Royal Rumble - January 27, 2008
-They are airing live from Madison Square Garden in New York City. The intro video is better than average, with clips from previous Rumbles, nifty shots of the current roster, and a fun taped bit where they are all brawling on a crowded subway car. It was around this time that the WWE seemed to start giving a damn about their production values again.
-Our hosts for the evening are Michael Cole and Jonathan Coachman for Smackdown, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler for Raw, and Joey Styles and Tazz for ECW.
Career Threatening match:
Ric Flair vs. Montel Vontavious Porter
MVPís United States Championship isnít on the line (of course). Flair must win this match or heíll be forced into retirement. Flair cuts a promo before the match, putting over his history in MSG. Flair plays to the crowd in the early going, but MVP knocks him down with a side tackle. MVP corners Flair and plays to the crowd himself. Flair works on the arm. MVP slaps Flair, but gets some vicious chops in return. MVP takes down Flair and hitís a big boot. Neckbreaker by MVP gets a cover for 2. Snapmare by MVP leads to an arm lock. MVP pummels Flair, but runs into his elbow. Flair tackles the knee, but MVP counters the figure four. MVP blocks the figure four again with a roll-up for 2. More chopping by Flair and smashing by MVP. Back body drop by MVP and a running boot to the jaw. Cover by MVP would have been it, but Flair gets a rope break. Schoolboy by Flair gets 2. MVP is fired up and smashes Flair for another cover. Double underhook suplex by MVP gets a cover for 2. MVP plants Flair on the top turnbuckles and hitís a superplex! Flair kicks out again and chops his way back into the game. Both men knock each other down. Flair rolls up MVP for 2. Flair attempts a backslide, but only gets 2 again. More chopping by Flair. Flair blocks the Playmaker and locks in the figure four! MVP taps out at 7:45. The match was just kind of there, **.
Winner: Ric Flair
-Backstage, Vince McMahon is hanging out with his son, Hornswoggle. Vince tells his bastard son that he expects him to win the Rumble. Finlay strolls in. Vince tells Finlay that he wonít be able to trust Hornswoggle in the Rumble.
-Jim Ross introduces us to the newest member of the broadcasting team, Mike Adamle! Adamle congratulates Flair on his victory and claims he watched Flairís first MSG match in the early 70ís. Thatís funny, Adamle didnít strike me as someone who was familiar with wrestling in the slightest. Adamle introduces the hype package for the Chris Jericho/JBL rivalry.
Chris Jericho vs. John Bradshaw Layfield
JBL left the commentary desk and returned to in-ring competition to silence Jericho, who had been calling himself the savior of World Wrestling Entertainment. Prior to this match on Raw, JBL cut a promo speaking directly to Jerichoís children, calling their father a coward. JBL then proceeded to choke Jericho with cables and hung him up on the Raw set. In other words, Jericho is incredibly angry with JBL and is the aggressor in the early going in this match. JBL smashes back, but Jericho aggressively takes down JBL. JBL tosses Jericho to the floor, but Jericho bounces back and kicks JBL in the gut. Jericho ducks a clothesline and applies the Walls of Jericho. JBL gets a rope break and retreats, but suffers a baseball slide. They brawl at ringside, utilizing the barricade and steel steps. Back to the ring, JBL drops Jericho neck-first on the ropes. JBL hits some clotheslines and continues to target the neck. After some back and forth striking, JBL applies a sleeper. Jericho fights out and hitís a clothesline. JBL cuts off Jerichoís momentum with a big boot. JBL drives Jericho into the ring post, busting open Jericho in the process. JBL smells blood and targets the newly sliced forehead. Jericho finds second wind with a series of quick shots. Jericho hitís the lionsault and clotheslines himself and JBL over the ropes. JBL dismantles the announce table, but Jericho catches him off guard with a chair shot to the forehead! The referee disqualifies Jericho at 9:27. This was an enjoyable brawl, not bad at all considering that both men were newly back on the active roster, **Ĺ.
Winner by DQ: John Bradshaw Layfield
-After the match, Jericho continues to attack JBL with the chair. Jericho earns a measure of revenge by hanging JBL up with the ringside cables.
-Backstage, Ashley knocks on Mariaís dressing room door, but controlling boyfriend Santino Marella answers. Santino rudely dismisses Ashley.
World Heavyweight Championship:
Edge © (with Vickie Guerrero, Zach Ryder, and Curt Hawkins) vs. Rey Mysterio
Rey earned this title shot by defeating Edge in a "Beat the Clock" challenge match (with help from Batista and The Undertaker). Theodore Long is stuck wheeling Vickieís wheelchair to the ring, but he quickly departs. The NYC boo-birds are out in full-force for Mysterio during the ring introductions, though Edge isnít really that popular either. Edge goes to work on the wrist right away. Rey botches the head scissors takedown. Edge works a headlock and side tackles Rey. Rey drop-kicks Edge in the head and goes for the pinfall. Edge slides Rey to the floor and then hitís the baseball slide! Hawkins and Ryder are caught trying to jump Rey by the referee and they are tossed from the arena. Rey attempts the 619, Edge escapes to ringside, so Rey hitís a flying cross body to the floor. Springboard seated senton by Rey gets a cover for 2. Edge kicks Rey off the turnbuckles, targeting the previously injured knee. Edge methodically dismantles Rey, whoís visibly limping now. Rey counters with an enziguri, goes for the 619, but runs into a power slam. Cover by Edge gets 2. Edge goes back to working over the injured knee. After a while, Rey counters with a bulldog. Rey chops and kicks away at Edge, all the while selling the knee nicely. Rey rolls through a sunset flip and kicks Edge in the face, earning a cover for 2. Rey plants Edge for another near fall. Rey goes high risk, blocks Edge, and hitís a double stomp for 2. Rey head scissors Edge out of the ring and slides into Edge, hitting a DDT on the floor! Cover by Rey gets 2.5! Big boot by Edge, but he misses the spear. Rey hitís the 619! Rey hitís a top rope splash and goes for the cover, but Vickie stops the referee from making the count! Rey sets Edge up for the 619 again, Vickie shields Edge, but Rey hitís it anyway. Rey attempts the West Coast Pop, but Edge spears him in mid-air, getting the win at 12:34. Rey has really been broken down by injuries and it showed here. But they tried, they really tried, **Ĺ.
Winner and still World Heavyweight Champion: Edge
-Backstage, Flair is strutting around in a towel. Mr. Kennedy is in his locker room, sarcastically applauding Flair for his victory tonight. Kennedy is taking his time issuing a challenge to Flair, when Shawn Michaels waltzes in. They are joined by Batista and Triple H, continuing the Flair ass-kissing festival and they shill some merchandise. Actually, this was a very amusing segment.
-Maria comes to the ring to waste some valuable pay-per-view time with the kiss-cam. To put things in perspective, this segment is usually used to keep the crowd entertained during commercial breaks on Raw. Cue the porn music as several unwitting couples are pressured into kissing. Ashley comes out and asks Maria about appearing in Playboy. Santino Marella interrupts and tries to answer "no" for Maria. Santino also makes fun of New York in awesome fashion, suggesting they would cheer for hepatitis. Santino has a mystery person under a sheet, whose ďboobiesĒ weíll enjoy instead. Itís either Mae Young or Big Dick Johnson. It turns out to be the latter (sporting New England Patriots paint on his fat gut), and Ashley kicks his ass with a rubber chicken. Yeah, Iíd rather if they didnít include these types of segments on $40 pay-per-views.
-We get our Mae Young appearance anyways, in a Wrestlemania 24 advertisement. A fat guy fakes drowning on a beach so the life guard (Torrie Wilson) can give him mouth to mouth. That is, until Mae Young replaces her and performs the life saving action herself.
Randy Orton © vs. Jeff Hardy
The build to this match was top notch, making this one of the most highly anticipated championship matches in recent memory. Hardy comes to the arena to the biggest ovation of the evening thus far. But since this is NYC, there are a segment of fans sporting the ďLetís Go, OrtonĒ chants. Either way, it makes for an electric atmosphere, as they lock up and Hardy takes control with a side headlock takedown. Orton counts with some head scissors! Hardy fights back with an inverted atomic drop, and gets an early near fall. Hardy clotheslines Orton to the floor and drop-kicks him into the barricade! Hardy hitís a plancha over the ropes, putting Orton right back on the floor. Orton seems to have had enough and tries to leave with his title. Hardy confronts Orton and they brawl back into the ring. Hardy attempts a springboard move, but Orton drop-kicks Hardy in mid-air, sending Hardy crashing to the floor. Orton hitís a suplex at ringside and dumps Hardy back to the ring for a cover attempt. Orton stomps the ankle and blatantly chokes. Hardy fights back, tossing Orton to the floor. Hardy clotheslines Orton off the apron. Cover by Hardy gets 2. Hardy misses Orton in the corner and hitís the turnbuckle hard. Cue the Orton chinlock! Hardy fights out but get immediately hit with a power slam and a cover attempt. Orton returns to the chinlock. Hardy escapes and plants Orton with some clotheslines. Whisper in the Wind gets a cover for 2.5! Reverse kick and corner drop-kick give Hardy momentum. Hardy goes high risk, drop-kicking Orton off the apron. Hardy moonsault off the top turnbuckle onto Orton on the floor! Hardy directs Orton to the ring and signals the Twist of Fate. Orton blocks the hold and hits an out of nowhere RKO for the win at 14:06! That was an abrupt finish that actually worked pretty well, and didnít take away from an exciting match, ***Ĺ.
Winner and still WWE Champion: Randy Orton
-Michael Buffer is the special guest ring announcer for the Rumble. Having Buffer for the event was a nice touch, as it made this event feel like even that much more significant.
Royal Rumble Match There will be 30 participants, starting with two wrestlers and another one joining the match every 90 seconds. The winner will get a title shot at Wrestlemania 24 (or No Way Out, as this year would have it). #1 is The Undertaker and #2 is Shawn Michaels (which is nifty, since they were the last two remaining in the 2007 Rumble match). These two are eager to square off again, as they take turns pummeling on each other. Taker tries to make the elimination, but HBK gets crotched on the ropes. Taker attempts a big boot, but gets tied up himself. HBK tries to take advantage, but Taker looks for the choke slam but hitís a big boot. Santino Marella is #3! Santino tries to build some confidence, but HBK super kicks him and Taker eliminations him right away. HBK tries to clothesline Taker out of the match, but Taker is resilient and boldly goes for ďOld School.Ē Michaels blocks the hold, but drops Taker to the mat and not the floor. The Great Khali is #4! Taker choke slams HBK and immediately turns his attention to Khali. Taker pummels, but Khali drops him with a single chop to the head. Khali stomps away at Taker while the crowd chants ďYou canít wrestle.Ē Haha, nice. Khali and Taker fight for a choke slam. Taker ducks a chop and eliminates Khali. Michaels jumps Taker from behind and almost eliminates both himself and Undertaker. Hardcore Holly is #5. Holly focuses on Undertaker and manages to get some worthy shots in. That is, before dropping to a big boot. HBK is nearly eliminated, but Holly inadvertently makes the save.
John Morrison is #6! Undertaker looks annoyed to see Morrison and pummels him. HBK attempts to throw out Morrison, who hangs on to the ropes. HBK boldly hitís the flying elbow drop on Morrison. HBK signals Sweet Chin Music on Morrison, but itís blocked. Tommy Dreamer is #7. Dreamer clotheslines HBK and takes the fight to Undertaker and Morrison. Dreamer is insanely over with the crowd, as Undertaker beats him into the corner. HBK trades places with Dreamer, as the Innovator of Violence tries to help Holly eliminate Morrison. Batista is #8 and he cleans house and finds himself staring down The Undertaker. Dreamer tries to DDT Batista and gets eliminated for his trouble. Batista spears Morrison. HBK tries to eliminate Holly. Hornswoggle is #9 and everyone turns their attention to him. Hornswoggle hides under the ring. Batista spears The Undertaker. Can you believe Holly is still in this? Holly hitís a back body drop on Michaels and nearly gets the elimination. Chuck Palumbo is #10 and uses his size and freshness to clean house. Undertaker tosses Morrison over the ropes, but he hangs on. Palumbo finds himself the victim of an Undertaker beating.
Jamie Noble is #11 and he wants a piece of Palumbo! Noble is taped up from a beating he took from Palumbo on Smackdown. Crowd chants "Jamie Noble" as heís quickly eliminated by Palumbo. Undertaker, Palumbo, Morrison, Michaels, Holly, and Batista are still in this, and Hornswoggle is under the ring. CM Punk is #12! Punk cleans house on HBK and Morrison, and even fights off the Undertaker! Taker wonít stand for this and drops Punk with a clothesline. Punk blocks a slam from Palumbo and tosses him over the ropes for the elimination. HBK jumps Punk and they block suplex attempts. Cody Rhodes is #13 and he goes after Punk right away. Rhodes turns his attention to Morrison, but stops to save his partner, Hardcore Holly, from The Undertaker. Rhodes hitís a big drop-kick on Taker, showing shades of Maven. Umaga is #14 and you could say that business is picking up. Umaga clotheslines everyone left and right, before getting chopped by Holly. Umaga responds by (finally) eliminating Holly. Umaga splashes Batista in the corner while Rhodes nearly eliminates Morrison. Snitsky is #15 and he is a house on fire. Rhodes dives on Snitsky and nearly gets him out.
The Miz is #16, which might be good news for his partner, John Morrison. And it is, as Miz saves Morrison from a CM Punk beating. Taker tries to eliminate Umaga, but the Samoan Bulldozer is too resilient. Shelton Benjamin is #17! Miz and Morrison were trying to suplex Punk out of the ring, but Benjamin dives onto the turnbuckle and slams them to the mat. HBK super kicks Benjamin out of the ring immediately after! At least Shelton got to wow us for the ten seconds he was in this thing. Jimmy Snuka is #18 and we get our first surprise entrant. Snuka pounds on CM Punk and HBK, before getting into head butt contest with The Undertaker. Roddy Piper is #19 and we get our second surprise entrant! Iím begging Piper to keep his shirt on, but as usual I donít get my way. Snuka and Piper square off, I guess there are still bad feelings over the coconut incident. All the other fighting stops briefly so everyone can watch the old timers go at it. Kane is #20 and you can be sure heís not going to want to stand around. Kane eliminates both Snuka and Piper, which doesnít endear him to the crowd. Kane choke slams Miz and pummels Umaga. Undertaker teases a choke slam on Kane, but instead goes after HBK.
Carlito is #21 and he spits his apple out on Cody Rhodes. Carlito nearly eliminates HBK, but is attacked by Punk before he can follow up. Carlito kicks off the ropes to keep Morrison and Punk from eliminating him, which was a great moment. Rhodes hitís the bulldog on Carlito, probably still sore over the delicious fruit in his eyes. Mick Foley is #22 and he wants a piece of John Morrison. Foley fights off all challengers, even hitting a DDT on Kane. Morrison kicks Foley in the face, though Foley seems to be the only one in the building who remembers that he has bad blood with Morrison. Mr. Kennedy is #23 and he storms to the ring to a decent ovation. There havenít been many eliminations, so the ring is really packed right now. Kennedy takes on his old enemy, The Undertaker, but gets choke slammed for his trouble. Big Daddy V is #24. The Undertaker eliminates Snitsky, but HBK then eliminates Undertaker. Kennedy then surprises Michaels with an elimination! Undertaker is angry, so he drops a leg drop on Snitsky on the Smackdown announce table. Kennedy tosses Rhodes over the topes, but Rhodes skins the cat. Rhodes tries to head scissor Kennedy out of the ring, but he hangs on. Mark Henry is #25 and he immediately sets his sights on Kane. Hornswoggle takes this time to sneak out and grab The Miz to eliminate him. Hornswoggle retuirns to his hideout.
Chavo Guerrero is #26. For the record, Chavo is the ECW Champion, and I consider this to be the final nail in the coffin concerning whether or not the ECW title is a ďWorldĒ title or not. Kane eliminated John Morrison during Chavoís entrance. Hornswoggle tries to pull Henry out of the ring, but gets lifted into the match. Finlay storms into the ring to save Hornswoggle from Chavo, Henry, and Big Daddy V. Finlay takes Hornswoggle out of the match and to the back. Jim Ross gets word that Finlay has been disqualified from the Royal Rumble, so I guess that means he was #27. Elijah Burke is #28. Burke quickly finds himself in the path of Big Daddy V. Chavo and Punk fight on the apron, and Punk ends up eliminated. Triple H is #29! Triple H seems on path for victory as he immediately tosses out Cody Rhodes. Triple H hitís a face buster on Big Daddy V and tosses him out single handily. Triple H and Mick Foley brawl, which is an awesome homage to their 2000 street fight. HHH eliminates Foley, who drags down Elijah Burke with him. Triple H hitís the pedigree on Umaga.
JOHN CENA is #30! I kid you not, this was the most shocking moment of the year (Editor's Note: considering that was roughly three weeks into a NEW YEAR....sure!). Cena wasnít expected back from injury until much later in the year, there was talk of him maybe having a no wrestling role at Wrestlemania, and here he was at the Rumble. Cena cleans house eliminating Carlito, Chavo, and Henry. Cena and Triple H stare each other down. They square off, with Triple H getting the upper hand. Umaga attempts the Samoan Spike, but Batista spears him. Batista quickly eliminates Kennedy and Umaga. The final four are Cena, Triple H, Batista, and Kane! Kane is eliminated, and weíre down to three. Batista gives the thumbs down, Cena canít see anyone, and Triple H is proud of his crotch. The three-way brawl erupts. Batista hitís the spine buster on Cena, blocks a pedigree and spine busters Triple H as well. Triple H clotheslines Batista from the ring! Triple H points at the Wrestlemania sign, but Cena reminds him that he made The Game tap out at Wrestlemania 22. Cena and HHH brawl, and the crowd is electric for this showdown. Five knuckle shuffle by Cena, who signals the F-U. Triple H blocks, attempts the pedigree, but they both end up knocking each other down. Cena grabs Triple H for an F-U, but Triple H blocks and hitís a DDT. Triple H lifts up Cena for the elimination, but Cena holds on to the ropes. Cena gets the F-U and drops Triple H to the floor at 51:30 for the win! The shocking return of John Cena really lifted this Rumble, which most people thought looked ďpredictableĒ heading into the event. The second half of this was on fire and the finish was extremely satisfying, ***ĺ.
Winner: John Cena
Final Thoughts: The undercard was nothing special, but Orton and Hardy delivered the goods with their title match. However, this is a pay-per-view that is almost always judged solely based on whether or not the Rumble match itself was any good. I am happy to report that the Rumble was very entertaining and featured the biggest surprise I have seen in a long time in a wrestling angle. That is enough for a recommendation.