Royal Rumble 2003

Royal Rumble Match
We already know the first two competitors thanks to shenanigans on RAW, with Shawn Michaels – making his first appearance in the match since he won it in 1996in at #1 (the spot he also won the match from in 1995), and Chris Jericho #2. The pair of them have a tantalising situation developing, and will ultimately collide at WrestleMania XIX in a classic encounter. Jericho brings shenanigans immediately, with Christian turning up in the aisle masquerading as Jericho, allowing the real Y2J to jump Michaels from behind with a low blow and then go to town. Jericho brings a chair into play and smashes Michaels in the face, causing a referee to jump into the ring and intervene. Shawn is busted open as a result. #3 is Chris Nowinski, who is smart (it’s even his gimmick) and waits it out on the outside while Jericho continues to batter Shawn. Without having hit a single move, Michaels is casually dumped out by Jericho. That’s a mite disappointing, but it makes sense in the storyline. Rey Mysterio is #4, and he comes in a house of fire. He gets a little over-exuberant for the botch-happy Jericho, who appears to have countered Rey with a powerbomb, only for Rey to pop up and Jericho to sell it. I have no idea what they were going for there, but it was a mess. For the record, Nowinski still hasn’t made it to the ring. He finally does as #5 Edge enters the fray, though his appearance means less here than it would a few years later when he became a genuine main event star. Nowinski and Jericho both go out through the ropes, leaving the stage for tag partners Edge and Mysterio to collide. There is a spot like this in every Rumble, where best friends and tag partners fight to get over the already firmly entrenched “every man for himself” aspect of the bout. Edge knows Rey well so he is able to counter the 619, then a Mysterio rana over the ropes seems to eliminate him, but apparently only one foot hit the floor. I can’t say I am convinced. Far more than ninety seconds elapse before

#6 Christian makes his entrance, bedecked in a jobber-like singlet. He immediately tries to befriend his occasional “brother” Edge, who sees right through it and wipes him out with a spear. Meanwhile, Nowinski has recovered and tries to eliminate both Edge and Mysterio, but he gets no joy. Yeah, as if a scrub like him was ever going to be responsible for ousting someone who is over. Chavo Guerrero heads out at #7, and oddly goes right into a lucha sequence with Rey. Not the place or the time. We finally get another elimination when Rey gets rid of Nowinski, but he soon follows thanks to Jericho. I suspect Y2J is getting the iron man treatment this year. #8 is Tajiri, who is about as over as Dawn Marie was earlier. He does a wacky bow and arrow airplane spin to Chavo which has JR baffled. Other than a few kicks, that’s about it for his exciting spots. #9 is Bill DeMott, who has no exciting spots at all. He opts for pounding, because he has little else to offer. #10 is Tommy Dreamer, who brings a trashcan full of weapons to the ring. He goes to town on everyone with a kendo stick, destroying Jericho with a shot to the face. Edge joins in the fun and he combines with Dreamer to beat DeMott out of the ring. Thanks for coming. Dreamer lasts around a minute before Jericho and Christian hurl him out. Tajiri’s time is obviously short too because he hits his two other well-known spots, the handspring back elbow and the Tarantula, then sure enough he gets dumped.

#11 is the hilariously shit B-2, who gets thrown out by Edge almost immediately. Chavo follows right afterwards courtesy of an Edge spear. He is on fire. Edge tries to dump Jericho, but he does the Shawn Michaels skin the cat deal from 1995’s match, then throws out both Edge and his buddy Christian to be left alone in the ring. The camera zooms in on Jericho’s face as he waits for #12 Rob Van Dam, which is bloody and welted up from Dreamer’s reckless kendo stick shot. RVD is popular of course, though I suspect his wild kicks and flailing offence are the last thing Jericho wants to face given he is already busted up. RVD nearly eliminates him with a slingshot, but Jericho holds on. #13 is Matt Hardy, version 1.0, enjoying the best singles run of his WWE character thanks to his zany gimmick. This Rumble has shown what a great midcard WWE has at its disposal, though it is screaming out for a few entrants who could realistically win the thing. #14 is Eddie Guerrero, who makes a beeline for RVD. Maybe it’s a frog splash thing. Eddie is looking focused and intense, though Van Dam nearly eliminates him right away. Matt Hardy saves him so that Eddie can hit a frog splash on RVD, then he hits him with a Twist of Fate anyway.

#15 is Jeff Hardy as we reach the halfway point, and Matt wants a truce with his estranged brother. Jeff is not so willing and gives him a kicking, and Matt is only saved from elimination by his “follower” Shannon Moore. Moore is involved again when Jeff goes for a Swanton, throwing himself in the way and lying on Matt to protect him. It doesn’t really work, because Jeff hits the move anyway. #16 is Rosey from Three Minute Warning. Swell. He trades kicks with RVD and wins with a spinning kick to the face. #17 is Test. Pardon me for not jumping up and down with excitement. Test is evidently getting yet another ultimately futile push, and he takes out everybody. Chris Jericho is still in there by the way, though he hasn’t done much for a while other than lie in the corner. I suspect his face is stinging like a mother. #18 is heel John Cena, who comes out rapping. He looks identical to how he looks as I write this in 2015. It’s remarkable. “My style’s like a swollen penis, you can’t beat me.” By the time he gets in the ring, it is time for #19 Charlie Haas. Cena, for the record, is wrestling in jeans. Not jorts, but jeans. He looks ridiculous. Meanwhile, Jeff Hardy displays his peanut-sized brain by trying to run up the ropes, in a packed Rumble match, and gets shoved out of the ring by RVD. Good. Idiocy should be punished. #20 is Rikishi, who JR points out has been in eight Rumble matches, more than anybody at this point. He gets kick-happy on a few guys, then has a stare down with his cousin Rosey. They go at it, with a clothesline sending Rikishi inside out.

#21 is Jamal from Three Minute Warning, perhaps better known in future as Umaga. He and Rikishi are brothers, though not in kayfabe land. He runs in and hits a superkick on Kish, then takes a Stinkface soon afterwards in response. Rubbing your ass in your brother’s face for entertainment. Only in wrestling. #22 is Kane, who loves Rumbles. The ring is absolutely chocker block, with eleven guys in there. Kane takes care of that by ousting Rosey. Jericho nearly follows, but he does another Michaels-esque near miss. These Michaels tributes are intentional by the way, all serving to build towards Jericho’s WrestleMania match with Shawn. #23 is Shelton Benjamin, yet another midcarder. Literally nothing happens for ninety seconds before #24 Booker T makes his way into the match. He walks right into a Kane goozle, but escapes and hits an axe kick. Booker somehow has time for a Royal Rumble Spinneroonie, which he follows by eliminating Eddie Guerrero. Disappointing showing from Eddie tonight. He did practically nothing, yet he was in there for a good fifteen minutes. The ring is still heaving when #25 A-Train comes in. He hits a few moves then blends into the pack. Shawn Michaels decides now is the time to run to the ring and take out Chris Jericho as retribution for earlier, and his involvement causes Jericho to be eliminated by Test. Test? Test! What are they playing at?

Michaels and Jericho brawl as #26 Maven enters the match. Nobody cares. He does absolutely nothing before becoming one of the crowd. There are so many guys in there that nobody has any space to do anything interesting. It is just tired brawling by the ropes. #27 is Goldust, who is reasonably over. He hits Maven with Shattered Dreams, a kick to the balls, but Maven sells his thigh. What a goof. Goldust doesn’t even make it to the next entrant thanks to Team Angle. Booker T suffers the same fate. #28 is Batista, who is a good candidate to clear the ring. He is making his Rumble debut here, and would go on to win the match twice, neither of which went well for different reasons. He avoids a Test boot, which sends Test flying over the ropes. Batista is all raw power, and demonstrates that by clotheslining Rikishi out of the ring. #29 is Brock Lesnar, and finally business is about to pick up. Team Angle combine to try and eliminate him, but Brock sees that coming and eliminates them both, then F-5’s Matt Hardy out of the ring on top of them. The final entrant at #30 is The Undertaker, sadly in his naff UnderBiker gimmick.

Undertaker dumps Cena and Jamal in short order, then in a cute spot, Maven dropkicks him from behind looking for a repeat of the shock elimination he scored over Taker last year. This time it is not so successful. Taker survives, then chokeslams Maven before dumping him. Quite remarkably, as I write this in 2015, all of the final six had been involved with WWE in some form or another within the previous year. Not that WWE in 2015 was stale and unable to make new stars or anything! A-Train is next to go courtesy of tag partners RVD and Kane. Van Dam forgets that it is every man for himself and trusts Kane to press slam him onto Batista. Only Kane doesn’t, he throws him out of the ring instead.

Final Four: Undertaker, Kane, Brock Lesnar and Batista. Kane will never win a Rumble, he is destined to always impress during them then get chucked at the last. Batista is too raw, which leaves us with Undertaker and Lesnar. Considering how Lesnar has been booked to overcome the odds by defeating Big Show earlier in the night, he is of course a lock for the win. Everybody knows it, despite Undertaker’s best efforts to make it look like he has it in the bag. It nearly goes wrong mind, when Lesnar hurls Taker out and gets too excited, and has to pull Taker back in at the last minute to stop him from going over the top. Taker recovers from that scare and drills Lesnar with a Tombstone, then clotheslines Batista out of the ring. The Brothers of Destruction appear to team up, only for Taker to immediately turn on Kane and dump him. Batista runs in with a chair to wipe out Taker, who sees it coming and blocks his advances with a big boot, then smashes poor Dave with the chair for good measure. The distraction is enough for Lesnar to throw Taker out and win the match, which is a weak ass ending. Lesnar shouldn’t need assistance to win matches. Post match, Undertaker gives Lesnar his approval, and asks him for a title shot if he wins the belt at WrestleMania. Decent enough in places, but the ring was far too crowded a lot of the time, and the lack of genuine potential winners hampered it somewhat. The right guy went over though, no doubt about that.
Final Rating: **¾


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