The fans were excited. The Coach was excited. Even the wrestlers backstage were excited. As soon as the John Cena vs. Matt Hardy match was finished, the Coach would be speaking to Craig “The TigerÃ¢â‚¬Â Addleman about the Royal Rumble, which The Tiger was a favorite to win later that night. Although the interview would take place backstage, the fans in the arena were already chanting, “TI-GER! TI-GER!Ã¢â‚¬Â The biggest star in the WWE was about to set the world on fire with his words. Matt Hardy won, and even though he was a bad guy, the fans cheered. The cheered because they knew that The Tiger was about to speak.
Backstage, the Coach stood outside a door that had “TIGER’S LAIRÃ¢â‚¬Â written on it. He knocked on the door, and it opened. Wearing his trademark orange and black trunks, the Tiger stepped out of the locker room and grinned at the camera. Neither he nor the coach said anything for about a minute and a half. Even if they had tried to, the roar of the crowd would have prevented anyone from hearing their words. The Tiger had used to play to their applause, but management eventually told him to just stand still for the interest of time. Finally the crowd died down, and the Coach turned to The Tiger.
“Tiger, the fans love you, but do you think that their support alone is enough to propel you to victory tonight?Ã¢â‚¬Â
“Well Coach,Ã¢â‚¬Â said The Tiger, who then had to wait about fifteen seconds for the crowd to stop cheering. Now he’d be able to do the interview without anymore interruption. “Well Coach, I’ve got to be honest with you. You want to know if being loved by this crowd is enough? It might not be, not when I’ve drawn number one tonight.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The fans all gasped at the same time as the Coach did. “Number one? But Tiger, that means that you’ll have to beat 29 other men, literally!Ã¢â‚¬Â
“Maybe so, Coach. In a way, I’m glad. We all know about what happened to me when I was younger, I don’t want to bore you guys with it again. Nevertheless, I’ve been overcoming the odds all my life. I’ve done it because people, the best damned people in this world, have supported me, and because they’ve given me the courage to face the odds. Those people are my family. Back when I was younger, that was about, I don’t know, twenty people. Today, I have about 6 million people who I consider immediate relatives, and that’s all you people watching on television, that’s all you people in the arena, and that also includes you, Coach.Ã¢â‚¬Â The fans were cheering and laughing at the same time. “Can I do it on your love and support alone? Can I beat 29 other men, drawing off of your strength? I sure hope so. I hope I do you all proud.Ã¢â‚¬Â
“Thank you, Tiger, and good luck tonight.Ã¢â‚¬Â The Tiger turned to walk away, and the crowd buzzed with confusion. The Tiger wasn’t going to say it? Suddenly, The Tiger turned around and grabbed the microphone.
“And just a little message to whoever is number two. Tonight, it won’t be (and the crowd joined in) LIONS, BUT TIGERS YOU BEAR! OH MY!Ã¢â‚¬Â
The crowd exploded as The Tiger left the interview and headed towards the ring as Howard Finkel explained the rules of the Royal Rumble to the fans. None of them paid much attention to the bald ring announcer. The cheers had turned into a chant of, “TIGER! TIGER!Ã¢â‚¬Â The screams were almost deafening, but Howard Finkel went about the motions anyway. Howard couldn’t help but smile. He loved Craig as much as all of the fans did. It was almost an honor for him to say, “Ladies and gentlemen, the number one entrant!Ã¢â‚¬Â
BUM! BUM BUM BUM! BUM BUM BUM! BUM BUM BUMMMMMMM!
Pyro exploded. There was not a butt in a seat. Those who weren’t singing along were cheering. Wearing his tiger skin cloak, The Tiger appeared at the top of the entrance way. He walked, yes he did, he walked to the ring, singing along with the fans.
RISING UP! BACK ON THE STREET!
TOOK MY TIME, TOOK MY CHANCES!
WENT THE DISTANCE
NOW I’M BACK ON MY FEET!
JUST A MAN AND HIS WILL TO SURVIVE!
SO MANY TIMES, IT HAPPENED TOO FAST!
YOU TRADE YOUR PASSION FOR GLORY!
DON’T LOSE YOUR GRIP ON THE DREAMS OF THE PAST!
YOU MUST FIGHT JUST TO KEEP THEM ALIVE!
EYE OF THE TIGER
IT’S THE THRILL OF THE FIGHT
RISING UP TO THE CHALLENGE OF OUR RIVAL!
AND THE LAST KNOWN SURVIVOR
STALKS HIS PREY IN THE NIGHT!
AND HE’S WATCHING US ALL WITH THE EYYYYYYYYYYYYYYE
OF THE TIGER!
The Tiger posed on all four corners as the fans continue to sing and clap and cheer. Suddenly, his music was cut off.
I THINK YOU BETTER RECOGNIZE!
The crowd almost started to laugh, but The Tiger didn’t. D-Lo might not have made much of an impact as of late, but D-Lo was one of Craig’s favorite wrestlers when Craig was growing up. D-Lo entered the ring, posed on the turnbuckle and did his head swivel. D-Lo was trying not to show fear, but his leg was shaking. D-Lo knew he had only one chance, and attacked The Tiger before his music stopped playing. The attack caught The Tiger by surprise, and he went down. Knowing he probably didn’t have much time, D-Lo went for and hit his signature leg drop! The look of surprise on D-Lo’s face was priceless. D-Lo then made the mistake of picking up The Tiger by his hair. The Tiger pushed D-Lo away and shook his head. D-Lo sort of shrugged his shoulders, as though he knew it was coming. D-Lo tried to punch The Tiger, but The Tiger caught D-Lo’s hand, pulled D-Lo to him and hit a HUGE belly to belly suplex near the ropes. D-Lo went flying over the top rope and was going to land on his head. The Tiger quickly, almost without thinking about it, rolled under the bottom rope and broke D-Lo’s fall. D-Lo smiled and shook The Tiger’s hand before heading to the back to cheers from the audience. If the Tiger had D-Lo’s back, so did the fans.
Number three was Stephen Richards. The Tiger dispensed with him rather quickly. Farooq, B-2 and Rico were the next three, and The Tiger disposed of them rather quickly. After sending Rico packing, The Tiger did his signature growl in the center of the ring, and all of the fans growled back. All of a sudden, The Tiger heard the music of the sixth entrant.
ONE OF A KIND!
The crowd went nuts! Finally, the friends would be forced to collide. They had never faced each other, and now The Tiger would have to battle RVD. If possible, the crowd became even louder, with the majority chanting for The Tiger but a few scant RVD chants were heard.
The two shook hands to start and had an excellent series of moves where they ducked each other’s kicks and reversed each other’s holds. To cap it off, they both missed a spinning heel kick and glared at the other as the crowd applauded their efforts. Number 7 Goldust entered and left almost as quickly. RVD and The Tiger went back to fighting one another, only taking time off to dump Jamal, Randy Orton, Christian and Tommy Dreamer. After eliminating Tommy Dreamer, who had brought a garbage can full of plunder into the ring, RVD tossed a chair at The Tiger who caught it. RVD went for a Van Daminator, but The Tiger moved out of the way, spun around and hit RVD in the back with the chair. With a hint of sadness in his eyes, The Tiger picked up his friend and threw him over the top rope. The Tiger then offered RVD his hand, but RVD just walked away. This issue would be resolved at a later date.
12 through 16 provided some trouble for The Tiger, as he wasn’t able to eliminate any of them at first. Edge, Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerroro and a returning Bob Holly provided some of the best wrestling the Rumble had ever seen. While Edge and Kurt Angle were settling their own issue, Benoit, Eddie and Bob made it a point to triple team The Tiger. They had The Tiger clinging to the ropes for dear life when Edge missed a spear on Angle and eliminated himself and Bob Holly. The Tiger was released onto the apron, and taking advantage of the confusion, double suplexed Benoit and Eddie out of the ring. Angle and The Tiger then went on to have a superb wrestling sequence inside the ring, featuring 3 ankle locks and two Tiger Stripers. Then The Big Show came down as number 17, and immediately choke slammed Angle out of the match. The Big Show then went for a choke slam on The Tiger, but as he lifted The Tiger up The Tiger kicked The Big Show in the face. The Big Show then fell over the top rope, still holding onto The Tiger by the throat. The Tiger gripped the top rope in desperation and The Big Show let go as he fell, and The Tiger rolled back into the ring. Alone again, and only 13 more men to go. Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and The Undertaker were all waiting for him, fresh and rested, but the fans knew who would win the match. Even collapsed in the center of the ring, unable to move his legs, The Tiger would win the match and yes he was awake.
“Yes mom, I’m awake,Ã¢â‚¬Â The Tiger said.
“Good honey. Listen, I want you to know that we can stop going to the doctor whenever you want.Ã¢â‚¬Â
“I know mom. It’s okay, I want to go.Ã¢â‚¬Â
“Craig, we need to face facts eventually. You’re not making much progress. The doctors say there’s not much more that can be done. You can still lead an amazing life Ã¢â‚¬Â
“Mom, I’m going to lead an amazing life. I’m going to win the Royal Rumble,Ã¢â‚¬Â The Tiger proclaimed. “I can’t win the Royal Rumble if I can’t walk.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Craig’s mom looked at him with a mixture of sadness and pride. The doctor’s told her that no one had stuck with therapy for as long as he had at such a young age. Despite the intense pain, he never complained. Despite being told he would never walk after the accident, he seemed to live each day expecting to take a step. Craig kept saying he was going to win the Royal Rumble, one of his wrestling things, but it couldn’t really be wrestling that was driving him to fight so hard. Could it be? No, of course it couldn’t. Still, he fought against his chair like some kind of wild animal fought against his cage.
“All right, Tiger. Let’s go to the car.Ã¢â‚¬Â
As she pushed Craig along, she heard him humming an old Survivor song. The one from Rocky.