The 2005 Royal Rumble event came at a time when WWE was really moving forward in terms of pushing new talent. The three main guys at the center of it were Raw’s Randy Orton and Batista as well as Smackdown’s John Cena. Brock Lesnar was too, but he left WWE a year earlier. Orton was the first of the three men to get a massive push when he became the World Heavyweight Champion at just 24 years of age at SummerSlam 2004. The push for Cena saw him feuding for the United States Championship for most of 2004 and it was obvious that big things were going to happen for him in 2005. Batista’s push was slower than the other two, but everything was building to the Royal Rumble.
Here’s the creative commercial WWE aired leading up to the Royal Rumble.
This review was originally written in April 2018. There are updated thoughts in blue font as well.
This show was used to set up WrestleMania 21 (read my review here).
WWE Royal Rumble
Save Mart Center in Fresno, California
January 30, 2005
The opening video showed some highlights of past Royal Rumble matches. It was a weak video compared to what WWE usually does.
The pyro went off in the arena and the crowd was excited. The announce team of Michael Cole and Tazz of Smackdown welcomed us to the show from their seats at ringside. The Spanish announce team was at ringside as well. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler (the Raw announce team) were seated by the entrance.
Edge made his entrance. He was in full heel mode after turning a few months earlier due to his constant complaints about things being unfair. Shawn Michaels was his opponent and the Heartbreak Kid got a huge ovation from the crowd like usual. JR noted that Michaels won the 1996 Royal Rumble in Fresno.
Edge vs. Shawn Michaels
Pre-match notes: Edge was the heel and Michaels was the face. This rivalry was built up over several months leading to this match.
Edge tried a cheap attack early, but Michaels punched him and Michaels hit a clothesline that sent Edge over the top to the floor. They brawled quite a bit, Michaels tossed Edge over the top to the floor and when Michaels chased Edge on the floor, Edge hit him with Edge’s neckbreaker-like move on the floor. Edge with a baseball slide dropkick that kept Michaels down. Edge with a hard whip into the turnbuckle that knocked down Michaels. Edge nailed a modified Powerbomb for a two count. Edge slapped on a chinlock. This chinlock lasted a few minutes, so shoutout to the fan with the “Macho We Need You” sign because Randy Savage rules. When Michaels broke free, Edge pulled him by the hair and then did a Michaels-like flex pose, which drew good heat. Edge up top and he missed a cross body block, so Michaels got a two count. Edge with a kick to the face for two. Michaels countered a suplex attempt into a two count, which was followed by Edge hitting a clothesline. Edge slapped on another chinlock. Michaels came back with two atomic drops, a back elbow, a chop and a sunset flip got a two count. Michaels with a catapult that sent Edge into the ring post for another two count. Edge left the ring, Michaels went after him, the ref tried to get them back in the ring, Michaels was distracted by that and Edge hit a Spear while outside the ring. Good spot to give Edge control of the match again. Michaels rolled back in before the ten count.
Edge hit another Spear and only got a two count as Michaels got his shoulder up. Edge grabbed his hair because he couldn’t believe Michaels kicked out. They battled on the turnbuckle with Michaels hitting a headbutt to knock Edge down. Michaels up top and he hit an elbow off the top that barely connected, but they both sold it like a big deal. Michaels set up a superkick as the crowd was excited about it, but Edge avoided it and hit an Electric Chair Drop for a two count. That was well done. Edge slapped on the Edgecution submission on Michaels. The hold was on for about one minute when Michaels was finally able to crawl to grab the bottom rope. Edge was beating from the mouth. Michaels with an inside cradle for two. Michaels with a rollup, Edge rolled through, he sat on top and Edge had his hands on the middle ropes, which the referee didn’t see. The ref counted the pin to give Edge the win. It went 18:32.
Winner by pinfall: Edge
Analysis: ***1/2 A very good match as you would expect from wrestlers of this caliber. I think Michaels is the greatest in-ring performer in WWE history and Edge is one of the best that was nearly hitting his prime. If they shaved off about five minutes it might have been better and there were too many rest holds that made it feel boring in the first half. I know they do those holds to build to comebacks, but it felt like too much. The last few minutes were great. I also think the right guy went over because Edge was the younger guy that could have used the win more, so putting him over was the right call even with a cheap victory because it fit Edge’s character at the time.
(It was a big win for Edge, who they were really starting to push around this time. He won the first ever Money in the Bank ladder match at WrestleMania 21 a few months after this. You could argue that beating Michaels at this point was the biggest win of Edge’s career even though there wasn’t the title on the line. It was really about making him looking he can compete with the best.)
The Raw GM Eric Bischoff and Smackdown GM Teddy Long were in the office with the lovely Torrie Wilson and Christy Hemme on hand. The tumbler was there with the balls that had the numbers in them. Ric Flair and Eddie Guerrero walked out. Flair liked his number. Guerrero didn’t like his number. Guerrero gave him a hug and left. Flair held up his number to the people in the room. Long told him to take a look and Flair was mad about it. Flair yelled about Guerrero stealing his number.
Analysis: Classic Eddie Guerrero lying, cheating and stealing.
There was a shot of Jon Heidenreich backstage talking about how he hates caskets. Gene Snitsky walked up to him saying he knows Heidenreich hates caskets and he doesn’t like them either. Snitsky said he liked Jon and Jon said he likes Gene, but he likes caskets. Snitsky said he had an idea and Jon said that sounds good.
Analysis: Riveting dialogue here. Not exactly. They were two big guys with crazy guy gimmicks and they were on different brands.
The video package aired to set up The Undertaker vs. Jon Heidenreich in a Casket Match from the Smackdown brand. The story is that Undertaker beat him once (Survivor Series), but Heidenreich cost Undertaker the WWE Title twice (No Mercy and Armageddon), so they had to settle their differences in the Casket Match. Heidenreich repeatedly said that he didn’t like caskets while Undertaker told him he will rest in peace.
The druids brought out a brown casket and placed it beside the ring.
Heidenreich made his entrance. His theme song featured him saying his name repeatedly. Paul Heyman was his manager for a few months, but that didn’t last that long.
The Undertaker made his classic slow walk entrance. Heidenreich had a scared look on his face because he was scared of the casket, which is a gimmick WWE had done in the past for casket matches namely with Kamala in the early 1990s.
Analysis: I am not looking forward to this. Heidenreich is one of the worst in-ring performers from this era.
Casket Match: The Undertaker vs. Jon Heidenreich
Pre-match notes: The Undertaker was the face of course and Heidenreich was the heel. The way to win this match is by putting your opponent in the casket and shutting the lid.
The Undertaker was in control early with a shoulder tackle followed by a hip toss. Heidenreich kept on making his goofy faces looking scared of the casket. Undertaker slapped on a half crab submission, Heidenreich crawled to the ropes and tried to leave. Heidenreich whipped Undertaker back first into the casket with Cole saying the casket must weigh 500 pounds at least. Announcers would never lie to us. I’m being sarcastic, my friends. They went back in the ring with Heidenreich stomping away on Taker. Heidenreich talked trash, so Taker tried slapping on a triangle choke while he was against the ropes. Taker took Heidenreich down with the triangle choke. Snitsky went into the ring and stomped away on Taker followed by a clothesline. Cole was ranting about it while Tazz pointed out the ref couldn’t do anything about it because there are no rules in a Casket match. Double team suplex. Snitsky dropped elbows on Taker with Cole freaking out about it. The casket opened and Kane was in the casket. Kane was the rival of Snitsky at this point, so the crowd was going crazy for Kane showing up. Kane kicked Heidenreich out of the ring. Kane with a clothesline that sent Snitsky over the top. Kane punched Snitsky and knocked him over the barricade, so they went fighting through the crowd.
Back to the match, Heidenreich pushed the match up the aisle. Taker sent Heidenreich face first into the casket. Heidenreich came back by whipping Taker knee first into the steel steps. Heidenreich pulled off the protective mat off the floor to expose the concrete. Heidenreich rolled the casket into Undertaker by the apron, but you could see Taker was under the ring and didn’t get touched. Taker sold it anyway. Heidenreich slapped on a submission that looked awful. He had trouble putting it on. Heidenreich put Taker in the casket, he tried to shut the lid, but Taker came back with punches. Taker with a leg drop on the back of Heidenreich while part of Heidenreich’s upper body was under the top of the casket. Ouch. Heidenreich came back with a spinning slam. Heidenreich covered him for a pinfall, but the ref told him you couldn’t cover in this match. I guess that fit his gimmick of being an idiot unless he really was an idiot. You decide. Taker fought out of the casket again. They exchanged punches again and Taker hit a DDT that Heidenreich didn’t sell well at all. Taker hit a Chokeslam. The crowd was cheering a lot. Heidenreich jumped right into the Tombstone and Taker connected with it. The refs opened the casket, Taker kicked Heidenreich into it and shut the lid to win at 13:20.
Winner: The Undertaker
Losers: Anybody that paid money to watch a Heidenreich match.
Analysis: * Boring match where it was obvious that The Undertaker was going to win. It felt like it was 25 minutes instead of 13 minutes. The leg drop spot on the casket was good. The other good part was the pop for Kane’s surprise appearance because that drew a big pop. Heidenreich acting scared of the casket was so cheesy. He just comes off as a goofy character rather than somebody that is supposed to be intimidating. There’s no such thing as a good Heidenreich match.
(This sucked. I’m sure The Undertaker hated it too whether he wants to admit it publicly or not. Heidenreich was not a very good wrestler or character.)
Eddie Guerrero and Teddy Long were backstage with Long telling Eddie that he knows he got Ric Flair’s number. Flair showed up with Triple H and Batista. Eddie gave back the number. Eddie also gave back Flair’s wallet. Long said sorry about the confusion. Triple H said this is Evolution’s night. Batista said he wanted to get his number in the Rumble and he’ll be right back. Triple H ordered him to stay there to talk strategy. Flair calmed them down saying it’s all about Evolution. Hunter and Batista shook hands.
Analysis: The tension between Triple H and Batista continued to build.
(The slow build of that feud was awesome. It worked perfectly to turn Batista into a face.)
Christian and Tomko were in the office with Eric Bischoff. Teddy Long said he took care of the Guerrero situation. Christian told Long he signed a petition to get him off Smackdown. Christian got his number from the tumbler. John Cena showed up, which drew a big ovation. Christian said freestyle rapping isn’t even that hard and said he could beat Cena. Christian: “Tomko, give me a beat.” Tomko: “No.” That drew laughs. Christian: “My name is Christian, the king of crunk, I’m taking you to school Cena and you’re gonna flunk. I’m Captain Charisma, read ‘em and weeps, I’m gonna throw them out for all my peeps. Just like Dracula comes from Transylvania, I’m winning the Rumble and going to WrestleMania.” Cena fired back with a rap on Christian with several gay jokes where he ended it saying that Christian can pick his number since he likes playing with balls.
Analysis: The part where Christian asked Tomko to give him a beat and Tomko said no is one of those moments I’ll always remember just because of how funny it was in a cheesy way.
(Goofy Christian was one of my favorites in WWE during this period. I’m not surprised when he left for TNA for three years because WWE was reluctant to give him a bigger push. When he came back, he did get a bigger push.)
The WWE Championship triple threat match was up next. No video package for the Smackdown guys.
Kurt Angle was up first with the crowd booing him and chanting “you suck” for his entrance like usual. Big Show walked out with a bandage on his forehead. JBL was up last making his entrance in the white limo. JBL was selling from a Last Man Standing match with Angle earlier that week on Smackdown. Tazz put over JBL big time and
Analysis: The last PPV was Armageddon with JBL surviving against Eddie Guerrero, The Undertaker and Booker T, so they went from a 4-Way to a triple threat.
WWE Championship: John Bradshaw Layfield vs. Big Show vs. Kurt Angle
Pre-show notes: JBL was the heel WWE Champion that won the title seven months earlier. Angle was a heel and Big Show was a face. First pinfall or submission wins the match. No countouts or disqualifications in a triple threat match.
Show with a shoulder tackle and a headbutt on JBL while Angle started the match on the floor watching the action with Show hitting a big chop to the chest. Show with a body slam followed by a leg drop as Angle went back in to break up the pin. Show whipped Angle hard into the turnbuckle. Show hit a suplex on JBL followed by a boot to the face of Angle. Show with a double clothesline that sent JBL and Angle over the top to the floor. Show sent JBL into the ring post and knocked Angle down again. Show cleared off the announce table. Show set up the ring steps beside the table. Angle got back into it with a low blow on Show. Angle hit Show in the head with a television monitor, Show looked back and bumped through the announce table. That took Show out of the match temporarily. Back in the ring, Angle took down JBL with an armdrag. Angle avoided a kick by JBL and slapped on an armbar on the left arm. JBL with a corner clothesline, Angle avoided a corner attack and Angle hit a German Suplex. JBL broke free, went for the clothesline, Angle ducked it and Angle hit another German Suplex. JBL got back up with a boot to the face and elbow drop for two. Big Show got back in the ring with a double clothesline for both guys followed by clotheslines. Show with a body slam on JBL and a body slam on Angle. Show with a corner splash on both guys followed by a double clothesline. Show tried a double Chokeslam, but the heels got free, angle clipped the back of Show’s leg and JBL hit a clothesline. Angle with a German Suplex on JBL and covered Show for two. Angle with an Angle Slam on Show. JBL kicked Angle out of the ring and JBL covered Show for two. Show nailed a Chokeslam and covered with JBL getting his foot on the bottom rope to break the count. That meant that all three guys hit their finishers leading to two counts.
JBL left the ring, Show charged at him and they broke through the barricade at ringside. Angle had a chair in the ring. Angle hit Show in the ribs with it and Show avoided it leading to Show hitting a slam where Angle sold it like he landed face first on the chair. The Bashams went to ringside to check on JBL. When the ref counted the pin, Mark Jindrak pulled the ref out of the ring since Jindrak was Angle’s protégé. Luther Reigns, who was another Angle ally, also showed up at ringside and he dumped Show over the top. Show managed to punch Jindrak and Reigns all the way to the back. Orlando Jordan rolled JBL back in the ring. Angle got back to his feet and JBL hit a Clothesline From Hell for the pinfall win at 12:04.
Winner by pinfall: John Bradshaw Layfield
Analysis: *** A good match with Show looking dominant for most of the match and JBL finding a way to retain the title like he did so many times during his long title reign. They set up the big spots well like Show going through the table and Show tackling JBL through the barricade, which was not done that often in that era. The good thing about a triple threat is it was full of action and there weren’t the rest holds that would normally make a Show or JBL match go too slow. The next PPV was No Way Out and JBL vs. Big Show was the main event, so that’s why Angle took pin the instead of Show.
(It was obvious at this point that they were going to have Cena challenge JBL for the WWE Title on the Smackdown brand since JBL was a long term heel champion while Cena was a face on the rise. They certainly could have gone with Angle instead, but there was another plan for Angle and I thought the plan was great as we would see in the Rumble match.)
JBL celebrated with the WWE Title with Jordan and the Basham Brothers by his side. Big Show was standing in the ring looking upset about what happened.
Batista was shown walking backstage. Carlito wanted him to sign the petition to remove Teddy Long as the GM of Smackdown. Carlito teased spitting the apple in his face. Batista threatened him and that ended it.
Batista walked into the room with the tumbler to pick his number in the Rumble match. Bischoff and Long were arguing. Bischoff said that Evolution is banned from ringside in the Triple H and Orton match for the World Heavyweight Championship. Batista said he’ll tell Triple H and Long said for once, Bischoff has done something right.
Analysis: They were really pushing Batista a lot in the backstage segments. It was foreshadowing of what was to come.
A video package aired to set up Triple H defending the World Heavyweight Championship against Randy Orton. They were from the Raw brand. The video showed Orton demanding a rematch for the World Heavyweight Championship, that led to Orton facing Batista and Orton beat Batista with a ROLLUP OF DEATH~! after sending Batista into Triple H, who was on the apron. The video also showed what happened the night after SummerSlam in August 2004 (I was at that Raw when Evolution attacked Orton to turn him face) leading up to this big match.
Analysis: These two wrestled a lot, so this was the end of their rivalry at least at this point. They had other feuds in the years to come in 2007 and 2009.
Randy Orton made his entrance to his “hey nothing you can say” song. Orton was 24 years old at the time. He got a decent reaction, but not that loud.
Triple H walked out alone with the World Heavyweight Championship around his waist with no Ric Flair by his side because Evolution was banned from ringside. JR noted that Triple H’s life revolved around being the World Heavyweight Champion.
World Heavyweight Championship: Triple H vs. Randy Orton
Pre-match notes: Triple H was the heel World Heavyweight Champion and Orton was the face challenger. This was one of their 1,417 matches in the 2000s. I may be exaggerating that number.
(Was I exaggerating? It felt like that many matches.)
Hunter held the title in the air in Orton’s face, so Orton slapped him and the match began. Orton with a back body drop. Orton wanted the RKO, but Triple H shoved him away and bailed to the floor like the heel that he is. Orton went after Hunter on the floor. They went back in the ring with Orton getting in some punches, Triple H fought back with punches and Orton sent him face first into the turnbuckle. Orton went for a RKO, so Hunter picked him up and sent him over the top to the floor. That was a cool spot. Hunter whipped Orton into the steel steps and went back into the ring where he mocked the Orton “arms in the air” pose. Back in the ring, Hunter with punches, Orton came back with a kick and punches, but Hunter slowed him down with a forearm to the back of the left knee. Hunter wrapped Orton’s left leg around the ring post. Hunter worked on the left knee by slamming it into the match, elbowing it, wrenching it and doing the regular offense wrestlers do against a knee. Orton managed a surprising inside cradle, so Hunter kicked the knee and slapped on the Figure Four Leglock submission. Orton sold it well, but eventually Orton turned it after about two minutes of being in the hold. Hunter sent Orton’s leg into the side of the apron a few times and Orton managed to kick Hunter away to send him over the Spanish announce table. Orton hit a modified backbreaker. Orton connected with two neckbreakers for two counts each time. Kick by Hunter and Orton managed to hit a powerslam for a two count. Hunter hit an inverted atomic drop to slow down Orton’s offense. Orton came back with a cross body block for a two count. Hunter nailed a facebuster into the knee, he wanted a Pedigree, but Orton countered and hit a catapult that sent Hunter into the turnbuckle. Hunter sent Orton into the turnbuckle and hit a running high knee to the face for a two count. Orton was bleeding from the mouth after taking that knee.
Triple H set up for a Pedigree, but Orton slipped out of it and hit a clothesline for two. Hunter left the ring briefly, so Orton threw him into the steel steps and Hunter crawled back into the ring. Orton worked him over with punches. Orton wanted a DDT, but Hunter grabbed onto the ropes, so Orton went down. Orton went to the floor with a glazed look in his eyes with JR wondering if Orton had a concussion. The ref Earl Hebner checked on Orton and told him to get into the ring. Hebner checked on Orton, so Hunter punched Orton leading to Orton smashing into Hebner against the turnbuckle. Hunter kicked Orton out of the ring. Hunter found his trusty sledgehammer under the ring. Hunter tried an attack with the sledgehammer, but Orton whipped Hunter into the ring post leading to Hunter selling it like a big deal. Orton was stumbling around like a guy that was knocked out. Orton grabbed the sledgehammer, but Hunter nailed a stiff clothesline and Orton still had the glazed look on his face with JR being really concerned about it. The ref got back up, so Hunter threw the sledgehammer out of the ring. Hunter picked up Orton and hit a Pedigree. Hunter covered for the pinfall win at 21:28.
Winner by pinfall: Triple H
Analysis: *** It was a solid match the cheap ending where they did the ref bump to go along with Orton selling the concussion story. The moment when Orton missed that DDT was when he started selling the concussion, so that was the turning point of the match. The match was slow early on, but the pace picked up and had a controversial finish as you would expect with Triple H defending the title. I thought the match went too long, which is consistent with a lot of their matches. The crowd wasn’t into it that much early and then they were more invested as the match went on. It was noticeable that Orton was selling the knee well when Hunter worked on it, but then he stopped selling it as if it wasn’t a part of the match. Hunter winning was no surprise because it was clear the direction was Hunter vs. Batista at WrestleMania.
(I think a lot of Triple H vs. Orton matches were good, but I don’t really remember any of them being great. Even when they headlined WrestleMania in 2009, it didn’t feel like a great match. Anyway, Hunter winning here was the obvious result. Orton did a nice job of selling the concussion angle in this match.)
Hunter left with the World Heavyweight Title. As for Orton, he was still knocked out in the ring with the ref checking on him.
Analysis: This was near the end of Orton’s face run that was largely unsuccessful since WWE gave up on it after about six months. Orton turned heel leading into WrestleMania 21 against The Undertaker.
Nunzio was shown walking with a plastic ball with his number for the Royal Rumble. Kurt Angle showed up, grabbed the ball and stole the number from him. Angle asked if he wanted to fight for it, so Nunzio just left.
It was back to the office of Bischoff and Long. JBL showed up with Orlando Jordan, Doug Basham, Danny Basham and Amy Weber in a celebratory mood after his win. JBL put over Bischoff for being a good GM. Long wanted to tell JBL about his next WWE Title match. Long mentioned No Way Out and JBL said he wanted to talk about it tomorrow. Long told JBL at No Way Out he’ll face the man he did not pin…Big Show. JBL said he’s going to beat Big Show and claimed he was the greatest ever. Long said that JBL vs. Show will be a Barb Wire Steel Cage match. JBL was shocked by it as the scene ended.
(You can check out my No Way Out 2005 recap RIGHT HEREif you want to know what happened. Obviously, it was a win for JBL in what just a decent match.)
It’s time for the Royal Rumble match with Raw’s Jim Ross working with Smackdown’s Tazz to call the match.
30-Man Royal Rumble Match
Howard Finkel went over the rules for the match. It’s 90-second intervals, which became the standard number during this period. The winner of this match earns a WWE or World Heavyweight Championship match at WrestleMania.
The #1 entrant is Eddie Guerrero, who is a former WWE Champ and #2 entrant is Chris Benoit, who is a former World Champ. When I watched this live in 2005, I marked out for this. Today it’s not the same because I miss Eddie and I wish Benoit didn’t do what he did. They did some mat wrestling early on as part of the feeling out process. Both men are faces. It’s $1 million Tough Enough winner Daniel Puder at #3, who beat out The Miz to win that competition. If you’re wondering, he never got paid $1 million. It was something where he had to work there for a few years to get all that money, which did not happen. Puder walks in the ring, then he immediately bails to the floor. Puder grabs the microphone to say he’ll be the first Tough Enough champion to win the Rumble. Puder went into the ring. Guerrero and Benoit team up to chop Puder in the chest repeatedly and they follow that up with a double suplex. High angle suplex by Benoit on Puder followed by Eddie hitting the Three Amigos suplexes on Puder. Hardcore Holly is #4, who is a heel that hates rookies. Holly chops Puder as hard as he possibly can. They all take turns chopping Puder. Holly stretches him over the ropes and low blows him with a kick to the junk. Alabama Slam by Holly on Puder. Holly throws out Puder. That was an entertaining few minutes. Benoit and Guerrero team up to throw Holly out. The Hurricane is #5 and he immediately gets double teamed by Guerrero and Benoit. Eddie tries to turn on Benoit, but he can’t eliminate him. Nice neckbreaker by Helms on Guerrero. Benoit whips Hurricane towards the ropes and Guerrero backdrops him out of the ring leaving us with Eddie and Chris again.
The “Bronze Warrior” Kenzo Suzuki is #6. He was a bad worker who I never enjoyed watching on Smackdown. They double team Suzuki for about a minute. After Guerrero hit a back suplex on Suzuki, Benoit tries to throw out Eddie, who hangs on. Edge is #7 and in heel mode here as an egomaniac. He wasn’t yet a World Champion or Rated R, but he would get there. Earlier in the show, he beat Shawn Michaels in a singles match. Edge went after Guerrero with shoulder tackles, chops for Benoit and Edge tried to eliminate Guerrero, but Guerrero managed to hold on. Big pop for #8 Rey Mysterio as we have four elite workers in the ring along with Kenzo Suzuki, who just doesn’t belong. Mysterio with a bulldog on Edge, a dropkick on Benoit and Rey eliminates Kenzo with headscissors. Thanks for that, Rey. Guerrero with backbreakers for Mysterio and Benoit. They mention the Eddie/Rey problems that were starting, which would lead to a long feud later in the year. It’s Intercontinental Champion Shelton Benjamin at #9 to a pretty good pop. The five guys in the ring are some of the best workers in the company at the time of the match. Benoit’s trying to eliminate Rey, so Eddie goes after Benoit for fun too. Rey gets headscissors on Benjamin as Benoit nearly gets Guerrero out. Here’s Booker T coming out in the #10 spot as Tazz mentions Booker T main evented WrestleMania with Triple H. It was the 2003 Mania where he lost to Triple H in the middle of the show – not really the main event. Booker worked over Edge with a spin kick. Eric Bischoff, the Raw GM, comes out cheering for Edge and Benjamin because he’s a Raw guy. Mysterio with a missile dropkick on Benoit.
Here’s a big pop for #11 Chris Jericho as we get another elite worker into the match. There’s a lot of quality talent in the ring, folks. Huge “Y2J” chant starts up as Jericho hits a suplex on Edge. Here comes Smackdown GM Teddy Long to cheer on the Smackdown guys. This came at a time when they actually pushed the brand extension, a rivalry between the two shows and being exclusive to your brand. The big man Luther Reigns is #12, who is a heel that was associated with Kurt Angle. There are 8 guys in the ring right now as the Raw guys (Edge, Jericho, Benoit, Benjamin) go on one side while the Smackdown guys (Mysterio, Booker, Guerrero and Reigns) go on the other side and the crowd loves this 4 on 4 face off. This is when they cared about the brand extension and it showed. They all pair off in corners and nobody gets eliminated. Huge heel heat for #13 Muhammad Hassan, who is hated by the crowd. He comes out with Daivari, who is his spokesman. Everybody in the ring stops what they’re doing to look at Hassan. The crowd chants “USA” at him. All eight guys in the ring circle him as he does his bow. Hassan’s got an uncomfortable look on his face while they beat on him. This was a classic moment. Rey hits the 619 on Hassan, then they all put him up on their shoulders and together they throw him out of the match. The crowd loved that.
(On the WWE Network page for this show, they have that image of Hassan getting tossed out as the main image for this Rumble match. See it below.)
Orlando Jordan is #14. Jordan is a heel that was the Chief of Staff of JBL’s cabinet on Smackdown. Benjamin nearly eliminates Jericho, but Chris was able to hang on. There wasn’t much else happening. Turn it up for #15 Scotty 2 Hotty. He is not a threat to win, but he is dancing like always. In the aisle way, Hassan attacks Scotty from behind. Hassan puts him in the Camel Clutch as the refs yell at him to stop. Scotty’s laid out on the floor. He never entered the match. The fans hated this. He also never got officially eliminated! Benjamin hit a corner splash on Edge and nearly dumped him out, but Edge was able to avoid elimination.
(The Hassan spot showed that even though he was eliminated easy, WWE had high hopes for him and they had him get his heat back right away by beating up Scotty.)
It’s Charlie Haas coming in the #16 spot. He was on Smackdown here. Booker with kicks on Haas and Jordan. Booker eliminates Reigns and Jordan back to back with clotheslines. Booker does the Spinarooni, then Mysterio dropkicks him into Eddie, he pulls the rope down and Booker goes flying out. Nice T-Bone suplex by Benjamin on Mysterio. Rene Dupree with Fifi the dog is in the #17 spot. He comes out with the French flag, which draws instant heat because we’re trained that foreigners are evil. Haas sets up Dupree on the ropes, then Benjamin spots it and Haas/Benjamin do their tag team double team splash spot together for a nice moment. Benjamin charges in on Edge, he moves, so Shelton jumps onto the top and Edge ends up shoving Benjamin out. The eighth man in the ring is #18 Simon Dean. JR’s reaction: “Oh for God’s sake.” This was a brutal comedy gimmick in case you don’t know about it. He’s a workout guru, so before he enters the ring he does some working out on the floor. Mysterio with a hurricanrana on Eddie and went for a 619, but Guerrero avoided it. Mysterio takes down Eddie with a facebuster, so Edge picks Eddie up and throws out Eddie to huge heel heat. Then Edge does the Eddie dance! That was funny. Simon is doing the most awkward push-ups on the floor as he finally gets in. Here’s a big babyface pop for #19 Shawn Michaels as he goes right after Edge. Michaels notices Simon Dean in the ring and clotheslines him out of the ring to get rid of him. It’s a shame Eddie Guerrero got eliminated right before Shawn got in there. That was one of my dream matches. Michaels eliminates Haas with a back body drop over the top to the floor. I mark out huge for #20 Kurt Angle to huge heel heat. The storyline was that Angle stole Nunzio’s spot. Angle with a German suplex on Benoit, belly to belly on Rey, German on Jericho, Angle Slam on Edge. Angle Slam on Dupree. Angle Slam to Michaels…no…Superkick…no, Ankle Lock but Michaels rolls out of it, Shawn hits the Superkick on Kurt and that eliminates Angle from the match so Angle was only in the match for 37 seconds. I marked out so hard for this. You have no idea. My two favorites in the business all time and they never had a match to this point. I was going nuts (aka marking out like a crazed wrestling fan) here.
The #21 man is not a threat to win, Jonathon Coachman. Coach was a heel assistant to Eric Bischoff as Tazz mocked him on his way in there. Coach hits Benoit in the back and then runs away, hugging the bottom rope. Jericho tries to eliminate Rey, so Rey counters by taking him down with headscissors. They both hang on when they get to the apron. It’s Mark Jindrak at #22. As soon as he gets in there, Kurt Angle follows him in the ring. Angle picks up Michaels, dumps him over the top and Michaels is eliminated. Kurt gets the ring steps, hits Michaels in the face and Shawn ends up blading to show that he was bleeding. JR busted out his “Good God almighty” phrase for this. Angle puts Michaels into the Ankle Lock as I mark out because I knew at this moment they were doing Michaels-Angle at WrestleMania. Referees try to get Angle to break it up while Michaels was screaming in pain. Angle was pulled away by agents while Michaels was a bloody mess. Take my money! All of it! This is wrestling greatness.
(This angle was done so well. The crowd was hot for it and I can assure you that all of us that followed wrestling closely on the internet were so excited about Angle and Michaels having a dream match at WrestleMania. I had heard whispers that Angle/Michaels might do something going into the Rumble, but after I saw that I knew. It was the match I most wanted to see. It was one that delivered the goods too.)
It’s Viscera at #23, who officially enters with THREAT TO WIN status as he does every year. Viscera hit a body slam on Mysterio and didn’t do much else when he got in there. It’s Paul London, an exciting babyface at #24. Dupree does the French Tickler dance, so Jericho throws him out and then Jericho does the French Tickler dance too. That was funny. The next entrant is in there quickly, so I question the 90 second intervals. A huge babyface pop for #25 John Cena, the US Champ, who was still on the Smackdown brand and wasn’t a World or WWE Champ yet. Cena’s shirt says “Ruck Fules” because he’s a rebel like that. I’m reminded that I liked his old theme song a lot. Viscera charges at Cena, so John dips the shoulder and dumps him out of there. That was impressive. Mysterio hits the Bronco Buster on Coachman.
It wasn’t my fault at #26 because it’s time for Gene Snitsky. London jumps on his back to choke him out, they fight on the apron and Snitsky drills him with a clothesline as London bumps face first. That was amazing. It looked painful as hell, but it was an awesome visual. Cena battled Snitsky, who knocked down Cena with a boot to the face. It’s Kane at #27 in babyface mode as he goes after Snitsky with a clothesline. They show London getting taken out on a stretcher. Kane delivers Chokeslams to Edge, Benoit, Cena, Jericho and Mysterio. Kane throws out Jindrak. Coach attacks Kane with a forearm to the back. Big mistake, but Snitsky breaks that up as Coach goes back to hugging the bottom rope. Snitsky hits the Pumphandle Slam on Kane. A massive pop for Batista at #28, who is a babyface after a couple of years as a heel. Batista clotheslines Snitsky out of the ring. Showdown with Kane as JR says he likes it. A “Batista” chant starts because he was getting popular due to the angle with Triple H that was well done. Batista Bomb on Kane. Batista catches Jericho and press slams him out of the ring to eliminate Jericho. Edge avoids a near elimination. The man known as “Captain Charisma” Christian is #29 along with his “Problem Solver” Tomko. Christian goes after Cena because they had a rap-off earlier in the show that was fantastic. JR keeps talking about Cena’s Ground & Pound offense. Cena hits the FU/Attitude Adjustment on Kane over the top to the floor to eliminate him. That was very cool. Woo for #30 Ric Flair, who was in heel mode here. Flair wants to work with Batista, who was still in Evolution, but Batista was turning against the group. Flair chops Coach, Batista hits a spinebuster on Coach and Flair eliminates Coach.
Batista hits a spinebuster on Christian, then he press slams him out of the ring where Christian goes crashing into Tomko. Benoit starts chopping away on Flair, so Batista saves Flair, hitting a Spinebuster on Benoit. Flair throws Benoit out after he lasted nearly 48 minutes. During the celebration, Flair tries to throw out Batista. Then Flair begs off as if to say he didn’t mean to. The crowd didn’t like that while Batista asked “what the hell are you doing?” to Flair. Rey and Edge dropkick Batista. There were five guys left. Edge hits a spear on Flair and throws him out.
Final four: Edge, Rey, Cena and Batista. Batista misses a clothesline as Edge hits a spear on Batista and Cena on Cena. Rey avoids a Spear, then Rey gets a 619 on Edge. Edge counters some more offense, nearly throws out Rey, Rey holds on and Edge spears Rey out to eliminate him. Like a dumbass, Edge charges in against Cena and Batista while they are against the ropes and Cena/Batista hit a double back body drop to send Edge out.
The match is down to Cena and Batista, both of whom have more hair then you’re used to. Both of whom were the favorites in this match as JR calls it a dream matchup. The crowd was cheering loudly for this. JR asked the questions: Who’s going to WrestleMania? Who’s going to headline? The crowd was excited about it. Cena goes for the FU, but Batista fights out. Batista goes for the Batista Bomb, Cena’s momentum takes them both into the ropes, Cena flips over and Batista goes over as well. They fall out of the ring and hit the floor at the exact same time.
(It was supposed to be a win for Batista, but he was unable to hold the ropes to keep himself in the ring. They did hit the mat at around the same time, so the tie looked very believable.)
The Raw ref Jack Doan says Batista wins, but the Smackdown ref Jimmy Korderas says John Cena wins. The refs continued to raise the hand of the guy that were on their show. The crowd was cheering for both guys.
Here comes Vince McMahon. This is classic. Vince throws his jacket down, he’s angry, he slides into the ring and he TEARS HIS QUAD as he tries to get up. Vince sits on the ground, leaning against the bottom rope. It’s so awkward to see Vince sitting there like that, yet it has me laughing so hard. The referees tried to explain to Vince what they say. Batista throws Cena out and then Cena throws Batista out. None of it counts. The Fink says on the microphone that the match will restart per the orders of Vince McMahon. The ring was cleared at that point.
Batista and Cena went for their finishers, but neither guy gets it as Batista slipped out of an FU attempt. Batista hits the Spinebuster. Batista threw Cena over the top to eliminate him. The match went 51:07
Here’s how Bruce Prichard explained what happened at the finish during an interview with WrestlingInc in 2018:
“The initial reaction was, ‘F**k!’ The second reaction was, ‘Let’s take a look at it and see if, hopefully, Cena hit first. We looked at it and every angle, there was no angle that you can even argue that Cena hit first, they hit precisely at the same time… You couldn’t have planned this better, they landed at the same time so Vince just went out and decided, ‘Start it over, g*damnit, just get them out of there!'”
Edge also told his version of the Vince torn quads story that you can watch at the video below. It’s pretty funny.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS on the Royal Rumble match
– Going into the match, it was obvious that Batista or Cena was winning. That’s fine. It was the right call since both guys were ready for the main event level based on the crowd reactions they were getting as well as the pushes they were getting. The predictability didn’t hurt the match. The finish was supposed to be Batista hanging on when they did the Powerbomb spot by the ropes, but he couldn’t do it. Thankfully, Batista and Cena landed on the floor at the same time to make it look like a tie. The match was filled with some of the best workers in company history. Instead of filling it with big guys they filled it with the gifted workers. As a result, you have one of the better Rumbles.
– As I wrote in the write-up, the Angle-Michaels stuff was amazing to me. Two of the best guys in the business going at it for the first time ever. They’re also two of the best ever whether you like them or not. I loved how they had no issue going in, yet going out of the match they were rivals that would have the best feud of 2005 (at least to me). I literally marked out for everything they did.
– They put Edge in the spot of the “guy we want to make a star even though he doesn’t win.” There must be a shorter name for it. I don’t know. That was him, though. He really came out of this match looking like more of a star. A few months later he’d win the first Money in the Bank match and his career would really take off.
– Vince tearing his quad was legendary. The story goes that when he made it backstage he tore his other quad too because he didn’t want to sell the fact that he was hurt at all. He’s crazy.
– The Hassan elimination was a lot of fun. He was so hated at that time and to see everybody stop what they were doing to throw him out was one of the funnier things we’ve seen in Rumbles.
FACTS & OPINIONS about the Royal Rumble match
Person that lasted the longest: Chris Benoit at 47:26.
Most Eliminations: Batista and Edge with 5.
Best Performers (3): Edge – He lasted the second longest at 41 minutes and had a lot of good spots and eliminations. You can tell WWE was ready to push him.
Batista – He showed a lot of fire in winning in dramatic fashion with the most eliminations in the match. He really earned the push that he got.
John Cena – It reminded me of a Hulk Hogan performance in the Rumble where he got all the big babyface spots and did well.
Best Elimination: There’s two I really liked. The Snitsky clothesline on London that saw London crash on the mat face first was the best. I also loved everybody teaming up to throw out Hassan. A great moment that the crowd loved.
Match Rating: **** It was a very good Rumble match. There were a lot of good workers in there to carry it and the whole thing was well booked even with the improvised ending. It wasn’t what they intended at the end, but they were able to make it work. There were some fun eliminations too.
(Really good Rumble match overall. People laugh about it because of the botched finish and even more so for Vince’s torn quads, but I thought it was an enjoyable Rumble match.)
Batista celebrated the win to a nice ovation and the show signed off shortly after because they were close to the three-hour mark.
The show had a run time of 2:52:07 on WWE Network.
Show Rating (out of 10): 7.5
I thought it was a very good Royal Rumble event with an exciting Royal Rumble match and the three main matches were all around the three-star level, which means they were solid as well. The only match that was terrible was The Undertaker and Heidenreich, but that’s just WWE wanting to feed big guys to Taker. It’s what they do. The bad thing about this show is that the tag team division, women’s division and midcard titles were completely ignored. It happens sometimes at Rumble shows. Even though the end of the Rumble match was a Batista/Cena tie by accident, it ended up working out by the end. At least it was good for everybody other than Vince McMahon, who left with two torn quads. Sorry pal.
Best Match: Royal Rumble Match (**** out of 5)
Worst Match: The Undertaker vs. Heidenreich (*)
Five Stars Of The Show
- Shawn Michaels
- Kurt Angle
- Triple H
Check out the WWE Royal Rumble review archive right here.
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