September 16, 2008
Alexander Settee

Royal Rumble 2002, January 20, 2002, Phillips Arena, Atlanta, GA
Announcers: Jim Ross & Jerry ďThe KingĒ Lawler

This is both the final WWF Royal Rumble (blurring in full effect on my Anthology version here), and the final Rumble prior to the brand split. Havenít seen this one in a long time, so I donít know what exactly to expect. I do know that with the exception of knowing that (spoiler alert) HHH wins the Rumble itself, the street fight, and the Jericho/Rock match I had to look up the card to remind myself what was on it. But letís give it a try, shall we?

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

Spike and Tazz were playing an underdog team who upset the Dudleys for the belts a few weeks ago on Raw, so now the Dudleys are looking for revenge. The Dudleys attack and get the double team neckbreaker on Tazz on the floor to take him out for the time being. Spike (who is wearing a neck brace due to a previous attack by the Dudleys) officially starts out with Bubba. Bubba gets a couple of neckbreakers and a suplex before tagging D-Von. D-Von keeps on the neck with some elbows, a snapmare and even a Curt Hennig-like jumping neck snap. Tag back to Bubba who nails another suplex as Tazz has finally made his way up to the apron. Spike slips out of yet another suplex attempt and hits the Dudley Dog on Bubba, but canít capitalize. Bubba tags D-Von who holds up the ref long enough that he misses Spikeís tag to Tazz. While the ref puts Tazz out, the Dudleys get a double flapjack. D-Von goes up, but Spike avoids the headbutt. Bubba comes in and miscommunication sees the Dudleys clothesline each other. Now Spike gets the tag to Tazz who is the house afire, throwing the Dudleys around at will. He gets a 2 count on D-Von with a northern lights suplex as Bubba saves. Spike nails Bubba off the top, and follows it up the another Dudley Dog as well. Stacy gets on the apron now to provide some distraction, but Tazz is having none of that and hooks her in the Tazzmission. D-Von saves her, but in the process knocks her hard to the floor. Spike tries the Dudley Dog on D-Von this time but is tossed to the floor. D-Von turns around and charges Tazz, but misses and gets hooked in the Tazzmission to which he submits at 5:07. Tazz and Spike retain the titles. Short, but it was some good fast paced action. *1/2

Intercontinental Championship Match: Edge vs. William Regal

Regal is in his brass knux phase here, and the ref spends a lot of time looking for them around ringside. He finally finds them by reaching down Regalís trunks, which must have been fun for all involved, but means we can now get underway. While Regal argues the confiscation of his weapon, Edge jumps him getting a couple of clotheslines and a backdrop. He stomps Regal in the corner and chokes him with the boot. After ramming the face to the mat a couple of times, Edge goes for an Irish whip, but Regal blocks and nails a knee to the head. Regal with some forearms and an uppercut, but Edge grabs a backslide out of nowhere for 1. Irish whip by Regal is reversed and Edge gets a drop toehold. Regal still recovers first and gets a belly to back suplex for 2, and then tries the cover a few more times with Edge still kicking out. Knees to the head get a couple more 2 counts. Regal goes to a rear chinlock variation and when Edge gets up, he nails him with a short forearm. Regal hooks the arms, but Edge backdrops out for 2. Regal, still holding those arms gets back up and hits a double underhook powerbomb for 2. He keeps working Edge over and knocks him to the apron. Regal tries a suplex from there, but Edge blocks it and hits a DDT. Back in the ring, that gets 2 as Regal gets his foot on the ropes. Corner whip by Edge and they hit head to head on the charge. Once they recover from that a slugfest breaks out, won by Edge who then gets a spin kick and suplex for 2. Regal comes back with elbows and a belly to back suplex, but Edge shakes it right off and gets a clothesline for 2. He tries the Edgecution, but Regal reverses and hooks the Regal Stretch. Edge struggles to the ropes and finally makes it, then reverses to a Regal Stretch of his own. Regal makes the ropes on that no problem, but Edge follows it up with a dropkick and a rollup for 2. Up to he goes, but Regal catches him. Superplex is tried, but Edge shoves him off and gets a spin kick off the top. Regal has pulled a second set of knux out of his tights showing that Nick Patrick didnít dig deep enough, while Edge sets up the spear. The ref gets pulled in the way by Regal and Edge nails him, which allows Regal to use the Power of the Punch to KO Edge. Ref recovers slowly, but Edge stays down for 3 at 9:46 to give Regal the IC Title. I like both guys involved, and this was a decent, but by no means spectacular match. *1/2

WWF Womenís Championship Match: Trish Stratus vs. Jazz

Jackie is the guest referee for this match for some reason. Stratus has her hand taped up from an attack by Jazz on Smackdown, which was the big setup for this. Jazz attacks right off the bat, getting a backdrop and splash for 1. Trish fires back and gets an Irish whip, which is reversed, but she comes off with a sunset flip, that is reversed, and then reversed back for about 7 or 8 near falls. Jazz gets some forearms and drops Trish on the top rope, followed by hitting a legdrop for 2. She works on the injured hand now, wrapping it around the ropes and twisting it. This leads to a confrontation with Jackie and they have a shoving match. Trish tries to take advantage with a rollup, but Jazz hooks to the legs. Jackie delays the count for a while before finally counting 2. Trish gets a jawjacker and fires away with punches, but Jazz blocks a DDT. Trish flips out of a suplex attempt and hits Stratusfaction for only 2. Jazz reverses the cover and gets her own 2, and then gets a DDT for 2 as well. She whips Trish to the corner and hits a charge, but a second try sees Trish get the boot up and hit a bulldog for the pin to retain the title at 3:24. Again, this was short, which isnít necessarily bad when it comes to womenís matches. Trish had really only started wrestling full time a few months earlier, but was already looking pretty good, and Jazz was a great opponent for her at this point. *

Street Fight: Ric Flair vs. Mr. McMahon

So back in the spring it was revealed that Shane and Stephanie sold their interest in the WWF so that they could buy WCW and ECW respectively. I wouldnít recommend hiring either of them as your investment advisor, but thatís another story. Anyway, once the failure that was the Invasion was taken out back and shot, they needed a new direction to go in. So we find out that the person they sold the stock to was none other than Ric Flair. Flair comes back after nearly nine years and is now playing the role of McMahonís business partner as they are said to have 50/50 ownership of the company. Of course they donít get along, so we need to have a match here to settle things. One thing I notice right away is how good Flair looks physically. He really only deteriorated, and started to show his age over the last few years, because here he doesnít look a day over 40. Two of Flairís children, Megan and Reid were shown arriving to the building with him, and are out here now in the front row. They lockup and Vince shoves him down, followed by some posing. Next, Vince grabs a side headlock, but Flair sends him off the ropes and Vince gets a shoulderblock. Now he mocks Flair by strutting. Flair to a hammerlock and he takes Vince down (surprisingly, this actually has some semblance of being a wrestling match so far), and then stomps him. Vince is back and whips Flair to the corner, and then runs the shoulder to the midsection. Vince gets a chop, but Flair reverses and gets a few of his own. Vince rakes the eyes to stop that and nails a clothesline. Back in the corner, Vince rams the shoulder again. Corner whip sees Flair try to do the flip, but canít get over, so Vince comes over and knocks him to the outside. He nails Flair with a sign a couple of times, followed by using a trash can on him. Flair has been busted open, so Vince hammers away at the cut. He whips Flair to the post, then to the stairs, followed by a bodyslam on the floor. He grabs Meganís camera and takes a picture of the bloody Flair, but is then nice enough to hand the camera back. Back in the ring, Vince starts working on the leg, dropping an elbow, and wrenching it. He rams it to the post, then drags Flair back and hooks a figure four (on the correct leg no less) but Flair fights and eventually turns it. Vince to the outside where he grabs a lead pipe, but Flair blocks the shot with a low blow. Flair gets some chops and rams Vince to the barrier, and then nails him with a monitor. Vince is now busted open, so Flair has Megan take a picture of him too. In the ring, Vince begs off but Flair nails the cut. Flair uses a blatant low blow, and then grabs the pipe and hits Vince with it. Figure four is hooked and Vince submits at 14:54. Wasnít a wild brawl or anything like you might expect from a street fight stip, but it was still interesting, and although not very fast paced, certainly never boring. This was part of the whole angle that led to the introduction of the nWo, and eventually, the brand split. **1/2

Undisputed WWF Championship Match: Chris Jericho vs. The Rock

As we all know, since Jericho will never let us forget, the Undisputed title was created the previous month at Vengeance when Jericho defeated WCW Champion The Rock to win that title, and followed it up by beating WWF Champion Steve Austin to unify the titles. This now, is the first major defense of the unified belts, and I love the fact that, at least for a while, they actually had him use the two belts. It works perfectly for his character. Jericho trash talks a lot to kick things off until Rock finally just nails him. Irish whip and Rock hits an elbow, followed by a Samoan drop for 2. Irish whip again, but Jericho holds on to the ropes and bails. Rock chases him back in and tackles him down. Another whip off the ropes but Rock puts the head down and Jericho kicks him, and follows up with a forearm off the ropes and some punches. Corner whip and Jericho hits a clothesline. Second try misses as Jericho hits the post. Rock slams him face first to the mat, but when he charges, Jericho catches him in a stungun. Chops by Jericho, but Rock ducks and punches away. Corner whip is reversed, but Rock nails an elbow. Jericho comes back with a spin kick for 2. Suplex gets 2 from the arrogant cover, and now Jericho pulls the turnbuckle pad off. Rock with some punches, but Jericho scoops the legs and tries the Walls. Rock blocks that but comes up into a clothesline. Jericho goes up and hits a missile dropkick for 2. Rear chinlock and the arm drops twice before Rock fights back and comes off the ropes, but runs into an elbow. Jericho up top again, but this time Rock crotches him. Superplex by Rock, but no follow up. Rock wins a slugfest when they get up and gets his belly to belly throw for 2. Corner whip is reversed and Jericho gets the face slam. Not one, but two Lionsaults only get a 2 count. He gets in the refís face about it, and they have a shoving match. Letís face it, Hebner has always been racist against Canadians, so Jericho has a good point here. Jericho goes to the second rope for a dropkick, but Rock catches him and gets the Sharpshooter. Lance Storm runs in and distracts the ref just in time to prevent him from seeing Jericho tap out, while Christian tries to interfere, but Rock breaks the hold to knock him outside. There were rumours at the time that they were going to form a Horsemen-like stable with Jericho as Flair, and Storm, Christian, and Test as his lackeys, but they never went all the way with it. That would have been super cool, but I guess someone thought that Jericho as Stephanieís bitch was best for everyone. They got robbed at the Emmys that year, because those segments were pure gold. Back to the match as Jericho takes advantage to hit a Rock Bottom for 2. This was during the time when they realized that fans accepted using the opponentís finisher as a possible finish, so they started doing it in every main event match. It just makes the moves seem less special if anyone can use them rather then them being one guyís signature move. Jericho gets a senton splash and tries a Peopleís Elbow (sigh!) but Rock kips up and tosses him. Rock beats him up outside until Jericho fights back, and both announce tables are prepped for usage. Jericho sets up a Rock Bottom on the Spanish table, but Rock reverses and Rock Bottoms Jericho through the English table. When Rock finally gets him back in the ring, he gets 2.5. Jericho elbows out of another try at the Rock Bottom and hooks the Walls. Rock fights to the ropes and makes it. Small package off the break gets 2 for Rock, but Jericho is back on him. Irish whip, and Rock tries a big clothesline, but nails the ref instead. Jericho grabs a belt and nails Rock which gets 2.5 from the second ref that runs in. Jericho argues that point as well allowing Rock to get a DDT, but Nick Patrick wonít count. I donít recall any issues between them, so I have no idea whatís up with that. Patrick takes a Rock Bottom for his troubles. Back to Jericho as Rock hits a spinebuster, followed by the Peopleís Elbow, but Hebner is still out. When Rock goes to revive him that gives Jericho the time to sneak up with a low blow, ram Rock to the exposed buckle and roll him up with his feet on the ropes for the pin to retain the title at 18:49. Iím surprised they didnít have Jericho hold the tights as well on that finish. But it was still a very good match, issues with finishers aside. ***

Main Event: Royal Rumble Match

Rikishi is #1 and Goldust, making his first appearance in a long time is #2. They go at it and Goldust is almost eliminated a couple of times, but hangs on. Big Boss Man is #3 and he beats up both guys until he and Goldust try to team up on Rikishi without success. #4 is Bradshaw who beats up everyone. Rikishi gets the stinkface on Boss Man, followed by clotheslining him out for our first elimination. Lance Strom is #5 and gets no reaction. His gimmick was a lack of personality, which was doomed to fail, of course. Al Snow is #6 and is still over with the crowd even without Head. #7 is Billy Gunn, half of the ďBilly & ChuckĒ tag team. Iíll let you figure out which half he was. Storm and Snow go over the top to the apron where Snow knocks him down to eliminate him. Just as Bradshaw is about to put Goldust out, Gunn comes from behind (makes sense with his gimmick) and dumps him. Undertaker is #8 playing the role of pissed off heel biker. Billy gets chokeslammed. Goodbye Goldust. See ya later Al. Rikishi and Gunn soon follow and UT is left all alone. Matt Hardy with Lita is #9 and there was actually an issue here as UT had put both of them, as well as Jeff out of action during matches where they challenged him for the Hardcore title. Lita nails a low blow and they double team him briefly, but UT soon takes over again on Matt, although heís not being treated like a total jobber, just a partial one. #10 is Jeff Hardy who charges in to help his brother, and they briefly take control before UT catches Jeff on a Poetry in Motion attempt and tosses him, followed by giving Matt the Last Ride and tossing him as well. Maven is #11, fresh off his Tough Enough win, but first Lita and The Hardyz attack UT again. He tosses them one more time for good measure but that allows Maven to sneak up and dropkick UT out. That gets a huge pop from the crowd, one of the biggest of the night. But, just to make sure that you the fan, who they care so much about, knows who the real star of the show is, and to make you feel like an idiot for cheering Maven, Undertaker gets back in and just murders him. In a nutshell this is why they have so much trouble making stars, right here. They just donít have the balls to effectively use their established guys to put over the up and comers. The result is, as we see today, a very stale upper card and main event scene, with the same guys fighting each other over and over again, while lower level guys are brought in, and then released just as quickly for failing to get over. Not that Maven was necessarily going to be a huge long term star, but they really needed to try and do something with him while he was so hot coming off the reality show. Scotty 2 Hotty is #12, and UT nails him for good measure as well. UT takes Maven through the crowd and beats him up more in the concession area, throwing his bloody head into a popcorn cart. JR notes that although Maven is not officially eliminated, itís unlikely heíll be back to take advantage of the McMahon/Austin rule. European Champion Christian is #13, wearing his belt to the ring in a nice touch, and has no one to fight until Scotty recovers and gets in. Diamond Dallas Page is #14 and he goes after Christian, even hitting a Diamond Cutter. Scotty then hits the Worm on Christian, but DDP tosses him right after. Chuck Palumbo is #15 and he goes at it with DDP, soon to be joined by Christian for a double team. Godfather, another returnee from an absence is #16, and he brings a dozen hoes with him. DDP is tossed off camera while we focus on the women. His entrance actually takes so long that the countdown begins as he enters the ring. Albert is #17 and he last about 30 seconds before Chuck throws him out. Godfather misses a Ho Train and gets double clotheslined out. His entrance is all that ever mattered anyway. #18 is Perry Saturn wearing these crazy spotted cow trunks. #19 is Stone Cold Steve Austin to really inject some life into the crowd. He beats up everyone. Christian gets tossed, followed quickly by Chuck and Saturn. With no one left to fight, he brings Christian back, nails another Stunner and tosses him again. Chuck then gets the same treatment. Val Venis is #20 and surprisingly holds his own with Austin, controlling most of the segment. Test is #21 and he helps Val work over Austin for a bit until Austin comes back, clotheslines Val out, and tosses Test to leave himself alone again. #22 is HHH making his big return from the quad injury. Or he would have been making his return if they hadnít stupidly put him in a meaningless tag match on Smackdown earlier in the week. He was also the overwhelming ďinsiderĒ favourite to win this year. They do the big epic staredown and then the brawl is on. They knock each other down as Hurricane is #23. He calls on his super powers to take on both guys at once, but Austin and HHH just look at each other and are like ďWhoís this jobber?Ē before tossing him and resuming their war. Faarooq is #24 and he actually gets a small amount of offence before getting tossed by HHH. Mr. Perfect is #25 in another much-hyped return, and he actually has success in taking on both guys. Well, success in the sense that he succeeded in not looking like a complete loser out there. Kurt Angle is #26 and goes after HHH as we finally have more than three guys in again. Big Show is in at #27 and he takes on both Austin and HHH knocking them down with a double clothesline, and pretty much dominates the segment. #28 is Kane and he goes for a showdown with Big Show. Shockingly, he just casually picks Show up and dumps him right over the top. This has to be one of the most weirdly booked Rumbles ever. Kane himself is immediately eliminated by Angle, so what was the point there? Rob Van Dam is #29 and heís right in with a frog splash on Angle. He nails everyone until walking into a Pedigree from HHH. Booker T is #30 meaning out finalists are: Austin, HHH, Perfect, Angle, Van Dam, and Booker. Without checking, that has to be the lowest number of finalists in Rumble history. Even stranger is that this is the highest number of guys in the ring at one time in the whole match. Doesnít last long as Booker immediately tosses Van Dam, who is just recovering from the Pedigree. He does the Spinarooni, right into a Stunner that sends him over the top and out leaving us our final four already. Austin avoids a Pedigree and slingshots HHH to the corner. HHH then takes an Angle Slam. Angle gets some German suplexes on Austin before taking a low blow. Angle recovers quickly to help Perfect try and eliminate Austin, but they canít get him. Austin fires back and tries to dump Perfect, but Angle comes from behind and dumps Austin. Watching live in 02, you could have bet me a million dollars that Austin would be the next guy out, and I would have accepted. I guess they didnít want him in there to take fans away from HHH at the end, which makes sense when you think about it. Then, because no major star can be eliminated from a Rumble without getting their heat back, Austin cracks all three guys with a chair. Once they recover, Perfect holds HHH for a shot by Angle, but HHH moves, although Perfect stays in. He even gets the Perfect Plex on Angle to a nice reaction. But, of course, HHH clotheslines him out right after. HHH and Angle are the last two. Angle hits a belly to belly suplex and almost has him out, but HHH fights back. He charges Angle and gets backdropped over, but doesnít hit the floor. As Angle celebrates, HHH attacks, hits a facebuster, and clotheslines Angle out to win at 69:18. As I mentioned, the booking of this match seemed weird with a few dead periods, puzzling eliminations, and never that many guys in the ring at once. It was also very long compared to many other Rumbles. They were constantly doing things to keep your mind occupied and away from the lack of action, but Iím the kind of person who sees right through that. Still, the Rumble is always a good watch, and the time really breezes by. ***

Overall, I have to call this a solidly average show. What was here was good, but not spectacular. Definitely a fun little waste of three hours should you happen to watch it, but not really worth going out of your way to see. Thumbs in the middle for Royal Rumble 2002.

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