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WWE Royal Rumble 2002

by Scrooge McSuck

- Originally broadcasted on Pay-Per-View on January 20th, 2002, from the Philips Arena in Atlanta, GA. Should be noted this would be the last time we got to see the Royal Rumble under the company name "World Wrestling Federation." Theme song of the month is Kid Rock's Cocky. There's a musical "talent" I'm glad to see has fallen off the face of the earth. Several times. Jim Ross and Jerry "The King" Lawler are calling all the action, unless otherwise noted.

WWF Tag Team Championship Match:
Tazz & Spike Dudley vs. The Dudley Boyz (w/ Stacy Keibler):

No, this wasn't some sort of oddball booked EWR Scenario (Remember that game?). Tazz and Spike really were the Tag Team Champions, and held the belts for a considerable amount of time for such a random team (six weeks is long for me, dammit). The Dudleys were still officially heels, having survived the disbanding of the Alliance on account of being the reigning Tag Team Champions at the time. Spike is sporting a neck brace, because in any real sport, THAT would pass a required physical. Tazz takes a modified 3D on the floor 15-seconds into the match, so we can expect this to be quick. Spike takes a pair of neck breakers, but he's got the heart of a giant (remember that random team with the Big Show?). Spike hits a Dudley Dog from out of nowhere on Bubba Ray, but the referee doesn't see the tag. Don't worry, Tazz gets the hot tag not long after, having spent a grand total of zero seconds as a legal participant of the match. I'm all for shorter matches, but I prefer the faces looking semi-competent. He suplexes the crap out of everything walking. Stacy tries to create a distraction, but Tazz hooks her in the Tazzmission (the Sky Sports version cuts away for the unnecessary man-on-woman violence)! D'Von's save leads to heel miscommunication, and Tazz makes him tap to retain at 5:06. *1/2 Decent match that seemed more fitting for an episode of Raw and Smackdown, not one of the Big Four PPV's (back when they really were treated as such).

WWF Intercontinental Championship Match:
Edge vs. William Regal:

You know how much people love William Regal these days? Well, in 2002, that wasn't the case: He was pretty bad, but mostly because he worked a much more boring style that he seemed to refuse to adapt to anyone else's styles. This was during the height of Regal's "Power of the Punch" gimmick, where he would miraculously produce a pair of brass knuckles, no matter what the situation. Referee Nick Patrick searches him before the bell, and actually finds a pair. That can only mean we'll see another pair appear from thin air at some point in the match. Edge control until taking a knee to the side of the head. Edge counters an uppercut with a back slide, but Regal remains with the upperhand. Edge bridges out of a double underhook, but Regal holds on and still manages to complete the Powerbomb. They take it to the apron, with Edge executing a DDT from out of nowhere. Edge wins a slugfest, comes off the ropes with a heel kick, and takes Regal down with a suplex for two. Regal with a vicious release German, but Edge somehow is on his feet to hit a clothesline, rendering the suplex pointless. Regal counters the Edge-e-cution and slaps on the Regal Stretch. Edge makes it to the ropes and slaps on his own version of the hold, except crappy (think John Cena doing any submission hold). They fight on the top rope, with Edge coming off with a super-sized heel kick. Edge goes for the Spear, but the referee gets pulled into the middle of it. Regal has another pair of knuckles (SURPRISE!), KO's Edge with them, and we have a New Intercontinental Champion at 9:45. ** Not terrible, but these two were clearly playing from two different sheets of music, and it was easily more watchable for me now than as it originally happened.

WWF Women's Championship Match:
Trish Stratus vs. Jazz:

I would me mildly happy to see this, except for the fact that Trish was still green as grass in the ring, and Jazz wasn't anything to brag about. Jacqueline is the "special" referee for the match, because for whatever reason, she had to be used in some kind of capacity until finally being released in 2004 (including a brief reign as Cruiserweight Champion, and nope, I'm not making that up, either). Trish is selling an injured hand, courtesy of Jazz a few days earlier on Smackdown. Jazz attacks before the bell, while Trish has troubles getting her jacket off. They work the series of pinfalls counter spot, and actually do it quite well. Jazz with a stun gun and a leg drop for two. Jazz and Jackie get confrontational, which seems a bit unprofessional for a referee. Trish tries for a school boy, but Jazz counters... and Jackie just stands there like an idiot before counting. Trish hits the springboard bulldog (or whatever it's called), but only gets two. Jazz with a DDT for two. Whip to the corner, Jazz charges in with a clothesline. To the opposite corner, Trish gets a boot up, and a crappy bulldog finishes at 3:45. * Could've been worse, but there were several obvious spots delayed by poor reaction time, plus Jacqueline forgetting she's a referee.

Street Fight: Ric Flair vs. Vince McMahon:

Evidence #1 that the Invasion was deliberately tanked: Bringing RIC FLAIR back the night after the angle was finally killed off. Flair apparently purchased their stock in WWF from Shane and Stephanie, enabling their financing of the Alliance, which means he owns half the company (kayfabe, obviously), so Vince is pissed off and trying to humiliate Flair at every opportunity. This marks Flair's first televised match with the WWF in nearly a decade, having last worked a match on the January 25th, 1993 episode of Raw (taped the week prior). Fun fact: His opponent that night, Mr. Perfect, makes HIS in-ring return after almost 10 years since working a match in the WWF... and it's another name that could've helped the "Alliance".

Lockup, and Vince shoves Flair across the ring. Vince grabs a headlock and comes off the ropes with a shoulder tackle. It seems like he can't make up his mind in ripping off Hogan or Flair, so he combines the two to mock the Nature Boy. Flair responds by wrestling Vince down and unloading with rights and lefts in the corner. Flair busts out the chops until Vince goes to the eyes. Whip to the corner, followed by a clothesline. Flair can't quite flip himself onto the apron on the whip to the corner, but even still, he's giving Vince WAY too much offense so far. Flair takes the most slow-motion whip into a security rail I've ever seen. I'm amazed the Bushwhackers didn't work the spot in their Heroes of Wrestling appearance. Vince with a trash can shot, allowing Flair to blade. Oh, now it's OK? Wasn't cool for him to do it at WrestleMania VIII, but it's cool now. Vince humiliates Flair in front of his family (including son Reid, sad face), then starts working on the leg. It's VINCE MCMAHON, NOT RICKY STEAMBOAT. JUST F*CKING DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Here comes the Figure-Four, and I'm just amazed this doesn't end the match. Vince whips out a lead pipe, confusing the match for a game of Clue, apparently. Flair goes low to counter, offering his first offense in about 8-minutes. Flair with chops, followed by a shot to the head with the table-top monitor, complete with blade job. Flair returns the favor of front row embarrassment and continues to chop the skin off his chest. Flair goes low again, lays Vince out with the lead pipe, and finishes him off with the Figure-Four (complete with whacky dance) at 14:55. So we needed 10 minutes of Vince slowly beating up on Flair, before jobbing to a handful of weapon shots and a Figure Four? ** It was okay at times (for the Vince McMahon scale of ratings), but definitely not anywhere near one of Flair's shining moments.

WWF Undisputed Championship Match:
Chris Jericho vs. The Rock:

We need a show stealing match here to really pick up the slack. Some people actually liked that Flair/McMahon match, but I found it dreadfully dull. Jericho unified the belts at Vengeance, and it's still a bit hard to think that he was made "the guy", at least as far as being the Champion goes. How he kept the belts and how poorly he was booked is another story, but at least he's got Rocky here to give him another rub. Jericho with an extended version of trash talking, which Rock replies to with an ass beating. Samoan drop gets two. Jericho heads to the floor, and Rock isn't far behind. Jericho survives a flurry and comes back with a diving forearm. Whip to the corner, followed by a clothesline. He posts himself on a charge, but still has enough to hang Rock across the top rope. Spinning heel kick gets two. Jericho with a suplex, and he works in his arrogant cover, just because it's awesome. He takes a timeout to remove a turnbuckle cover and goes for the Walls, but Rocky fights out of it. Jericho with a missile dropkick for two. Jericho with a chinlock, constantly screaming at the referee to ask Rock if he gives up. Rock fights free, only to run into an elbow. Jericho goes to the top again, but this time gets crotched along the buckle. Rock climbs up and brings him down with a super-plex. Rock with a release belly-to-belly suplex for two. Jericho comes back with a bulldog, followed by a pair of Lionsault's for a two count of his own.

Jericho argues the count, allowing Rock to recover. He side-steps a dropkick and slaps on his shitty version of the Sharpshooter. Suddenly, Lance Storm and Christian show up to create distractions, because... were they associated with Jericho, other than being fellow Canadian's? Jericho with a Rock Bottom, but it only gets two. Jericho dares to try and rip off the People's Elbow, but Rock nips up and tosses him to the floor. Rock starts taking a table apart, complete with Lawler making sure his crown is safe. Jericho takes control and goes for another Rock Bottom, but Rock blocks and counters, putting Jericho through the other table, instead. Rock throws Jericho's limp body back in the ring, but only gets a two count. Jericho fights out of another Rock Bottom attempt and slaps on the Walls of Jericho, but Rock manages to make it to the ropes to force a break. Jericho goes for it again, but Rock counters with a cradle for two. Hebner gets laid out, so we can expect some kind of screwjob finish (no pun intended). Jericho KO's Rock with a belt shot, and here comes another referee (Nick Patrick), but Rock is up at two. Rock with a DDT from out of nowhere, but Patrick won't count... did I miss something? Was this an angle, again? Rock lays him out with a Rock Bottom for being a jerk-off. Spinebuster and People's Elbow to Jericho, still no referee. Jericho goes low, sends Rock into the exposed buckle, and rolls him up (with feet on the ropes) for three at 18:47. **** Other than the somewhat anti-climatic and out of nowhere finish, a pretty good match that would've worthy of being the Main Event, but since we're at the Royal Rumble, and in the middle of the show, I'll let the finish slide. It's not like Ric Flair didn't use that finish all the damn time himself, right?

30 Man Royal Rumble Match:

As usual, winner of this match gets to face the WWF (Undisputed) Champion at WrestleMania (X-8). For those who were watching at the time, the winner here was no mystery, and was simply a formality to get us on the Road to WrestleMania. #1 is Rikishi, only a year or so removed from being a meaningful performer, and #2 is Goldust, back for the first time since his Spring '99 release, and if there's a perfect number to make some return with, then this is it, allowing him do to his complete entrance without rushing. Goldust teases a pair of eliminations to show he's in much better shape, I suppose. #3 is the (no longer Big) Boss Man, making his last PPV appearance, if memory serves correctly. I would've loved to see him come back for one night in his old school outfit (sad face). #4 is Bradshaw, as the ring fills up with bodies probably piled up for mass exodus. Boss Man gets to taste Rikishi's ass, and is our first elimination at 5:25. #5 is Lance Storm (or Mr. Personality, as Jim Ross notes). #6 is Al Snow, and Bradshaw kills Storm with the Lariat. #7 is Billy Gunn, and nobody cares. Snow and Storm fight on the apron until Storm loses out and hits the floor at 11:05. Gunn tosses Bradshaw at 11:32. #8 is the Undertaker, and it's time to clean house of the dead weight (a.k.a everyone left): Goldust via Chokeslam at 13:02, Snow gets tossed at 13:28, Rikishi clotheslined out at 13:40, and Gunn thrown immediately after at 13:47. The crowd loves it, despite Undertaker being a stinky heel. #9 is Matt Hardy, looking for revenge on the Undertaker. Lita helps out by going low and Matt brings him down with a neck breaker. #10 is Jeff Hardy to really get the crowd's juices flowing, and I noticed that intervals have increased to damn near THREE MINUTES for this period. I should note they totally hit reset on the Hardys split from December for this, and thank goodness for that. The Hardys and Lita all get their licks in, but the celebration is short-lived, as Undertaker gets his heat back by no-selling their twist of fate/swanton bomb combo, dumping Jeff at 18:24 countering Poetry in Motion, planting Matt with the Last Ride, and tossing him out at 18:54.

#11 is Maven, barely graduated from the inaugural season of Tough Enough at this point. He takes a beating, but a helpful distraction from Lita and the Hardys allows Maven to surprise everyone and dropkick the Undertaker out at 20:18. Holy shit that's awesome, except Undertaker beats the crap out of him for it and ends things by leaving him with a really bad bladejob. Have I mentioned how much I f*cking hated the Undertaker from this time period? Yeah, intervals have been poorly timed just for Undertaker's sake. #12 is Scotty Too Hotty, and he gets laid out by the Undertaker for reasons unknown (spoiler: reasons being he couldn't let anyone get one over on him). #13 is Christian, but Scotty is still laying in the entrance area. Dead airtime is always awesome. #14 is Diamond Dallas Page, working as a bottom feeding confidence guru. Crowd mildly pops for him, but they are in Atlanta. Christian eats a Diamond Cutter, and Scotty adds a Worm because the crowd still loved it. DDP then tosses Scotty at 28:30. #15 is Chuck Palumbo, right as the team of Billy and Chuck started getting a bit... odd. It's times like these where 90-second intervals is a good thing. #16 is The Godfather, back from a long absence to wash the stink of Right To Censor off him. His entire entrance eats up two minutes, so #17 is Albert, the Hip Hop Hippo. We need bodies cleared out, again. Albert gets tossed at 33:51 by Chuck and Christian. Godfather misses the Ho Train and gets clotheslined out at 34:33 to crowd disapproval. #18 is Perry Saturn to little reaction and wearing cow-skinned tights, apparently. This might be his last PPV appearance, too. #19 is "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, which means so long to Christian (37:34), Chuck Palumbo (37:48), and Saturn (37:54). Austin has time to kill, so eliminates Christian and Palumbo again, just because... have I mentioned Austin's act was a bit stale by this point? The imaginary watch never gets old, though. Screaming "What" to every countdown does. #20 is Val Venis, also back for the same reasons as the Godfather. At least he survives until the next entrant.

#21 is Test, and nobody cares, despite so many efforts to get him over. Austin survives their double team effort, clotheslines Venis out at 42:58, and sends Test packing at 43:10 following a Stunner. #22 is Triple H (he's winning... spoiler?), and it's another entrance that eats up all two minutes, forcing another extended interval. #23 is the Hurricane (he's not winning). He tries to double Chokeslam the former Two Man Power Trip, but they casually toss him into the next stratosphere at 47:56. #24 is Faarooq, and his trend of Rumble Sucking continues, being eliminated almost instantly at 49:27. #25 is Mr. Perfect, and I remember going nuts for this (and the live crowd seemed to be into him, too). He milks his entrance while Austin and Triple H battle. He manages to spit and swat his gum while being double teamed against the ropes. Now THAT'S Perfect. #26 is Kurt Angle, making his first Rumble Match appearance. There's a match I would've killed for in a perfect world (pun intended): Angle vs. Hennig. #27 is Big Show, back when he was the biggest, toughest JTTS on the roster... come on, he was doing jobs to EVERYONE at this point. He chokeslams everyone. #28 is Kane, and they have their yearly battle, with Kane coming out on top by dumping Big Slow at 58:10. Austin with a Stunner on Kane, and Angle slams him over at 58:26. #29 is Rob Van Dam and gets squashed with a Pedigree. Perfect and Angle have a brief back-and-forth to tease me. #30 is Booker T to round out the field, and easily throws RVD out at 1:01:30.

Our final field looks like this: Austin, Triple H, Perfect, Angle, and Booker T. Booker celebrates his elimination of RVD with a Spinarooni. Austin greets him with a Stunner, and Booker is gone at 1:01:54. Austin counters a Pedigree, sending Hunter into the buckle, and Angle follows with an Angle Slam. Angle with a trio of German's on Austin. Austin escapes a fourth with a low blow and goes back to trying to toss Perfect. Austin fights off the double-team until Angle sneaks up and dumps him out at 1:04:02. I did NOT see this being the Final Three. Austin has his own moment of Undertaking, pulling Hennig to the floor for no reason other than being a sore loser. He's got a chair and lays out everyone before finally taking his ass back to the locker room. We get heel miscommunication, but Perfect hangs on to a big pop. He goes after Angle and gives him the Perfect-Plex, because it's F*CKING AWESOME, THAT'S WHY! Float-over snapmare for old times sake, and Hunter clotheslines Hennig out at 1:06:57. Hunter and Angle do their one-on-one, but the end is obvious, and Triple H is our winner at 1:09:10, and gets to challenge Chris Jericho (or whomever is the WWF Champion) at WrestleMania X-8. ***3/4 Had moments where it really dragged, but the formula was fine for the most part: Some good ring clearing segments, some awesome returns, and a very lively crowd. Other than the pathetic character traits of Undertaker and Austin, and being about 10-minutes longer than it needed to be, a pretty good Rumble.

Final Thoughts: A Very solid, borderline great, Royal Rumble Match and a 4-Star World Championship Match makes this a satisfying show just on their own merrits. The rest of the undercard falls under two categories: Worthless filler (everything from the opener through the Women's Title) that was overall fine (OK, I lied, the Women's Match kinda sucked), and a garbage brawl that was probably designed to simply stroke Vince McMahon's ego. Fast forward that stuff, and the second half of the PPV is definitely a must-watch. Solid recommendation, but you will probably start losing interest (briefly) for the Rumble around entrans #16-19.

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