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CALDWELL'S WWE ROYAL RUMBLE REPORT 1/27: Ongoing "virtual time" coverage of debut HD PPV

Jan 27, 2008 - 9:45:18 PM
PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO BOOKMARK US & VISIT US DAILY


By James Caldwell, Torch columnist

WWE 21ST ROYAL RUMBLE REPORT
January 27, 2008
New York City
By James Caldwell, Torch columnist


They opened with a Rumble video package showcasing highlights from past Rumble extravaganzas. They transitioned into contemporary action clips from the current roster.

Michael Cole greeted us from inside MSG. In the ring, Justin Roberts introduced the "career threatening" match for Ric Flair. Flair came out first with the first PPV HD entrance. They have a small entrance set, with the videotron in that "MSG tunnel" facing the hard cam.

Once Flair's music stopped, he took the mic and whooed for the crowd. Flair said that it's been a great honor to wrestle all these years in MSG. Well, that surely defines the word "ironic" in a sentence. Flair said he had his first match at MSG in March 1976, long before most fans were born. He said the level of respect the fans have paid him is unbelievable. Before Flair could finish, MVP's music interrupted. MVP came out looking serious for a serious match tonight.

1 -- RIC FLAIR vs. U.S. champion MVP

Flair opened things up with a hard chop. MVP came back with a Chono kick strike, but Flair went to the back of the left leg. Flair teased a figure four early on, but MVP quickly countered into a small package for a nearfall. They're really teasing an early finish at 3:00. The early finish tease continued with MVP getting a pin, but Flair's foot was on the bottom rope and Little 'Naitch checked the foot before calling for the bell. MVP, upset, almost got pinned with a small package. BTW, Cole and Coach are on commentary with Coach playing the "pointless echo" role. At 6:00, MVP slapped Flair, then they butted heads in the corner. Flair came up first and started going for pin attempts, but to no avail on a three count. Flair got the crowd into the action with hard chops, but MVP caught him with a jawbreaker across his knee. MVP went for his playmaker finish, but Flair countered right into the figure four. MVP didn't work the hold very much and tapped out in about five seconds.

Afterward, MVP argued with the ref on his way out of the ring about the early non-finish. Flair then choked back tears in the ring while blowing kisses to the ring. During the replay of the match, Cole mentioned Flair getting his revenge on MVP after MVP beat him at Vengeance in June. Cole then threw out an eye-rolling line about Flair being the world's most famous sports entertainer. Whoever came up with that one, that's...ugh...no words.

WINNER: Flair via submission in 8:00. A little off at times. It was quite obvious they were going short early in the match. Crowd was pretty hot for Flair. And MVP has his "out" with the early false pin with Robison as ref. (*1/2)

Backstage: Vince McMahon and Hornswoggle shared a moment about Flair's luck continuing. Vince then talked about his family's history promoting cards at MSG. Which brings Vince to his only bastard son. Vince played up the every-man-for-himself element of the Rumble. Same promo as on Smackdown. Finlay then snuck in and Vince explained the promo about not trusting anyone. Finlay asked Vince what he means by that. Vince curled his upper life and he told Finlay that you can't trust the little guy. Horny hopped in Finlay's arms and they walked off.

Ringside, Ross and Lawler introduced themselves. They sent it to Mike Adamle, who was ringside in the front row. Adamle plugged Flair's opening victory, then said he was at MSG for Flair's first match. He introduced a video package on Jericho vs. JBL's feud.

Chris Jericho came out first for the second match. JBL did his entrance sans limo. There's just no room.

2 -- CHRIS JERICHO vs. JBL

Ross said he tried having a conversation with Jericho early in the day, but Jericho was too pent up with rage. JBL, in his first match back from injury, wanted to take it slow early on, doing the classic heel bit of ducking under the ropes to get Jericho more frustrated. Early on, Jericho tried to land some clubbing blows that looked a bit rusty. Jericho caught JBL near the ropes with the Walls of Jericho, but JBL escaped to the floor. Jericho caught him with a baseball slide, then they brawled on the floor where Jericho rammed JBL shoulder-first into the ring steps. Back in the ring, JBL took advantage of Jericho's over-exuberance to drop Jericho throat-first across the top rope. Ross quickly pointed out that JBL worked over Jericho's neck a few weeks ago on TV. JBL then went to work on the neck with a series of lariats. Jericho made a false comeback at 7:00, but JBL cut him off with a smashing boot to the face. He then sent Jericho face-first into the ringpost, sending Jericho to the floor.

On the floor, Jericho had a good blood flow going. JBL smelled blood in the water and kicked Jericho in the face to open up the cut some more. Back in the ring, JBL kicked Jericho repeatedly in the corner, drawing the ref's ire. Suddenly, Jericho came flying out of the corner with running forearm blows. He then went for a running bulldog, but missed JBL's head in a botched spot. The fans booed, but cheered when Jericho hit a springboard lionsault. Jericho then charged JBL near the ropes and clotheslined him over the top rope to the floor. Jericho, who was covered in blood at this point, battled on the outside where JBL smashed Jericho head-first into the announce table. Jericho suddenly came up with a steel chair and he smashed JBL square in the face with a clean blow to the face to earn a DQ. Yes, another chair shot square in the head.

After the match, Jericho threw JBL back into the ring and grabbed a TV cable. He wrapped the cable around JBL's neck and tried to hang him across the top rope. Jericho went all the way to the announce table and yanked on the cable from a good 10-15 feet away. The fans popped for Jericho once he let go of the cable. There were boos when Jericho was DQ'ed (either for the ref's DQ call or Jericho getting himself DQ'ed), but they cheered for him at the end of the post-match.

WINNER: JBL via DQ in 10:00. Real good intensity (with a few blown spots), and Jericho bled heavy in this one. But, there was an unprotected chair shot straight to the skull on JBL. Yes, it fit the "personal program", but they're still pushing the envelope too far in 2008. This certainly wasn't the end of the feud. (**1/4)

Backstage, Ashley knocked on Maria's locker room door and Santino Marella walked out instead. He said Maria is getting ready for the first HD kiss cam. Santino said her Maria can't say no to anyone or anything. Ashley said that's probably why she's still with him. Santino, unfazed, cut a promo about Maria not being interested in Ashley's boobie magazine. He cut a promo on Ashley being eliminated on Survivor. He slammed the door in her face to close.

They showed a video package on Rey's World Title opportunity against Edge, and all of the Vickie-Edge love deal. Edge came out first with the belt planted firmly around his waist. A bit of a babyface reaction for Edge, then Teddy Long wheeled out Vickie Guerrero to get a close look at the action. Ryder & Hawkins then strolled out to watch Vickie ringside. Rey came out second, with a very serious demeanor and a gladiator mask on. That's going to get ridiculed for a few days. So far, the signs are Madison Flair Garden and Mysterio Square Garden. With both men in the ring, Justin Roberts handled the formal intros. Rey was booed. Edge was cheered. We're in New York, not in the Midwest, South, or West Coast, that's for sure. I wonder if Hardy gets booed tonight. Yikes.

3 -- World Hvt. champion EDGE vs. REY MYSTERIO -- World Hvt. Title match

The boos for Rey and cheers for Edge continued in the opening minute of the match, with Rey one-upping Edge with fast-paced action. Edge caught Rey with a baseball slide dropkick on the floor, then Hawkins and Ryder went over to Rey for a little attack, but the ref caught them with their hands in the cookie jar and booted them from ringside. The fans booed that decision. Most ever-heat on the Majors. Back in the ring, Edge kicked Rey in the left knee and Cole talked about Rey's surgically-repaired knee. Rey made a brief comeback at 6:00 and had Edge in position for the 619, but Edge popped up and slammed Rey to the mat for a nearfall. Edge then applied the equivalent of an armbar to Rey's leg, but Rey kicked him away with his good leg. When Rey collapsed to the mat in pain, Edge raised his arms to get a shower of cheers from the crowd. Edge tried to take off Rey's boot, but Rey came up with a bulldog off the ropes.

At 10:00, Rey knocked Edge to the outside, then slid under the ropes and transitioned into a swinging DDT onto the floor padding. Back in the ring, Edge almost hit the spear, but Rey moved just in time to avoid the finisher. Rey then nailed Edge the 619 and went up top for his top rope splash and connected. He had the pin, but Vickie magically got out of the wheelchair and yanked the ref's foot to stop the count. Rey screamed as Vickie, then turned around and avoided the spear. Rey had the 619 on Edge, but Vickie had moved in the way to take the 619 instead of Edge. Rey looked at Vickie, who had collapsed to the ground. He then tried to Drop the Dime, but Edge caught him in mid-air with a spear for the pin and the win. Edge immediately checked on Vickie, who was put back in her wheelchair. Cole with another doozy: "Sometimes love hurts". Coach & Cole is worse than the worst golf commentators.

WINNER: Edge in 13:00 to retain the World Title. Pretty good undercard title match. Not blow-away status, as everything is running short so far. Good incorporation of the storyline into the finish. Obviously, the story is the New York crowd turning on Rey and cheering Edge. (***)

Backstage, Flair walked out of the shower into the locker room. Mr. Kennedy did a slow clap of sarcasm, then said he's winning the Rumble tonight. He said he would love nothing more than to...Shawn Michaels walked in to interrupt and cheered on Kennedy to keep going. Kennedy got mad and left. Michaels said Kennedy's gimmick will never work, when he was tongue-in-cheek referencing everything about Flair's gimmick. Michaels and Flair talked, then Batista walked in for a chat. Triple H joined the scene and they talked about the best-man winning. Michaels said the best-man ... will be wearing the new Shawn Michaels t-shirt available on WWE Shopzone. Hunter said one thing he hates is a shill, then he left in a huff. Batista left, then Michaels and Flair shared a moment.

They did a split-screen of Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton warming up backstage. Orton is unbelievably normal-sized-looking. (What? You thought I'd write small?)

Maria came out for the kiss cam. Some people did some kisses, then one girl got heel heat for not kissing the guy next to her. Ashley interrupted and said she got a phone call from Hugh Hefner the other day. Santino's music interrupted (to loud cheers), then he brought out someone covered in a black hood. Santino said the answer is no. No one wants to see Maria naked. The fans popped for that. Santino then did the local promo on the Mets and Yankees being chokers, the Rangers and Knicks not being worth a "choker" label, and the Giants being made up of hairdressers, not athletes. He said the only thing New York fans have to cheer for is a team from New Jersey. He said they're going to choke in the Super Bowl anyways. Huge in-ring heat for this. The fans answered with a loud "Let's go Giants" chant. Ashley changed the subject and said it's Maria's decision. Maria asked the fans, and they cheered. Santino said they're like sheep and would cheer if he asked if they would all like hepatitis. Santino said they would discuss it in private, but he has a surprise for Ashley. The hooded person stepped into the ring and Santino yanked the hood off to reveal Big Dick Johnson. He was in a cut-off Tom Brady t-shirt jersey, had a Patriots logo on his chest, and wore a 19-0 spandex Speedo. Oh my. Big Dick then danced around Ashley, who eventually smashed him with a rubber chicken. You can’t make this up.

Ringside, Mike Adamle set up Orton vs. Hardy and said "Jeff Harvey". He quickly corrected himself, then repeated Hardy three or four times before introducing the dual video packages on Hardy and Orton.

Jeff Hardy came out first to loud cheers. He had a serious look of his determination on his face. Randy Orton came out next. Lillian Garcia handled the formal ring intros. Loud cheers for Hardy. Boos for Orton. No turn from the crowd for this one.

4 -- WWE champion RANDY ORTON vs. IC champion JEFF HARDY -- WWE Title match

They locked up out of the bell and the fans did a dueling chant. It sounded like, "Let's go Hardy" vs. another "Let's go Hardy" chant. Lawler, caught up in the moment, talked about how amazing it would be for Hardy to lead WWE into a new HD era. Orton got caught on the outside early on, and Hardy baseball slide kicked Orton clear into the base of the guardrail. Orton's upper back hit the floor first, then the back of his head slammed into the guardrail. He sold it as if he broke his neck. Hardy nailed a plancha on the outside, then Orton grabbed his belt to leave, but Hardy met him on the floor and dragged him back into the ring. Hardy went for a springboard, but Orton kicked him in mid-air, sending Hardy crashing to the floor.

At 5:00, Hardy recovered on the floor, then back in the ring, Orton built his attack, while shouting at the fans that they can't believe in this guy. Orton got too cocky, and Hardy caught him near the ropes to send him flying over the top rope to the floor. Hardy waited for Orton to get up, then he went flying off the apron with a dive. Back in the ring, Orton regained control with a...wait for it...modified chinlock. He even wrapped his legs around Hardy's lower body. Lawler continued to talk about this being Hardy's moment to shine. Geez, it's like kiss of death for Hardy with the opposite of the announcers saying the babyface has no chance, then he comes up with an improbable win.

At 11:00, Hardy came up with a desperation Whisper in the Wind out of the corner for a close nearfall. Hardy hit the reverse kick to the jaw, then the double-foot lift-up dropkick in the corner. He went up top at 12:00, but Orton rolled to the apron to avoid a possible Swanton bomb. Hardy answered with a flying dropkick, sending Orton off the apron to the floor. Hardy then went to the opposite corner and went up top. He left a moonsault short and Orton just did get in the way (off camera) to break the fall. Crowd is real tense here. Back in the ring, Hardy measured Orton for a possible Twist of Fate, but Orton countered right into the RKO. He covered Hardy for the win.

After the match, Orton celebrated with the belt, then his music stopped and the fans booed. Hardy, who grabbed his hair in frustration after the finish, raised his hand to get a pity cheer from the crowd.

WINNER: Orton in 15:00. I thought it was time for Hardy here as the top star to carry the belt, which obviously wasn't agreed upon in the Stephanie camp and sucks from a wrestling fan perspective. The objectiveness in me says that was a heck of a dramatic match. But, I seriously think WWE will lose some potential customers next time they give a big hype like they did for Hardy winning the belt. (***1/4 for the match; -*** for the booking decision.)

Hey, look, Joey Styles and Tazz are ringside. They introduced the Rumble stats video package.

WWE has officially acquired all former WCW properties, with Michael Buffer handling the Rumble intros. The crowd is dead, almost in shock, right now. Buffer methodically walked through the Rumble rules, then asked if they're ready. No DX to interrupt Buffer's intro that they spent 10 years making fun of. First one out is... The Undertaker. Second out is... Shawn Michaels. All six of the announcers are on the call this year.

5 -- ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH

So, it's the last two from last year starting this year. (1) Taker and (2) Shawn Michaels teased eliminations, then (3) Santino Marella was the next entrant. He was suddenly cornered and he walked right into Sweet Chin Music. Taker then picked up his limp body and eliminated him. Shawn tried to sneak in an elimination on Taker, but Taker managed to hold the ropes. (4) Great Khali came out to "you can't wrestle" chants. I don't think he can understand that. Suddenly, Taker blocked a chop and dumped Khali to the outside. (5) Hardcore Holly came out fifth and started stomping on Taker, but Taker cut him off. Taker then tried to dump out Michaels, but Michaels held the ropes. (6) John Morrison stormed the ring and went after Taker. Styles quickly referenced the female fans mauling Morrison and Miz last night at an autograph session. (Maybe they were looking for tips on hair products.) After Michaels teased a superkick on Michaels, (7) Tommy Dreamer came out to "ECW" chants. That was followed by "Tommy Dreamer" chants. He tried to dump Taker out, but Taker easily blocked.

At 10:00, (8) Batista stormed the ring and started dropping folks with spinebusters and clotheslines. Taker and Batista then had a mid-ring staredown, which Dreamer interrupted. Batista didn't appreciate it, so he chucked out Dreamer. (9) Hornswoggle came out next to a nice reaction. He slowly walked toward the ring where Taker stared at him ready for a snack. Hornswoggle then slid under the ring instead of entering the ring. Ross and Lawler joked about Lawler doing that one year. Holly nearly eliminated Michaels, then (10) Chuck Palumbo walked out to no reaction. No eliminations, then (11) Jamie Noble came out. He went right after Palumbo, but Palumbo got the best of Noble with a kick to his tapes ribs that eliminated Noble. Trainers then came out and helped Noble out. (12) C.M. Punk came out and started kneeing folks in the corner. He tried to bulldog Michaels out of the corner, but Taker smashed him with a clothesline. BTW, Michaels's face is covered in blood. (13) Cody Rhodes came in and went after Punk, and nearly eliminated him. No eliminations, then (14) Umaga came out in some new red trunks. He just started knocking folks around with clotheslines. Holly got him for a second with right hands, but Umaga smashed him over the top rope with a Samoan Spike.

At 20:00, (15) Snitsky came out. The announcers then traded verbal blows on Snitsky's appearance to get a laugh. Cody nearly eliminated Snitsky, then some other folks got involved, but no elimination. (16) The Miz came out, then Taker started working on Umaga. (17) Shelton Benjamin came in hot and did some acrobatics, but Shawn caught him square in the jaw with Sweet Chin Music that took him over the top for an elimination. (18) Jimmy Snuka came out to a nice pop, but looking older than at the Vengeance PPV in June. He landed some chops, then (19) Roddy Piper came out to a huge pop. His gut has grown by leaps and bounds. Against better judgment, Piper took off his t-shirt and chucked it into the crowd. He entered the ring and started trading blows with Snuka. Everyone else stopped and watched. (20) Kane came out, and some folks are about to start flying. Kane wasted no time dumping out Piper and Snuka. Kane and Taker had a brotherly staredown, but Michaels broke it up and nearly took a chokeslam. (21) Carlito came out and spit an apple in Cody's face. Carlito went for a springboard move and nearly got tossed out, but he slipped out and hit the backstabber on Punk. (22) Mick Foley came out to a huge pop. Although inconclusive based on the flannel-wear and sweatpants, I'm not sure if he's in any better shape than the other two. Meanwhile, Hornswoggle is still under the ring to keep everyone honest.

At 30:00, a melee broke out, then (23) Mr. Kennedy came out. He got a cool heel pop. Kennedy went right after Cody, then Miz, then Punk. Kennedy aggravated Taker, who grabbed him by the throat and nailed a chokeslam. Now time for (24) Big Daddy V, while Snitsky was eliminated by Taker. Taker then turned around and took Sweet Chin Music for an elimination. Shawn tried an apology, but Kennedy dumped him out. Taker took out his frustration on Snitsky, while Shawn bailed. Bam, bam, bam for two huge eliminations of Taker and HBK. (25) Mark Henry came out to clean up the carnage in the ring. Meanwhile, Hornswoggle showed up and eliminated The Miz before hiding back under the ring. (26) Chavo Guerrero came out and Punk went right after him, looking for a piece of Chavo. Meanwhile, Kane kicked Morrison off the apron to the floor. Suddenly, Hornswoggle showed up and Mark Henry yanked him into the ring. He was suddenly cornered by Henry and Big Daddy V, but Finlay stormed the ring to save Hornswoggle. He took Hornswoggle out of harm's way, then left the ring with Horny. They left ringside with Hornswoggle not officially eliminated. The announcers discussed whether Horny is officially gone or not. Ross said he has been informed Finlay has been DQ'ed. He was scheduled as 27. Out next was (28) Elijah Burke. Suddenly, Batista was on the floor holding his leg, but he wasn't eliminated. Chavo then eliminated Punk to add insult to injury. They showed a replay of Batista dipping to the floor after taking a Samoan Spike from Umaga. (29) Triple H came out and cleaned house. Out first was Cody. Then Big Daddy V. Hunter and Foley then mixed it up, with the announcers referencing their history in MSG. Hunter then chucked out Foley and Burke. Suddenly, (30) John Cena. The whole place exploded. For the first time in two hours and 30 minutes, my cat moved from the couch when Cena's music hit. Hunter's jaw hit the floor as Cena made his way to ringside. Cena then stormed the ring and chucked out Carlito and Chavo. Then, he dumped out Henry. Hunter and Cena then had a confrontation with the Mania sign hanging over their heads in the camera shot. Styles said Cena appears to have completely recovered from the torn pec. Cena and Hunter had an exchange, with Cena taking the spinebuster. Batista re-emerged and eliminated Kennedy. He then eliminated Umaga. Kane was then eliminated by Batista and Hunter.

So, now it's Batista vs. Hunter vs. Cena. They had a big staredown, then Batista did thumbs up and thumbs down, then Cena did the You Can't See Me. Hunter gave crotch chops. And the brawl was on with Hunter sitting in the corner as Batista and Cena battled. Batista protected Cena on a spinebuster, then he gave Hunter a spinebuster. Cena dropped Batista with a back body drop, then Hunter knocked Batista over the top rope. So, now it's Cena vs. Hunter. The crowd was on its feet for the final match-up, as Hunter pointed to the Mania sign hanging in the arena. Cena pointed back and reminded him that he made him tap last year. Cena and Hunter traded blows, with Cena getting booed and Hunter getting cheered. Cena, who looks bigger following the injury, dropped Hunter to the mat and dropped the Five Knuckle Shuffle. He measured Hunter for the FU, but Hunter slipped out and teased a Pedigree. They finished the sequence with a double clothesline.

At 50:00, they teased a spot near the ropes. Cena tried to FU Hunter over the top, but Hunter blocked and nailed a DDT. Hunter teased a toss over the top rope, but Cena held on tight. Cena then caught Hunter for an FU, but Hunter slipped out. Another tease of the Pedigree, but Cena caught Hunter in the FU and dumped him over the top rope to the floor. Shock! Cena pointed to his previously torn pec and gave an "OK" sign. Hunter was on the floor looking shocked. Cena then celebrated for a few minutes before signing off.

WINNER: Cena in 52:00. Well, that will ease a few fans who felt disappointed after the Hardy finish. Or, for the pro-Hardy and anti-Cena fans, it's a double punch to the gut. Heck of a surprise finish to the Rumble, with Cena working folks with the interviews this week about him not being on TV at Mania. It's possible he could lose the title shot between now and Mania, but that's a stretch. First-half was a bit sluggish with a few surprises mixed in, but the match really picked up when Shawn and Taker were eliminated to start the surprise-fest, leading to Cena's return. (****)

Entry

1 - Taker
2 - HBK
3 - Santino
4 - Khali
5 - Hardcore Holly
6 - John Morrison
7 - Tommy Dreamer
8 - Batista
9 - Hornswoggle
10 - Chuck Palumbo
11 - Jamie Noble
12 - C.M. Punk
13 - Cody Rhodes
14 - Snitsky
15 - Umaga
16 - The Miz
17 - Shelton Benjamin
18 - Jimmy Snuka
19 - Roddy Piper
20 - Kane
21 - Carlito
22 - Mick Foley
23 - Mr. Kennedy
24 - Big Daddy V
25 - Mark Henry
26 - Chavo
27 - Finlay
28 - Elijah Burke
29 - Triple H
30 - John Cena

Elimination
1 - Santino by Taker
2 - Khali by Taker
3 - Dreamer by Batista
4 - Noble by Palumbo
5 - Palumbo by Punk
6 - Holly by Umaga
7 - Shelton by HBK
8 - Piper by Kane
9 - Snuka by Kane
10 - Snitsky by Taker
11 - Taker by HBK
12 - HBK by Kennedy
13 - Miz by Hornswoggle
14 - Morrison by Kane
15 - Finlay via DQ
16 - Hornswoggle via DQ
17 - Punk by Chavo
18 - Cody by Hunter
19 - Daddy V by Hunter
20 - Mick Foley by Hunter
21 - Burke by Hunter
22 - Carlito by Cena
23 - Chavo by Cena
24 - Henry by Cena
25 - Kennedy by Batista
26 - Umaga by Batista
27 - Kane by Hunter and Batista
28 - Batista by Hunter
29 - Hunter by Cena

We welcome your 1-10 score and comments on this show for a "WWE PPV Reax" feature in the Torch Feedback section of PWTorch.com. To contribute your thoughts on the PPV, click here.


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