The Royal Rumble reviews continue as we head into the era where WWF was replaced by WWE for World Wrestling Entertainment after the company changed their name in May 2002.

In case you missed any of the previous reviews, check out the Royal Rumble Match archive here. Let’s get to it.

The 16th Royal Rumble was the first one under the World Wrestling Entertainment name. The Stone Cold era was coming to a close while The Rock had a budding movie career that would cause him to leave the company on a permanent basis in the near future.

They were building the company around new stars like Brock Lesnar, third generation superstar Randy Orton, the animal Batista and this rapper kid named John Cena. Also, Shawn Michaels was making his Royal Rumble return after not being in a Rumble match since 1996. There was a lot to look forward to. Would it deliver?

WWE Royal Rumble
January 19, 2003
Boston, Massachusetts

The announcers are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. The intervals are at two minutes, according to them, but they don’t really hold to that. They are closer to 90 seconds. Yes, they lie sometimes! Crazy, I know. Jim Ross also calls this the 15th Royal Rumble at several points during the match. I guess they’re not counting the 1988 Rumble that was on USA Network while the 1989 Rumble was the first one to be on PPV. It’s the 15th Royal Rumble on PPV, so let’s go with that.

It’s Shawn Michaels at #1, who is of course a babyface. At this point he had only wrestled a few matches since his August 2002 comeback and we didn’t know how often he’d be wrestling. The #2 person is Chris Jericho, but it’s his tag partner Christian in the aisle. Jericho sneaks up from behind. He’s in evil heel mode. He hits HBK with a low blow and then he crushes him in the head with a steel chair. You can see Michaels on his back about to blade himself as the camera moves away. He comes up bleeding. Michaels did block it with his hand, so that’s good to see. Speaking of head shots, here’s Chris Nowinski the Harvard grad at #3. His career would be cut short due to concussions and now he’s the president of the Sports Legacy Institute that studies brain injuries of athletes. Jericho dumps out Michaels, who is battered, bloody and in a lot of pain. I remember being so excited about Michaels in a Rumble again. His short tenure is disappointing, but I loved this as an angle. It did a great job in building up to their match at WrestleMania 19. Making his Rumble debut at #4 is Rey Mysterio. He comes in with a lot of energy and takes it to Jericho who nearly eliminates Rey, but he holds onto the ring post. Springboard dropkick to Jericho as Nowinski finally gets in the ring. It’s Edge at #5, who was an energetic babyface at this point. He hits spears on Jericho & Nowinski, who rolls out to the floor. Edge and Rey double team Jericho, throwing him into the ring post. Even though they’re friends Edge and Rey start fighting while Jericho & Nowinski remain on the floor.

“Christian! Christian! At last you’re on your own!” It’s Christian at #6. Christian comes in to hug his brother Edge. They were still called brothers here although with Edge as a face he wasn’t going for it. We’re not allowed to remember that they were billed as brothers anymore. Rey goes on Edge’s shoulder to do a double team move, Nowinski shoves them and they are able to hang on to avoid elimination. They go for a double dropkick spot, Rey hits Nowinski first and Edge lands on his face with his legs. Maybe that’s a concussion for Nowinski? Rey hits the Bronco Buster. Very glad he stopped doing that move. It’s Chavo Guerrero at #7, who goes right after Rey. They immediately bust out some awesome moves as Rey hits the 619 on Chavo and Christian. Mysterio eliminates Nowinski with a hurricanrana while Jericho clotheslines Rey out of there. I’m really surprised Rey didn’t last longer in his Rumble debut considering how popular he was. Tajiri is #8, who comes in with a lot of offense on Christian and Chavo. It’s a bit of a dead spot as we await the next competitor. A disturbed and dangerous man is #9, according to JR, Bill DeMott. He was also known as Hugh Morrus in WCW as well in his early WWE days. There are no eliminations during his time in the match either. It’s Tommy Dreamer at #10, who is entering with a trash can full of weapons to a big pop. He beats on people with a kendo stick including a shot to Jericho’s face, which I assume was accidental. Edge and Dreamer take turns destroying DeMott with kendo sticks, so DeMott is gone. Jericho and Christian double team Dreamer with trash can lids. They eliminate Dreamer. Tajiri hits a lovely springboard elbow and then he goes for the Tarantula on Jericho, but Chris shoves him out.

It’s B-Squared aka Bull Buchanan at #11. This is not a gimmick that would last very long for B2. He charges in at Edge, who avoids him and tosses him out after 24 seconds of fun. Chavo gets eliminated by Edge via spear while he’s standing on the apron. We’re down to Edge, Christian and Jericho while I have a Canadagasm. Edge and Christian are fighting by the ropes, so Jericho throws out Edge & Christian at the same time even though Christian is his buddy. Jericho’s got a nasty cut on his head from that kendo stick shot from Dreamer. He’s all alone in the ring until #12 comes out and it’s Rob Van Dam, who is a very popular babyface of course. He dominates Jericho with kicks, leg drops and the Rolling Thunder. RVD does a slingshot to Jericho and Jericho avoids elimination by holding onto the top rope. That was an awesome job by Jericho hanging on. It’s heel Matt Hardy at #13 with Shannon Moore by his side and the Matt Fact is that Matt strongly dislikes mustard. I hear he loves grapes. Hardy takes down RVD while Jericho dropkicks RVD. Jericho hits the bulldog on RVD and misses the Lionsault. RVD counters with a spinning kick and Five Star Frog Splash on Jericho. That was an awesome one. It’s Latino Heat Eddie Guerrero at #14, who was a heel tag champ with Chavo Guerrero at this point. RVD gives Eddie a monkey flip and nearly eliminates him, but Eddie holds on. Hardy slams RVD, Eddie hits a frog splash on RVD, and Hardy hits a Twist of Fate on Eddie leaving Matt the only guy left standing. It’s Jeff Hardy at #15, who is a babyface of course. The Hardy brothers were on different shows at this point with Jeff on Raw and Matt on Smackdown. Jeff takes control and Shannon Moore saves Matt by using his feet to keep him on the apron. Jeff hits the Twist of Fate, but Shannon goes in the ring to prevent it. Then Shannon lies on Matt, so Jeff Swanton’s both of them. Why would you lie down on a guy to prevent somebody from jumping? Why not just hit him? I guess he was sacrificing.

Rosey from 3 Minute Warning is in at #16. It’s a slow time period as Eddie hits a nice back suplex on Hardy. There’s Test at #17 with Stacy Keibler, who was his actual girlfriend at the time. He busts out the power moves on everybody while nearly eliminating Jericho, who hangs on by the turnbuckle. The big story of this match has been Jericho’s ability to keep himself from being eliminated. “Yo yo yo” it’s John Cena in the #18 spot coming out to his rapping gimmick. He cuts a rap on his way to the ring. He was only doing this for a couple of months at this point and getting a lot of attention for it. I’m not going to write it out. He’s a heel here and the last line of his rap has him say: “My style’s like a swollen penis – you can’t beat me.” Now he claims he gets fined for saying the word ass. How time flies, huh? King: “Did you like the rap JR?” JR: “90 seconds of what the hell did he say? Word to your mother.” Haha. Ross calls him a future main event player who is a top prospect. Cena’s wrestling in jeans. It’s Team Angle member Charlie Haas at #19, who comes in on fire except he doesn’t really eliminate anybody. Jeff Hardy jumps to the top, RVD chases him and pushes him to the floor to eliminate him. Eddie hits a great hurricanrana on Jericho. It’s Rikishi at #20 as JR mentions that he’s in his 8th Rumble. If you’re counting other gimmicks for him then he is because he had a few different incarnations over the years. Anybody miss The Sultan? No? Okay. Rikishi knocks everybody down with kicks and then has a showdown with Rosey who is a part of that huge Samoan family tree that exists in wrestling. Rosey helps him take down Matt and Moore, who was interfering, but then Rosey turns on Rikishi with a clothesline.

The #21 spot belongs to Jamal, who we would later know as Umaga. He goes after Rikishi, but he eats a kick and so does Rosey. Rikishi hits a Stinkface on Jamal, which is the way we all should treat our family members (they are cousins). Jericho eliminates RVD, but he hangs on. You know it’s a big name because they go to a wide camera shot as Kane graces us at #22. The ring is full of people, so Kane attacks everybody. He’s still in mask wearing mode, by the way. He eliminates Rosey with a backdrop. Double chokeslam on Matt and Moore. Jericho barely hangs on again. Shelton Benjamin gets the #23 spot as Team Angle does some double teaming. Matt Hardy avoids elimination too. The ring is getting pretty full while nothing major is happening. It’s Booker T at #24, who was now a babyface getting a good pop. He hits the Scissors Kick on Kane. Flapjack to Matt Hardy leads to a Spinarooni. Booker eliminates Eddie with a backdrop. He goes to work on Rikishi. Cena hasn’t done a whole lot in the match. It must be the jeans fault. It’s A-Train at #25 as JR throws in the usual comment about his head size being 8 and 3/8. He loves saying that. A-Train hits his power moves on three of the guys, but never eliminates anybody. Jericho saves himself from Rikishi with an eye rake. Here comes a bloody Shawn Michaels to go after Jericho. Others jump in to help Jericho. Test boots Jericho in the gut and throws Jericho out. Of all people to throw him out they pick Test? Michaels uses the ropes to propel himself over the top, crashing onto Jericho on the floor.

We’ve got Maven in the #26 spot as the announcers reference the fact that he eliminated Undertaker the year before. Kane beats on him with punches. By my count there are 13 guys in the ring right now. The #27 spot belongs to Goldust, who hits a nice powerslam on Benjamin. He hits the Shattered Dreams kick on A-Train. Goldust goes after Benjamin, so Haas clubs him from behind to get Goldust out of the match. Team Angle works together to stomp Booker T out of the ring. It’s a 317 pound Animal at #28 Batista, who is a heel. JR goes over his size as he drills Cena with a clothesline. Those two might have a bright future. He looks so awkward with that much hair. Test hits a Full Nelson slam on Batista. Test tries to boot Batista out, but Batista hangs on and Test falls out. Sorry Testicles – that’s the name of Test’s fans. Batista hits an awkward spear on Benjamin and then he clotheslines Rikishi out. Here Comes The Pain at #29 Brock Lesnar, who is making his Rumble debut and he’s a babyface now after being a heel for much of his 2002 debut year. Team Angle tries to throw Lesnar out, but Brock throws them out at the same time. Lesnar hits the F5 finisher on Matt Hardy to eliminate him. Wow that was an awesome move and bump as Hardy crashed onto Team Angle on the floor. The #30 spot belongs to The Undertaker, who is back to being a babyface after I enjoyed his heel character so much in 2002. He got taken out by Big Show, so this was a return. When doesn’t he make returns?

He goes right after Cena and eliminates him. Cena didn’t have an impact in this match at all. Undertaker clotheslines Jamal out of there. Maven dropkicks Undertaker in the back like he did the year and he celebrates. He doesn’t eliminate him this time. Big chokeslam for Maven. He gets thrown out by Undertaker. A-Train hits the A-Train Bomb on Undertaker. Kane hits a chokeslam on Lesnar as we have five big dudes left plus RVD. He hits spin kicks on A-Train and Batista. Kane and RVD team up to clothesline A-Train out of there. Kane goes to press slam RVD on Batista, but he changes his mind and throws RVD out.

Final four are Undertaker, Kane, Batista and Lesnar. Big guys only, fella. It’s a hoss-fest! Double clothesline spot by Batista and Kane. Now it’s time for a Lesnar-Undertaker showdown. They had a feud in the autumn of 2002 when Lesnar beat Undertaker in a very good Hell in a Cell match. Batista hits a spinebuster on Undertaker in an impressive move. The crowd’s not reacting to Batista much at all. Lesnar hits an overhead belly to belly and a F5 on Kane. The F5 is one of my favorite finishers ever. Undertaker gets the big boot on Lesnar. Brock nearly eliminates Undertaker, but he hangs on. Undertaker hits a Tombstone on Lesnar that looked sloppy. Undertaker clotheslines Batista out. Undertaker pulls Kane up to his feet as JR didn’t think we’d see them working together again. Kane walks in front of Undertaker, Taker grabs him by the neck and throws him out. Batista comes in with a chair, but Undertaker avoids it. Stiff chair shot to Batista’s head. Lesnar sneaks in from behind, picks up Undertaker by the legs and dumps him out for the win.

Winner: Brock Lesnar

The match ended at 53:41.

FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS

– It felt very average a lot of the way and didn’t have the same excitement that the last three Rumbles (all very good to great matches) had. The winner was pretty obvious like a lot of the Rumbles are, but having more than 10 guys in the ring for as much as they did really slowed down the action to the point that it hurt the match a bit.

– The finish was weak. It would have been nicer to see Lesnar knock out Undertaker with some power move rather than a cheap elimination after a heel tries to cheapshot Undertaker. I guess it’s typical WWE booking in that they want to protect Undertaker, but at this time you were banking your future on Lesnar. He should have been more impressive.

– It’s interesting to see Cena and Batista before they were stars. I don’t even remember Batista in this match. You could tell they were high on him if they booked him into the final four this early into his career.

– I’m pretty sure this is the first Rumble ever to reference a swollen penis. Thanks Cena.

– The Maven/Undertaker spot was a lot of fun because of what happened the previous year. Well done.

 

FACTS & OPINIONS

Person that lasted the longest: Chris Jericho at 38:54.

Most Eliminations: Chris Jericho with 6.

Best Performers (3): Chris Jericho – Easily the best. His near eliminations were great, the attack on Michaels early was fantastic, he had the most eliminations and he was in the ring the longest. Star of the match by far.

Rob Van Dam – He was in second longest at 33 minutes and did a good job bringing energy to the match.

Brock Lesnar – Impressed by his power as always.

Best Elimination: Brock Lesnar hitting the F5 on Matt Hardy to eliminate him.

Match Rating: ***1/4 A good match, but I liked the previous three better. You can tell their booking for these matches got a lot better as we entered into the 2000s.

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The 17th Royal Rumble is the one WWE doesn’t want you to remember. Why? Chris Benoit. Yep. I said the name. It’s arguably the most infamous name in the history of the company due to the double murder suicide that occurred in the summer of 2007.

I thought long and hard about what I’d do once I get to the 2004 Rumble because it’s tough for me. Benoit was one of my favorite wrestlers ever. Since the murder, though, that changed. I’m not here to debate his mental state or anything like that. That’s up to you to decide on your own.

What I’m going to do is present the Rumble match to you as I’ve done for the past 16 Rumbles. I actually wrote this one live in 2004, so I’m using that copy. No re-watch. As a result I don’t do too much of the heel-face designation, but hopefully you can figure it out as you go along. Let’s get to it.

WWE Royal Rumble
January 25, 2004
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The announcers are Jim Ross of Raw and Tazz of Smackdown. I was excited about this team because I thought Tazz had surpassed Lawler by this point. The intervals are back to 90 seconds.

As we know, Chris Benoit is #1. Randy Orton is #2. Benoit stomps him down in the corner. Snap suplex by Benoit. Orton fights out with kicks and forearms. He stomps Benoit in the gut while he’s in the corner. Hard lockup. Knee to the ribs by Benoit. #3 is Mark Henry. Benoit’s trying to toss Orton out. Henry comes in, going after Benoit with headbutts. He stomps Orton down in the corner. Benoit chops on Henry, but he shrugs him off. Orton gets decked by Henry. Tazz says Big Show is his pick. Benoit stomps on Henry in the corner. Henry & Benoit fight in the corner while Orton waits. #4 is Tajiri. Orton gets kicked all over by him. Handspring elbow on Orton. Two German suplexes by Benoit. Orton goes to throw out Henry in the corner. Henry tries to toss Orton, but he hangs on. They pair off with Benoit and Tajiri and Orton and Henry. #5 is Bradshaw. He gets clotheslines on Orton, Henry and Tajiri. Benoit reverses a clothesline into the crossface. Bradshaw ties to toss him out, but Benoit holds on and Bradshaw falls out. Benoit eliminates Bradshaw.

In the #6 spot is Rhyno. Rhyno comes after Benoit. Tajiri kicks at Henry. He gets the Tarantula on Mark Henry, with only one leg. Meanwhile, Rhyno gores Henry and that sends Tajiri out. Cool spot. Benoit charges at Henry, shoving him out of the ring. Huge pop for that. Rhyno and Orton double Benoit, but he holds on. Replay showed that Tajiri used his mist. With Benoit, Orton and Rhyno in the ring, #7 is Matt Hardy. He goes after everybody. Side effect on Rhyno. Benoit tosses Hardy, but he hangs on. Rhyno with a shoulder tackle to Hardy in the corner. JR and Tazz are awesome together as a team. #8 is Scott Steiner. Steiner clotheslines all four people in the ring. T-Bone Suplex on Orton. Side belly-to-belly suplex to Benoit. T-Bone suplex to Rhyno. Benoit reverses a suplex on Steiner, hitting two German suplexes on him. JR notes that there are no former Rumble winners in this match. First time ever for that. Orton’s almost out, but holds on. #9 is Matt Morgan. JR calls him a blue-chipper. Didn’t take long. Six in the ring now. He decks Matt Hardy with a big boot. Steiner suplexes Rhyno. JR called him a hoss. Took 30 seconds! Hardy tries to throw out Steiner. Rhyno helps him with that, but Morgan breaks that up. Rookie mistake, the announcers say. #10 is the Hurricane. Hurricane comes in with cross body blocks on just about everybody. Morgan catches him and tosses him off his shoulders all the way to the floor. Impressive. Morgan almost throws Hardy out. It was close, but he hangs on.

There’s Booker T at #11, who JR notes is a favorite. Steiner goes at him, exchanging blows. There’s seven in the ring now. Booker gets a scissors kick on Orton. Morgan chops down Benoit. Booker gets a big kick to the jaw of Steiner. #12 is Kane. Steiner just got eliminated although we never saw it. Replay shows that it was Booker. Kane gets a chokeslam on Benoit. Morgan’s powerbomb on Kane is reversed to a backdrop. Chokeslam on Morgan. Sidewalk slam on Hardy. Rhyno’s gore is blocked with a big kick. RKO by Orton is reversed to a chokeslam by Orton. Kane has dominated everybody. #13 sounds and it’s the Undertaker’s music. Booker goes up from behind Kane, eliminating him by tossing him out. #13 is really Spike Dudley. Kane chokeslams him on the steel ramp way before Spike could ever come down. No sign of Undertaker. Benoit tries to throw Hardy out. There’s six in the ring now, trying to throw eachother out and Spike’s in the aisle, still technically in the match. #14 is Rikishi. Rhyno charges at Benoit, who sends Rhyno out over the top with a backdrop. Rhyno is out. Stinkface on Matt Morgan. The six in the ring now are Benoit, Orton, Hardy, Booker, Morgan and Rikishi. Spike Dudley should be in too, but he’s not even on the ramp anymore. Not much going on. They’re just trying to toss eachother out. #15 is Rene Dupree. Hardy goes for a Twist of Fate, but it’s reversed. Dupree suplexes Hardy on the top rope and knocks out Hardy. Dupree does his dance. Rikishi hits a sidekick to send Dupree out. I marked out for that dance a little bit.

A-Train is #16, the sixth man in the ring. Benoit eliminates Matt Morgan as they are brawling in the corner. As Rikishi is trying to eliminate A-Train, Orton throws out Rikishi. He quickly throws out Booker T. soon after. A-Train works on Benoit in the corner. There’s only three in the ring now. Shoulderblock by A-Train on Benoit. #17 is Shelton Benjamin. Benoit backdrops A-Train out of the ring. Benoit and Orton are on a roll. That’s the story so far. Benjamin is working on Orton. Sidekick misses Orton, crotching Benjamin on the top. Orton throws him out. It’s just Benoit and Orton in there now. Their heads collide, sending them both down as the next entrant comes. The Cat’s butler introduces #18 Ernest Miller. Nobody cares. Especially me. While Benoit and Orton are still down, The Cat dances. No reaction the entire time. Tazz is hilarious, though, as he sings the theme song. Benoit tosses Lamont the butler. Orton tosses The Cat. They got pops for that. Can’t blame the crowd. Why is The Cat employed? JR says that The Cat will have plenty of time to call his momma now. #19 is Kurt Angle. He goes after Orton. Benoit clotheslines him down twice. Chops on Angle by Benoit. Benoit charges. Angle decks him with a big clothesline. Suplex by Angle. Angle goes to lift Benoit out, but he’s hanging on. Orton attacks Angle from behind. #20 is Rico. Rico comes in working on Orton, kicking him down. Angle is trying to toss Benoit on the other side. In the middle, Benoit hits three German suplexes on Angle. Orton gets the RKO on Rico. He picks him up on his shoulders and tosses him. Benoit to the top for the headbutt on Angle. Angle pops up, crotching Benoit. He can’t toss him.

The #21 entrant is supposed to be Test. He never comes out. Orton gets the RKO on Angle. Test is shown backstage laying on his back. Austin shows up, yelling at somebody that they are the 21st entrant now. We never see who it is. Car Crash! Mick Foley is #21! Orton looks shocked. He’s got the flannel! They meet in the middle, exchanging blows. Foley pounds him in the corner. Orton is hanging on the ropes. Foley with the Cactus clothesline sending Orton and himself out. Benoit & Angle are alone in the ring. On the outside, Foley tosses him headfirst into the steps. Foley chokes Orton with a cord on the outside. #22 is Christian. He’s beating him up out there. He picks up the steel steps, hitting an official. Orton comes back at him with chair shots. One shot to the knee and one to the face. Orton beats him up down the aisle, slamming the back of Foley’s head on the steel. Foley fights back with a punch to the back. Clothesline on the ramp. They haven’t shown the in-ring action since then. #23 is Nunzio. Foley gives him the Socko Mandible Claw for some reason. Orton kicks Foley in the nuts. Foley and Orton head to the back. Awesome brawl with them. Crowd was nuts for Foley, with good reason.

In the ring, Christian and Benoit are trying to throw Angle out. Nunzio is on the floor, saying he doesn’t want to win. Benoit’s been in for almost 40 minutes now. Angle comes back out, German suplex on Christian and one on Benoit. Nunzio is still on the floor, not going in the ring yet. Angle can’t throw out Christian. Benoit is opening up on Angle. #24 is the Big Show, Tazz’s pick for the winner. Benoit’s working over Christian in the corner. Show goes after Angle, knocking him down with a kick. Chops on Christian, then one for Benoit. He pounds on all three guys in the ring. Big hiptoss on Christian. #25 is Chris Jericho. He goes after Angle. He and Christian double team on Angle. Big Show grabs them, head butting them both at the same time. Another headbutt on Jericho. Christian jumps on his back. Now all four gang up on Show. Tazz says he might go because the Smackdown guys (Benoit & Angle) are helping. Show fights all of them off. Angle & Jericho exchange blows.

There’s Charlie Haas in the #26 spot. Jericho & Christian give a double suplex to Haas. Nunzio is still on the floor. Jericho and Christian toss Benoit, but he hangs on. Jericho turns on Christian, but Jericho holds on. He backdrops Christian out to the floor, eliminating him. #27 is Billy Gunn with no reaction. Fameasser on Angle. Fameasser on Jericho. Fameasser on Big Show. Impressive, but he still sucks. They show Nunzio on the floor again. In the ring are Benoit, Angle, Jericho, Big Show, Haas and Gunn, as well as Nunzio who is on the floor. Benoit gets a German suplex on Jericho. #28 is John Cena, wearing a hometown Philadelphia Phillies jersey, who comes out to one of the bigger pops. Show is waiting for him. Cena sees Nunzio on the ground. He tosses him in. Show chops Cena hard in the chest. Nunzio tries to throw out Show, but he eats a chop to the back instead. Cena’s firing away on Big Show. Big Show is getting doubled by Gunn and Nunzio. Cena & Jericho teaming on Show. #29 is Rob Van Dam. One more left after this. RVD opens up on Big Show with a dropkick. Spinkick for Jericho. Everybody’s paired off. Cena gets the FU on Kurt Angle. He can’t toss him out, however. #30 is Bill Goldberg, as we know. This is it.

Goldberg gets a spear on Big Show. Spear on Billy Gunn. Punch to Angle, Jericho, RVD and a slam to Haas. Nunzio jumps on his back. Goldberg tosses Haas out with Nunzio on his back. He slams Nunzio down. He gets the spear on Nunzio. Goldberg clotheslines Billy Gunn out. Press slam on Nunzio by Goldberg, so he’s out. Show is going for a Jackhammer on Show. Brock Lesnar comes in out of nowhere and gives Goldberg the F5 to HUGE heat. Goldberg says “You’re next you son of a bitch.” Angle comes up from behind Goldberg, tossing him out. There’s six left. Benoit, RVD, Angle, Jericho, Show and Cena. Cena, Angle, Jericho, Benoit and RVD all gang up on Big Show. He tosses them all off. He clotheslines them all down. Headbutt to Jericho. Slam to Cena is prevented by Angle with a chop block. Jericho with a Lionsault on Show. RVD with a frog splash on Big Show. Cena with a five-knuckle shuffle drop. Benoit with a headbutt. Great sequence of spots. Angle orders them to toss out Show. All five of them can’t even lift him. Show shoves them out. He tosses Cena out over the top, eliminating him. Van Dam tries to monkey flip Big Show out of there. Show blocks him, sending him out.

Final four are Benoit, Angle, Jericho and Big Show. Show tosses Jericho, but he skins the cat, hanging on just barely. Another attempt by Show is blocked by Jericho. Jericho comes back with a bulldog off the middle rope. Jericho gets the Walls of Jericho on Big Show. He taps. Doesn’t matter though. Jericho is trying to toss Angle. Show slams down Benoit, then goes after Jericho. Chokeslam on Jericho to the floor! Jericho is out. That was huge. Show takes down Angle and hits Benoit with a chokeslam. The final three are all Smackdown people, Tazz notes. Angle’s German suplex doesn’t work on Show. He does get an Angle Slam, however. Benoit goes after Angle. He eats an Angle Slam. Show is up with a chokeslam, but Angle rolls through into the ankle lock. Show gets ropes. Angle doesn’t let up. Show is standing up in the ankle lock. He uses his momentum to flip Angle out over the top. Awesome elimination there. Very unique. The final two are Big Show and Chris Benoit.

Show is on the apron, leaning over the top rope with his head in the middle of the ring. Benoit to the top. He gets a headbutt on Show while he’s leaning over. Sick spot there. Benoit’s been in there for exactly one hour now. He charges, but Show gets a goozle on the throat. Benoit reverses to the crossface. Show taps again. That’s the third time now. Doesn’t matter. Show gets to his feet, dropping Benoit down on his side. Crowd is waiting for something to happen. Show gets up first, onto one knee. Show picks him up in the press slam position. Benoit fights out of it, grabbing him in a headlock. Benoit’s on the apron while Show is in the ring. He pulls him, pulls him, pulls him and Big Show falls out. Chris Benoit wins.

Winner: Chris Benoit

The match ended at 61:30.

 

FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS

– This match did a tremendous job of elevating Chris Benoit to the next level, which is what it needed. I think the best Rumbles are the ones where the winner is somebody that hasn’t been at that main event level before and all they need is the push of the Rumble to get there. It told the story well of Benoit overcoming the odds to get the victory in the end. He started the match, he carried the match and he won it with heart at the end.

– They really did a nice job booking Orton heel. He wasn’t even in the previous year’s Rumble, but by this point, they had started to really push him. The Foley angle was really hot and would lead to a fantastic feud that went into WrestleMania and Backlash. He was the story of the first half of the match with Benoit. He did very well. Later in the year, he’d become the youngest World Champion in company history.

– The Lesnar/Goldberg thing was a huge deal. We had heard rumblings of a feud starting between them and they touched on it a bit before the match too. Little did we know that two months later they’d have the match at WrestleMania that would be the last time either guy wrestled in WWE? I marked out huge when Lesnar attacked Goldberg with the F5, though.

– Big Show’s elimination of Angle was fantastic. I remember thinking at the time that they’d have the Benoit/Angle showdown since Benoit didn’t beat Angle in the feud they had a year earlier (a fantastic match at the 2003 Rumble). It would have been nice to see that, but Benoit using all of his strength to get rid of Show was a fantastic visual too. He literally dragged him out.

– I really didn’t like Ernest Miller, but Tazz singing his song was a fantastic moment. What? I had nothing else to add.

 

FACTS & OPINIONS

Person that lasted the longest: Chris Benoit at 61:30

Most Eliminations: Chris Benoit with 6.

Best Performers (3): Chris Benoit – Clearly the star of the match.

Randy Orton – Looked good for the majority of it and the brawl with Foley was well done too.

Big Show – He was awesome as the big man monster here.

Best Elimination: Benoit eliminating Show at the end is one of the best finishes to a Rumble ever.

Match Rating: ***1/2 A very good Rumble, but due to dragging at some points it kept it from being great.

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The 18th Royal Rumble saw the dawning of a new era in WWE as guys like John Cena and Batista, both of whom were entering their third Rumbles, were ready to break though to that main event level. There was also Edge, who was back to being a heel and had the WWE machine backing him on his way up the card too.

What’s interesting about this PPV is that they actually pushed the brand extension hard. It made it feel fresh because when a Raw guy went after a Smackdown guy it felt different. I miss those days. Before we get to the actual match, let’s re-live the amazing commercial they did to promote it.

Amazing. Why can’t they do funny things like that every year?

 

WWE Royal Rumble
January 30, 2005
Fresno, California

The announcers are Jim Ross of Raw and Tazz of Smackdown. The intervals are at about 90 seconds.

The #1 entrant is Eddie Guerrero, who is a former WWE Champ and #2 entrant is Chris Benoit, who is a former World Champ. When I watched this live in 2005 I marked out for this. Today it’s eerie seeing these two start it out. They did some mat wrestling early on as part of the feeling out process. Both of them are faces. It’s $1 million Tough Enough winner Daniel Puder at #3, who beat out The Miz to win that competition. If you’re wondering he never got paid $1 million. It was something where he had to work there for a few years to get all that money, which did not happen. He walks in the ring, then he immediately bails to the floor. He grabs the microphone to say he’ll be the first Tough Enough champion to win the Rumble. Guerrero and Benoit team up to chop Puder in the chest repeatedly and they follow that up with a double suplex. High angle suplex by Benoit as Eddie hits the Three Amigos suplex. Hardcore Holly is #4, who is a heel that hates rookies. Holly chops Puder as hard as he possibly can. They all take turns chopping Puder. Holly stretches him over the ropes and low blows him. Alabama Slam by Holly on Puder. Holly throws out Puder. That was an entertaining few minutes. Benoit and Guerrero team up to throw Holly out. #5 is The Hurricane, who immediately gets double teamed by Guerrero & Benoit. Eddie tries to turn on Benoit, but he can’t eliminate him. Nice neckbreaker by Helms on Guerrero. Benoit throws Hurricane in and Guerrero backdrops him out of the ring leaving us with Eddie & Chris again.

The Bronze Warrior Kenzo Suzuki is #6. He was a bad worker who I never enjoyed watching on Smackdown. They double team Suzuki, but now Benoit tries to throw out Eddie, who hangs on. Edge is #7 and in heel mode here as an egomaniac. He wasn’t yet a World Champion or Rated R, but he’d get there. Earlier in the show he beat Shawn Michaels in a singles match. Big pop for #8 Rey Mysterio as we have four elite workers in the ring now along with Kenzo Suzuki, who just doesn’t belong. Rey eliminates Kenzo with headscissors. Thanks for that Rey. They mention the Eddie/Rey problems that were starting, which would lead to a long feud later in the year. It’s Intercontinental Champion Shelton Benjamin at #9 to a pretty good pop. The five guys in the ring are some of the best workers in the company at the time of the match. Benoit’s trying to eliminate Rey, so Eddie goes after Benoit for fun too. Rey gets headscissors on Mysterio as Benoit nearly gets Mysterio out. Here’s Booker T coming out in the #10 spot as Tazz mentions Booker T main evented WrestleMania with HHH. It was the 2003 Mania where he lost to HHH in the middle of the show – not really the main event. Eric Bischoff, the Raw GM, comes out cheering for Edge because he’s a Raw guy.

Here’s a big pop for #11 Chris Jericho as we get another elite worker into the match. Lots of quality in the ring, folks. Huge “Y2J” chant starts up as Jericho hits a suplex on Edge. Here comes Smackdown GM to cheer on the Smackdown guys. This came at a time when they actually pushed the brand extension and being exclusive to your brand. The big man Luther Reigns is #12, who is a heel that was associated with Kurt Angle in 2004. We’ve got 8 guys in the ring right now as the Raw guys go on one side while the Smackdown guys go on the other side. And the crowd loves it. This is when they cared about the brand extension and it showed. They all pair off and nobody gets eliminated. Huge heel heat for #13 Muhammad Hassan, who is hated by the crowd. He comes out with Daivari who is his spokesman. Everybody in the ring stops to look at Hassan. The crowd chants “USA” at him. All eight guys in the ring circle him as he does his bow. He’s got an uncomfortable look on his face while they beat on him. This was a classic moment. Rey hits the 619, then they all put him up on their shoulders and together they throw him out of the match. The crowd loved it. Orlando Jordan is #14, who is a heel that was the Chief of Staff of JBL’s cabinet on Smackdown. Benjamin nearly eliminates Jericho, but Chris is able to hang on. Turn it up for #15 Scotty 2 Hotty. He is not a threat to win, but he is dancing like always. In the aisle way Hassan attacks Scotty from behind. He puts him in the camel clutch as the refs yell at him to stop. Scotty’s laid out on the floor. He never entered the match. He also never got officially eliminated!

We have Charlie Haas coming in the #16 spot. He was on Smackdown here. Booker eliminates Reigns and Jordan with successive clotheslines. Booker hits the Spinarooni, then Mysterio dropkicks him into Eddie, he ducks and Booker goes flying out. Nice T-Bone suplex by Benjamin on Mysterio. Rene Dupree with Fifi the dog is in the #17 spot. He comes out with the French flag, which draws instant heat because we’re trained that foreigners are evil. Haas sets up Dupree on the ropes, then Benjamin spots it and they do their tag team spot together for a nice moment. Benjamin charges in on Edge, he moves, so Shelton jumps onto the top and Edge ends up shoving him out. Our eighth man in the ring is #18 Simon Dean. JR’s reaction? “Oh for God’s sake.” This was a brutal comedy gimmick in case you didn’t know. He’s a workout guru, so before he enters the ring he does some working out on the floor. Mysterio takes down Eddie with a facebuster, so Edge picks him up and throws out Eddie to huge heel heat. Then he does the Eddie dance! That was funny. Simon is doing the most awkward pushups on the floor as he finally gets in. Here’s a big babyface pop for #19 Shawn Michaels. He goes right after Edge. Then he notices Simon Dean and clotheslines him out of the ring to get rid of him. It’s a shame Eddie Guerrero got eliminated right before Shawn got in there. That was one of my dream matches. Michaels eliminates Haas with a backdrop. I mark out huge for #20 Kurt Angle to huge heel heat. He stole Nunzio’s spot. German suplex on Benoit, belly to belly on Rey, German on Jericho, Angle Slam on Edge. Angle Slam on Dupree. Angle Slam to Michaels…no…Superkick…no, Ankle Lock but Michaels rolls out of it, he hits the Superick on Kurt and that eliminates him. I marked out so hard for this. You have no idea. My two favorites in the business at the time and they never had a match to this point. I was going nuts here.

The #21 man is not a threat to win, Jonathon Coachman. He was a heel assistant to Eric Bischoff as Tazz mocked him on his way in there. He hits Benoit in the back and then runs away, hugging the bottom rope. Jericho eliminates Rey, so Rey counters by putting him in a headscissors. They both hang on. It’s Mark Jindrak at #22. As soon as he gets in there, Kurt Angle follows. He picks up Michaels, dumps him over the top and Michaels is eliminated. Kurt gets the ring steps, hits Michaels in the face and Shawn ends up bleeding. He puts Michaels into the Ankle Lock as I mark the fuck out because I knew at this moment they were doing Michaels-Angle at WrestleMania. I had heard whispers going into the match, but after I saw that I knew. It was the match I most wanted to see. It was one that delivered the goods too. It’s Viscera at #23, who officially enters with THREAT TO WIN status as he does every year. Not a whole lot happens with Viscera’s entrance. It’s Paul London, an exciting babyface at #24. Dupree does the French Tickler dance, so Jericho throws him out and then he does the French Tickler dance too. That was fun. The next entrant is on us pretty quick. A huge babyface pop for #25 John Cena, the US Champ, who was still on the Smackdown brand and wasn’t a World or WWE Champ yet. His shirt says “Ruck Fules” because he’s a rebel like that. I’m reminded that I liked his old theme song a lot. Viscera charges at Cena, so John dips the shoulder and dumps him out of there. That was impressive. Mysterio hits the Bronco Buster on Coachman.

It wasn’t my fault at #26 is Gene Snitsky. London jumps on his back to choke him out, they fight on the apron and Snitsky drills him with a clothesline as London bumps face first. That was amazing. It looked painful as hell, but it was an awesome visual. It’s Kane at #27 in babyface mode as he goes after Snitsky. They show London getting taken out on a stretcher. Kane chokeslams Edge, Benoit, Cena, Jericho and Mysterio. Then he throws out Jindrak. Coach attacks him in the back. Big mistake, but Snitsky breaks that up as Coach goes back to hugging the bottom rope. Snitsky hits the Pumphandle Slam on Kane. A massive pop for Batista at #28, who is a babyface of course. He clotheslines Snitsky out of there. Showdown with Kane as JR says he likes it. A “Batista” chant starts because he was getting really popular due to the angle with HHH that was really well done. Batista Bomb on Kane. He catches Jericho and press slams him out of the ring. Edge avoids a near elimination. Captain Charisma Christian is #29 along with his Problem Solver Tomko. He goes after Cena because they had a rap-off earlier in the show that was fantastic. JR keeps talking about Cena’s Ground & Pound offense. Cena hits the FU/Attitude Adjustment on Kane to eliminate him. That was very cool. Too bad there were better eliminations or that would have been the best. WOO for #30 Ric Flair, who was in heel mode here. He wants to work with Batista, who was still in Evolution, but he was turning. Flair eliminates Coach.

Batista hits a spinebuster on Christian, then he press slams him out of the ring where he goes crashing into Tomko. Benoit starts chopping away with Flair. Batista saves him, hitting a Spinebuster on Benoit. Flair throws Benoit out after he lasted nearly 48 minutes. During the celebration Flair tries to throw out Batista. Then he begs off as if to say he didn’t mean to. Rey and Edge dropkick Batista. We have five guys left. Edge hits a spear on Flair and throws him out.

Final four as each guy goes into a corner: Edge, Rey, Cena and Batista. Batista misses a clothesline as Edge hits a spear on him and Cena. Rey gets a 619 on Edge. Edge counters some more offense, nearly throws out Rey, he holds on and Edge spears Rey out to eliminate him. Then like a dumbass Edge charges in against Cena & Batista on the ropes and they double backdrop him out. We’re down to Cena & Batista, both of whom have more hair then you’re used to. Both of whom were the favorites in this match as JR calls it a dream matchup. Who’s going to WrestleMania? Who’s going to headline? Cena goes for the FU, but Batista fights out. He goes for the Batista Bomb, Cena’s momentum takes them both into the ropes, Cena flips over and Batista goes over as well. They fall out at the exact same time.

The Raw ref Jack Doan says Batista wins, but the Smackdown ref Jimmy Korderas says John Cena won. Here comes Vince McMahon, he throws his jacket down, he’s angry, he slides into the ring and he TEARS HIS QUAD as he tries to get up. He sits on the ground, leaning against the bottom rope. It’s so awkward to see Vince sitting there like that, yet it has me laughing so hard. Batista throws Cena out and then Cena throws Batista out. None of it counts. The Fink says over the microphone that the match will restart. I guess Vince told one of the refs.

They go for finishers, but neither guy gets it, Batista hits the Spinebuster and then he throws Cena out.

Winner: Batista

The match ended at 51:27.

The actual finish was supposed to see Batista hold on when Cena tried to eliminate him, which would give Batista the win. Since Batista was unable to do it, it led to the tie finish and then the impromptu restart.

FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS

– Going into the match you knew Batista or Cena was winning. That’s fine. It was the right call as both guys were ready for the main event level based on the crowd reactions they were getting. It didn’t hurt the match. The match was filled with some of the best workers in company history. Instead of filling it with big guys they filled it with the gifted workers. As a result you have one of the better Rumbles. I’m not really sure what was supposed to happen with the finish, but what they did worked out fine.

– Like I wrote in the write-up the Angle-Michaels stuff was amazing to me. Two of the best guys in the business going at it for the first time ever. They’re also two of the best ever whether you like them or not. I loved how they had no issue going in, yet going out of the match they were rivals that would have the best feud of 2005 (at least to me). I literally marked out for everything they did. It was my genuine love for the business because these two embodied everything that I loved about wrestling.

– They put Edge in the spot of the “guy we want to make a star even though he doesn’t win.” There must be a shorter name for it. I don’t know. That was him, though. He really came out of this match looking like more of a store. A few months later he’d win the first Money in the Bank match and his career would really take off.

– Vince tearing his quad was legendary. The story goes that when he made it backstage he tore his other quad too because he didn’t want to sell the fact that he was hurt at all. He’s crazy. How about a video tribute to the quad tear?

The music accompanying it was excellent.

– The Hassan elimination was a lot of fun. He was so hated at that time and to see everybody stop what they were doing to throw him out was one of the funnier things we’ve seen in Rumbles.

 

FACTS & OPINIONS

Person that lasted the longest: Chris Benoit at 47:26.

Most Eliminations: Batista & Edge with 5.

Best Performers (3): Edge – He lasted the second longest at 41 minutes and had a lot of good spots & eliminations. You can tell they were ready to push him.

Chris Benoit – Carried the first third of the match and did a solid job as usual.

Batista – Showed a lot of fire in winning. He really earned the push that he got.

Best Elimination: There’s two I really liked. The Snitsky clothesline on London that saw London crash on the mat face first was the best. I also loved everybody teaming up to throw out Hassan was fantastic. A great moment that the crowd loved.

Match Rating: **** An excellent Rumble. There were a lot of good workers in there to carry it and they did a great job. Lots of fun eliminations too. Third best ever to this point.

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That’s all for now. Thanks for reading.