Royal Rumble Match
#1 is Jeff Hardy and #2 is Bull Buchanan. They’re joined (almost) two minutes later by Jeff’s brother Matt Hardy at #3. A double team Whisper in the Wind and a double clothesline puts Bull out, and the Hardys go at it. It’s not exactly Demolition in 1989 for stature, but there’s sure a lot more action. #4 is Faarooq in a tag team-heavy start to the match, but the Hardys team up again as soon as he gets in, which makes one wonder why they bothered wrestling each other. Jeff blows a second Whisper in the Wind but Matt hits a Twist of Fate and Jeff lands a Swanton Bomb and they eliminate Faarooq before going back to work on each other. #5 is Whose Line is it Anyway? host and future WWE Hall of Famer Drew Carey, in town to plug his own upcoming pay-per-view of improv comedy. He gets in the ring and parades around as the Hardys eliminate each other like a pair of complete idiots. They could have teamed up the entire match the way they were going, then fought it out. Cretins.
#6 is Kane as Lawler giddily reels off a bunch of celebrity magazine shows and newspapers like Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, The New York Post and E! Network, as Vince McMahon undoubtedly slavers all over himself at the thought of all the publicity this could bring. #7 is Raven in something significantly less than two minutes as the previously unadvertised Carey eliminates himself in favour of high-fiving everyone in the front row. And that’s how you get into the WWE Hall of Fame, folks. Oooh yeah, dig it?! Al Snow jumps the gun at #8 and brings a bunch of trash cans with him, turning the Rumble into an on-the-fly hardcore match, rolling a bowling ball in Raven’s knackers. Continuing the theme are Saturn at #9 and Steve Blackman at #10.
#11 is Grandmaster Sexay but the brawling on offer is all rather tepid. It strikes me that this whole segment, which is a pretty fun deviation from the normal Rumble combat given the premium placed on hardcore wrestling at the time, even if the crowd aren’t much into it, could have been elevated another notch had they done a couple of Hardcore title changes under the 24/7 rule here. Instead, Kane puts out Grandmaster and Blackman with trash can shots, chucks Raven over the top, boots out Snow and hurls out Saturn to end the segment, as The Honky Tonk Man arrives to shake, rattle n’ roll at #12 in one of the Rumble’s early “surprise returns”. Honky sings his song until Kane takes his guitar and dumps him for his sixth consecutive elimination in a fun spot (and an easy payoff for Honky). #13 however is former potential Honky protégé The Rock, and that means it’s time to get serious. They trade clotheslines until Rock’s former Nation of Domination teammate The Goodfather hits the ring at #14, and they trade fists until Rocky slaps him over and out. Tazz is #15, presumably for the comedy of seeing him square up to Kane, so Kane simply picks him up and swats him out like a fly. Remember last year when Tazz debuted to that spine-tingling reaction at Madison Square Garden then choked out Kurt Angle? Yup.
Halfway through and Bradshaw joins the fray at #16 and he wipes out the Rock with a Clothesline from Hell. #17 is Albert and he gets to throw his weight around because it doesn’t matter in the WWF if you’re talented like Tazz, just if you’re big like Albert. #18 is Hardcore Holly who adds little, and would have been better suited to the hardcore stuff earlier. #19 is K-Kwik to almost no reaction. What’s up? In a cool, unplanned spot, Bradshaw powerbombs K-Kwik at exactly the same time as Kane powerslams Holly, and Val Venis comes in at #20.
William Regal is #21 and Test is #22, putting nine guys in the ring until Test eliminates future Un-American partner Regal just a few moments later. #23 is The Big Show in another surprise, as he had been banished to WWF feeder league Ohio Valley Wrestling in 2000 in an effort to get him to lose weight. The fact he came back fatter than ever was a source of much amusement, but he eliminates Test and K-Kwik in short order before delivering chokeslams to Albert, Bradshaw, Venis, Holly and Kane. The Rock avoids a chokeslam of his own with a kick to the goolies before putting Show out with a clothesline, so Show rips out the ringside monitors and gives Rock a chokeslam through the English announce table as Crash Holly hits the ring at #24. Everyone in the ring gangs up on Kane until The Undertaker comes to his little brother’s rescue at #25.
Kane adds Crash Holly and Albert to his hit list of eliminations as Undertaker dumps Bradshaw, Hardcore and Val, and Scotty 2 Hotty hits the ring at #26. JR calls him the “last chicken leg” and the Brothers of Destruction take turns dismantling him, dropping him with a double chokeslam before dumping him out. Are you watching this, Hardy Boyz? #27 is Steve Austin, but he gets battered from behind by Triple H before he can even hit the ring as Rock recovers from the chokeslam on the other side. #28 is ‘The One’ Billy Gunn who sprints past a bloody Austin, and #29 is reigning WCW Hardcore champion Meng, once again known as Haku in a big surprise that nobody saw coming, marking the last major talent jump between WCW and the WWF before Vince McMahon bought the entire promotion out just two months later. #30 is the formerly red-hot Rikishi, now rendered something close to worthless after his nonsensical “I did it for ‘da Rock… I did it… for ‘da people!” heel turn in late 2000, and he gets popped in the chops by a resurgent Austin.
Austin dumps Haku and Rikishi surprisingly puts Undertaker out with a superkick before Rock kicks his blubbery ass. Rikishi fires back and goes for a Banzai Drop but Rock belts him in the plums to put him out, leaving the Final Four: Rock, Austin, Kane and Gunn.
Austin hurls out Gunn seconds later to little surprise, then locks eyes with Rocky as a fistfight breaks out. Austin avoids a Rock Bottom and lands the Stunner before nailing Kane with a Thesz Press. Rock gets his second wind and lands a Rock Bottom on Austin and tries to eliminate him, as Lawler declares that he’s “been waiting years to see this, the Rock and the ‘Rattlesnake’!” I think that pretty much confirms that this is the show where the ‘King’ finally lost his marbles. Kane sneaks up from behind and throws the Rock out for his 11th elimination tonight, a record that stood until Roman Reigns went one better in 2014. Austin whams Kane with a Stunner, three chair shots and a clothesline to put him out and win his record-breaking third Rumble match. Very good Rumble, albeit with just a little bit too much deadwood to really be considered a classic, along with a very anti-climactic finish. Perhaps if the final four had been Austin, Rocky, Undertaker and Kane there may have been more intrigue, but good fun throughout nevertheless.
Final Rating: ***¾