Jericho Ricardi concludes his review with Royal Rumbles of the 21st century.
Royal Rumble 2005
What Happened: Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit were #1 and #2, and the first half of the match was all about them squaring off when they weren’t throwing other people out, much like the 1995 and 2004 Rumbles. The latter half of the match was all about Dave Batista and John Cena, who would go on to challenge for their respective World Titles at Wrestlemania. While this is one of the best Rumbles, the finale is an absolute botch-fest. Batista and Cena accidentally tumbled out at the same time, but they did a great job covering up for it in the aftermath. In the end the botch turned out to be a good thing, as it made both guys look like equals. Also, Vince McMahon memorably walked out to restart the match, pulling both quads in the process. He did a good job covering his own botch, as he sat on the mat barking orders and clearly tuning out the pain he must have been in.
What Worked: Guerrero, Benoit, and Hardcore Holly all teeing off on the MMA-touting, obnoxious newcomer Daniel Puder with about thirty chops in a row. It was brutal, the crowd loved it, and Puder would be out of the company sooner than later. Another thing that worked was the focus on the “Smackdown Six,” with Edge, Benoit, Guerrero, and Mysterio all in the ring at once squaring off. They were then joined by… Shelton Benjamin, an uber-talented wrestler who would have made it the “Smackdown Seven” if he hadn’t been stuck on RAW at the time. Like the previous two years, the great mid-card upped the quality of this Rumble. It was also a star-making performance for Batista and Cena, as the two of them dominated the latter half of the match. The brand extension actually had a point here, as the announcers made a bigger deal about the RAW vs. Smackdown dynamic than in the previous two years. Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle squaring off momentarily was awesome.
What Didn’t Work: This Rumble is in the top-tier with 1992, 1995, 2000, and 2001. There’s really nothing bad about it. Well, except one thing. Pretty much everything that happened in the minute or so that Muhammad Hassan was involved was incredibly stupid and a bit embarassing to watch.
Best Moment: The finale with Batista and Cena brawling it out with multiple restarts.
Who Won: Batista
Royal Rumble 2006
What Happened: “Eddie” chants filled the arena for this Rumble, taking place shortly after the death of Eddie Guerrero. Drawing #2, Rey Mysterio went all the way to win this one. Triple H made his return to the Royal Rumble for the first time since 2002 (he’d been busy being champion all of those other Rumbles). Despite drawing #1, HHH seemed like he was bound to win. I feel like HHH would have actually won this if the Eddie situation hadn’t happened when it did. Everything was built up for HHH to win (and he ended up in the main event of Wrestlemania anyway, marking the first time the Rumble winner didn’t go to the main event of WM since 1997). As HHH is the focal point of the match, Rey winning probably wasn’t the original plan. That said…
What Worked: Rey Mysterio winning. This was a great moment. More on that later. This is another good Rumble throughout, though it placed more emphasis on the established main eventers than the last few Rumbles. Despite this, Mysterio winning was a surprise and a bit of an elevation for him. Tatanka made his Rumble return for the first time since the early 90’s and got a massive reaction from the crowd, proving that fans have long memories.
What Didn’t Work: The frequent mentions of Eddie by the announcers could rub some fans the wrong way. Every time Rey has a lucky break, Michael Cole mentions how Eddie is “up there looking out for Rey” or something along those lines. It’s one thing for the crowd to pay tribute to Eddie, but the announcers basically using Eddie to get people behind Rey is something else. Some might be offended by it, some might not be. Personally it isn’t something I’ll get worked up about, but it does seem like too much at times. There are a lot of slow points in the match where nothing really happens. The roster at this point just wasn’t as interesting as it was for the previous eight years. The fact that this match continually features returning stars from the past who get bigger reactions than the current stars only underscores this. Cole pointing out that the audience is “On their feet! This is standing room only!” at one point when 98% of the audience was clearly sitting. The announcing in general was pretty bad in this Rumble and the crowd wasn’t into it. Big step down from the previous year.
Best Moment: A battered Rey Mysterio managing to barely eliminate Randy Orton to win.
Who Won: Rey Mysterio
Royal Rumble 2007
What Happened: For the first time, this Rumble featured not two, but three “rosters,” with the addition of ECW. There wasn’t really any particular story for this one; it did feature the emergence of Edge and Randy Orton as major contenders, but ultimately it came down to Undertaker and Shawn Michaels. After a mini-match between the two, Undertaker became the first entrant at #30 to win the Rumble. You’d think that would be more common than it is.
What Worked: Shawn Michaels was on fire here, eliminating guys left and right and looking like a very real possibility to win his third Rumble match. Edge and Orton were similarly effective. What Didn’t Work: The fact that at this point THREE “World Titles” existed in WWE (as ECW was nearly placed on the same level as RAW and Smackdown for a few months) dilutes the Rumble somewhat. Winning doesn’t have the same prestige when you’re just challenging for “one of the world titles”. The crowd simply wasn’t into this one aside from the last part of the match. The roster was definitely weak at this point, and a lot of this match is flat-out boring. Most of the main eventers are missing.
Best Moment: Undertaker and Shawn Michaels having their mini-match to close things out. This was quite the matchup, and would be revisited in the future. The crowd went crazy for it, and Undertaker showed Michaels a great deal of respect in the aftermath.
Who Won: Undertaker
Royal Rumble 2008
What Happened: This was the first Rumble to be broadcast in widescreen HD an it actually made quite a difference. Undertaker, who got #30 at the previous Rumble, was #1 for this one. CM Punk turned in his first major Rumble performance here, lasting a long time. Late in the match we got a surprise John Cena return, and Cena cleared the ring as the audience blew the roof off. He then locked horns with HHH in a sort of mini-match (continuing the pattern of the last several years, having the final two engage in a prolonged confrontation) and ultimately emerged victorious to a split crowd reaction.
What Worked: This match was treated more like a mega-event with a lengthy intro and Michael Buffer doing his schtick. They opened the match with Undertaker and Shawn Michaels squaring off, which worked so well that it was a disappointment to realize that 28 other guys were on the way. The two of them got eliminated within ten seconds of each other late in the match. The widescreen format made this show a lot more watchable, in addition to being better overall, than the 06 or 07 Rumbles. The field was wide open for this one, and any number of competitors could have won. The Madison Square Garden crowd was loud and vociferous, as usual.
What Didn’t Work: The winner of this Rumble, like 2006, didn’t go on to main event Wrestlemania. The Undertaker, who got eliminated halfway through it, did. This devalues the event, but unfortunately it would only get worse from here. Besides that, the Rumble match itself was very good and well-paced. Few complaints here. HHH entering at #29 took some thunder away from Cena’s at #30, and would have been better off being around #23 (in the middle of a bit of a superstar drought). But that’s a minor issue.
Best Moment: John Cena’s shocking return from surgery, appearing late in the Rumble. It was very memorable, since no one was expecting it. The fact that he went on to win the Rumble just makes it even more of a moment.
Who Won: John Cena
Royal Rumble 2009
What Happened: Rey Mysterio was #1. Dolph Ziggler made his Rumble debut and was thrown out in the span of about ten seconds. Randy Orton and Legacy tried to assert their dominance throughout, but just ended up getting beaten up. All in all, an uneventful Rumble. This one is definitely in the lower tier. It is odd that when Randy Orton finally wins a Rumble, it’s the one he looked kind of weak in (after looking very strong in 2004, 2006, and 2007’s, but coming up just short).
What Worked: There were an unusually high number of competitors still in the ring after we passed the #30 mark. It was cool to see the ring so crowded so late in the match. Undertaker and Big Show having a competitive MMA-style slugfest was the slobberknocker of the match. At least the winner of the match actually went to Wrestlemania’s main event this time.
What Didn’t Work: With the red color scheme, this basically looks like an episode of RAW. It doesn’t stand out very much. This Rumble is forgettable, and it’s amazing how similar the roster situation is here compared to four years later. The rosters are nearly identical, and the majority of the wrestlers are still in the same spots that they were in here. The difference between, say, the state of the WWF/E in 1996 and 2000’s Rumbles? Astronomical. 1991 and 1995? Huge. 2001 and 2005? Yep. 2009 and 2013? Not so much. Even at this point things seemed a bit more stale than they did the year before. While Randy Orton won, he spent most of the match laying around. It was easy to forget he was even still in the match. Orton needing Legacy to triple-team HHH in order for Orton to win made him look pretty weak.
Best Moment: It’s all so forgettable that there really isn’t any one standout moment. Rob Van Dam making a surprise appearance and immediately going after everyone in the ring is the closest thing we have, and it started the “one-shot deal” meme.
Who Won: Randy Orton
Royal Rumble 2010
What Happened: The first PPV of the new Monday Night War era…or rather, the short-lived Monday Night Skirmish between WWE and TNA. The big storyline going into this was Shawn Michaels needing to win so that he could face Undertaker at Wrestlemania. That said, with the competition in this one there was a strong possibility that Shawn would fail in his quest. A big step up from the previous year’s Rumble in overall quality.
What Worked: CM Punk cutting a promo in-between eliminating other competitors in the early part of the match until HHH came out and eliminated him. This could have gone on for a lot longer. Edge’s surprise return was reminiscent of Cena’s two years prior, and the audience came alive for it. The story of Shawn Michaels being desperate to win so he could challenge Undertaker at Wrestlemania was the most interesting Rumble story in years. The star-power was high here, with HHH, HBK, Cena, Batista, and Edge all strong possibilities to win.
What Didn’t Work: The three runner-ups in this match went on to higher spots on the Wrestlemania card than the winner did. CM Punk got eliminated too early, considering how entertaining he was.
Best Moment: It’s a bittersweet one, but the most memorable moment is Shawn Michaels getting eliminated from the Rumble. His disappointment was palpable and heartfelt, and it was the standout moment from the whole match. It also instantly raised the question of what Shawn would do next.
Who Won: Edge
Royal Rumble 2011
What Happened: I was in attendance for this Rumble, and it was a good show live. This was the sole Rumble to feature 40 competitors, perhaps to balance out the original Rumble only having 20. More likely: this was because of the involvement of The Nexus and The Corre; with those two groups vying for “supremacy” there simply wasn’t enough room in this match for everyone without raising the number of competitors.
What Worked: The audience was much louder and more involved than the previous two Rumbles, which is to be expected since they were in Boston for this one. Diesel’s surprise appearance popped the crowd hugely; he got more of a response than most of the contemporary competitors in the match. CM Punk and The Nexus dominated for the first half of the match, and it worked well. John Cena went through them like a bowling ball through pins, but until then the prospect of The Nexus dominating the entire Rumble was intriguing. It may be the first time we saw any kind of major stable in a Rumble match, unless you count the Nation of Domination back in 1998. Too bad CM Punk didn’t cut a promo between eliminations like the previous year.
What Didn’t Work: Michael Cole’s announcing. At this point he was in full “obnoxious heel” mode and it detracted from the match quite a bit. I don’t know who thought this was a good idea. Hornswoggle’s zany hijinx with John Cena didn’t work. They would have been fine for a minute, but they went on for a pretty substantial portion of the match. The match went on a bit too long considering it wasn’t one of the better Rumble matches to begin with.
Best Moment: Santino Marella sneaking back into the ring to ambush Alberto Del Rio, moments after Del Rio (and the crowd) thought that the Rumble was over. For a few brief seconds, it looked like Santino might win the damn thing, but it was not to be.
Who Won: Alberto Del Rio
Royal Rumble 2012
What Happened: Basically everyone was gunning for Miz here, since he found a way to piss off half of the roster. We’re back down to a mere 30 competitors, which is definitely for the best. Jerry “The King” Lawler was in the match for the first time in many years, but again didn’t last very long. This Rumble took place in the shadow of the Rock/Cena match that was being built up at this point. Going in, Sheamus and Chris Jericho were the favorites to win the match, and sure enough, they were the final two in the ring.
What Worked: The final showdown between Chris Jericho and Sheamus was pretty awesome. Roberto Rodriguez entering the Rumble, with a full Alberto Del Rio entrance. He got a big “Ricardo” chant. The prolonged comedy part of the match actually worked, unlike the previous year. Jerry “The King” Lawler and Booker T being surprise entrants and walking over to the ring from the announcer’s table. Much like the biggest reaction in the previous year went to the Diesel’s surprise appearance, the biggest reaction this year went to “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan’s surprise appearance. Then again, this serves to highlight how not-over much of the current roster is. No Hornswoggle.
What Didn’t Work: Cole’s surprise entrance to the Rumble. Did they need to have the entire announcing team in the match? Also, Booker T on commentary. I’m a big fan of Booker T, but his commentary just doesn’t work for him. Once again, the winner of the match only went on to curtain-jerk at Wrestlemania. It’s like they’ve been trying to devalue the Rumble for the past several years; this would fit in with their attempts to seemingly devalue everything that doesn’t involve the top few guys in the company.
Best Moment: Kofi Kingston getting thrown out and proceeding to walk on his hands outside the ring until he could get back in.
Who Won: Sheamus That concludes my retrospective look at the Royal Rumble event. What memorable moments will the 2013 Rumble bring? We’re about to find out.
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