- We're only a week away from the 26th annual Royal Rumble. It's not usual for the Rumble match to play second-fiddle on the show with it's namesake on it, but here we go: Punk/Rock makes me want to spend the money for the live PPV, and the Rumble Match has gone out of it's way to announce 10 participants, probably realizing the other 20 have no hope in hell of winning.
- Taped on January 22nd from Sacaramento, CA, former home of the Sacramento Kings. Michael Cole and the Miz are calling all the action, unless otherwise noted.
- We get a hype video of the Royal Rumble Match, with number crunching tidbits, like who holds the record for most eliminations, longest time spent in a Rumble match, how many people have competed in the Rumble, etc. etc. Steve Austin still stands as the only 3-time Winner? Santino broke the Warlord's old record of shortest time spent in the match. The same amount of people have won at #1 as at #30 (two at each, HBK and Benoit at #1, Cena and 'Taker at #30)... of course, we don't see a clip of Chris Benoit.
- The WWE Royal Rumble Pre-Show will feature a match between Antonio Cesaro and the Miz for the United States Championship. Both men will pull double duty, working the Rumble Match, as well.
We come back from a commercial, with Cesaro working a chinlock. Ryback escapes and comes off the ropes with a Thesz Press. He drops Cesaro with a press slam, then clotheslines him over the top rope, to the floor. If this were a Rumble Match, he would be eliminated. Cesaro says screw this, but Miz throws him back into the ring. Ryback sends him to the ropes and takes him over with a body drop. Ryback misses a splash, and Cesaro with the double stomp for a one count. Cesaro comes off the ropes with a knee to the face for a two count. Charge to the corner is met with a knee. Ryback with a spinebuster, followed by the Meat Hook, knocking Cesaro to the floor, again. Cesaro takes a walk, uninterrupted, giving it to Ryback at 7:56 (minus a commercial break). They needed to protect both men, but this is the third straight week with a bullshit finish in the Main Event. Decent match, and kept reasonably short so not to over-expose Ryback's limitations in longer matches.
- Hype video for CM Punk vs. The Rock at the Royal Rumble. Will Punk's reign end at 434 days, or will he somehow find a way to get by the People's Champ? I honestly don't know, and depending on work schedule, this match alone has earned my $45.
- Last week on WWE Monday Night Raw, the Rock and Punk exchange words again, until The Shield runs in and gives the Rock the Triple-Team Powerbomb, busting his lip in the process. If the Shield is to interfere at the Rumble, then Punk will be stripped of his championship. This means Rock wins, or Punk wins with interference from that Brad Maddox dude, or possibly Brock Lesnar.
- Two weeks ago on WWE Smackdown, Alberto Del Rio overcame all the odds of the booking team and somehow defeated the Big Show in a Last Man Standing Match, and winning the World Heavyweight Championship. They'll have the rematch at the Royal Rumble, also contested under Last Man Standing Rules. Last monday, Show defeated Zack Ryder in 40-seconds and attempted to count him out for 10, until being "What'ed" out of the arena. Big Show is standing by for an interview, and threatens Matt Striker with his big fist. Ew.
We come back from break, with Sandow being worked over by Jimmy Uso. He hits Sandow off the ropes with a forearm, then goes back to the armbar. Sandow escapes with a pull of the hair, but unwisely goes after Jey and takes a headbutt for it. Sandow with a jawbuster on Jimmy. Rhodes tags in, and gets taken over with a hip toss. Rhodes with a jawbuster, then Sandow tries his luck again, unsuccessfully. Jimmy with a back breaker, and Jey comes off the top with a sledge for a two count. Jey misses a charge, allowing Sandow to stomp a bottle of Perrier into him. Rhodes with a front suplex for a two count. Sandow with knees into the ribs, then slaps on a body scissors. Jey with elbows to escape, but Sandow hooks the ankle and tags out to Rhodes to continue the beatings. Jey fights out of the corner, but again gets tripped up to prevent a tag. Sandow with a Russian leg sweep followed by the Elbow of Disdain for a two count. Rhodes with an abdominal stretch, and he surprisingly doesn't use the ropes for leverage. Mike Rotundo would be disappointed. Jey with a hip toss to escape, and Rhodes spills to the floor on a charge. Jimmy gets the hot tag and comes off the ropes with a diving elbow, followed by a pair of clotheslines. He catches Sandow off the ropes with a Samoan Drop and rolls him up for two. Jimmy with a reverse crescent kick. Jey to the top for the splash, but Rhodes creates a distraction pulling Jimmy out, and Sandow recovers to crotch Jey across the top rope. That's all he needed to get the three count at 12:08 (minus one commercial break). Decent tag match. Nothing exciting to really write about, but it felt more like a standard match than a typical Uso's playing to the crowd garbage-fest. I'm not a fan of the Uso brothers, but this week was a much better showing for them, and were treated with more respect than background noise to Brad Maddox.
- Next week we kick off a Main Event series of matches to determine a #1 Contender for the Intercontinental Championship. I'm guessing this takes the focus away from Cesaro/Miz as the #1 program pushed on Main Event? I like me some tournaments, so no complaints.
Final Thoughts: Two decent matches on par with watchable quality, but this week's episode definitely had a "everything gets a backseat to hyping the hell out of the Rumble PPV" feel. Not saying that's a bad thing. We got extensive videos hyping the Rumble Match, the Punk/Rock WWE Title Match, the Last Man Standing Match for the World Heavyweight Title, and the two matches featured also served a purpose towards pushing the Tag Title Match and the Pre-Show's US Championship Match. Order the Royal Rumble on sunday night, 8 EST.