Thursday, January 18, 2024

The History of WWE Royal Rumble (2001)

Stone Cold Steve Austin is back, and he's about to achieve the unthinkable......

Royal Rumble 2001 - New Orleans Arena - 1.21.01

Much of the awesomeness of the WWF circa 2000 continued in the first half of 2001, as exemplified by the 2001 Royal Rumble.  Here was a damn near perfect Rumble card.  A Match of the Year candidate, a solid WWF Title match, and a pretty excellent Rumble.

To kick things off we were treated to a solid Tag Team Title match, as Edge & Christian defended against The Dudley Boyz.  This was pretty basic stuff but it worked well and ended with The Dudleyz winning back the Championships.

The Match of the Night was next, as I-C Champ Chris Benoit defended the strap in a Ladder Match against one of his greatest rivals, Chris Jericho.  These two delivered one of their best-ever bouts, creating inventive spots and establishing a gritty, realistic tone throughout.  Aside from a slightly anticlimactic finish, this was probably the best singles Ladder Match since HBK-Razor, and easily one of the best matches of 2001.

Jericho dropkicking a ladder.  Oh and some other guy.

The only bad match of the night was up third, as Women's Champion Ivory defended against Chyna.  After three minutes of forgettable action, Chyna suffered a kayfabe neck injury and lost via pinfall.  A rather tasteless stretcher angle followed which included Jerry Lawler going into the ring to check on her, echoing the real-life events surrounding the death of Owen Hart.
The WWF Title match got the semi-main slot as Kurt Angle faced Triple H in a rare heel vs. heel matchup.  Adding up the tangibles, this match was fine.  Both guys worked hard and turned in a fine 25-minute performance.  Unfortunately since it was two villains working each other the crowd didn't really have anything to root for and that hurt the bout a little.  I'd have preferred an upper-midcard babyface getting a shot at Angle, and then Triple H could've been in the Rumble (Since he was feuding with Austin anyway this would've added some heat and star power to that match).

The Rumble match itself was one of the best they've ever done.  This had an epic feel and featured at least two bona fide potential winners in Austin and The Rock.  It would clearly be one of those two earning the 'Mania Title shot, but having two legitimate choices made the match more fun.  This Rumble also had an entertaining Hardcore segment, where Raven, Kane, Al Snow and others cracked each other with weapons for several minutes.  Speaking of Kane, he was not only the long man in this Rumble but also broke the record for most eliminations with 11.  That record would stand for 13 years.  Despite an ongoing bloody brawl with Triple H outside the ring for parts of this match, Steve Austin would outlast Kane and The Rock, winning a record-breaking third Rumble match.  The only complaint here is that they eliminated The Rock before Kane.  Once Rocky was gone it was quite clear who was winning.

I think this is the only time the Rumble winner has been covered in blood.

Participants: Jeff Hardy, Bull Buchanan, Matt Hardy, Faarooq, Drew Carey, Kane, Raven, Al Snow, Perry Saturn, Steve Blackman, Grandmaster Sexay, Honky Tonk Man, The Rock, The Goodfather, Tazz, Bradshaw, Albert, Bob Holly, K-Kwik, Val Venis, William Regal, Test, Big Show, Crash Holly, Undertaker, Scotty 2 Hotty, Steve Austin, Billy Gunn, Haku, Rikishi
Final FourSteve Austin, Kane, The Rock, Billy Gunn (??)
Long Man: Kane 53:46

The 2001 Rumble got the formula pretty much exactly right.  An epic Rumble match with multiple big names, an amazing I-C Ladder Match, and a solid WWF Title match.  Plus only one stinker that was under four minutes.  This is about as well-executed a Rumble PPV as we're ever likely to see.

Best Match: Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho
Worst Match: Ivory vs. Chyna
What I'd Change: The Chyna neck injury angle was in very poor taste.
Most Disappointing Match: I guess the Tag Title match by default.  But it's not bad.
Most Pleasant Surprise: No real surprises here.
Overall Rating: 9.5/10
Better than WrestleMania X-Seven, SummerSlam '01 and/or Survivor Series 2001? - No, About Even, and Definitely.

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