Madison Square Garden – New York City, NY – Sunday, January 27, 2008
MATCH #1: Career Threatening Match – Ric Flair vs. MVP
MVP’s United Sates Championship is not on the line here, but Ric Flair’s career is. Flair cuts a promo before the match to talk about what a great honor it has been to be able to wrestle in Madison Square Garden. He thanks the fans for their respect, but MVP’s music cuts him off. MVP is very confident early on, backing Flair into the corner and then mocking him. Flair goes to work on the arm and MVP reaches the corner. Flair busts out the chops early, and the crowd is enjoying them. MVP counters a knee attempt into a drop toehold and follows with a kick to the face and a neckbreaker for one. I just remembered that these two also fought on PPV back in June in MVP’s first title defense. MVP is in firm control here, and eventually connects with the running boot in the corner for a near fall. Well, the idiot referee counts three, but Flair had his foot on the ropes so he’s not calling for the bell. MVP complains so Flair rolls him up for two. MVP pops up with a clothesline and punches Flair a few times because he’s angry. Double under-hook suplex by MVP gets two. Flair comes back and they fight to a double-knockdown. Flair tries another small package and gets two. A backslide also gets two. MVP fights back and tries the Playmaker, but Flair grabs the leg and puts on the figure-four Leglock to get the win at 7:59. That was fine enough given what Flair can do these days, but he never really worked on the leg at all leading up to the finish. MVP is still mad at the referee and argues all the way up the ramp with him.
MATCH #2: Chris Jericho vs. John “Bradshaw” Layfield
Both men look angry with each other, and Jericho backs the much larger JBL into the corner twice. JBL comes back and tosses Jericho to the floor, but Jericho is right back in and slugging away on JBL. Jericho puts the Walls of Jericho on, but JBL reaches the ropes. They go back to the floor and brawl out there for a bit. Back in the ring JBL hotshots Jericho onto the top rope and now he takes control. He goes after Jericho’s neck and throat area. He uses the sleeper to take Jericho down, but he fights back up. Jericho hits a big clothesline and both men are down. Jericho runs into a big boot and JBL tosses him shoulder first into the ring post. Looks like Jericho’s head hit the post, as he’s bleeding from the forehead. JBL goes right after the wound outside the ring. Back in the ring JBL delivers kicks to the face. Jericho fights back and hits a series of moves, even a Lionsault. They go back to the outside of the ring and fight by the ECW announce table. Jericho pulls a chair out of nowhere and levels JBL in the head, drawing the disqualification at 9:30. Jericho’s not done though, as he throws the chair in JBL’s face and wraps a thick cord around his neck and chokes him out. The crowd is chanting “Y2J.” That was a decent enough brawl up until the abrupt finish.
MATCH #3: World Heavyweight Championship Match – Edge vs. Rey Mysterio
Edge has been the champion since 12.16.07, and this is his second defense. Vickie Guerrero is wheeled out to ringside by her assistant Theodore Long. Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder are coming out as well. Edge gets a pretty good face pop for his introduction. In fact, when Rey hits offensive maneuvers the crowd boos. Edge winds up dumping Rey to the floor where Hawkins and Ryder look like they might want to interfere, so the referee sends them to the back. Rey goes for the 619 and then hits a dive to the floor and looks to the back to make sure Hawkins and Ryder aren’t coming out. Back in the ring Edge goes to work on Rey’s surgically repaired knee, even applying the Half Boston Crab. Rey makes a few brief comebacks, but Edge cuts him off every time. Rey makes a comeback and gets a couple of near falls, but Edge is always able to kick out. Rey hits a double stomp off the top rope and Edge once again kicks out. Edge tries to powder but Rey slides under the bottom ropes and hits a DDT on the floor. Remember when Jake Roberts DDT’d Ricky Steamboat on the floor in 1986 and it was like death? Yeah Edge kicks out of this. I’m just saying the business has changed, that’s all. Rey tries to run at Edge but gets a kick to the face. Rey comes back and hit the 619 and a splash from the top rope but Vickie Guerrero jumps out of her wheelchair and pulls the referee out of the ring. Rey is angry but avoids an Edge charge and sets him up for the 619, and he winds up hitting Vickie with it as well. He tries a springboard DDT but Edge spears him out of the air to get the win and retain the title at 12:45. The match itself was solid if unspectacular, but the finish sucked hard. It was clear though that Edge was carrying the brunt of the action, as Rey just doesn’t appear to have much left. I think the injuries have just had such a deleterious effect on his body.
MATCH #4: WWE Championship Match – Randy Orton vs. Jeff Hardy
It’s WWE Champion versus Intercontinental Champion here, only Orton’s title is on the line though. He has been the champion since 10.7.07, and this is his fourth defense. They have a strong collar and elbow tie-up to start, and the crowd is split for both guys. Hardy tries grounding Orton with a headlock, but Orton reverses to a headscissors. They fight up and Hardy sends Orton to the floor, and follows with a huge dropkick, sending Orton’s head crashing into the guardrail. Hardy follows that up with a dive. Orton grabs his belt and motions like he’s leaving, but Hardy stops him and throws him back into the ring. He tries to slingshot his way in, but Orton takes him out of the air with a dropkick. Orton goes out to the floor and suplexes Hardy and back in the ring gets a two count. Orton stomps on Hardy and chokes him right in front of the referee. Hardy fights back and sends Orton to the floor once again. Hardy takes a leap off the apron on Orton and then tosses him back into the ring for two. Hardy charges into the corner but Orton moves, and Hardy takes the ring post right on his shoulder. Orton then grounds Hardy with a chinlock. Hardy tries to fight out, but Orton catches him with a powerslam. Hardy is finally able to fight back and quicken the pace of the match, hitting Whisper in the Wind for two. He hits a few more moves and goes up top, but Orton rolls to the apron. Hardy cleverly hits a dropkick onto Orton from there, and he goes crashing to the floor. Back in the ring Hardy tries the Twist of Fate but Orton quickly reverses it to the RKO to get the pin at 14:10. That was even better than I expected it to be, with the crowd hot and everything about the match just clicking. I think this would be a good match to show Orton haters, as he wrestled an excellent match, as he looked both vulnerable but also earned his win.
MATCH #5: The 2008 Royal Rumble Match
Michael Buffer is here to be the ring announcer for some reason. Let’s hope he doesn’t screw up anyone’s name (remember Bret Clark?). He goes over the rules, and introduces #1, the Undertaker. Last year Undertaker entered at number thirty, so this is quite the flip-flop. In another interesting twist, the last man Undertaker eliminated last year, Shawn Michaels, enters at #2.
Neither man is holding anything back in the early going. Undertaker has the advantage, but both men get themselves nearly eliminated before #3 comes out. It’s Santino Marella, by the way. Michaels casually Superkicks him and Undertaker tosses him out. That gives Michaels a chance to toss Undertaker, but he can’t do it quite yet. The Great Khali comes out at #4, just as Undertaker delivers a chokeslam to Michaels. Undertaker attacks him right away. The crowd thinks they’re cute by chanting “you can’t wrestle,” but seriously the guy is as huge as he is, would you like him to do lots of armdrags and leapfrogs? Grow up, MSG. While I think about how much that annoys me, Undertaker pitches Khali over the ropes and Hardcore Holly is out at #5. I could be wrong, but I believe these are the three oldest and longest tenured guys on the roster right now. Holly is one half of the World Tag Team Champions, and #6 is John Morrison, who happens to be one half of the WWE Tag Team Champions. He almost gets eliminated quickly, but he’s able to hang on. Michaels hits him with a top rope elbow drop, and he’s bleeding from the nose. He goes for Sweet Chin Music, but Morrison counters and Tommy Dreamer comes out at #7. Joey Styles makes Dreamer look like a loser by saying most guys who would win the Rumble would challenge for the Raw or Smackdown titles, but Tommy would go for the ECW Title. And they wonder why people don’t care about that belt? Batista comes running out at #8, and he’s the third former Rumble winner in the match thus far. He and Undertaker stare off, but Dreamer gets in the middle and gets dumped for his troubles. Hornswoggle is next out at #9, and he goes right under the ring. Not much happens before #10 comes out, and it’s Chuck Palumbo. Palumbo’s rival Jamie Noble is the next man out at #11. His ribs are taped due to a beating administered by Palumbo on Smackdown. There’s lots of brawling going on, as John Morrison almost gets eliminated but stays in as #12 CM Punk makes his way to the ring. Looks like Jamie Noble has been eliminated, how did I miss that? Maybe it happened when I sneezed. Punk eliminates Palumbo. Cody Rhodes is #13 and he goes right for Punk. Umaga is next out at #14. He has new red gear and quickly eliminates Hardcore Holly. We’re halfway there as Snitsky is our #15. Rhodes isn’t afraid and goes right after Snitsky and almost eliminates him.
The Miz is #16 and both WWE Tag Team Champions are in now. He goes straight for Punk. The tag champions work him over and another ECW superstar is #17, and that’s Shelton Benjamin. He hits a couple of impressive maneuvers but gets caught not paying attention when Michaels Superkicks him out to the floor. #18 is Superfly Jimmy Snuka for some reason. Even Undertaker sells for Snuka here, probably more than he did for him at WrestleMania VII. Another legend is #19, as it’s the enormous Roddy Piper. Snuka and Piper square off while everyone else stands around and watches. It was stupid in Troy and it’s stupid here too. People start fighting again and #20 is Kane. He wastes no time in dumping Piper and Snuka out of the ring. Carlito is #21. He spits apple right away and gets the backstabber on Punk. Mick Foley comes out for #22. Remember when he was retired? Mr. Kennedy is #23. He fights with Undertaker briefly. Big Daddy V comes out at #24, just as Undertaker eliminates Snitsky. That’s followed by Michaels eliminating Undertaker, and then Kennedy eliminates Michaels. I like how that played out. Undertaker continues beating on Snitsky outside the ring. That was unnecessary, he got eliminated fair and square, and not even by Snitsky! Mark Henry is #25. Hornswoggle comes out of hiding briefly to help eliminate Miz. ECW Champion Chavo Guerrero is #26, and he and Punk fight right away. Morrison gets eliminated by Kane. Some complain about Chavo appearing in this match since he was the ECW Champion, but one can just assume he was already signed for the match, since he just won the title the previous Tuesday. Hornswoggle tries to eliminate Henry like he did to Miz, but Henry grabs him and looks to do terrible things to him. Finlay comes out with his shillelagh and gets Hornswoggle out of trouble and they both go to the back. JR gets the announcement that Finlay has been disqualified from the match for using that weapon. Elijah Burke is #28. Chavo eliminates Punk. Another former Rumble winner, Triple H, is #29. He tosses Rhodes immediately. He then eliminates Big Daddy V on his own and the crowd fires up for him and Foley trading blows. It does recall one of my favorite matches of all time. Triple H whips Foley into Burke, and both go over the top rope. He hits the Pedigree on Umaga, and #30 comes out and it’s JOHN CENA! He wasn’t supposed to be back yet!
The crowd pops huge for Cena. It soon turns to the usual cheer and boo cocktail, but that doesn’t stop Cena from eliminating Carlito and Chavo easily. Henry is next to go. The crowd is jacked for Cena versus Triple H. Batista comes back into the ring and eliminates Kennedy, and then Umaga. He and Triple H join up to eliminate Kane and we’re down to three men. The crowd is going ballistic. Batista gets the advantage until being eliminated by Triple H, and now we’re down to two. They trade blows, with the crowd firmly in support of the Game. They go back and forth for a few minutes until Cena eliminates Triple H with the FU to win his first Royal Rumble at 51:45. That was a great Rumble, with the only real low point being the Snuka-Piper thing. The roster is deep now so they were able to bring out guys like Batista, Undertaker, and Michaels early on and that kept the match interesting and the surprise of Cena coming out makes this not only a good Rumble, but a very memorable one.
The Royal Rumble match is terrific, and Cena coming back is one of the all-time great Rumble moments. I also liked Orton v Hardy quite a bit. The rest of the card is not terrible, but it’s not all that good either so there’s not much to see there. The last two matches carry the show to a recommendation though.
Tags: John Cena, Randy Orton, royal rumble, Triple H, WWE