Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Royal Rumble Top 30 - January 31

And here we go:

1. Cactus Jack vs. Triple H - 2000
Depending on when you ask me, I may tell you that the 2000 Royal Rumble is my favorite non-WrestleMania PPV in WWE history. Depending on when you ask me, and lunar alignment, I may tell you that Cactus Jack vs. Triple H is my favorite match of all-time. At this particular moment in time, probably not, but it's very likely that it will always hold a place in my top 10.

I've never been a huge fan of Triple H, but I did feel genuinely bad for the guy in the fall of 1999 when it looked like he was going to bomb as WWE Champion. Winning the belt the night after, rather than at SummerSlam was wonky, his run felt forced, he lost the belt to Vince McMahon (remember that?) and then he dropped the title to the Big Show not long after regaining it.

But things turned around in 2000. Thanks to his storyline with Stephanie McMahon and a feud with a rejuvenated Mick Foley (who was on his way to "retirement"), things started to come together for Triple H. Without this match, I don't know if HHH would've been solidified as he was. Of course his real marriage to Stephanie would've helped regardless, but I don't think the crowd would've bought it without his run with Foley.

And if you need me to actually describe the match to you, then you just need to re-watch the match. It's the absolute best of "main event style" and is an instant add to either man's DVD sets. Oh yeah, there's a Pedigree in thumbtacks too.

WWE Raw - January 30, 2012

What a difference the Road to WrestleMania makes.

Executive Vice President of Talent Relations, Interim General Manager of Raw and Assistant to the Regional Manager, Mr. John Laurinaitis, kicked things off to tell us what a fun and exciting show we had in store for us, featuring matches like Daniel Bryan vs. CM Punk (!!!) and Randy Orton vs. Dolph Ziggler. And you're really going to boo this guy? He also announced a very impressive line-up for Raw's Elimination Chamber, with CM Punk defending the WWE Championship against The Miz, R-Truth, Kofi Kingston (handstands = title shots), Dolph Ziggler and Chris Jericho. That should be a hell of a match.

I assume Bryan will have to defend the World Title in the Chamber as well, which is kind of a bummer, I liked the set-up last year where the guy who wouldn't be defending his title against the Rumble winner didn't have to get in the Chamber and his brand's match was to determine its #1 contender. I realize that can get complicated when the Rumble winner wants to tease which brand he's going to, but two title matches in Chambers can be a bit exhausting.

Anyhoo, CM Punk interrupted Johnny Ace, singing "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye," and I still wonder if WWE has to pay a royalty check to Paul Leka's estate every time they do this. These two argued about who owed who an apology and luckily, Daniel Bryan made the save and dropped a pipe bomb of his own, "no one cares about your little soap opera." Ouch.

Punk and Bryan traded barbs while remaining somewhat friendly with each other, although Punk couldn't resist "what do you eat?" when Bryan bragged about not eating meat. C'mon Danny, the proper comeback to that is always "your mom!"

Sheamus made his way to the ring to wish both Punk and Bryan could luck on the Road to WrestleMania and wished Laurinaitis well in his future endeavors. The more I think about it, the more excited I get for this guy as the poster boy for WWE. I don't know if he'll ever have the crossover appeal of The Rock or even John Cena, but he's unique enough that he could still become a household name based on appearance alone. I look forward to the day when "Sheamus white" is sold in the paint department of Home Depot.

Randy Orton vs. Dolph Ziggler was our opening contest and was just a hell of a match. I also dug the constant shifting from commentary to Josh Mathews, who was in a "luxury skybox" with Wade Barrett. Since they did a guest commentary bit later in the night, they tried something different here and it worked well. Not something they should try with everyone, but Barrett's good enough to pull it off. I'm a little iffy on them running Orton vs. Barrett on Smackdown though, seems too soon. Hopefully there will be some shenanigans, maybe Orton's not quite 100% and Barrett can put him back on the shelf until WrestleMania? This feud has legs and I can't see either guy doing anything more interesting in the next two months.

As for this match though, mucho kudos to Dolph Ziggler for making Orton look really, really good. I know I give him a ton of shit and Orton's no slouch, but Ziggler definitely brought out the best in him. Though I did see a clown on Yahoo! Sports say Ziggler was "jobbed out" here and that he'll be "overlooked now." Oh for fuck's sake. I'm trying to be the kinder, gentler Razor in 2012 and not worrying as much about what people on the internet say, but come on. Ziggler has quietly become the best wrestler in the World [Wrestling Entertainment] and will certainly be presented as one of the bigger threats in the Raw Chamber match. WWE has enough wishy-washy booking as it is and Ziggler lost a match to a guy who never loses, so what's the problem? Unless we're really at the point where not being in the WWE Title match at WrestleMania constitutes being overlooked? Sigh.

Brodus Clay vs. Tyler Reks was next and while I was somewhat mesmerized by Clay's jiggly thighs and my wife calling him "The Dinosaur Guy," I just don't care. Again, it's a harmless and cute character, but there's nothing here that's going to get Brodus above Santino territory.

There has to come a point where you have to let all that built-up smarkitude go and you just give WWE credit. Normally, I'd say something like "if four years ago, I told you CM Punk and Daniel Bryan would be main eventing Raw in a WWE vs. World Champion match, would you believe me?" but moments like this have become so common that it's time to just admit that WWE has thrown you a bone, cynical internet wrestling fan. Does that make them immune to criticism? Of course not, but here are two guys that have gone way further up the card than anyone expected when they signed, making the whole "WWE will ruin my ROHero!" thing beyond cliché. It's time for all of us to agree that if WWE drops the ball on Daniel Bryan or CM Punk, it's because they can drop the ball on everyone equally... just ask Mason Ryan.

Rant out of the way, Daniel Bryan vs. CM Punk in a Champion vs. Champion match was the 10pm main event and I think these fellers may just have what it takes to put on an entertaining wrestling match. They got enough time, the match was balanced well and the crowd was into it, don't know what else you'd want out of a free-TV main event. Oh, how about Chris Jericho? Yes, looks like "the end of the world as you know it," may just mean "the end of the Best in the World" as Jericho set his sights on the WWE Champion. Bryan stole another win since Jericho attacked him first to get to Punk, but the bigger story here is the fact that these two are going to blow the roof off Miami. I have a feeling Rock & Cena will have a couple tough acts to follow.

Mike Tyson was announced as the next inductee into the Celebrity Wing of the Hall of Fame and I'm legitimately shocked that people still don't understand what the purpose of the Celebrity Wing is... it's to get ESPN and TMZ to talk about WWE and have a fun moment with a celebrity at WrestleMania. Not unlike every WrestleMania, ever.

I was also a little surprised to see people furious about Tyson due to his criminal past. I totally understand a continued dislike of Tyson over his 1992 rape conviction, some crimes are unforgivable... but it is weird for a section of wrestling fans to get upset about it now when he's been featured prominently in WWE programming as recently as 2009 and had a four-month storyline in 1998. I'm not here to delve deep into the societal questions of when, or if, a debt to society has truly be paid, but I just found the reaction surprising.

But don't worry, I have it on good authority Mr. Dream will take Tyson's Hall of Fame spot in three years.

Moving along, Kofi Kingston vs. The Miz was an Elimination Chamber preview match and wound up being quite good. With Kofi's big Rumble moment and impressive performance in this match, I can't help but hope big things are on the horizon for him. I'd like to see him get new music and get rid of the "I'm pretty sure that's kinda racist" logo on his trunks to freshen up his character though. I'm all for a big Kofi push, even if it means losses for The Miz, which always make me sad.

Beth Phoenix vs. Eve was over in seconds since it was really just a reason for John Cena to save Eve from Kane, but I was actually kind of interested in this. Yeah, Eve is distraught over Ryder, but I like Beth just plowing through people. Surely this has to end with her saying there's no one left for her to beat and then she meets Kharma, right? Speaking of which, apparently Kharma gave birth on New Year's Eve and then made it to the Rumble less than a month later. If that is the case, she is officially tougher than any man in wrestling... except maybe Haku. But seriously, looking that impressive just weeks after having a kid? Kharma is more badass than any of us will ever be.

I knew something was up when the Triple H/John Laurinaitis employee review was closing the show, but I had no idea it would mean the return of The Undertaker!!! I need The Undertaker for my next yearly review, just when the boss is about to criticize or fire me, the lights go off in his office, The Undertaker arrives and whatever he's talking about is instantly forgotten. Talk about letting personal issues cloud your judgment, HHH! There you were, about to fire a guy and you get distracted by some fog and the funeral march? Mitt Romney would've been able to layoff an entire company's workforce and stash the savings in a Swiss bank account in the time it took Taker to get to the ring.

Okay, so it's no surprise the Undertaker vs. Triple H rematch is on for WrestleMania. They've been teasing it since the night after Mania and HHH all but guaranteed it when he claimed he "effectively" ended the streak, which is kinda like saying you retired a quarterback when his final game was a winning appearance in the Super Bowl and you were on the losing team. But hey, that makes a great story, Triple H runs his mouth, The Undertaker comes back to finish the job.

The shoulder pat at the end of the stare-down was interesting though. It says to me that Triple H almost pities The Undertaker, which would certainly be a new direction for his character. There's definitely something there with Triple H trying to get out the match with a "c'mon old man, you don't want to do this," kind of reaction, but I don't want to speculate too much.

Much like when HBK/Undertaker II was teased before WM26, I didn't want to see the match again, but as things were heating up, I got more and more excited, I hope that's the case here. I didn't want to see the match again once Triple H started teasing it, but I was pretty stoked when Taker interrupted last night. Now, the big challenge here is we all know Undertaker is held together by duct tape and magic and Triple H is no Shawn Michaels, but I'm still optimistic. I loved the match last year (though I'm aware that's a divisive opinion) and I think with a year's rest for Taker (and essentially HHH too), they could be another tough act for Cena and Rock to follow.

Maybe WWE should have an off-season and just run shows from January-April and July-September. I've always been skeptical of the idea, but when you see such a dramatic improvement in quality the minute they get on the Road to WrestleMania, it's hard to argue against it. Fantastic Raw from top to bottom.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Royal Rumble 2012

The Royal Rumble is like pizza, even when it's bad, it's still pretty good... except 1999, that was the CiCi's Pizza of Royal Rumbles. So with another Rumble in the can, was it good, good because it was a Rumble, or the $5 Rumble buffet?

Daniel Bryan vs. Big Show vs. Mark Henry in a triple threat steel cage match for the World Heavyweight Championship (*deep breath*) was our opening contest. I like when they shake things up a bit in the Rumble undercard with a prop-heavy gimmick match like a ladder or cage. It doesn't detract from the Rumble - I'm pretty sure they could do a 6-man Hell in a Cell Inferno Match and people would still buy the show just for the Rumble - and it's always fun to see something different.

As expected though, the cage walls were there for Daniel Bryan to be bounced around like a pinball and the World Champ did not disappoint. Match was a bit short for my tastes, but hey, we had to fit in a Brodus Clay match! Despite its length, I thought the match was exactly what it needed to be and the visual of Big Show lifting a grown ass man with one arm while sitting on top of the cage was crazy. Bryan managed to slip free and retain his title, but can he survive the Elimination Chamber?
Predictions: 1 for 1

The 8-Diva tag was kinda pointless, but I dug the Aqua Teen Diva Force and Tamina's Mad Max look was cool. And yes, Tamina was a noteworthy part of a match for her style alone... that's the Divas division, kids! Beth telling the Bellas to get out of her ring while she mauled Kelly Kelly was a nice touch though.
Predictions: n/a

John Cena vs. Kane is where things really stalled out though. As exciting as it was to see Kane in his new get-up when he returned, it doesn't change the fact that it's Kane. 15 years of Kane, no less. The match was fine until the lame double count-out around the 10-minute mark; I get it, it's the Rumble, but we didn't need another 10 minutes of lameness. Kane and Cena brawled a bit, and Zack Ryder, who was in a wheelchair (WHEEL, WHEEL, WHEEL!) got rolled out to the ring and Tombstoned. Cena, who was a bit late on the daring rescue, got a chokeslam for his troubles.

What bugs me the most is this all could've been done within the context of the Royal Rumble. Perhaps not the Ryder stuff, but Kane and Cena eliminating each other and brawling over the arena? That's almost a staple of the Rumble match at this point and it wouldn't have ended Kane's Rumble streak.
Predictions: 1 for 2

Brodus Clay vs. Drew McIntyre was another colossal waste of time. Why not just put Brodus in the Rumble? The crowd would've went bonkers for it, especially during the comedy portion of the match (more on that in a minute) and Brodus would've got to do something besides the same match we've seen him wrestle five times now.

And honestly, I'm not really digging The Funkasaurus. It's cute, but the Flash Funk/Rikishi hybrid with Ernest Miller's theme music just strikes me as trying way too hard. It doesn't help that Brodus hasn't really shown us any reason why he's so funky, his dancing isn't really dancing so much as shaking (which is kinda how I dance), and he seems like the only person who's not trying to get this thing over. Commentary acts like it's the greatest thing ever, the whole production that is his entrance is absurdly over the top, but Brodus himself is just kinda there and doesn't seem to know what to do. It's kinda like George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign.

CM Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler for the WWE Title. Ah, now that's the stuff. These two have had better matches against each other, but that doesn't mean that this one wasn't good. I like the chemistry between these two and if WWE plays their cards right, this rivalry could be this generation's Cena vs. Edge.

In the other story in this match though, I'm not sure who I'm supposed to be rooting for, CM Punk or John Laurinaitis? Sure, Johnny Ace came in as a charisma vacuum who looked like a poor choice for the next villainous authority figure, but that hasn't really been the direction the character has taken. Yeah, he can be a jerk, but what boss isn't? At worst, he's flawed, but realizes it. He readily admits mistakes and makes up for them, and even if those make-goods make the situation worse, what average working stiff can't sympathize with that?

Punk, on the other hand, has been a complete prick to Laurinaitis. I know the fantasy since Austin/McMahon has been the opportunity to punch your boss in the face, but McMahon was pure evil. He was the epitome of corporate power in the age of downsizing, Laurinaitis is just the assistant manager at Arby's trying to keep all these damn teenagers on task. How can you sell Beef n' Cheddars when your head cashier keeps yelling at the customers about whatever comes to mind?

My buddy Jason Mann brought up an excellent point that even though Peter was a dick to Bill Lumbergh in Office Space, Lumbergh was also an insufferable douche. There's definitely an element of that though, but I can't help but feel a little sorry for ol' Johnny. Again, McMahon was the big boss, he could do whatever he wanted, but Ace's entire middle-management existence hinges on a performance review from the star of The Chaperone. Laurinaitis isn't Lumbergh, he's Michael Bolton, stuck in a shit job and just trying to keep his head above water.

And I haven't figured out who Milton is in this analogy yet, but when I do, it's going to make an awesome article.
Predictions: 2 for 3

Royal Rumble time! Always a tough match to write about, so I'm going to start with some general thoughts on the match, then break it down by characters and stories that stood out.

Overall, I thought the match was much better paced than in the last two years but there was definitely a lull in the middle. I don't think that's particularly out of the ordinary, especially looking back at some of the older Rumbles, but since we've been conditioned to expect a main event winner, entries like Epico, Primo and Jey Uso really kill the momentum. Perhaps WWE should throw a curveball one year and have a total fluke Rumble victory? Not saying Primo should win the Rumble, but something a bit unexpected compared to what we're used to. This would've been the year to do it though since Cena vs. The Rock is going to sell the show regardless of what the title matches are.

That's probably my biggest, and really only, gripe with this year's match is it really showcased how thin the roster is right now. Obviously Alberto Del Rio, Christian, Evan Bourne, Rey Mysterio, Sin Cara, Zack Ryder and The Undertaker are all incapacitated for one reason or another, but I think making Kane do double duty would've got the crowd more jazzed up than Epico.

Oh wait, I did think of two more gripes! One, I hate, hate, HATE when guys in title matches get to be in the Rumble. You got your title shot, you lost, you should at least have to wait until the Elimination Chamber. Ziggler and Big Show both got to come back in and Big Show was really bad since he was a really anticlimactic #30. Hell, Road Dogg would've been a more exciting #30.

Now, what I did like about some of the more random entries was that it served as a great way to bring some guys back. Alex Riley and Great Khali aren't going to be setting the world on fire anytime soon, but after not seeing them for awhile, it was a nice "oh, that guy" moment.

Of course, no return was cooler than Kharma's which literally made me scream "HOLY SHIT!" from my couch. Kharma was a house of fire too, looking like she hadn't missed a day of work, even hitting Dolph Ziggler with the Implant Buster. Did not expect her back this soon, but it was great to see her. Not gonna lie, I kinda wanted her to win. C'mon, you know Kharma vs. Daniel Bryan for the World Title would be awesome.

One things for sure, this was definitely the funniest Royal Rumble in history. The comedy stylings of Santino & Foley had me in stitches; the Socko vs. Cobra battle was one of those things that if you didn't laugh, you take this shit way too seriously. And of course we can't forget the glorious entrance of Ricardo Rodriguez, driving to the ring in his busted ass ride and very unflattering virgin-white ensemble. And I'm not one to talk about someone's definition, but Ricardo kinda looked like a Ziploc bag filled with cookie dough.

And I loved the nod to 1997 with all three announcers taking a break from their duties to compete in the Rumble, only to be tossed out and return to commentary. King wasn't a huge shocker and his 97 appearance is one of my favorite Rumble comedy bits, but when Booker T stood up in his blazer with no pants on, I nearly pissed myself. The joke almost lost its punch with Cole, but then Kharma saved the whole thing. Great stuff.

Road Dogg & Jim Duggan were great legend picks and I don't care what anyone says about Road Dogg, I'll always love the guy. No, he was never a great wrestler, but he dripped charisma and really could've been a big deal in Attitude Era WWE had he not been his own worst enemy. Though as much as I love the D-O-double-G, I will never forgive him for causing people to think that Billy Gunn didn't suck shit.

Whoever made the call to change Wade Barrett's theme music should be fired. I don't care if it was Vince himself... fired!

No one is ever going to care about Jinder Mahal. I don't think I've ever heard a crowd go as silent as St. Louis did last night during his entrance. The crowd was so dead, you could hear Jimmy's tears hit the floor when he heard the Rumble has a strict one Uso policy.

Wow, Hunico's shtick is hardcore racist. Like 1800s Disney style.

Someone really took time out of their day to make a "KOFI SUCKS" sign? How sad is that guy's life? Even better, he was proven laughably wrong by Kofi's mindblowing handstand walk that kept him from being eliminated. That could've gone wrong so easily, but Kofi made it look almost effortless. Awesome moment and he should've won the Rumble (or at least a renewed push) on that alone. Somewhere, John Morrison stomping around in fur boots, upset that he didn't come up with that.

Chris Jericho eliminating Randy Orton in front of his hometown crowd instantly makes him my favorite wrestler of all the times.

Speaking of Jericho, I loved the ending bit with Sheamus. A really cool moment reminiscent of Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker in 2007 and made the match feel like a big deal. At first glance, I wasn't particularly stoked about Sheamus winning and I still have no idea what they're going to do with him, but it was a good call. Jericho doesn't need it to do whatever he wants to do at WrestleMania and Sheamus is WWE's best opportunity to get a good guy into that elusive upper echelon.

Sheamus, while directionless, has been almost Goldberg-ian as of late. Let him plow through guys until Mania, give him a decisive win and a nice long run with the title and we could see something really special emerge. That's a lot of ifs for the inconsistent WWE, but I don't think they would've given Sheamus the win if they didn't have big plans for him. Would've been very easy to play it safe with Jericho or Orton and it would've packed a bigger punch if Sheamus wasn't a two-time WWE Champion already, but I love the idea of him leading WWE as a good guy. Perhaps a tad anticlimactic, but the right call considering the circumstances.

And I think that sums up the Rumble well. There were a lot of guys on the sidelines but they did the best with what they had and wound up producing a very fun match. We're officially on the Road to WrestleMania now... you can tell because guys were pointing at the sign... and things are shaping up nicely. If I had to take a way-too-early guess:

The Rock vs. John Cena
CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho - WWE Title
Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan - World Title (though I wouldn't be shocked if Orton wins the Title in the Elimination Chamber)
Triple H vs. The Undertaker
Dolph Ziggler vs. Mick Foley

Pure speculation at this point, but what kind of wrestling fan would I be without some of that?

Overall, the undercard was underwhelming, but the Rumble made up for it and that's why we were all watching, right? Good show.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Royal Rumble predictions

Pretty stoked for the show tonight, even more stoked by the fact that I have absolutely no idea what's going to happen on it. The field's wide open for the Rumble and all the undercard matches could really go in any direction. Let's take a look.

World Heavyweight Championship Cage Match
Daniel Bryan © vs. Big Show vs. Mark Henry

Ooh, a big gimmick match on the Rumble, don't see those too often. Last Man Standing matches pop up here and there, but it's rare to see something like a ladder, table or cage match. Please, correct me if I'm wrong (because I'm not going to take the time to look it up), but is this the first cage match in Rumble history? That's pretty cool.

I haven't been following Smackdown very closely lately, but I'm going to take a stab in the dark and say Daniel Bryan steals one tonight and likely drops it in the Elimination Chamber next month. Bryan and Henry had an awesome cage match on Smackdown a couple months ago though, so I'm expecting a really fun match with the addition of Big Show. Bryan can bounce around like a pinball and the monsters can tear shit up, so I'm anticipating a good time.

Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate
John Cena vs. Kane

This one's tough to predict. If Kane is merely a bump in the road for Cena's eventual showdown with The Rock, I expect a simple win for Johnny. But if there may be something to this "Embrace the Hate" stuff, this could go on for another month and wind up being a big story moving forward. I think the former is the safe bet, so I'm going to go with John Cena, so he can turn his attention to The Rock and Kane can go back to being Just Kane™.

WWE Championship
CM Punk © vs. Dolph Ziggler

Much like Kane, Ziggler has had his opponent's number too many times in this feud to make me believe he can be victorious. Punk has perhaps done more than anyone to make Ziggler look like a legitimate top guy, but unfortunately, this just isn't his time. Just like last year wasn't his time or the year before that... they gotta stop pushing this guy right in the lead up to WrestleMania.

I do think Ziggler will finally break free if he does get that Mania match with Foley though. Foley's no star-maker anymore, but much like his run with Edge after he fell into limbo in 2006, I think it could be just what he needs. CM Punk wins tonight, Ziggler's time truly begins in May. Oh, and these two will have a absurdly early Match of the Year contender.

Royal Rumble Match
Things are relatively open this year, mainly because no one has really set the world on fire recently, so I expect an established name to earn the title shot at Mania. My working theory is Chris Jericho wins and it will be "the end of the world as we know it." As in, the man calling himself the Best in the World. Sorry, Punker.

Royal Rumble Top 30 - January 29

Happy Royal Rumble Day!

2. John Cena vs. Umaga - 2007
2007 was John Cena's peak year and it started with this instant classic. After a fluke win over Umaga and ending his undefeated streak at New Year's Revolution (remember that?), Cena had to defend his title once again, this time in a Last Man Standing match.

Perhaps the last truly brutal match in a WWE ring before the shift in direction, this match silenced critics of both men. Well, people are always going to complain about Cena, but this match and the year that followed proved that the guy could get it done in the ring. You don't have to like him, but to say he can't wrestle or tell a great story in the ring is just pure fanboyism.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Royal Rumble Top 30 - January 28

Another double post, we're getting close to #1!

4. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit - 2003
Another great match for historical purposes, but once again, I haven't been able to watch it for almost five years. At the time, absolutely terrific, but now I have a hard time even watching Angle, let alone tapes of Benoit.

3. Royal Rumble Match - 1992
But let's lighten the mood with the greatest Royal Rumble match in history, 1992's. To date, it is the only Royal Rumble match where the WWE Championship was up for grabs (they should do that again) and that's only part of its intrigue.

A star-studded match with lots of stories heading in and out, high stakes and of course, The Nature Boy. Flair's performance, lasting a ridiculous amount of time after entering at #3 and Bobby Heenan on commentary, losing his shit? Perfection.

A couple years ago, I looked back on the Rumbles with the mindset that 92 had been overrated - it really pissed me off as a lil Hulkamaniac when I first watched - but after numerous viewings, yeah, it's the best Rumble ever and nothing else even comes close.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Royal Rumble Top 30 - January 26

5. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz - 2000
The 2000 Royal Rumble is probably my favorite non-WrestleMania PPV of the last 15 years... and the Rumble itself wasn't even that great. This PPV is absolutely stacked and this match is a true highlight. One of WWE's best 2-on-2 tag matches of the 00s and still holds up today, despite being an Attitude Era brawl. These guys definitely killed each other and while I won't complain that WWE's moved away from this style, it is a really fun match. Those damn chair shots to the head are incredibly hard to watch now though.

It was really a coming out party for both teams. The Hardys proved they weren't one-hit wonders with the No Mercy ladder match and the Dudleys avoided a disastrous Public Enemy-esque flop. Not sure either team would've become as big as they did in WWE without this match.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Royal Rumble Top 30 - January 25

6. Royal Rumble Match - 2001
OMG, I love the 2001 Royal Rumble SO MUCH! It's the final Rumble of the last boom period and it happened right in this beautiful period in WWE history where the Attitude Era was still going strong, but Russo was gone and there was this terrific interest on wrestling. The Attitude Era gets a lot of undeserved hype as the last time wrestling was good, but people would shit all over most of it if it were ran today. However, the period from the 2000 Rumble to WrestleMania 17 was really, really good. A few hiccups here and there, sure, but WWE was on fire in that period and the 2001 Rumble was a true highlight.

Just look at it, we've got Kane kicking everyone's ass, a random Honky Tonk Man cameo, and Drew f'n Carey! As bizarre as that was, it was an excellent use of a celebrity and one of those things that really had no point, but turned out being a lot of fun.

Oh and of course, it was Steve Austin's third and final Rumble win. I cannot overstate how awesome was at this point and after returning from neck surgery in late 2000, Stone Cold was arguably the best he had ever been. This Rumble win, the amazing (and oddly forgotten) 3 Stages of Hell match with HHH at No Way Out and, of course, WrestleMania 17 might be my favorite Rumble-to-Mania stretch for any wrestler, ever. Bottom line (see what I did there?), Austin is God.

And one other thing, they brought back the cool animated poster for this year's Rumble. Not as cool as the cartoony ones from the early 90s, but I don't know why they stopped doing those.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Royal Rumble Top 30 - January 24

7. Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels - 2003
Simple and effective. You take Shawn Michaels, one of the greatest of all-time, not quite sure if he's definitely going to wrestle full-time, but willing to do big matches like the Rumble and WrestleMania. Then you take Chris Jericho, a big-time Superstar that had frequently been compared to Shawn Michaels throughout his career. Jericho wanted to escape that comparison and out-Shawn Michaels Shawn Michaels by winning the Royal Rumble after entering at #1, Shawn wanted to protect his legacy, so he took the #1 spot, but Jericho's the ultimate prick so he earned the #2 spot.

It all came together quite well and Jericho shocked the world by easily eliminating Michaels in the early goings of the Rumble. Still, it's the most memorable story of the entire match and it wound up being the perfect set-up for their match at WrestleMania, which was an instant classic. It was also the match that gave HBK the confidence and desire to return to as a (mostly) full-time wrestler... and it all started in the Rumble.

Way Too Early

This year's Royal Rumble stats video, always one of my faves.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Royal Rumble Top 30 - January 23

8. John Cena vs. Smarks - 2008








Sunday, January 22, 2012

Royal Rumble Top 30 - January 21 & 22

Another double update today since I wasn't around much yesterday. And hey, we're in the top 10!

10. Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit - 2001
You could argue that this is the greatest ladder match in WWE history. There's the steel chair "batter-up" counter to the dive outside, the Walls of Jericho on the top of the ladder and the amazing chemistry these two had. But again, much like my entry on the 2004 Rumble match, it's hard to go back and watch. At the time though? Yeah, easily one of the best ladder matches WWE has done and a rare gimmick match at the Rumble PPV.

9. Ax vs. Smash - 1989
Oh yeah, now this is happy times. It might seem silly to put a 2-minute brawl in the top ten of a Rumble countdown, but when I was a kid, this was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. Ax & Smash were tag partners, tag team champions, presumably best friends, but they each drew #1 and #2, what would happen? They'd beat the hell out of each other, that's what happened! They didn't tease it, there was no "will they or won't they," they immediately starting punching the other in the face.

It was fun when they did it again in 98 with Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie, but by that point and especially today, we're used to the "every man for himself" thing. But in 1989? I had never seen anything quite like this and it definitely earns it a spot in the top 10. Also doesn't hurt that Demolition will always be my favorite tag team of all-time.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Royal Rumble Top 30 - January 20

11. Christian vs. Ezekiel Jackson - 2010
Much like Mr. Kennedy in 2007, this should've been Big Zeke's big moment. This match absolutely tore the house down, affirming Christian's status as WWE's star-maker and setting Zeke up for a major run following ECW's demise.

Unfortunately, Zeke's quad tear sidelined him for months and then he got saddled with the disastrous Corre stable and he hasn't recovered since. But Zeke is capable of greatness and this match certainly showed it, especially when he's in the ring with one of the best performers in WWE today, Captain Charisma.

I feel like this is one of those matches I nerd out over that was just a blip on everyone else's radar, but I absolutely love it. If it didn't impress you the first time around, give it another watch, I think it's aged pretty well.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Royal Rumble Top 30 - January 19

12. Bret Hart vs. Razor Ramon - 1993
Have I mentioned lately how much I love Scott Hall? Shocking, the guy named Razor loved Razor Ramon as a kid. Ramon's rise to the WWE Title match at the Rumble in 93 was unlikely, rumors were Bret was supposed to defend against The Ultimate Warrior, but I think it's safe to say this match was much better than that hypothetical battle would have been.

These two had a great old school wrestling match with Bret being much more aggressive than usual, perhaps due to the fact that Razor threw his toothpick in the face of the little kid Bret gave his sunglasses to before the match. Have I mentioned how much I love Scott Hall?

It's not a flashy match and I do prefer their battle at the inaugural King of the Ring PPV later that year, but for what was their first one-on-one encounter in WWE, it turned out to be a really solid bout. Vintage Heenan & Gorilla on commentary too!