WWF Royal Rumble 2004
by Scrooge McSuck
- Originally broadcasted live, on Pay-Per-View, on January 25th, 2004, from the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, PA. 2004, quite a year for being a wrestling fan. For what seemed like the first time in forever, there was finally cracks showing in the glass ceiling, and there was hope again for loyal fans looking to see some particular performers elevated to the top of the card. Sadly, by mid year, the hope was gone, by years end, it was same old business, and from there it's best not to think about it...
- Anyway, we've got Jim Ross and Jerry "The King" Lawler calling the matches from Raw, Michael Cole and Tazz doing the matches from Smackdown, and for the Rumble Match, instead of having 9 talking heads, it's just J.R. and Tazz. Over on Heat, Victoria defeated Molly Holly, back when the Women were semi-decent. Now it's a reason to change the channel.
WWE Tag Team Championship, Tables Match:
Batista & Ric Flair © vs. The Dudley Boyz:
I'm going to be bitching and moaning a lot for pretty much the entire undercard, so please ignore me, or maybe enjoy it, since my whining is probably when I'm most interesting to read. Anyway, onto the match. The random tandem of Batista and Flair (Evolution stablemates) won the belts as surprise entrants of a Tag Team Turmoil (fancy talk for Gauntlet Match) at Armageddon 2003, possibly one of the worst PPV's of that particular era. The Dudley Boyz were so incredibly stale at this point, I was begging for them to leave WWE. Then they recieved main event billing with the Undertaker 6-months later. Sometimes life seems unfair. When you think Tables Match, you think Ric Flair, don't you? Slugfest in the aisle to kick things off. Batista quickly rams himself into the post while D'Von takes Flair over with a back drop. Bubba goes for a table (already), and slides it across the ring, into the midsection of Batista. D'Von with a powerslam on Flair, followed by a double suplex, but Batista moves the table to avoid defeat. D'Von takes Batista to the floor with a clothesline while Bubba and Flair do what would mildly be considered brawling. Batista wakes up to clean the clocks of both Dudleys for a few moments, but ends up posting himself again. He must've been in love with that spot. Double neckbreaker on Batista, and in a surprise to end all surprises, Flair gets slammed off the top rope. Here comes the 3D, but Coach of all people run in to create a distraction, allowing Batista to recover and spinebuster D'Von through the table for the victory at 4:23. Wow, what an opener. Rushed, even for television quality, and not very good. Glad to see Coach found a little more dignity as a broadcaster for ESPN.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match:
Rey Mysterio © vs. Jamie Noble (w/ Nidia):
Where to begin here... why is Rey Mysterio saddled with the curtain jerker Championship? It's not like they elevated the title beyond that status by giving it to him. It just meant creating even more distance between him and the top of the card. As for Noble, Nidia is working a "blind" angle at the hands of Tajiri (wow, I can't believe I remember that), and Noble, after a few weeks/months as a babyface, has used her handicap to his advantage. Lockup, and in about 20-seconds Mysterio goes for the 619, but Noble counters with a body press. He stomps away and sends Mysterio to the corner, then drops him across the top rope with a suplex for a two count. Noble with a snapmare and boot to the spine for another two count. Whip to the ropes, and Mysterio with a roll up for two. Noble with a quick clothesline for another two count, then to the chinlock. Already? Whip to the ropes, and Mysterio takes Noble down with a dropkick. Boot to the face, followed by a series of rights. Mysterio with a spring off the ropes for a hurricanrana, followed by a bulldog for two. Noble counters a body press with a knee to the midsection. Noble goes for the doube under-hook, but can't get him up for it. He hits the ropes, gets tripped "accidentally" by Nidia, and Mysterio finishes with the 619 and springboard leg drop at an incredibly short 3:12. I remember as this happened live being quite pissed off at that. That's not being short-changed, that's downright screwing us out of what could've been a very good match. Oh, they did a rematch on the following Smackdown, same match length, and lead to a Blindfold match at No Way Out between Noble and Nidia. You can shake your heads now.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Chavo Guerrero (w/ Chavo Guerrero Sr.):
I'm surprised it took WWE so long to do the obvious Eddie vs. Chavo program, but honestly, Chavo was as far off the radar as possible for most of his WWE tenture, so there really wasn't much reason to push him. Lockup to the corner, and they just keep at it like a button-mashing scene out of WWF Super WrestleMania on SNES. Chavo with a bitch slap to end the sequence. To the corner again, and Eddie's reluctant to take a cheap shot at him. Eddie with a drop toe hold, and he slaps on a chinlock. They're working a nice, slow pace right now, which would lead some to believe this is going to go 20. Whip to the ropes, and Chavo comes back with a shoulder tackle. They have words again and start exchanging chops. Eddie with a thumb to the eyes, and Chavo sells it to the point it becomes over-selling. Eddie with a takedown and goes for the arm. Chavo fights back to his feet and a head scissors takes both men tumbling over the top, to the floor. Chavo Sr. gets a cheap shot in, allowing Chavo to lay into Eddie. Back in the ring, and Chavo throws some haymakers at Eddie. Eddie turns it around and again won't respond. Chavo with a takedown, and Eddie counters with a short-arm scissors. Chavo with a sharp back suplex for a two count. Chavo with the nerve to go for the three amigos, but Eddie counters the third. Chavo sets up for a tornado DDT, but Eddie fights free and completes his three amigos. Eddie to the top rope, and the Frog Splash finishes it at 8:03??? What the holy hell is with these matches being shortened to almost nothing? Why spend 4 minutes working a slow build, and then cut right to the finish, except the finish wasn't even much of one, it was just Eddie hitting two moves and that's all. In obvious WWE booking, Chavo went on to an illustrious reign as Cruiserweight Champion and had a short program with JACQUELINE over it during the summer. Even Chavo SENIOR got a taste of the belt during that few weeks.
WWE Championship Match:
Brock Lesnar © vs. Hardcore Holly:
Nope, that's not a typo, Hardcore Holly was given a serious push to WWE Champion Brock Lesnar, all because of an incident from the Fall of 2002 when Holly allegedly sandbagged Brock on a Powerbomb, and had his neck broken in the process. Sure, it's the Rumble, so being on the undercard in a title match isn't as big of a deal as a PPV where the Title match is the Main Event, but Holly? And this wasn't a two-week ordeal. He came back in November and had Brock acting like a scared pussy for weeks. Popular Fantasy Booking for this PPV: Brock destroys Holly in 2-minutes and F5's him back to Velocity duty. Holly attacks Lesnar before the bell, and it's a slugfest on the floor. Lesnar tries to F5 Holly into the post, but Holly slips free and unloads into him some more. Into the ring, Holly comes off the top with a body press, but meets canvas. Brock stomps away and takes him over with a snap suplex. Brock stomps some more and sends Holly to the floor. He rams Holly into the apron, then throws it back into the ring for a two count. BEARHUG! This lasts a while. Brock with a Fisherman Buster, which is a GOOD version of whatever Ryback tries to do these days. That only gets two, and it's back to the bearhug. Holly fights free, only to be thrown overhead with a belly-to-belly suplex. Holly offers a mild comeback and slaps on a Full Nelson? ON LESNAR? Look at his neck! Lesnar escapes that pretty quickly, and the F-5 sends Holly back to Velocity at 6:30. Two months of Holly punking out Brock gives us a complete squash of the challenger in under 7-minutes. Again, smart booking (that was sarcasm). Holly's usefulness ended here, until ECW on Sci-Fi needed a top of the card heel. That was also sarcasm, although I can see the confusion over it.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match:
Triple H © vs. Shawn Michaels:
I'm not sure if I've recapped Bad Blood 2004, but that featured the blowoff and end all of end all matches between these two... and it sucked. Okay, that's unfair, it didn't suck, it was needlessly long, dull, and was just two guy milking it for all it was worth to sell a match that most people really didn't care for anymore. But that was in June, and we're in January, and this, I'm afraid, is the prequel to that epic encounter of disappointment. Yes, disappointment. There was actual expectations of a repeat, PPV caliber classic here. You see, on the last episode of Raw in 2003, Triple H and Shawn Michaels put on a hell of a match that I'm sure no one remembers, and for those who remember, didn't expect considering the lack of chemistry these two had before, and due to Triple H's rapidly declining ability in the ring (thankfully, after abyssmal 2002 and 2003, he started getting good again). As for this match... it just didn't click. Both men did their signature spots, bladed for the sake of getting over the levels of "violence" they went to, and a lot of laying around because of the crippling Last Man Standing rules. I'm sorry, there's never been a LMS Match where I wasn't bored by it, thanks to the incredible amount of time devoted to building drama by doing slow counts to 10. After what seems like an eternity, we end this with the stupid double count-out finish, which means the entire match meant nothing, and we just wasted 23-minutes (30, including entrances). I'm sorry for the lack of PBP for this match, but honestly, do you need me to repeat "lays around a while" "slow count to 9" and "stupid fucking finish" over and over again? Unfortunately, this inconclusive finish (draw means Champion retains, that's conclusive to me) allowed Shawn Michaels to get his foot in the door to headline WrestleMania without winning the title or the Rumble Match. Got to love politics and not having faith in a good storyline. Match was passable, but boring junk and almost makes me want to watch Boring as Hell in a Cell, again. If this was the marker to end the show, it's the worst Rumble PPV, ever. Even the 1992 undercard had the New Foundation/Orient Express.
30 Man Royal Rumble Match:
Okay, I know it doesn't need to be done, but I do it anyway... winner of this gets a shot at the WWE Championship at WrestleMania (it also marked the first time the Rumble winner could choose which Title to challenge for. In 2003, Lesnar won and was automatically paired to challenge Kurt Angle on Smackdown, and obviously, before that, there was only one WWE/World Champion.
Chris Benoit is #1, as part of a lame storyline involving Paul Heyman that abandoned the next night, and Randy Orton, reigning Intercontinental Champion, is #2. Lockup to the corner, Benoit stomps away. Irish whip and he connects with a hard elbow, followed by a snap suplex. Orton turns the tide and tries for an elimination, but no luck. Benoit with the knee to the midsection as we get a countdown. Mark Henry is #3 and he lays into both men. He was getting new push #4 or 5 at this point, coming back from a year long hiatus (injury, out of shape, your pick). #4 is Tajiri. I don't like his chances. He gives Orton some kicks and a handspring elbow. Benoit with the German's on Tajiri. We tease some eliminations, but no one is gone, yet. #5 is Bradshaw, pre-actual push, and still an APA member. Orton eats a clothesline from hell, as does Henry. Tajiri gets the short-arm version, but Benoit counters with the Crossface. Bradshaw goes for the rope, and goes over and out at 5:25 in the process. He always had sucky luck in these matches. #6 is Rhyno, and hell if I remember if he was heel or face. Probably heel. Tajiri gives Henry the mist and slaps on the Tarantula. Rhyno gores Henry, and with the impact, knocks Tajiri out at 6:53. Benoit with charging elbows on Henry, knocking him over and out at 7:02. #7 is Matt Hardy, but he's turned face and is doing the "I deserve respect" gimmick that makes him look like a chump. #8 is Scott Steiner, and there's no way he can follow up his performance in 2003. That was legendary bad. He clotheslines everyone, since it takes almost zero effort to stick your arm out and move forward. He hands out a few versions of suplex' too. Benoit turns the tables, giving Steiner a taste of his own medicine. #9 is Matt Morgan, green as grass and completely heatless. It wouldn't be until 2005 where he was pushed as a stuttering goober. He gives Benoit a sit-out powerbomb to no reaction. #10 is the Hurricane, and he has as good of odds as Tajiri. He flies in with a body press on Hardy then goes after Morgan, only to be launched over and out at 13:31, with a hard bump to boot.
#11 is Booker T, in such limbo I forgot if he did anything at WrestleMania XX. Steiner makes a go at him, and gets stomped down in the corner. Laying around, another thing Steiner's body could do without injuring himself. Too badly. #12 is KAAAAANE, and hopefully here to clean house (spoiler: he doesn't). Steiner got dumped out during the entrance, at the hands of Booker T. Kane with a chokeslam on Benoit. Chokeslam for Morgan, side suplex for Hardy, big boot for Rhyno, and another chokeslam, this time for Orton. #13 is The Undertaker's Music, distracting Kane long enough to have Booker dump him at 18:26. Then Spike Dudley shows up, the real #13, and gets KO'ed by Kane and never officially enters. That's what he deserves for dressing like a Bushwhacker. #14 is Rikishi, yes, he was still waddling around in 2004. Rhyno sets up for the Gore and gets back dropped out by Benoit at 20:25. Rikishi with a stink-face to Morgan, no doubt a sick rookie hazing. #15 is Rene Dupree. He sends Hardy to the apron, and dropkicks him off at 22:24. He celebrates with the french tickler, and gets kicked out by Rikishi at 22:33. #16 is A-Train (repackaged Albert). Morgan crotches himself and gets thrown out by Benoit at 23:44. Orton sneaks up on Rikishi and dumps him at 24:11, then tosses Booker out at 24:16. #17 is Shelton Benjamin. Benoit tosses A-Train out at 25:04. Benjamin pounds on Orton, but misses a superkick, crotches himself, and is eliminated at 25:39. Benoit and Orton lay each other out as we get #18... it's Ernest "the Cat" Miller and his lackey Lamont (and his stupid wig). He dances to "Somebody Call my Momma" until Orton throws him out, and Benoit tosses Lamont and his hair, at 27:43. One comedy spot is perfectly fine. Multiple is a waste of time. Just saying, for future reference. #19 is Kurt Angle. He's dedicated his rumble victory to the Troops, you know. He and Benoit have a go at it while Orton sucks wind in the corner. #20 is Rico... one of these things is not like the other. He gives it to Orton for a few moments, but falls victim to JTTS and gets thrown out at 31:08. Benoit goes for the headbutt, but Angle pops up to crotch him.
#21 is supposed to be Test, but an unknown assailant lays him out, forcing Co-GM Steve Austin to send him out there, making the #21 entrant... the returning Mick Foley. He beats the tar out of Randy Orton, and the Cactus clothesline eliminates the both of them at 33:45. #22 is Nunzio, and he's greeted by Foley with the Mandible Claw. #23 is Christian, and Nunzio is hiding in the corner. #24 is the Big Show, in push number I lost track, he's gotten too many of them, and it's 2013 and he's STILL around, as World Champion no less. He lays into everyone, but no one gets thrown out. #25 is Chris Jericho, freshly turned babyface. I think. Jericho's heel/face turns became so excessive I forgot when one starts and another ends. Everyone gangs up on Show, with no luck. #26 is Charlie Haas. Maybe he'll last longer than his partner. Shouldn't be too hard to last 50-seconds. Judging by Jericho and Christian's teamwork, he's a heel, but then they fight each other and Jericho tosses Christian at 42:35. #27 is Billy Gunn, making yet another comeback from injury. He gives Angle and Jericho Fame-Asser's, and amazingly, didn't blow up immediately afterwards. He gives Show one too, no doubt for Show making fun of his nickname "The One" back in 2001. #28 is John Cena, white-rapper with vintage uniforms that people liked, rather than "wishes he drew 1/100th of what Hulk Hogan or Steve Austin did that everyone wishes would go away." He throws Nunzio into the ring, and hey, nice sucking up to the Philly crowd with a Tug McGraw jersey (who sadly passed on three weeks before this PPV). #29 is Rob Van Dam, and of course #30 is Goldberg.
He quickly cleans house of some dead weight, throwing Charlie Haas out at 48:33 while having Nunzio on his back, then kills Nunzio with a spear, sends Gunn out with a clothesline at 48:56, and Nunzio via a press slam at 49:09. The dominance is short-lived, as Brock Lesnar runs in and gives Goldberg an F5, allowing Angle to dispose of Goldberg at 50:14, and setting the pieces for Goldberg/Lesnar at WrestleMania XX. We're down to Big Show, Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, Rob Van Dam, and John Cena. How the HELL does that happen? 5 out of 6 are smart mark darlings, and Show... well, he's not the worst hoss, ever. They do the epic "gang up on him" spot, hitting their own signature spots, but that leaves Show dead, and the 5 of them can't pick his ass off the canvas. He awakens and throws Cena out at 52:58, landing awkwardly and twisting his knee in the process. RVD tries a monkey flip, on THE BIG SHOW, and gets thrown out for being stupid at 53:16. Jericho's the next victim, being sent to the floor with a chokeslam at 55:07. Big Show with the chokeslam on Benoit, because he hasn't taken enough punishment so far. Angle tries to play Superman, taking Show down with the Angle-Slam, but the Ankle-Lock proves unwise, as Show grabs the ropes and uses the momentum to fling Angle over and out at 57:35, leaving Show alone with the man who started the match. So much for winning it for the Troops, Angle! Benoit surprises Show with a diving headbutt, but the momentum carries Show back in over the top rope, rather than knocking him off the apron, to the floor. Show goes for another chokeslam, but Benoit counters with the Crossface. Show taps again, but it doesn't count, obviously. Show powers up and slams down on top of Benoit to break it. Show pulls down the strap, so you know he means business. He tries to throw Benoit out, but Benoit hooks a front facelock and holds on for dear life. Slowly, Benoit uses his momentum to pull Show over the top rope, and to the floor, winning the Royal Rumble Match at 1:01:31, and going on the challenge for the title at WrestleMania XX. As a secondary prize, he also just broke Bob Backlund's record set in 1993. As this happened live, I was having a worked heart attack over the finish, jumping up and down calling it the best Rumble match ever... not so anymore, but it's still an awesome match with one of the better finishes in the history of Royal Rumble matches. There was a petty lengthy lull period from entries 21-29, but other than that, top notch.
Final Thoughts: When it's the Royal Rumble Match, it succeeds, and the PPV is a one-match show, then it's still worth a look. The undercard is complete trash, filled out with a circle-jerk title match with HBK/Triple H, a horribly rushed match between the Guerrero's, a pointless and unwanted World Title Match featuring Hardcore Holly, and a televised robbery giving Rey and Noble three minutes on a PPV. Don't bother watching any of that junk and check out the Rumble Match. I would still consider it easily one of the Top 5 of all time.
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