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By PWINSIDER.COM STAFF on 2004-02-08 20:00:00

by Tim Whitehead

WWE held their annual Royal Rumble PPV live from Philadelphia. I thought it was a thumbs' up show, largely thanks to the Rumble itself and the overall effort. It was, in my opinion, an improvement over last month's bland Armageddon PPV, which I missed reviewing due to work commitments. The two world title matches on the show included one that was basically average and one that was great until the terrible finish, which the crowd hated so badly that Jim Ross had to acknowledge it. The live crowd did seem up for most of the show, which helped, and commentary was solid. The JR & Tazz combo for the Rumble match was interesting.

RIC FLAIR & BATISTA defeated THE DUDLEYS in a tables match in 4:23 to retain the RAW World Tag Titles. Jonathan Coachman joined JR & Jerry Lawler on the mic here, which fortunately was a short-term deal. Batista ran down the Eagles, likely because there was some concern that the Philly fans would cheer any tag team with Flair on it. The Dudleys attacked Flair & Batista on the floor before the bell. In the ring, they set Flair up to be suplexed through a table. Batista moved the table in time, but unfortunately it fell back down on Flair & the Dudleys, which looked dangerous. D-Von hit a neckbreaker on Batista and lariated him out. Flair backed Bubba Ray up against the table and chopped him. Bubba did his Dusty Rhodes fisticuffs deal on Flair. Flair went to the top, but got tossed off as always. At this point, Coach left the desk and got on the apron, presumably to distract the Dudleys. Bubba dragged him in the ring and tore his shirt off, to reveal bandaged ribs from being put through a table on RAW. The Dudleys set Coach up for the wazzup, but Flair made the save by tossing Bubba from the ring. Batista then came out of nowhere and put D-Von through the table for the sudden win. The match was pretty clumsy as they weren't in synch with one another at all. Not a good opener for the show.

John Cena did a rapping promo predicting victory in the Rumble.

They showed an empty front row seat, which had been set aside by Steve Austin for Mick Foley. Austin had demanded on RAW that Foley show up and kick Randy Orton's ass.

REY MYSTERIO JR. defeated JAMIE NOBLE in 3:13 to retain the Cruiserweight Title. The blind Nidia accompanied Noble. Mysterio went for the 619 early but Noble caught him and slammed him. Noble chopped and hot-shotted Mysterio, scoring some twos. On commentary, Michael Cole said that Nidia was watching the match from ringside, and Tazz had to remind him that she's blind. Mysterio hit a great dropkick, huracanrana, and bulldog combo for a near fall. Noble got his knees up when Mysterio went for a splash. Mysterio then blocked a tiger driver. Noble rebounded off the ropes and Nidia tripped him, though it was unclear whether she tripped him on purpose or thought she was tripping Mysterio. Either way, it led to Mysterio connecting with the 619 and scoring the pin. The match was hot, but way too short to be meaningful. Noble yelled at Nidia afterward for causing him to lose, though she insisted it was an accident.

EDDIE GUERRERO defeated CHAVO GUERRERO JR. in 8:04. There were huge "Eddie" chants here, as he was over at a superstar level. Chavo slapped his face. They felt each other out slowly at first, with the story being that they know each other's moves so well. Eddie began scoring takedowns, leading a frustrated Chavo to take a cheap shot at him. Eddie kept avoiding using brawling tactics, since he wanted to prove he could out-wrestle Chavo. However, Eddie did jab a thumb into Chavo's eye. Both ended up bumping out, where Chavo Sr. was waiting. Sr. rammed Eddie into the stairs. Back in the ring, Eddie hooked an armbar submission. Chavo made the ropes. Chavo used brawling tactics, which Eddie continued to avoid. Each scored a few twos. Chavo went for the multiple suplexes, but only hit two before Eddie blocked him. Eddie then hit three straight suplexes and won with the frog splash. The match was okay, and Eddie got great heat in spots, but it wasn't as action-packed as you'd expect. Afterward, Eddie snapped and began beating the hell out of the downed Chavo. Sr. tried to make the save but Eddie tied him to the ropes and put the boots to him. Eddie continued to beat Chavo, who juiced big, right in front of Sr., who was tied up and helpless to save his son. Chavo was left laying in a bloody heap.

Chris Benoit was doing a promo about the Rumble when he was interrupted by Flair, Batista, and Orton. Flair cut a great promo, boasting about Evolution, and saying that Benoit's status as the greatest technical wrestler on earth wouldn't be enough to stop Orton in the Rumble.

BROCK LESNAR defeated HARDCORE HOLLY in 6:30 to retain the WWE World Title. Holly attacked Lesnar on the floor and posted him twice before the bell. Lesnar made a comeback when Holly missed an elbow. Lesnar stomped and kicked Holly and threw some suplexes. Lesnar kept tying Holly up in an abdominal hold on the mat, with the storyline being that he feared Holly's brawling and was trying to keep him on the mat. Lesnar also applied a bearhug. Holly brawled free, but Lesnar suplexed the hell out of him. Lesnar applied another mat hold. Holly escaped and flapjacked Lesnar. He applied the full nelson on Lesnar, with Cole & Tazz screaming that he was trying to break Lesnar's neck. Lesnar escaped on the ropes, hot-shotted Holly, and hit the F5 for the pin, which drew a big babyface pop. Match was average.

TRIPLE H retained the RAW World Title in a draw with SHAWN MICHAELS in 22:47 of a Last Man Standing match. This was the match that began pulling the show into the thumbs' up category, though the ending came close to ruining it. They opened with fists and chops and then traded spots on the mat. HHH laid Heartbreak Kid out with a knee. He twice sent HBK's back crashing into the turnbuckles and then began working on the back. HBK hooked a figure four out of nowhere and kept it on for a while, hoping to put HHH down for the count. But HHH got back up pretty quickly when the ref started to count to ten. HBK went for a flying crossbody. HHH ducked and HBK sailed out for a major bump to the floor. HHH tried to pedigree HBK through the broadcast desk but HBK blocked it and they ended up returning to the ring. HHH went for another pedigree but this time HBK backdropped him out to the floor. HBK went for a springboard crossbody, but HHH ducked once again and HBK crashed through the Spanish desk. HBK juiced a major gusher. Back once again in the ring, HHH kept pounding on HBK's open wound. Each time HBK would stagger back up at a seven or eight count. HHH had a look on his face like he couldn't believe HBK kept fighting back. HHH got a chair (legal, by the way, under last man standing rules) and walloped HBK across the back. HBK got back up at the count of nine. HBK blocked a pedigree attempt on the chair and instead catapulted HHH, somewhat weakly, into the turnbuckles. HBK then nailed HHH with a hard chairshot and HHH began juicing heavily, though not at HBK's level. HBK hit a flying forearm and both went down for a count of eight, with HBK kipping up. The crowd popped big for most of these moves. HBK laid HHH out again and hit an elbow off the top. He went for the sweet chin music, but HHH avoided it and hit a low blow. Both went down for another eight count. HBK put HHH down for nine with a sleeper. HHH hit a DDT which put HBK down for seven. HBK countered a superplex and both went down for eight yet again. HHH finally connected with the pedigree, and HBK made it back up at like nine and three-quarters. Then, out of the blue, HBK hit the sweet chin music to a huge pop. That was awesome, but it came to a big anti-climax when both went down and couldn't make it back up at ten. The story was that HBK lost so much blood that hitting the sweet chin music drained him of his last ounce of strength and he went down along with HHH. The crowd booed the hell out of the announcement that the match was a draw. JR had to admit the crowd was pissed. Great match, bad ending. Both guys did stretcher jobs, but HBK got off his stretcher on the ramp, insisting on walking out.

Eric Bischoff came out and bragged that the RAW brand has superior "entertainers" and a smarter general manager than Smackdown. He called Paul Heyman a joke who once ran shows in a run-down rinky-dink bingo hall. He laughed about Heyman getting his mouth washed out with soap by Benoit & Cena two weeks ago, claiming that he (Bischoff) has the respect of his wrestlers. Heyman came out and attacked Bischoff. As they were rolling around on the mat, Austin arrived on his ATV. He called Bischoff & Heyman a couple of jackasses who were wasting PPV time in violation of the law. He demanded to know who started the fight. Each, of course, blamed the other. Austin acted like he believed Heyman, and gave Bischoff a stunner. He offered Heyman a beer, but then stunned him as well. Kind of entertaining.

Goldberg was being interviewed when Lesnar walked up. Lesnar recalled that Goldberg had once interrupted one of his interviews. He laughed at Goldberg for no longer having a title. Goldberg acted like he saw Hardcore Holly standing behind Lesnar, and Lesnar freaked out and started looking all over like he was scared. That was funny. Goldberg then said that everyone is calling Mick Foley a coward, but it's really someone else who's the coward. Lesnar looked pissed as Goldberg departed.

Foley, by the way, still hadn't arrived, which led JR to sadly admit to Tazz that Foley indeed appeared to have turned coward.

CHRIS BENOIT won the Royal Rumble at 1:01:34. You already know the rules, so here's how it went! BENOIT (#1) went in first, having been forced into this position by Paul Heyman. RANDY ORTON (#2) arrived and they went at it. Benoit suplexed Orton and put the boots to him. MARK HENRY (#3) arrived. He headbutted Benoit and stomped both Benoit and Orton. TAJIRI (#4) went in. He caught Orton with a handspring elbow before being flattened by Benoit. BRADSHAW (#5) arrived and lariated everyone but Benoit. Benoit ended up eliminating Bradshaw quickly as they struggled against the ropes. RHYNO (#6) came in and gored Henry. Tajiri sprayed the mist in Henry's eyes and Benoit tipped Henry over the ropes for an elimination. Rhyno eliminated Tajiri. MATT HARDY (#7) came in, followed by SCOTT STEINER (#8). Steiner went to town with lariats and suplexes before being suplexed himself by Benoit, who was the superstar of the Rumble. MATT MORGAN (#9) came in. He cleaned house but looked a little green. HURRICANE (#10) blew in but blew right back out when Morgan hurled him like a dart from the ring for an elimination. BOOKER T (#11) arrived. He chopped the hell out of Steiner and scissor kicked Orton. Booker eliminated Steiner. KANE (#12) came in. Kane chokeslammed Benoit, Morgan, and Orton. He blocked a gore from Rhyno. SPIKE DUDLEY (#13) started to the ring, but instead of his music, Undertaker's music played. This frightened Kane, who was distracted and eliminated by Booker. Kane blamed Spike, who apparently was a victim of circumstances here, and assulted him on the ramp with a sick chokeslam. Spike was thus unable to continue and was eliminated before even getting in the ring. Undertaker, by the way, wasn't there, as his music playing was a tease by him to get at Kane. RIKISHI (#14) came in and used his girth to bounce everyone around. He backed his ass up on Morgan. Benoit, meanwhile, eliminated Rhyno. RENE DUPREE (#15) arrived. He immediately eliminated Hardy. Rikishi then quickly eliminated Dupree. A-TRAIN (#16) came in. Benoit eliminated Morgan. Orton, who made a good showing in the Rumble, eliminated both Rikishi and Booker. SHELTON BENJAMIN (#17) came in and eliminated A-Train, but Orton then eliminated Benjamin. This left only Benoit and Orton (the first two entrants) in the ring, and they went back at it with one another. ERNEST MILLER (#18) arrived, accompanied by Lamont. They danced. Benoit threw Lamont out and Orton eliminated Miller. KURT ANGLE (#19) arrived to a big pop. a good three-way erupted between him and Benoit and Orton. RICO (#20) arrived. Rico got in some good moves, but he was eliminated by Orton following an RKO. TEST (#21) was supposed to be next, but no one arrived when his music played. The cameras cut backstage where Test was shown lying unconscious on the floor, a victim of an assault by someone. It turned out that Foley was the assailant, and Austin allowed Foley to take Test's place in the Rumble. Foley ran in to a huge pop and went immediately after Orton. They brawled wildly and both ended up bumping over the top together for a double elimination. They continued to brawl on the floor. CHRISTIAN (#22) came in. He went at it with Benoit and Angle, as Orton and Foley continued fighting on the ramp. Orton hit Foley with a sick (and I mean SICK) chairshot. Foley blocked a second chairshot attempt with a low blow. NUNZIO (#23) was in next, but he had the misfortune of meeting Foley on the ramp. The crazed Foley applied the socko claw to him, though that gave Orton the opening to flee and escape. Foley ran after Orton. Nunzio decided to hide out at ringside for a while rather then go in. BIG SHOW (#24) arrived. He was put over big, manhandling Benoit, Angle, and Christian. CHRIS JERICHO (#25) was next. Everyone jumped Show, trying to lift him over but he overpowered them all and sent them scattering. CHARLIE HAAS (#26) came in. Jericho & Christian joined forces to suplex Haas, but Christian then turned on Jericho and tried to eliminate him. But it was Jericho who ended up eliminating Christian, which will no doubt be a story on RAW. The returning BILLY GUNN (#27) came in. He gave famousers to Angle, Benoit, and Show. JOHN CENA (#28) arrived and found Nunzio hiding at ringside. He threw Nunzio in. ROB VAN DAM (#29) went in and they all went at it like in an old-fashioned battle royal. Cena gave Angle an FU. The final entrant was GOLDBERG (#30), who earned the cherished final entry position on RAW last week. Goldberg went wild with spears, sending everyone flying. He eliminated Haas, Gunn, and Nunzio in quick succession. He had Show up, incredibly, for a jackhammer but Lesnar illegally ran in and attacked him. Lesnar gave Goldberg an F5. Goldberg staggered back up but was eliminated from behind by Angle. This may lead to Goldberg jumping to Smackdown. We'll see. This left Angle, Benoit, Cena, Jericho, RVD, and Show. Show became the target as the other five all went after him. Jericho hit him with a lionsault and RVD hit him with the frog splash. Benoit nailed Show with the diving headbutt. They all five tried to lift him over but he was dead weight. But it was a ruse as he suddenly revived and eliminated Cena and RVD out of nowhere. He nearly eliminated Jericho, but he skinned the cat. Jericho bulldogged Show and hooked the walls. Show tapped, but it was meaningless, of course. Angle went after Jericho, allowing Show to revive. Show chokeslammed Jericho out to the floor, eliminating him. Show chokeslammed Benoit in the ring. Angle hit the Olympic slam on Show and hooked the ankle lock, with Show tapping again. Angle released the hold and tried to leverage Show out over the top, but it was Show who eliminated Angle. Angle, who had earlier vowed to win the Rumble as a tribute to our armed forces, acted pissed and heelish at being eliminated. Benoit caught Show with a legdrop and hooked the crossace. Show suplexed his way out. Benoit then hooked the crossface in a standing position as they struggled against the ropes. Show finally went limp enough for Benoit to tip him over for the elimination. Benoit became the second man (Shawn Michaels was the first) to enter as #1 and win the Rumble. Ironically, no one has ever won with #30. It was a very strong Rumble which puts Benoit in the main event at 'Mania XX for a big title match push.


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