I think I’m going to like this one. It’s January 29th 2007 and we’re in the AT&T Centre of San Antonio, Texas, for WWE’s Royal Rumble! Your main event tonight: the 30-man Royal Rumble match, where the winner gets a World Title match of their choosing at Wrestlemania 23.
I love the Royal Rumble. In a company where events come and go so rapidly, it can probably be considered the most long-standing tradition, if you exclude just the bigger PPV names. Think about it: what other tournament or event has the WWF be able to keep up regularly for anywhere near as long? The King Of The Ring just shows up every few years when a heel needs a gimmick. The Dusty Rhodes Classic and Money In The Bank matches jump around the calendar. The Mae Young looks like it has already been ditched. But the Royal Rumble takes place every year, at the same time of year, and has almost uniformly had the same prize. I find that captivating in its own way, and that’s before you get into the match itself which, when done right, can count itself as among the best wrestling that there is. I did watch this iteration of the event live at the time, but it was so long ago the finer details – aside from who won the Rumble of course, but that’s the kind of thing you rarely forget – escape me. It should be a good look at the Fed at the time, a few months away from the President of the United States taking the world’s worst stunner.
Pre-show package touts the beginning of the Road to Wrestlemania, and how Rumble wins are legendary in their own right.Nice package highlights how chaotic the Rumble can be, but some of the under-card also gets some love, even if there isn’t a hope they can convince me or anyone else that Mr Kennedy has a shot against Batista. We also get to see Umaga frog splash Cena through a table like he’s the sniper on the grassy knoll, but there isn’t a hope he wins either. Starting to realise why I can’t remember the under-card so well.
This is time of the three brands, so this is presented by Raw, Smackdown and ECW. In fact, we’re just a short while removed from that ECW episode I reviewed. Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawlor are here for the Raw stuff, and tout the “most star-studded Rumble ever”. Drew Carey must be outraged. JBL and Cole on commentary for Smackdown, and Joey Styles and Tazz for ECW. The last two welcome “the extremists” and boy that has not aged well. Time for out first contest.
MNM (Joey Mercury & Johnny Nitro) w/Melina vs the Hardy Boyz (Matt & Jeff)
Mercury out with a head-strap over a broken nose, the result of an infamously bad botch where he got a ladder slammed into his face by Jeff Hardy the previous month. Mercury broke his orbital bone and had to be rushed to hospital, before getting addicted to painkillers in the aftermath. He’s two months away from being future endevoured here too, pretty much as a result. These two teams have been feuding back-and-forth for a bit, using the botch as a basis, and the WWF would rather focus on that than Jeff’s IC Title run, ongoing at the time. The younger Hardy having his own substance abuse issues at the time. Makes for a somewhat wistful look back, let me tell you.
Nitro and Matt to start, with Nitro ambushing early. MNM beating down Matt, with some rapid tags, but too early for some face-in-peril stuff, so Matt gets Jeff in and he floors Mercury with a springboard drop-kick. Nitro in, Jeff with an inverted Atomic Drop followed by the leg-drop to the chest for two. Matt in for some tandem offence that the Young Bucks would later steal. Reverse suplex from Matt to Mercury, and then turns to Nitro. So many tags in this one, it hasn’t settled yet.
Matt with a swinging neckbreaker for two, but Nitro floors his opponent with a shot to the jaw, which is apparently just recovered from a dislocation. Don’t know if that’s kayfabe or not. Now we’re into face-in-peril territory, with quick tags, double-teams and sneaky shots when the ref is distracted. Some basic double-teams moves keep Matt down, and things get a bit spicy when Mercury lands a stiff-looking clothesline. Rest-hold time!
Matt eventually out of that, but a quick hair-pull floors him again. Mercury to the second rope but no-one home on an elbow drop. Hot tag to Jeff, floors Nitro with a Slingblade and a running forearm. Suplex into a facebuster for two, then Whisper In The Wind, with Mercury saving it. Whatever about his problems outside of the ring, Jeff could still go most of the time. Double-suplex on Nitro, the Hardy’s go for their top-rope leg-drop/splash combo, but knees up takes Jeff out, though the leg-drop lands. Interesting spot.
Mercury able to start working over Jeff, which goes on with some basic offence for a few minutes, and the momentum of this one drains way, even as Melina’s screams stop you from tuning out altogether. Rest-hold, and the crowd rallies behind Jeff at any rate, who almost gets a fall out of an inside cradle, but then we go straight back to the beatdown. Double knee-strike from MNM, but Matt breaks it up. Nitro in with the rest-hold’s on Jeff now, and this one is going on a few minutes too long. Hardy out with elbow shots, lengthy shoving match between the two, and eventually Jeff hits a back body-drop and gets the tag, but Mercury has the ref distracted so it doesn’t count. I am not invested enough in this feud for this level of heel fake-outery.
MNM go for another double-team, but Jeff spins Mercury into Nitro’s way, hits Nitro with that spinning one-legged drop-kick and gets the hot tag. Matt clears house, back body-drop to Nitro, elbow drop to Mercury, corner clothesline to Nitro, then a combo bulldog/clothesline to both of MNM, but only two on Nitro. Second-rope elbow to the head of Nitro for two, then MNM able to get enough room to go for their finisher but Jeff intervenes. Poetry In Motion gets the crowd going, Nitro nearly gets the win off a roll-up, Matt hits the Side Effect. This match has suddenly become awsome. Matt hits the Twist Of Fate on Nitro, Jeff with the blind tag as Matt and Mercury go outside, Swanton, and that’s all in just around 15-and-a-half.
Winners: The Hardy Brothers, Matthew and Jeffrey
Verdict: This had really slow sections, but redeemed itself when the two teams actually went hell for leather, like they can.
Backstage, the respective GM’s of Raw and Smackdown are administering the drawing of Rumble balls. The nightmare is real as I am forced to remember that Jonathan Coachman was GM of Raw at the time, while Holla Holla Teddy Long continues to head up Smackdown. No room for a GM of ECW I note. Wiki tells me they’d be without one between Heyman’s departure and Armondo Estrada getting the job seven months after this. Anyway, Coachman and Long bicker about which brand is going to win the Rumble in that obnoxious “This is one of those nights when the brands matter” kind of ways when Edge shows up to get his ball. Heel Coach greets him warmly, while he ghosts Teddy. Kelly Kelly of ECW is here to be the official tumbler of the Bingo device. Edge asks if she named herself twice so she wouldn’t forget, she fires back that “At least that is my real name”. Scintillating. I hope fans of women’s wrestling are happy with this, because it is the closest you’ll get to a female presence on this show.
Randy Orton shows up, and this is the time of Rated-RKO, and these two are the Tag Champs. An experiment that should have lasted longer. We’re in full “Every man for yourself” mode with both in the Rumble, but not so much that we can’t get a “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” joke about their chosen balls. I’m sure Randy “big-time” Orton appreciated that. King Book-ah and Sharmell also show up to jaw, but we cut back to ringside very suddenly so I think something was cut. What, was Benoit next?
Styles and Tazz, in a time when WWE was still trying to push ECW but already clearly having second thoughts, begin the weary task of justifying their presence by setting up the ECW Title match. Styles calls the upcoming bout something like “two semis” coming towards each other, and maybe that’s an accurate assessment if one of the semis has a few loose wheels. Video recap is pretty basic: Test thinks he’s better than Lashley, lost a triple-threat for the ECW Title that also featured RVD, hit Lashley over the head with the title belt, and that’s it. Title match. Only it’s not. If you look into it, Test was losing most of his matches at the time, and him being granted a title shot made little sense. Probably more a result of there being a lack of challengers on that brand.
Bobby Lashley (c) vs Test (ECW Championship)
Tazz is the most excited person in the building to see Lashley, with the Texas crowd seriously non-reactive. Lengthy lock-up to start, as Styles tries to play Test up by talking about his “experience” advantage. Lashley with the takedown as Tazz stutters over saying “Test doesn’t want to get ridden right now”. Test gets in some basic offence then walks into a T-Bone Suplex, which I haven’t seen in ages, could be a finisher. Delay vertical suplex from Lashley and Test rolls to the outside. This brand is so extreme the ref stops Lashley from leaving the ring for a minute to follow. When he does Test flings Lashley into a ringpost.
Back in, Test with an arm-lock for a bit, arm-snap when Lashley battles out momentarily, then back to the arm-lock. Test breathing super-heavy, so he might need the rest-hold spots, but it has certainly killed the crowd. Eventually things get going again with a back body-drop to Test where Test lands right on his tailbone. Corner charges from Lashley, goes for a press slam but too much damage to the arm means Lashley drops Test. At least the rest-hold had a story purpose I guess? Test nails the Big Boot but only two because that isn’t his finisher anymore. I actually don’t know what it is right now.
Has Lashley up in a fireman’s carry but Lashley out and hits a big belly-to-belly. Test to the outside, ref counting, Test back-up, thinks better off it and walks off. We hit a count of ten in under seven-and-a-half.
Winner (and still ECW Champion): The guy two months away from having his biggest WWE highlight being shaving Vince’s head.
Verdict: A nothing hoss fight with a dumb ending.
Lashley follows Test, throws him back in the ring and hits a Dominator. The crowd is dead for this, and they should be. Very odd booking, the kind of thing they should have done on TV. Test would be gone from WWE within a few weeks.
Backstage, John Cena is with a doctor, checking out his condition after a TV beatdown from Umaga damaged his spleen. Vinny Mac himself shows up to taunt Cena, insisting that he “can’t see” Cena being the WWE Champion. Cena insists he will fight and win tonight. If they’re trying to create some kind of McMahon/Austin dynamic here they are failing miserably.
Cole and JBL intro the World Heavyweight Championship match, with Layfield claiming that Smackdown is “headlining” the show. Someone tell him that there are two matches after this. Kennedy got here by winning a “Beat The Clock” challenge, which is a method of choosing a #1 contender I have actually always liked. Kennedy beat Benoit (not mentioned) in just over five minutes, and interfered in other matches, like an Undertaker one, to make sure he won. They try to play up Kennedy as a rising star, narrating the whole thing, who has pinned a few ex-champs recently, but even this video package makes it clear that the real feud is Taker/Batista, that Kennedy is just a road-bump along the way to. Kennedy was OK, but he was never top-tier level in my opinion, even if they are obviously a bit high on him right now.
Batista (c) vs Mr Kennedy (World Heavyweight Championship)
Kennedy on the mike for his usual Michael Buffer schtick. “I WALK THE LINE INSIDE THIS PIT OF DAN-GERRRRRRRR”. I used to go mad for that, and Batista gets the biggest crowd reaction of the night so far. Nick Patrick reffing, remember him? Don’t think he had much time left at this point.
Batista chucking Kennedy around to start, and Kennedy can only muster a few strikes in-between the throws, boots and suplexes. To the outside, and Kennedy able to shove Batista into the steps, but the Animal still staying on top. The beatdown continues inside, as Cole and JBL bicker on commentary. Kennedy goes to the left leg of Batista as his bodypart of choice. Puts in a Figure 4 variation. “There’s nowhere for Batista to go…unless he can get to the ropes”. JBL in rare form. Batista out of it pretty quick after with a rope break. Kennedy’s taken a blow to the face at some point, with blood streaming from his nose. Knee to the face gets him two.
Kennedy puts in a half-Boston Crab, but only after dropping one leg. Oops. Looks rubbish, and Batista says in it way too long. Awkward small package from Batista gets two, then Mr attacks the leg again. Despite the pain in his leg, Batista able to hit a Spinebuster. Dueling strikes, Batista with a series of clotheslines, back body-drop, corner clothesline, awkward Scoop Slam, that leg can’t be too bad I suppose. Samoan Drop, Batista hulking up, thumbs down, but Kennedy out of the Batista Bomb. Batista shoved into the ref who takes a nap, Kennedy hits his neckbreaker finisher which is pretty much just a neckbreaker, but no ref to count. I guess they want this one to go and go then.
A Kennedy boot to the head gets two. Crowd actually chanting his name now, so that’s something. Kennedy off the second rope walks into a clothesline, Batista Bomb and that’s it in just about ten-and-a-half.
Winner (and still World Heavyweight Champion): Batista, and JBL is furious.
Verdict: Quite forgettable match really, too short given it’s for one of the top titles and booked to set-up a re-match on TV it seemed like. Crowd was not into it.
Backstage Kevin Thorne literally vamps it up with girlfriend Ariel as he gets his Rumble number. Hornswaggle shows up and after a crack about his height attacks Coach. He gets scared off by Khali, who takes three balls. After being compelled to take just one, Kelly picks up the other two and proclaims “These are the biggest balls I’ve ever held”. An amazing set-up, but I’ll forgive as it leads to Ron Simmons appearing like a ghost for his catchphrase. I do have some time for these skits at a Rumble, since they are meant to showcase how many competitors are involved. I’d love if Farooq came out though.
JR and Lawlor are back to intro the WWE Title match. We aren’t quite in “Super Cena” territory just yet, give it another year/year-and-a-half for that, but Cena is your mega-face champion who has to overcome the odds tonight. Said oddsmaker is Umaga, who has been beating up Cena for a bit, in-between losing title matches. There is a bit of a decent story here, with Cena winning off a lucky roll-up a month ago, and Umaga’s manager Armando Estrado setting the re-match to be Last Man Standing as a result. There followed brawling, an injury to Cena’s spleen, slow-motion highlights as fans look horrified, etc. We’re still in that portion of Umaga’s run where he is a big draw – the loss to Cena was his first I think – so this should be decent.
John Cena (c) vs Umaga w/Armando Estrada (WWE Championship) (Last Man Standing)
This is actually my first Cena match on this series, so I can offer some quick thoughts on him. I do generally like “Big Match John”, especially his iterations over the last five years or so, but the way he was booked between around this show and Brock Lesnar’s return was tailor-made to make smarks hate the guy. But he was always a good wrestler, no matter what the smarks say, and as much worthy of being “the guy” as anyone else at the time.
Cena out bandaged (how does that help his spleen exactly?) and gets tossed around from the start. “No count-outs in this match” says JR, and, um, will I tell him or someone else? To the outside, Cena gets flung into the steps. Crowd behind Cena here, we’re still a little bit away from the thunderous “Cena sucks” dynamic from crowds. Fighting up the ramp, and the crowd gets hot when Cena rallies back with strikes. Into the ring, Cena floored with a headbutt and Umaga takes over. Big clothesline, corner charges to the guy, and Cena able to get up at seven. Umaga grabs the ring steps and chucks them inside, then walks into a rope-hang. Cena grabs the steps and flings them into Umaga on the outside, right into his head, amazing spot (he got his arms up, so it’s fine).
Umaga up at five, but looking rattled. Back in, Cena trying to build but hit by a big shoulder charge. Bear hug, Cena dropped after a minute and Umaga grabs more ring-steps. Cena up at eight as we get “We want tables” chants. Steps set up in the corner, Cena set prone against them, no-one home on a charge. Cena nails Umaga with the steps again and the Samoan Bulldozer is down. Up at six though. Cena to the top looking for a crossbody, caught, and slammed down hard, with Cena screaming like he’s been shot. Up at seven.
Umaga maintaining the beatdown, springboard drops, but Cena gets the knees up on the third, and Umaga slammed into the steps. Cena up at five, Umaga still down and Cena adds a Five Knuckle Shuffle. Looking for the still-dubbed FU, but collapses and hits the steps. The camera looks at Estrada for a bit so Cena can blade, and it’s going to be one those isn’t it? Umaga helps open the cut up with strikes. We do get some dueling “Let’s go Cena/Cena sucks” from the crowd, so I guess that started earlier than I remember. Cena trying to rally back with strikes, but walks into a Flapjack that JR calls a Samoan Drop. Umaga calling for the Spike, but Cena grabs the hand. Umaga settles for a headbutt instead.
Cena set-up in a Tree of Woe, but still able to dodge a running head butt. Off the top with a leg-drop, Umaga set into the ring-post and Cena grabs a TV monitor at ringside, shoving Estrada at the same time. Sick spot where Cena slams Umaga in the head with it, looked brutal. Big crimson mask on Cena now. Umaga up at seven, then knocked out of the ring. Cena goes after him, but slammed into the ring-post himself. Umaga clears a few announce tables, sets Cena on a far one and goes for a running splash, but Cena dodges. Umaga up at nine and 3/4, and for a second it seemed like it was over.
Estrada dismantles the top rope of the ring and encourages Umaga to use it on Cena. Going to use the turnbuckle for a Super Samoan Spike, but walks into an FU instead. Estrada knocked down, Cena locks on an STFU with the help of the ring-rope, and he is flat-out strangling Umaga while screaming like a banshee. We are actually in the dying days of this kind of thing, with the PG Era in full effect a year from now. Umaga eventually goes to sleep, and that’s enough for the ten count in just over 23 minutes.
Winner (and still WWE Champion): By God King, John Cena has overcome the odds again!
Verdict: Yeah, this was pretty great. Brutal, bloody wrestling but told a decent story. Great ending too.
Backstage the GM’s are still bickering when the Sandman turns up to take his number (“Like it matters”) and drink a beer. He’s followed by Flair, who has the last number. Suddenly there are disco lights and sexy music, and lots of scantily clad women are dancing with Flair. OK then. Maybe this is Kelly’s superpower, like how the Undertaker can summon lightning.
Promo for the Rumble follows. Focus on Hogan’s wins, Kane’s “dominance”, the Rock’s elimination of Big Show in 200, Austin’s threepeat, the Hart/Luger draw, McMahon’s win, and the more recent crop of Benoit (yikes), Batista (show McMahon’s quad explosion you cowards!) and Mysterio’s Eddie-quest. Onto the current one, with the names getting a focus including Shawn Michaels, Edge, Kenny Dykstra (yeah right) Benoit, Khali, Kane, King Book-Ah, and Taker. I do love these packages though. “The Road To Wrestlemania starts now”.
Royal Rumble Match
For those of you who live on Mars, we start with two in the ring, another joins every 90 seconds, you get eliminated by going over the top, last man standing wins. Winners pick a World Title match at Wrestlemania, which this year can include the ECW Championship (more chance of Vince coming out and blowing his quads again).
#1 is Ric Flair. Notwithstanding his dance parties, he’s coming to the end of his time here, with just over a year left, and his retirement is many years too late. #2 is Finlay. I really enjoyed his late-career run with WWE, he was always a guy who gave off a vibe that he could legit kill you if he wanted. Lock-ups, Flair down off a sharp shoulder charge. Dueling corner strikes, and Flair busts out the chops. Finlay back body-drops Flair, then goes for a fireman’s carry elimination, but a rake to the eyes saves the Nature Boy.
Counting down and #3 is Kenny Dykstra, now divorced from the Spirit Squad, but largely on a hiding to nowhere. Immediately locking up with Flair, with whom he has feuded recently. Chops because up yours rook. Finlay looking for a sneaky elimination on Dykstra, until Flair’s intervention. Counting down as Finlay and Dykstra double team Flair and #4 is Matt Hardy, pulling double duty. Side Effect to Dykstra, and a near elimination. Flair and Finlay pushing and shoving on the apron. Four guys switching off with each other pretty well for elimination spots as we wait for the ring to fill up.
#5 is Edge, who is the first of the heavy hitters. Spear to Flair, to Finlay, but Hardy dodges then hits the Twist Of Fate. Edge/Matt is nice to re-visit. Flair out under the ropes looking for weapons, and grabs a chair. Dykstra selling his chops like a champ, but then Edge throws him out for the first elimination. Flair congratulates him, then gets thrown out too. Just as well, because this was as much as he could go. #6 is Tommy Dreamer, the first entrant for ECW, and I just realised the ECW commentators have not been invited to this part. Sets Edge in the Tree of Woe and hits a drop-kick to the head, before being taken out of it with a stiff shot from Finlay. Matt/Edge and Dreamer/Finlay are the match-ups currently.
#7 is Sabu, so we can get some ECW stuff going. He gets a table out straight away and sets it up outside. Him and Dreamer at it straight away, and Sabu hits a springboard crossbody. Dreamer back at him with a big clothesline before Hardy steals Sabu away. #8 is Gregory Helms, then the Cruiserweight Champion, a year removed from dropping the Hurricane gimmick. No reaction from the crowd as he hooks up with Matt and Sabu tries to eliminate Finlay. Finlay goes to fling Sabu through the table, but nothing doing yet.
#9 is Shelton Benjamin, still in the “World’s Greatest Tag Team” seemingly. He goes to throw Dreamer out and just basically chucks him into the rope. Does the same to Hardy, and he at least skins the cat. Finlay and Benjamin both caught up in the ropes while Matt helps him back in while trying to make it look like he isn’t. Things quiet down for a bit as various hook-ups occur. #10 is Kane, and business is about to pick up. This is his ninth consecutive Rumble. Takes out Dreamer, Matt, Finlay, Helms and then hits Edge with a chokeslam. Dreamer thrown out, Kane goes to chuck Sabu through the table, but Sabu out of it. Kane/Sabu would have been a hell of a feud at one point. Going back-and-forth, Sabu on the apron and Kane gives him a chokeslam through the table, eliminating him, in the Rumble’s first big spot, and it was a good one. Crowd pops huge.
#11 is CM Punk, and like I said a few weeks ago, he already looks like a superstar. Doesn’t get to come in hot though, getting ambushed by Finlay after briefly attacking Edge. Does get to do his corner knee eventually. #12 is King Book-Ah, with Sharmell. I does loves me some Booker. Beats up Helms a bit and dumps him out. Helms awkwardly looks like he’s trying to get back in, which is weird. Some random hook-ups now as we wait for the next guy. A little slow since the Sabu elimination.
#13 is Super Crazy, because he’s still here. Almost instantly beaten down by Booker and Kane. Lots of near eliminations spots now. #14 is Jeff Hardy, second double duty guy. Him and Matt teaming up immediately. They knock down Edge and hit their stereo elbows (“He stole all their girlfriends” says JBL) and double team Super Crazy too. They go to eliminate Kane, but he fires back with a double choke. Poetry In Motion to Kane after kicks to the mid-section.
#15 is Sandman, coming through the crowd. Big crowd reaction, of course. With cane in hand, he nails Jeff, Super Crazy, Matt, then gets thrown out by Booker. Super fast elimination, and the crowd does not like that one bit. Jeff skins the cat off a throw from Finlay. #16 is Randy Orton for the second “could win”. He and Edge chuck Super Crazy out, then they team-up on Matt. Jeff tries to intervene, but both Hardy’s are taken care of and eliminated in quick succession.
#17 is Benoit, then US Champion. Chopamania on Orton, Edge, Booker and Finlay. Lots of fond memories of 2004 being talked about, and that was a hell of a Rumble. German to Kane, then to Booker, then to Benjamin. #18 is Rob Van Dam to a big reception. Heel kicks for all. While that’s going on, Kane dumps Booker out. Booker back in, heel kick to Kane, then a Scissors Kick, then he dumps Kane out. Because rules are stupid, this counts as an elimination.
#19 is the World’s Largest Love Machine Viscera, with what must be his worst gimmick. Kane and Booker brawl at ringside as Cole and JBL argue on commentary about it. Viscera ambles around as things quieten for a bit. #20 is Johnny Nitro and he is so important he gets munched by Viscera straight away. Things still a bit quiet. #21 is Kevin Thorn. I miss Mordecai. RVD trying to clothesline Viscera out, then gets clotheslined down hard himself. #22 is Hardcore Holly. WHOCARES. Now he’s in hot with strikes to Nitro and Van Dam. Ring has really filled up now, and not a great deal actually happening. Four men trying to eliminate Viscera, but nothing doing.
#23 is Shawn Michaels, out to his DX music. Lou Thesz to Finlay, and a big clothesline sends him out. Sweet Chin Music to Viscera, then everyone else in the ring combines to send him out. Benjamin on a charge, but Michaels back body-drop sends him out. Holly chopping Michaels, and you know those are stiff. #24 is Chris Masters. Does nothing of note in his entrance. Nitro going to the top rope, but dumped out from there by Benoit, and he falls out very hard.
#25 is Chavo Guerrero. He hooks up with Masters as Benoit head scissors’ Thorn out. A bit of waiting around as we’re still looking for the last of the big names. #26 is MVP, back from an Inferno match with Kane. RVD drop-kicks Masters over the top, and Masters really has to fling himself out to get that move done. #27 is Carlito. He doesn’t have an apple though. Again, a bit of waiting around follows. #28 is Khali. “Who the hell is going to stop the Great Khali?” They’ll figure it out. Khali headbutts everyone one after the other, and the crowd is not into this. Big clubs to everyone, and Khali is the only one left standing. He chucks Holly out.
#29 is a very young Miz, who lasts a few seconds before getting chucked by Khali, followed soon after by Van Dam and Punk. Carlito lands on the apron, but gets a club off a springboard, and out. Chavo next to be tossed, so Khali doing his job at cleaning out the chaff at least. Michaels going after Khali, and gets chokeslammed for his trouble. #30 is the Undertaker, to a huge pop.
Taker laying in the strikes on Khali, staggered by some from Khali, back with his own. Khali up against the rope, and Taker very awkwardly able to clothesline Khali over. Looked awful, but the crowd doesn’t care. Clotheslines for everyone, Old School to MVP, who gets chucked out son after. “Vintage Undertaker”. Drink! Edge gets the flying clotheslines, but avoids an elimination. Orton nails Taker with an unprotected chair shot immediately after, big sick crunch off that. Edge stalking Taker, but actually goes for Orton, they square off, then Orton hits Michaels with an RKO OUTTANOWHERE. Back to jawing with Edge, and they agree to team up on Taker.
We’re actually down to the final four now, with these three and Michaels. Taker rallying back from the Rated-RKO onslaught, hits corner clotheslines to both. Somewhere along the line he gets busted open. Double clothesline sends Edge and Orton down, Snake Eyes and a boot to Edge, chokeslam attempt to Orton, but Edge with the Spear. Excellent back-and-forth with these three. Edge nails Taker with the chair again, unprotected again. Edge grabs another chair from ringside, setting up for the one-man conchairto, but Michaels suddenly back in, to back body-drop Orton out, then Sweet Chin Music Edge out. The crowd explodes.
Both Taker and Michaels, the final two, down. Taker sits up, Michaels kips-up, and here we go. Michaels with elevated strikes, but thrown off by Taker. Big strikes to Michaels in the corner almost enough to send him out. Michaels back with chops, then Taker with a strong Irish Whip flips Michaels up. Michaels dodges a running boot to the corner, and Taker almost out. Taker hanging on on the apron from Michaels’ assault, and back in. Swinging neckbreaker from Michaels, then eats a big boot. Taker looking to suplex Michaels out, but Michaels hangs out to Taker’s head to avoid it. Michaels to the top, intercepted, Taker follows him up. Dueling strikes, Taker knocked to the mat, and Michaels follows-up with an elbow drop.
Michaels calling for Sweet Chin Music, tuning up the band, but grabbed by Taker, countering with an enormous chokeslam. Taker calling for a Tombstone, has Michaels up but HBK gets out, and nails Sweet Chin Music. Both men down. Back to their feet slowly, Michaels going for Sweet Chin Music again, Taker grabs him at the last second and dumps him out, in just under 56-and-a-half.
Winner: The Undertaker
Verdict: Much of the match was a bit dull, but the final ten or so minutes made it legendary. A huge moment for Taker, and they set-up the Michaels matches that would go down in history one and two years from now.
Taker and Michaels share a look of respect, then Taker looks to the Wrestlemania sign. Will we get a point? He points at Michaels instead, then brings the lights down. Pyro and that’s a wrap.
Best Match: I’ll give that to Cena/Umaga, which was pretty bad-ass, showcasing that “Ruthless Aggression” style that was soon to vanish.
Best Wrestler: Gotta go with the Undertaker, who had so much to do and to sell in his time in the Rumble, and managed to pull it off.
Worst Match: Lashley and Test didn’t belong on this card, and had a stupid ending.
Worst Wrestler: Khali at least cleared the ring, but Viscera couldn’t even justify his place by doing that.
Overall Verdict: The first half of the show was a let-down, but the WWE Title match and the Rumble were good. It set-up a lot to come, and that’s exactly what the Rumble is for. Worth watching.
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