Ugh, the dog days of January. A dreary time, filled with cold winds, snow flurries, and the scientifically proven most depressing day of the year. What is there to look forward to?
Fortunately, the WWE’s (formerly WWF) first major pay-per-view, the Royal Rumble, was Sunday night. Well, with few other sports on, I guess it beats watching bowling or bass fishing.
Like most kids growing up in the 80s, I watched my share of pro wrestling. Then I moved on. But like a familiar ex, pro wrestling and I still hooked up on occasion. When my younger brother got into pro wrestling in the 90s, I watched. And during my first few years of college, I got back into it – even going to a WWE event in late 1999. So with a morbid curiosity I ventured into a local sports bar advertising Sunday night’s Royal Rumble. I had no idea what to expect, but it was free. No way was I paying 39.95.
I’ll admit, because my motivation level wasn’t as high as it should have been considering the event, I arrived an hour into the Royal Rumble. However, considering the WWE’s past penchants for promos and discussions, I think I missed maybe two matches. The no-name local bands before the headliners, if you will. But it was free, so who cares?
I finally found a seat (the place was packed) in time for the World Heavyweight Title bout. Usually championship matches are the main event, but because the event is named “The Royal Rumble” the rumble itself, of course, is the last match. But anyway…
First entering the ring was a wrestler named Mr. Kennedy. Wow. Original name. Absolutely nothing fancy about this guy. That must be his gimmick. His opponent, and the Heavyweight Champ, was a mountain of muscle named Batista, who looks just like the lead character for the movie 300. By the way, whatever happened to wrestlers who were just big but not ripped? Guys like Hillbilly Jim and Big John Studd, guys who got over on their characters rather than their physique. I liked those wrestlers.
Now would be a good time to mention that Batista has this huge tattoo covering half his back. It reminded me of an old Twilight Zone-like show I saw back in the 80s (yes, I watched too much T.V. back then) in which a guy received a tattoo that slowly started growing over his whole body. Back then, that was horror.
Of course, no championship match is complete without the referee getting knocked out. Good to see Vince McMahan employing the well-used ring gimmicks. And of course, as one wrestler tries to wake the ref up, the other comes from behind and pins the former. Well played.
After the match it was on to a quality WWE pay-per-view promo. Lucky for me, this spot featured an angry leprechaun, a bikini-clad blond, and WWE legend and Florida State University Hall of Famer Ron Simmons. Simmons’ new claim to fame is walking around saying “Damn.” Good to see fellow FSU grads making something of themselves.
Back to the action. The next match featured the WWE’s obligatory evil Samoan, Umaga. I think by now the WWE has employed the entire island. Wrestlers are probably Samoa’s leading export. And not to cast judgment, but someone at the table next to me asked their friend if Samoa was a real place. Way to counter the ignorant wrestling fan stereotype.
The opponent for the evil Samoan Umaga? None other than rapping commando John Cena, who you might know better as the leading man in The Marine. Didn’t see that movie? Me neither, but to quote Bob Uecker, I heard it was in focus. And did I mention Umaga has tattoos on his face? One of my rules in life is never mess with anyone with facial tats. It has gotten me this far.
Cena, on the other hand, is fighting Umaga in a “Last Man Standing” bout, which really should be a drinking game. Actually, that might be the contest Marion and the butch Mongolian woman were playing in the bar in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Speaking of George Lucas movies, the Umaga-Cena match ended with Cena using the ring rope to choke the life out of Umaga like Princess Leia did to Jabba the Hutt. Not trying to be too much of a Star Wars geek, but it looked just like that scene, tongue out and all.
Hey! It’s time for the Royal Rumble! For those unfamiliar, here are the basic rules according to Wikipedia:
The Royal Rumble is comprised of 30 men; beginning with two men in the ring, and at regular timed intervals (usually, but not always, every 90 seconds), one of the remaining 28 wrestlers enters the ring. Participants must eliminate all other opponents and the winner of the event is the last wrestler remaining after all others have been eliminated. Referees are situated at each side of the ring to validate eliminations.
A wrestler is eliminated when leaving the ring over the top rope, and then having both feet touch the floor. Going out between the second and third rope or under the bottom rope is not a valid elimination. A referee must witness an elimination in order for it to be valid.
An elimination can also occur when a wrestler is thrown off the top rope by a non-competing opponent, or by one who had already been eliminated, or when the participant deliberately jumps over the top rope, outside the ring. In other words, if a wrestler goes over the top rope, regardless how it happened, that wrestler is out. Other wrestlers can be de facto eliminated due to interference preventing the wrestler from entering the ring.
Ok, got it? Good. So, without further ado, here is a recap of the 2007 Royal Rumble broken up by every ten wresters.
The first wrestler in: Ric Flair. Why is he still wrestling? Did you know Ric Flair is 55 years old? I think its time for him to be pitching Viagra. Imagine the possibilities there. Woooh.
Flair is quickly joined by the personification of the Notre Dame mascot, a little fighting Irishman named Finlay. I guess someone stole his lucky charms or his whiskey.
Following Flair and Finlay, the next eight contestants were Kenny (don’t call me Lenny) Dykstra, Matt Hardy, Edge, Tommy Dreamer, Sabu, Gregory Helms, Shelton Benjamin, and Kane. Most of these I knew from watching back in the late 90s.
Before I go into numbers 10-20, I need to mention a trademark of the Royal Rumble: the isolation play. You can always tell which wrestlers are feuding even without knowing any backstory by watching out for the Royal Rumble isolation play. When done right, the isolation play is very similar to its basketball namesake. When wrestler X comes down the aisle he makes a bee-line through the ring towards wrestler Y. All other wrestlers clear out and stay grappling in the corners until wrestlers X and Y duke it out for a few moments. Then everyone jumps in. It is a lot like watching LeBron James and Kobe Bryant playing one-on-one while their teammates stand on the sidelines.
To continue, lucky Royal Rumble contestants 11-20 included C.M. Punk, King Booker (long-lost twin of the Minnesota T-Wolves Troy Hudson), Super Crazy, Jeff Hardy, The Sandman, Randy Orton, Chris Benoit, Rob Van Dam, the 485 lb Viscera, and Johnny Nitro, who surprisingly is not based on a character from Speed Racer. And yes, this part of the Royal Rumble was as exciting as it sounds, highlighted by The Sandman coming into the ring, whacking some people with a kendo stick and then being quickly tossed out.
The last ten contestants of the Royal Rumble were a little more interesting. Entering 21st was the WWE’s newest resident vampire, Kevin Thorn. I don’t know why Vince McMahon keeps trying the vampire gimmick, it’s literally and figuratively dead (pun intended). 22nd was Hardcore Holly, a career mid-carder. 23rd was Shawn Michaels, whose career has lasted twice as long as his namesake, Poison lead singer Bret Michaels. Bret, however, did “have relations” with Pamela Anderson before she was with Tommy Lee or Kid Rock. Advantage: Bret Michaels.
After Michaels was Chris Masters, another generic mass of muscle with no character; Chavo Guerrero; MVP (seriously, whoever made that name should be fired); Carlito; The Great Khali (a 9 foot tall wall of a man); some guy whose name I didn’t catch; and the Undertaker.
To wrap up, there were approximately 12 wrestlers were in the ring when The Great Khali lumbered in. And Khali eliminated 10 of them. Like the isolation play, the giant-wrestler-eliminating-half-the-contestants play is another Royal Rumble staple. Of course, like previous unstoppable forces, The Great Khali had to face the Undertaker in an isolation play. Hooked up to Bill Simmons’ Juvenation Machine, the Undertaker eliminated Khali and almost everyone else left in the ring before squaring off with the ageless Shawn Michaels.
(This is one of my biggest gripes with the WWE product. Only in Vince McMahon’s wrestling world do they limit the potential of new stars to show the same old 40 to 50 year old veterans. This would be like Tony LaRussa using an aging Willie McGee to pinch-hit for Albert Pujols with the game on the line in Game 7 of the World Series.)
Anyway, the Undertaker won. Great. Wonderful. Outstanding. Needless to say, I am glad I watched the 2007 Royal Rumble for free and my waitress was cute. Other than that, it was no different from the last Royal Rumble I watched 10 years ago.