor. Edge whipped Jeff into the barricade. Edge slammed Jeff’s head onto the hoods of the three announce tables and then they went back into the ring as the fans booed Edge. Edge with a kick to the ribs to keep Jeff down, then a whip into the turnbuckle and Edge hit a shoulder tackle. Jeff got a sunset flip for two, but then Edge came back with a clothesline for two. Edge did a blatant hair pull to stop Jeff from moving again. Jeff hit a back kick to the chest. Jeff up top, he shoved Edge down, Jeff jumped off the top and Edge hit a dropkick to the ribs for two. Edge grabbed two chairs, he went to the apron and Jeff knocked him down with a shoulder tackle to the ribs. Hardy with a slingshot dive over the top onto a standing Edge on the floor. They battled on the apron with Jeff kicking Edge in the ribs and Jeff hit a Twist of Fate on the apron of the ring. This was before there were a lot of apron bumps in a match. It looked very effective. Jeff went Edge into the hood of two announce tables. Jeff cleared off a table and then he brought out a huge ladder from under the ring. The fans popped huge for that. Jeff climbed the ladder, Chavo went after him, Jeff knocked him down and hit a clothesline on Chavo. Edge got up from the table, so Jeff whipped Edge into the ring post. Jeff beat up Chavo and put him on the announce table. Jeff went up top on the ladder, jumped off and Jeff hit a splash on Chavo through the table. There was nearly a bad landing for Jeff because when he jumped, the ladder slipped under him and he almost failed to make it to Chavo, but thankfully Jeff did jump far enough to hit the splash. They replayed the ladder spot a few times.
Jeff sent Edge back into the ring and hit a cross body block off the top for a two count. Edge came back with a boot to the face to knock Jeff down. Edge exposed a turnbuckle, Jeff blocked a whip into the turnbuckle and Jeff jumped off the top with a Whisper in the Wind splash onto a standing Edge for a two count. Edge came back with an Edgecution lifting DDT for a two count. Jeff blocked an Edge move off the ropes, Jeff kicked Edge into the turnbuckle and got an inside cradle for two. Jeff with a sitout front suplex. Jeff went up top, but Edge got up and Jeff dropkicked him into the turnbuckle. Jeff went for a corner move, but Edge caught him and sent Jeff into the steel that was exposed when the turnbuckle pad was taken off. Edge charged with a Spear attempt, but then Jeff countered it into a Twist of Fate neckbreaker. That was great! Jeff went up top, but Vickie Guerrero showed up and Jeff kicked her down. Jeff jumped off the top and connected with the Swanton Bomb onto Edge. Jeff crawled over for the cover, but Vickie stopped referee Scott Armstrong from counting by grabbing him by the leg, so Scott got up and told her he’s the referee. Matt Hardy showed up with a chair, he rolled Vickie into the ring and the fans cheered thinking Matt was there to help brother Jeff. Matt handed Jeff the chair, then Matt left the ring and brought in his own chair. Jeff put a chair under Edge’s head, then Jeff stood back up and Matt HIT JEFF WITH THE CHAIR TO THE HEAD! OUCH! JR: “OH MY GOD!” The crowd was booing loudly. They were pissed off by Jeff getting screwed out of the title by his own brother. It worked as a heel turn, that’s for sure. Matt stared down at his fallen brother while Vickie was shocked by it. Edge got back up slowly, stared at Matt in a state of disbelief and Edge covered Jeff to win by pinfall at 19:22. There was a new WWE Champion in Edge while Matt continued to stare at Jeff, who was knocked out.
Winner by pinfall AND NEW WWE Champion: Edge
Analysis: ***3/4 This was a great match with a very controversial finish due to Matt Hardy basically giving Edge the WWE Title because of the cheap attack on Jeff. I don’t think most people assumed it was going to be Matt in that spot, so that was a surprise. A lot of us were hoping for Christian. Getting back to the actual match, it was worked well by two guys that knew eachother so well going back over a decade. It took them a while to start using the weapons, but once they did, there was a lot of excitement in the match. I like how Jeff took out Chavo with the splash off the ladder through the table, so that made it more of an even matchup. After that, they really cranked it up with lots of nearfalls and big moments in the match. In the end, Edge won in a cheap way as the Hardy Brothers feud began.
Edge was presented the WWE Title for his 7th World Title reign as he got a hug from Vickie Guerrero for the win. Matt slowly left the ring with a serious look on his face and walked to the back with that same look on his face the whole time. JR: “I’m absolutely in shock. I don’t believe what we just witnessed tonight at the Royal Rumble.” Tazz said he didn’t know what to say. Edge left with Vickie while they showed replays of the big moment with Matt hitting his brother with the chair to cost Jeff the WWE Title.
There were referees that checked on Jeff in the ring as Jeff continued to sell the brutal chair shot from brother Matt. They replayed Matt’s face showing no emotion from Matt. Jeff crawled out of the ring with three referees there to help walk him to the back. The fans cheered.
Analysis: As a Jeff Hardy fan, I didn’t like that his first title reign was over in just 42 days. That is what upset me a bit.
* * *
More to the Story: What About Christian?
The appearance of Matt Hardy was a big surprise for a lot of us because we all expected it to be Christian. It was simply a case of WWE having a plan, but then they figured that too many fans knew about the plan (remember the Christian chants early in the match?) and that’s why they changed it.
In the Wrestling Observer Newsletter at the time, Dave Meltzer wrote: “Matt (Hardy) getting the call above Christian, likely as a late audible because the company thought they had to change plans when too many people knew.” Later, Meltzer wrote: “The truth is, had it been Christian, there would have been a lot of cheers and that would not have been the desired response.” That’s a good point right there.
I also found this interview that Christian did in April 2020 with Postwrestling where he as asked about Royal Rumble 2009 and if he was supposed to get the guy that helped Edge become WWE Champion. Christian said:
“I don’t know if it was officially supposed to be me. I know that it was probably floated out there. It was in discussions but I don’t know if it ever got to the point where it was actually supposed to be me, but from what I understand, it was kind of out there but never, ‘Yes, this is what it’s going to be.’ I do know that.”
It sounds like he was being a good company guy by not saying “yeah it should have been me” and instead saying it was just in discussion.
Anyway, the Hardys went on to feud together for months including a match at WrestleMania 25. As for Christian, he returned to WWE as part of the ECW brand a few weeks later as one of the top babyfaces for ECW over the next year. It was basically the spot that Matt Hardy was in before he turned heel.
Analysis: I think it was going to be Christian and WWE changed it because they thought that too many people knew it was coming. That’s the popular story at the time. I think it’s absolutely right. I really wish it was Christian in that spot. They should have went with the original plan. Who cares if the crowd might have cheered or if they knew it? Christian helping Edge is the better story.
Let’s move on.
* * *
Randy Orton was interviewed in the locker room by Todd Grisham, who mentioned there may be legal action taken against Orton on Raw. Orton said he’s still in the Rumble match, so that’s what he is focused on. Chris Jericho showed up saying he wouldn’t call them friends. Jericho said he didn’t blame Orton one bit for what he did. Jericho ripped on Vince saying the real Mr. McMahon was already dead. Orton wondered if Chris was trying to make him feel better. Orton said he won’t lower his guard in the Rumble. Jericho said he’s an honest man that tells things like it is and win or lose, he believes this is Orton’s last night as an employee of World Wrestling Entertainment. Jericho wished him good luck.
Analysis: Employee? You mean independent contractor, pal. Employee sounds better on TV, though.
There was a Royal Rumble “By the Numbers” video package. Those are always great.
Analysis: Before the Rumble begins, I should point out that Triple H was originally announced in the #1 spot after losing a match to Vladimir Kozlov and Big Show. However, WWE ignored their own stipulation and Hunter ended up going in the match seventh. There was no explanation given for it.
30-Man Royal Rumble Match
The announcers for the match are Jim Ross, who was from Smackdown, and Jerry Lawler, who was from Raw. Justin Roberts explains the rules to us. It’s 90-second intervals, which has become the usual.
The #1 man is perennial babyface Rey Mysterio with #2 entrant John Morrison, who was in heel mode here. Rey boots him, Morrison picks him up and nearly throws him out, but Mysterio holds on. Rey comes back with a springboard crossbody block followed by headscissors. Morrison hangs on to avoid elimination. Rey dropkicks him, but Morrison still holds on. It’s Carlito in the #3 spot, who was tag team champion with brother Primo at this point. He hits a sick neckbreaker on Rey. Morrison nearly throws him out as Carlito hits a springboard moonsault on Morrison. That was pretty sweet from Carlito. He should have done that move more often. The #4 entrant is MVP. He was in his losing streak gimmick, which turned him babyface. He suplexes Rey and hits the Ballin’ Elbow on Morrison. He comes back with a facebuster on Morrison. JoMo goes for a kick on MVP, but he moves and he hits Carlito, which leads to MVP kicking Morrison down. Here’s The Great Khali at #5, who was now a babyface as JR mentions his 7’3″ inch size. All four guys go at him ninja style (that’s one by one). He chops them all and slams Morrison down by the arm. Rey hits a dropkick that doesn’t work. Carlito goes for the Back Stabber on Khali, which doesn’t even work and the crowd basically laughs at him. Khali hits the Punjabi Plunge on Carlito.
It’s time for another big guy as the “Moscow Mauler” Vladimir Kozlov is #6. He overpowers Khali, hits him with a boot and clotheslines him out. MVP charges in with his kick, he misses Kozlov and gets thrown out over the top. Kozlov goes to throw Carlito out, but he hangs on. Kozlov drops him quickly with a stiff spinebuster. Kozlov throws Carlito out, which leaves us with three. He gets a knee on Rey, but he can’t throw him out. He headbutts Rey in the gut. It’s all about “The Game” Triple H at #7, who was in babyface Hunter McMahon mode. They were feuding on Smackdown around this time. Kozlov puts him down with a headbutt to the gut. Face crusher by Triple H followed by a crotch chop and he throws out Kozlov. Hunter hits the running knee on Morrison as “I Hear Voices” plays and we’ve got Randy Orton in at #8, who goes right for Triple H. JR quickly states that Orton’s never won the Rumble. HHH goes for Pedigree on Orton, but Morrison counters with a kick and Rey hits a seated senton onto Orton. Rey gets the 619 onto Morrison as everybody is down. The Cryme Tyme music starts up as they flip a coin and JTG wins it to be #9 thanks to a two-headed coin. Mysterio nearly eliminates Orton as JR mentions again that the winner of the match goes onto WrestleMania to compete for a title in the main event. It’s Ted Dibiase at #10, who was affiliated with Randy Orton in Legacy. Morrison and JTG avoid elimination. Mysterio nearly eliminates Dibiase.
It’s Chris Jericho as a heel in the #11 spot. He was the 2008 Superstar of the Year, which was well deserved. Jericho hits the bulldog on HHH and then misses a Lionsault because he always misses. Hunter counters the Walls of Jericho as Chris hangs on to avoid elimination. The bearded monster Mike Knox is #12, who goes after JTG, Morrison and then Mysterio. The action is about as exciting as a Mike Knox promo, which isn’t a good thing by the way. The Miz is #13, who is one half of the World Tag Champs with Morrison. A heel of course. He hits the running clothesline in the corner on HHH and Rey. Morrison uses Rey as a battering ram while Orton hits an RKO on Morrison, Miz and JTG. The crowd reacts huge to those. Then HHH hits a Pedigree on Orton. Hunter throws Morrison into Miz and they both get eliminated. Mysterio gets thrown out, then he climbs on to Miz and Morrison and the steps to avoid elimination. That was creative! Finlay is #14 in babyface mode to the Hornswoggle music. Orton and Dibiase double team Finlay. The other Legacy member Cody Rhodes is #15 as they work together to beat on a variety of different people. Rey hits a springboard, but Orton catches him mid-air and Orton hits an RKO. JR totally misses it while Lawler points it out. They show the replay. That was very cool.
The lights go out for #16 as the gong hits and The Undertaker walks out. Everybody in the ring stops while Undertaker goes nuts, punching and kicking everybody. He throws out JTG. Undertaker hits the Snake Eyes and boot to the face of Cody Rhodes. There’s Goldust at #17 who goes for Dibiase right away. There’s the showdown with his brother Cody. Goldust decks him with punches, but Cody hangs on to avoid elimination. Once again Cody hangs on. Orton walks up to Goldust to hit the RKO. I think that’s five now. Orton instructs Cody to eliminate Goldust, so Cody throws him out. Randy shakes his hand. It’s babyface CM Pulk at #18, who was the IC Champ at the time. He hits kicks and knees on just about everybody, ending it with a bulldog on Jericho. He hits the Go To Sleep on Triple H. That was nice. Undertaker hits a big boot on Punk. Mark Henry is #19 as Lawler asks: “Who could ever throw him over the top rope?” Yes. They say it every year. It’s amazing. More ninja-style attacks with the small guys bouncing off him. He hits a clothesline on Undertaker. He’s a heel here, managed by Tony Atlas. There are 11 or 12 guys in there. Henry dominates everybody, but he can’t eliminate Punk or anybody else. It’s the Gold Standard, the US Champion, Shelton Benjamin at #20. He hits Paydirt on Finlay. Meanwhile, Jericho and Punk are fighting on the top rope as Benjamin leaps to the top rope, hitting a double Paydirt on both guys. That was sweet. Benjamin hits a spin kick on Henry as Triple H nearly eliminates Punk.
The final third of the match sees William Regal, as a heel, in at #21. He’s managed by Layla at this time. We don’t get any shots of her ass, sadly. Mark Henry, the perpetual threat to win, eliminated nobody and got thrown out in only 3 minutes. Mysterio pulled the rope down as Henry went flying out. Here’s Kofi Kingston, who was still Jamaican (or Jafaican) here, is a babyface at #22. He hits the Boom Drop on Knox, who is still in the match for some reason. The ring is very full right now as JR points out Mysterio has been in there for 33 minutes. Undertaker spine-busters Benjamin down and then throws him out. We have Kane at #23, who the announcers point out has the record for most eliminations in a year ever with 11 in 2001. They say it every year…as they should. Kane takes down a lot of people as we have 12 or 13 guys in there now. I’m not counting. Undertaker’s bleeding by the way, which was not a common thing for WWE at this point. Kane and Undertaker hit a double chokeslam on Dibiase. Then Kane hits one on Kofi. CM Punk pulls Regal out of the ring to eliminate him. What’s Up for #24 R-Truth, who goes right after Triple H. There are a group of guys trying to get rid of Kane, but he’s able to hang on. The ring is very full as we have a shocker at #25 Rob Van Dam. He only made a one-night appearance as everybody in the ring stops. The crowd went nuts for him since he’s from Michigan. He dominates the match as JR throws in his usual “educated feet” comment that we’ve come to know and love. He goes for the Five Star Frog Splash, but HHH charges at him so he leaps over him and hits a kick.
We have The Brian Kendrick at #26, who was “managed” by Ezekiel Jackson. Kofi gets eliminated by Kendrick and then HHH throws out Kendrick immediately. He lasted 15 seconds. The crowd keeps chanting for RVD. It’s Dolph Ziggler at #27 in his “Hi I’m Dolph Ziggler” gimmick. He celebrates being in the ring as he extends his hand to Kane. He whips him into the ropes and Dolph is eliminated. Here’s the king of the unibrow Santino at #28 and Kane immediately clotheslines him out. That was 1 second. He gets the official record for shortest elimination, beating the Warlord’s 2 second record. Congrats for that. HHHHHHHHOOOOOOO for #29 Hacksaw Jim Duggan, who won the first Rumble ever in 1988. The crowd loves him of course. Everybody sells punches for him, even Undertaker and Kane, much to my shock. The last entrant is Big Show at #30, who is in heel mode here. Everybody watches Big Show as Undertaker has a faceoff with him only for Kane to walk in with a punch.
I’m not sure how many are in the ring, but it looks to be 15 or so. Big Show slowly throws Duggan out. Punk avoids elimination. Big Show press slams R-Truth and throws him out of the ring. Cody manages to dangle to avoid elimination. Punk keeps hanging on, which was a common trend in the match. Big Show keeps trying to throw him, but he can’t. Eventually he just KO’s Punk and he’s eliminated. Mysterio and Knox both get dumped out by Big Show. Hornswoggle enters the ring. Oh great. He saves Finlay from a Kane attack for a minute, but Finlay gets backdropped out by Kane. Jericho hits the Codebreaker on Kane. RVD hits a leaping kick onto Show to stumble him. Orton hits the DDT off the middle ropes. Here’s the Undertaker/Show faceoff again. They throw punches. RVD hits a Five Star Frog Splash, then he stumbles around and Jericho throws out RVD. Jericho hits a Codebreaker on Undertaker, who stumbles back into the ropes and he manages to throw out Jericho. Good elimination. The Legacy boys eliminate Kane.
The final six is HHH, Undertaker, Big Show, Orton, Rhodes and Dibiase. Show hits a chokeslam on Triple H while Legacy triple teams Undertaker. Big Show looks very winded here. Undertaker punches them all down, then he hits chokeslams on all three Legacy guys in succession. With everybody down he has another showdown with Show as the crowd chants for Undertaker. They exchange blows, Undertaker hits the boot and the clothesline. Undertaker boots Big Show in the head, but the big man holds the ropes to hang on. Undertaker tries to throw him out. Show pulls Undertaker over the top rope. They have a choke-off on the apron. Orton hits an RKO on Show on the top rope, which eliminates him. Big Show pulls Undertaker out to eliminate him even though he was on the floor. They go fighting into the crowd.
The final four are Triple H, Randy Orton, Ted Dibiase and Cody Rhodes. That means it’s the babyface Triple H versus three guys in the Legacy stable. They triple-team him to the point where HHH is helpless as Orton slaps him in the face. Hunter counters the RKO by shoving him into the turnbuckle. He hits a facebuster on Rhodes followed by a Spinebuster on Dibiase. Orton nearly gets eliminated, but he hangs on. HHH hits a Pedigree to Rhodes. He throws Dibiase out. He throws Rhodes out. Right after Triple H throws Cody out, he gets thrown out by Orton. That was a well done finish. Great timing by all of them.
Winner: Randy Orton
The match ended at 58:38.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
– The match was slightly above average for a Rumble match and I’d consider it the worst one of the 2000s because a lot of the Rumbles during this period were a lot of fun. At no point did they crank it up into second gear and have an amazing match. It was the same kind of thing as the year before when they loaded the ring up with too many people at once. I’ve never been a fan of Royal Rumbles having 15 guys in the ring at once. It’s better if the max is around 10 or so because you can see everything, the eliminations mean more and the flow leads to a better match.
– Orton was the first heel to win the Rumble since Vince won it in 1999, which was 10 years earlier. He was the right choice because they wanted to establish the dominance of the Legacy group, which was fairly new at this point. I believe that this performance did elevate the group, so it was effective in that sense.
– The crowd popped huge for RVD, who was a legitimate surprise after being out of WWE for a few years. He looked to be in great shape. I thought it would lead to a permanent return for him. Instead, it was a one time thing.
– I was disappointed that Jericho didn’t have a bigger role in the match. He was the Superstar of the Year in 2008 and he should have had a bigger impact here. He was in the ring for 37:17, he eliminated only one person in RVD and he did nothing else of relevance. That’s a waste of an incredible talent.
– The Santino elimination was the fastest in Rumble history. Don’t blink or you might miss it.
FACTS & OPINIONS
Person that lasted the longest: Triple H at 49:55
Most Eliminations: Triple H and Big Show with 9.
Best Performers (3): Randy Orton – The RKO was over huge as usual.
Triple H – Solid work, but never spectacular. Kind of like this match.
Rey Mysterio – He was never a threat to win, but he flew around the ring making everybody look good like usual.
Best Elimination: Undertaker eliminating Jericho after Jericho hit him with the Codebreaker was fantastic. Also props to Santino for being eliminated in just one second. Classic.
Match Rating: ***
Post match, Orton brought his Legacy buddies back in the ring and celebrated the ring with him. They showed some replays of the conclusion of the match with Orton dumping out Triple H to win the Royal Rumble. Orton did some WrestleMania sign pointing for about a minute to end the show because that’s what the superstars are told to do when they win the Royal Rumble. They even gave him a fireworks display too. The show ended there.
The show had a run time of 2:42:47 on WWE Network.
Show Rating (out of 10): 6
It’s a slightly above average show thanks to a good Rumble match won by Randy Orton, who was pushed by far the most in the match and dominated it with his Legacy buddies. Orton was the first heel in ten years, so at least that felt different. Santino’s quick elimination was funny. There were a few memorable moments like Matt Hardy’s heel turn on Jeff Hardy to cost Jeff the WWE Title against Edge. That should have been Christian in that spot, but it was changed. I covered that a lot in the review. The rest of the card was just average. The crowd in Detroit was loud most of the night, especially during that Edge/Jeff match and Rumble match, so that helped the atmosphere a lot.
Best Match: Edge vs. Jeff Hardy (***3/4 out of 5)
Worst Match: Melina vs. Beth Phoenix (*3/4) – They weren’t that bad. It was just a short match.
- Jeff Hardy – I know Edge won, but I thought Jeff was the star of the match.
- Randy Orton
- Triple H
- John Cena
Check out the WWE Royal Rumble review archive right here.
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