The SmarK Rant for WWF Royal Rumble 2001 – 01.21.2001
(Originally written 01.23.18)
Well this one was due to be redone because I have a lot of fond memories of the match but haven’t reviewed it since the original rant in 2001!
Live from New Orleans, LA, drawing 16,000 and a 1.35 buyrate.
WWF tag team titles: Edge & Christian v. The Dudley Boyz
Well this is about as 2001 of an opener as you can get. The storyline is that the Dudleyz were both suffering from concussions after getting hit in the head with chairs on RAW, which is a storyline that would not be touched with the proverbial ten foot pole today. Editing note: “WWF” is edited out of Christian’s soundbite from RAW, so while the commentary has been fixed for this show, they’re still using other footage from WWE 24/7. E&C try to run away to start and the Dudz immediately drag them in and double-team Christian and drop elbows for two. Bubba slugs away in the corner and hits Christian with a sideslam for two. Edge comes in and D-Von catches him with a powerslam for two, but Christian NAILS D-Von in the back of the head to get the heat. Edge with a backdrop suplex as they’re really overdoing the head injury deal, but at least it’s something. Christian with a legsweep and he rams D-Von’s head into the mat to work on that and Edge follows with a neckbreaker for two. Edge hits the chinlock and follows with a neckbreaker for two. Edge tells Bubba that he’s going to break D-Von’s neck “like a twig”, which is a far cry from the trash talk that Edge would later be known for. E&C try a stuff piledriver, but D-Von catapults Edge into Christian and rolls him up for two. Both guys are down, but we get a false tag as E&C distract the ref and then grab chairs. Conchairto misses and D-Von makes the comeback while Jim Ross is losing his shit, and it’s HOOOOOT tag Bubba. E&C go flying all over the ring for him and Edge takes the Wazzup and the crowd is going INSANE. D-Von fetches the tables, but Edge swings at Bubba with the belt and Bubba rolls him up for two. Edge cuts off the 3D wit a spear on Bubba, and that gets two. E&C decide to do their own Wazzup, but Edge accidentally headbutts his own brother in the groin, and 3D finishes at 9:57 to give the Dudleyz the belts back. Pretty much perfectly laid out start to finish, told a story, and everyone was working hard. Maybe it’s just that I miss great tag wrestling so much, but I was loving this. ***3/4
Meanwhile, future Price is Right host and Hall of Famer Drew Carey arrives.
Meanwhile, HHH checks in with Stephanie to make sure her issues with Trish Stratus aren’t going to be a factor in the title match tonight. Drew Carey stops by, looking for Vince McMahon and plugging his improv PPV, so Steph offers to hook him up with Trish. I will say, Stephanie is a MUCH better actress now than she was back then.
Meanwhile, the APA are playing poker in their office and compare Rumble numbers. Crash Holly stops by to warn them that he might need to throw them both out of the match.
Intercontinental title, ladder match: Chris Benoit v. Chris Jericho
Oh man, completely forgot about this one. Jericho is throwing chops to start and boots Benoit down in the corner, but Benoit fights out of an attempt at the Walls and sends him into the post. Listening to the show on headphones, you can clearly hear Benoit calling that spot. Jericho dropkicks him to the apron and tries the springboard, but Benoit dodges and Jericho lands on the floor, allowing Benoit to get the ladder first. Benoit runs him into the post and the stairs and makes the first climb, but Jericho brings him down and runs the ladder into his face. Jericho beats on him in the corner, but Benoit reverses him into the ladder and Jericho goes flying over the top off that. Benoit follows with a suicide dive, but Jericho hits him in the face with a chair to counter. I don’t think it’s any secret why Benoit had brain damage.
Jericho tries to ride the ladder onto him, but that misses and he lands in the front row, allowing Benoit to run the ladder into his head. God, this is kind of scary in retrospect. Back in, Benoit runs him into the ladder, but Jericho returns the favor, and then puts Benoit at the top of the ladder and slams the ladder down with Benoit tied up in it. And then Benoit dropkicks the ladder back in Jericho’s face and follows with a backdrop suplex. They are just beating the holy hell out of each other. And then just as I write that, Benoit takes a headfirst bump into the ladder in the corner and then Jericho teeter-totters the ladder into his face. And then follows with a missile dropkick that smashes the ladder into Benoit’s head again. Jericho climbs, but Benoit suplexes him to the floor and makes the climb. Jericho saves and we get the crazy spot here Jericho puts him in the Walls on the top of the ladder before dumping him to the mat again. And then Benoit pulls down the ladder and Jericho knocks himself out.
They recover and Jericho climbs, but Benoit yanks him down into the crossface while Jericho taps like crazy. He sends Jericho into the post and then runs him into the ladder and traps him in the corner behind the ladder. This results in a fight at the top of the ladder, but Jericho goes down and Benoit of course follows with a diving headbutt off the top of the ladder and misses. Jericho traps him under the ladder and makes the climb, but Benoit pushes the ladder into the corner and Jericho takes another crazy bump into the turnbuckles and going flying to the floor. Benoit climbs, but Jericho grabs a chair and beats on him until Benoit goes out to the floor, then climbs the ladder and wins the IC title at 18:41. This was terrifying to watch most of the time, but easily one of Jericho’s best matches ever. ****3/4
Meanwhile, Drew meets Trish, but runs afoul of the boss, who has a GREAT idea to promote the improv PPV: Drew enters the Royal Rumble. Drew doesn’t want to get hurt, but Vince assures him that even he won the Rumble, and they’re all about FUN. So he’s got nothing to worry about.
Meanwhile, Chyna isn’t worried about Ivory tonight.
WWF Women’s title: Ivory v. Chyna
Ugh, this nonsense. Chyna took a spike piledriver from the RTC and gave a tearful interview, wearing a tiny neck brace, about how she needed spinal fusion surgery that would end her career. Then a couple of weeks later, she had undergone some therapy and was fine again, although she actually WASN’T. WHAT A TWIST. But we quickly got used to her lying about everything. Giving her a career-threatening neck injury was the only way that they could have her credibly sell for Ivory, and even then she wouldn’t do that. Chyna completely destroys her, chases her into the crowd, and then throws her back into the ring with a press slam and slams her like a ragdoll. Then she beats up Steven Richards as well and hits Ivory with a handspring elbow, which somehow ruptures her discs again despite not even making contact, and Ivory gets the pin at 3:34. Complete bullshit. DUD They bring out EMTs and paramedics while some guy in the front row yells “Give her some coke, brother!” The ridiculousness is amplified by Jericho and Benoit smashing chairs and ladders into each other’s heads in the previous match, and we’re supposed to be believe that Chyna broke her neck doing a handspring elbow? Of note, her friend Billy Gunn comes out to assist, because he had previous fake medical experience doing this stupid angle in 1996.
Meanwhile, Vince informs D-Lo & Chaz that they’re being replaced by Drew Carey in the Rumble. “Drew Curry?”
WWF World title: Kurt Angle v. HHH
Trish was acting as “business advisor” for Kurt at this point, which set up the supremely overdelivering match between her and Stephanie at No Way Out. This was sadly well past the blowoff between these two when the Stephanie love triangle was red hot, and both guys were heels here. Angle quickly clotheslines him to the floor, but HHH slugs away in the corner. Angle works the arm and follows with a trio of suplexes for two. They brawl on the floor and HHH drops him on the railing to take over. Back in, Angle hits him with an enzuigiri for two, but HHH goes to the leg while JR takes a shot at “Man on the Moon” by noting only 8 people watched it. Well Vince would certainly know about box office flops. They brawl on the floor and Angle runs him into the stairs as they’re having trouble figuring this one out. Back in, Angle misses a blind charge and HHH goes back to the leg again, hitting him in the knee with a chair. Back in, HHH clips him to get the heat and drops elbows on the knee to set up an indian deathlock and a face crusher gets two. Back to the knee with a figure-four, but a catfight erupts between Trish and Stephanie at ringside, which brings Vince out to try and deal with things. He’s not particularly successful, so he finally just grabs Trish and hauls her away. So with all the ladies dealt with, HHH goes back to the figure-four, but Angle cradles him for two. HHH drops elbows on the knee to stay on it, but Angle slugs back and hits a DDT for two. Atomic drop into a german suplex gets two. Angle goes up and HHH goes low and brings him down with a Razor’s Edge for two. Angle counters the Pedigree into a catapult and accidentally headbutts him in the groin as a result, and the ANGLESAULT gets two. HHH tosses him, but now the ref is bumped and Angle eats the post. Back in, HHH goes up, but Angle brings him down with the superplex with no ref to count. They brawl to the floor and poor Hebner gets wiped out again, allowing HHH to grab the belt, but Angle suplexes him. KICK WHAM PEDIGREE and the ref is still out, but now Steve Austin runs out and beats on HHH, nails him with the belt, adds a KICK WHAM STUNNER, and revives the ref so that Angle can retain at 24:16. Angle still hadn’t fully snapped and turned into the wrestling machine that he would become the next month, but improvements from 2000 alone were astonishing. They started slow, but once they found the heat, it got awesome quickly. Too much foo-foo at the end, but it set up much better stuff later, so the ends justify the means. ***1/2
Meanwhile, Rock doesn’t care if Undertaker and Kane are together tonight or not. Regardless, he’s going to Wrestlemania.
The video package lays out some impressive star power, although really it was a two-man race between Steve Austin and the Rock, since we knew that they were going to main event Wrestlemania well in advance. Jeff Hardy is #1, and Bull Buchanan is #2, and we’re off. Jeff runs away from him and misses a charge, allowing Bull to hit a clothesline out of the corner and he pounds on Jeff. They cuddle on the ropes for a while and Matt Hardy is #3 at 1:40. We get some Hardyz double-teams and they put him out at 2:11 with a clothesline over the top. So Matt and Jeff quickly turn on each other and slug it out, but Jeff takes him down with a jawbreaker. Faarooq is #4 at 3:32 and he kills both guys and no-sells the Whisper in the Wind, but can’t get Jeff over the top. Jeff saves Matt from a Dominator and they hit the Twist of Fate into the swanton on him and toss him at 4:35. And then Matt tries to throw out Jeff, but that doesn’t work. So now the shirts are off and they go back to punching each other as Drew Carey is #5 at 5:25. Drew naturally takes his time while the Hardy Boyz continue battling, and they fight to the top rope and eliminate each other at 6:38, leaving Drew alone. And then Kane is #6 at 7:00 and Drew is screwed. He tries reason, and then bribery, before wisely throwing himself over the top as Raven is #7 at 8:55. Kane beats on Raven instead, but luckily there’s a bunch of trash cans under the ring. Al Snow runs out to beat on Raven for some reason and Snow is in officially at 10:40 as #8. Snow beats on both guys with the trash cans and rolls a bowling ball into Raven’s crotch, but then the hardcore geeks decide that it’s smarter to team up. Saturn is #9 at 12:32 and he goes to work on Kane’s leg, but Kane fights off all three of these dorks until they finally team up and get him down with a sleeper and a bunch of road signs. Steve Blackman is #10 at 14:20 to continue the hardcore theme and not much is going on. Grandmaster Sexay is #11 at 16:18 and he’s out via Kane at 17:20. Blackman is kicked out at 17:34. Snow is melted at 17:44. Raven flies out at 17:47. Saturn is into orbit at 18:02, as Honky Tonk Man is #12.
Honky stops to sing us his song while Kane looks at him like he’s an idiot, then smashes the guitar on his head and he’s out at 19:55. The Rock is #13 at 20:17 and now it’s on. Rock explodes onto him, but can’t toss him out, and Kane takes over again. Goodfather is #14 at 22:00 and he goes after Rock and is censored out at 22:27. Kane goes back to beating on Rock, as Tazz is #15 at 23:52. Shouldn’t he have been #13? Kane throws him out immediately at 24:04 and goes back to beating on Rock. Bradshaw is #16 at 25:50 and he decides to throw down with Kane, but then turns on Rock as well with the clothesline from hell. Rock comes back on him with the spinebuster, but Kane puts him down again. Albert is #17 at 27:40 as we’re now entering the Hoss portion of the match. Everyone fights on the ropes and Hardcore Holly is #18 at 29:30. The match becomes a major slog at this point, dying right off. K-Kwik (the future R-Truth) is #19 at 31:30, back when he was a rookie sensation. Still nothing happening. Val Venis is #20 at 33:30 and immediately gets beat up by Kane. William Regal is #21 at 35:20 and this match desperately needs Undertaker or Steve Austin to clear out the ring. It’s been 10 minutes since I’ve had a chance to make one of my hilarious puns about guys getting thrown out! Test is #22 as Regal is besmirched at 37:25. More nothing going on and Big Show is #23 at 38:59, back from the fat farm and looking good. Test and Kwik are What’s Up (and out) at 39:23. Show chokeslams everyone, but Rock kicks him in the nuts and Shows him the door at 40:34. Crash Holly is #24 at 41:00 and Show chokeslams Rock through the announce table to get his revenge, putting him out of the match for the moment.
Everyone teams up on Kane in the corner but can’t get him out, and Undertaker is #25 at 43:00 to make the save. Bradshaw, Albert, Venis and Holly are all out at 43:50 as the Brothers of Destruction thankfully clear the ring. Scotty 2 Hotty is #26 at 44:40 and JR is reading the last rites for him. He does last longer than anticipated before getting launched out at 45:56. Steve Austin is #27, but HHH pops out from under the ring and attacks him for a brawl outside before Austin can make it to the ring. Meanwhile, Rock gets back into the ring on his own, which probably isn’t smart. Billy Gunn is #28 at 48:00 and I don’t like his chances. Austin is busted open on the floor as HHH finally leaves, but Rock fights back on Undertaker before walking into a DDT. Haku makes a surprise jump from WCW at #29, having never lost the Hardcore title. The crowd doesn’t know what to do with that one. Haku gets double-teamed by the Brothers and Rikishi is #30 at 52:00. Austin of course recovers and beats on him, and he puts out Haku at 52:50. Rikishi superkicks Undertaker out at 54:00, which is kind of a surprise. Rikishi tries the buttdrop on Rock, but gets hit in the nuts and tossed at 55:00.
Final Four: Kane, The Rock, Billy Gunn and Steve Austin.
Gunn gives Austin the Fameasser, but the One gets tossed like a Zero at 55:26. Rock and Austin do the slugfest in the corner and Rock wins that one, but KICK WHAM STUNNER puts Rock down until Kane makes the save. Rock goes after Austin again with Rock Bottom and tosses Kane, but it’s through the ropes and not over the top. Rock and Austin go back to beating on each other, but Kane tries to throw them both out and Rock is out at 59:15. Kane celebrates early, but chokeslams Austin to put him down anyway. Austin goes low, but Kane grabs a chair. KICK WHAM STUNNER on Kane and Austin hits him with the chair until he goes down and out at 61:53 to give Austin his third and final Rumble win. Slowed down WAY too much in the middle, and never really recovered. Also, too much Kane, as it should have been Rock and Austin in the climax and the Austin-Kane finale didn’t feel it should have been the ending. Still good, but not great or anything. ***1/2
Oddly enough, my redone ratings pretty much match my original ones exactly, and this remains an all-time great show. Strongly recommended.