TEN YEARS AFTER: WWE Royal Rumble 2008

WWE: Royal Rumble
January 27,2008
New York City, NY
Madison Square Garden

The current WWE champions are as follows:
WWE Champion: Randy Orton (10/7/2007)
WWE Intercontinental Champion: Jeff Hardy (9/3/2007)
World Tag Team Champions: Hardcore Holly & Cody Rhodes (12/10/2007)
WWE Women’s Champion: Beth Phoenix (10/7/2007)
ECW Champion: Chavo Guerrero (1/22/2008)
World Heavyweight Champion: Edge (12/16/2007)
WWE United States Champion: MVP (5/20/2007)
WWE Tag Team Champions: The Miz & John Morrison (11/16/2007)

Read along if you have the WWE Network!

Your hosts are Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole & Jonathan Coachman, and Joey Styles & Tazz. Since JBL has returned to wrestling, Coachman has taken his spot at the Smackdown announce table, marking this as the first WWE PPV without his mouth since the summer of 2006. This is also the first WWE PPV to air in high definition for those of you who care about this sort of trivia.

  • Ric Flair vs. MVP

This is during the phase where if Flair loses a match, he must retire. And of course on the other hand, MVP doesn’t want to turn down a chance to retire somebody like Ric Flair. Before the match, Flair gets on the mic and tells everyone what an honor it has been to wrestle in MSG. He’s probably been told to put over MSG as the best place in the world to wrestle like everyone else says, and he agrees – ALMOST. There’s no place in the world like North Carolina for you, my man. I gotta say, Flair has always been loyal to us Carolinians. He then recalls his MSG debut back in March 1976 – long before most of us were born. Before Flair can finish, MVP interrupts and starts his entrance because it’s BALLIN’ time. He’s got the Miami Hurricanes gear on tonight.

There’s mind games to start and MVP isn’t going to win that battle. MVP seeks the safety of the ropes to get out of a hammerlock, but then gets chopped. MVP comes back with a running boot to the side of the head and goes to work on Flair’s neck. Flair escapes and finds a chopblock to signal the Figure-Four, but MVP kicks him away. He looks for the shinbreaker, but settles for an atomic drop and goes for another Figure-Four when MVP counters to an inside cradle. MVP beats Flair down in a corner and backdrops him for the Helluva Kick. Flair Flop! Cover, 1-2-3! Nope, Flair got his foot on the bottom rope. While MVP complains, Flair rolls up MVP for 1-2-NO! MVP pops up and clotheslines Flair down. There’s a butterfly suplex by MVP for two. He then puts Flair up in the corner for a SUPERPLEX. Holy crap. There’s a man nearing 60 years old taking a superplex, ladies and gents. Cover, 1-2-NO! Flair slips off MVP’s shoulders, starts chopping, and tries for a quick pin, but can’t get the three-count. Flair continues to chop and starts strutting. MVP cuts him off with a facebuster and calls for the Playmaker, but Flair counters and applies the FIGURE-FOUR for the tapout. (7:49) I thought for sure this would go to a DQ or a countout, but Flair actually BEAT the US champ MVP in the middle of the ring. Good stuff for what it was. **

Backstage, Vince McMahon tries to drive a wedge between Hornswoggle and Finlay for the Rumble match.

Ross and Lawler pitch it over to the newest member of the broadcast team Mike Adamle of American Gladiators and XFL fame. He will quickly become a fan favorite meme throughout 2008 and I for one am excited that he’s finally here.

  • Chris Jericho vs. JBL

This feud has escalated a little too quickly for the heavy heat they have put on it. JBL has got a “come at me bro, I dare ya” look on his face while Jericho is ready to fight. Jericho wins a couple tie-up battles and JBL has yet to be phased. JBL finds a cheapshot and really lays in some blows. Jericho fires back with a potato of his own and a couple dozen more. They are working tight to put over the HD. There’s the WALLS OF JERICHO, but JBL is in the ropes and heads to the floor for a brawl. Back inside, JBL catches Jericho and drops him on the top rope – thus further injuring the larynx that JBL hurt with that TV cable a few weeks back. He hits a couple short-arm clotheslines to continue the hurting to the throat and neck. JBL finds a sleeperhold, but Jericho gets out of the hold and drills him with a desperate clothesline. JBL boots Jericho down and runs him into the ringpost to bust him open. Oh boy that was a good one. Back in the ring, JBL punches and kicks at the cut with blood running down his face and onto his chest. As the ref tries to keep JBL back, Jericho shoots up and starts his comeback. He flubs the running bulldog, but the WWE Network version edits it out. Anyways, Jericho brings the crowd back with the Lionsault. They tumble over the top rope for more brawling. As JBL rips apart the announce table, Jericho wallops him over the head with a chair for the weak DQ. (9:20) After the match, Jericho tries to strangle JBL with a cord, which presumably sets up a Bull-Rope Match. Well, that never happened because this feud never really had any heat despite their efforts and after having one more standard match together, both guys went in different directions. This match was okay, but it looked like they reigned themselves in a bit, probably not to overshadow the main events. **

In the back, Ashley tries to get in to see Maria, but she gets stonewalled by Santino Marella. Could Ashley be any more creepy about trying to recruit Maria for Playboy? We get it – you wanna see her naked. Santino then gives her the stink eye and tells her to go away.

WrestleMania XXIV – 63 DAYS AWAY. Wouldn’t nine weeks sound better? Like, whoa, it’s so close.

  • World Heavyweight Championship: Edge (c) (w/Vickie Guerrero, Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins) vs. Rey Mysterio

Vickie Guerrero gets wheeled down to ringside by her assistant Teddy Long. Rey wears a fancy helmet to the ring that looks ridiculous. Joey, do you like gladiator movies? Crowd is solidly behind Edge because as good as Rey is, he’s not exactly the freshest of characters right now. Big stand off to start. Edge grabs a wristlock and Rey tries to come back with a headscissors, but has trouble making it happen. The crowd is all over him for it and that’s a bit much. Back to it, Rey starts to frustrate Edge by keeping him on the mat with some quick moves. Rey then gets slid out to the floor, but Rey somersaults back to his feet. As he comes back to the ring, Edge baseball slides into Mysterio and sends him flying down the aisle. Ryder and Hawkins go over to Rey to mess with him, but ref Mickey Hinson sees it coming and sends them to the locker room. Rey shoots back into the ring and headscissors Edge into the ropes for the 619. Edge escapes to the floor, but gets wiped out with a pescado. Springboard seated senton back in gets two. Over in the corner, Edge launches Rey into the corner as he lands on the middle rope, but then Edge kicks him in the back of the knee and Mysterio crumbles to the mat. Edge’s game plan is clear now and the crowd is loving it. Rey enziguris Edge in the ropes for the 619 and hobbles over to him, but Edge cuts him off for a powerslam that gets two. Edge returns to the knee. When his knee gives out, Edge tries to take off the knee brace. Rey fights back with a wheelbarrow bulldog, but jars his knee on impact. Edge tries a sunset flip on a 5 foot tall man of all things, but Mysterio rolls through and Buzzsaw kicks Edge for two. Rey heads up top, knocks Edge back down, and delivers a FLYING DOUBLE STOMP for two. Yeah, that was dumb. Mysterio headscissors Edge through the ropes and then slides under the bottom rope to grab Edge for a swinging DDT on the floor. In the ring, Mysterio covers for 1-2-NO! Edge catches Rey with a big boot to slow down his momentum. The crowd is still not behind Mysterio even at this point. The SPEAR misses and it’s time for the 619. Rey hits the Flying Splash as “handi-capable” Vickie Guerrero gets out of her wheelchair and pulls out the ref to interrupt the three count. Of course Rey is pissed. Mysterio then LEAP FROGS the Spear from Edge and goes for another 619, but Vickie shields Edge from the death blow. Isn’t that adorable. Well, she’s done. Rey springboards back into the ring and Edge SPEARS him down in mid-air for the three-count. (12:35) Heck of a match considering both guys aren’t in the best of shape right now. ***¼

In the locker room, Mr. Kennedy waits for Ric Flair to get out of the shower so he can cut a promo on him. Shawn Michaels interrupts, as does Batista and Triple H. They make nice with each other, and then Shawn shills his t-shirt.

Maria comes out for HD Kiss Cam. As usual, it’s a cringy awkward mess. Ashley interrupts and asks Maria if she wants to pose for Playboy – again. Santino Marella breaks up the fun to answer “no” on Maria’s behalf. He makes fun of the New York sports teams. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s kryptonite the New York Giants are just a week away from winning Super Bowl 42. He tells them if they want to see boobies, he’ll introduce them to his friend under a black sheet. I was thinking it would be Mae Young, but it turns out to be Big Dick Johnson. Ashley beats the hell out of him with a rubber chicken. Yep, this is PRO ‘RASSLIN.

They have a WrestleMania XXIV commercial with Kelly Kelly doing the Baywatch gimmick ending with Mae Young giving a dude mouth to mouth. My wife died laughing at this. What a mark.

Next up, Mike Adamle makes sure to tell us he’s very excited for “Jeff Harvey”.

  • WWE Championship: Randy Orton (c) vs. Jeff Hardy

Much different reaction for this world title match as the crowd is more split than one-sided. Stiff tie-up to start. They trade headlocks and headscissors, but Jeff escapes and legdrops the balls. They go to the floor where Orton takes a bump into the barricade thanks to a dropkick through the ropes. Crazy! Hardy follows up with a pescado. When Orton wakes up, he grabs his WWE title and ponders heading to the locker room, but Hardy brings him back inside the ring only for Orton to dropkick away a springboard move. Awesome. A suplex on the floor gets two. Now we see the Garvin Stomp and a pair of knee drops for two. Hardy comes back and dumps out Orton for a flying clothesline off the apron. Back in, Jeff misses a corner charge and runs his shoulder into the post. Orton now applies a body vice and a chinlock to wear down Hardy. He eventually breaks loose and catches Orton with a Sling Blade. Now here comes Jeff Hardy. He hits Whisper in the Wind for 1-2-NO! There’s the mule kick and the dropkick down in the corner. He heads up top for the  Swanton Bomb, but Orton rolls to the apron. When he stands up, Jeff dropkicks him to the floor. To up the insanity, Hardy comes off the top rope with a MOONSAULT PRESS to the floor and wipes out Orton. Back inside the ring, Jeff goes for the Twist of Fate, but Orton reverses to the RKO OUTTA NOWHERE for the win. (14:06) Give it another five minutes and it’s probably a classic, but that finish while it looked PERFECT just killed the momentum dead. I don’t think people were as impressed as they were just let down it was over so quickly. ***¼

CUE THE YEARLY ROYAL RUMBLE PROMO VIDEO COMPLETE WITH STATISTICS.

  • The Rumble Match

Michael Buffer is your guest ring announcer. He should really be at every Royal Rumble now. The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels start this year’s Rumble match. It’s interesting because they were the final two in last year’s Rumble match. That should really become a thing as well. They go from corner to corner beating the hell out of each other – mostly with Shawn bumping around. Taker goes to punt HBK to the floor, but Shawn moves and Taker goes flying to the apron. HBK then charges into a goozle and Taker returns to the ring. Santino Marella has drawn #3 and eats SWEET CHIN MUSIC. Taker grabs Santino and throws him out. Shawn runs up behind Taker and tries to throw him out too, but Takes puts a stop to that. He tries Old School, but Shawn yanks him down. The Great Khali enters in at #4. Meanwhile, Taker puts Shawn down with a chokeslam so he and Khali can fight. Khali cuts off Taker with a Brain Chop and stomps him down in the corner. Crowd gives Khali a hard time saying he can’t wrestle. They wind up goozling each other, but then Taker ducks another Brain Chop and tips Khali over the top rope to the floor much to the delight of the crowd. Once again, Shawn tries to sneak up on Taker and fails. #5 is Hardcore Holly. He’s tougher than a $2 dollar steak, but nobody cares. He and Taker trade blows while Shawn licks his wounds in the corner. HBK sneaks up on Taker again and tries to toss him out, but he winds up on Taker’s shoulders. John Morrison enters the match at #6 and nearly gets tossed out by HBK in a matter of seconds. Shawn unwisely hits Morrison with the Flying Elbow, but Morrison stops Sweet Chin Music and lands a head kick. Tommy Dreamer comes down at #7 for an ECW chant. Taker doesn’t give a crap though and kicks Dreamer down to end his hot streak. We get back to Shawn and Taker working over each other. BATISTA comes out at #8. He runs wild on everybody but Taker as they stare each other down. Dreamer interrupts, but gets tossed by Bats. Morrison runs into a SPEAR by Batista. Hornswoggle has drawn #9. You’d think Vince could have got him a better spot, right? He crawls underneath the ring using the Jerry Lawler plan. While Bats and Taker continue to brawl, Holly and Morrison nearly get rid of HBK. #10 is Chuck Palumbo. No one cares.

A taped up Jamie Noble comes in at #11. He’s feuding with Palumbo over Michelle McCool. The crowd loves Noble here. He’s quickly kicked out of the ring by Palumbo.  CM Punk enters in at #12 and runs wild with knees in the corner. He tries a running bulldog on HBK, but Taker punches him down.  Looks like Shawn’s nose is busted open. Punk tosses Palumbo out to the apron and knees him down to the floor. #13 is Cody Rhodes. Talk turns as to whether or not Cody and Holly will work together. JR says no because Holly literally said he wouldn’t. Cody interacts Taker for the first time and he takes him down with a standing dropkick. Umaga enters in at #14. YES. He goes crazy on everybody but Taker and Bats. Holly gets grabbed and sent to the floor with a SAMOAN SPIKE. Snitsky comes out at #15. The commentators make a bunch of Snitsky jokes. Cody nearly gets Snitsky tossed out. The Miz has drawn #16. The crowd boos this guy on entry. He and Morrison go after Punk. Meanwhile, Taker is trying to eliminate Umaga. Shelton Benjamin comes out at #17. He does a running leap to the top rope, meets Miz and Morrison up there, and snaps their necks down onto the top rope. He delivers PAYDIRT to Punk, but then Shelton turns around into SWEET CHIN MUSIC from Shawn to send him to the floor. Well, that was awesome and then a huge letdown. #18 is a surprise as it’s WWE Hall of Famer JIMMY SUPERFLY SNUKA. Taker even sells for Snuka, which is pretty silly when you think about it. Right after Snuka, we get WWE Hall of Famer ROWDY RODDY PIPER at #19. He got a much bigger pop, too. He and Snuka have a brief exchange while everybody else stands back and watches. Kane enters in at #20. It’s about to get serious again. He immediately dumps out Piper and Snuka. As Taker sets up to goozle his brother, he spies Shawn out of the corner of his eye trying to sneak up on him again and goozles HBK instead.

#21 is Carlito who spits apple in Cody’s face. He then tries his springboard off the ropes into Morrison and Punk, but gets caught. He kicks off the ropes to avoid elimination and flips backwards. After Punk kicks down Morrison, Carlito gives Punk the BACKSTABBER. That was cool. PUN INTENDED. Out comes MICK FOLEY at #22. He unloads on anybody that will comes up to him. DOUBLE-ARM DDT to Kane! Meanwhile, Umaga drops Taker with a Samoan Drop. This ring is really starting to fill up now. Morrison lands the Flying Chuck on Foley. Mr. Kennedy comes out at #23 and the NYC crowd loves him. He hits Rhodes with the Running Facewash and starts giving out the MIC CHECK. Kennedy puts the boots to Taker and gets goozled for a Chokeslam. Big mistake, pal. Time for #24 as it’s Big Daddy V. Before BDV waddles down, Taker pushes Snitsky out of the ring. When he turns around, Shawn is there to drill him with SWEET CHIN MUSIC to send Taker to the floor! As they lock eyes, Kennedy comes up behind Shawn and throws him out as well at Taker’s feet.  UT takes out his frustration on Snitsky by giving him a legdrop down the announce tables. Kennedy and Cody have an interesting back and forth as they end up on the apron, but make it back in the ring. #25 is Mark Henry. Hornswoggle sneaks out and pulls the Miz down to the floor to eliminate him. Next thing Miz knows, Hornswoggle is back under the ring. The new ECW world champ Chavo Guerrero comes out at #26. Punk goes right after him as they trade some nasty punches. Elsewhere in the ring, Kane boots John Morrison out of the ring to the floor. We see Horny sneak out from under the ring again. He gets pulled up to the apron and into the ring by Mark Henry. He and Big Daddy V grab him until here comes Finlay to work them over with the shillelagh. Once Finlay saves the day, he takes Hornswoggle to the locker room. Ross announces that #27 Finlay has been DQ’ed for jumping the gun and using the shillelagh. Elijah Burke comes out at #28. No one cares. Punk gets eliminated by Chavo though. Bats takes a SAMOAN SPIKE and rolls out to the floor. Triple H is your #29 entrant. He throws out Cody Rhodes and Big Daddy V. Triple H and Mick Foley trade blows. HHH tosses Foley into Burke and they both go flying over the top rope. He runs Umaga into the ringpost TWICE and delivers the PEDIGREE. And #30 is the returning JOHN CENA. YES. Triple H is PISSED. He runs wild on everybody – tossing out Carlito, Chavo, and Mark Henry. Now we get a stand-off between John Cena and Triple H with the WrestleMania 24 sign in the background. They trade shots, but Cena runs into the AA Spinebuster. Umaga shuts down Triple H with an uppercut. Here comes the Samoan Spike, but Batista saves his Evolution brother by taking out Umaga with a SPEAR. Bats then clotheslines Kennedy out followed by Umaga.

FINAL FOUR: Batista, Kane, Triple H, and John Cena. Kane grabs Triple H and Batista by the throat, but they overpower him and toss him out. We’re down to three and my palms are SWEATY. There’s a big stand off here. Once they all wiggle the stick and do their taunts at each other, it’s time to FIGHT. Bats winds up being in control despite being in the match the longest. He’s got Spinebusters for both guys. Cena backdrops away the Demon Bomb and once Bats is back up to his feet, Triple H clotheslines him out of the ring. We get another staredown. This is awesome. We get the “BOO! YAY!” punches. Cena finds the Protobomb and hits the Five Knuckle Shuffle. They attempt their finishers, but wind up clotheslining each other. Triple H charges Cena and runs into a boot. Cena then hoists Triple H up on his shoulders trying to toss him out, but Triple H gets away from him and drops Cena with a DDT. After Triple H struggles to get Cena over the top rope, they try their finishers again only for Cena to FU Triple H out to the floor for the win. (51:30) At the time, everyone was saying this was going to be a predictable Rumble with Triple H winning, and no one seemed to predict Cena returning. There were a number of slow spots and outside of a few questionable eliminations, this picked up quite nicely at the end and gave everyone a heck of a surprise in John Cena. One of the better Rumble matches in years. ****

Final Thoughts: I’m not sure anything could have lived up to the hype coming into this show. It felt like they were trying to recreate the model of the Royal Rumble 2000 that everyone remembers so well. They are in MSG, they have the heel champs killing off any feel-good stories, they tease us with boobies and then swerve us with a joke, and then they have the biggest star in the company win the Rumble. The atmosphere and the booking though made this an easy watch even if it couldn’t live up to the hype. Thumbs up for the Royal Rumble 2008.

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