Monday, January 22, 2024

The History of WWE Royal Rumble (2006)

Time for a one-match show wherein Rey Mysterio breaks the record.....

Royal Rumble 2006 - American Airlines Arena - 1/29/06

Aaaaand we're back to another one-match Rumble PPV.  The 2006 edition featured a flat-out abysmal undercard with not one but two shitty Title matches, BOTH OF WHICH went on after the Rumble itself.  That's correct, the Royal Rumble went on fourth out of six.  Unbelievable.

The show opened with a decent enough Cruiserweight Six-Way match, as Kid Kash defended against Gregory Helms (having shed his Hurricane gimmick), Funaki, Nunzio, Jamie Noble and Paul London.  This went just shy of eight minutes but was a fun opener.  Helms got the pin to capture the Title and was set up for a promising heel run.  Unfortunately, as was common with Cruiserweight Champions, the company more or less forgot about him.

Next was a nigh unwatchable women's match as hot new heel Mickie James (who was amazing in this role) faced glorified model Ashley Massaro, with Women's Champ Trish Stratus as guest referee.  Utterly pointless, and even a talented worker like Mickie couldn't carry Ashley to a passable bout.  But ya know, Ashley was on the cover of Playboy so they had to feature her heavily.

Another throwaway was next as The Boogeyman defeated former WWE Champion JBL in just under two minutes.  The Boogeyman character was cartoonish but well executed, however the performer Marty Wright couldn't wrestle a lick.  Just dreadful.

Fourth out of six was the Rumble match.  This edition centered around the tasteless exploitation of Eddie Guerrero's death two months earlier, as Rey Mysterio had begun dedicating everything he did to Eddie, repeatedly talking to the ceiling on camera.  Mysterio delivered a career performance here though, drawing number 2, going coast-to-coast, and breaking Chris Benoit's longevity record.  The match boiled down to Rey, Triple H (who drew #1), and Randy Orton.  Rey as usual played the underdog to perfection, outmaneuvering both heels to win the match.  This appeared to be setting up Rey vs. Kurt Angle at WrestleMania, which would've been spectacular, but unfortunately the company added Randy Orton to the World Title mix and then only gave the three guys 9 minutes at 'Mania.  Rey would go on to have one of the worst World Title runs ever booked.  Anywho, this Rumble match was well-done and made Rey look great for one night at least.  Other highlights included the returning Rob Van Dam, and both members of MNM having impressive stints.

Rey beat two-thirds of Evolution in one match.
Participants: Triple H, Rey Mysterio, Simon Dean, Psicosis, Ric Flair, Big Show, Jonathan Coachman, Bobby Lashley, Kane, Sylvan Grenier, Carlito, Chris Benoit, Booker T, Joey Mercury, Tatanka, Johnny Nitro, Trevor Murdoch, Eugene, Animal, Rob Van Dam, Orlando Jordan, Chavo Guerrero, Matt Hardy, Super Crazy, Shawn Michaels, Chris Masters, Viscera, Shelton Benjamin, Goldust, Randy Orton
Final Four: Rey Mysterio, Randy Orton, Triple H, Rob Van Dam
Long Man: Rey Mysterio (62:12)

Next was a formality disguised as a WWE Title match.  Edge had unseated John Cena three weeks earlier at New Year's Revolution, by cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase immediately after Cena's victory in the Elimination Chamber.  I loved this booking, as it was new and totally unexpected.  Now of course it's become trite and predictable that the MITB holder cashes in on an already exhausted Champion.  Edge was a fantastic heel douchebag Champ and brought a ratings upswing for the three weeks he held the strap.  Unfortunately Vince was hellbent on his planned WrestleMania main event of John Cena vs. Triple H, and so Edge was forced to drop the Title here, in very decisive fashion.  Cena dominated the match and became a two-time Champion.  Yawn.

That STF is more of a leg hold really.  Edge's neck looks just fine.

Bafflingly the World Title match went on last.  The original plan for this was Batista defending against Mark Henry.  Please don't ask why Vince wanted to push Mark Henry as a World Title challenger out of nowhere (Seriously, who did Henry beat in 2005 to get a main event push?  Was he even featured in any PPV events?).  But when Big Dave was sidelined with an injury and vacated the belt, a Battle Royal was held on Smackdown to determine a new Champion.  That match was won by Kurt Angle (I was delighted with this), and Vince insisted on Mark Henry being Angle's first challenger despite there being no backstory and Angle still more or less being a heel.  This match was terrible.  Henry would improve greatly in 2011, but in 2006 he was still pretty much incapable of wrestling a good match.  This might be the least fitting main event in Royal Rumble history.  Angle won in under ten minutes, only for The Undertaker to return and use his supernatural powers to break the ring.  So the whole reason for Angle-Henry to be last was this silly ring collapse bit.  Beyond stupid.

From a creative standpoint WWE was entering one of its worst years.  2006 was fraught with bad booking, undeserved pushes, undeserved burials, and generally ignoring what the fans wanted.  They were still hanging on to the corpse of the Attitude Era, which by this point was overwhelmingly played out.  Other than the Rumble match this PPV is completely skippable.

Best Match: The Rumble
Worst Match: Mickie James vs. Ashley
What I'd Change: Disregarding how Chris Benoit's life ended, I thought it was a little too soon for his Rumble record to be broken.  Rey didn't strike me as a 60-minute type wrestler, as his matches were usually shorter, fast-paced outings.  At the time I probably would've had Rey enter 5th or something.  Other than that, let Edge keep the WWE Title for a while, give Angle a real challenger, and put the Rumble on last.
Most Disappointing Match: Edge vs. John Cena
Most Pleasant Surprise: That Rey actually got to win.
Overall Rating: 3.5/10
Better than WrestleMania 22, SummerSlam '06, and/or Survivor Series 2006? - No, Slightly, and Definitely.

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