The SmarK Rant for Royal Rumble 2004
– Live from Philly.
– Your hosts are JR, King, Coach, Cole & Tazz in various combinations.
– Opening match, RAW tag titles: Batista & Ric Flair v. The Dudley Boyz.
Batista goes for the cheap heat by insulting the Eagles in his pre-match promo, but even Philly has probably turned on them by this point, so it’s for naught. (2012: I know nothing about football, so I’m assuming that the Eagles choking was a big story at the time because otherwise I’d have no idea.) Big brawl outside to start, and Batista hits the post as a result, allowing Bubba to bring a table in already. D-Von powerslams Flair and the Dudz set up the table, but Batista moves it out of the way. Dudz double-team him with a neckbreaker and D-Von dumps him with a clothesline, but Flair goes after Bubba with chops. Bubba rams him into the table and does his Flipping, Flopping and Flying, but Batista comes back in and people start tripping all over each other. Funny how that always seems to happen with his matches. It’s a thrilling slugfest and they mistime more stuff, but Batista charges into the post and gets double-suplexed by the Dudleyz. Flair is left alone with them and manages to head up to the top, but shockingly gets slammed off. The Dudleyz set up the table yet again, but now Coach runs in and gets beat up by Bubba. They stupidly go for the Wazzup on him, but Batista slams D-Von through the table for the win at 4:22. This wasn’t even a match, it was just a bunch of stuff that only ran 5 minutes. Horrendous opener. DUD (2012 Scott sez: Batista actually is a case of HUGE returns for very little invested. They stuck him with Flair in a tag team for a few months for something to do with him, and Flair turned him from a big slug into a really good worker almost like magic. It’s almost as though this was something that used to happen in wrestling all the time and worked or something!)
– Meanwhile, John Cena’s flow is interrupted by RVD. In a nod to marketing genius, Cena now has plastic “Word/Life” knuckle coverings. Now why didn’t Snoop Dogg think of that? (2012 Scott sez: I think the spinner belt ended up as the true piece of marketing genius with Cena. )
– Cruiserweight title: Rey Mysterio v. Jamie Noble.
Noble dumps him to start, but gets put in 619 position, only to escape and faceplant Rey. He stomps away on the ribs and kicks him down, then dumps him on the top rope for two. Another kick gets two. Rey gets a schoolboy for two, but Noble clotheslines him down again. That gets two. He hits the chinlock, but Rey fights back with a rana. Rube Goldberg Bulldog gets two. Springboard bodyblock lands on Noble’s knee, allowing him to try the Tiger Driver, but he escapes and Nidia accidentally trips up Noble, and it’s wine dine 619 and drop the dime for the pin at 3:12. (2012 Scott sez: Wine dine…what the FUCK?) This would have been ridiculously short even for TV, on PPV it’s an insult to the paying customer. ½* Finish was totally out of nowhere, too.
– Eddie Guerrero v. Chavo Guerrero.
Funny how even with Chavo Sr. in his corner, Chavo Jr. still isn’t allowed to be called “Junior”. (2012 Scott sez: Same deal with Ted Dibiase now. Vince just really hates “Junior” for whatever reason. Probably projecting some daddy issues.) Cole notes that Chavo should get the “Chavo sucks” chant, “if you know what I mean”. I think you were pretty clear there, Michael. They fight over a lockup to start and Chavo gets the first slap, so Eddie brings him into the corner, but doesn’t do anything there. He takes Chavo down into a chinlock, but Chavo escapes and chops him. Back to the lockup, and Eddie gets his own chop. They fight over a headlock now and Chavo overpowers him, but Eddie brings the chops and it’s on. Sadly, it immediately slows down again and they go back to the middle again, as Eddie takes him down and works on the arm. Chavo escapes with a rana that puts them both on the floor, allowing Chavo Sr. to get his licks in. Chavo hammers him outside and chokes away in the ring, but Eddie gets out of it. Chavo takes him down again, but gets caught in a cross-armbreaker in a move that would end any MMA match, but here it’s just a resthold. Chavo escapes with a backdrop suplex for two. He gets the rolling verticals, but Eddie reverses out of them. Chavo goes for the tornado DDT instead, but Eddie gets his own rolling verticals and finishes with the frog splash at 8:03. And after those months of build, that’s it for Chavo, pretty much. Eddie mauls him afterwards to really end the feud decisively. This was like the first few minutes of a really good 20 minute match. It was only 8, however. ** (2012 Scott sez: I think we can all agree that Chavo ended up doing OK for himself as Kerwin White and then feuding with Hornswoggle for a year.)
– Smackdown World title: Brock Lesnar v. Hardcore Holly.
Speaking of months of build with no payoff, we have this. They brawl outside to start and Holly sends him into the post, but whiffs on a flying elbow in the ring. Brock stomps away and gets a snap suplex, and they brawl outside again. Back in, Brock gets two. And now Brock gets a bearhug on the mat with about 8 inches of air between his arms and Bob’s body. And they lay there for a while. Brock keeps pounding on the back and gets the high fisherman’s buster for two. Back to the bearhug, as Brock is again barely making contact. He fires off the overhead suplex out of that, and back to the bearhug again. Holly fights out and makes the comeback (we’re at 5:00 at this point, by the way) as he gets the DROPKICK OF DOOM and the Alabama Slam. Cole acts like it’s over, but Brock’s CAREER would be over if that weakass finisher won the title. Holly goes to the full nelson, but Brock rolls out of the ring to escape. He necksnaps Holly to end that threat, and Bob idiotically walks into the F5 at 6:30. Thank god. Brock hardly broke a sweat in dispatching Holly after months of running from him. A world title match booked to go 6 minutes with 3 of it in a bearhug is a joke. ¾* (2012 Scott sez: I think this was Holly’s one loyalty title shot, although after taking liberties on Tough Enough and sandbagging Brock on TV I kind of wish that Brock would have given him a receipt of some sort here.)
– RAW World title: HHH v. Shawn Michaels.
After the awesome RAW match, I was counting on these two to save things. (2012 Scott sez: These two are the Ross and Rachel of the WWE. They love each other! They hate each other!) HHH hammers away in the corner to start and they slug it out, won by Michaels, and then they go to the mat with a headlock sequence. Shawn brings the chops, but walks into a facecrusher. HHH whips him into the corner to work on the back and gets a backbreaker. Another try is reversed, and Shawn legwhips him into a figure-four. JR notes that it’s right off the Flair DVD, but it’s really more off the Muto DVD. I guess it’s good psychology, because to be the Last Man Standing, you have to be able to stand. HHH takes a 3 count and gets up again. Shawn dropkicks the knee for another count. He charges and HHH pulls down the ropes, putting Shawn on the floor. HHH preps the announce tables and suplexes Shawn, but Shawn escapes and they slug it out on the table. The punches hurt more when you’re elevated, I guess. HHH falls off the table and the fans boo. Funny stuff.
Back in, Shawn goes up, but gets booted coming down. HHH gets backdropped over the top, as is generally obvious when he goes for the Pedigree near the ropes (2012 Scott sez: You’d think after all these years, HHH would learn not to try a Pedigree near the ropes. Ditto for Scott Hall and the Razor’s Edge.) , and Shawn follows him out with a crossbody attempt that not only misses and lands on the table, but wouldn’t have hit HHH even if he hadn’t ducked. I hate spots like that. Shawn does his usual sick blade job, which is funny considering the wussy ones he was doing during the early months of his comeback in 2002. Or maybe it’s just misplaced stigmata? (2012 Scott sez: I don’t believe I can take credit for that one. That might have been one of Zen’s.) Back in, HHH slugs away and Shawn takes a 7 count. HHH slugs away again and it’s another count for Shawn. More abuse from HHH, and it’s another count. JR doesn’t know how any human being can get up again. Yeah, a few punches, how devastating. More punching from HHH, but Shawn fights back, only to walk into an awkwardly-delivered spinebuster. That’s another count, and HHH slugs him back down again and grabs a chair. This whole segment is incredibly slow.
HHH delivers a chairshot for another count. Shawn is up at 9. HHH goes for the Pedigree, but Shawn reverses into a weak catapult to the post, which allows HHH to cut himself. Blood does not speed up a match. Chairshot from Shawn and HHH takes a count, and now Shawn slugs away on him. Flying forearm and both guys are out, but Shawn is JESUSING UP. It’s a resurrection, just like Jesus! Without the death and miracles and stuff. (2012 Scott sez: I dunno, Shawn had some pretty miraculous matches during that comeback.) He fights back as the POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS HIM…to deliver an atomic drop. He ascends the ladder of Heaven and drops the big elbow. Superkick is blocked by a low blow to quiet the crowd again, and both guys are out again. They slug it out and now Shawn gets a sleeper, but releases and lets the ref count instead. HHH is up at 8, and gets a DDT, and both guys are down again. The inherent problem with these matches is that when it’s good, it’s dramatic, and when it’s not good, it’s two guys laying around. This is the latter. Shawn gets a slow chop, but gets whipped into the corner and brought down with a backdrop suplex, but both guys are out again. Back up at 8 for both, but HHH gets the KICK WHAM PEDIGREE. If that was Chris Jericho he’d be dead until next Thursday. HHH is back up, and Shawn follows at 9. Superkick, but neither guy gets up and it’s a draw at 22:45, which the crowd shits all over. (2012 Scott sez: I don’t get why they couldn’t duplicate the magic on PPV that year. Shawn was having awesome matches with Benoit, so it wasn’t him. But this match blew and the Hell in a Cell match was a 40 minute wankfest.) They couldn’t top the RAW match and it was foolish to try, although HHH is the son-in-law of the owner, so he gets 30 minutes of PPV time to try whereas everyone else gets 5. Match was too slow, too disjointed, and it didn’t feel like there was any psychology to it. **3/4
– We get a stupid time-wasting bit with Heyman, Bischoff and Austin to amuse the live crowd.
– Meanwhile, Brock and Goldberg have another meet-and-greet.
– Royal Rumble:
(2012 Scott sez: This is one of the few times where I had actual inside knowledge of who was winning well in advance, but I still didn’t believe it until I saw it.) Chris Benoit is of course #1, and Randy Orton is #2. Since this is mixed brands, it’s JR & Tazz on commentary, and it’s a great team, showing that perhaps JR’s commentary problems stem from his partner. Benoit stomps away in the corner to start and gets a snap suplex, but Orton fights back in the corner and tries to push him out. Benoit knees him in the gut to break and Mark Henry is #3, with 90 second intervals as promised. Nice touch: There’s graphics with the number of entry this year, making it easier to keep track. (2012 Scott sez: That was a permanent change, in fact.) Mizark goes after both of them, but walks into a chop. Orton tries the CLUBBING FOREARMS, but gets clotheslined down. Henry works Benoit over in the corner, as Tajiri is #4. Still 90 seconds. Tajiri trades kicks with Orton and gets the handspring elbow, but Benoit cuts in with a german suplex, and drops an elbow on the head. Orton gets tossed, but hangs on to climb back in. Orton pounds on Henry in the corner as Bradshaw is #5 with intervals increasing by a few seconds. He hits everyone with Clotheslines from Heck, but Benoit blocks it with a crossface. That’s why he rules. Bradshaw tries to power him out, but Benoit uses leverage to get rid of Bradshaw instead, at 5:27. Well, there’s always shower rape to console him. (2012 Scott sez: That and the repackaging and giant push he got about 3 months after this.)
Orton throws an elbow at Henry as the interval is up to 100 seconds now, and Rhyno is #6. He goes after Orton & Benoit while Tajiri tries the Tarantula on Henry. That’s kind of dumb – hanging upside down in the Rumble. Rhyno goes for the Goar, but hits Tajiri at 6:53 to eliminate him, and Henry gets elbowed out by Benoit at 7:08. Replay shows that Tajiri misted Henry on the way by to blind him. Mattitude is #7 and he goes after the heels, hitting a Side Effect on Rhyno, but Benoit tosses him. Matt hangs on, however. Everyone pairs off and slugs it out. Rhyno tries to suplex Matt out and Scott Steiner is #8. He starts throwing clotheslines and suplexes on everyone, and goes for Benoit, but Chris returns the suplex favor with some germans. Matt almost has Orton out, but Benoit saves with a backdrop suplex, and Matt Morgan is #9. (2012 Scott sez: I totally forgot that Morgan was in WWE first, actually.) He immediately hits Benoit with the deadly sitout powerbomb, and no-sells Matt’s stuff to set up a big boot. Nash Choke in the corner on Orton and he works him over while Steiner tangos with Hardy. Morgan works over Hardy in the corner while Rhyno spits on Benoit. Hurricane is #10 and he comes in with a bodypress on Matt, but he’s Hurri-gone via Matt Morgan at 13:32. The real highlight is Steiner & Orton rolling around on the mat in what looks like a lover’s clutch. Benoit & Rhyno keep slugging it out. Hardy tries clipping Morgan, but he doesn’t know how to sell it properly. Booker T is #11, and hostilities with Steiner are renewed. Nice touch. Axe kick on Orton and he goes for Morgan, but eats a knee. Everyone slugs it out as Kane is #12.
Steiner gets eliminated off-camera at 16:44 by Booker. Kane starts chokeslamming people and runs the table, but doesn’t toss anyone, as Spike Dudley (with Undertaker’s gong) is #13, and causes Kane to get dumped by Booker at 18:30. Kane gets his revenge and Spike never makes it into the match. Back in the ring, Benoit tries to get Hardy out, and Rikishi is #14. Benoit dumps Rhyno at 20:25 as Rikishi cleans house and gives Morgan the Stinkface. Booker elbows Matt down as the other four fight in the corners, and it’s time for more bodies, with Rene Dupree at #15. That dance is so gonna get over with time. (2012 Scott sez: Sadly, Dupree was cut loose before it could. He was on the verge of being not terrible, though.) He goes after Matt Hardy and they fight over a suplex, and Hardy gets dropkicked out at 22:28. Dupree follows via a Rikishi superkick at 22:35. How nihilistic. A-Train is #16 and he rekindles that hatred with…Rikishi? Well, he’s the biggest guy, so you can’t fault the logic. Benoit dodges a charge from Morgan and dumps him at 23:48. Thank god. Everyone gangs up on Train, but Orton turns on Rikishi and dumps him at 24:15, and then Booker T at 24:20. So we’re back down to Benoit, Train and Orton, and it’s time for another person. That’s TIGHT booking.
Shelton Benjamin is #17 and Benoit dumps Train at 25:10 or so. Benjamin slugs Orton down, but misses a superkick and lands on the top rope, going bye-bye via Orton at 25:45 as a result. So it’s back down to 1 and 2 again, as Benoit gets a backdrop suplex and they collide for the double KO, and wouldn’t you know, time for another entrant. This proves to be Ernest Miller at #18, and he slows the match down with a dance party, until Benoit & Orton redeem it by tossing both Miller and his butler at 27:46. (2012 Scott sez: Serious aficionados, aka nerds, will note that they recycled Miller’s music for Brodus Clay) And we’re back to SERIOUS contenders again, as Kurt Angle is #19. JR notes that Orton needs to “make hay while the sun is shining” to which Tazz replies “What the hell is that supposed to mean?” THANK YOU. Benoit and Angle immediately bring it on, while Orton sits in the corner and defers to their better judgment. That’s a very nice touch. Benoit chops away and elbows him out of the corner, but gets clotheslined. Vertical suplex by Angle and he tries get Benoit out, but Orton breaks it up. Rico is #20 and he gets pounded by Orton right away, but comes back with the corner kick and some groping. Orton hits him with the RKO while Benoit fires off germans on Angle, and Orton casually dumps Rico at 31:12. Benoit goes up, but Angle crotches him and tries to send him out, as Test is supposed to be #21, but someone has attacked him. And that someone is sent out by Austin to take his place. And that someone is…MICK FOLEY. Orton understandably shits the proverbial brick, as Foley goes nuts on him and beats the tattoos off him in the corner. Cactus Clothesline eliminates both guys at 33:46, but that’s good enough for Mick.
They continue brawling outside as Christian is #22. The focus remains on Foley & Orton, as Orton finally catches a break with a pair of chairshots and they brawl up the aisle, allowing Foley to go for Mr. Socko. Meanwhile, Nunzio is #23, so Foley gives him the Sock, while Orton hits him in Mr. Cocko on the way back to the dressing room. Nunzio hides out on the floor while the other three do their thing inside, with Benoit and Christian trying to get Angle out. Stick together, Canucks! Angle fires off a german on Christian, and one for Benoit, but can’t get Christian out. Big Show is #24, and he goes right for Angle, and then deals with the other two. He pounds Angle down and tosses Christian around, and Jericho is #25. He saves his compadre from Angle and they work him over in the corner, but Show intervenes and rams them together. Show headbutts Jericho down and pounds him in the corner, and now everyone gets smart and goes after Show. 4-on-1 isn’t quite enough, and Show is able to fight them off. Charlie Haas is #26, but Vitamin C hit him with a double-suplex on the way in. Christian & Jericho toss Benoit, but he hangs on. Then Christian turns on Jericho and tosses him, but HE hangs on, and then backdrops Christian out at 42:48. (2012 Scott sez: This was a rare late numbers sequence with a bunch of great workers having fun with complex booking. Usually it’s the big monsters in this slot, so this was a nice change of pace.) Angle gets a german suplex as Billy Gunn is #27 and he comes in with the Dumbasser on a few people. Everyone pairs off as it slows down a bit, with Jericho getting a backdrop suplex on Angle and then going after Show, but Benoit saves with a german suplex. John Cena is #28, and he brings Nunzio out of his hiding place, but gets jumped by Show as a result. Nunzio then goes after Show, which is kind of dumb, and gets nowhere. Cena tries next while Benoit scraps with Nunzio, and RVD is #29. He goes after Show, as seems to be the trend, but he can’t organize another try at getting rid of him. Everyone slugs it out as Cena gives Angle the F-U, and Goldberg is #30. Time to get rid of the dead weight. Spear for Show! Spear for Gunn! Powerslam for Haas. Nunzio attacks and gets Haas eliminated indirectly at 48:39, but then gets speared for his troubles. Gunn is Billy Gone at 49:00. Nunzio flies Air Italy out of the ring at 49:05. However, Brock runs in with an F-5 on Goldberg to pop the crowd, and Angle dumps Grizzly Adams at 50:15 while he’s being all intense. (2012 Scott sez: Yeah, that beard was out of control in 2004. Brock-Goldberg should have been so much bigger than it ended up being, though.) So amazingly we have Benoit, Jericho, Angle, Cena, RVD and Show left.
They make another try at getting rid of Show on the ropes, but you can’t fight gravity and he won’t go. Next tactic sees everyone hitting their finishers in succession, starting with the Lionsault and going frog splash, Five Knuckle Shuffle, flying headbutt, and Angle Slam. Show is still in it, however, so now Angle organizes a team carry, but that’s just wishful thinking. Show gets angry and tosses Cena at 53:02. RVD gets fancy and gets gone at 53:21. Jericho gets tossed and hangs on, as our final four is Jericho, Benoit, Angle and Show. How about THAT? Jericho is backdropped out again, but slides in again. Show tosses him into the corner, but Jericho comes back with a bulldog and goes for the Walls of Jericho. That seems a little counterproductive. Angle breaks it up and fights with Jericho on the ropes, but Show saves for Angle and chokeslams Jericho out of the ring at 55:11. Down to three.
Angle walks into a sideslam, and Show chokeslams Benoit following that. Show fights off Angle’s suplex attempt, but falls victim to the Angle Slam, and Benoit gets more of the same. Angle takes a poll from the fans as to who to go after, and Show is lucky winner of an anklelock, which is of course meaningless. Show powers him to the ropes and Angle hangs on too long and gets eliminated at 57:40. So now Benoit is faced with having to eliminate single-handedly the guy that 5 people couldn’t get rid of at once. He starts by headbutting him back into the ring, but walks into a chokeslam, which he counters into the crossface. Again, that’s for nothing, as Show powers out and sideslams him. Show goes for the kill with a press-slam, but Benoit counters to a standing guillotine choke and hangs on. He pulls Show to the apron with that and won’t let go, and gravity proves to be Show’s enemy, as he passes out and falls out at 61:37 to make Benoit the winner and the recipient of the title shot at Wrestlemania XX. I was marking out like nuts last night and initially was thinking ***** because of the excitement and brilliantly tight booking, along with the great story of Show being the monster that no one could eliminate until Benoit figured it out, but after watching it again…I still loved it. HA! Fooled ya! It’s still *****, and the best Rumble I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen ‘em all. (2012 Scott sez: I think that’s too high. ****1/2 maybe, given perspective.)
The Bottom Line:
The Rumble match came as close as humanly possible to pulling off a miracle and redeeming what had been to that point a horrible show, but really HHH stinking up the ring…again…was too much to overcome in the long run.
Thumbs in the middle, but order the replay for the Rumble only.
Next stop for Benoit: Wrestlemania. And here I was worried that they wouldn’t even have a feud for him.