The Road Through the Past: WWE Royal Rumble 2002

Welcome to a new series of columns reviewing past WWE shows, heading back in time to days when Triple H and The Undertaker were the top names, Chris Jericho was putting over main event talent, and the Big Show turned heel to face and back again within the space of a few weeks.

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OK, some things haven’t changed, but a lot has, and these reviews will hopefully give you a chance to re-live the action you watched all those years ago, and maybe even enlighten those who haven’t seen the shows before.

The format of the reviews will be quite simplistic, I had envisioned a full play-by-play transcript of every punch, kick and move, but there’s only so much I believe you good people are willing to read, so I’ll try to condense it into manageable sizes for you to enjoy. For a quicker assessment you can always see the standardised “star rating” and verdict that will be after every match.

The entire show will also be summarised at the end, with a Grade rating given to the overall show.

There will also be pre-show happenings, both any action or interviews on Sunday Night Heat beforehand, and every match will have the events that brought us to the point of the contest, backstage attacks, scything promos, or any previous matches between the opponents.

So sit back, grab a snack or beverage, and get ready to head back to…

WWE ROYAL RUMBLE 2002

Date: January 21st 2002
Location: Atlanta, Georgia

But first! Let’s go to Sunday Night Heat and find out what we’ve got to hype up the show. Recaps… recaps… few more recaps… Maven gives an interview… well it’s nearly PPV time and no matches, but here comes Kurt Angle. He’s always good for a promo even if it’s just to fill time. Lots of You Suck! chants directed at Angle, who is in the city he won his Olympic Gold Medal. Now the What? chants that had caught on at the time and would remain there even past Austin’s departure.

Angle’s there to talk about habits, be it nail-biting or chanting What?. Angle runs down the crowd for the chants, and says he has a habit of his own; winning. Finally getting around to the Rumble, stating that when he wins the Rumble he wants to hear the chants of “hero”, “inspiration”, “dominant” or “main event of WrestleMania” instead of “What?”. Catchy. An incest joke keeps the crowd against him, before a duelling What? chant causes Angle to flip out and leave the ring, and the crowd starts the You Suck chants again. Well that was a waste of time. Let’s go the show…

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Opening video takes us back through the years of the Rumble winners, from Duggan to Hogan to Flair to Michaels to Austin to McMahon to The Rock. The usual “I’m going to win” quotes from superstars as well as the four returning wrestlers that I’ll discuss later, and we hit the show.

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BANG BANG BANG BANG PYRO TIME! Sure it looks nice, but is it really worth it? We’re on six year tape delay at the Phillips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia for the first PPV event of 2002, and as it’s the Royal Rumble the air of expectation hangs over the show. JR and The King welcome us, as do the weirdos in WWF New York, and we’re heading for our opening match…

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Match #1
WWF Tag Team Championship Match
Tazz & Spike Dudley (c) vs. The Dudley Boyz

If you don’t remember Spike and Tazz’s run with the titles then I don’t blame you, but it actually surprised me in researching this just how long they held the titles for…

How It Came To This

Tazz and Spike won the titles from the Dudleys on January 7th 2002 in a hardcore match, and the new champs defended their titles three days later against Lance Storm and Christian, after which they survived a post match attack from the Dudley Boys. Spike then defeated Bubba in a singles match, which lead to the Dudleys violently attacking the champs in the parking lot on the SmackDown! before the Rumble, Tazz got locked in a car; Spike got a 3D on the concrete. I know which I’d prefer.

The Match

The Dudleys come out with Stacy, Tazz and Spike come out with sunglasses and a neck brace. Honours far from even. The Dudleys take out Spike, and then give Tazz a Reverse 3D on the floor to keep Spike isolated. They work on the neck with some neckbreakers, an appropriate move for the situation, and the neck brace is GONE. More neckbreakers. I guess you can call it psychology at best. Mr. Perfect-esque neck snap from D-Von, and Tazz gets back to the apron. More damage to the neck, but Spike hits the Dudley Dog out of nowhere to make things even. The Dudleys stop the tag, and hit a double flapjack with Spike nearly hitting the lights. D-Von heads to the top rope, and he misses a diving headbutt. The Dudleys clothesline each other in a spot I don’t see very often, and Tazz gets the tag! CLOTHESLINE FOR SOME, SUPLEXES FOR OTHERS! Northern Lights suplex gets two, another Dudley Dog from Spike to Bubba, and Stacy is up on the apron. TAZZMISSION TO STACY! Another Dudley Dog to D-Von! But D-Von sends Spike flying out of the ring instead. D-Von misses a charge, TAZZMISSION! Centre of the ring and D-Von wastes little time in tapping out!

Winners: Spike Dudley & Tazz
Time: 5:06

Verdict: Very, very short for a title match on a PPV, but the excuse is always that the Rumble match makes timing difficult. Lots of action crammed in though, and good psychology on the neck. Call it **1/2 for a good effort in the time they had.

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Backstage with Edge, who seems slightly deranged ahead of his Intercontinental Title. Edge wants to use a steel chair to counter the brass knuckles. Seems a fair, if slightly poorly thought out plan.

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Match #2
WWF Intercontinental Championship Match
Edge (c) vs. William Regal

How It Came To This

In late 2001 William Regal began to go OLDSKOOL, developing a gimmick where he frequently used brass knuckles to cheat his way to victory. At Vengeance 2001 Regal lost to Edge after missing a shot with said brass knucks, and the feud continued into 2002. On the RAW before the Rumble, Regal KO’d both Edge and RVD with the brass knucks to win a tag match, causing Edge to snap on the SmackDown! prior to the Rumble where he hit Regal, Test, and referee Nick Patrick with a chair. Which links to the chair in the promo before the match.

The Match

The referee (Nick Patrick again) searches the ring for Regal’s knucks before the match, and doesn’t find them before Edge enters, and Edge enters an ANGRY MAN. Patrick finds Regal’s knucks down the front of his tights. That’s not a pretty sight. Edge explodes with clotheslines and a back body drop, and then chokes Regal in the corner. Edge ANGRILY slams Regal’s face into the canvas, but Regal gets back control with a running knee to the head. Hey, that’s his finisher now! Edge dodges a European Uppercut with a backslide for a 2 count. Edge tries to reverse an irish whip with an enziguri but it looks kinda stupid. Regal ducks a clothesline, HALF NELSON SUPLEX. EDGE LANDED ON HIS FACE. OUCH. Regal gets three consecutive two counts, and another two after a double knee to the head. Resthold time, but only for thirty seconds, Regal then attempts a double arm powerbomb but Edge reverses to a back body drop with a pinning combo. Regal then hits his double arm powerbomb for a two count. Edge ends up on the apron, and eats another knee to the head for his trouble. Regal goes for another double arm powerbomb to the floor, but Edge reverses to a DDT.

More resting with a double count out, before a stupid pinfall attempt with Edge half out the ring and Regal’s foot on the ropes. The two men crack heads to give us some more downtime, and the referee’s count reaches 7 before a slugfest ensues. Edge nails a spinning wheel kick and a suplex for a two count. German suplex from Regal nearly KILLS Edge, he landed right on the top of his head. OUCH again. Regal blocks the Edge-a-cution and gets Edge down to lock in the Regal Stretch. Edge is in it for 29 seconds before getting to the ropes, and as Regal releases the hold, Edge trips him and locks in his own version of the STF! Let’s call it the R-Edge-l Stretch. I’m here all week. Edge only keeps the hold in for four seconds, before dropkicking Regal into the ropes for a roll-up for 2. Edge heads up top, Regal catches him, but can’t make the superplex, falling off and getting a spinning wheel kick to the head. Regal gets some more brass knucks from his tights, before getting the referee in the way to block a Spear. Edge goes to Regal, and POW! Right in the kisser! Or forehead in this case. Edge is KO’d, and Regal covers…. Patrick crawls over… 1…. 2…. 3! We have a new champion! Referees come to Edge’s aid, as Michael Cole interviews Regal on the ramp. Regal thanks his blessed left hand, and thanks God for his power of the punch.

Winner: William Regal
Time: 9:44

Verdict: These two never really clicked for me in any of their matches, which is a shame considering the length of their feud. The two big suplex spots were too big, in my opinion if you fear for the safety of the guy taking the bump; it’s not worth doing in a ten-minute match. Lots of botched stuff throughout didn’t endear me either. I’ll give it *1/2.

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Match #3
WWF Women’s Championship Match
Trish Stratus (c) vs. Jazz

Oh wait, someone else is here…

Special Referee: Jacqueline

OH BOY, HOLD ME BACK.

How It Came To This

Trish won the Women’s title at Survivor Series 2001, the event where Jazz made her WWE debut. Jazz spent December off for no apparent reason, before returning for no apparent reason to earn a title shot by defeating Mighty Molly and Jacqueline. To give some kind of shot in the arm to this feud, Jazz trapped Trish’s hand in an equipment box on the SmackDown! beforehand, and for all intents and purposes, it’s broken. Jacqueline’s involvement isn’t explained, but she’d been refereeing in a few matches prior to this. As mentioned, she lost to Jazz (in one minute) in the match that gave Jazz this title shot. No chance of bias obviously…

The Match

Jazz’s music is so generic; it would be considered a poor theme in TNA. It sounds like the half arsed music they put in the early SmackDown! games for CAWs. Jacqueline’s involvement is explained by JR’s comment “Ric Flair assigned it to her”. Trish comes out with a bandaged left hand and rubs it with a concerned expression. Jazz attacks before Trish can remove her coat and hat. Trish tries to remove it, but can’t, so Jazz just stands there. Yikes. Jazz hits a BIG SPLASH! for a near fall, but the timing gets screwed up again as a stalemate.. Sunset flip from Trish leads to a pinfall reversal sequence, eventually they get up and Jazz hangs Trish up on the top rope. Jazz attacks the hand, and then hits a STIFF right hand. Jazz wraps Trish’s injured hand around the bottom rope, but it doesn’t look even slightly painful.

Jazz and Jackie get into a shoving contest, Jazz reverses a Trish roll up and Jackie hesitates to count. Trish fights back, but can’t hit a bulldog. Trish does connect with a Stratusfaction, but Jazz kicks out with an impressive floatover into a cover of her own. Jazz nails a DDT, before avalanching Trish in the corner. Jazz charges in again, but Trish gets her foot up and hits a running bulldog (using her BAD HAND), pins Jackie and hooks the leg (USING HER BAD HAND) and that’s apparently enough for a three count. Trish sells the hand afterwards, but then Jackie raises that hand in victory. Sigh.

Winner: Trish Stratus
Time: 3:42

Verdict: You can tell Trish was still learning at this stage, there were some really poor spots in the match, and particularly annoying to me was her using her bad hand for the finish. Maybe I’m just a psychology-freak, but surely there has to be some kind of consistency? Jazz did her best, but this really wasn’t up to much. 1/2*

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Ric Flair’s family arrived earlier tonight, Coach tries to get a word, but Flair just introduces Megan and Reid to him, and then walks away.

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Match #4
Street Fight
Vince McMahon vs. Ric Flair

How It Came To This

Ric Flair “bought” Shane and Stephanie’s WWF shares when they sold their stock to form the Alliance, making him co-owner of the WWF with Vince McMahon. But they DIDN’T GET ALONG! Flair stood up for the faces, Vince stood up for the heels, to the extent of helping Chris Jericho win the Undisputed Title. Vince mocked Flair by wearing a robe and wig, before levelling him with a lead pipe and bloodying Flair up. Flair then made it a street fight after they brawled around the ringside area. Their last confrontation was on the RAW before the Rumble, where Flair was attacked by Vince whilst applying the Figure Four to Chris Jericho. As emphasised in the previous segment, Flair’s family are at ringside to watch the match.

The Match

Flair enters first with his blue robe, this his first match in the WWF for nearly ten years. McMahon enters looking as jacked as ever. Both, of course, are former Royal Rumble winners. Vince wins a power battle, shoving Flair down, and poses. Side headlock from Vince, then knocks Flair down with a shoulderblock, before another pose and a strut. Flair gets Vince in the corner and peppers him with rights and kicks. Vince gets Flair into the corner and nails some shoulder thrusts. This is very pedestrian. Chop from Vince, followed by a WHOO! Three chops from Flair, and a proper WHOO! Vince with a clothesline, FLAIR FLOP! Flair whipped to the apron, where Vince knocks him down, and they’re brawling in the aisle. “Keep Off” sign to the skull and back of Flair, and Flair then gets whipped into the barricade. Vince gets a trash can from under the ring, and he connects over Flair’s head. Flair’s busted open, so Vince goes to work on the cut, and sends Flair into the ringpost. Flair goes back first into the steps, and he’s taking a lot of bumps he didn’t take in his latter years. Vince grabs Megan Flair’s camera, and takes a picture of him holding Flair’s bleeding face.

Back in the ring, and Vince starts going after Flair’s legs. Various weak leg submissions applied, but hey, at least its psychology. Vince wraps Flair’s leg around the ring post, then back in the ring for the Figure Four! 50 seconds in the hold with two pinfall attempts on Flair, but Flair reverses by turning over and Vince gets out of the ring in a hurry. Vince grabs a lead pipe, but as he goes to hit Flair, Flair nails a low blow! Outside the ring and its chops-a-plenty, before Flair starts taking apart the Spanish announce table. TV Monitor to the head of Vince! They show a replay on another one of the monitors which looks awesome. Vince is now bleeding, and Flair BITES the wound! Vince begs off, but no dice, as Flair hits a mule kick low blow. Flair gets the pipe, and cracks it off Vince’s skull! FIGURE FOUR! Vince hangs on for 13 seconds, but then he taps out! Reid and Megan are happy! Flair is happy! Atlanta is happy!

Winner: Ric Flair
Time: 14:54

Verdict: Really slow to begin with, obviously the age playing a part, but if it’s a street fight you can go straight to the hardcore stuff to cover it. Got pretty good towards the end though, so I’ll give it **1/2

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Michael Cole is with Nick Patrick backstage, but they are interrupted by Stephanie McMahon and her very see-through top. She hypes up Triple H’s Royal Rumble participancy, and begins insulting Debra. However, Stone Cold creeps up behind her with a What?-fest, causing Steph to run off screaming. Cole tries to ask Austin a question but gets What?-ed out, before Austin lists the people he’s going to beat tonight to win the Rumble.

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Match #5
WWF Undisputed Championship Match
Chris Jericho (c) vs. The Rock

How It Came To This

At Vengeance 2001, Chris Jericho stunned the world by winning both the WWF and World Title on the same night to become the first Undisputed Champion. The Rock, who Jericho defeated for the World Title at Vengeance, beat Booker T in a Number 1 Contender’s match to earn this title shot. As you’d expect, there were a lot of promos between the two, The Rock also made Jericho tap out to the Sharpshooter in a tag team match, but Rock spent most of the SmackDown! before the Rumble interacting with Royal Rumble match participants under the expectation of him beating Jericho in this match.

The Match

Rock enters first to a big ovation; Jericho enters to quite a big chorus of boos. Always nice to see the champion enter second. Jericho has both belts still, and I never really understood why they didn’t bring in a single belt for so long. Trash-talking to start, but Rock gets control early on, eventually hitting a Samoan Drop for a two count. Jericho bails, but gets chased back into the ring by The Rock, before getting Speared. Jericho comes back with a Flying Forearm, whips Rock into the corner and follows with a clothesline, but a second attempt causes him to go shoulder-first into the ring post. Jericho manages to recover though, dropping Rock onto the top rope. Rock gets his elbow up to stop a charging Jericho, but Jericho gets a spinning wheel kick for a 2 count. Suplex from Jericho, ARROGANT COVER~! I love that. Jericho goes to take a turnbuckle pad off early, but this gives Rock the chance to fight back. Jericho gets him though and goes for the Walls of Jericho, but Rock powers out. A clothesline allows Jericho to go up, and fly off the top rope with a missile dropkick for two. Chinlock resthold annoys me, and it really annoys me as it goes on for 1 minute and 25 seconds, before Rock finally fires back with some punches, but Jericho gets in another clothesline. Y2J back to the top rope, but Rock grabs the top rope and crotches him. Rock then meets him there and superplexes him off.

We waste more time with both men down, when they get up Rock takes control with right hands, and hits his new-at-the-time belly to belly throw for a 2 count. Jericho reverses a whip and hits a bulldog, followed by a Lionsault. Then a SECOND Lionsault! Jericho covers, but gets two. Way to keep that finisher strong. Jericho argues with our referee Earl Hebner, before heading to the second rope… but is caught by The Rock! SHARPSHOOTER! Jericho struggles as Lance Storm and Christian run down, distracting the referee whilst Jericho taps out! Rock ducks a title belt shot by Christian and sends him out of the ring, but stumbles into a Rock Bottom from Jericho! 1..2.. No! Storm and Christian are escorted out as Jericho drops a senton splash… and here it comes, the JERICHO ELBOW! But Rock stops him with a nip up, and sends him flying out of the ring! Rock heads outside and starts dismantling the American announce table, but Jericho halts matters by dropping Rock head first on the Spanish table. Jericho starts dismantling that, and rolls Rock on to it. Jericho looks to Rock Bottom Rock through the table, but Rock elbows out, and ROCK BOTTOMS JERICHO THROUGH THE AMERICAN ANNOUNCE TABLE!

Both men are down as you’d expect, but I’ll let them off after that. Rock rolls Jericho back into the ring, covers and gets a very close two count. Rock backs off and gets read to hit a Rock Bottom of his own, Jericho elbows out and locks in the Walls of Jericho! Rock spends 30 seconds in the hold, before reaching the bottom rope. Jericho drags him back and looks to apply it again, but Rock gets a small package! 1, 2, No! Rock sent off the ropes and tries a clothesline, but Jericho ducks and takes out Earl Hebner! Jericho reacts immediately and levels Rock in the face with the WWF Title belt! Jericho signals to the back for a referee, and here comes Nick Patrick… 1…2.. No! Jericho argues, then goes back to the Rock who surprises him with a kick and a DDT… but Nick Patrick refuses to count the pinfall! The Rock is not happy, Rock Bottom to Nick Patrick! Spinebuster to Jericho! PEOPLE’S ELBOW TIME! And it CONNECTS! But there’s no referee! Rock covers for a 7 count, before eventually giving up, allowing Jericho to nail a low blow! Jericho then runs Rock into the exposed turnbuckle, and rolls Rock up with his feet on the ropes for a three count! Well if you’re gonna cheat, you gotta cheat well…

Winner: Chris Jericho
Time: 18:41

Verdict: A lot of rest spots in the middle keep this from being a classic, but the ending was the usual overbooked melodrama that I like to see. Yeah, it’s a hackneyed finish, but it keeps an element of suspense about who’s going to win. I’ll give it ***3/4 for the ending, the table bump and the arrogant cover.

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JR and The King sit by their wrecked announce table as JR chastises Jericho’s cheating. And they introduce SHAWN MICHAELS at WWF New York! HBK is wearing a Texas shirt, Stetson and a belt with a Texas belt buckle. Where’s he from again? HBK, not a regular appearance maker by any means at this time, picks The Undertaker and Steve Austin for the Rumble because they’re from Texas. But what about BRADSHAW?!

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Match #6
Royal Rumble Match
Participants During Match Report

How It Came To This

Pat Patterson invented the Royal Rumble match concept and it debuted in 1988. 14 years later it had become one of the most important and prestigious matches in wrestling, and still is today. The thirty men competing in this match are fighting for the right to main event WrestleMania, and for a shot at the WWF Undisputed Champion.

Among the favourites for this year’s Rumble were Triple H, recently returning after 9 months on the shelf with a torn quad, Kurt Angle, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Undertaker, Kane and perennial favourite-although-we-know-he-won’t-win, The Big Show. 2002 also had four announced returning superstars, Val Venis and The Godfather who had been off-screen since the break up of the Right To Censor pre-Invasion storyline, and Goldust and Mr. Perfect, former WWF employees who had been jobless since WCW’s demise.

Just for pointless noting, Kid Rock’s “Cocky” was the theme song for the event, but the WWF didn’t pay for it to be on the DVD release.

The Match

THE FINK~! announces the rules (2 minutes allegedly, I’m not going to count), and reminds me it’s not the same with Justin Roberts. Nobody likes being entrant #1, so tough luck to Rikishi this year. #2 is Goldust, making his first WWF appearance in nearly three years. Gold ticker-tape falls to mark the occasion. Some may call that a “golden shower”, but I won’t. Rikishi attacks Goldust from behind and goes to eliminate him straight away. Goldust tries a sunset flip… why? Goldust skins the cat and lands on the apron. And again after a missed charge. Goldust staggers on the apron but rakes Rikishi’s eyes to get back in. Countdown up, and here comes the Big Boss Man at #3. I wonder if the flak jacket affected his mobility? Boss Man gets sent into Goldust’s… crotch, but hits back at Rikishi with a clothesline, allowing Rikishi to do his 450 rotation sell. Boss Man and Goldust double team Rikishi to get him out, but no dice. Goldust and Boss Man fight among themselves, until entrant #4 arrives, which is Bradshaw. Punches for all, before Bradshaw runs right through Goldust. Rikishi squashes Boss Man in the corner… Stink Face? YES! And a looong one at that. Shuffle side kick catches Boss Man on the jaw, and Rikishi clotheslines him out (Elimination #1).

Jerry Lawler brings up my earlier point about HBK not mentioning Bradshaw as he powerbombs Goldust. Entrant #5 is Lance Storm, causing JR to mess up his catchphrase. Storm and Goldust go straight after each other, whilst Rikishi tries to eliminate Bradshaw. Dullness commences as they do the usual fake elimination procedure, and Entrant #6 is Al Snow, who goes after Goldust and Rikishi, whilst Bradshaw nails Storm with a HUGE Clothesline From Hell! Great selling like that makes any move look incredible. Countdown time, and Entrant #7 is Billy, from the esteemed tag team of the time, Billy and Chuck. Yikes, Gunn’s punches look so, so bad. Snow and Storm battle it out on the apron; Snow catches a superkick, and delivers one of his own to send Storm to the floor (Elimination #2). Bradshaw goes to eliminate Goldust, who stays on the apron, but Billy comes from behind…. no joke there, and sends Bradshaw over and out (Elimination #3). Entrant #8 is… THE UNDERTAKER! Rollin’ is covered over on my DVD to some generic rock song. CHOKESLAM to Billy! CHOKESLAM TO GOLDUST OVER THE TOP ROPE! (Elimination #4). Al Snow thrown over the top by Taker! (Elimination #5). Rikishi clotheslined over the top by The Undertaker! (Elimination #6). Only Billy and Taker left, but Billy gets thrown over the top as well! (Elimination #7). Taker has the ring to himself, and demands someone gets sent down to him.

Not long to wait, as Entrant #9 is Matt Hardy! The Undertaker had injured Matt, Jeff and Lita nearly a month ago. Of course at that time, Jeff and Matt were feuding for the first of many times. Taker grabs Matt, and then Lita as she tries to attack him! Low blow from Lita and a neckbreaker from Matt, and Lita starts attacking Taker, which I’m sure isn’t allowed. Taker eventually takes control against Matt, as I notice Teddy Long as a referee on the outside. Entrant #10 is predictably Jeff Hardy, and he helps out his brother, allowing Matt to hit a DDT. Lita back in to stomp away at Taker, before Jimmy Korderas drags her out. Matt and Jeff embrace to confirm their reunion, but Taker interrupts that special moment with a double clothesline. Taker tries to eliminate both of them, but Matt hits a Twist of Fate, and Jeff nails the Swanton! They set him up for the Poetry in Motion, but Taker catches Jeff and slings him over the top (Elimination #8). Last Ride from Taker connects, and Matt’s prone body is flung over the top as well (Elimination #9). Maven is Entrant #10… and so history begins. Maven runs straight into a big boot, but Lita distracts Taker, and gets piefaced as a result. Jeff and Matt back in to assault Taker (drawing boos from the crowd!) but Taker fights them off. Taker slings them both back out, and stops to taunt them… MAVEN WITH THE DROPKICK! MAVEN WITH THE DROPKICK! THE UNDERTAKER IS ELIMINATED! (Elimination #10). Taker steps back in as Maven realises what he’s done, and Taker slugs Maven down and throws him through the ropes, and smashes him over the head with a steel chair, before a couple of shots to the ribs, and he shoves a cameraman over.

Entrant #11 is Scotty 2 Hotty, whilst Maven is thrown back into the ring; Taker then meets Scotty halfway with a right hand. Maven sent over the top rope to confirm his elimination (Elimination #11), and Maven’s bleeding. But it isn’t over, as Taker takes Maven backstage, beating on him all the way. Thankfully, the WWF have cameras in all the right places for this brawl. Isn’t that fortunate? Entrant #12 is Christian, but nobody cares about that as they all watch the big screen. Maven and Taker brawl to the concession stands, and Maven gets slung into a popcorn machine as security desperately try to keep the fans back. That’s that for Taker and Maven, so we have some dead time whilst Christian poses with his title and lies on the ropes, waiting for Scotty to recover and get in the ring. Scotty fires off some rights on Christian, but a facecrusher is reversed to a Reverse DDT. DDP is Entrant #13 to a big pop in WCW territory, and Page hits a discus clothesline on Christian, but gets a Reverse DDT when he tries to eliminate him. DDP ducks a clothesline, and BANG! Diamond Cutter! Scotty superkicks DDP through the middle ropes, and goes after Christian with the Facecrusher… and you know what time it is! W! O! R! M! HOO! HOO! HOO! The diving throat thrust connects, but DDP sends Scotty flying straight afterwards (Elimination #12). Chucky (Palumbo) is Entrant #14, which doesn’t raise the star power much. Bleached dreadlocks do not look good. The referees are still clearing up Goldust’s glitter from the ring.

Chuck sends DDP into a Christian clothesline, and they stomp away. Entrant #15 will hopefully alleviate the boredom… and it’s The Godfather! With Ho’s! 4 of them! Wait… 8 of them! Nope… 12 of them! Godfather of course his doing his “Legitimate Escort Service” gimmick. Godfather dances with the Ho’s, but eventually walks down to the ring. DDP gets eliminated off screen apparently, but the Godfather heads back to dance some more. We finally get a replay of DDP’s elimination, and he was backdropped over by Christian (Elimination #13). Entrant #16 comes down shortly after Godfather enters the ring, and it’s Albert, aka the Hip Hop Hippo. Scissors Kick to the Godfather! He tries to eliminate him, but Chuck and Christian come over to throw Albert over instead (Elimination #14). Godfather sends Christian and Chuck to the corner to set up the Ho Train, but they both move, and eventually double clothesline Godfather over the top rope too (Elimination #15). Entrant #17 is Perry Saturn, and he hits the Moss Covered Three Handled Family Grudenza on Christian. There’s a commotion at the top of the ramp, but it turns out to be nothing. Possibly Godfather pretending the Ho’s were coming back. Entrant #18 is… STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN! Right hands for everyone as the WHAT? chants echo through the Phillips Arena. Christian sent over the top rope! (Elimination #16). Stunner to Saturn! Chuck sent over the top too! (Elimination #17)! Saturn gets a middle finger, and he’s flying out as well! (Elimination #18).

Christian gets brought back to the ring, gets given a Stunner, and gets thrown out again! Same procedure for Chuck, as Austin checks his invisible watch! We finally get some downtime as Austin sits on the top rope and waits for Entrant #19… which is Val Venis! Val gyrates his way down to the ring, removing his towel on the way. Austin stomps him as he gets in, before stomping a mudhole and WHAT?ing it dry. Venis comes back though, and unloads some hard right hands, followed by a back elbow. Test is Entrant #21, and the two Canadians decide to team up on the Texan. The crowd try to WHAT? Austin back into contention, and he does with his fists, before Test misses a Big Boot on Austin and hits Val instead, allowing Austin to clothesline him over the top (Elimination #19). Austin ducks another Big Boot attempt, and levels Test with another Stone Cold Stunner, before throwing him out as well (Elimination #20), leaving Austin alone again. So we have some more downtime whilst Austin listens to his watch, but hold your horses, Entrant #22 is…. TRIPLE H! The crowd erupts, maybe not as much as the WWF would tell you at the time, but the pop is LOUD. Austin cost HHH the WWF Title at the 2001 Royal Rumble against Kurt Angle, before Austin was attacked by HHH during the Rumble match itself. I’m filling time because HHH is sauntering to the ring and staring at Austin.

Still… waiting. More… staring… FINALLY they exchange right hands, Austin gets control, but HHH fights back and hits a jumping knee. Oh, here comes Entrant #23, The Hurricane. Not the best timing for that. Hurricane waits for both Austin and HHH to get up, and sets up for a Chokeslam on HHH! Double Chokeslam with Austin as well! That doesn’t go to well, as Hurricane gets sent over the top by both HHH and Austin (Elimination #21). HHH and Austin go back to pounding on each other, as Austin hits a spinebuster on The Game. Faarooq is Entrant #24, and he hits a spinebuster on Austin, but HHH intervenes, Austin hits a Stunner, and HHH clotheslines Faarooq over the top (Elimination #22). HHH and Austin keep fighting, but it really feels like they’re just filling time. Entrant #25 is the final returnee, Mr Perfect! He does the towel flip and catch! The crowd seem pretty pleased to see him. Perfect hits the ring and throws his towel at Austin, before knocking down both HHH and Austin. JR says Perfect has been “mired in obscurity since leaving the WWF”. HHH and Austin try to get rid of Perfect, who swats his gum out of the air whilst in mid-air himself! But here comes Kurt Angle as Entrant #26, welcomed with another barrage of You Suck WHAT? chants. Angle goes after HHH, whilst Austin brawls with Perfect. Angle with a suplex on HHH, and Angle tries an elimination but Austin comes over to save HHH, getting an overhead belly to belly suplex for his trouble. Entrant #27 is… WEEELLL it’s the Big Show, and WEEELLL it’s headbutt to Angle, and WEEEELLL a Chokeslam for Perfect.

Austin and HHH double team Show, but Show ploughs through them both with a double clothesline. Angle tries a German Suplex… no. Show responds with a gorilla press, but HHH gets a shot of Show to the knee before Angle gets dumped. Show remains dominant with some headbutts, and a Chokeslam to HHH! Oh boy, KANE is #28, and Show and Kane go after one another. Hey, the runners-up from 1999 (Austin), 2000 (Show) and 2001 (Kane) are in the ring together! Show and Kane go for stereo chokeslams, but Kane picks Show up by himself, and throws him over the top!! (Elimination #23). That hadn’t been done before, so it’s a big deal. Austin hits a Stunner on Kane, before Angle eliminates Kane with an Angle Slam over the top! (Elimination #24). Back to Angle, HHH, Austin and Perfect, but Rob Van Dam comes down as Entrant #29! RVD hits a Five Star Frog Splash on Angle to kick things off, and takes out Austin and Perfect with a variety of kicks, before hitting a Rolling Thunder on Austin. But HHH takes care of the RVD situation with a Pedigree; some would say a foreshadowing of RVD’s WWE future career. Only one left, and that’s Booker T entering at, at the time, the cursed number of 30. Three Rumble debutants in the ring now, but soon it’s two as RVD, who’d been selling the Pedigree for over a minute without moving, gets sent over the top by Booker (Elimination #25). Booker celebrates with a Spin-a-Rooni, but spins right into a Stone Cold Stunner from Austin, which sends him backwards over the top and out (Elimination #26).

So it’s down to four, Angle, HHH, Austin and Perfect. Angle sends Austin into a Pedigree, but Austin reverses and tosses HHH into the corner. Angle then nails HHH with an Angle Slam. German Suplex by Angle on Austin, and a second, and a third, whilst JR gets in a Benoit mention. Austin low blows out of another German Suplex attempt, but Perfect and Angle try to double team Austin out. Austin goes to eliminate Perfect, but Angle sneaks up and Austin is thrown out! (Elimination #27). Three left, and Angle and HHH go at it, but Austin swings back in with a chari, and connects with shots to Angle, Perfect and HHH! Austin leaves to a big reception, but all three remaining men are down in the ring. All three get back up, and Perfect seems to be the favourite with the crowd, as he hits a Perfectplex on Angle! He follows that with a running neck snap, but HHH cuts him off and clotheslines him out! (Elimination #28). So it’s down to HHH and Angle, and Angle gains control with an overhead belly to belly suplex. HHH gets back up and nails some right hands, as Angle staggers towards the ropes. HHH charges in, but Angle dodges and backdrops HHH over the top! But HHH holds on! Angle celebrates in the ring, but HHH is back, ducks a clothesline and hits a facebuster! Angle staggers back, and HHH clotheslines him over the top to win the Royal Rumble! (Elimination #29). HHH celebrates in the ring as Angle curses on the outside, JR nearly loses his voice, and both Angle and HHH have a piece of Goldust’s glitter on their shoulder. HHH poses on the turnbuckle as the show comes to an end!

Winner: Triple H
Time: 1:09:16

Verdict: Seeing as the Royal Rumble is my favourite match of any year, it was always going to appeal to me. But there were quite a few dull moments, the timing seemed a bit off particularly when Taker and Austin were in there by themselves, and whilst Taker and Maven’s brawl was reasonably fun, it did leave the ring vacated for a long time. It was also very strangely put together, with all the big stars, Taker aside, entering from #18 onwards, making the first part of the match seem rather flat. Still, the Rumble is always fun, so I’ll give it **** this time around, regardless of how many faults I found with it!

————————–

OVERALL SHOW VERDICT

A lot of times a Royal Rumble event will be judged predominantly on the quality of the Rumble match itself, but this card had added depth to it with the exciting Rock/Jericho match, plus the first ever meeting of Ric Flair and Vince McMahon. Add on the other title matches, however short they were, and it provided a thumps up show, with a Rumble match that had some moments that will always be remembered.

Grade: B

Well that’s it for the first of my reviews, come back soon for No Way Out 2002, as we continue on the road through the past…

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