For years the Royal Rumble was my favorite PPV event. All of the wrestlers in the ring at one time, anyone could win, what’s not to love. However my love of the rumble has decreased in the last couple of years. This is mainly due to the predictability of the event. Going in we know that only so many people can actually win it. Then some advanced booking and connecting the dots makes it almost completely predictable. For months now we have known that the Rock will beat CM Punk for the WWE Championship and John Cena will win the Rumble match, to create a rematch of last year’s once in a lifetime match at WrestleMania. Kind of takes some if the excitement out of it doesn’t it? The one silver lining is that the WWE hates having its story lines spoiled. Everyone knew Chris Jericho was going to win the Royal Rumble last year. Because of that, the decision was made that Sheamus would throw him out and win instead. Jericho got his title shot anyway, but it made things more interesting. Let’s hope they pull the same trick this year and give us a surprise.
The YouTube pre-show featured Antonio Cesaro putting his United States Championship on the line against the Miz. It was a very sound technical match will good pacing from the start. Great for a wrestling purist. Coming off the ropes Cesaro caught Miz jumping and turned him into a spinning side slam. Cesaro always impresses with high impact moves like that. Later he catches him again and lands a huge beck breaker. Miz gains momentum and hits the jumping clothesline in the corner but misses on the smash from the top rope and appears to injure his ankle. Miz continues gaining momentum, forcing Cesaro out of the ring. When Miz goes after him by the apron Antonio pulls his shoulder into the side of the ring. Cesaro pulls him back in the ring, hits the sloppiest Neutralizer of his career and holds on to his United States Championship. Decent opener.
The real show starts with the last man standing World Heavyweight Championship match between Alberto Del Rio and the Big Show. There were a number a PPVs last year that led off with the World Heavyweight title match. Backstage Del Rio and Ricardo are heading toward the ramp when they run into Bret Hart. He says Del Rio is a Mexican Bret, and Del Rio says he’s a Canadian Del Rio. Ricardo then loses his mind when Bret gives him his glasses. I guess that is supposed to make up for him not being at the 20th anniversary show. The Phoenix crowd is all about Del Rio. He even gives a kid his scarf. Big Show takes control early as Del Rio can’t trade blows. Alberto goes for an axe handle off the top rope but gets met with a big chop. Del Rio slides into Show’s knees and takes him down to even things out. His move set is starting to get a lot like Mysterio’s. So far he’s used a hurricarana and a senton splash. Show gets a chair but Del Rio drop kicks him and starts using the chair against him. Alberto goes to the top rope again and Big Show catches him again, hitting him with a chokeslam. Del Rio gets up on 8 and after beings hit a couple of times Alberto hits Show with a low blow on the ramp. Show gets up on 8 however and starts throwing Del Rio into the stage set up. Big Snow then pulls Del Rio up onto a piece of the set by his head and choke slams him through a table. Essentially it’s the distance from the top rope to the outside floor. Very cool. It’s a great match to lead off with so far. Del Rio gets up on 9 but is clearly weakened as the action heads back toward the ring. Show prepares for the KO punch but Del Rio escapes. He then dodges stairs being thrown at him. After Ricardo tries to attack him and gets thrown into the wall, Show misses a spear and goes through the wall barrier. Del Rio then starts attacking Show’s arm with a chair. Back in the ring, Del Rio applies the cross arm breaker as Ricardo duct tapes shows feet to the bottom rope, making him unable to stand up. Del Rio wins a very entertaining match on a somewhat weak ending. I guess faces are allowed to cheat now.
Backstage Dolph, AJ and Big E interviewed by Matt Striker about the rumble. Ziggler says he knows Vickie has it out for him and chooses to go out first because he’s number one. AJ then makes Striker leave so that Langston can do his best Kermit the Frog impression in asking Dolph what he plans on doing after winning e rumble. Ziggler, wearing a vest with spikes like a classy Legion of Doom, says he plans on cashing in his MITB case to win the World Heavyweight Championship, then winning the WWE Championship at WrestleMania to become a unified champion. Fro your mouth to gods ears brotha.
Next was a montage of all the superstars saying why they’ll win the rumble. How very 80’s of them.
Tag titles on the line next as Team Hell No defends against the Rhodes Scholars. Everyone is expecting the belts to change hands and for Kane and Bryan to split up. After graduating Anger Management I’d say it’s about time. Bryan and Rhodes start off with a strong wrestling exhibition, featuring Daniel applying the Mexican surfboard. Kane tags in and maintains control for Team Hell No. It’s not until Bryan falls out of the ring after Sandow lowers the rope that the Rhodes Scholars gain momentum. Bryan tries jumping out to tag Kane but Cody catches him in the air. Bryan then turns it into a falling DDT and gets Kane in on a hot tag against Sandow. Kane tries to chokeslam both Cody and Damien, but gets overpowered and suplexed as Daniel tags himself in. Sandow pins Kane thinking he’s still the legal man, only to turn and get missile drop-kicked off the top rope by Bryan. Kane chokeslams Rhodes and Bryan gets Sandow to submit to the NO Lock to win the match. Up tempo match that didn’t have many big spots until the very end. I’m curious where they will go with Team Hell No from here.
After some pointless rumble stats (although it’s interesting that they gathered them all), Vickie Guerrero gives Kane and Bryan their numbers for the rumble. Kane won’t show Bryan his number. Daniel says the rule is that “you show me yours and I’ll show you mine.” Also more penis jokes.
For the first time ever, the Royal Rumble is not closing out the Royal Rumble show. I’d lose my mind if I tried to describe every detail of the match, so I’ll stick to the highlights:
Ziggler comes out first and once again declares that he’ll win. He adds that it doesn’t matter who is number 2 (haha) so just send him out. That leads to our first major surprise of the night, Chris Jericho is back! Ziggler forced him to retire by beating him a few months ago and no one expected him back. He was talking about not needing to return and schedule issues. Sucked us all in. They start off very strong, each coming close to eliminating the other before Cody Rhodes comes in and we get to typical rumble action.
Sanction comes in at number five, returning from an injury. He almost throws out everyone in the ring but none of them actually hit the floor. They all then team up on Santino and throw him out to be the first man eliminated. Oh Santino. You’re so lucky you have personality.
Chris Jericho eliminates Drew McIntyre with a springboard dropkick. He and Ziggler are constantly on the verge of being eliminated. Crowd is very pro Jericho
Goldust! He and Cody go at it in the middle of the ring. Very cool seeing the brothers mix it up.
For every big pop for people like Goldust, there is a dud for David Otunga.
Sheamus is the first guy to come in and clean house. He hits everyone then eliminates Titus O’Neil and Otunga. Tensai comes in next for the mandatory dud following a big pop.
The Rhodes brothers have a great sequence on the apron, ending with Cody eliminating Goldust by throwing him into the post. Rey Mysterio then came in and hit the 619 on Ziggler and Jericho back to back.
Escape of the night: After Tensai is eliminated, Kofi gets pushed off the apron and jumps on Tensai”s back. Kofi then makes it on the announce table, and rides a chair like a pogo stick back to the ring. He then eliminated Darren young only to be eliminated by a Cody disaster kick seconds later. Thanks for playing
The Godfather! Take that pg era! He is immediately knocked out by Ziggler and exits with his hoes. His music never even stopped. Perfect booking.
John Cena in at 19. All the heels gang up on him but he over powers them, eliminating Heath Slater and AA’ing Cody Rhodes out of the ring. Crowd isn’t exactly happy about it.
Daniel Bryan came in and literally kicked the crap out of everyone. Nobody eliminated though.
Crowd hates Khali. Big lull in the rumble right now.
Daniel Bryan eliminated Kane from behind (so that’s how that ends). Bryan then gets pushed into Kane’s arms. Bryan tries to get Kane to carry him back to the ring, but Kane drops him instead. RIP team Hell No.
Randy Orton is the next to clean house upon entry. He does a double DDT from the second rope on Ziggler and Bo Dallas (NXT) before giving Zack Ryder an RKO. Khali was eliminated somehow off camera (bad sign).
Miz came out and attacked Cesaro who had recently been eliminated by Cena. Miz was still selling the leg injury he suffered in his match against Cesaro earlier.
Bo Dallas eliminates wade Barrett. He’s getting a pretty big push here. Been in for a while. Barrett then came back and threw out Dallas, hitting with the bull hammer elbow. Strong showing.
The last man to enter the rumble is Ryback. He pushes everyone for a while before eliminating Sandow, Sin Cara and Miz.
Jericho nearly eliminates Sheamus with a springboard dropkick, only to be super kicked out by Ziggler. Randy Orton then RKO’s everyone in site and hits Ryback with the second rope DDT. Ryback then clotheslines Orton out to avoid an RKO.
Ziggler gives Cena a jumping DDT only to be brogue kicked out by Sheamus.Cena, Sheamus and Ryback are the final three. John and Sheamus double team Ryback but then attack each other for no reason. Cena goes for the 5 knuckle shuffle on Sheamus but Ryback hits him with a meat hook clothesline instead. Sheamus then escapes Shell Shocked to land white noise on Ryback. He runs in for the Brogue Kick but Ryback throws Sheamus out instead. John Cena and Ryback are the last men in the ring. John attacks first but gets flattened with a spinebuster. Cena then ducks the meathook clothesline and applies the STF. Ryback passes out and Cena carries him to the corner but Ryback fights back. He goes to throw Cena over but John sIips out, shoving Ryback out instead. There were some good spots and it was a fun rumble, but ultimately it’s what we all knew was gong to happen. At no point did I really believe Cena wasn’t going to win. He now gets to point to the WrestleMania sign, and it’s really weird that the show isn’t nearly over.
After watching the Rock/Punk promo video, Josh Matthews gets to be the one cut off by the Rock so that Rock can cut a promo. He talks about getting beat up by the Shield and not being drafted by the NFL and his mom having cancer to talk about how you can’t quit (hasn’t Cena been saying that for years?). He calls out Punk saying the fans don’t matter in order to reach out for the fans support. Now that that is over, onto the match.
Once again showing a lack of respect, CM Punk, your reigning defending WWE Champion, is out first so that the challenger can enter after him. He then rips up a kids sign before enter the ring. Decent pop for the Rock. In case you were wondering, Brad Maddox is not the referee. They start off trading blows in the middle of the ring, with Punk escaping a rock bottom before being clotheslined over the top rope. Rock removes top of the Spanish announce table but punk fights him off and puts it back, showing respect to the Spanish announcers. Heyman distracts rock so Punk can hit him from behind and take control. Rock tries to fight back but Punk stops him, continuing to work the midsection. Rock is spending a lot of time on his back, and Punk is spending a lot if time taunting him. Punk is absolutely dominating as Rock sells the internal bleeding injuries the Shield caused on Raw. After a springboard drop kick, punk tweaks his surgically repaired knee. He then injures it further on a dive from the top rope to the outside. Rock notices and attacks the injury. Punk shows little signs of the injury however as he dives through the ropes into the rock outside. Back in the ring, a Punk dive misses to give rock the chance to take some momentum. Punk escapes the rock bottom and goes for the GTS. Rock gets out of it and tries to apply the sharpshooter on the bad knee but Punk turns it into an anaconda vice. Rock only escapes after leveraging into a pin attempt to force punk to release. Punk then escapes the rock bottom again only to get put in a sharp shooter in the middle of the ring. Punk powers his way over to the rope to break the hold and escape the ring. Rock follows and puts Punk on the Spanish announce table. Punk was aiming to hit the GTS but Rock went for a rock bottom on top of the table, only the table gave way and they all went down.Botch of the year! Rock improvises by landing a rock bottom outside the ring. He drags punk back in the ring but only gets a two count. Punk then lands a roundhouse kick to take them both out. Now were back to going blow for blow. Rock hits a spine buster and is about to hit the people’s elbow when the lights go out, and Rock gets power bombed through the table while the lights were still out. Punk sits up and starts laughing, pretending not to know what happened. Punk drags rock back into the ring and pins him to retain the title. I’m honestly shocked. Not spectacular, but a very good match where both men delivered. The table botch didn’t help.
Punk kicks Rock out of the ring and celebrates until Vince McMahon comes out. He says the celebration is over and is about to strip Punk of the title when the Rock stops him, saying he doesn’t want it to end like that and restarts the match. Vince agrees and Punk attacks as soon as the bell rings. High knee and a flying elbow get a two count. Punk calls for the GTS but Rock gets out and hits the people’s elbow to pin Punk and end the title reign. Very good way to give us a result we all knew was coming. Kind of surprised that Punk went down on just a people’s elbow. Very entertaining and exciting match, that only fell a little below it’s potential. By the end I thought Punk might retain even though everything pointed toward the contrary. That’s the sign of a good match. Overall a great PPV show.
From here we have to wonder how the WWE will handle having a part time performer as acting champion. There are 70 days until WrestleMania and only a few of them can actually guarantee a Rock appearance right now. They have to be very careful with how they treat that situation. As for Punk, he has plenty of ammo to demand a rematch but he won’t get one. At least not straight up anyway. He’ll compete in the Elimination Chamber against the Rock and four other men for the belt but there is no way Rock isn’t holding the belt going into WrestleMania. The main rumor has Punk facing the Undertaker at WrestleMania, so they need to start going in that direction with him.
As always, we’ll have to wait until Monday Night Raw to figure out how they plan on handling this.