The 14th Royal Rumble came at a time when WWE was at its absolute best, in my humble opinion. I think the period from the 2000 Rumble to WrestleMania X7 was the best 15 month run in the history of the company due to the talent on the roster, the stories they told and the matches they had.
A lot of the top guys were at or near their prime and they had a good mix of younger guys in the midcard scene as well. Plus, the tag team division was as deep as ever too. As a result, you have the 2001 Royal Rumble with a stacked lineup of talented wrestlers heading into WrestleMania 17.
This show did a really good buyrate on PPV with 625,000 buys, which is the third-highest number in Royal Rumble history.
The big story going in was Steve Austin’s return after missing most of 2000 with a neck injury. Could he complete the comeback with a Rumble win for the third time? Let’s go back to 2001 to find out.
This show was used to set up WrestleMania 17 (read my review here). In my opinion, WrestleMania 17 is the best PPV ever. The trio of PPVs to start the year with this show, No Way Out 2001 and WrestleMania 17 are incredible. It’s probably the best back to back to back PPV run in WWE history.
This was written a few years ago. I have added some updated thoughts in blue font because there’s always more to say.
WWF Royal Rumble
January 21, 2001
New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, Louisiana
The opening video package hyped up the Royal Rumble match with the winner earning a shot for the WWF Title at WrestleMania. They featured Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker and Kane more than the others.
There was a big pyro display in the New Orleans Arena as Jim Ross announced 17,137 fans in attendance in the sold out arena. There were lots of signs in the crowd and lots of fans at WWF New York as well.
The announcers for the show were Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler as usual for this era.
Analysis: Lawler was out of the company a few months after this when his wife at the time, The Kat, was fired. Lawler returned in late 2001 after his marriage with The Kat fell apart. Paul Heyman took over his announcer spot for most of 2001.
The Dudley Boyz entered as the challengers for the WWF Tag Team Championships and they got a nice pop from the crowd. Edge and Christian were the champions that walked down the aisle. There were highlights shown from the previous Raw where E&C hit the Dudleys each with chairshots in backstage segments. The story was that the Dudleys may have had concussions.
WWF Tag Team Championships: Edge and Christian vs. The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley)
Pre-match notes: Edge and Christian were the heel champions while the Dudleys were the face challengers. Both teams were fake brothers. Sorry to break that news to those of you that thought they were real brothers. Edge and Christian won the titles one month earlier from The Rock and The Undertaker and this was the 5th title reign for E&C.
The Dudleys attack right at the bell, then E&C left and the Dudleys chased after them in the aisle. Back in the ring, D-Von with a neckbreaker on Edge, then Christian tagged in and D-Von hit a jumping elbow attack. The Dudleys hit a double team shoulder tackle. Bubba tagged in and launched Christian into the air for a slam. Bubba with a sidewalk slam on Christian for two as Bubba grabbed his head to sell the concussion story. D-Von back in, Edge tagged in and D-Von hit a body slam for two. Christian with a forearm to the head that the referee didn’t see, D-Von was selling the head injury and Edge stomped away on D-Von to keep him down. Edge with a belly to back suplex. Christian back in with a side Russian legsweep on D-Von followed by some head slamming into the mat. The heels worked over D-Von in their corner as Edge hit a neckbreaker and Bubba broke up the pin attempt. Christian and Edge made some quick tags with Edge slapping on a chinlock on D-Von to keep him grounded, then D-Von broke free and Edge hit another neckbreaker. The fans chanted for tables as Christian worked over D-Von some more. Edge teased a piledriver, but D-Von countered and gave Edge a catapult into Christian against the turnbuckle. Edge and D-Von hit running clotheslines on eachother to knock them both down. D-Von made the tag, but Christian distracted referee Mike Chioda. Bubba argued with the referee, Edge & Christian brought chairs in the ring, but D-Von ducked the double Conchairto attempt (the referee still didn’t see it) and E&C went down. Bubba finally got the hot tag with a back body drop on Christian, a stun gun on Edge into the top rope, Bubba hit the Bubba Bomb on Christian and a body slam on Edge led to D-Von hitting the headbutt off the top where the referee had to act as if he didn’t see a blatant headbutt to the groin. Bubba told D-Von to get the tables much to the delight of the crowd. Christian stopped D-Von from doing that, the referee checked on them, Edge missed a belt shot on Bubba and Bubba got a rollup for two. This crowd was on fire! D-Von prevented the Unprettier on Bubba, then Edge went back in with a Spear on Bubba and Christian hit a DDT on D-Von, which got a two count for Edge. Christian held Bubba, Edge went up top, but Bubba shoved Edge off the top and Bubba turned over Christian over, so Edge headbutted Christian by accident. The Dudleys hit 3D on Edge and D-Von covered Edge for the pinfall win at 9:58 for the title win.
Winners by pinfall and NEW WWF Tag Team Champions: The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley)
Analysis: ***1/2 It was a very good tag team match full of action. They didn’t wrestle for a long time at just under ten minutes, but I’m fine with that because it was exciting to watch. I liked the story with E&C working on D-Von’s head/neck throughout the match since the Dudleys were selling the head injuries going into the match. These teams worked together so many times, so of course it was good. I like how they did so many of the tag team tricks with the false tags, the nearfalls after some cheating and then the good guys the Dudleys were able to get the win. As I noted in the writeup, the crowd was on fire for this and wanted the title change so bad. They got it.
(Good stuff to open the PPV with a hot tag team match full of action and two teams that had a long history together. The fans were really into it and they were happy to see the Dudleys win the titles over the heel champions. This is what I mean when I say it’s important to pick a hot opener because it gets the crowd excited right off the bat. )
Post match, the Dudleys celebrated with the titles while selling the concussion story. JR: “Those damn Dudleys are new the WWF Tag Team Champions!” They replayed the key spots in the match including the clever finish. The Dudleys continued their celebration.
Analysis: I looked it up and there were 17 Tag Team Title changes in 2001. That’s a lot! The division was really strong, so that’s part of it as well, but that’s too many title changes in one year.
A video was shown of comedian Drew Carey was shown arriving to the show. Drew had a comedy PPV on the following Saturday, so that’s why he was there.
A clip was shown from earlier tonight with Vince McMahon saying that Triple H will still get his shot at Kurt Angle for the WWF Title while Steve Austin is still in the Royal Rumble match.
Triple H and wife Stephanie McMahon were backstage talking about his match with Trish Stratus in Kurt Angle’s corner. Stephanie assured Triple H that Trish won’t be a factor in his title match and she’ll take care of it. Drew Carey showed up to talk to Hunter and Stephanie. Drew was surprised Hunter was married to Stephanie, Hunter said it was about a year and Drew said he didn’t watch. Drew said he ran into Kamala, he said that he sings (I guess that’s mildly funny) and Drew asked where he can find Vince McMahon. Drew said he wanted to get advice from Vince about his PPV next Saturday. Stephanie didn’t know where Vince was and Stephanie said she’ll take Drew to meet Trish Stratus.
Analysis: They brought Drew on the show to say he didn’t watch the product by not knowing that Hunter was married to Stephanie? That’s odd. Kamala “singing” is a reference to the shrieking that Kamala used to do. That’s mildly funny, I guess.
The APA duo of Bradshaw and Ron Simmons were shown in their office playing cards. They showed eachother their Royal Rumble numbers and said that’s going to be interesting (the camera did not see what numbers they were). Crash Holly showed up to say that he’ll throw them out if they are in the Rumble with him. The APA just laughed about it.
A video package aired for the Intercontinental Title Ladder Match with champion Chris Benoit against challenger Chris Jericho. There wasn’t much of a story other than they were two upper midcarders going for a
Chris Jericho entered first as the challenger and he got a huge pop. Chris Benoit was out next as the champion that didn’t get much of a reaction. There were ladders around the ring.
Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship: Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho
Pre-match notes: Benoit was the heel champion while Jericho was the face challenger. The first wrestler to retrieve the title above the ring (by climbing a ladder) will be the IC Champion. At the time of this match, I was so excited to watch it since they were two of my favorite guys, but things have changed with Benoit matches for obvious reasons.
The match started with a brawl between as they exchanged punches. Benoit targeted Jericho’s left shoulder by sending him shoulder first into the turnbuckle followed by a shoulderbreaker. Jericho sent Benoit to the apron, Jericho went for a springboard attack, Benoit moved and Jericho hit the floor. Benoit whipped Jericho into the ring post with Jericho’s left shoulder hitting the post. Benoit grabbed a ladder, Benoit avoided a dropkick and Benoit whipped Jericho into the steel steps. Benoit went for the first ladder climb, but Jericho brought him down with an Electric Chair Drop. Jericho with a corner clothesline on Benoit. Jericho used the ladder as a weapon and hit Benoit in the head with it followed by Benoit jabbing the top of the ladder into the ribs of Benoit. Jericho tried a whip into a ladder, but Jericho ended up whipping Jericho into the ladder and Jericho bumped over the top to the floor. Benoit with a suicide dive, but Jericho countered that with a chair to the head. That spot scared in me 2001 and scares me even more knowing what Benoit did in his final days. It looked like Benoit got his hands up to block the block, but it was still a rough landing on the floor. Jericho put Benoit on the barricade, Jericho tried an attack on the barricade, but Benoit moved and Jericho went crashing to the mat. Benoit hit Jericho in the head with the top of the ladder. Benoit knocked down Jericho with a clothesline in the ring and brought a ladder in the ring. Benoit set up the ladder in the corner, and sent Jericho face first into the ladder. Jericho got payback by shoving Benoit into the ladder, then Jericho put Benoit up against the ladder and sent him down in the ring. Benoit with a dropkick into the ladder that Jericho was holding to knock him down. Benoit took control again with a belly to back suplex. Jericho placed a ladder on the top rope and whipped Benoit right into it with Benoit using his hands to block. Jericho did a slingshot ladder shot to the face of Benoit with Benoit again use his hands to soften the blow a bit. Jericho went to the top rope with a missile dropkick into the ladder to knock Benoit down.
Jericho went for his first ladder climb, but Benoit hit him in the back with forearm shots followed by Benoit giving Jericho a belly to back suplex over the top to the floor. Benoit went to climb the ladder, Jericho punched him and Benoit gave Jericho the Walls of Jericho on the top of the ladder. This drew a huge pop from the crowd with a lot of flashbulbs going off from people taking pictures. That’s a spot I remember very well. Benoit came back by kicking the ladder towards the ropes and Jericho went throat first onto the ladder to knock Jericho down. Jericho hit Benoit with the ladder again. Benoit knocked down Jericho and slapped on the Crippler Crossface on the left arm of Jericho. Benoit sent Jericho into the ringpost, but then Jericho launched Benoit into the ladder. Jericho used the ladder to hit Benoit in the face against the ropes. Jericho set up a ladder near the ropes, Benoit punched him off and Benoit went up top with a headbutt from the top of the ladder. Jericho moved and Benoit hit the mat hard. Jericho trapped Benoit under the ladder, Jericho climbed up, but then Benoit shoved the ladder, so Jericho bumped into the ropes and to the floor. Great bump by Jericho that also looked very painful. JR: “This is the damndest match I think I’ve ever seen.” Benoit went for another climb up the ladder, Jericho hit him in the back with the steel chair and Jericho shoved the ladder so that Benoit bumped over the top to the floor. Jericho climbed the ladder, Benoit was slow to get back to his feet, so Jericho was able to get to the top and pulled the ladder down while Benoit remained out of the ring. The match went 18:44.
Winner AND NEW Intercontinental Champion: Chris Jericho
Analysis: ****1/2 This was an outstanding ladder match that really is one of the best ladder matches in WWE history. It was probably the first match of the year contender quality match for both guys in their WWE careers. I wouldn’t say it was Match of the Year, but I’m just saying it was a contender. They did a great job of using the ladder as a weapon, using ring psychology well with Benoit working on the left shoulder of Jericho throughout the match and ultimately it was the babyface Jericho who came back from those attacks to the shoulder to come back and win the match. These guys always had physical style matches together and this one might have been their best match. It was also interesting how they only used one ladder in the match because sometimes wrestlers would use more than one, but they kept using the same ladder. It wasn’t about the climb or crazy spots. It was about the story too, which is why it is one of the best WWE ladder matches ever.
(It’s one of my favorite ladder matches in WWE history although it’s tough to enjoy Benoit matches these days. I’m just saying from a technical standpoint, it was incredible. In some years, I might call it a Match of the Year, but 2001 was loaded with amazing matches so I think there were several matches that were better. Still, it’s an excellent match worth checking out if you’ve never seen it. Big win for Jericho too so the show started off with two title changes for babyface wrestlers.)
There was a shot in the locker room with Drew Carey talking to Trish Stratus and Stratus told him he’s involved with somebody. Vince McMahon walked in, they plugged Drew Carey’s improv comedy special on PPV and Drew wanted Vince to give him some advice. Vince suggested that Drew actually participates in the 30-Man Royal Rumble match, but Drew was reluctant about it because he was scared about getting hurt. Stratus said she would be very impressed, so Drew said he’ll give it a shot and Vince said Drew will be a big hit. Vince left with Trish.
Analysis: If you would have told me that this would lead to Drew Carey in the WWE Hall of Fame I would have said no way, but it happened. When Trish said she was seeing somebody she was referring to Vince McMahon without saying his name.
Chyna was backstage getting ready with Billy Gunn telling her he’s worried about her and Chyna told Billy she feels fine. Chyna told Billy to stop worrying about her.
Chris Jericho was interviewed backstage by Michael Cole. Jericho said that he is once again the IC Champion for the third time and he proved Benoit wrong.
A video package aired showing the spot where Val Venis (of Right to Censor) hit a spike piledriver on Chyna and they sold it as a big angle. Chyna said she lost feeling in her arms, she had three ruptured disks in her neck and she was given options to retire or have surgery where they would fuse her neck (causing retirement). That led to Ivory of Right to Censor mocking Chyna’s emotional interview. Chyna later said she wasn’t 100%, but was working towards recovery. Ivory did a promo saying she’ll challenge for the Women’s Title and Chyna showed she was back with a Powerbomb.
Analysis: Some of the Chyna interviews featured some bad acting. That’s what I remember most about this angle.
Ivory entered first with the Women’s Title along with Steven Richards of Right to Censor. Chyna got a good pop for her entrance.
WWF Women’s Championship: Ivory (w/Steven Richards) vs. Chyna
Pre-match notes: Ivory was the heel Women’s Champion while Chyna was the face challenger.
Chyna with two clotheslines followed by some hair whipping across the ring. Chyna whipped Ivory into the turnbuckle two times and a snapmare into a slam off the top rope. Chyna set up Ivory on the top rope and then slapped her off the top to the floor. Ivory tried to leave through the crowd, but Chyna went after her with punches. Chyna with a press slam to send Ivory over the barricade and onto the floor at ringside. Chyna with a powerslam on Ivory, Chyna brought Richards in the ring, she hit him with a clothesline and she whipped Richards over the top to the floor. Chyna did her handspring back elbow on Ivory against the turnbuckle, but then Chyna collapsed to the mat. Ivory crawled over to Chyna and covered her for the pinfall win at 3:32.
Winner by pinfall: Ivory
Analysis: 1/2* It was an angle more than a match to show that Chyna wasn’t healthy yet while Ivory managed to hold onto the title even though she didn’t get any offense at all. I remember thinking at the time that Chyna would win the title but WWE decided to hold off on that for a few months.
(A short match with an injury angle to build for a return match at WrestleMania two months later. It’s the only bad match on the show, but at least it’s short.)
After the match, several people went into the ring to check on Chyna including Jerry Lawler, referees, Billy Gunn and EMT personnel. Ross used SERIOUS VOICES~! to try to get this angle over. Chyna was placed on a stretcher and was taken out of the arena. This took a few minutes.
Analysis: This storyline continued with Chyna making another return at WrestleMania 17, which is when Chyna beat Ivory easy to win the Women’s Title. Chyna was gone from the company soon after that because she found out Triple H cheated on her with Stephanie McMahon, which led to Chyna leaving WWE.
Stephanie McMahon walked into the women’s dressing room where she wanted a woman to fix her hair, then Trish Stratus was there and Stephanie threatened Trish about getting involved in the WWF Title. Trish said she won’t get involved in Stephanie’s affairs because she has her own affairs to think about.
Analysis: That’s another reference to Trish being with Vince McMahon during this period.
Drew Carey was shown in the locker room when Harvey Wippleman went up to him to hand him some close to wrestle in during the Royal Rumble match. Drew laughed about how he’s a wrestler now. Kane walked up to him, Drew tried talking to him, but Kane said nothing and left.
The Low Down trio of D-Lo Brown, Chaz and Tiger Ali Singh were talking about the Royal Rumble match. Vince showed up to say there’s a change in plans because none of them are going to be in the Rumble because they’ve been replaced. Low Down was upset about it. Singh asked Vince who will replace them. Vince: “Drew Carey.” Singh said, “Drew Curry” (a food reference) and asked who that is. Lame comedy.
They showed some comments from fans at WWF New York talking about who is going to win the Kurt Angle match against Triple H.
Triple H was shown backstage getting ready by staring into a mirror and grunting loudly. Kurt Angle was also shown walking backstage with the WWF Title around his waist.
A video package aired to set up Kurt Angle defending the WWF Title against Triple H. Angle said since he can’t have Stephanie in his corner, he got somebody else and chose Trish Stratus to manage him. That led to more hints at Trish’s affair with Vince McMahon, which pissed off Vince’s daughter Stephanie, who told Trish that she is the dominant female. That led to a Steph/Trish brawl along with Angle/Triple H brawling on Smackdown.
Triple H entered with wife Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley. The WWF Champion Kurt Angle made his entrance with the lovely Trish Stratus while Stephanie made angry faces in the ring.
WWF Championship: Kurt Angle (w/Trish Stratus) vs. Triple H (w/Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley)
Pre-match notes: Angle was the heel WWF Champion. Triple H was also a heel. It’s rare to see heel vs. heel PPV matches for a major title, but that’s what this was. This was three months into Angle’s first WWF Title reign.
They started out with counter wrestling while JR noted they weren’t fan favorites. Angle with a hiptoss followed by a clothesline to send Hunter over the top to the floor. Did I mention that Trish looks tremendous here? Probably not enough, but she is always great to look at it. Stephanie is okay too. Stephanie got her uh…upgrades later in 2001 and it’s not like WWE tried to hide it since they talked about it. They got back in the ring with Hunter getting in some punches until Angle came back with a back body drop. Angle hit Hunter with three vertical suplexes. They left the ring with Hunter taking control as he whipped Angle into barricade multiple times. Back in the ring, Hunter with a drop toe hold followed by a leg grapevine on the left leg. Angle hit an enziguri kick to the head leading to a two count. Hunter got in some punches, but Angle came back with a whip into the ropes leading to Hunter’s bump over the top to the floor that he loved to do in this era. Angle blocked a move by the ring post and sent Hunter into the ring post. The referee was not counting them out of the ring as Angle whipped Hunter into the steel steps. They went back into the ring, Angle charged, Hunter moved and Angle went running into the turnbuckle. Hunter whipped Angle’s left leg into the ring post two times. Stephanie distracted the referee, so Hunter used a steel chair on the knee of Angle. You can tell Hunter hit most of the chair against the post rather than the knee, but it’s the thought that counts. Hunter drove Angle knee first into the top of the steel steps. They went back into the ring with Hunter hitting a chop block to the back of the left knee two times. Hunter with an elbow drop to the knee two times. Hunter slapped on an Indian Deathlock submission that worked over Kurt’s leg’s some more as Angle punched his way out of the hold. Hunter with the facebuster into the knee for a two count. Hunter continued the attack on the left knee with a knee drop to the back of the knee. Hunter slapped on the Figure Four Leglock, Hunter grabbed the ropes for leverage, Trish tried to break it up and Stephanie pulled Trish away. Trish slapped Stephanie, so Stephanie slapped back and Stephanie sent Trish into the announce table followed by Stephanie and Trish going tumbling over the announce table. Vince McMahon walked out to the ring to try to break it up. Vince managed to separate them, then he put Trish on his shoulder and carried her, but then Stephanie pushed them down. Stephanie continued the attack. The fans were screaming about this because they loved it. Vince managed to break it up again, then the three of them went to the back together.
Analysis: This would lead to Trish vs. Stephanie at No Way Out 2001, which was the next PPV. I thought it was a surprisingly very good match. That show was carried by Austin/Hunter and Rock/Angle, but the girls did well too.
The match continued with Angle countering a Figure Four attempt with an inside cradle for two. Angle kicked Hunter into the ring post followed by Angle hitting a DDT for two. Angle with an atomic drop followed by a German Suplex for a two count. Angle hit a side Russian legsweep. Angle was limping to sell the left leg injury, Angle slowly went to the ropes, but Hunter hit him with a low blow where referee Earl Hebner wasn’t looking for some reason and Hunter hit a Razor’s Edge like move on Angle for a two count. They could have set up that low blow spot better. Hunter wanted a Pedigree, Angle countered, Hunter kicked him into the turnbuckle and Angle bounced off the turnbuckle with a headbutt to Hunter’s groin by accident. Angle went up top and he hit a perfect looking moonsault, but then he grabbed his knee after he hit it. Angle went to the floor, Hunter went for an attack there, but Angle moved and Hunter hit referee Earl Hebner in the back by accident. Hunter whipped Angle into the ring post. Hunter went up top for nothing, so Angle hit him with an arm drag off the top. Austin tried a cover, but there was no referee to count. Angle checked on Hebner on the floor, Hunter left the ring and whipped Angle into Hebner against the ring post, so that knocked Hebner out even more. Hunter got the WWF Title to try to attack with it, but Angle hit him with a belly to belly suplex. Angle tried to attack with the title, Hunter kicked him and hit a Pedigree. Hunter covered, he would have won, but there was no referee to count. That led to Steve Austin running out to a huge pop and he beat up Hunter with punches. Austin sent Hunter into the ring and Austin hit him with the WWF Title in the face. JR: “Right between the eyes!” That was the idea anyway. Austin put Hebner in the ring. Triple H did a blade job after that since he was bleeding from the head. Austin hit a Stunner on Hunter and Austin left. Angle crawled over to Hunter, left arm over the stomach to pin and Hebner did the slow count one…two…and three to give Angle the victory at 24:16.
Winner by pinfall: Kurt Angle
Angle celebrated with the WWF Title while JR pointed out that Triple H cost Austin the title previously and this was payback for Austin.
Analysis: ***1/2 This was a pretty good match from two of the best WWE superstars ever. Hunter was at his best and Angle was already amazing early in his career. I think doing a heel vs. heel match is difficult, but they made it fun and entertaining while also going long at over 20 minutes. There were times when the crowd wasn’t reacting to the match although it did pick up by the end. The spot with Stephanie and Trish worked very well because the intensity picked up from there. The finish was cheap with Austin getting involved due to his long-term story with Hunter that would lead to an amazing match at No Way Out 2001. It also protected Hunter by not having him take a clean loss. It’s okay to have non-clean finishes to further other stories. The first half of the match isn’t great, but everything after the women’s brawl is a lot of fun to watch.
(They always had good matches, but never really had an epic singles match. I still liked it even though it was heel vs. heel, which can be awkward. Hunter and Angle are great, so it was easy to get excited about this. The attack from Austin continued that rivalry with Hunter getting some payback later in the show as well.)
Post match, Triple H stumbled back to his feet while realizing what happened and he walked to the back with an angry look on his face.
Rikishi was shown warming up backstage and he’s #30 in the Rumble match. The Undertaker was shown warming up as well.
The Rock was interviewed by Kevin Kelly as Rock did his “finally” bit to a lot of cheers. Rock did a fired up promo saying people want to ask if Kane and Undertaker are together then every man is going to be in trouble. Rock is sick and tired of hearing about that, then he threw in some comedy lines and said they’d get their monkey asses kicked over the top rope. Rock said it could come down to anybody like Rock and Steve Austin. Rock ended it with his usual catchphrase.
Analysis: Awesome promo as usual. I think he’s the best talker ever. I know he didn’t have nearly as many years as some of the other greatest talkers in wrestling history, but he’s still the best to me.
A video package aired about the Royal Rumble while focusing on favorites in the match like Rikishi, Kane, The Undertaker. The Rock and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. There was also a story where Undertaker and Kane were working together as they hit a double Chokeslam on Rock and Austin on Smackdown.
Analysis: Going into this match, Austin was clearly the favorite to win and the most popular pick. Austin missed nearly one year, he came back three months earlier and it just made sense for him to win this Rumble to get on the road to WrestleMania.
30-Man Royal Rumble Match
The intervals are back to the 2-minute mark this time according to ring announcer Howard Finkel. The only thing we know going in is that Rikishi, a heel, would be #30 in this match.
There’s Jeff Hardy as the #1 entrant. In at #2 is Bull Buchanan of the Right To Censor stable. At this time the Hardys were still a very popular tag team in the WWF, so Jeff was very over here. There wasn’t much going on here. It’s Matt Hardy in the #3 spot. Matt goes right for Buchanan, the Hardys double team Bull and then they clothesline him out of the ring. The Hardys wrestle eachother with Matt trying to eliminate Jeff and then he hits a back suplex. Jeff comes back. Jeff tries to eliminate Matt as the #4 competitor comes in and it’s Faarooq of the APA, who hits a double clothesline on the Hardy brothers. They avoid his attacks, Matt hits the Twist of Fate and Jeff hits the Swanton. They throw Faarooq out. Matt tries to throw Jeff out, but he hangs on and they’re so serious now that they take their shirts off to fight. Jeff’s so mad that he ties his shirt around his waist! What a badass! Or weirdo. Take your pick. Jeff hits Matt with the Twist of Fate. Huge pop for the #5 entrant comedian (and future Price is Right host) Drew Carey. Drew had a PPV event the following Saturday, so he was there to promote it. The crowd starts a “Drew” chant. The Hardys keep fighting while Drew slowly gets in the ring. Matt and Jeff are fighting on the turnbuckle and they eliminate eachother via a suplex Drew’s all alone in the ring celebrating. From a strategic point of view, this made the Hardys look like idiots for eliminating eachother.
The #6 spot belongs to Kane while Drew starts freaking out. Kane’s sporting the mask and the red singlet in this era. He turned heel and face so many times in this era, but he was basically a face at this point. “Thank God Drew Carey’s wearing black plants,” says JR in reference to the fact that he’s probably pissing himself in fear. Drew tries to offer Kane money. Kane doesn’t want it. Kane chokes Drew and Raven came in at #7 with a kendo stick. Drew climbs over the ropes to eliminate himself. Yes, WWE really put Drew in their Hall of Fame for this performance.
Raven was the Hardcore Champion here, so he brought in a weapon. He slid out to the floor to use a fire extinguisher on Kane and he threw in trash cans. Al Snow showed up out of nowhere to attack Raven even though he was early. It turns out that Al Snow is #8 after all. Snow brings more weapons in and Snow even has a bowling ball that’s in a bag. Snow rolls it into Raven’s nuts because Raven had his legs open of course. That drew a nice pop. Snow and Raven took turns attacking Kane with the trashcan lids, but he didn’t go down. They do a double drop toe hold onto the trashcan. Kane sits up. There’s Perry Saturn at #9. King says things are a little nipply tonight as Terri comes out with Saturn while wearing a tight outfit up top. Kane press slams Saturn and whips Snow down. Then Raven slows him down and the other two attack. There’s Steve Blackman at #10 with those sticks of his. He goes after Al Snow. Oh no, Headcheese is erupting before our eyes! This is like the Megapowers all over again! Not really. There are some small weapon shots going on, but nothing major.
It’s time to turn it up for #11 Grandmaster Sexay of Too Cool. The crowd loves the dancing. He uses the trashcan lid to beat on some people. Then Raven uses the lid to hit some people. Kane gets a trash can and he eliminates Sexay. Kane throws Blackman out, finishing him off with a trashcan lid. Kane throws Snow out and boots Raven out. There goes Saturn too courtesy of Kane. The ring is empty except for Kane. That was an awesome run right there. We’ve got a surprise at #12, the Honky Tonk Man. Honky grabs the microphone and gets into the ring calling himself the best Intercontinental Champion of all time while adding that he knows we want to hear him sing his song. Kane stands there staring at him as the Honky Tonk Man starts. Kane grabs the guitar and smashes it over Honky’s head to a huge pop. Kane eliminates Honky Tonk Man. The Rock is #13. Kane gets a massive babyface pop as the crowd is going crazy. Big clothesline on Kane. Kane knocks him down with a clothesline. They do some exchanges, but nobody gets thrown out. There’s The Goodfather at #14, which is another gimmick for Charles Wright in the Rumble following previous gimmicks like Papa Shango, Kama and The Godfather. He was a gimmick whore. Rock eliminates Goodfather (who was part of Nation of Domination with Rock three years later) after 14 seconds. Kane hits Rock with a suplex. Rock fights back with punches, but Kane knocks him down with a side slam. It’s Tazz at #15, who gets a quick double choke from Kane, Tazz was placed on the top turnbuckle and then gets punched out of the ring to be eliminated. That’s a 10 second appearance for Tazz. Tazz didn’t wrestle for that much longer after this and this was his only Rumble appearance after debuting in the WWF at the 2000 Rumble. Rock nearly eliminates Kane and the crowd believes it might happen, but it doesn’t. Rock hits a Samoan Drop as both guys lay down awaiting the next person.
It’s a future WWE Champion at #16 Bradshaw of the APA. Rock gets a big clothesline on Kane and Bradshaw hits a big one on Rock just for fun. Rock hits the spinebuster on Bradshaw and then he gets knocked down by a Kane clothesline. It’s a clothesline fest. It’s Albert, no longer a Prince, at #17. Big clothesline by Bradshaw on Albert as JR mentions that Bradshaw loves the clothesline. Do ya think? Hardcore Holly is #18 as I think of how far he’s come from that awful Sparky Plugg gimmick. I don’t miss the mid 90s Rumble recaps, trust me. Bradshaw and Holly try to get rid of Rock and the crowd believes that it might happen, but Rock hangs on. Rock comes back with a clothesline on Bradshaw and nearly eliminates Kane. The big man is able to stay in, though. It’s K-Kwik getting rowdy at #19. He is now known as R-Truth, of course. Kane hits a huge powerslam on Holly while Bradshaw destroys Kwik at the same time. There are six guys in the ring now. More Right To Censor as Val Venis is #20 sporting a tie. Choke the guy with a tie! I always used to yell that about IRS when I was a kid. Kane hits him with a spinebuster. Bradshaw hits Kwik with a football tackle or I guess you could call it a spear. Rock hits a powerslam on Kwik, who is getting his ass kicked in this match. That’s the truth.
The European Champion William Regal comes in at #21. I should add all the weapons are out of the ring by now as Regal hits a suplex on Kwik. Rock gets a spinebuster on Venis. Bradshaw hits a couple of clotheslines on Val. I wonder if he likes clotheslines? Val charges into Bradshaw and guess what move he does? A clothesline. Test is #22 and he quickly throws out Regal as we have eight guys in the ring now. Not a whole lot happens during this time. It’s a surprise entrant at #23…the Big Show. Show was out for a few months to end 2000 because he wasn’t in good shape. They sent him down to OVW and this was his return to a very nice pop. Show’s working in a t-shirt. Show clotheslines Test out and press slams K-Kwik rather easily. Show goes on a Chokeslam run with Chokeslams for Albert and Bradshaw. Chokeslam for Venis. Chokeslam for Holly. Show with a chokeslam on Kane that was very impressive. Rock kicks Show in the balls, hits his punches and clotheslines Show out. The crowd goes nuts. Big Show was only in the ring for about a minute and a half, but that was very impressive. After his elimination, Big Show pulls Rock out of the ring and cleans off the announce table. Show puts Rock through the table with a chokeslam. This was a great way of re-introducing Big Show. Crash Holly was #24, but they barely mentioned that due to the Show-Rock story. It’s so nice of the heels to remove the TV monitors from the desk. They are so thoughtful. Everybody in the ring tries to eliminate Kane, but they can’t do it. The Undertaker is #25 as the American Badass on the motorcycle. Taker saves his brother Kane since they were on good terms. Undertaker signaled to Kane, so Taker throws out Bradshaw, Kane throws out Crash, Taker throws out Hardcore, Kane throws out Albert and Undertaker throws out Val leaving us with Undertaker, Kane and The Rock on the floor. The brothers have a long staredown as the announcers wonder what might happen. Nice “Sara” tattoo on the neck by Undertaker. These days it looks like an ink blot. That’s why you don’t tattoo your wife’s name on your neck, fellas. You never know. That’s some real talk for you.
The #26 man is Scotty Too Hotty, who is very reluctant to get in the ring due to Undertaker and Kane staring at him. Undertaker and Kane take turns beating on him. Boot to the face, bodyslam and a double chokeslam. They throw Scotty out of the ring together because they like to share brotherly moments like that. The Rock was shown still struggling at the announce table. The glass breaks for #27 as the crowd goes nuts for “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Before Austin can get there, Triple H comes out to attack him because they had an ongoing feud. Austin cost Hunter the WWF Title earlier in the night. A month later they’d have one of my favorite matches in WWF history. If you want to know why the WWF was so good at this time look at the five guys going at it right here. They are very talented. Triple H continues to attack Austin on the floor with Austin bleeding after Hunter whipped him into the barricade and Austin tucked down to do the blade jobe. Rock is getting beat up in the ring by Kane and Undertaker. Here’s Billy Gunn at #28, known as “The One” in this match. I don’t know what that gimmick meant except that it rhymed with his last name. Finally, the referees pull Hunter off Austin. Stone Cold’s blood is all over the place. Jim Ross was going nuts about Austin’s condition and he freaks out as Undertaker hits a DDT on Rock, saying he’s never seen a DDT like that in his life. The #29 entrant is the former Meng from WCW, Haku. He had a run in the WWF as Haku and this was his return. Haku only lasted in the WWF until the summer when he got released. They show Austin on the floor and JR notes how tough Austin would be to win the match after being attacked the way he was. The crowd chants for Austin as he tries to make it back in. The #30 entrant we know is Rikishi, who is in his heel run after his “I did it for the Rock” storyline to end 2000 where they found out he was the one that ran over Stone Cold in his car. Rikishi’s heel run wasn’t nearly as good as his babyface work. Rikishi sees Austin in the aisle and they start brawling. JR is spazzing out! JR is going nuts, man. Love the passion of JR.
Austin eliminates Haku with a clothesline leaving us with six guys. Undertaker hits a chokeslam on Rikishi. Undertaker goes to throw Rock out, but Rock holds on. Kane gets a big boot on Austin while Rikishi superkicks Undertaker and Undertaker is eliminated. Undertaker got softened up because he gave Rikishi headbutts, which Rikishi no-sold due to the “Samoans have harder heads than anybody else” rule. I remember thinking at the time that they would do Undertaker vs. Rikishi at WrestleMania 17. That didn’t happen. They did Undertaker vs. Triple H instead. There were four main event level guys in there plus Billy Gunn. Lawler picks Rikishi to win as he sets up Rock for the Banzai Drop. Rock gets up, low blows Rikishi and punches him to eliminate him.
The final four are Rock, Kane, Gunn and Austin. One of these four just doesn’t belong. Sorry Billy. Gunn actually hits the Fameasser on Austin, but then Austin quickly throws him out leaving us with three. Now that’s a little bit better. The crowd freaks out as Austin and Rock lock eyes on eachother. Austin’s face is a bloody mess. Here’s your WrestleMania preview. Spit punch by Rock that Austin oversells. Austin elbows his way out of the Rock Bottom and hits a Stunner that Rock oversells like always. I like how Rock sold it, though. Austin hits the Thesz Press on Kane to a huge pop. Austin goes for a clothesline on Rock, but Rock comes back with the Rock Bottom. Rock throws Kane out through the middle ropes, so he’s still in the match leaving us with Rock and Austin again. Austin’s close to dumping him out, so Rock rakes his eyes. JR is losing his voice in excitement. Rock holds up Austin in a bodyslam position, so Kane sneaks in and dumps Rock out of the ring to eliminate him. That’s 11 eliminations for Kane in this match. Austin charges in, Kane catches him and hits a huge chokeslam. Austin’s full of blood while Kane’s been in the match for over 50 minutes. Austin hits Kane with a low blow that JR calls an “XFL-like punt.” I’m pretty sure this is the only Rumble with an XFL reference. Kane rolls out to the floor to grab a steel chair. Austin kicks it out of his hands and after a struggle where Austin avoided a Tombstone, Austin hits a great Stone Cold Stunner. Austin hits Kane with three consecutive chair shots to the head, Kane stumbles back into the ropes and Austin clotheslines him out of the ring to win the match. The crowd popped huge for the win.
Winner: Steve Austin
JR: “STONE COLD! STONE COLD! STONE COLD IS GOING TO WRESTLEMANIA! By God, they’re on their feet in New Orleans! The toughest son of a bitch in the WWF has done it!” That’s why JR is the best ever, folks.
The match ended at 61:55.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS about the Royal Rumble match
– It was a really good Rumble with smart booking from start to finish. I enjoyed so many different aspects of it from Kane’s dominance, to the hardcore action, Big Show’s attack on Rock, the Kane-Undertaker domination, Austin fighting back from the attack at the hands of Triple H and then the finish where Kane eliminated Rock even though I thought Austin would be the one to do that. I don’t think there was a whole lot I would have changed here if I was booking it.
– The way they booked Kane as a monster was phenomenal. He was the most dominant person in the history of the Rumble as he eliminated 11 guys in 53 minutes of action. He didn’t take too many bumps, but I was cool with that because it really made him look strong. It’s not like they booked him so strong that it hurt the match. It helped the match because Austin eliminating him made Austin look badass. It also made Kane look great because it took three chairshots to the head to get him out of the ring.
– There were a lot of fun moments here. I liked how the first third of the match was hardcore style because that’s different for a Rumble. I also liked the Drew Carey thing. It was silly, but funny. You have an hour-long match, so you need to have light-hearted moments too. If you do it early in the match it works because the last half is usually the more serious part where you want to up the intensity.
– I liked how the battle between Austin, Rock and Kane at the end lasted five minutes or so. Let them tell a story because they were the ones that carried the match. You had Kane’s dominant story, Austin overcoming the odds as the babyface and Rock was trying to recover from Big Show’s attack as well. The crowd reaction for Austin-Rock was fantastic too. It got me really excited for WMX7, which definitely delivered the goods.
– This might have been Jim Ross’ best Rumble performance. He was YELLING by the end of it and he made you care. It wasn’t forced. It felt real. That’s why he’s the best ever because he made you care. That’s what wrestling announcers are supposed to do.
FACTS & OPINIONS about the Royal Rumble match
Person that lasted the longest: Kane at 53:46.
Most Eliminations: Kane with 11.
Best Performers (3): Kane – This is my favorite Kane match ever. Better than any of his singles matches. I thought he did great in this match.
The Rock – Very good work by the People’s Champ in nearly 39 minutes of action.
Steve Austin – He spent much of the match selling because of the blood and it made his comeback work.
Best Elimination: Austin eliminating Kane at the end was the best because of how strong Kane was booked for over 50 minutes.
Match Rating: **** It is only the second Rumble to reach the four star (out of five) level to this point with Royal Rumble 1992 ahead of it. They did an excellent job of putting over Austin as the winner, but also making Kane and Rock look like big stars on Austin’s level based on their performances as well. I also liked the unique nature of some weapons being used in the match as well. It was a really fun hour of professional wrestling action.
(I don’t have much to add. It’s one of my favorite Rumble matches ever from Kane’s dominance to the roles played by the major names like Austin, Rock and Undertaker. I even loved the Drew Carey segment that was good for a few laughs. Good stuff here.)
After the match was over, Austin celebrated with a beer bash while the fans cheered loudly for him. JR was yelling to put this over as a huge moment for Austin.
The show had a run time of 2:50:01 on WWE Network.
Show rating (out of 10): 9
It’s the second straight year where I would call the Royal Rumble an outstanding show. I’m going 9 out of 10 for the second Rumble PPV in a row. The Rumble match itself is one of my favorite Rumble matches, then you’ve got the outstanding ladder match with Jericho/Benoit, the opening tag team match was a lot of fun with Dudleys/E&C and Triple H/Angle is an entertaining WWF Title match where they managed to pull off a long match even when they were both heels. The only bad match was Ivory/Chyna, which was just an angle to keep the story going for two more months. I have a lot of love for Royal Rumble 2001. It’s an excellent show from top to bottom at a time when WWE was on a roll including the two PPVs that followed this: No Way Out 2001 and WrestleMania 17. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s the best stretch of three PPVs in a row in WWE history. If you haven’t seen Royal Rumble 2001 in a while, check it out because it’s a great night of wrasslin’ action.
(I’ll stick with that 9 out of 10 rating. Awesome show from top to bottom.)
Best Match: Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit in a Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Title (****1/2 out of 5)
Worst Match: Ivory vs. Chyna (1/2*)
Five Stars Of The Show
1. Chris Jericho
3. The Rock
4. Steve Austin
5. (tie) Triple H
5. (tie) Kurt Angle
That’s all for me. Check out the full list of my WWE PPV Review archive right here. Thanks for reading.