Monday, January 22, 2024

The History of WWE Royal Rumble (2005)

The John Cena-Dave Batista Era begins in earnest.....

Royal Rumble 2005 - SaveMart Center - 1/30/05

The '05 edition was one helluva PPV.  Of the five matches only one was bad and two of them (including the Rumble) were quite good.  I may not have been enthusiastic about the direction the company was headed or the future stars with which it was casting its lot, but I understood it.  It made good business sense.  Good business sense and good storytelling are all one can realistically expect from a wrestling promotion.

The show opened with a pretty fantastic grudge match, as Shawn Michaels battled Edge.  A few weeks earlier at New Year's Revolution, guest referee Michaels cost Edge his spot in the Elimination Chamber match by superkicking him in retaliation for an inadvertent Spear.  Edge then attacked Shawn and this feud was set into motion (To be fair Edge was in the right - his Spear on Shawn was an accident while Shawn's superkick was deliberate).  While a little slower than I expected, this was a well-worked 18-plus-minute match and a great way to open the PPV.

I always liked this move.

Next was the singular bad match on the card, as Undertaker once again faced Heidenreich, this time in a Casket Match.  While mercifully shorter than their Survivor Series '04 debacle, this still wasn't good.

The card picked up a bit as WWE Champion JBL defended against Kurt Angle and The Big Show.  This was no five-star classic but it was a fun little affair, with Angle playing the cowardly heel and JBL opportunistically taking advantage of outside interference to retain.

In the semi-main slot was the culmination of one of the most horridly booked (one might suggest deliberately botched) top babyface runs of the modern era, as World Champion Triple H defended one last time against his former protege Randy Orton.  As you'll recall Orton won the Title from Chris Benoit at SummerSlam '04 and was dumped by his Evolution pals the following night, which despite Orton's thoroughly heelish persona was supposed to somehow make us all like him.  Orton then dropped the belt to Triple H only four weeks later and spent the next four months chasing Hunter and largely failing to get any sort of revenge.  How the company expected Orton to get over in this scenario is beyond me.  The added wrinkle in this particular match was that Orton suffered a pretend concussion, which made him slightly more sympathetic but ended up costing him the match.  Said concussion plagued Orton for a few weeks until the angle was dropped altogether and Orton turned heel again shortly thereafter.  An absolutely terrible attempt at creating a top hero, but at least this was a pretty good Title match.

For the third straight year WWE produced a damn fine Royal Rumble match.  This one resembled the 2003 edition in that it was peppered with strong in-ring talent and featured fast-paced action which kept the match from ever dragging.  This was a very smartly booked Rumble as the best workers all had significant showings; Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit started the match and each had impressive runs, with Benoit nearly duplicating his coast-to-coast performance from 2004, while other early entrants Edge and Rey Mysterio both lasted around forty minutes.  The late segments of the match belonged to future headliners John Cena and Batista, who ended up the final two participants.  After an accidental double elimination from which a winner could not be determined, Vince McMahon stormed to the ring, legitimately tore both quads sliding in, and from a sitting position ordered a match restart.  Batista finally prevailed as originally planned, concluding one of the more memorable Rumbles in history.

Cena's elimination, Take 2.

Participants: Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Daniel Puder, Hardcore Holly, The Hurricane, Kenzo Suzuki, Edge, Rey Mysterio, Shelton Benjamin, Booker T, Chris Jericho, Luther Reigns, Muhammad Hassan, Orlando Jordan, Scotty 2 Hotty, Charlie Haas, Rene Dupree, Simon Dean, Shawn Michaels, Kurt Angle, Jonathan Coachman, Mark Jindrak, Viscera, Paul London, John Cena, Snitsky, Kane, Batista, Christian, Ric Flair
Final FourBatista, John Cena, Edge, Rey Mysterio
Long Man: Chris Benoit (47:26)

The 2005 Rumble PPV ranks up there with the best overall editions.  The Rumble match was excellent, both Title matches were solid, and the opener was a near show-stealer.  The company was doing a lot wrong around this time but every so often they managed to get just about everything spot-on.

Best Match: The Rumble
Worst Match: Undertaker vs. Heidenreich
What I'd Change: Other than not signing Heidenreich at all?  Not much about this specific show.  There were some big-picture issues to be sure, but this PPV was one of the bright spots of 2005.
Most Disappointing Match: Probably JBL-Angle-Show just because Angle wasn't in it much
Most Pleasant Surprise: I really didn't expect to like this Rumble match as much as I did.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10
Better than WrestleMania 21, SummerSlam '05, and/or Survivor Series 2005? - No, Yes, and Yes.

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