This past Sunday was the 23rd Royal Rumble. Since the 1991, the winner of the Royal Rumble 30-man over-the-top-rope battle royale has been given an automatic title shot at WrestleMania. So who will be guaranteed a title match at the biggest show of the year and who will be holding the belts heading to Phoenix? More importantly, how good was the kick off of the road to WrestleMania? Find out after the jump.
ECW Title Match – Christian defeats Ezekiel Jackson
This was a classic battle of power versus speed. Christian was outsized and outmuscled by Jackson who more closely resembles The Warlord or Ahmed Johnson than someone who would have been in the original ECW wrestler. Jackson had a lot of power moves in this match including a variety of slams which Christian took hard. Normally a wrestler taking a choke slam or sit-out choke bomb or a stair bump would do so in a certain way to protect their head. Christian wasn’t doing it that way and looked like he was taking a vicious beating as a result. A funny moment came when Jackson’s manager, William Regal, was ejected from ringside after the ref caught him grabbing Christian. Colour commentator Matt Striker had a good point here: Why would Regal attack Christian if the title can’t change hands as a result of a disqualification? That would make the ejection for Regal laying his hands on Christian illogical. That’s what Vince gets for hiring a smart heel commentator. The finish came when Christian slid out of a snake eyes attempt by Jackson and hit the Killswitch for the win. The crowd was fairly quiet during the match but Christian could get the crowd back into it when he wanted to get them into it.
US Title Match – The Miz defeats MVP
After a horrible rendition of Pants on the Ground in which the only one looking like a fool was the guy who wrote the segment, it was time for a thrown together match. Well, it was supposedly scheduled on the fly but the way the match was put together seemed like there wasn’t much Pat Patterson involvement. The best part of the match was the duelling chants of “Miz is awesome!” and “MVP!” at the opening bell. The end came when Miz rolled MVP up in a small package as he was coming through the ropes. The fans were quite happy with the outcome and were audibly booing MVP when he laid Miz out after the match. Don’t think Vince will be too happy the fans are screwing with his carefully laid plans. Of course, he should be more pissed that Lawler can’t decide if he’s heel or face half the time.
WWE Title Match – Sheamus defeats Randy Orton (by DQ)
For a young and untested champion, I thought it was odd that the WWE would throw Sheamus into a heel vs. heel match on a major pay-per-view. What probably made this match impossible for the champ was that Orton was clearly over with the crowd. The fans have to cheer someone in a match I suppose. It was a reasonably scientific match with Sheamus targeting Orton’s left arm while Orton targeted Sheamus’ left knee. Orton even busted out a Terry Funk step-over toehold to soften up the champ’s knee which was the most unique piece of offence in this match. Actually, that was about the highlight of the match. There was more science to this match than a TV match but the finish was worse than a TV match. Cody Rhodes jumps the guardrail and hit Sheamus as he tried to re-enter the ring. That was worth a DQ. The only problem was that Sheamus was hardly phased and they delayed on the DQ announcement so Orton hit the RKO and got the cover just before the bell rang. I hate that sorta finish. It was made worse by the fact that Regal got tossed but the Christian/Jackson match went on while this one was stopped. Where’s the consistency? That really brought the mark down on a very short match.
Women’s Title Match – Mickie James defeats Michelle McCool
The story behind the match was that McCool was calling James fat. That would have been a more believable story if McCool was feuding with TNA’s Awesome Kong but that’s the wrong promotion. The fact that Mickie is the better looking of the two doesn’t help the feud. The recap video was the first of the night. That was followed by a boring McCool promo. And then the match started, McCool missed a kick, James hit a DDT and in about 15 seconds, we have a new women’s champion. If they really needed that much filler, couldn’t they have had, you know, a match?
World Heavyweight Title Match – Undertaker defeats Rey Mysterio
Hey look! It’s Michelle McCool’s significant other, The Undertaker. Does he not have that much pull when it comes to booking the women’s division? Anyway, he did have pull booking the early part of the match. With the exception of having two finishers countered, he controlled the early going by stopping Rey’s lucha libre moves with power strikes. At some point during the match, Rey connected with Taker’s face which bloodied his nose. Another good commentary note was when Jerry Lawler said that he didn’t know Undertaker’s blood was red. Matt Striker jumped in with “It’s actually blue until it hits oxygen.” I love having a smart commentator in wrestling. Haven’t had one since Gorilla Monsoon. Anyway, Rey started building momentum with back-to-back 619s but his follow-up springboard attempt was meant with a Last Ride powerbomb which game Taker the win. It was a good match but there was room for at least five minutes more and some more offense from Mysterio. If they didn’t have that useless women’s title match…
Royal Rumble Match – Edge defeats 29 Other Entrants
Before the match, we get a great video on the 23 year history of the Rumble. It was better than the history videos that were produced for WrestleMania 25. Anyway, CM Punk dominated the early going and took every opportunity to cut a promo. It didn’t work on The Great Khali who proceeded to demolish Punk. Khali was only eliminated when Beth Phoenix entered and tossed Khali over the top mid-French kiss. Don’t ask. You don’t want to know. Anyway, Punk’s early domination and antics earned him the accolades of the Atlanta crowd. It goes to show that we can be told if someone is “good” or “bad” but the crowd will always cheer the best performers.
The domination wouldn’t last long. Triple H would come out #8 and eliminate Punk on a blocked GTS attempt. After Punk was eliminated, the pace slowed down as competitors that entered the ring actually stayed in for an extended period of time. Action picked up when The Miz took out MVP on his way to the ring but MVP eliminated Miz after he recovered which finally got MVP over as a face with the crowd. When Shawn Michaels showed up, the match hit high gear. He eliminated Carlito, DiBiase, Rhodes, John Morrison and Drew McIntyre within 90 seconds of entering the match to clear the ring. His story heading into the match is that he wanted to have a WrestleMania rematch with The Undertaker after last year’s epic.
With just HHH and HBK left, John Cena shows up to spoil the party and botches a spin-out powerbomb spot where he drops H on HBK’s head. But Michaels wasn’t fazed as he soon eliminated H with Sweet Chin Music. From there on, the big names started coming out and HBK turns the clock back to 1995 when he won the Rumble by barely hanging on the whole way through. And since I’ve mentioned TNA before, I’ll mention that Ron “The Truth” Killings (under the name R-Truth) came in and eliminated both Mark Henry and the Big Show which gives him as many eliminations in weight as HBK and Punk. From there, folks that came in flew out fairly quickly as Cena and Michaels held on and were often with one or two more folks.
When #29 came to the ring, the roof literally blew off the arena (Monsoon-ism). Edge made his return from a severe ankle injury and laid waste to Cena, Michaels and Chris Jericho. He very quickly eliminated Y2J as well. The final entrant was Batista so we had an instant final four. A great spot came when Edge clotheslined HBK over the top rope and we had a double skin-the-cat moment that ended when HBK superkicked Edge back into the ring. But HBK was jumped from behind by Batista and left us with three. There was a moment where HBK was coming to grips with being eliminated that included tossing one official and dropping ref Charles Robinson with a beautiful superkick. Batista was the next to go when he flew over the top after missing a clothesline on Cena. And then Edge ducked a Cena clothesline to toss him out and secure a spot in the main event of WrestleMania. All in all, a pretty good match that showcased quite a few different wrestlers. It’s hard to have a disappointing Rumble match and the surprise return of Edge was the definite highlight of this one.
The problem with the Royal Rumble pay-per-view has always been that the WWE has to do all the angle building stuff and at least a one hour battle royale on a three hour show. It makes it a difficult to book match given all that will happen in the Royal Rumble match. The mid-part of this show looked like the agents were too busy booking the Rumble to help with any good ideas for the mid-card matches. I was expecting more from Taker/Mysterio and would have liked an actual finish in Orton/Sheamus. The only match that felt like a PPV match was Christian/Jackson which is a credit to the ECW staff and the former NWA/TNA World Champion (third TNA mention this post).
When I tally up my final scores, I have a hard time disagreeing with it. The strong finish doesn’t make up for the lack of much effort put into the mid-card. The women’s title match really brought the final grade but that was 10 minutes that could have been put to something of use. Hopefully they put some effort into booking WrestleMania.
Final Rating: 5.5/10