Greetings, my flatulent fanbase! It’s time for another humdinger of a column known as The Stomping Ground!
So…apparently there’s some sort of big PPV on this Sunday, though I can’t for the life of me remember what it is. In any case, I’ve decided to go off on a tangent this week and focus on something that most people would never discuss around this time of year: the Royal Rumble.
I’ve just been notified that it is indeed time for the Royal Rumble. Well, this is just plain awkward. Actually, it sort of makes sense as to why I was drawn to writing about the Rumble in the first place.
And here I sit in my pajamas, thinking I’m all clever and shit.
So as has been previously discussed here at The Stomping Ground (about a year ago, actually), I started watching wrestling religiously circa early 1996. I’ve seen nearly every Royal Rumble prior to that year and haven’t missed one since. The show has always had some memorable moments for me, so allow me to take you down memory road for a bit I like to call…
ROYAL RUMBLE REMEMBERINGS!
1997: Stone Cold Steals It
Like I said before: I got into watching wrestling with regularity in early 1996, but it wasn’t until AFTER the ’96 Rumble so I don’t have any memories of watching that live. I was, however, still in the mindset of a young mark; that is, I knew it was scripted but it still got to me emotionally. I was a HUGE Undertaker fanboy at this point in time and I wanted so badly for him to win the Rumble (seeing as how he hadn’t held the title in YEARS). When he made it to what we all assumed was the final four, I waited in anticipation…until Stone Cold Steve Austin illegally reentered the fracas and tossed Taker, Vader, and Hart (Bret having since eliminated “Diesel”)! I was so pissed off that the referees didn’t see what happened and cried foul about it for weeks. I was only 14, after all, and not privy to cheering for the antics of heels just yet.
1998: Austin Again
It’s funny how things can change within a year’s time. Twelve months ago, Austin was one of the most hated men on the roster. Jump ahead to January of 1998 and he was quickly becoming the biggest name in the business. It was only natural that he would win yet again, and this time legitimately. Another match of note: the Casket Match between HBK and Taker which ended the awesome series of matches the two stalwarts had from late 1996 onward.
1999: McMahon Screws Austin
This was just…dumb. I was NOT a fan of the Rumble’s finish and, at the time, I felt it was more to feed Vince’s ego than to further any storyline. You know, like the time he won the WWE Championship. Things eventually worked out since we had one of the hottest feuds of all time in Rock/Austin at Wrestlemania.
2000: The Rock Wins By A Foot
This was the year we had the infamous Big Show investigation into whether The Rock’s feet had touched the floor before Show’s did. It was also the first time that a heel retained the championship at Wrestlemania in the dumbest McMahon plot twist yet. We also saw the awesome Cactus Jack/Triple H Street Fight that truly defined both men as competitors. Does anyone recall how The Rock threatened to have the roster walk out on the McMahon-Helmsley Regime if Foley wasn’t reinstated? THAT is how to pull off a walk-out angle.
2001: Austin x 3
Looking back, did we REALLY need another Austin victory? I mean, all that happened was a really ill-advised heel turn at the end of Wrestlemania. The second Rock/Austin encounter is generally regarded as their best, but the ending sullied the match for me. In my eyes, for a match to be truly awesome, EVERY component needs to fit together like an elaborate puzzle. The Rumble itself was largely a snooze-fest for me, but it was also the Rumble in which Kane earned his record of 11 eliminations.
2002: Triple H Returns
The Game became the first of many “return-from-injury” sympathy wins the Rumble has become known for. I already dreaded this match because I knew going into it that Triple H would win and go on to embarrass Chris Jericho. I still don’t understand why Triple H never really jobbed for Y2J. Even in later years, when Jericho became a legit threat, he was still made to look like a fool to The Game. It was like some reverse David and Goliath story, where the guy who should be portrayed as the bully always gets the upper hand. That never did sit well with me, in case you haven’t noticed.
2003: Brock Breaks Out
This was the year Lesnar was pushed to the moon as a face after breaking away from Paul Heyman and feuding with Team Angle. I didn’t like how Lesnar (and quite a few of his fellow Rumble winners) entered so late, as it pretty much shat on everybody who worked their ass off to survive as long as possible. If the winner of the Rumble is going to be a babyface, then he should be booked to defy the odds (monster or not). We also had to suffer through a horrendous feud between Triple H and Scott Steiner at this point in time. I mean, here were two guys you wouldn’t want anywhere near the WWE Championship fighting over that very belt. I suppose having The Game retain was the lesser of two evils.
We all knew, going into this year’s Rumble, that Chris Benoit was going to win. That didn’t ruin the enjoyment for me at all because in the excitement of the match there’s always the possibility that plans could change. Thankfully that didn’t happen and Benoit outlasted every WWE Superstar to earn his well-deserved title shot at Wrestlemania XX, an event that had some bittersweet moments. Looking back nearly eight years, it’s sad to see how much things have changed.
2005: The Animal Unleashed
Batista or Cena? That was the big question going into the match in 2005. Both men were poised for great things, but it was ultimately Batista who got the nod of approval. I still wonder if the finish of that match, wherein Cena and Batista eliminated each other, was planned or an audible. I definitely know that Vinnie Mac didn’t plan on tearing BOTH of his quads simply by walking to the ring, that’s for damn sure.
2006: Rey’s Tribute
Two months after the death of Eddie Guerrero, the WWE saw fit to use him as a heat magnet for heels and a target of sympathy for faces. It was despicable and that’s why I wasn’t too happy with the way this Rumble turned out. Don’t get me wrong; I think Mysterio winning was a feel-good moment and well-deserved, but my issue was with everything revolving around it as a “tribute” to Eddie. Stop reminding us that the man’s gone and stop exploiting him in such a manner! I also often wonder what would have happened had Rey not surpassed Benoit’s length of time in the Rumble. Surely by now (even as early as 2008) they would have forced somebody to top the record to ensure his name would never be mentioned in Rumble stats. Who might it have been?
2007: The Undertaker Rises
I guess you can call me a hypocrite now, since I loved the fact that Taker won the 2007 Royal Rumble, even though he entered at number 30. The ending sequence with him and HBK was tremendous and set the stage for what would be the greatest wrestling match I’ve ever had the pleasure to see live just two years later.
2008: A Cena Surprise
I really didn’t know who was going to win the Royal Rumble in Madison Square Garden…until Cena made his surprise return at the end which shocked everyone. While I think it was a cool surprise the company successfully kept under wraps, in hindsight it led to a rather unspectacular Triple Threat match at Wrestlemania. This was also the first year in which the Rumble winner drought began. As of this writing, no man has won the Rumble AND his title match at Wrestlemania since 2008.
2009: Randy Orton: Psychopath
Randy Orton was in charge of Legacy at this point, and he was quickly becoming the most vicious heel since Triple H. Orton was singlehandedly destroying the McMahon family on his way to face Triple H for the WWE Championship. This was one of those “sure thing” Rumble victories, so it wasn’t much fun to watch.
2010: Edge Emerges Victorious
After suffering a debilitating injury the year prior (which led to the totally awesome duo of JeriShow), Edge received the coveted “returning star” treatment and was granted a Royal Rumble victory. The match itself was notable for CM Punk’s ridiculously awesome preaching mid-match. Other than that, I got zilch.
2011: Del Rio’s Destiny
For the first time in history, 40 men entered the Royal Rumble. My friends and I held a Rumble pool ($5 for 5 numbers) and I somehow got stuck with shitty numbers, mostly in the ‘teens. Not only that, but I was stuck with a bunch of C-listers. I wish I could recall exactly whom, but it doesn’t matter. In the end, del Rio’s destiny was to job in the opening match of Wrestlemania to a handicapped future Hall of Famer.
For this year, I have narrowed it down to four possible candidates, which the WWE has also brought focus to: Chris Jericho, Randy Orton, Sheamus, and Wade Barrett. Barrett is a true long shot and not very likely. The safe bet is Orton, but I’m not looking forward to it. This leaves Sheamus and Jericho. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter who wins because the Elimination Chamber can have a nullifying effect on the title scene. Recall, if you will, Edge’s victory at the Royal Rumble. It seemed as though he would face Undertaker, but the logical progression would be to have him face Jericho. Cue the Chamber, which saw Y2J win the match and take the gold. In short, anything can happen between now and April 1st.
Stay tuned later this week for my Not-So-Live Smackdown Report. I’ve also got a surprise for you all that will (sort of) revolutionize Pulse Wrestling in the coming weeks. Bank on it!
So long, and thanks for all the fish.
Tags: alberto del rio, batista, big show, Brock Lesnar, Chris Benoit, chris jericho, edge, john cena, Mike Gojira, randy orton, rey mysterio, royal rumble, Santino Marella, shawn michaels, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, triple h, undertaker, vince mcmahon, WWE