February 1, 2009
Royal Rumble 2009, January 25, 2009, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, MI
Announcers: The teams of Michael Cole & Jerry “The King” Lawler, Jim Ross & Tazz, Todd Grisham & Matt Striker, and Jim Ross & Jerry “The King” Lawler
So it’s time for our first PPV of the year, The Royal Rumble. It really didn’t look that interesting going in, but the Rumble rarely fails to deliver something good, so let’s see what we get here.
Opening Match, ECW Championship: Jack Swagger vs. Matt Hardy
They must be pretty high on Swagger as they put the belt on him before he even makes his PPV debut. We’ll see if he holds up on the big stage. Striker makes a big deal out of Swagger wearing the belt (as opposed to simply carrying it) which causes me to notice that it really doesn’t look good when it’s worn like that. Almost as though they took into account that most champs seem to carry their belts these days anyways, so making belts that look good around someone’s waist is not so much of a priority. The WWE Championship belt suffers from the same problem. They lockup and break, with Swagger hiding on the ropes. Another lockup sees Swagger try a cheap shot, but Matt beats him to the punch. Swagger tries to escape to the floor, but Matt follows and knocks him down out there. Back in, Matt nails a clothesline. Irish whip sees Swagger hold on and slide to the floor for a timeout. The strategy works as when Swagger gets back in, he gets a double leg takedown and controls Matt with a hammerlock. Matt reverses, but Swagger keeps managing to outwrestle him. Eventually Matt elbows out and hits a seated dropkick, followed by a bulldog for 2. Corner whip is reversed, but Matt gets the elbow up. He goes up top, but Swagger shoves him to the floor. Swagger gets Matt back in and uses a bodyblock off an Irish whip for 2. He goes to work on Matt’s arm with a keylock. Matt fights back and nails a clothesline, but he used the injured arm and hurts himself. Swagger gets him with a big boot for 2 and gets back on the arm again. Matt fights back, nailing three clotheslines and then a sort of inverted DDT for 2. Corner whip sets up another clothesline, followed by another bulldog for 2. 2nd rope elbow gets 2 as well, but Swagger blocks the Twist of Fate and connects with a belly to belly suplex for a 2 of his own. Matt blocks a fisherman’s suplex, but then falls victim to a single arm DDT for 2. Swagger puts him on the top, but Matt knocks him back down and comes off with a moonsault for a close 2.5. Twist gets countered again, as does the Side Effect and that leads to Swagger sending Matt to the post. From there a gutwrench powerbomb finishes Matt off at 10:27. Good show here, but it’s mainly due to Matt. It’ll be interesting to see if Swagger can bring it if he gets put in with someone not so good, but they appear to be setting up his next program with Fit Finlay so we won’t get the answer to that yet. *** They spend a lot of time after the match focusing on Matt pouting about the loss in what I guess you could call foreshadowing a change of Mattitude.
Women’s Championship Match: Beth Phoenix (w/Santino Marella) vs. Melina
Melina is back from spending most of 2008 on the shelf with injuries, and since she’s such a natural heel, they have of course decided to make her the lead babyface of Raw’s women’s division. They start out with Beth establishing the power advantage and hooking a bearhug. Melina gets out and hits a dropkick, but the runs into a shoulderblock. Beth sends her off, but Melina comes back with a headscissors takedown to an armbar. Beth just picks her up from there and drops her. Melina gets herself on Beth’s shoulders, but gets dropped again. Butt splash in the corner by Beth gets 1 and then she goes to a legbar. She uses Melina’s flexibility against her by actually beating her over the head with her own foot, which is at least something unique. Side slam gets a 2 count for Beth and then she sets up a press slam, but Melina slips out and hits a jawjacker in a sequence that looked pretty ugly. Rollup by Melina gets 2 and then she drop toes Beth on to the ropes and hits a rope straddle. Faceplant gets 2, but Beth then gets up and shoves her back to the corner. Melina gets the boots up on the charge, and then uses a 2nd rope Thesz Press, but seems to hurt herself more than Beth. Beth sends her off the ropes for a hiptoss, but Melina counters to a spinning rollup and that gets 3 at 5:58. Bad match with several botched moves and a terrible finish. The new champ got dominated and then wins it on a fluke? It just makes both of them look bad. DUD
World Heavyweight Championship Match: John Cena vs. John “Bradshaw” Layfield (w/Shawn Michaels)
To set this one up, JBL won a four way against Shawn, Orton, and Jericho when Shawn, after eliminating the others, allowed himself to be clotheslined and pinned. JBL went on to say that Shawn would not be wrestling at the Rumble, but would only be in his corner so the entire match is essentially built around what Shawn’s involvement will be. To further that, just before they come out, JBL tells Shawn that if he walks out with the belt, he will pay Shawn off completely and free him from ever having to work for him again. Undertaker makes a cameo, telling Shawn “Sometimes you have to go through Hell to get to Heaven”. What exactly that means, I don’t know, but could it be that they’re teasing a match between the two? Earlier I went off about how champs don’t wear the belts, but Cena, who usually carries his, is wearing it around the waist too. Perhaps some new directive from Lord Vince? Beth Phoenix carried her belt, but the women are held to completely different standards then the men, so she may not count. To the match now, which Cena starts of with a side headlock takedown. JBL kneelifts out and gets his own side headlock. Cena fires him off, but JBL hits a shoulderblock. JBL comes off again, but this time runs into an elbow for 1. JBL regroups on the floor, and whispers something to Shawn, who is doing a nice job looking like he’d rather be anywhere else right now. JBL boots Cena down, but his corner whip is reversed and Cena then gets him with a bulldog for 2. The Throwback also gets 2, so JBL rolls out to the floor again. Cena chases, but Shawn (without actually doing anything) provides enough distraction for JBL to nail him. He rams Cena to the stairs and gets him back in for a 2 count. Short clothesline gets 2 and then he gets another 2 after dropping some elbows. Cena gets out of a rear chinlock, but then runs into a side slam and JBL gets another 2. JBL shoulderblocks Cena off the apron to the floor and then whips him to the stairs. Back in, that gets 2, so now he puts Cena on the top rope. Cena knocks him back and then comes off with the top rope legdrop for 2. This has been a decent match thus far, but the fans aren’t that into it. The problem with trying all these near falls is that everyone knows that the match can’t end until Shawn gets involved one way or the other. Unfortunately that essentially makes everything prior to his involvement meaningless. Cena charges into a boot, but when JBL comes back at him, Cena takes him down and works him over. He rams JBL to the buckle and then gets a couple of shoulderblocks. Protobomb sets up the Five Knuckle Shuffle, which hits, but JBL elbows out of the UF (Unnamed Finisher). He goes for the Clothesline From Hell, but Cena gets him with a drop toe hold into the STF. JBL inches towards the ropes, but when Shawn grabs the ropes, teasing getting involved, Cena simply lets it go. This lets JBL kick him to the floor. Cena stares down Shawn as he gets back in, but that lets JBL catch him with the Clothesline From Hell. Cena kicks out at 2 as the fans finally bought a nearfall. Cena comes back for the UF again, but JBL slips out. JBL tries a big boot, but Cena ducks and the ref takes it instead. They knock each other down with clotheslines which sets up the Shawn Michaels drama. He enters the ring and looks like he’s going to Superkick Cena, but then does it to JBL instead. Huge pop for that. Cena appears stoked that Shawn has done what he considers to be the right thing, but the Shawn Superkicks him too. He drags JBL on top and then leaves, looking like he’s disgusted with himself. Another ref, apparently fetched by Shawn, runs in and counts, but Cena kicks out at 2. They get to their feet, and now Cena hits the UF for 3 at 15:31. A bit of an anti-climactic finish, but really this match was meant to be more of a backdrop for the Shawn/JBL storyline than it was meant to be a classic Championship match or anything. The match was only ok at best, but I’ll let the storyline drag the rating up a bit. **
WWE Championship Match: Jeff Hardy vs. Edge (w/Chavo Guerrero, Jr.)
Jeff, of course, won the Title from Edge back at Armageddon, and by virtue of the fact that he’s banging the GM, Edge gets the first shot at Jeff here tonight. Speaking of our GM, here she is to announce that this match will now be no disqualification. Belt Update: Jeff is wearing it around the waist as well so I guess I lose the argument that no one wears them like that anymore. Jeff attacks right off the bat and rams Edge to the buckle as the fans start up a chant of “We Want Christian”. Sorry folks, but Vince needs to prove he’s smarter than you so there will be no Christian here tonight. Jeff nails a forearm off an Irish whip. Second Irish whip sees Edge hold on and slide out to the floor. Jeff chases, but when Edge goes back in, Jeff stops to grab a chair. Edge boots it out of his hand and knocks him down. Corner whip by Edge, but Jeff comes back over and nails a clothesline. Seated dropkick gets 1, and Jeff follows up with a slam, but Edge comes back. Irish whip leads to Jeff sliding out to the floor. He baits Edge out there, but then slides back in and hits a dropkick. Edge avoids the dive, but Jeff lands on the apron and the comes off with a clothesline. They go back in, but Edge boots Jeff off the apron after Chavo distracts him by grabbing his leg. Edge hits a baseball slide then whips Jeff to the barrier, and rams him to the tables. Back in, he drops an elbow and gets 2. Corner whip leads to a spear in the corner, but a second corner whip sees Jeff come out and hook a sunset flip for 2. Edge gets up and connects with a clothesline for 2. To a bearhug, which Jeff elbows out of, but Edge takes him back down by the hair. Jeff gets him with a mule kick and goes up, but Edge is right there to met him. Jeff knocks him back down and tries a press, but Edge nails a dropkick for 2. Now Edge goes for the chairs, but Jeff spears him off the apron as he tries to reenter the ring. Jeff nails the dive and when they get back to the apron he also nails a Twist of Fate. He preps the announce table, gets Edge on it and sets up a ladder. Chavo climbs up there with him and provides the distraction needed to save Edge. It does mean however that Chavo gets to be the victim of the leap off the ladder through the table. Jeff almost slips off the ladder in the process in a spot that could have gotten ugly. After selling for a bit while we watched multiple replays, Jeff dropkicks Edge and gets him back in the ring. He goes up and comes down with a bodypress for 2. Irish whip is reversed and Edge nails a big boot. He pulls the turnbuckle pad off, but Jeff counters the shot, then quickly goes up and comes off with the Whisper in the Wind for 2. Twist of Fate is countered to an Implant DDT by Edge for 2. Edge goes to the 2nd rope and comes off. Jeff gets the boots up, but Edge appears to see it coming, and grabs the legs. Jeff kicks him off and gets him with a small package for 2. He hits a facebuster suplex and goes up, but comes back down when Edge rolls away. He kicks Edge to the corner and tries the seated dropkick, but Edge catches him and drops him on the exposed buckle for 2. Edge sets up a spear, but it gets countered to a Twist of Fate. Jeff tries to go up, but Vickie Guerrero runs in and grabs his leg. He kicks her away and comes off the top, hitting the Swanton. The ref counts 2, but Vickie makes slight contact with him so he must stop the count. Here comes Matt Hardy now, seemingly to even the odds. He shoves Vickie in the ring and gets Jeff to setup a Conchairto on Edge, but then turns on Jeff with a chairshot. The look on Matt’s face says “Yeah, I don’t understand it either but I gotta do what I’m told”. Edge covers and gets the 3 count to win his seventh (look out HHH) World Championship at 19:25. Match was pretty good, but again was more of a backdrop for a storyline. *** I’m not sold on the Matt Hardy turn and I really don’t think that they’ll be able to turn it into an interesting issue. And how is Christian going to fit in to all of this now?
Main Event: 2009 Royal Rumble Match
90 second intervals this year with Orton and HHH being the favourites to win, so here we go. Rey Mysterio, Jr. gets #1 followed by World Tag Team Champion John Morrison at #2. They trade shots and elimination attempts. Rey comes back with a crazy spinning headscissors takedown. WWE Tag Champ Carlito is #3 and he spits the apple at Morrison. He also gets a cool looking springboard move on him. #4 is MVP, who doesn’t get much of a reaction at all. Can someone point me to an example of someone doing a losing streak gimmick and actually coming out of it as a bigger star then they were going in? Yet they still pull it out every few years, which means that somebody, somewhere is convinced that it’s gold. Either that or they’re intentionally burying people, but they would never do that, would they? Great Khali is #5 and everyone stops to prepare for him, but he still manages to dominate. Vladimir Kozlov is #6 and he single handedly puts Khali out. MVP tries with Kozlov now, but he misses a charge and gets tossed. Carlito is up next, and although he saves himself once, he’s gone on the rebound. #7 is HHH for the big showdown with Kozlov. Facebuster hits, and just like that Kozlov is out. So to sum up the match thus far we have a rather simple formula: HHH > Kozlov > Khali > (Carlito + MVP). There will be a test later, so write that one down. Morrison attacks HHH but that goes about as well as you might expect. Orton is #8 to make sure that HHH has someone in his league in there with him. They trade finisher attempts with Morrison breaking up the Pedigree, but he ends up taking the 619. #9 is Cryme Tyme and they flip a coin to see who goes in. JTG takes it, but he had a two headed coin, you see. Oh those wacky kidz these days. #10 is Ted Dibiase, Jr. to give Orton some backup. Several good close calls in this segment before Chris Jericho comes out at #11. He wants a piece of Orton. #12 is Mike Knox who continues his obsession with attacking Mysterio. We’re starting to go too long without an elimination at this point. #13 is the other World Tag Team Champion, The Miz. He, Morrison, and JTG all end up taking an RKO in succession before HHH ends the rampage by hitting Orton with the Pedigree. HHH then gets the honour of cleaning up by eliminating the Tag Champs together. Fit Finlay comes out at #14. They do a cute spot where Rey gets tossed, but walks across the backs of Miz and Morrison, who are still down on the floor, and gets back to the stairs to stay in it. #15 is Cody Rhodes to put all of Legacy in there together. If their game plan is that Orton wins no matter what, why then if Rhodes and Dibiase both got higher numbers than he did, did Orton not force them to trade down and take the best one for himself? In any case, they triple team a few guys to signal their presence. #16 is The Undertaker and everyone stops to prepare for him like they did for Khali. I was hoping for him to clear a little deadwood, but his only victim for the time being is JTG. #17 is Goldust which sets up the inevitable brother vs. brother deal between him and Cody. Goldust almost has him out a couple of times, but falls victim to an RKO. Orton then gives Rhodes the honour of tossing him. #18 is the new Intercontinental Champion, CM Punk, so it’s knees and kicks for everyone. He even counters a Pedigree from HHH and nails him with the GTS! #19 is Mark Henry as the ring is really starting to get too full. US Champion Shelton Benjamin is #20, followed by William Regal at #21. Mark Henry is shown walking out, apparently having been eliminated, but we completely missed it. Replay shows that Taker hit him with a big boot, and then Rey pulled to ropes down so that he staggered over. Kofi Kingston is in next at #22 and he holds his own until Jericho nails him. Taker gets another notch by tossing Benjamin. #24 is Kane and he and Taker appear to setup an alliance which ends up being bad news for Dibiase. In addition to taking his Title, Punk also gets to eliminate Regal here by pulling him over the top. #24 is R-Truth and he makes little to no impact. #25 is the surprise return of Rob Van Dam, and he gets a really good reaction. #26 is The Brian Kendrick and he immediately shoves Kingston out from off the second rope. And then, just like that, HHH tosses him out. #27 is Dolph Ziggler, and he lasts just long enough to introduce himself to Kane before getting thrown out. Santino Marella is #28 and is clotheslined out by Kane the moment he enters in a spot designed to break, and probably hold forever, the record for shortest time in the ring. #29 is Hacksaw Jim Duggan who gets a nice reaction as they play up his victory in the 1988 Rumble. Our last entrant at #30 is the Big Show giving us a finalist list of Rey (#1), HHH (#7), Orton (#8), Dibiase (#10), Jericho (#11), Knox, who must be absolutely flattered that they allowed him to last this long (#12), Finlay (#14), Rhodes (#15), Taker (#16), Punk (#18), Kane (#23), R-Truth (#24), RVD (#25), Duggan (#29), and Show (#30). Yes, fifteen guys, or half the total field, made it to the end here. That’s too many, and it really takes away from the aura of lasting a long time when everyone and their mother goes thirty minutes or more. First guy out is Duggan as he ties to go with Show but gets tossed. Truth is Show’s next victim with a press slam right to the floor. He nearly has Punk out a couple of times, but Punk keeps hanging on until the Big Right Hand knocks him off the apron and out. Mysterio and Knox have been eliminated, but we don’t see how. Hornswoggle makes an appearance at this point, but doesn’t really help Dad out all that much as Finlay gets backdropped out by Kane. Replay lets us know that Mysterio and Knox were both eliminated by Show, giving him five already. RVD hits a Five Star Frog Splash on Orton, but then gets thrown out by Jericho. Jericho goes after Taker, but all that does is ensure that he’s next to go. Legacy works together and eliminates Kane leaving them in with HHH, Taker, and Show. Taker choke slams all of Legacy before turning his attention to Show and booting him over the top to the apron. Show drags Taker over as well, but Orton RKO’s Show from there and he falls off the apron. Show is enough of a sore loser that he drags Taker down, eliminating him as well and they brawl away into the crowd signifying that their feud may have life in it yet. Now HHH, who’s been laying low for the last little while is left against Legacy. Orton, Rhodes, and Dibiase can thank their lucky stars that it’s only HHH they’re in there with. If it had been Shane McMahon, not only would they have been beaten with room to spare, but they would probably have been killed in the process. The beatdown is on, but of course HHH fights back and counters the RKO. He backdrops Orton to the apron and the announcers sell that HHH thinks he’s gone. Facebuster for Rhodes! Spinebuster for Dibiase! Pedigree on Rhodes! Dibiase is eliminated, followed quickly by Rhodes, but Orton immediately comes from behind and tosses HHH to win it at 58:37. Not bad, but not great either. There were generally too many guys in there at a time and the lack of eliminations caused it to drag bit. They made a point of keeping most of the top guys in there to the end, so the star power was there, but it doesn’t change the fact that only a couple of guys have a chance. Ending was kinda cheap too. ***1/2
Ok, so we have a good, but not great Rumble supported by a couple of matches that delivered reasonably well in the opener and WWE Title match, but I still don’t come away thinking that this was that great of a show. What convinced me more on that point was that the next night on Raw, it was a total afterthought as it played second fiddle to the Orton/McMahon storyline. I mean, if they don’t care, why should we? Thumbs in the middle for the show and if you missed it, you shouldn’t feel the least bit bad or really bother tracking it down since all the real important stuff happens on TV anyways.