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The WWE Royal Rumble match reviews continue into the second half of the 2000s with three first time winners, all of whom are slam dunk, no doubt future WWE Hall of Famers.

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

The 19th Royal Rumble came a few months after the death of former WWE Champion Eddie Guerrero. It was a tough period for WWE and its fans because Eddie was such a beloved figure who was a top star for the company upon his death. Due to that it made the winner a bit obvious although that didn’t make me any less excited for the Rumble.

I remember watching it with a heavy heart, but also a smile because it made me think of all the great performances Eddie gave us through the years. Let’s get to the match.

WWE Royal Rumble
January 29, 2006
Miami, Florida

Lillian Garcia is the ring announcer and she botches some of the rules, but she eventually gets it right. The intervals are at about 90 seconds for the Royal Rumble. It’s Triple H at #1 with Rey Mysterio in the #2 spot. Rey comes out in a low rider like Eddie Guerrero used to do and he wears an Eddie shirt, which he leaves on the windshield of the car. Rey was hugely over here.

30-man Royal Rumble Match

Hunter was a heel here while Rey was as popular as ever because they were mentioning the late Eddie Guerrero a lot, which only helped him in terms of popularity. The crowd chants “Eddie” fairly early. Rey hits a missile dropkick, HHH avoids it and hits a clothesline. We’ve got the fitness guru Simon Dean at #3 coming out on a segway. He works on Rey, but Rey avoids elimination. Simon thinks he’s out, wants a high five from HHH and Rey hits a seated senton leading to both of them throwing him out. Rey takes over and hits a Bronco Buster on HHH. Psicosis of the Mexicools is #4. Great worker, but he never got much of a push in WWE. He goes after Rey and hits a spinning kick on HHH, then he picks up Rey who leg drops HHH in the face. Psicosis hits a spinning facebuster on Rey. He goes for a powerbomb, Rey counters with headscissors and Psicosis gets eliminated. That was a fantastic counter. WOO for #5 Ric Flair, who is in babyface mode. He’ll party with you, but his credit card might be declined. Be warned. He had a feud with HHH to end 2005. The crowd is super hot for Flair. He goes after HHH, hitting a backdrop and all of his usual offense. HHH gets the facebuster with the knee, so Flair counters by GRABBING HIS BALLS! WOO! Hunter gives him a thumb to the eye, so Flair does one back. He walks into Hunter and HHH backdrops him out. Flair lasted about 90 seconds as we’re back to the two guys. I would have liked to see more Flair in this match.

Well it’s a Big Show at #6, who was also feuding with Triple H around this time. Rey has been chilling in the corner during all this. The story was that Triple H broke Show’s hand with a sledgehammer, yet here Show is beating on him with the right hand. He headbutts Rey, then he goes for Triple H and hits a side slam. Show hits a bodyslam and a couple of elbows to keep Triple H down. The #7 spot is The Coach, who is in his second straight Rumble. He was announcing on Raw at this point. The crowd starts a “You Suck” chant for him. He goes after Show with a punch, Show grabs him around the neck and shoves him out of the ring. Show hits a press slam on Triple H. A big pop for Bobby Lashley at #8, who was on the verge of a big push. He was undefeated here and you could tell management really wanted to move him up the card rather quickly. Show goes for a chokeslam, but Lashley avoids that and hits a backdrop on Show to put him down. He boots him out of the ring under the bottom rope. He powers Rey down and hits HHH with a shoulderblock. It’s one half of the tag champs, Kane at #9. He was the babyface partner of Big Show. He has a showdown with Lashley where neither guy goes down, so Kane just boots him in the face to knock him down. That works. Lashley hits an overhead belly to belly suplex. Lashley hits a press slam on Triple H and then he hit the Dominator on Kane. That was pretty damn awesome I have to say. The #10 guy is Sylvan, who was Smackdown’s fashion consultant at this point. This gimmick didn’t last very long. He hits Lashley from behind, which wasn’t a smart idea as Lashley eliminates him with a hip toss. Double chokeslam by Kane & Show onto Lashley. That was nice. They dump Lashley. That was an impressive 3 or 4 minutes by Lashley. Well booked. Kane and Show start brawling even though they are partners. Kane boots Show, then he chokes him, but Show chokes him back. They both pull down on the rope a bit and Triple H comes up from behind to throw Show & Kane out. We’re back to just HHH and Mysterio.

It’s Carlito from Raw in the #11 spot. He was a heel who they wanted to push, but they never totally got behind him. Rey misses a moonsault and Carlito counters him to hit the Back Stabber. Triple H eye pokes him. Carlito’s able to kick him and punch him down as we wait on the next guy. It’s babyface Chris Benoit at #12 to a big pop. Chops for everybody and a release German suplex for Rey. There’s a release German suplex for Triple H, Carlito counters one and Benoit puts him in the Crossface, which leads to Carlito tapping. Hunter throws Benoit in, who takes the bump sternum first Bret Hart style. Hunter and Benoit try to suplex eachother while Chris is on the apron, then they fight on the turnbuckle where Benoit headbutts him down and nails the flying headbutt. We’ve got Booker T. in the #13 spot. Benoit throws him out in 18 seconds even though Booker was the US Champion. Shows how much they cared about that belt. Benoit pairs off with Triple H while Carlito works on Rey. The fresher guys are working over the tired guys. Here’s Joey Mercury at #14, who comes out with Melina. It’s a shame we don’t see Melina’s entrance because she was ridiculously hot in these days with the short skirts. Mercury goes after Carlito. Benoit catches Mercury with a German suplex, but he counters with a reverse DDT. It’s Tatanka at #15, who is a surprise entrant that’s come back from the 90s. He actually hung around for a while after this. I was very shocked that they would bring Tatanka back of all people, but he did have a lot of energy at least. There are six guys in the ring as we reach the halfway point.

It’s Johnny Nitro (Morrison) at #16, also of the heel MNM tag team that were the tag champs on Smackdown at this time. Benoit nearly eliminates Hunter, but he’s able to slide back in. There’s not a whole lot going on, so the crowd starts an “Eddie” chant. We’ve got Trevor Murdoch at #17, who was not exactly a bodybuilder. Hunter goes to eliminate Rey, but he’s able to hang on once again as he hugs the bottom rope to stay in. He dropkicks Triple H to the knee and hits a seated dropkick to the face. It’s Eugene at #18 to a big pop from the crowd. He wants to shake Murdoch’s hand, but he punches him a few times and Eugene Hulks Up on Murdoch leading to the Airplane Spin. That tires Eugene out and Rey hits a double bulldog on both guys. It’s Road Warrior Animal at #19, who is immediately attacked by MNM, but he counters them with a clothesline and hits a powerslam on HHH. There are some near eliminations, but everybody’s able to stay in there. A big pop for Rob Van Dam at #20. He was out since the middle of 2005, so he was very fresh and the crowd chants “RVD! RVD!” for him very loudly. He hits kicks on everybody in the ring. Spin kick on Benoit. Double dropkick on MNM. Eugene starts clapping. Van Dam dumps Animal out.

The #21 spot belongs to Orlando Jordan, who Cole says has plenty to prove. Doesn’t everybody? The crowd chants for RVD. He gets a kick to the jaw of Carlito, who nearly gets eliminated, but he’s able to hang on. Big pop for Chavo Guerrero at #22, who was a babyface due to the death of Eddie. Big “Eddie” chants as soon as Chavo gets in there. He hits a lovely headscissors on Carlito. Vintage Eddie time as he hits the Three Amigos suplex. To the top, Chavo goes for the Frog Splash, but HHH shoves him out of the ring to huge heel heat. Oh yeah for Matt Hardy at #23, who is in babyface mode. He hits the Side Effect. Super Crazy of the Mexicools is #24. There’s not too much action here with the ring piling up. It’s getting a little too congested for my liking. Rey nearly gets Carlito out while HHH nearly gets thrown out by Hardy. A massive pop for #25 Shawn Michaels. His main feud at this time was with Vince McMahon. Murdoch charges into Michaels, but Shawn ducks and Murdoch is eliminated. Shawn hangs on when Carlito tries to throw him out.

The final five begins with Chris Masters at #26, who does his full entrance as Vince has a joygasm backstage. He comes in throwing fists. If they really wanted to push him he should have thrown multiple people out right away. Hunter’s able to hang on from a Hardy elimination attempt. The World’s Largest Love Machine Viscera is #27 as The King wonders who can throw him out over the top rope. I don’t know King except for the fact that he loses every year. But that doesn’t matter because he’s a threat to win. Samoan Drop on Hardy. Then he jumps on Hardy and does the humping to Hardy. One of the worst moves in the history of wrestling. Hardy goes for a Twist of Fate on Viscera, so Viscera picks him up and throws him out. Now Matt can have grapes. The #28 spot is Shelton Benjamin, who was in heel mode with his “momma” by his side. That gimmick didn’t work. Benoit throws out Eugene. Things are really quiet as Shelton Benjamin hits a spin kick on Triple H. Here’s a surprise at #29 in the form of Goldust. He hits the atomic drop and clothesline immediately. Triple H nearly eliminates Benjamin, but he hangs on. “Hey hey there’s nothing you can say” for Randy Orton in the #30 spot as a heel. He goes after Benoit right away and he eliminates him. RKO on Viscera. The ring is full of dudes. I can’t even count. Cole says we’re at 50 minutes now.

The team of Masters & Carlito eliminate Viscera. Then Carlito dumps out Masters because he’s evil like that. Goldust hits Shattered Dreams on Carlito although that allows RVD to spin kick Goldust out of the match. Jordan works on Orton and Orton is able to eliminate him. Michaels hits the flying forearm on Triple H and an atomic drop, but MNM saves HHH. MNM hits a double Gutbuster on Michaels. Michaels backdrops Mercury, then Nitro charges in, HBK moves, Mercury is out and HBK clotheslines Nitro out to get rid of both MNM guys in succession. Shawn turns around right into a Dragon Kick from Benjamin. There are 7 guys in the match. Right on cue Michaels eliminates Benjamin with a superkick while Benjamin is on the apron. And Benjamin goes flying. Vince McMahon’s music starts as he walks out in a suit. No running this year. Running leads to torn quads! Shane McMahon appears from behind and he throws Shawn out of the match. Then he does the Shane O Mac dance just for fun. Michaels chases Shane, HHH tries to Pedigree Shawn, but Shawn fights out and superkicks Triple H. We’ve got five left. RVD eliminates Carlito with a spin kick.

Final four: Triple H, Orton, RVD and Mysterio.

RVD boots Orton down and then along with Rey they hit a double leg drop on HHH followed by a moonsault/Rolling Thunder combo on Orton. That was sweet. RVD to the top, HHH crotches him, Rey charges and HHH propels him into RVD who gets eliminated as Rey accidentally eliminates RVD. Now it’s HHH and Orton left with Rey. They double team Rey as the announcers forecast doom for Rey. He manages to hit a double DDT on them. He dropkicks each guy a few times, showing a lot of fight. He sets up both guys for the 619 and hits it. Seated senton on Orton, but HHH comes back with a clothesline as all three guys are down. That was a really good sequence. The “Eddie” chant starts up once again. Orton hits a powerslam on HHH, which Cole now calls a scoop slam because he’s an idiot. HHH comes back with a Spinebuster on Orton. Triple H goes for a Spinebuster on Rey, but Rey hooks his legs around him and propels Triple H over the top to the floor. Great elimination. There was a huge pop for that since Triple H was the favorite. After the elimination Triple H was pissed off, so he grabs Rey and throws him into the steel steps before tossing him back into the ring. Orton, who has a head full of hair by the way, realizes Mysterio is out. He picks up Rey slowly, puts him on his shoulder, charges in and Rey hangs on to flip Orton out with a hurricanrana for the win. Fantastic finish. The match ended at 62:12.

Winner: Rey Mysterio

FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS

– The beginning was okay, the middle was below average and the ending was fantastic especially with the final three guys. They really booked it well by setting it up with Rey as the underdog against two dominant heels, yet he overcame the odds to get the win. It’s hard to book the smallest guy to go the distance and to win the match, but they did a pretty good job of it. It would have been stupid for him to eliminate 10 guys or some outrageously high number. Eliminating six was fine because it was spread out. Rey didn’t dominate. He just did enough to win.

– Hunter was excellent. You could tell the crowd believed he was going to win. He portrayed the bully well. He turned face later in 2006, so this was his last true heel run. This match actually made me want to see Hunter vs. Rey at Mania. Instead, we got Cena over Hunter in the main event (so even though Hunter lost here he really got to main event) and the Rey-Angle-Orton triple threat that was way too short for reasons I’ll never understand.

– According to WWE writer Court Bauer, Triple H was the original choice to win this match. From a Bauer interview in 2013: “It came down to Hunter or Rey winning and obviously most people were pushing for Hunter. Very few people were pushing for Rey, but the right guy was able to push that through and get it into the end zone, and that guy was Pat Patterson. Pat Patterson, Bruce Prichard and myself obviously wanted Rey to win. Pat had the most influence because he’s Pat Patterson, and really was the most influential in getting that decision and getting Rey over… But that was something that came down to the last ten days.”

In the end, it didn’t really matter because Triple H main evented WrestleMania that year in a match against John Cena as I mentioned earlier.

– The Michaels-McMahon feud was okay. I don’t think it was ever great at any point. It was just a case of Vince wanting to work with Shawn, I think. The silliness that followed with Shawn teaming with “God” was ridiculous although it set up the return of DX, which a lot of people loved.

– I was a bit sad watching this show with all the Eddie tributes. Really miss that guy.

 

FACTS & OPINIONS

Person that lasted the longest: Rey Mysterio at 62:12. That’s the all-time record.

Most Eliminations: Rey Mysterio with 6.

Best Performers (3): Rey Mysterio – They booked him like the underdog the whole way and he managed to overcome the odds. He really did a fantastic job especially at the end.

Triple H – He really did a good job of not only being the favorite in the match, but also avoiding elimination a lot of different times in a lot of different ways. An awesome 60 minute performance from The Game.

Rob Van Dam – A great comeback for RVD who showed a lot of fire in his return to action. The match really needed his energy in the final third of it.

Best Elimination: I liked Mysterio’s elimination of Triple H the best. The crowd reacted to it huge too.

Match Rating: ***3/4 The first third was pretty good, but things dragged way too much in the middle before ending in spectacular fashion.

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The 20th Royal Rumble occurred in San Antonio, Texas – the hometown of arguably WWE’s best wrestler ever: Shawn Michaels. His buddy Triple H was out with a leg injury, so Michaels went into the match as a heavy favorite.

The other favorite was The Undertaker, who had never won a Rumble match before. For this write-up, I’m using my original copy that I did in 2007 with a few small edits thrown in. I went through it, I think it covers everything very well and it’s very detailed as usual. Let’s get to it.

WWE Royal Rumble
January 28, 2007
San Antonio, Texas

The announcers for the match are Michael Cole, John Bradshaw Layfield as a heel and Jerry Lawler. The intervals are 90 seconds, or so they say.

The #1 entrant is Ric Flair, #2 is Finlay. I may be wrong, but these two are probably the oldest guys in the match. #3 is Kenny “Don’t call me Lenny” Dykstra. There’s the youngest guy. The early stages are always slow. #4 is Matt Hardy. None of these people are winning, of course. Dykstra’s close to being eliminated, but he hangs on. #5 is Edge, who immediately comes in to spear Flair and Finlay. He’s an established main event level heel now. Hardy gives him a Twist of Fate and then Kenny takes out Matt with a clothesline. Flair’s out on the floor through the bottom rope and he brings in a couple chairs. That doesn’t work. Edge tosses Flair out. Dykstra celebrates with him, so Edge tosses Dykstra out.

Tommy Dreamer is #6. Mild ECW chant starts, which explains how the fans feel about ECW by this point. The #7 man in the match is Sabu, who takes out a table and places it outside the ring because he wants to go through it. He goes for Dreamer, immediately messing up a DDT spot. That’s Sabu for ya. The #8 guy is Gregory Helms complete with the worst theme music maybe ever by saying his own name at the start of it. Could you imagine if everybody had music like that? Horrible idea. I like Helms a lot, though. He, of course, goes after Hardy. The six guys all pair off in corners of the ring, which leads me to think that a big guy’s coming in soon to clear it of some people. In at #9 is Shelton Benjamin, a favorite of mine. Too bad he’s the most underused guy on the roster. There’s the big guy I was talking about since Kane is the #10 man. Huge powerslam on Helms, chokeslam on Edge and there goes Dreamer landing on his head like always because he’s nuts. Sabu charges at Kane, Kane puts him over the top but he’s on the apron. Ooh, chokeslam through the table. Sabu is gone.

In at #11 is CM Punk, another favorite of mine. He was an ECW guy at this point and I wasn’t too thrilled about that at this point in his career. Things would get better, of course. The man at #12 is King Booker and he quickly eliminates Helms leaving seven guys in the ring. In at #13 is Super Crazy, who JBL claims worked as his doorman in New York. I love JBL the announcer. Here comes Jeff Hardy at #14 without his usual dance because he’s SERIOUS I guess. I bet he’s high, though. Got to be consistent. The Hardys work together on a bunch of people. The man at #15 is the Sandman. He canes both Hardys and Super Crazy, but Booker comes over and tosses him over the ropes. I don’t think he lasted more than ten seconds. Can we give him the Bushwhacker award for that effort?

The #16 man is Randy Orton. Orton & Edge, known as Rated RKO, quickly eliminate Super Crazy together. Orton eliminates Matt and Edge eliminates Jeff at the same time. JBL mentions how a year earlier if Orton survived a hurricanrana he’d have gone to WrestleMania last year instead of Mysterio. Of course Orton went there anyway in the same World Title match as Mysterio, so that’s not the greatest point in the world. Chris Benoit is #17 and he’s as good as anybody at being on fire with a lot of fast paced offense. Lots of German suplexes. I always wanted to see a Punk vs. Benoit feud. We never got it. #18 is Rob Van Dam as JBL mentions that six former World Champions are in the ring. There goes Booker at the hands of Kane. Booker comes back in, hits the scissors kick on Kane and then clotheslines him over the top to eliminate Kane. I guess they need to have some storylines for No Way Out. The man at #19 is Viscera. Nothing much happens as it’s time for Johnny Nitro to come in as #20. Benjamin’s holding on the bottom rope as both of his feet are barely off the floor.

There’s Kevin Thorn at #21 to make the ring even more full. I’m guessing Undertaker or Khali is soon to clear the ring now. We’ve hit the 30 minute mark now. They replayed the Benjamin spot to show how awesome he is. The #22 guy is Hardcore Holly to make it 11 guys now. JBL says he’s from LA – Lower Alabama. Everybody’s ganging up to take Viscera out. The biggest pop of the match comes for San Antonio’s own Shawn Michaels at #23. Thesz Press! Stone Cold! No, it’s still HBK. There goes Finlay (after 32 minutes) with a clothesline. Michaels superkicks Viscera, then everybody tosses the fat man out. Big back body drop for Benjamin from Michaels to send Shelton out of there. The #24 man is Chris Masters. There goes Johnny Nitro courtesy of Benoit. Rated RKO works on Michaels of course. Oooooh Chavo, here’s Chavo as #25 in the match. I like that song. Benoit takes Thorn out of the match with just five more guys left to enter the match.

In at #26 is MVP, who can finally wrestle in his regular outfit. I guess the burns are okay now. Masters gets eliminated by a dropkick from RVD. Cole mentions RVD has made the final six in all of his Rumble appearances. Stop calling people extremists! It sounds horrible. The #27 man is Carlito as Cole notes that four men have won from that number in the past, more than any other number. There are eleven guys in there. Two of the final three are Khali and Undertaker, keep in mind. The crowd goes nuts as HBK tries to hang on again. He’s by far the most over guy in this match. The man at #28 is The Great Khali while the Khali cam kicks in shooting from his feet up to his chest. LOOK AT HIS SIZE! Vince is having a joygasm backstage. Everybody in the ring stops to try to confront him. Of course they do it ninja style by going one at a time at the guy. Orton sells the best. Khali chucks out Holly. #29 is The Miz. He’s gone right away. I bet $2,000 on him. No dinner for me tomorrow! (That’s an original joke from 2007. Four years later he’s WWE Champ!) Then Khali chucks out five guys. Those that are left are Michaels, MVP, Orton, Edge and Khali. The man at #30 is The Undertaker. Nobody has ever won at #30. There’s just six left. Everybody’s dead out there except for Khali as Undertaker punches away at him. Crowd is going nuts for this, cheering for every punch. Undertaker punches him against the ropes and hits a stiff clothesline to eliminate Khali. Five left now. Old school clothesline to MVP. He gets tossed by the Deadman.

Final four are Undertaker, Edge, Orton and Michaels.

MVP gets a chair, Orton takes it from him and he drills Undertaker in the head with it. He turns his back to Edge, who goes to spear Orton. Randy turns around to almost drill him with the chair. They argue. RKO on Michaels, who falls out to the floor under the bottom rope. Rated RKO go after Undertaker, who is busted open from the chair shot. He manages to overpower them, hitting all of his clotheslines. There’s a double clothesline. Snake eyes to Edge, then the big boot. Undertaker is working his ass off tonight. Edge spears Undertaker just as he was about to chokeslam Orton. Michaels is still on the floor. Sick chair shot by Edge on Undertaker. He grabs another chair to set him up for the conchairto. Michaels back up, back body drop sends Orton out and Michaels hits a superkick to send Edge out! Michaels and Undertaker are left with each of them lying prone on the mat.

Undertaker sits up, Michaels kips up. What a cool spot and moment that was. Crowd is going nuts for all of this. Hell in a Cell #1 flashbacks! Typical big man/little guy spots here. Corner whip, HBK does his flip up to the top of the turnbuckle. Undertaker charges, Shawn ducks and the boot sends him on the apron. He fights Shawn off as they both get back in. Neckbreaker by Michaels. The final two men are the biggest in the history of WWE, according to Cole. That’s arguable and disagreeable in a lot of ways, but at least in terms of longevity they are certainly up there. Undertaker boots him down. He goes to suplex him out, but Shawn grabs a headlock on the apron. He goes up top, Undertaker follows and wants to toss him out to the floor, but that doesn’t work. Shawn ends up hitting the elbow drop. Superkick…no, Taker caught him. Chokeslam. Tombstone…no…Sweet Chin Music knocks the big guy down. Another prone on the mat spot. This is the longest final two-man spot in the history of the Rumble, I’m pretty sure. Michaels goes for the superkick, but Undertaker ducks it and lifts him over the top for the elimination. Undertaker wins the Royal Rumble for the first time in his career.

Winner: The Undertaker

Good post-match scene with Michaels looking frustrated and Undertaker nodding at him. The crowd is very appreciative of what they just saw.

The match ended at 56:18.

 

FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS

– I remember going into this Rumble not knowing what to really expect. They had advertised it as the most star studded Rumble ever although I don’t think it can really compare to the star power that existed in the 2001 or 1992 Rumbles. They ended up delivering the goods, though. All aspects of it were booked well with Edge being the guy that lasts the longest that ends up falling short, Khali getting the typical big man spots and as I will say many times the best final two spots in the history of the match. All of it led to an exceptional match.

– You can’t talk about this match without talking about the ending sequence. It was just really cool, especially if you’re any kind of WWE historian considering how much Michaels and Undertaker have meant to the company. Neither guy is the draw that an Austin, Rock or Hogan were, but their longevity and loyalty to the company set them apart from all the rest. That’s why it was a cool moment when they were the last two in the match, lying there all alone. Their one on one showdown lasted about eight minutes, which is the longest of any final showdown in Rumble history. Either guy could have taken it. Even though the fans wanted Michaels to win it in his hometown it’s not like they made a bad choice in giving it to Undertaker.

– I’ve never been a huge Undertaker fan, but it’s not like I hate the guy either. When he’s in there with the right people, like a Michaels, he’s at his absolute best. I don’t like seeing him against the big clods like Khali or Henry. He’s much better with the smaller guys that bounce off him like pinballs. Watching the 8 minutes with Michaels was a preview of the WrestleMania matches they would have at WrestleManias 25 and 26.

– As for Michaels, he was performing at a really high level. I’m pretty sure he was my WWE Wrestler of the Year in 2005 (I didn’t have official awards), then he got hurt for much of 2006 and he looked amazing here to start 2007. I remember some were bitching because the last two guys were men in their 40s that are obviously not the future of this company. Maybe they’re right, but at least on this night it felt right to see Michaels and Undertaker battle one on one. They proved they deserved it by having maybe the best finish to any Rumble ever. That’s why they got that standing ovation. They earned every bit of it.

– When I saw The Miz in this match there was no way to forecast that four years later this guy would be WWE Champion. You have to give him credit for working his ass off to get to that spot.

 

FACTS & OPINIONS

Person that lasted the longest: Edge at 44:02

Most Eliminations: The Great Khali with 7.

Best Performers (3): Edge – He was in the ring the longest, he was in there early and he dominated a lot of the action. He was at the peak of his main event powers.

Shawn Michaels – The hometown guy performed at a really high level like always. This match is typical HBK. He makes everybody better.

The Undertaker – He was the last man in and he only lasted 13 minutes, but he was absolutely on fire. He looked really healthy here, which has always been an issue for him. When he was on his game, though, he was phenomenal.

Best Elimination: Two for one as Michaels took out Orton & Edge in succession. It was a great moment that drew a massive reaction from the crowd.

Match Rating: ****1/4 Loved it. The whole match was well done with the finish being as good as any in the history of the Rumble with the epic Undertaker/Michaels showdown that was very fresh. Second best Rumble.

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

Heading into this show, I was intrigued by Chris Jericho’s return since he was one of my favorites (he wrestled JBL on this card) and of course the Rumble match itself. It’s always been a big draw to me. After this show, I was full time into WWE again. Let’s see what happened.

WWE Royal Rumble
January 27, 2008
New York, New York

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

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

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

The #11 man is Jamie Noble, who was a babyface feuding with Chuck Palumbo around this time. He was selling a rib injury. These days Noble is working backstage for WWE. Palumbo quickly boots him out of the ring to eliminate Noble rather easily. A huge pop for CM Punk at #12, who is a babyface on ECW at this point in his career. He hits running knees on everybody, but Undertaker drills him with a clothesline. Palumbo hangs on to avoid elimination, but Punk knees him out to eliminate Chuck from the match. It’s not yet Dashing Cody Rhodes at #13, who was tag team champion with Hardcore Holly here. He goes after Undertaker and puts him down with a dropkick as JR mentions we’re at the 18 minute mark. Undertaker clotheslines Rhodes down. Here’s Umaga at #14, who is a heel that was the first guy to qualify from the Rumble from Raw says JR. He immediately destroys a lot of people, eliminating Holly with the Samoan Spike. He hits the running hip splash on Batista in the corner. Michaels nearly gets eliminated again. It’s the pretty boy (not really) Snitsky at #15, who was a heel on Raw. He takes care of some people with the usual array of punches and kicks. Cody nearly eliminates Snitsky. JR mentions Morrison is like a young Shawn Michaels with the athleticism he is showing.

We’re at the halfway point of the match as The Miz comes out at #16. He was part of the tag champs (the other belts) with Morrison. They both go after CM Punk, who was an ECW rival at this point. Undertaker can’t get rid of Umaga. It’s Shelton Benjamin as The Gold Standard at #17. He jumps to the top rope as soon as he gets in the ring, ramming the heads of Morrison & Miz into the turnbuckle at the same time. He hits his finisher on Punk, then he goes against the ropes and Michaels destroys him with the Sweet Chin Music to eliminate him. He was in the ring for 18 seconds. Superfly Jimmy Snuka gets a huge pop in the #18 spot. He slowly gets out there as the crowd starts chanting for him. He chops everybody. Undertaker headbutts him, but it doesn’t hurt because one of the rules in wrestling is…say it with me kids…Samoans have stronger heads than anybody else. Another Hall of Famer at #19 is Roddy Piper to a massive pop. It’s great that they put Snuka and Piper in the Rumble in NYC because of all the history each of them had there. Piper even goes shirtless even though he’s old. He points out Snuka, who shakes his head no. They have a showdown as everybody else in the ring stops. Piper with the eye poke. Then we get our next man at #20, who is Kane from Smackdown at this point. He quickly dumps out Piper and Snuka to boos from the crowd. He delivers punches to many of them and a chokeslam on Miz. The announcers mention he’s been in every Rumble since 1999. He was in a few before that as Isaac Yankem and fake Diesel as well. We’re not allowed to remember those. Undertaker wants to get Michaels up for the chokeslam, but he gets attacked by Umaga.

The #21 spot belongs to Carlito who immediately spits his apple into Rhodes’ face. Michaels has a busted nose, by the way. Punk drops Morrison with a high kick and Carlito hits a Back Stabber on Punk while Rhodes hits a bulldog on Carlito. Another legends pop for #22 Mick Foley, who also had some legendary matches in this building (Royal Rumble 2000 versus HHH is a favorite of mine). Umaga hits a Samoan Drop on Undertaker as the ring is very full. I counted 14 with Hornswoggle also although he’s under the ring. It’s Mr. Kennedy at #23, who was a heel feuding with Michaels around this time. He hits a running boot on Rhodes, and then he hits the Mic Check on a couple of guys. Undertaker chokeslams Kennedy. Undertaker hits a running splash on a bunch of people in the corner. The ring is very full now. It’s Big Daddy V (Viscera) at #24. Meanwhile, Undertaker eliminates Snitsky and Michaels superkicks Undertaker while he’s not paying attention and there goes Undertaker out of match! That was sweet. With Michaels staring at Undertaker, Kennedy throws Michaels out of the ring. Michaels lasted 32:39 while Undertaker lasted 32:33. That was a cool way to get rid of two top guys. Cole says how angry Undertaker is because he wanted a World Title opportunity. Of course, he ended up getting one and winning the World Title in the main event of WrestleMania anyway. Undertaker took his frustration out on Snitsky, who he put through the announce table. The cameras never really showed it. Kennedy and Rhodes nearly eliminate eachother. The #25 man is Mark Henry, pre KOOL-AID~! mode. And guess what? Lawler says, “Here comes your new favorite!” Threat to win, folks. Always! Kennedy nearly dumps out Miz, who hangs on and Hornswoggle pops up to pull Miz out of the ring. The future WWE Champion got eliminated by the midget, who JR calls Hornswoggle McMahon. Now they show a replay of Undertaker dropping the leg on Snitsky on the Smackdown announce table.

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

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

Final four is Batista, Kane, Triple H and Cena. That foursome doesn’t last long because Batista & Triple H eliminate Kane together.

The three babyfaces have a big staredown with the crowd going nuts. Each guy does their signature poses to the delight of the crowd. Batista hits a back elbow on Cena and clotheslines HHH, but they come back. Then Batista clotheslines both guys. Cena boots Batista, but Batista comes back again with spinebusters for each guy. The fans boo Batista a little bit. Cena backdrops out of a Batista Bomb and Triple H hits the clothesline on Batista to eliminate him. Here’s the big showdown similar to Undertaker & Michaels the year before. Then JR says both of them can’t headline WrestleMania, only one of them can. Um, not exactly. They were part of a triple threat match for the WWE Title at WrestleMania. They each point to the WrestleMania sign as Cena reminds him that he made HHH tap out a couple of years ago. Triple H didn’t win that Rumble, yet he headlined Mania. That’s why it bugs me when they say winning the Rumble is the only way.

They start throwing punches as the crowd reacts to every punch. Cena comes back with his suplex. He even gets booed by the crowd as he hits the Five Knuckle Shuffle onto Triple H’s face. He goes for the FU (now known as the AA), HHH counters and they end up hitting a double clothesline. Cena gets a boot up. He goes for the FU, but HHH fights out of it by the ropes and drops Cena with a DDT. Hunter comes close to dumping him, but Cena fights out, he gets him on his shoulders and dumps HHH over the top with the FU to win the match. Cena points to his surgically repaired right arm in celebration.

Winner: John Cena

The match ended at 51:26.

FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS

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

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

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

– You could tell they liked Morrison more than Miz at this point. JR was especially pushing him on commentary calling him a young Shawn Michaels while Miz seemed like just another guy. That changed over the last few years huh?

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

 

FACTS & OPINIONS

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

Most Eliminations: Triple H with 6.

Best Performers (3): Shawn Michaels – Fantastic like usual.

Undertaker – Same as above.

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

Best Elimination: Michaels superkicking Undertaker out was huge because it came out of nowhere. Then Kennedy dumping Michaels immediately after was awesome.

Match Rating: ***1/4 It was pretty average. Far too many people in the ring in the middle portion of the match. It’s the most amount of people in the ring at the same time that I can remember of any Rumble in the 2000s. It was a step back from the awesome 2007 Rumble.

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That’s all for now. Thanks for reading.

 

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