WWE Royal Rumble 2004 1/25/2004

January 25, 2004
Wachovia Centre
Philadelphia, PA
Attendance: 17,289
Buy Rate: .98
Announcers: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole & Tazz

Sunday Night Heat

Victoria defeats Molly Holly in a non-title match at 4:56

Pay Per View

Fun Fact:
On 12/15, Mick Foley walked out as GM due to a confrontation with Eric Bischoff and Randy Orton. On 12/29, it was revealed that a big meeting was happening in Stamford over the possible return of Steve Austin. Vince would be arguing against Austin while Linda was arguing for his reinstatement. Later that night, Austin got the call he was waiting for but wasn’t interested in the offer, so he drove off. At the end of the show, he came down to the ring and announced that he was now Sheriff of Raw. His power was pretty much the same, but he just had a new title.

1) Ric Flair & Batista defeat The Dudley Boys in a Tables Match to retain World Tag Team Titles when Batista (Dave Bautista) puts D-Von Dudley (Devon Hughes) through a table at 4:21

Fun Fact: On 12/29, Ric Flair was named special referee as the Dudleys battled two jobbers. Two minutes into the match, Flair disqualified Bubba Ray for using a closed fist. Batista would then come out and beat the Dudleys down. The next week, Flair & Batista assaulted the Dudleys again to soften them up for their title match later that night. In the main event, Flair & Batista retained their titles with some help from Triple H. The next week, the domination continued as Batista pinned D-Von in a singles match. Finally, on 1/19 the four men would brawl again, with the segment ending with Coach getting put through a table.

Our opener is, although entertaining, really a mess. The rules were even adjusted for this match. Usually you have to put both tag members through tables to win. Here Batista put D-Von through a table and the match ends. At first I was puzzled, but then I figured it out. The entire undercard was needed to fit in such a small time slot to make room for both the Rumble itself and the Triple H/Michaels match. Since that was a guaranteed hour and 45 minutes combined, the rest of the card had to be dummied down. Thus this match was only five minutes when it may have been able to be put together better with at least three more minutes of time. The Evolution theme is clearly the greatest ever, so I mark out for that in the beginning. Batista’s crushing spinebuster on D-Von was maybe the highlight of the match, as I had pretty much stopped caring about the Dudleys on TV anyway. Their gimmick was so boring, whether they’re faces or heels, that the quick ending didn’t bother me. It did affect the other matches on the card more, but since this one seemed like they didn’t really plan it that well, five minutes was probably fitting. Grade: 1

Justin: Our first PPV match of 2004 is a short brawl featuring the top tag teams on Raw. Flair & Batista won the titles last month and the Dudleys were looking for revenge and they were granted a tables match here. The Dudleys got a nice hometown pop as they returned to their ECW stomping grounds. Batista helped ensure the fans’ allegiance as well by taking a cheap shot at the recently NFL playoff eliminated Eagles. Those comments triggered a nice brawl and I must say the match started well with the Dudleys delivering solid action and double teams. Once the tables were turned, Batista was dominant and strong for a brief spurt. Things would take a turn for the worse when the Coach got involved in the match. The bout started to get sloppy but it ended quickly with a nice spinebuster from Batista. The match had gotten off to a hot start and had promise but it was too short and quickly fizzled out with a weak finish. Evolution is still in control of the tag scene and the Dudleys are left without their gold once again. Grade: 1

2) Rey Mysterio (Oscar Gutierrez) defeats Jamie Noble (James Gibson) to retain WWE Cruiserweight Championship with a springboard legdrop at 3:13

Fun Fact: Since November, Jamie Noble had begun using his blind girlfriend Nidia to aid him in matches. On 12/18, Rey defeated Noble to earn a Cruiserweight Championship match when Noble’s attempt at using Nidia failed. Two weeks later, on 1/1, Rey defeated Tajiri to capture the gold. The next week, Tajiri was set to battle Jamie Noble in a number one contender match. Backstage, Nidia revealed that Noble was not there, so Paul Heyman told her she would have to take his place or Noble would be fired. Tajiri, who easily won the match, quickly dispatched the blinded Nidia. After the bell, Tajiri started to set up to kick Nidia, but Rey made the save. Noble finally emerged and attacked Rey, grabbing Nidia and storming off. A week later, Heyman ordered a rematch to determine the top contender, which Noble won, again using Nidia to his advantage.

Now here is where the lack of time really hurts the show. These two could have put on a stellar Cruiserweight match, even with the blind Nidia nonsense. How much time do they get? 3:12. Three minutes? Even Velocity matches are longer than this. It had a decent pace and could have been pretty good if given maybe four or five more minutes. Instead they bounce around, Nidia trips Noble by mistake, 619, West Coast Pop and we’re done. I feel I’m watching a Vince Russo-booked PPV from 1998. Rey moves on, Noble’s pissed and…TIME’S UP! Grade: 2

Justin: After a brief stretch without gold, Rey defeated Tajiri to win his belt back to kick off 2004 with a bang. Rey was over like rover here, as usual, and Noble was gaining some decent heat thanks to his abuse of Nidia. The match got off to a fast start as these two had great chemistry and worked smoothly. Noble showed off some crisp offense, but it was quickly thwarted by botched interference by Nidia. Rey would take advantage and pick up the quick win. The match was really short but fun and had non-stop action for its brief duration. The Noble/Nidia tension continues as Jamie berates her after the bell. Grade: 1.5

3) Eddie Guerrero defeats Chavo Guerrero, Jr. with a Frog Splash at 8:04

Fun Fact: On 12/4, Eddie helped his nephew defeat Shelton Benjamin in a match, but Chavo was not happy that Eddie aided him and told Eddie he wanted to go it alone. The next week, the Guerreros sorted things out and teamed back up to defeat TWGTT, but Chavo was again unhappy, this time angered over Eddie getting the pinfall. On 12/18, the Guerreros earned a tag title match in a four-way battle but Chavo would eat the pin, allowing the Bashams to retain. On 1/1, Chavo again was on his back as TWGTT got their win back on the Guerreros. After the match, Chavo blamed Eddie for the loss and slapped him across the face. Before a fight could break out, Kurt Angle came out to prevent things from escalating. Eddie and Angle began to argue as Chavo bailed out of the ring and took off. After the break, Angle told Eddie that he was being selfish in entering the Rumble, as Chavo had accused him of being. Angle told Eddie that he needed to calm down because Chavo was flesh and blood and should be treated as such. The next week opened with Angle playing peacemaker once again and the segment ended with the Guerreros shaking hands in the ring. Later that night, the reunited Guerreros lost another title match, with Chavo again getting pinned. After the match, the Bashams began to assault Eddie. Chavo grabbed a chair, but instead of helping, he opened it and sat at ringside, watching the brutality unfold. After the Bashams were done, Chavo hit the ring and finished his uncle off, leaving him a bloodied mess in the ring. Later in the night, Angle apologized to Eddie for getting involved and stopping him from beating up Chavo when he initially wanted to. On 1/15, Angle told Eddie that Chavo wasn’t in the arena, but that his brother, Chavo, Sr. was. He also heard that Heyman took Eddie out of the Rumble and that he will face Chavo at the PPV, something Eddie swore he wouldn’t do. Eddie told Kurt to stay out of his business and Kurt walked off. Later in the show, Chavo, Sr. arrived and apologized to Eddie about what had happened. After a few minutes, Chavo, Jr. made his way down the aisle, distracting Eddie long enough to allow his father to attack Eddie. The Chavos beat Eddie down, once again leaving him laid out. Eddie would blame Angle, but Kurt continued to proclaim his innocence in the matter. Finally, on 1/22, Angle continued to stir the pot backstage and in the ring as the main event saw Angle and Eddie team up against the Chavos. Angle would end up getting poked in the eye and suplexing Eddie by accident, allowing the Chavos to win the match.

The first match that was given a decent amount of time was Eddie’s final step towards his ultimate goal. The tension was building towards the last weeks of 2003 and spilled over into 2004. Eddie was really on a roll with the fans, almost more after he lost his US Title to Big Show at No Mercy. Chavo looks like a selfish prick that can’t do anything on his own. He even brought back his dad, and Eddie’s brother, Chavo, Sr. to support him. Senior would end up being one of the highlights of Smackdown in 2004. The match is pretty good, but even here at over eight minutes they probably could have used a few more minutes to build it. Eddie was working at such a very high level, and he put a bit of nastiness into this one, pissed off his own “familia” turned on him. Even after the match he gets a few shots in to punish his nephew. He even beats his brother Chavo Sr. down as well. Events later in the evening and the next night on Raw will propel Eddie to a chance no one ever thought he would get in his entire career. This match is fun, but the pacing could have been a bit quicker instead of building to what was a longer match and ended up feeling a little rushed at the end. Grade: 2

Justin: After a great run as a tag team, the Guerreros were finally torn apart by Chavo’s jealousy. After being humiliated and beaten down over the last few weeks, Eddie vowed to win the match and then destroy his nephew…and brother. That is right, one of the highlights of this feud was the debut of Chavo, Sr., a man that would provide much unintentional comedy over the coming months. As he transitioned from comedy mid card act to viable main eventer, Eddie also worked on his look a bit, cutting his hair shorter for a more serious look. The crowd was fully behind Eddie as he grounded and frustrated Chavo to start. Eddie continued to prod his nephew with smirks and little laughs as he dominated him in the ring. Once Chavo started to fight back though, the match took on a new feel. It felt like a legit fight and the tension, anger and frustration between the two were palpable. Chavo, Sr. would help Chavo gain the upper hand briefly, but the match was all Eddie as he just picked apart his nephew. The bout was built to be a mismatch as Eddie was dominant and need to look so due to what was in the cards for his future. The match had a slow, methodical pace and was pretty much a glorified squash. After the match, Eddie destroyed both Chavos, fulfilling his pre-match promise. This was a clear elevation for Eddie and the end of a chapter as his team and relationship with Chavo is officially done with. Eddie now moves on to the biggest push of his career while Chavo stays in midcard, on his own for the first time since 2002. Grade: 1.5

*** Backstage, Josh Matthews is interviewing Chris Benoit when a celebrating Evolution comes in and Flair commends Benoit on his technical prowess but questions if he can win the big one. ***

4) Brock Lesnar defeats Hardcore Holly (Robert Howard) to retain WWE Championship with the F5 at 6:30

Fun Fact: On 12/4, GM Paul Heyman had his assistant Dawn Marie send a letter to Hardcore Holly, letting him know that he was still suspended from Smackdown. On 12/11, Holly hopped out of the crowd and jumped Brock after he defeated Rey Mysterio. The next week, Heyman allowed Holly back to Smackdown and Holly vowed to break Lesnar’s neck. In the main event, he teamed with Shannon Moore to upset Matt Morgan and A-Train. After losing to Big Show by DQ on 1/1, Holly got revenge and got on a roll on 1/8, when he made Show submit in a street fight. To further enhance his image, it was also revealed that Holly broke Show’s neck. Show would be seen in a neck brace and would take out a restraining order against Holly for the next two weeks. Finally, on 1/22, Holly jumped Brock and hooked on a full nelson before officials quickly broke up things.

In what is merely a placeholder till No Way Out, Brock dispatches a career mid-carder in a quickie match that did have a legit storyline. Back in 2002, Brock broke Holly’s neck on a botched powerbomb that when looked at closely was actually Holly’s fault. Regardless, there was a back story to it, which makes the logic of having this match at least stick. Here was a case where having a short match was just fine. You didn’t want this thing dragging out over nine or ten minutes, considering most of these five and a half minutes was a bear hug. This ends up being Brock’s final PPV win, and its quite forgettable. Grade: 1.5

Justin: In one of the most unlikely PPV Heavyweight Championship matches in history, Hardcore Holly gets his shot at revenge against the man who broke his neck, Brock Lesnar. Holly jumps Brock during his entrance, carrying over the intensity of the feud into the opening minutes of the match. Holly was clearly a weak challenger, but if there was any show that called for it, this was it. Sadly, the storyline was really good and could have drawn some money if it featured a more charismatic and established star than Holly. The style clash told a nice story as well, as the brawling Holly was forced to try to outwrestle the mat-based wizard, Lesnar. The match was going along nicely until Brock unleashed a lengthy and crowd killing bear hug. Holly would break free and show great fire in trying to break Brock’s neck but Brock was clearly better and just outclassed Holly and picked up the fairly easy win. It was a dominant defense and a good one, as it added some realism to the championship, with the dominant champion wiping out a fiery challenger. At this point in the show, things were flying along but that is all about to change. Grade: 1

5) Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom) and Triple H (Paul Levesque) wrestle to a No Contest in a Last Man Standing Match at 22:45 when both men fail to answer the ten count; Triple H retains World Heavyweight Championship

Fun Fact: On 12/15, Shawn Michaels & Rob Van Dam defeated Triple H, Ric Flair and Batista in a handicap match when Michaels pinned the Champ with a Superkick. After the match, GM Foley granted Michaels a title match on 12/29. After a week off for a Year in Review special, 12/29 rolled around and the title match was slated for the Main Event. After a shaky year of Raws each week, the former DX stablemates tore the house down and closed out 2003 with a bang. The match was an epic 29 minutes of excitement that ended with some controversy. Michaels drilled Hunter with SCM and fell on top for the win and the Championship to a huge pop. As the celebration began, Bischoff came down and declared that Michaels’ shoulders were down along with Hunter’s when the pinfall was counted. Therefore, he called the match a draw and took the title from HBK. Shawn snapped and roughed up Bischoff who then fired him on the spot. As soon as he did, newly minted Sheriff Austin emerged and rehired Michaels and also granted him a rematch. The next week, Austin announced that Michaels and Hunter would face off at the Rumble in a Last Man Standing match. Over the next few weeks, they brought up past history and also landed a few shots in on each other to add extra heat on the rematch.

So here is the reason why we had such a Russo-esque express line of matches before this. No way these guys get under twenty minutes, and that’s a double-edged sword. On the bad side, a twenty-minute match at the Royal Rumble is tough due to the fact that one match already takes over an hour and fifteen minutes, so when you have a twenty-minute undercard match you’re not leaving much room left. Now on the good side, these two have never had a bad match together. Starting with their five-star gem at Summerslam 2002, their battle at Armageddon 2002, and their classic on Raw to end 2003, Triple H and Shawn Michaels are two of the best storytellers in the business. This match may have been a bit forced in that aspect, but both guys brought the violence and blood meter up to help that cause. Now I don’t think they’d ever be able to pull that off again after what they did at Summerslam 2002. So unfortunately for me I can’t look at this match as highly as maybe some others do because I keep their SS 02 match on a very high plateau. It was very entertaining, even though the ending left everyone with a very bad taste in their mouth. Double knockouts are never good, and unfortunately that’s a booking cop-out. I’ll get more into why that is when we get to Wrestlemania XX, but for now a physical twenty-minute brawl ends…with nothing solved. If this were the last match of the night we’d be talking a very poor grade for this show, but since we have another hour-long match before the end, we’ll grade this for the match as a whole, not just the cheap booked ending. Grade: 3

Justin: After they put on a TV classic to close out the year, expectations were high for Michaels and Triple H to deliver once again on PPV. As the bell sounded this definitely had a big match feel to it. The two former friends went back and forth early before Michaels grabbed control and began to work on the leg. IT was a pretty standard match between the two with the crowd solidly behind HBK, begging for a title change. Michaels unleashed a nasty Asai moonsault into the announce table which picked the pace of the match up a bit. Michaels continued to up the ante as he hit a vicious blade job as well and really began to milk the drama the of the ten counts as only he can. Just as he had over 15 months ago, Hunter began punish Michaels’ back with the aid of a steel chair. Around this point, the match lost its flow and really slowed down. Hunter bladed as well as things broke down into a slow paced slugfest. I think Last Man Standing is a good concept, but the counting of the falls can really hurt the match as it just churns it to a stop more often than it builds drama. Michaels really looked strong here, just as he did at Survivor Series. He withstood a vicious beating but still wouldn’t stay down…until the weak finish that is. Because they wanted to keep the belt on Hunter and didn’t want Michaels to lose just yet, they took the easy way out and had both men be unable to answer the ten count, ending the bout in a draw. The match was hard hitting, but not nearly as brutal enough to justify this sort of finish. The ending killed the crowd and tacks a lame, anticlimactic finish onto a solid championship match. This feud is far from over but another chapter comes to an unfulfilling close. Grade: 3

6) Chris Benoit wins the Royal Rumble

Order of Entrants (with person who eliminated them)

1) Chris Benoit: Winner
2) Randy Orton: Mick Foley
3) Mark Henry: Chris Benoit
4) Tajiri (Yoshihiro Tajiri): Rhyno
5) Bradshaw (John Layfield): Chris Benoit
6) Rhyno (Terry Gerin): Chris Benoit
7) Matt Hardy: Rene Dupree
8) Scott Steiner: Booker T.
9) Matt Morgan: Chris Benoit
10) The Hurricane (Gregory Helms): Matt Morgan
11) Booker T. (Booker Huffman): Randy Orton
12) Kane (Glen Jacobs): Booker T.
13) Spike Dudley (Matt Hyson): Did Not Enter
14) Rikishi (Solofa Fatu): Randy Orton
15) Rene Dupree (Rene Goguen): Rikishi
16) A-Train (Matt Bloom): Chris Benoit
17) Shelton Benjamin; Randy Orton
18) Ernest Miller: Randy Orton
19) Kurt Angle: Big Show
20) Rico (Rico Constantino): Randy Orton
21) Mick Foley: Mick Foley
22) Christian (Jay Reso): Chris Jericho
23) Nunzio (James Maritato): Goldberg
24) Big Show (Paul Wight): Chris Benoit
25) Chris Jericho (Chris Irvine): Big Show
26) Charlie Haas: Goldberg
27) Billy Gunn (Monty Sop): Goldberg
28) John Cena: Big Show
29) Rob Van Dam (Rob Szatkowski): Big Show
30) Goldberg: Kurt Angle

Longest Time: Chris Benoit (01:01:30)
Shortest Time: Spike Dudley (:00)
Most eliminated: Chris Benoit (6)

Fun Fact: On the 11/27 Smackdown, Paul Heyman held a battle royal to determine who would earn a Championship match with Brock Lesnar. Chris Benoit and John Cena both hit the floor at the same time to co-win the match, so Heyman decreed that they would face each other to determine the top contender. The next week, Benoit defeated Cena to earn the right to challenge Brock later in the show. Benoit took Brock to the limit but came up just short as Brock was able to escape with his title. On 1/1, Heyman told Cena that he would need to defeat all three members of the FBI to earn a slot in the Rumble. He was allowed to choose one mystery partner and he picked Benoit. Benoit and Cena won the match and earned spots in the Rumble match. Later in the night, a vengeful Heyman proclaimed that Benoit would be forced to enter the Rumble as the #1 entrant. Over the next few weeks, Heyman continued to torture both Benoit and Cena. The two would gain some revenge when the beat Heyman down and washed his mouth out with soap. Benoit vowed that his Rumble slot would not prevent him from realizing his dream.

Fun Fact II:
On 12/15, Eric Bischoff told Mick Foley that the fans didn’t want to see him as GM; rather they wanted to see him wrestle. He offered Foley a match against Randy Orton with an added stipulation. If Orton won, Foley had to quit but if Foley won, Bischoff would walk away. Foley accepted but he wanted a few stips of his own added on. He wanted Evolution banned from ringside, Earl Hebner as the referee and the IC Title on the line. The match was set for later that night. When it came time for the match, Foley stalled outside the ring before backing off and leaving ringside. Foley disappeared backstage and began to gather his things. As he was leaving the arena, Bischoff warned him that the stipulation would still stand. Foley ignored him and walked on but Orton ran back there and blocked him. Orton ran him down, berated him and then spit in his face. Foley just stared at him and then walked off dejected. The next week, Orton forced Lillian to announce him as the winner and declared that he had killed another legend. On 1/12, Orton offered Foley a front row seat for Raw and dared him to show up, which did not happen. Orton continued to tweak the Hardcore Legend as he aired a great video, mocking Mick, showing all of his most embarrassing moments for years gone by. Orton aired another video the next week to continue to pile it on. A ringside seat was again left open for Foley at the Rumble but again he did not show up there. Even Jim Ross was finally forced to admit that Foley was being a coward.

Fun Fact III:
This is Scott Steiner’s final WWE PPV match. His final record, including Rumble and Survivor matches, is 8-6.

Fun Fact IV:
Ernest “The Cat” Miller was an accomplished karate champion that was brought into WCW by Eric Bischoff back in 1997. Miller had been training Eric’s son at the time Bischoff asked him to become a wrestler. Miller debuted as a friend and tag partner for Glacier as he feuded with Wrath and Mortis. Miller would soon turn heel and align with Sonny Onoo. At that time, Miller started to show his charisma and began building a fanbase. He would dance like James Brown and proclaim that he could defeat anybody within two minutes. In 2000, he was named Commissioner of WCW and due to his antics, the fans quickly turned him face. He remained on TV until WCW folded. After a brief stint in the WWA, Miller inked a deal to come north to WWE. He debuted on the 11/28/02 Smackdown and was officially named the color commentator of Velocity. He remained in that role until December 2003 when he joined the active Smackdown roster. On 12/11, Miller was brought to the ring by his new assistant, Lamont, and danced for the fans to his new theme song. The next week, Miller danced again but this time he was joined by Vince McMahon. Vince did a hilarious dance before dropping Miller with a low blow and strutting off. Miller’s music was a catchy beat with the words “Somebody Call My Momma” sang over it repeatedly. Tazz became a big fan of the song, as he would sing along each time it came on.

Fun Fact V:
On 5/19/03, Rico severed ties with Three Minute Warning after they lost a match to the Dudleys. On June 16, Rico reappeared with an effeminate look and a new valet, Tough Enough II winner Jackie Gayda. Rico did his best to channel Exotic Adrian Street with Jackie as his Miss Linda. After an initial push, Rico basically degenerated into a jobber to the stars during his time on Raw.

Fun Fact VI:
Following Armageddon, Eric Bischoff suspended Goldberg from Raw for attacking Rob Conway and Rene Dupree. On 1/12, Sheriff Austin lifted the suspension and Goldberg announced that he was entering the Rumble. On 1/19, Goldberg won a six-man battle royal to earn the #30 slot in the Rumble.

Fun Fact VII:
On 12/15, we received an Armageddon rematch on Raw as Christian and Chris Jericho teamed to battle Trish & Lita. After Christian viciously clotheslined both women and dropped Trish with an Unprettier, Jericho forced the ref to stop the match. Angered by his request, Bischoff came out and yelled at Jericho, putting him in a match with Kane later in the night. Two weeks later, Jericho again apologized to Trish and gave her a Christmas gift. Trish told him that it hurt her that she was only worth $.75 post exchange rate to him. The next week, Christian and Jericho patched things up after arguing since the PPV. After they won a match, Jericho busted into Trish’s locker room to unleash his feelings. He found that Trish was in the shower, so he poured his heart out about his feelings but when he was done and the curtain opened, it was Mae Young that emerged and not Trish. On 1/12, Jericho saved Trish from Mark Henry. Later in the night, Christian warned Jericho that Trish was just messing with his head and was no good and that he needed to stop pursuing her. We will continue the rest of this story at Wrestlemania.

Fun Fact VIII:
This is Test’s final PPV appearance until 2006. He would stick around on TV until the summer, which is when he had to undergo spinal fusion surgery to repair his neck. In November, he was officially released from WWE. Test would work the independent circuit throughout 2005 before returning to WWE in early 2006.

Fun Fact IX:
This is A-Train’s final PPV appearance. He would remain on Smackdown until April when he was drafted to Raw. On 6/21 he suffered a torn rotator cuff. Before he was healed, he was released from his contract in November. One of A-Train’s WWE claims to fame is that he wrestled in the first ever and last ever match on the syndicated show Jakked. After leaving, his spent some time on the independent circuit before heading to Japan where he would reinvent his career as Giant Bernard. He is still competing in New Japan Pro Wrestling. His final PPV record, including Rumble matches, is 4-17.

This Rumble was one of the most entertaining and active Rumbles in history. After what seemed like an off-Rumble in 2003, this one had a lot of activity and plenty of subplots. Many expected Chris Benoit to win since he was getting dicked around by Smackdown GM Paul Heyman and that he was the #1 guy. Whenever a point is made in a storyline to make a guy #1, you know he’s winning. Really it’s any early number, like Ric Flair in 1992 when he was #3. Again there were plenty of subplots, from Randy Orton/Mick Foley, to Kane and the “gong going off”, to Brock Lesnar costing Goldberg the Rumble shot. Plenty of things to keep you entertained while Benoit ran up the time he was in the ring. JR makes a factual faux pas as he says this is the first Rumble ever, not counting the first one, that none of the 30 participants had ever won the Rumble. That’s crap, as Jim Duggan won the first one in 1988 but the next year he was in a six-man tag match, so 1989 didn’t have a previous winner. 1990 and 1994 also had 30 non-winners. Come on JR, you’re better than that. t seemed like Big Show may have been on his way to winning this thing, but you knew they must have had a cool way for Benoit to eliminate him. So they come up with that grueling head scissors and finally Big Show goes over the top rope. So Chris Benoit, one year removed from losing a heart-breaking WWE Title match to Kurt Angle, wins yet another chance to become the top dog. However the next night on Raw he throws everybody a curve ball. Overall this Rumble was entertaining and fun to watch, with so many subplots keeping the suspense high.

A good omen for this Rumble was the choice of announce team as Jim Ross and Tazz are paired up to call the match and do a fantastic job, gelling right off the bat. The match got off to a solid start, as expected, with Chris Benoit entering number one. He was strong and aggressive as always as he tore through competitors. The match also had a nice flow of eliminations early, something that has hurt Rumbles in the past due to overcrowding of the ring. Matt Morgan also got a nice push in the match, especially on commentary as JR and Tazz put him over as a monster. The first big domination segment came courtesy Kane, who quickly wiped everyone out. His roll would quickly end thanks to an ominous gong that rang throughout the arena. Worried that his brother was back for revenge, a distracted Kane was easily dumped to the floor. Kane then flipped out and demolished Spike on the entrance ramp, leaving him for dead. Spike would never recover and enter the ring. After some more standard solid Rumble action, we got a nice standoff between Orton and Benoit, two men making the biggest impression in the match to this point. As they took each other out, Ernest Miller, who hit the ring and danced for a minute before Benoit, Orton recovered and eliminated him and his servant Lamont, delivered the comedic highlight of the match. Following that greatness, the crowd got pumped up for two superstars that entered two spots apart. Kurt Angle came out at #19 and the crowd was into him big time. We then cut backstage to see Test laid out cold. Austin yells at someone off camera and tells him to head to the ring to take Test’s spot. After a few seconds of action, the sound of screeching tires filled the arena and Mick Foley came charging to the ring to a massive pop. Weeks after being humiliated by Orton, Foley was out for revenge. They would have a great brawling segment that ended with Foley eliminating Orton and himself with a clothesline. Despite his exit, Orton put on a great showing and clearly came off as a big time star while out there. Even after the eliminations, Foley and Orton brawled all around the floor and delivered some nasty chair shots in the midst of it. In a funny spot, Nunzio came out during the brawl and hit at ringside instead of entering the match. His plan didn’t last too long as John Cena came out to a monster pop and tossed him into the ring. In another interesting elimination, Jericho tossed out his buddy Christian, continuing the building tension. After some more action, Goldberg came out at #30, also garnering a big pop from the fans. He dominated things and was building some serious momentum. After his showdown with Brock backstage, it seemed quite likely that he would win the match. That notion was quickly squashed as Brock came out, distracted him and allowed Kurt Angle to toss him out. Everyone would then team up on Big Show, but they couldn’t get the job done, leaving the monster in the ring. For the second year in a row, we got a weak showing for RVD as he is easily tossed out. After Goldberg entered, the final segment of the match was quite long, which helped build the anticipation. In the end, it came down to crowd favorite Chris Benoit and the hated Big Show. The fans, both live in the arena and on the Internet around the world, were literally begging for a Benoit win. It was a storybook finish and a tremendous angle for the man who would fought his whole life for this chance. The finish was well booked, as it made you wonder if Benoit could take Show out. It forced you to beg, wonder and pray that Benoit wouldn’t hit his head on that reviled glass ceiling once again. In the end, the ceiling was shattered as Benoit pulled Show to the floor and realized his dream as he would be headed for the Main Event of Wrestlemania. It was a tremendous moment to end a really good Rumble match. I think it loses a little bit of excitement all these years later because the story of Benoit’s long journey was still ongoing and nobody knew for sure if they would finally pull the trigger. Well they did, but his path to Wrestlemania will be far from simple. This was a really good Rumble with an all time great moment.

Final Analysis:

So when I first watched this show when it aired, I thought it was one of the greatest Rumble shows ever. Then watching it again, I’m wrong. It always seems like when you’re watching the show, you remember the Rumble match and go “Wow this PPV was awesome!” without really thinking about the rest of the show. The undercard was somewhat disjointed since the main undercard match was over twenty minutes. Most disappointing was the length of the Rey/Noble match, as they could have put on a good eight-nine minute match and instead were given three throwaway minutes. Triple H/Michaels was solid, but for me any match between the two involving blood and violence will pale in comparison to their Long Island War in 2002. Chris Benoit winning the Rumble really put a happy capper to the show, as everyone thought he could never win the big one. Now he holds the golden ticket in his hand: the Main Event at Madison Square Garden for a Championship. Right now it would seem like he would face Brock Lesnar for the WWE Title at Wrestlemania, but alas some fresh storyline hooks and a burgeoning star on Smackdown make for some interesting changes. A happy moment ends an otherwise split down the middle show: Rushed and sloppy midcard, memorable main event. Final Grade: C+

Justin: Well, as poorly as 2003 ended, 2004 turned that trend around with a really good PPV to start the New Year. While the undercard was a bit hit or miss, the Rumble match more than delivered. It was a pretty epic tale of a dream realized as perennial glass ceiling victim Chris Benoit broke through and earned the Wrestlemania main event slot. While the Benoit angle dominated the Rumble, there were still other good stories intertwined, mainly the continuation of the Orton/Foley feud and Goldberg’s quest for victory. The World Championship match was looking good for a while before the awful ending. Triple H is still on top of Raw but Shawn Michaels had some unfinished business regarding the title. For the second match in a row, Michaels was on the verge of victory but couldn’t grab the gold. On the Smackdown side of things, Brock retained his belt and is now seemingly on a collision course with Chris Benoit. Overall this was a really good show to kick off the year and it really set the tone for some new players to move to the forefront and shake things up. The only question would be whether or not the Powers That Be would stick with the plan. Final Grade: B

MVP: Chris Benoit
Runner Up: Eddie Guerrero
Non MVP: Hardcore Holly
Runner Up: Goldberg

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