Tuesday, January 23, 2024

The History of WWE Royal Rumble (2009)

The final Royal Rumble of the aughts was......eh......

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.

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