Sunday, January 20, 2019

The History of WWE Royal Rumble, part 8 (2009-2011)

Welcome back to our Royal Rumble History retrospective!  We've come to the end of the 2000s!

Royal Rumble 2009 - Joe Louis Arena - 1/25/09

Here's a rather tepid event if I've ever seen one.  The 2009 Rumble was thoroughly mediocre and frankly not all that memorable.  It had a series of middling undercard matches followed by a Rumble match where nearly all the big names entered early and overstayed their welcome.

The opener was a match for the now-defunct ECW Title, as new monster heel Jack Swagger (a guy in whom I saw tremendous potential at the time) vs. Matt Hardy.  This was a solid match that showcased the All-American American pretty well.

The All-American American, JACK THHHHHHWAGGER!!

Next was a Women's Title match featuring Beth Phoenix defending against Melina.  Your basic six-minute Divas match.  Melina captured the belt.

Third was one of the weaker World Title matches in recent memory as John Cena faced JBL.  This was against the backdrop of a godawful JBL-Shawn Michaels feud, in which Michaels supposedly had financial problems and was hired by JBL to help him win the World Title.  First off, Shawn had been a WWE employee on and off for 20 years and was easily one of the higher-paid stars in 2009.  Are we supposed to believe he's in such financial peril he'd accept a manservant position working for another wrestler?  The feud was awful and this match was devoid of suspense since obviously JBL wasn't winning the Championship.

The best undercard match of the night was WWE Champ Jeff Hardy defending against Edge.  This was a well-worked 19-minute match with a lame ending.  It was rumored leading into this that the returning Christian would interfere and cost Jeff the Title, leading to a feud between them.  Instead WWE opted to have Matt Hardy (who had just wrestled earlier as a babyface) turn against Jeff so they could fight at 'Mania, and then make up a month later.  Nevermind that Edge's longtime best friend Christian would have a much more logical reason for helping Edge.  The Hardy vs. Hardy feud yielded a couple decent PPV matches but was a terribly ill-conceived angle.

The Rumble match itself had a strong cast of characters but unfortunately too many of the top stars entered early in the bout and almost all of them lasted well over 30 minutes (four of them lasted over 45!).  The result was a Rumble with the same faces being present throughout the duration and essentially no potential winners entering during the later portions.  Look, I'm all for having one or two guys last a long time in the Rumble but when it's six or seven it removes the specialness of the accomplishment.  If all the top guys can stay in 30-45 minutes, the Rumble must not be that grueling a match.  It was a different way of booking the Rumble but overall I didn't think it worked.  The final four were Orton and his two Legacy partners Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibiase, against Triple H.  Hunter somehow survived this 3-on-1 scenario long enough to dump out Cody and Ted, but was ultimately ousted by Orton.  The next two months featured a ludicrously-booked Triple H-Randy Orton feud culminating in one of the worst-received WrestleMania main events in history.

....And that's for kickin' me out of Evolution!!

Participants: Rey Mysterio, John Morrison, Carlito, MVP, The Great Khali, Vladimir Kozlov, Triple H, Randy Orton, JTG, Ted Dibiase, Chris Jericho, Mike Knox, The Miz, Finlay, Cody Rhodes, Undertaker, Goldust, CM Punk, Mark Henry, Shelton Benjamin, William Regal, Kofi Kingston, Kane, R-Truth, Rob Van Dam, Brian Kendrick, Dolph Ziggler, Santino Marella, Jim Duggan, Big Show
Final Four: Randy Orton, Triple H, Cody Rhodes, Ted Dibiase
Long Man: Triple H (49:55)

So yeah this Rumble PPV was neither good nor bad.  It was all different levels of Just Okay.  Orton was a deserving winner but his character was being presented as a spineless, litigious wimp instead of a sadistic viper.  That changed over the course of his feud with Hunter, but it didn't exactly start this WrestleMania angle off on the right foot.

Best Match: Jeff Hardy vs. Edge
Worst Match: John Cena vs. JBL
What I'd Change: The product was so ho-hum around this time it's hard to pick one or two particular things, but I'd have obviously spread the star power throughout the Rumble match and worked much harder to build new stars (which wasn't happening at all in early 2009).
Most Disappointing Match: Probably the Rumble
Most Pleasant Surprise: Jack Swagger really did have spectacular potential when he started out.  Unfortunately he hasn't shown much growth since then.
Overall Rating: 5.5/10
Better than WrestleMania 25, SummerSlam '09, and/or Survivor Series 2009? - Nope.

Royal Rumble 2010 - Philips Arena - 1/31/10

This show wasn't a classic either, but I found it a lot more fun than the 2009 edition.  Some new stars were being showcased, the World Title bouts were both first-time matchups, and the Rumble itself had a much greater sense of urgency.

Kicking things off was another ECW Title match (I believe the last one ever held on PPV) between Christian and Ezekiel Jackson.  Nothing special going on here but it was watchable.

A "bonus" match was next as The Miz defended the US Title against MVP.  Again, inoffensive, easily digestible, and you've forgotten it ten minutes later.  Like a Big Mac when you're drunk.

New WWE Champion Sheamus was third as he faced the technically-still-a-heel-but-slowly-turning-babyface Randy Orton.  These two had never wrestled before so this was novel.  They didn't have the best chemistry in the world, but later in 2010 they'd go on to have a splendid Hell in a Cell match.  This was fine except for the DQ ending accidentally caused by Orton's Legacy buddies.

A total throwaway was next as Women's Champion Michelle McCool faced Mickie James.  Their feud centered around McCool and Layla (a fantastic heel duo called LayCool) repeatedly taunting Mickie for supposedly being overweight.  She's not.  Not at all.  But Vince does seem to enjoy petty bullying.  Anyway this could've been a solid match but it was over in 20 seconds.  Vince also enjoys pointless surprise instant Title changes.  Just ask Daniel Bryan.

The best undercard match of the night pitted World Champion The Undertaker against Rey Mysterio.  This was to my knowledge the first time these two had ever squared off, and while rather short at eleven minutes, was an extremely entertaining mismatch of styles.  Mysterio kept Taker reeling for much of the bout but eventually Taker's dominance was too much for the lucha star.

This is about as high up as Mysterio's ever been.
See, cuz he's short.

The Rumble match itself was quite well-booked and contained a number of subplots.  The primary one was Shawn Michaels' quest to face The Undertaker at WrestleMania.  Since Taker was the World Champion Michaels banked on winning the Rumble and getting his Title shot.  The whole buildup to their eventual match was excellent, as Shawn played the flawed hero being torn apart by his obsession (His facials after being thrown out by Cena were gold).  This Rumble had pretty solid star power and a wide field of believable winners.  Michaels, Triple H, Cena, Batista, Jericho, Punk, and of course the surprise return of Edge, who echoed Cena's 2008 Rumble entrance and eliminated both former partner Chris Jericho and former adversary Cena to win the match.  This was a lot of fun, though my only complaint is it was the opposite of the 2009 match, i.e. no one stayed in very long.  I'd have given Punk the Long Man slot, as he wonderfully carried the early parts of the match by clearing the ring and cutting Straight Edge promos.  Classic stuff.  This Rumble was also notable for Khali being eliminated by Beth Phoenix.

.....And that's for winning back the Title four years ago!!

Participants: Dolph Ziggler, Evan Bourne, CM Punk, JTG, The Great Khali, Beth Phoenix, Zack Ryder, Triple H, Drew McIntyre, Ted Dibiase, John Morrison, Kane, Cody Rhodes, MVP, Carlito, The Miz, Matt Hardy, Shawn Michaels, John Cena, Shelton Benjamin, Yoshi Tatsu, Big Show, Mark Henry, Chris Masters, R-Truth, Jack Swagger, Kofi Kingston, Chris Jericho, Edge, Batista
Final Four: Edge, John Cena, Batista, Shawn Michaels
Long Man: John Cena (22:11)

The 2010 Rumble PPV was fairly top-heavy but featured a very enjoyable Rumble match and two solid Title encounters.  This was the beginning of a pretty great Road to WrestleMania.  While none of the PPVs of this stretch were mindblowing, the booking was very well done and felt like can't-miss stuff.

Best Match: The Rumble
Worst Match: Michelle McCool vs. Mickie James
What I'd Change: Like I said, give Punk a good 40 minutes in the Rumble, and give the Divas match a good seven.
Most Disappointing Match: McCool vs. James
Most Pleasant Surprise: Edge's return
Overall Rating: 7/10
Better than WrestleMania XXVI, SummerSlam '10 and/or Survivor Series 2010? - No, Yes, and Yes.

Royal Rumble 2011 - TD Garden - 1/31/11

I'd call this show the best or second-best Rumble PPV of the last ten years.  It was a streamlined four matches and helped elevate a handful of new stars.  Though with one change this PPV could've been off-the-charts awesome.

The opener was an epic World Title match between Edge and Dolph Ziggler.  This was Ziggler's first PPV Title match and he and Edge were given plenty of time to breathe and tell a good story. 
Smackdown GM Vickie Guerrero added the stipulation that if Edge used the Spear he would lose the Title, which added an intriguing wrinkle.  After 20+ minutes of action Edge retained.

The second Championship match pitted WWE Champ The Miz against former Champion Randy Orton.  This was a fine Title match, but as with 1998 and 2002 it was a wasted opportunity to elevate a rising babyface.  John Morrison had won a Ladder Match in December for a shot at the WWE Title.  Morrison and Miz had a built-in history as former tag partners, and booking them at The Rumble seemed a no-brainer.  Instead though, that match happened for free on RAW, and was easily the best match of early 2011.  They should've included Miz-Morrison on this PPV exactly as it occurred, especially since Randy Orton would be in the Rumble match anyway.  Regardless, Miz-Orton was still good.

Yeah Punk with the assist!

The one throwaway was a four-way Divas Title match - Natalya vs. Layla vs. Michelle McCool vs. Eve Torres.  The feud here was Nattie vs. LayCool, so Eve's inclusion and eventual Title win was pretty nonsensical.  Whatever.

The Rumble match roster was increased to 40 men for the first and thus far only time in history.  It was a pretty unnecessary expansion since the WWE roster was hardly exploding with megastars.  But it did make for an entertaining match.  CM Punk and Daniel Bryan started the bout and carried the first third.  I really enjoyed their work here and looked forward to future matches between the two.  Punk's Nexus and Wade Barrett's Corre stables were both featured heavily which resulted in some solid gang warfare.  The match ended with hot new heel Alberto Del Rio eliminating Randy Orton and claiming victory, only to be attacked by Santino Marella, who had been hiding under the ring.  Del Rio overcame the Pearl Harbor job (as Gorilla Monsoon would say), and tossed him out to win the Rumble.  He'd go on to curtain jerk WrestleMania in a losing effort against Edge (which badly halted his momentum), but it looked like Del Rio was in line for a major push.

This was just not Orton's night.

Participants: CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Justin Gabriel, Zack Ryder, William Regal, Ted Dibiase, John Morrison, Yoshi Tatsu, Husky Harris, Chavo Guerrero, Mark Henry, JTG, Michael McGillicutty, Chris Masters, David Otunga, Tyler Reks, Valdimir Kozlov, R-Truth, The Great Khali, Mason Ryan, Booker T, John Cena, Hornswoggle, Tyson Kidd, Heath Slater, Kofi Kingston, Jack Swagger, King Sheamus, Rey Mysterio, Wade Barrett, Dolph Ziggler, Diesel, Drew McIntyre, Alex Riley, Big Show, Ezekiel Jackson, Santino Marella, Alberto Del Rio, Randy Orton, Kane
Final Four: Alberto Del Rio, Santino Marella, Randy Orton, Wade Barrett
Long Man: CM Punk (35:21)

The 2011 edition was a very strong entry in the series, and one of a slew of good-to-excellent early 2011 PPVs.  Unfortunately WrestleMania XXVII wasn't one of them.  But this PPV set the tone for what should've been a great 'Mania season.  And it was, except for its culmination.

Best Match: The Rumble
Worst Match: Divas Four-way
What I'd Change: As I said, give John Morrison the shot against Miz.  Also I'd stick with the 30-man field.  Adding ten names watered it down a bit.  Remove Tyler Reks, Vladimir Kozlov, Zack Ryder, Tyson Kidd, Yoshi Tatsu, Khali, JTG, Chris Masters, Chavo Guerrero, and for fuck's sake Hornswoggle (seriously, he was in there for almost ten full minutes??) and you'd have a really impressive field.
Most Disappointing Match: Miz-Orton, just because Morrison should've gotten the shot
Most Pleasant Surprise: Seeing Punk vs. Bryan for a little while
Overall Rating: 8.5/10

Stay tuned Wednesday for the 2012-2014 installment!  Join us on Facebook by clicking HERE.

Part 7                                                                                                                                                Part 9

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