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CRZ's Other Stuff

Royal Rumble Reflections



This column originally appeared on It was written 24 January 2000.

It's all been about expectations.

At least, THIS month it has.

Last minute lack of decent hype, general upheaval and well publicised rewrites all helped greatly to lower expectations all around for WCW's Souled Out - and the result was a "good" pay-per-view, as the expectations were exceeded - at least among the very few that actually plunked down the samolians to pay for the privlige of watching it.

The mere fact that it was ECW helped greatly to lower expectations all around for Guilty as Charged - making that "good" show another pleasant surprise.

On the other hand, coming into today's Royal Rumble, expectations (at least with this "reporter") have been set considerably higher. Two well-executed pre-PPV shows, the hype dial turned up to 11 with New York appearances seemingly EVERYWHERE by WWF performers, the heralded return of "Radio WWF" (two hours of unabashed Rumble hype on the Westwood One national network), the announcement of an almost entire slate of matches that people are interested in (with the possible exception of - and I apologise, as I dig the Acolytes - the tag team title match), the biggest and best yearly gimmick match the WWF can produce - although they often don't - ALL of this combines to usually and ultimately disappoint the PPV-watching crowd when it's all said and done.

As if that weren't enough, the weekend was started with a Mexican Death Match on TNN that tore down the house - the WWF, having never been expected to set a shining example of workrate in the first place, came into Sunday night a bit worse for wear with (some of the) more workrate-faithful, with such a recent example of entertaining WRESTLING to draw upon for comparison. Thus, the WWF would either have to either step it up in the main event and break out with a superior effort of wrestling - not terribly likely given the guaranteed "brawl" status of the contest; or deliver on an entertainment level in such a way that we'd all forget about the complete lack of decent matches on the card.

One possible item in the WWF's favour - the Conference Championship games were mostly lackluster affairs (unless, of course, you are a fan of Tennessee or St. Louis) - perhaps it wouldn't take as much to leave fans with a good taste in their mouths after almost seven hours of rather weak "championship" football?

Let's get to it, then.

Not much happened on Heat - we *were* treated to some of the number drawing for the Rumble, and learned that since the participants in both the IC and tag title matches had been granted spots in the Rumble, certain other folks had been bumped - most notably the members of the Mean Street Posse and Kai En Tai. The Posse finally took out their aggressions on Head Banger Thrasher, knocking him out of the match and leading to an interesting substitution...but now I'm getting ahead of myself...

Taz defeated Kurt Angle in 3:15 when referee Jim Korderas stopped the match before dropping the arm a third time
Kurt Angle led off the show. Listening to the MSG crowd chant "We want Taz" lead me to think of two things - one, how did this crowd know Taz was showing up? Is the 'Net having a bigger effect on the fans that we'd like to believe? And two, how pissed off would these guys be if it WEREN'T Taz? Myself, I'd believed they wouldn't throw Taz out there unannounced and was set up for disappointment - so it was a pleasant surprise to actually see him come out there. Howard Finkel didn't say "(This Is) Taz," though. The length of the match was just right to get Taz over as a monster - but a monster WHAT? Is he a face or a heel? Some people think this wasn't the time to end Angle's win streak, but I think they can probably loophole some more life out of THAT Angle...angle. I have a feeling RAW will cement whether or not this debut can really be termed a success...but going only on tonight, I'd have to say it worked. Of course, hearing that "ECW" chant might have meant it worked in a completely DIFFERENT way...

The Hardy Boyz defeated the Dudley Boyz in a Double Tables match in 10:18
Seeing people move tables just in time to avoid moves breaking through them, I asked myself "why hasn't anybody ELSE bothered to think of this before?" Of course, I've only seen this type of match one other time - the infamous ECW Double Tables match from February, 1995 where Sabu & Tazmaniac defeated Public Enemy for the titles. I'm not going to bother comparing the two, but I will say that this match delivered the goods. I could have done without all the John Rocker cheap heat from the Dudleyz before the match, but I *was* impressed with the superbomb by Buh-Buh Ray where he managed to stay on his feet. I also thought the camera catching the Dudleyz, lying amongst the ruins of the tables, grasping hands after the match was over was a nice touch.

In the back, Kurt Angle: "If he choked me, I'm still undefeated." Well, that could end up pretty cheesy - unless Taz goes ahead and takes care of him AGAIN.

Sergeant Slaughter, Tony Garea, Fabulous Moolah, Johnny Valiant, Classy Freddy Blassie, and Andy Richter (who had been sitting in the front row - *with Debbie Harry?*) judged the "Miss Royal Rumble 2000" swimsuit contest. This wasn't wrestling, and if that really bothered you, you probably had no business getting this PPV because you should know better. Word of advice: if you want us to think BB has giant breasts, don't put her standing next to Jacqueline. Hey, give Jackie credit - she managed to get through the entire segment without showing off her raisins as she had before. The winner was OBVIOUSLY Terri, but you gotta have a sports entertainment finish - and it doesn't hurt to keep the PC crowd from complaining - although to say that Mae Young's eventual win - and ensuing toplessness - is any kind of "politically correct" should probably only be chalked up to the psychological damage caused by seeing ... well, you know. Seeing Fred Blassie clapping encouragement to Mae Young was pretty damn funny, though. We can only hope that when Lawler said he was "scarred for life" at the site of Mae Young's tits, that means he'll SHUT THE HELL UP next time a lovely young thing graces our television screen. Winning UNANIMOUSLY? Ay, caramba.

Johnathan Coachman was mobbed at WWF New York - good planning, yup.

"Don't try this in your backyard" disclaimer - talking about wrestling, not getting grandma to boob you.

Chris Jericho pinned Chyna following a Lionsault to win the undisputed intercontinental championship in a triple threat match with Hardcore Holly in 7:30
Getting back to matches (oh yeah, there were some matches!), Jericho debuted a nice new "Jerichoholic" T-shirt and came out last to the big pop - it may SEEM like they're blowing it with this guy, but they keep giving him the final entrance, so... Good match with lots of near falls - I was sure at one point that they WOULD get to 3 on the double pin between Holly and Chyna, even though that made no sense as it would have 1) taken Jericho out of the mix and 2) continue the "Co-champs" angle that hasn't seemed to much help out anybody. Jericho going over was what the crowd wanted (hearing them boo Chyna's attempt at a Liontamer on Holly was heartening), and we can only hope that Jericho is done with Chyna...but maybe *not* with the Big Shot...

The New Age Outlaws retained following a 2:36 "match" with the Acolytes
You almost have to wonder why they bothered to book the tag team battle royal back at Armageddon if they had no idea what to do after they'd named the #1 Contenders. Even after attempting to build up this match in the past week, I at least expected something resembling a MATCH. X-Pac ran out, distractions abounded, and Mr. Ass hit his Rocker Dropper on Bradshaw, whoopee! The WWF is awash in decent tag teams and the Outlaws still sing along, forgetting they're supposed to be heels, and carrying the titles. The only match I wasn't looking forward to, and it's definitely a good thing I hadn't invested any effort in looking forward to it.

In a Street Fight, Triple H retained the WWF Championship following two Pedigrees in 26:52 over Cactus Jack
Triple H has arrived. It's not just that he tapped a gusher and bled all over the place - although that never hurts. It's the little things he does - his "fear" look as Jack first walked out is something that's so rare among heels these days, and that's a shame. It's been said elsewhere and by better people that I, but I'll repeat it - Hunter seems like the only heel that isn't afraid to play the heel part to the hilt at the expense of not being able to look "cool" to the masses. THAT is why it's so successful! You *are* supposed to be scared at Cactus Jack - that's how you help to get him over, blah blah blah. When Jack brought out the barbed wire, I was worried that THAT was the "sharp pointy objects" he had been talking about Thursday, when I was sure he was going to bring out the thumbtacks again. But again I wasn't disappointed, as the tacks were brought in at the end. To steal a twenty minutes, these guys were selling like it was twenty minutes in. I didn't catch Helmsley ripping open his shin, but it was bleeding almost as badly as his forehead and for a while, I was wondering if he'd really injured that leg - if he had, he worked through it fine. The only downer to this match was Jim Ross' forays into the realm of the bizarre. "Triple H could quite possibly be the greatest technical champion the WWF has ever seen." What the HELL? Also, he seemed to have an equine fixation tonight - "...bleeding like a horse..." "He's a stud." If Triple H, the Champion, doesn't have his much-needed credibility now with you, I guess he never will. But it's not for trying. He's stepped up his game (no pun intended) and probably DESERVES that "Best Heel" vote now.

The Coach interviews Linda McMahon, who promises that as relates to Stephanie, "things are gonna be handled...the McMahon way." It almost seems like they could milk this McMahon-Helmsley era thing to another pay-per-view...of course, I can't say I'm not sure I wouldn't be REALLY tired of it by then.

The Rock sent 'em home happy by winning the Royal Rumble at 51:48 by hanging onto the top rope and letting Big Show take himself out
D'Lo Brown started out by trying really hard to cripple Grand Master Sexay. Add to that Brown and Sexay working a bulldog spot right onto Mosh's ankle and it started to look like EVERYBODY was going to come out of this show needing a short hospital stay. Kaientai coming out - and being tossed quickly - was funny once, semi-amusing the second time, and then really old every time thereafter. If Taka Michinoku really WAS injured banging his head on the floor, I'll be really pissed at Jerry Lawler and the video crew for giving us all those replays and hooting and hollering at it - however, I'm hoping it's just an angle and Taka will be ready to come back and kick some ass. Yeah, that's probably just a dream. Nobody was eliminated until everyone's new favourite Rikishi Phatu came out, then we had three quick eliminations, a now mandatory dance spot (sure, run THAT into the ground), and an elimination of Too Cool, just for fun. Blackman in, Blackman out - sigh. Viscera in, and it took longer than the announced ninety seconds to get HIM out of the ring, but fortunately the ten second countdown waited for them to finish fighting. So, with the first eight men taken care of, Rikishi had eliminated the other seven by himself. Big Bossman demonstrated some brains by staying outside until he had help - Test, of course, has no brain and did NOT bother to act like he wanted to win the thing by throwing Bossman in to Rikishi instead of forging a temporary alliance to take down the big man.

Seeing Mr. Bob Backlund come out and stare at his hands was a great moment for me - you KNOW he still remembers the promise he made in Poughkeepsie to get Vince McMahon in the Crossface Chicken Wing. By the time he came in, there were seven men in the ring, and six was enough to finally remove Phatu, who seemed to get the "Diesel" push this year. We can only wonder how far it takes him. Seeing the Posse come out to attack each of the Acolytes as they came out seems to signify that the push is over for the Acolytes, and they'll be stuck with the Posse for a while. If this IS the case, then two quick ones spring up from THIS: 1) why'd they bother pushing the Acolytes (although I could probably answer this one given more than a sentence) and 2) who's gonna take them titles? Ross threw me again with "Test has been in there a long time" when Test hadn't been in there nine minutes yet - I guess in a 90-second interval Rumble, it just SEEMS like it. A mostly unremarkable rest of the Rumble until the end - not great, not terrible, just fine. I never saw Thrasher, which seemed a little funny, but it could have been explained as the Posse DID choose the Head Bangers' part of the drawing to lash out. Not that I was really missing him, nor that he had a chance in HELL of winning, but it's a little thing, and sometimes those really get you.

After the Outlaws had a brief split which went nowhere (and we didn't see the three DX'ers ever work as a unit - but why act like you want to win?), it came down to X-Pac, Kane, the Big Show, and Rock - not coincidentally strongly resembling the SmackDown! lumberjack match, wink wink. X-Pac was eliminated, but the Outlaws had pulled Kane from the ring and both referees were involved in breaking up the fight on the outside between those three. X-Pac, back in the ring illegally, managed to eliminate Kane after the Outlaws threw him back in the ring - now, what *I* want to know is - can Kane still make some sort of claim to a title shot? At this point, I was a LITTLE afraid that they're try another "Final Four" matchup for the February PPV like they did three years ago - I couldn't really see it with THESE four guys as the competitors. Anyway, Rock annoyed me greatly by managing to win over the Big Show - what made it ESPECIALLY hollow was Show nonchalantly tossing Rock out with one hand almost immediately after it was over and didn't count. However, he DID get to interrupt a Rock promo, which even further ensures his "my man" status with ME, at least for now. Just knowing we were possibly spared another "Smackdown Hotel" reading should earn the Show some sort of award or something.

Anyway, I can't complain at all - this PPV got a lot done, entertained in almost everything, should drum up quite a bit of interest in tonight's RAW as well as moving forward into the crown jewel (WrestleMania, for the slow ones out there), make oodles of money for everybody, and yeah. Homerun for the WWF, no question.

Let the "mark" accusations fly!




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