It’s time to head out onto the road to Wrestlemania as we take a look at WWE’s first pay per view of the year, the Royal Rumble, shown live in the early hours of this past Monday morning on Sky Box Office here in Britain.
The show began with the Smackdown main event as the Big Show challenged Alberto Del Rio for the World title in a last man standing match.
Before the match began Del Rio and his buddy Ricardo Rodriguez received a pep talk from Bret Hart backstage, with the Hitman giving Ricardo a pair of his trademark shades.
As for the match it proved to be a great opener with a very interesting and quite funny ending. It began with the champion taking the fight to his challenger, but it wasn’t long before Show came back into the match.
From there we saw some interesting moments, particularly when Show choke slammed Del Rio from a top of a piece of the entrance set and through a table. It looked all over there and then until Del Rio managed to beat the count.
Eventually they made their way back to ringside where Del Rio took control, avoiding the giant’s charge as he went crashing through the barricade. Del Rio then placed his arm in the ring steps and clobbered the limb with a chair.
They then returned to the ring after the obligatory fire extinguisher spot where Del Rio applied his cross arm breaker. Show’s feet were on the ropes, but the rules of the match meant that rope breaks didn’t count here.
So as Del Rio continued to apply his submission hold of choice Ricardo took out a roll of duct tape as he began to tape Show’s feet to the bottom rope. When he was done there was nothing the big man could do because his left arm was worse than useless and he couldn’t stand up. A 10 count later and Del Rio had the title retaining victory.
The second title match of the evening saw Team Rhodes Scholars, Cody Rhodes and Damian Sandow, challenging Team Hell No, Kane and Daniel Bryan, for the Tag Team titles.
This may not have lasted that long, but it was still a pretty entertaining encounter.
Rhodes and Sandow are really starting to grow as a team. They put in a good stint here as they doubled up on Bryan to good effect, and for a brief moment I really though we were going to get new champions.
It was not to be though. After taking a few minutes of punishment Bryan managed to get the hot tag to Kane. The monster proceeded to clean house until Rhodes and Sandow took him down with a double suplex.
However, Sandow didn’t see Bryan tag back into the match, and after taking Sandow down with a top rope dropkick, and after Kane took Rhodes down with a choke slam Bryan applied the No Lock on Sandow for the title retaining submission win.
Then it was on to the Royal Rumble match itself.
This is the one match of the year I just sit back and enjoy. There’s no point in making notes about this one because there’s just too much going on at any one time. Besides, my memory on these things is normally quite good.
Beginning with Dolph Ziggler and the returning Chris Jericho it was filled with a ton of great drama and great performances. Those I just mentioned, for instance, lasted over 40 minutes each.
As well as Jericho we had the usual surprise entrants. The Godfather made a somewhat brief return, rivalling the Warlord and Bushwhacker Luke for the least amount of time spent in the match, and as we now live in the PG era I’ll say the word “ho” as they couldn’t say it on television.
One of the highlights for me was the rivalry between Cody Rhodes and his big brother Goldust. Our esteemed announcers did a good join of playing this up, and it’s a shame that we probably won’t see a full storyline between these two.
There were also quite a few comedy moments as well, such as Kofi Kingston’s unique way of saving himself and getting back into the ring, as well as Daniel Bryan pleading with Kane to put him back into the ring after a similar situation, with Kane refusing to do so because Bryan had eliminated him moments before.
After all of that and more it got down to John Cena and Ryback. The WWE Universe would probably have gone super nova had Ryback won, but it was never meant to be as Cena eliminated the big man to book his spot in the main event at Wrestlemania.
The final match of the show saw the Rock challenging C.M. Punk for the WWE title.
This one had one added stipulation: if the Shield came down and interfered then Punk would be stripped of the title.
So how would I describe this one? I think quite entertaining would be the best term to use.
It certainly had a better feel about that Rock’s match with Cena last year. It began quite slowly, and although the opening exchanges were okay for me it took a while to develop into a quality encounter.
Rock may not be the wrestler he was a decade ago but he still put in a good effort. Mind you, he had the best in the world leading him on.
So basically what we ended up with here was a good piece of storytelling, with Punk working over Rock’s injured ribs and Rock working over Punk’s injured knee before they moved to the big spot with the Spanish announcers table, a spot which never actually happened because the table collapsed under their combined weight.
Moments later it looked as if Rocky was going to the big prize when he was about to deliver the People’s Elbow. Then the lights went out as we heard Michael Cole screaming about the Shield before we heard a big crash as the Rock was put through the English announcers table.
When the lights came back on the first thing we saw was Rocky lying in the wreckage. Punk, claiming innocence and ignorance dragged his fallen challenger back into the ring for the title retaining pin.
But as Punk and his buddy Paul Heyman celebrated his win Vince McMahon power-walked his way into the arena to strip Punk of his title. Rocky was having none it though, demanding that the match be re-started to he could get the job done properly. It was a demand that Mr. McMahon was more than willing to meet.
Punk went on the attack immediately, the running knee in the corner and the Macho Man elbow failing to get the job done. But just when Punk was about to take him down with the GTS Rocky came back. A spine buster and a People’s Elbow later and the Rock had one the title winning pin.
In conclusion - so how did WWE fare with their first big pay per view of the year?
Pretty well in this writer’s opinion. Although I was a little disappointed that the U.S. title match wasn’t on the main show this year’s Rumble proved to be a very good show.
The Rumble match itself was very enjoyable, and other three matches were pretty decent as well. I must admit that I had my doubts about the Punk/Rock encounter, especially during the opening segments, but those fears were eased as the match went on, and in the end it played out perfectly, although it’s kind of obvious what these events are leading up to.
Having read that you’re probably thinking that the WWE title match is going to get the no-prize for my match of the night this time around. It was close, but that particular honour is going to the Rumble match again. Even though I’ve seen almost every one of these there’s still something special about this match that warms the cockles of this old wrestling fan’s heart.
So with that out of the way there’s only one more thing to do, and that’s to give the Royal Rumble the big thumbs up.