Many sports fans hate the bye week before the Super Bowl. They miss their football fix and console themselves by watching the near-unwatchable Pro Bowl.
Personally, I look forward to the bye week, because it is traditionally when WWE runs its annual pay-per-view show known as the Royal Rumble.
This pay-per-view is highlighted by the Royal Rumble match in which 30 wrestlers enter the ring at set intervals of time. The wrestlers remain in the match until they are thrown over the top rope and have both feet touch the floor. The last man remaining gets a title shot at Wrestlemania.
The WWE would probably get upset at me referring to them as “wrestlers,” since the WWE isn’t wrestling, it’s “Sports Entertainment.” Therefore, competitors are referred to as “superstars.”
In recent years, I have cut down on the amount of WWE programming I watch, but the Rumble is typically my favorite event of the year, and The Rock would be wrestling for the WWE Title. So I certainly couldn’t pass up an invitation to watch at the house of my friend and fellow wrestling enthusiast Nature Boy.
Going to Nature Boy’s house, you can be assured of at least two things:
1. He’s going to make about a thousand references to Ric Flair. Flair is a legendary wrestler who, for some reason, still wrestles despite being over 60 years old.
I really shouldn’t say “for some reason.” The man has four ex-wives and is really bad with money.
Nature Boy idolizes Flair, and can relate just about anything that happens on a wrestling show to a story about him. Nature Boy also sometimes makes disturbing comments about “how great Flair’s physique is.”
2. Nature Boy will discuss gastrointestinal issues. There are frequent references to how “gassy” he is feeling. Coincidentally, while watching the show, he ate half of a pepperoni and pepper pizza from Papa John’s.
Here’s a rundown of the show:
The announcers for the match are Michael Cole, (A shrill, whiny pretty boy) JBL, (Arrogant Texan who pretty much insults everyone) and Jerry “The King” Lawler. (Horny old man who recently had a heart attack)
Before the event begins, they show the Spanish announcers’ table which fuels a sense of anticipation. In about 99% of the shows that have featured the Spanish announcers’ table, it has been destroyed when a wrestler gets slammed through it.
World Heavyweight Championship Match
The pay-per-view opens with a match for the World Heavyweight Championship (WHC). The WHC sounds like a prestigious title, and in theory, it is equivalent in stature to the WWE Championship as the top title in the company.
In reality, the WHC is often an afterthought. For instance, the WHC match is opening the show, while the WWE Championship match features the Rock and will be the main event of the night.
The competitors in this match are the Big Show and the current WHC holder Alberto Del Rio.
Longtime WWE fans will recognize the Big Show as the exceptionally large guy who has never really lived up to his potential. Despite his shortcomings, he often is placed in title matches simply because his size makes him seem like a difficult opponent to beat.
Alberto Del Rio began his career as a rich, Mexican snob. I never thought that highly of him, although I did appreciate the fact that he often wore a scarf to ringside.
In an attempt to garner more favor with the Latino audience, they have recently turned Del Rio into a face (Wrestling term for a good guy). So now he’s a rich, Mexican snob who waves to the crowd and smiles a little more. In the WWE, this is what passes for character development.
The match has been designated a “Last Man Standing” match which means the only way to win is by rendering your opponent unable to get to his feet before a count of ten. In theory, this leads to a more “hardcore” style of match. In reality, this leads to a lot of standing around while a referee counts to ten.
Michael Cole points out that in a Last Man Standing match, everything is legal. He apparently doesn’t think that the audience got the message, because he feels compelled to repeat this point every minute or so.
Del Rio hits Big Show with a chair. “That’s completely legal!” Del Rio gets thrown through a table. “That’s completely legal!” Del Rio sprays a fire extinguisher in Big Show’s face. (Yes, really) “That’s completely legal!”
I’ll give WWE credit for an original ending to the match. While Del Rio had Big Show down on the mat, Del Rio’s assistant duct taped Big Show’s feet to the ring ropes, which obviously left Big Show unable to stand. (In case you were concerned, Michael Cole did indeed point out that this was completely legal)
Nature Boy went on a brief rant about how good guys shouldn’t win by nefarious means. Apparently, he hasn’t been paying attention since about 1997.
We then get a series of pre-taped promos and interviews from various “superstars” who will be wrestling in the Rumble. None of them are especially memorable, which is kind of understandable since after 20 plus years, they’ve pretty much run out of different ways for people to boast about throwing other men out of a ring.
The most memorable promo was delivered by Ryback. It wasn’t especially interesting, but I was fascinated by his teeth. They seem slightly too large for his mouth and are unnaturally white.
I’m guessing that it is partially due to his character trait being “intense” but he can’t seem to say anything without visibly shaking. If Las Vegas had an over/under line for the number of Red Bulls that Ryback has consumed, I would definitely go with the over.
WWE Tag Team Titles
The next match is for the WWE Tag Team titles. The teams competing are The Rhodes Scholars and Team Hell No.
The Rhodes Scholars consists of Damien Sandow (A snobby intellectual of undetermined ethnicity) and Cody Rhodes, the son of wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes. Cody used to have a gimmick in which he was considered the best looking superstar on the roster. If you know what his father looks like, you would have thought this to be a very unlikely scenario.
Currently, Cody has a gimmick where he has a very awkward looking mustache.
Team Hell No consists of fan favorite Daniel Bryan and WWE mainstay Kane. If you haven’t watched WWE in a while, you’ll be happy to know that Kane is doing the EXACT SAME THING he’s been doing for the past fifteen years. I’m pretty sure that I when I order the Royal Rumble in 2023, Kane will be on the show and look exactly the same as he does today.
The match itself was decent enough, but nothing too memorable happened.
Nature Boy had to leave for a few minutes because his contact lens got caught in the corner of his eye. He told me that upon taking it out, it fell in the toilet. Don’t worry, he cleaned it off, and vision was restored. He also mentioned that the pizza was making him gassy.
There were only three matches on the show aside from the Royal Rumble, but considering the amount of filler they provided, it seems like they certainly could have had another.
They already wasted a lot of time with the earlier promos and interviews, and then they spent more time showing highlights of “Royal Rumble Fan Fest.”
In full disclosure, I actually enjoyed watching this. For some reason, I love when they interview the fans there and they seem to insanely sincere. I’m pretty sure that some of these people don’t quite accept that the show is scripted.
Next, we saw a segment highlighting WWE’s involvement with WeGiveBooks.com. I got a slight chuckle as they showed the WWE’s resident little person Hornswoggle handing out books to children who are taller than he is.
If I’m a child, and I hear that some WWE stars are coming to give out books, I’m going to feel a little disappointed when the person who shows up is Hornswoggle.
The Royal Rumble
Next up is the Royal Rumble match itself. Normally, this is the main event, but the Rock’s presence on the show bumps it down a slot this year.
Last year, this match kind of sucked. For whatever reason, there seemed to be a lack of star power, so instead they went with a bunch of comedy spots. I’m hoping it goes a little better this time.
The interval between wrestlers entering the ring has varied over the years. It can range from between one minute and two minutes, and tonight’s interval is 90 seconds.
It should be noted that “90 seconds” in WWE has almost no correlation to 90 seconds in the real world. From what I can tell, “90 seconds” can be anywhere between 30 seconds and two minutes.
Highlights from the match:
- The first entrant is Dolph Ziggler. Before entering the ring, Ziggler makes out with his girlfriend AJ Lee. Most guys are big fans of Lee because she’s hot, she has constant “f*** me” eyes, and she acts bats*** insane. That combination is strangely irresistible to most men.
- Michael Cole points out that two wrestlers have won from the #1 spot in the Rumble’s history. He is unable to mention who those wrestlers were, because according to WWE history, one of them DOES NOT EXIST.
- Things pick up immediately as the second entrant is a surprise guest: Chris Jericho. That’s one of the main reasons I like the Rumble. You’ll get surprise stars from the past, some of whom look like they can still actually wrestle! Jericho was big in the early 2000’s, but since then, he has retired and come back a few times. His unexpected arrival has definitely sparked the crowd and there is already a sense of added importance.
- Kofi Kingston enters and is referred to as the “human yo-yo.” In last year’s match, Kingston was thrown over the top rope, and did a handstand (because your feet have to touch the floor to be eliminated) to get back into the ring.
- Goldust enters as a surprise entrant. Goldust is Cody Rhodes’ brother and looks much more like what you’d expect Dusty Rhodes’ child to look like.
- David Otunga enters the match. Otunga is married to singer Jennifer Hudson, which apparently makes the WWE think he should be heavily featured, despite possessing very little actual wrestling ability.
- Last year’s winner Sheamus enters. Sheamus’ gimmick is insanely pale Irish man who enjoys kicking people in the head.
- Lord Tensai comes to the ring. About ten years ago, the WWE had a large, very hairy wrestler named Prince Albert. Despite his size, he never amounted to much, so he went to Japan where he changed his name to Lord Tensai, drew some Japanese letters on his face, and oddly found a good deal of success. The WWE brought him back to almost no fan reaction except for people chanting “Albert” at him.
- Rey Mysterio returns from injury! Mysterio is a small, masked wrestler who energizes the crowd with his electric moves. Unfortunately, he also seems to get hurt every time he wrestles.
- I’m not sure which is happening more quickly: New entrants into the match or Nature Boy making references to his stomach distress.
- The next entrant gets a big reaction: The Godfather! In the 90’s, the Godfather was a pimp who would come to the ring with a brigade of “hos.” Because the WWE is more family friendly these days, the announcers refer to the women as his “companions.”
- Rey Mysterio is eliminated, and unsurprisingly, it looks as if he injured himself falling to the floor. Guess we’ll see him again in another few months.
- The Great Khali enters as this year’s token “really big guy who all the others have to team up against.” Khali is so large that his body doesn’t seem to function in a normal manner. It’s hard to describe how Khali is moving down to the ring. You couldn’t really call it walking. Ambling, maybe?
- One of the best parts of the Rumble is when they show the five second timer until the next entrant. The crowd always counts along, and often imitate the buzzer sound as well.
- It’s always a bit sad when the thirtieth and final entrant comes to the ring. No more surprises. What you see is what you get. The lucky recipient of this year’s thirtieth spot is Ryback and his teeth.
- The final three left in the ring are John Cena, Sheamus, and Ryback. The three men do the standard stare down and then stare at the Wrestlemania sign hanging in the arena, just in case any of the fans have forgotten “what’s at stake.”
- The final two are Cena and Ryback, and finally Cena throws Ryback out to win the match, becoming only the 4th man to win the Royal Rumble multiple times.
John Cena is currently the biggest star in WWE, so it isn’t a huge shock that he won. As mentioned, the top stars have a very high success rate in the Royal Rumble.
The main event of the evening is the WWE Championship match between CM Punk and The Rock.
CM Punk is a former fan favorite who turned into a bad guy by insulting the crowd and siding with evil manager Paul Heyman. Despite these acts, much of the crowd still loves him. He has been WWE Champion for over 400 days which is the sixth longest reign in company history.
You might wonder why The Rock – a guy who only appears a few times a year – has a title shot. This was never really explained. The Rock just kind of showed up one night, told everyone he was wrestling for the title at the Royal Rumble, and nobody seemed to question it.
Early in the match, Punk acts like he’s going to set up the Rock to go through the Spanish announcers table, but he doesn’t do it. Now there’s a good way to get the crowd to turn on you.
CM Punk appears to hurt his knee, leading Cole to talk at great length about CM Punk’s “surgically repaired” knee. In the WWE, once a superstar has had surgery on a body part, that body part can no longer be referenced without the “surgically repaired” qualifier.
Finally, the Spanish announcers table is cleared off with both men on top. It looked like the Rock was preparing to slam Punk through it when the table unexpectedly collapsed. That didn’t look planned, and Rock seems to be legitimately hobbled.
The Rock looks like he’s on the verge of victory when the arena lights go out. It is unclear what is going on, but Michael Cole begins shrilly screaming, “It’s the Shield! The Shield is attacking the Rock!”
The Shield is a group of three young wrestlers who seem to have some sort of alliance with CM Punk. It was declared before the match that if they interfered, Punk would be stripped of the title.
Regardless of what is happening, Cole’s whining is extremely annoying and probably only serves to turn the audience against the Rock. JBL says what the audience is thinking when he shouts at Cole to, “Shut up, you stooge!”
Of course, when the lights come back on, the Shield is nowhere to be found, and the Rock is laying unconscious. Punk takes advantage and pins him for the win.
The crowd is unhappy until Vince McMahon’s music plays. He struts out to the crowd’s delight, and is about to strip Punk of the title when he is interrupted by the Rock. The Rock tells him, “You don’t take it from him. I take it from him.”
The fans are elated as the match is restarted. A few minutes later, the Rock pins Punk to win the title, and the crowd (excluding Punk loyalists) goes home happy.
Overall, I thought this was a very good show. While it felt like there was a little too much filler, all of the matches were enjoyable, highlighted by a very entertaining Royal Rumble. It was definitely worth the money (although maybe not worth all the gassiness I had to endure).