The Royal Rumble has always been one of the highlights of the wrestling calendar, particularly since 1992 when the WWE title became the focal point of the match. In 1992, the winner (Ric Flair) won the vacated WWF Title in a fantastic match. From 1993 onwards, the winner of the Royal Rumble has won himself the chance to challenge for the WWE Title at Wrestlemania.
Running Time: 179 mins (approx. including extras)
- Career Threatening Match – Ric Flair v MVP
- Mr. McMahon Discusses the Rumble Match w/ Hornswoggle
- Chris Jericho v John “Bradshaw” Layfield
- Ashley Tries to Talk With Maria
- World Heavyweight Championship Match – Edge v Rey Mysterio
- Ric Flair in His Locker Room
- Maria’s Kiss Cam
- WWE Championship Match – Randy Orton v Jeff Hardy
- The 2008 Royal Rumble Match
- Intercontinental Championship Match – Jeff Hardy v Randy Orton (RAW – January 14th 2008)
- Home Video Exclusive – Triple H Talks to John Cena Post Royal Rumble Match
Yokozuna was the first man to claim this honour; going on to Wrestlemania IX and defeating Bret Hart for the WWF Title… only to lose it less than three minutes later to Hulk Hogan. The stipulation changed in 2003 when the brand split led to WWE having two champions. Chris Benoit was the first wrestler to exploit a loophole and jump brands to cash in his title shot.
The Rumble was also used to bring to a head the burgeoning feud between Triple H and Batista and propel “The Animal” into the main event picture; a position he holds to this day.
Even outside the “Winner gets a title shot” stipulation, the Rumble match has played host to many great confrontations, including the very first physical exchange between Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior in 1990. Owen Hart turned on his brother, Bret Hart after a tag title match, Vader cleanly pinned Undertaker one year after making his debut in the 1996 event and scaring the crap out everyone with his physical destruction, Sid defended his WWE Title against Shawn Michaels in a heated match, Undertaker was robbed in his bout against Bret Hart in 1996, Triple H made a triumphant return in 2002… and the list goes on and on.
As one of the original “Big Four” PPVs, the Royal Rumble has a mystique that is lacking from many of the other PPV events. It is always looked forward to and has one of the best, and simplest, gimmick matches in history. The format (credited to Pat Patterson) is brilliant and has everyone counting down with the on-screen clock in anticipation of who will be next. The match can be used as a surprise return for a wrestler (more about this later) or to treat the fans to a one-off appearance from a legend of the sport, but whatever your motivation for watching, the Royal Rumble is a PPV that rarely, if ever, disappoints.
After the opening video (an extended version of the subway promo seen on TV), we are treated to highlights of previous Royal Rumble events. This includes a montage of all the title cards from the previous events before showing us such happenings as Duggan winning the first event, Hogan v Warrior for the first time, Flair setting the record during the 1992 event (which also featured the greatest effort from a colour commentator in history by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan), HBK becoming the first man to enter #1 and win it (although it fails to mention that the Bulldog started at #2, which is basically the same position, or that this was the shortest Rumble in history at under 45mins), Austin winning it in 2001 (an event that featured Kane setting the record for eliminations; ‘Taker’s little brother eliminated ELEVEN wrestlers by himself. In my opinion, it should have been twelve, but Drew Carey is credited as eliminating himself) and Rey Mysterio going the distance and winning the event (and setting three records in the process; longest time in a Rumble, shortest wrestler to win the Rumble and lightest wrestler to win it as well).
We then get a great little montage of all the wrestlers in the event (something that is a nice little touch and adds to the aura surrounding the event) before the huge pyro goes off around Madison Square Garden. MSG hosted the 2000 Royal Rumble (an excellent PPV), and is considered the home of World Wrestling Entertainment, so I was pretty psyched up for the show just due to the location.
One thing about MSG is that the stage setting is always very low key in comparison to the normal sets used for a WWE PPV and this was no exception. The low-key structure meant that that the focus is on the in-ring action from the get-go.
Ric Flair comes is the first person introduced and he cuts a nice little promo thanking the fans for the respect he is shown… only for it to be interrupted by Montel Vontavious Porter in an effective effort to garner heel heat in New York (a place notorious for not following the status quo).
The match is a mild disappointment, but does what it was meant to do and that is further the Ric Flair retirement angle. The result is pretty obvious seeing as how everyone knew (or as much as you can know) that Flair would end his career at Wrestlemania.
The fans don’t seem to care that the result wasn’t in doubt and get behind Flair from the opening bell and stay with him until the figure-four to end the contest, adding to the atmosphere and giving us a decent enough opening on which to build.
Vince is up next; giving his “son” a pep talk no less as he instils a feeling of ruthlessness in Hornswoggle to give him a chance in the Royal Rumble match. Finlay also makes an appearance and hints at the deal between him and Mr. McMahon. Unfortunately, it seems that this part of the angle has been completely forgotten, so we’ll never find out what the deal actually was. Oh, well; you win some and you lose some.
“Break the Walls Down” heralds the arrival of Chris Jericho to a thunderous ovation from the crowd. His match with JBL was a let-down as well, but there was some nice action to seen at times. The build was pretty good, with JBL doing his damn best to come into this match as the biggest low-life heel in the company.
The main reason the match failed to live up to its promise is that it didn’t seem to be a feud between two guys who want to kill each other. Apart from the finish (a disappointment in itself), there was no “I want to tear this sumbitch a new asshole” interaction between Bradshaw and Y2J (who does bleed heavily, it has to be said). Jericho’s chairshot to JBL to end the match does make up for it though, as it is one of the hardest blasts with a chair I’ve seen since the glory days of Balls Mahoney. The fact that it came so unexpectedly (Jericho was offscreen after having his head smashed into the announce table and JBL was dismantling the aforementioned table in preparation for something) really added to it, but for some reason, the DVD has had the post-match choking by Jericho on JBL edited out. This seems strange considering it was the receipt for Layfield lyching Jericho on RAW in the lead up to the match.
After the violence (edited as it was), it was time to lighten the mood… and when you need some comedy in WWE, the one man you turn to is Santino Marella, so it was no surprise to have him feature in the next segment.
Ashley (who has gone from hot stunner to anorexic skank in record time) is trying to get a word with Maria (about doing a Playboy shoot) so goes to her dressing room… only for Santino to answer the door. What follows is Santino doing what he does best; butcher the English language and make us laugh.
Wrestlemania XXIV is 63 days away.
Our first title match is up next as Edge defends the World Heavyweight Championship against Rey Mysterio. The feud revolved around the relationship between Vickie Guerrero and Edge and how it was affecting Vickie in her decision making. Rey, as a family friend, tried to talk to her, but love, it seems, has blinded her to reason.
The match is an improvement on the bouts that have gone before, but could really have done with some more time to tell the story. The action is frantic when it needs to be and ground based (Edge working over Rey’s knee) when the pace needs to slow down. The finish is a thing of beauty and really pushed the angle into better territory.
A short segment backstage between Ken Kennedy and Ric Flair takes us out of the arena for a short break before we return just in time for Maria’s Kiss Cam… which is just an excuse to further the Playboy angle. The main talking point is the pop Santino gets when his music hits. The man then goes on to give a masterclass in how to control the crowd with the way he turns the New York crowd against him. The guy is a comedy genius and deserves much more than he’s been given so far.
The biggest irony of the whole angle is that the photoshoot itself was the biggest disappointment. The pictures just weren’t that great and were an anti-climax to the whole thing.
The WWE Title match is up next, but not before Mike Adamle makes his debut as an on-air talent. His faux-pas (calling Jeff Hardy by the wrong surname) has been edited out, but he still seems stilted. Jeff Hardy, going into this match, was being built as a convincing challenger to Orton’s belt, and there was a real feeling that Jeff may actual win the championship from Randy Orton.
The pre-match hype video is phenomenal and really does the job of making the contest a must-see event. No other company (sports or otherwise) does promo videos like WWE, and this is no exception. Giving the history of both men (from childhood to their current situation) as well as their accomplishments, the hype really builds for the two wrestlers and sets the tone for the match itself. The joy for me was watching Randy RKO all the legends during his original run as The Legend Killer.
Jeff Hardy, at this point, was probably the most over guy in the company; credit for that must go at least partly to WWE for going all the way with him and pushing him as a credible main-event talent. With the top tier in WWE really needing some fresh blood (the last two to break out were arguably Cena and Edge a few years previously), Jeff being in the position he is in can only be a good thing.
The big hope I have at the moment is that he has finally learned his lesson and that his latest suspension is his last.Jeff Hardy, in the present day, is still the most over guy on the roster, so WWE could really do with him staying around the WWE Title scene.
Getting back to January, this match was fantastic, with sweet exchanges and hot crowd heat throughout. Despite the result, it also managed to keep both men strong once it was over. Jeff proved he can hang in the main event and Randy showed he can land the RKO out of nowhere and keep everyone down. Outside the Rumble match, this was easily the best match of the night. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler deserve some credit for putting over the importance of the match and doing a great job calling the match. Jeff also receives a well-earned standing ovation.
With all the singles matches out of the way, it is now time for the Royal Rumble match. Before we get to that though, we have some interesting facts from the history of the contest.
- 20 years since the first Royal Rumble
- 21 winners (which doesn’t actually make sense seeing as how this is the 21st Rumble)
- 569 wrestlers have been eliminated since the first event
- 36 – the record, held by Steve Austin, for most eliminations overall
- 11 – the record, held by Shawn Michaels, for the most entries into a Rumble match (although Kane has actually been in more as different characters)
- 11 – the record, held by Kane, for most eliminations in a single match
- 8 – the record for most consecutive Rumble appearances; also held by Kane
- 3 – the record for most entries into a single Rumble. Mick Foley entered as Cactus Jack, Mankind and Dude Love during the 1998 Rumble.
- 2 – the number of feet that must hit the floor for an elimination to take place
- 1 – the number of females who have entered the event. Chyna entered the 1999 event as a member of DX.
- 62mins 12secs – the record, held by Rey Mysterio, for the longest time spent in the Rumble match
- 02secs – the record, held by The Warlord, for the shortest time spent in the Rumble Match
- 3 – the record, held by Steve Austin, for the most Rumble wins (with an asterix next to the 1997 victory)
- 1 – the number drawn when Shawn Michaels and Chris Benoit went on to win the match in 1995 and 2004 respectively. Rey Mysterio won the match from #2, which is basically the same thing.
- 30 – the last number available to be drawn, but has only provided one winner; Undertaker won the 2007 Royal Rumble from that position
- 27 – the number to provide the most winners (John Studd, Yokozuna, Bret Hart and Steve Austin)
- 73 – the percentage of Rumble winners (since the stip was introduced in 1993) who have gone on to Wrestlemania and won either the WWE or World Title.
To introduce the Rumble, WWE hired Michael Buffer. It was a brilliant decision; in my opinion, there is no better announcer in hyping a match and making it seem important. WWE should hire Michael Buffer for every PPV main-event and have him do what he does best.
The match begins with the same two men who ended 2007’s Rumble on such a high note; Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. Santino draws #3 and provides his usual standard of humour for the brief time he spends in the match. #4 is The Great Khali and the pop he gets is pretty damn impressive.
From there, the match powers its way through the numbers (and the usual mid-card no-hopers) with the crowd being hot throughout. The action is frantic (considering there is little scope for actual wrestling moves) and the countdown clock always excites as you wonder who is coming out next (with Jimmy Snuka and Roddy Piper being the “Legend” entrants). Eliminations reduce the field to a select few as we get to the coveted #30 spot… and the biggest surprise of the night. By now, everyone should know that John Cena made his unannounced return at the tail end of the match to a huge, nay, massive ovation… until the New York crowd remembered that cheering Cena is uncool and start to boo his exchanges with Triple H.
The final few minutes, while not on a par with ‘Taker and HBK from last year, were intense and exciting. The fans were on the edge of their seats as the final three of Batista, HHH and Cena fought for the right to headline Wrestlemania XXIV.
It really was, from the moment Cena’s music hit until the final bell, a tense and thrilling finale to the PPV. This is what wrestling is all about; surprising the fans and giving them something to get excited about. My only wish is that JBL was commentating on it, as I feel he would have added extra sizzle to the main-event steak.
The extras are better than what has been on the PPV releases recently. The first is the IC title defence from RAW where Orton gets himself DQ’d immediately after the opening bell and go on the offensive against Hardy (going so far as to try and kick Jeff in the head and send him off the stage).
As we all know though, Jeff countered this with a backdrop and then performed the high-spot of the year by landing a Swanton Bomb from the Titantron scaffolding (a legit 20ft drop). It really was (and still is) a sight to behold.
The second extra is a short chat backstage between Triple H and John Cena where Hunter congratulates Cena on his victory, but tells him that there will be a time when they lock horns again. Cena tells Trips that he hopes it will be at ‘Mania for the title.
A really good PPV that was a little slow to start, but the fabulous New York fans really helped lift the matches beyond what they may have been if they were held in another venue.
The matches had logical conclusions, and the feuds that needed to be continued were done so in a sensible manner. Jeff Hardy cemented his main event position (until his suspension at least) and Cena re-introduced himself to the title picture.
All in all, this was a great start to 2008 for the WWE and it continued the good run of quality PPVs that prevailed throughout 2007.