January 30, 2011
Scott Criscuolo & Justin Rozzero

The Place to Be

Royal Rumble 2006
January 29, 2006
American Airlines Arena
Miami, FL
Attendance: 15,000
Buy Rate: 1.31
Announcers: Joey Styles, Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole & Tazz

Sunday Night Heat
Finlay defeats Brian Kendrick at 2:08

Fun Fact: This is the Sunshine State's ninth PPV, and even more surprisingly this is Miami's first PPV since the Royal Rumble in 1991.

Pay Per View

1) Gregory Helms defeats Funaki, Kid Kash (David Cash), Jamie Noble (James Gibson), Nunzio (James Maritato) and Paul London to win WWE Cruiserweight Title when he pins Funaki with a Shining Wizard at 7:40

Fun Fact: In September 2004, Jamie Noble developed a staph infection that was brought about due to steroid usage. Once word got out, WWE was forced to release him, but let him know he would be welcomed back in the future. After his infection healed, Noble competed around the world in various independent promotions. On June 28, 2005 it was announced that Noble would be returning to WWE once his prior commitments were completed. On August 12, he won a four-way match to become Ring of Honor champion. He would lose the title to Bryan Danielson a month later. Noble would then make his WWE return on the 12/17 Velocity.

Scott: An excellent idea for an opener to get the crowd going. This match reminds me of a Nitro opener in 1997. This isn’t one of those throwaway matches with no talent guys here. There’s all prime talent here, including the new heel Helms, who deserved to go over here since he had to job to Jerry Lawler at New Year’s Revolution. This match was really stiff as bodies were flying everywhere and finishers were landing everywhere and pins were being broken up everywhere. Helms hits the Shining Wizard on Funaki and starts his second Cruiser Title reign. This was a great decision since there won’t be that many more as the show progresses. It is a bummer about Kid Kash losing after just a month, as he was solid in the ring, but they really had a nice cache of guys in this division. Grade: 3

Justin: Over a month into his reign, Kid Kash makes his way out to the ring, arm in a cast, looking to defend his title. I thought this was a nice mix of talent as the cruiser division was feeling freshened up, especially when you mix in the surprise entry of Gregory Helms, who jumped over from Raw to compete here. The Smackdown guys would all gang up on him initially and then would split off into some basic brawling. Paul London was easily the star of the match for me, hitting crisp offense left and right, specifically a stiff Superkick on Kash, and tossing his body to the wind, including a crazy shooting star press to the floor. The match had no dead spots and was full of stiff action. All six guys broke out some innovative offense, and Helms made a big splash with a super neckbreaker on London. Helms would kick Funaki in the head and win the bout and I thought he was a good choice to bring a fresh feel to the division. The match had a good pace and a good finish to get the show up and running. Grade: 2.5

*** Backstage, Trish Stratus is getting ready to head to the ring when Mickie James stops her. She stammers a bit and then finally tells Trish that she loves her. Trish is shocked, but she shakes Mickie off and heads to the ring to referee the next match. ***

2) Mickie James defeats Ashley Massaro with a modified powerbomb at 7:46

Fun Fact: On 1/9, Ashley defeated Trish by DQ when Mickie hopped in the ring and assaulted the challenger. Trish would calm Mickie down, but was clearly annoyed. The next week, Ashley, Trish and Mickie were on the same side of a six-woman match, but Ashley inadvertently knocked Mickie off the apron. Mickie snapped and attacked Ashley, leading to their team losing. Trish would scold Mickie and help out Ashley as the segment ended. On 1/23, Trish was set to team with Ashley, which drove Mickie over the edge. She accosted Trish backstage and yelled and cried about not teaming with her. After the bout, Mickie would jump Ashley once again with Trish playing mediator in the end.

Scott: Trish Stratus was the special referee here, and that pretty much carries this match since it was safe to say that it was going to be pretty awful. The pace was brutally slow as Mickie just pummels Ashley non-stop. Ashley didn’t even know how to kick out of the Perfect-Plex, so Mickie just had to let it go. After seeing a great women’s match between Trish and Mickie at NYR, this is brutally bad. Ashley, as much as I was in love with her at this time, is terrible. Flat out talent-less terrible. The crowd is completely dead as Ashley botches a terrible spear and the crowd is booing. Lawler even says the crowd has turned on Ashley. Mickie pulled the tights and Trish almost doesn’t count three but she does. Mickie celebrates and hugs Trish uncomfortably, or comfortably, depending on your point of view. Thank god this whole half-lesbian thing is going on because the match was brutal. Grade: .5

Justin: The intricate and intense Trish/Mickie storyline rolls on into another PPV. Over the past few weeks, Mickie’s jealousy had run rampant over Trish’s friendship with Ashley. Here, Trish is made the special referee between her friend and her…well, stalker. Trish and Mickie were both just ridiculously hot here, and Ashley wasn’t looking too bad herself. Mickie was in such a groove here, really bringing the goods with her psycho facials and actions. Both women were aggressive in there and it made for a well-structured and entertaining match. Mickie would punish Ashley’s midsection as the crowd actually started to get behind her. It seemed like the fans were just happy to have a Diva with some depth to her. Plus who doesn’t love a smoking hot crazy woman with lesbian tendencies? Mickie would finish Ashley off with a stiff powerbomb and she would try to celebrate with Trish after the match. Mickie has really given a jolt of life into the women’s division and this was another solid Diva match that featured good character work, stiff, aggressive action and storyline development. Grade: 2

*** Backstage, Big Show and Rey Mysterio draw their Rumble numbers. We see the continuation of the use of Eddie Guerrero’s death as a storyline prop by Mysterio. He mentions that he is dedicating his Rumble performance to Eddie’s memory and when he draws his number, he laughs and implies that Eddie was playing a joke on him from Heaven. ***

3) Boogeyman (Marty Wright) defeats John Bradshaw Layfield with a Pumphandle Slam at 1:56

Fun Fact: On 1/6, JBL defeated Matt Hardy. Hardy put JBL through a table after the match, and as he was recovering, Boogeyman emerged from JBL’s limo, stalked Jillian and dumped a handful of worms down her skirt. The next week, JBL and Jillian were guests on Piper’s Pit. After JBL cut a promo, Piper started discussing Jillian’s mole and then brought out the Boogeyman. JBL left the ring and Boogeyman cornered Jillian, licked her mole and then bit it off her face. On 1/20, this PPV match was announced and later that night, Boogeyman would cost JBL a match against Bobby Lashley. Finally, the next week, JBL was wrestling Scotty 2 Hotty when the lights went out, Boogeyman’s music hit and thousands of worms fell into the ring. Boogeyman came out and ate some of them as JBL slipped and stumbled on the worms while he was trying to escape.

Scott: What the hell was this? Poor JBL, a former WWE Champion who main evented many PPVs, has been shunted so low he has to wrestle this sideshow. He tries to start making out with Jillian while worms are coming out of his mouth. We have some random punches and power moves, then the Pumphandle, and worms. I have no more to say here. This is ridiculous. I feel bad for JBL, who went from being an awesome main event heel, to an awesome mid-card heel, to fodder for the freaks. Just wrong. Grade: 0

Justin: Our next match is an odd one as JBL continues to move around the midcard and now finds himself opposite the resident freak of Friday night. The two would stall early, playing mind games and posturing around the ring. JBL would use Jillian as a distraction before assaulting Boogeyman, but his offensive flurry would be short lived. After a quick slugfest between the two, Boogey would hit his finisher to put JBL away. This was a pretty surprising win as I never saw Boogeyman as anything more than a joke character and I was surprised that they would put him over JBL, who rarely lost clean on PPV since becoming a main event level star. Nonetheless, JBL loses this quick time killer and continues to spin his wheels in the mid card mix. Grade: .5

4) Rey Mysterio wins the Royal Rumble

Order of Entrants (with person who eliminated them)

1) Triple H (Paul Levesque): Rey Mysterio
2) Rey Mysterio (Oscar Gutierrez): Winner
3) Simon Dean (Mike Bucci): Triple H & Rey Mysterio
4) Psychosis (Dionicio Torres): Rey Mysterio
5) Ric Flair (Richard Fleihr): Triple H
6) Big Show (Paul Wight): Triple H
7) Jonathan Coachman: Big Show
8) Bobby Lashley: Big Show & Kane
9) Kane (Glen Jacobs): Triple H
10) Sylvan Grenier: Bobby Lashley
11) Carlito (Carly Colon): Rob Van Dam
12) Chris Benoit: Randy Orton
13) Booker T (Booker Huffman): Chris Benoit
14) Joey Mercury (Adam Birch): Johnny Nitro
15) Tatanka (Chris Chavis): Johnny Nitro & Joey Mercury
16) Johnny Nitro (John Hennigan): Shawn Michaels
17) Trevor Murdoch (William Mueller): Shawn Michaels
18) Eugene (Nick Dinsmore): Chris Benoit
19) Animal (Joe Laurinaitis): Rob Van Dam
20) Rob Van Dam (Rob Szatkowski): Rey Mysterio
21) Orlando Jordan: Randy Orton
22) Chavo Guerrero: Triple H
23) Matt Hardy: Viscera
24) Super Crazy (Francisco Rueda): Rey Mysterio & Rob Van Dam
25) Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom): Shane McMahon
26) Chris Masters (Chris Mordetzky): Carlito
27) Viscera (Nelson Frazier): Carlito & Chris Masters
28) Shelton Benjamin: Shawn Michaels
29) Goldust (Dustin Runnels): Rob Van Dam
30) Randy Orton: Rey Mysterio

Longest Time: Rey Mysterio (1:02:12)
Shortest Time: Sylvan Grenier & Booker T (:18)
Most eliminated: Rey Mysterio (6)

Fun Fact: While on the sideline rehabbing his injury, Rob Van Dam was drafted to Raw. In the weeks leading up to the PPV, it was announced that RVD would be returning in the Rumble match. It would be his first appearance since the Draft Lottery Raw back in June.

Fun Fact II: This is Simon Dean’s final PPV appearance. After a brief run as a manager for a team called the Gymini, Dean would spend the rest of his WWE run jobbing on TV. He would leave the ring and take a job as head of the WWE developmental division in August. After a short run in that role, Bucci would quit WWE, claiming he had tired of the business and didn’t enjoy living in Connecticut. After leaving WWE, Bucci would spend time as a mortgage broker in addition to working various ECW reunion shows throughout the business. His final PPV record is 0-5.

Fun Fact III: This is also Sylvan Grenier’s final PPV appearance. He would remain on Smackdown through the end of the year, partaking in various feuds, eventually disappearing after a match with Batista on 12/22. In early January, he was pulled over and arrested after speeding on his way to a WWE TV taping. He would pop back up on TV randomly throughout 2007 before finally being released in August. He would spend some time on the Indy scene before also starting a career in bodybuilding in 2010. His final PPV record is 5-6.

Fun Fact IV: This PPV also marks the final appearance of Road Warrior Animal. In March, Animal would turn heel and finish up his final WWE run by May, eventually being released in June. Animal would show up in TNA for a match and eventually returned to Japan for another run there as well. He would gain some mainstream publicity though his son James, who was a standout star at Ohio State University, eventually becoming a second round draft pick of the St. Louis Rams in 2009. Animal’s overall final PPV record is 15-8, including a 2-1 mark since his return.

Fun Fact V: Orlando Jordan also makes his final WWE PPV appearance here. Jordan would bounce around Smackdown and Velocity through May, but would be mired in controversy before being released due to traveling with an unauthorized person. It was later rumored that Jordan’s companion was an underage man that he had a personal relationship with. Word also got out that prior to his release, Jordan had proposed a bisexual gimmick based on his real life personal preferences. WWE authorized the gimmick, but it never made air before Jordan was turfed. He would spend some time on the Indy scene before signing a deal with TNA in 2010. His final record is 2-4.

Fun Fact VI: After being off the pro wrestling radar for nearly ten years, Tatanka makes a return here. He had popped up in August 2005 as a challenger to Eugene when Raw emanated from the Mohegan Sun casino and impressed WWE officials enough to earn a full time gig. He would officially start back on the road in December and this would be his first televised appearance.

Fun Fact VII: Another longtime veteran would make a surprise return here as Goldust enters the Rumble late in the match. Since leaving WWE in late 2003, Dustin Runnels spent two years in TNA. He had made an appearance in October 2005, teaming with Vader to battle Batista at Taboo Tuesday. After that show, he disappeared off TV until showing up here. He would be assigned to Raw following the show, but was eventually released once again in June after no-showing an appearance. But, just like Frosty the Snowman, we all knew that Goldust would be back again someday.

Fun Fact VIII: On the 1/23 Raw, Jonathan Coachman qualified for the Rumble match by defeating Jerry Lawler. However, he didn’t do it alone as he got an assist from five male cheerleaders collectively dubbed the Spirit Squad. The Squad was comprised of developmental talents Ken Doane (Kenny), Johnny Jeter (Johnny), Nick Mitchell (Mitch), Nick Nemeth (Nicky) and Mike Brendli (Mikey). They worked some house shows with the gimmick prior to debuting on 1/23, where they distracted Lawler with a cheer, leading to his loss.

Fun Fact IX: With Chris Benoit winning Match Four at Armageddon, the Best of Seven US Title series continued on. However, things got a little shook up, as Booker was legitimately injured and could not compete. The injury would be acknowledged on TV and Teddy Long allowed Randy Orton to wrestle on Booker’s behalf. On 12/30, Benoit defeated Orton to push the series to 3-2. A week later, Benoit would again defeat Orton to tie the series, this time by DQ when Orlando Jordan interfered. Jordan had been stumping to be Booker’s fill-in, but Booker kept refusing him. On 1/13, Orton again got the call from to fill in and, thanks to help from Booker and Sharmell, Orton would defeat Benoit to win the US Title for Booker. The next week, Booker and Sharmell were celebrating but were interrupted by Jordan, who demanded a title match. Booker laughed him off, but Jordan shoved him to the mat in anger. Teddy Long then came out and announced that Orton would fill-in one last time and defend the title against Jordan. Orton would win the match with help from Booker and Sharmell once again. After the match, Benoit came down and cleaned house and it was announced that Benoit and Orton would compete in no holds barred match the following week. On 1/27, Benoit defeated Orton via submission after a long hard fought battle. Booker enters the Rumble here, but it was clear he was still hurting as Benoit quickly eliminates him.

Fun Fact X: Picking up since our last review, the ongoing war between Shawn Michaels and Vince McMahon began to gain steam. On 1/16, McMahon forced Michaels to wrestle Kurt Angle and warned him that if he lost the match, his contract would be terminated. Michaels would foil Vince’s plan and win the match, keeping his job. A week later, Vince confronted Michaels and tried to tempt him by claiming he would bring the business back two decades to when it was filled with decadence. Michaels shook Vince off but Vince promised him his luck would finally run out in the Rumble match.

Fun Fact XI: As 2006 dawned, WWE began using Eddie Guerrero’s passing as a storyline crutch for Rey Mysterio. He made it clear that he was dedicating the Rumble match to Eddie’s memory and began aping some of Eddie’s in ring maneuvers, which would elicit “Eddie” chants from the crowd.

Fun Fact XII: Following Eddie Guerrero’s passing, Chavo Guerrero ditched the Kerwin White gimmick and began competing under his family name on Smackdown again.

Scott: My first thought was extreme joy that Triple H drew #1. Everyone knows my loyalties to the King of Kings, but I usually keep it on the backburner. On this night in my brother’s house, I had my Triple H shirt on and was planning on marking out for his victory. The fact that he had to face Flair and Big Show back to back told me that maybe he was going to run the table. That stayed in the back of my mind throughout the match. Nice performance by the young Bobby Lashley, who is ridiculously jacked, a guy right up Vince’s alley. The crowd, silenced by the hideous undercard so far, is back in full command with the Rumble match. I still can’t believe WWE hadn’t been in Miami since Hulk Hogan’s second Rumble victory in 1991. Finally, after all those silly rumors and drunken vitriol, Tatanka is finally back in the WWE as he enters in the mid-teens. Why was Eugene in this match? Good God. By seventeen, the ring starts really filling up with beef, but like 1995, the first two men are still in. The middle of the match is just guys coming in and getting eliminated. I’m glad that Rey is wrestling for Eddie’s memory, but the pimping of it was overkill. It was making it much easier to root for Triple H. The crowd spiked a bit when Shawn Michaels made his appearance, as some more potential favorites make their way in. The match really has nothing spectacular or worth mentioning except Cole comments on Viscera’s purple pajamas by saying “Didn’t Viscera wear those colors before?” Triple H starting mimicking his idol Ric Flair’s performance in 1992 by sitting in the corner and waiting out the battles unless he got dragged in himself. Randy Orton came out #30 and immediately eliminated Chris Benoit. At #30 there’s about fifteen guys still around, but now they start thinning out. It’s nice to see Goldust back after being gone a while. The Michaels/Vince storyline continues to grow as Shane tosses Shawn over the top rope to eliminate him. That rule about outside help interfering guys will always be the most ambiguous rules in WWE history. After taking a couple of years off from being in storylines, it’s time for Vince to antagonize the top babyface again. Our final four is a combination of the most popular and hated guys on the roster right now: Rey, Triple H, Orton and RVD. RVD is eliminated, and then the former Evolution members start tearing into the smaller Rey. All the “Eddie...Eddie” chants raining down on the arena. It was touching, and it did help the drama, no pun intended, in the match. Personally, I wanted Triple H to win and I was feeling that it may happen. Then Hunter looked to go for a spinebuster and Rey eliminated him. The place went crazy and I was deflated. Triple H kept his heel heat and threw Rey into the step afterwards. Frankly I was so frustrated I marked out on it. Now it was kind of up in the air as Orton’s been in a hot feud with Undertaker, but Rey has all the emotion on his side. Orton goes for a Powerbomb but Rey hurricanrana’s him over the ropes and the upset is complete. Cole and Lawler kind of overdo the Eddie factor here but overall it was needed to put Rey over. The middle of the Rumble was kind of dull except for the Vince/Michaels stuff. Rey Mysterio’s heading to Chicago, but there will be, as always, some twists and turns along the way.

Justin: While watching this show live, I remember being perplexed and upset over the placement of this match. In my mind, the Rumble match should always be last with the only exception coming when there was a big time World title match to cap the show, something this PPV did not have on tap. However, once Rey Mysterio won the match it made you wonder if the powers that be felt he wasn’t a big enough name to cap off the show with a Rumble win. As we will see, there may have been other mitigating factors that decided the match order. Prior to Triple H emerging at number one, the Spirit Squad would make their way out and perform a cheer for the crowd. We will be seeing much more of these male cheerleaders as the year rolls along. Hunter gets a big pop for his entrance but the crowd would quickly turn towards rooting on Rey Mysterio as he entered second. Rey would waste no time in breaking out the Eddie mannerisms to help build momentum as well. Just a few minutes in, I was already tired of the Eddie stuff on the night and it would only continue and get even worse as the weeks go on. Rey would use his quickness early and he and Hunter would quickly take care of the early competitors, one of which was Ric Flair, who immediately made a beeline for the Game. After Hunter was able to fight him off and eliminate him, but he then had to confront another enemy in the Big Show, who also had the Game in his crosshairs. The ring started to fill up a tiny bit at this point as some big hosses began to enter. We would get a cool Big Show/Bobby Lashley showdown, followed by Kane and Lashley going at it as well. The champs would eliminate Lashley, but you could tell the brass had things in mind for him in 2006. Hunter continued his early dominance by eliminating both Kane and Show. Just as he seemed to be settling in to an unstoppable run, Hunter had to deal with Chris Benoit, who got a huge pop and looked strong and ferocious in the ring. He would quickly dispose of his nemesis Booker, who was battling injuries, and would dog the Game throughout the whole match, also attacking him when given the opening. As the halfway point hit, the ring had been pretty thin throughout but that would change in the second half. At fifteen, we would get our first surprise of the match as Tatanka made his official full time WWE return and he received a warm welcome as the crowd busted out the Tomahawk Chop. Many of us laughed at his delusional rantings that he would some day return when the time was right, but he called it and he came back in good shape so props to him. I actually liked the initiative that WWE had going on at this time, as they were bringing in some veteran hands to help get the young stars over and teach them how to work matches. From here on out, we would get the usual Rumble spots featuring a fresh mix of talent, including some elimination teases by Mysterio. Speaking of big pops, RVD gets one as he finally returns from the injury he sustained in late 2004. The “Eddie” chants would fire back up as Chavo made an entrance, sans Kerwin White gimmick. A few highlights late saw MNM working like a well-oiled machine, a surprise return by Goldust, a strong outing by Benoit and Carlito double crossing Chris Masters again for the second straight PPV. One negative was seeing Matt Hardy’s stock continue to drop as he is humiliated and quickly tossed by Viscera. As things cleaned out a bit, we were left with a strong final seven. That was whittled down a bit when Shane McMahon, who snuck in through the crowd and continuing Shawn’s feud with Vince, eliminated Shawn Michaels. RVD, Orton, Mysterio and Hunter would be the final four, and of them I would say the crowd seemed to be behind RVD the most. He and Rey would work in some of their classic tag spots before RVD was eliminated. While there were some rumblings that Rey could win the match, Hunter seemed to be the favorite heading in and that remained true at the end. Unfortunately for him, being the favorite didn’t mean anything, as Rey was able to eliminate him and shock the crowd. Still, even with that elimination, the cocky Randy Orton was still a logical choice to win, especially after Hunter beat Rey down after being tossed, but that wasn’t meant to be either as Rey tossed him out to win the match. Despite the hokey and ill-advised Eddie stuff, Rey earned the win with a hard fought performance and now becomes an unlikely Wrestlemania main eventer. Overall, this was a solid Rumble match, nothing spectacular, but nothing bad, it was just an average, fun Rumble match with a good closing segment.

5) John Cena defeats Edge (Adam Copeland) to win WWE Championship by submission with the STFU at 14:03

Fun Fact: Edge started his WWE Championship reign with a bang…literally and figuratively. On the 1/9 Raw, John Cena demanded a rematch right there and then but Lita came out and announced that the rematch would not take place until the Rumble PPV. She then said she and Edge would celebrate by having a live sex celebration in the ring. At the end of the show, a bed was set up in the ring and Edge and Lita put on a little exhibition under the covers. As things were getting hot and heavy, Ric Flair interrupted the scene and tried to assault Edge, but Edge fought him off and busted him open with a chair. He then have him a one-man con-chair-to while Flair’s head was on the announce table. Cena would come out and run Edge off and then drop Lita with an FU to end the show. With a fresh champion and an edgy program, Raw’s rating jumped up and Edge used those numbers in his promo the following week to justify his reign and claim that he would more than just some transitional champion. Vince McMahon would then announce that Edge and Flair would compete in a TLC match later that night. The two would compete in a brutal, vicious, bloody match that ended with Edge retaining his title. Finally on 1/23, Cena and Flair would defeat Edge and Chris Masters when Cena made Masters tap out to the STFU.

Scott: This is officially where the John Cena overload really sunk in. I can understand intricate entrances for Wrestlemania, but did we really need one for the Royal Rumble? What was this big spaceship monstrosity with all this smoke and everything, just for Cena's entrance? In my opinion, Edge already lost the match. Why go through all this hullabaloo of an entrance so he can lose to Edge again? Obviously we’re not going to have Edge/Cena at Wrestlemania after this. Rey isn’t going to turn heel and face Cena at Wrestlemania, so the writers booked themselves into a corner and made Edge look like a chump. Edge to his credit keeps the heel heat coming. For instance he throws Cena over the barricade, and instead of going out after him he just stays in the ring and hopes for the countout. Cena gets back in the ring and gets booed. The match itself is really nothing special as Edge dominates the action early to try and suck the crowd into thinking he’s actually going to win this thing. Actually, most of the crowd, ok, all the males, know what’s going to happen so frankly they’re sitting on their hands until the inevitable Cena comeback. This you can clearly tell as the crowd noise is decidedly higher on the decibel level, meaning that women and children are into the action, because they’re true Cena fans. They’re actually nervous that Cena’s going to lose. I’ve enjoyed Joey’s PBP during this match and he was red hot since replacing JR. Unfortunately Lawler hasn’t really followed Styles' lead and is still dull and unoriginal. Pinning Edge with the FU would have still sucked, but at least he wouldn’t have tapped out. Putting the STFU on was more salt in Edge’s wound. This match single-handedly did three things: 1) Officially made Cena the most hated wrestler among smark fans, 2) Made Edge look like a bitch when he didn’t deserve it, and 3) It would eventually turn another wrestler on the roster pseudo-face. More on that at Wrestlemania. Cena’s win definitely sets him up for a Wrestlemania match, against who we don’t know. It won’t be Edge, that’s for sure. Overall the match was standard, but the ending leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Grade: 2

Justin: Just three weeks after Edge took advantage of a beaten down John Cena to win the WWE Championship, Cena gets his rematch here. When the Rumble match went on as early as it did, I assumed this match would be last since it seemed to be the bigger of the two title matches, but again I was surprised. Cena’s entrance was pretty elaborate as a giant spaceship lowered from the ceiling and Cena stomped around on it shot confetti into the crowd. Despite the jacked up entrance, Cena’s reaction was the same as always: split right down the middle between the two sets of fans. While Edge’s career turned around when he had the affair with Lita and won MITB, things really got kicked into hyper drive as the calendar turned to 2006. By the time he entered here, he was a bona fide star with a true aura and had become a proven draw, thanks to a bump in ratings correlating with his title win. The crowd buzzed throughout this one and Edge tried to gain an early advantage by using Lita and he was able to ground and control Cena with some basic but well executed offense. They would keep up a good pace and I thought Edge worked smart here, knocking Cena to the floor as often as he could, knowing Cena couldn’t win the title from outside the ring. Styles and Lawler did a good job here as well, telling that story and emphasizing Edge’s strategy. Despite being dominated for most of the match, Cena would recover, fight off Lita and trap Edge in the STFU to win his title back. This was a good match that had a big time feel to it, but the finish was just counter-productive to the recent uptick in success they had been seeing. It was clear that they had a set plan for Wrestlemania that included John Cena as champion, but I believe they should have taken the hint from the fans and called an audible to see how long they could ride the Edge hot streak. He had worked hard all year to earn that slot and had delivered big time upon winning, but it was not meant to be. Ignoring the big picture, this was a fun old school bout and these two had clear chemistry in the ring. I would have liked to see more Edge title defenses in this mold, but we would now have to wait to see them. Grade: 3

6) Kurt Angle defeats Mark Henry to retain World Heavyweight Championship with a roll up at 9:30

Fun Fact: On 12/30, Batista and Rey Mysterio lost their tag titles MNM when a returning Mark Henry interfered and cost the champs their titles. It was revealed that Melina had brought Henry back and that he would join her stable. A week later, the former champs were granted a rematch inside a cage, but Henry would again cost them the match. On 1/6, Batista was defending the World Heavyweight Title against Henry at a house show. During the bout, Batista tore his triceps muscle and it was determined that he would be forced to the sidelines to have surgery. It was a major blow to Smackdown as Batista was very over and was bringing the star power as the champion of the show. On the 1/13 Smackdown, Batista relinquished his title with a teary-eyed speech and said farewell to many wrestlers and agents in the back as he left the arena. Teddy Long then announced that a battle royal to announce a new champion would take place that night. As the participants filed into the ring, a surprise entrant, who just happened to be a familiar face to Smackdown fans, joined them: Kurt Angle. It was revealed that Angle’s Raw contract had expired and that he jumped to Smackdown when he found out about the battle royal. Angle would outlast the other competitors to win the title and once again reign atop Smackdown. Angle returned to Raw for one last match on 1/16, wrestling Shawn Michaels in a match that had been set up the week before. Michaels would win the match after Daivari accidently cost Angle the bout. Angle would assault Daivari after the match, dropping him with an Angle Slam and then firing him, essentially turning face in the process. On the 1/20 Smackdown, Henry defeated Rey Mysterio to earn a title shot here. In the main event, Angle defeated Daivari by DQ when Melina and Henry interfered. Henry would take out Angle and the Daivari announced that he was Henry’s new manager, taking control of his contract from Melina. The next week, Angle defeated MNM in a handicap match but Henry attacked again. Angle dropped him with an Angle Slam and hooked the Anklelock, but Henry was able to power out of it and kick Angle to the floor to end the show.

Fun Fact II: Mark Henry had been out of action since tearing his quad muscle while training in OVW in February 2004.

Fun Fact III: Undertaker had been off camera since defeating Randy Orton at Armageddon.

Scott: On paper, this is a terrible main event. Kurt Angle is a in-ring marvel. We all know that. Unfortunately his opponent is not one. Mark Henry is just a big dude. Regardless of how long he’s been in WWE, Mark Henry will never be looked at as a main eventer and a championship contender. We put this match in the ring, and it pretty much is the same as it is on paper. Because Mark Henry is such a big, slow, lumbering guy Kurt Angle’s frenetic pace that he likes is severely stunted. This match maybe can be a Smackdown main event match, but definitely not a PPV main event. The entire layout of this show was wrong, and this proves it. If the Rumble wasn’t going to be last, and it should have been, then the Cena/Edge match should have been last. Instead we have maybe the worst main event match in Rumble history. The highlight of the match was the flush chair shot Angle gave Daivari on the outside. Again the logic makes no sense, as Angle’s cheating with chair shots and removed turnbuckle covers and roll ups using the ropes for leverage. It was totally insipid and asinine for a main event. Of course when the match ends we get the only reason why this match was last. So the Undertaker can come out of the ramp on a horse and carriage with druids. That was it. Totally restructuring the entire card just to Undertaker can come out last to show he wants to be #1 contender. We have cheesy lightning gimmicks and the ring falling apart to make a point. Now I’m all for the Undertaker’s entrances and the like. However this could have been done Thursday on Smackdown. Instead the entire flow of the show is disjointed so Taker can make his point last. It was bush league to say the least. Grade: 1

Justin: This is a weird main event match to cap off a somewhat odd evening of wrestling. Mark Henry had been out of action for quite a while but he returns and is slotted right back into the main event picture. Unfortunately for him, he injured Batista at a house show, putting a big time damper on the Smackdown title scene. Enter Kurt Angle, who was already flailing a bit on Raw after not being able to wrest the WWE Title away from John Cena. He returns back to Fridays, wins a battle royal and takes back his coveted World Title. I thought this was a much better role for Angle at this point as the fans wanted to cheer his machine-like precision in the ring and they pretty much did when he was feuding with Cena. He uses his speed early here and Henry tried to counter with his sloppy power offense. The crowd was pretty flat after the previous match wore them out and Cole and Tazz did their best to really play up the importance of the match but things just weren’t clicking. Henry would hook in a bearhug and the spot was pretty well worked as Angle was trying his best to break out of it and finally does with a hiptoss. Kurt would hook the Anklelock, but for the second time in a few days, Henry would power out of it. He would block one Angle Slam attempt, but Kurt nailed him with an impressive German and then hit the Slam. During this, the ref would get taken out, and Daivari tried to get involved, but Angle crushed his former manager with a chair to take him out of the picture. Henry would block a chair shot, but Kurt fought him off and killed him with a pair of stupid unprotected chair shots to the head. They were wicked looking, but totally unnecessary. It looked like that would be the finish, but Henry kicked out as he continued to be booked like a monster. I can’t complain about the idea here as they tried to build Henry into a monster heel, but I just think he wasn’t the right choice because he just had no heat on him at this point really. Angle would finally resort to rolling Henry up and hooking the rope to get a cheap win to bring a lame end to this bizarre main event. The match was OK but was pretty heatless and it really made no sense to put it on last. Well, there was a reason behind it, but it just wasn’t worth sabotaging the flow of the show for it. Anyway, Angle keeps his belt and now we hope his reign improves from here. Grade: 1.5

*** Angle barely has time to relish in his win before the lights go down, the bell tolls and Undertaker makes his first appearance since Armageddon. Taker would ride out in a chariot and shoot lightning from his hands up to the rafters. The bolts would then strike down to the ring posts and the ring would collapse with Angle still in it. Taker would then motion that he desired Angle’s World title as the show went off the air. ***

Final Analysis:

Scott: The first match of this show was fresh, exciting and really gave Miami a good start to the night. From there it went downhill as the entire card was re-structured from what a normal rumble show is to whatever the hell they slapped together here. That women’s match was terrible, I’m still pissed as to how they totally screwed over both JBL and Edge here, just to get cheap pops. As much as the Cena victory was cheesy and very unpopular with the Smark fans, at least they had a long-term plan with that decision. However, making that lousy Angle/Henry match last just so we can have some awful Undertaker theatrics at the end? No excuse for that. The Rumble win for Rey would have been a fine ending to the show. But no, we have to have fireworks and parlor tricks with the ring. This is probably the worst Royal Rumble show in quite some time, and hopefully this isn’t a harbinger of things to come for 2006. Wrestlemania is clearly up in the air, and with the results of this show, we have no idea what’s to come and whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen, but this show is a very “bad thing”. Grade: D

Justin: For the first time in quite a while, the Royal Rumble is a pretty flat dud of a PPV. The undercard was just average with no match even breaking three stars. Weird booking plagued the show and a really stupid card layout hurt it from the onset. I was fine with Rey Mysterio winning the Rumble, but the Eddie Guerrero overtones were wearing thin already and it only gets worse from here. I hated that the Rumble was in the middle of the show and it was made even worse when Angle/Henry went on last just so they could due the lame Undertaker ring breaking spot to close the show. It reminded me of the plodding heatless Diesel/Mabel main event from Summerslam 1995. Also adding to the insipid booking was John Cena abruptly ending Edge’s red-hot title reign after only three weeks. I really don’t have that much else to talk about here outside of expressing my disappointment in what is usually my favorite show of the PPV year. Final Grade: D+

MVP: Rey Mysterio
Runner Up: Gregory Helms
Non MVP: Mark Henry
Runner Up: John Bradshaw Layfield

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