Joe Louis Arena – Detroit, Michigan – January 25, 2009
MATCH #1: ECW Championship Match – Jack Swagger vs. Matt Hardy
Swagger has been the champion since 1.13.09 when he beat Hardy, and this is his first defense, and Hardy’s rematch. The champion has only been on TV since September, by the way. The crowd is in full support of the challenger. Hardy outwits the champion in the early going, and Swagger takes a powder. That doesn’t last long, as Hardy chases Swagger outside and brings him back in the ring. Swagger once again takes a powder and this time creates some distance between himself and Hardy. Back in the ring Swagger takes Hardy down to the mat, which is his strong suit. Hardy tries to keep up but Swagger is an All-American. He does make a comeback though and hits a bulldog for two. He goes up to the top rope and Swagger dumps him to the floor. Swagger starts working on Hardy’s arm, which Hardy needs to execute the Twist of Fate. Hardy fights back, but Swagger weathers the blows and keeps going after the arm. He finally escapes the armbar with a clothesline and fires up, hitting what looks like the Eye of the Hurricane for two. He hits another bulldog for two. An elbow off the second rope gets another two-count. Swagger catches a boot and hits a belly-to-belly suplex for two. He follows up with a single-arm DDT for two. They fight up top as Swagger is going for a super back suplex, but Hardy avoids it and knocks Swagger back to the mat. Hardy hits a Moonsault but Swagger kicks out at two! The crowd bought that one. Hardy tries the Twist of Fate but Swagger avoids it and throws Hardy’s shoulder into the ring post. Swagger pulls Hardy out of the corner and hits the Gut-Wrench Powerbomb to score the pin and retain the title at 10:28. I like Swagger going over clean. That was a solid opener to get the crowd going.
MATCH #2: Women’s Championship Match – Beth Phoenix vs. Melina
Phoenix has been the champion since 8.17.08, and this is her fourth defense. Melina has been champion twice before. The champion overpowers the challenger early on, while the crowd chants for Phoenix’s valet, Santino Marella. Melina fights valiantly but Phoenix just throws her around and stretches her in unnatural ways. In fact, she stretches Melina’s leg back far enough so that she’s able to say “stop kicking yourself, stop kicking yourself!” Melina almost gets a comeback but Phoenix hits a side suplex for two. Phoenix gets Melina up for a Gorilla Press Slam but Melina slips out and eventually hits a chinbreaker. They trade more holds and Melina hits a spinning face slam for two. Melina hits a Thesz Press off the second rope. Phoenix reverses the momentum, but Melina catches her with a quick rollup to win the title at 5:58. That had the one neat spot but it was otherwise kind of sloppy.
MATCH #3: World Heavyweight Championship Match – John Cena vs. JBL
Cena has been the champion since 11.23.08, and this is his second defense. JBL is accompanied by his employee, Shawn Michaels. Cena takes the early advantage so JBL takes a powder and confers with Michaels. Back in the ring JBL toes right after Cena with punches and kicks. Cena makes a brief comeback but gets distracted by Michaels and JBL goes back on offense. He hits a series of elbow drops for two. A side suplex gets another two-count. JBL knocks Cena to the floor, and follows him out to deliver more punishment, whipping the champion into the steel steps. The crowd is completely dead. Cena regains control and sort of hits his legdrop to the back of the neck. He hits some more of his signature moves, and the crowd has come alive a bit. He hits the Five Knuckle Shuffle. He tries the F-U but JBL avoids it. Cena is able to lock on the STF-U though, and once again gets distracted by Michaels. JBL kicks Cena to the floor and Cena can’t take his eyes off Michaels. Back in the ring JBL hits a Clothesline from Hell for two. The referee takes a bump to the floor and both men clothesline each other. Michaels gets in the ring and warms up the band. He nails JBL with the kick instead of Cena, much to the delight of the crowd. Cena then stupidly walks right into another Superkick, and Michaels drapes JBL’s arm over the champion. Another referee comes down finally and Cena kicks out at two. Both men get back to their feet and Cena hits a quick F-U to get the pin at 15:29. These two have had some great matches together but boy was this ever not one of them. The crowd was completely dead, and the whole match was just a backdrop for Shawn Michaels’s drama.
MATCH #4: WWE Championship Match – Jeff Hardy vs. Edge
Hardy has been the champion since 12.14.08, and this is his first defense. Vickie Guerrero comes out and makes this a no-disqualification match. Edge is accompanied by Chavo Guerrero. Hardy makes his entrance first, which I’m happy to report Jim Ross comments on. Hardy attacks Edge right away and it’s on. He controls for the first few moments, and then Edge cuts him off and goes to work. Hardy comes back with a clothesline and a dropkick to the back for two. He sends Edge to the floor and hits a clothesline off the apron. He tries to springboard back into the ring but Edge hits a boot to the face and Hardy crashes to the floor. Edge hits a baseball slide to knock Hardy back down, and he joins the champion on the floor. He whips Hardy into the guardrail. Back in the ring it’s all Edge on offense. Edge goes out to the ring to grab a chair, which actually gives Hardy enough time to recover and hit a spear, sending Edge crashing from the apron to the floor. Hardy hits a slingshot dive to the floor, and then whips Edge back in. They battle on the apron, and Hardy hits a sweet Twist of Fate. Hardy clears off the announce table and sets Edge up. He then brings out a ladder, but Chavo stops him from jumping off. Hardy then whips Edge into the ring post and then sets Chavo up on the table. He climbs the ladder again and this time hits a splash on Chavo, breaking the table. He recovers rather quickly, and throws Edge back in the ring for a high cross body off the top rope for two. Back to their feet and Edge hits a big boot. Edge then exposes the turnbuckle, but Hardy hits the Whisper in the Wind for a near-fall. The challenger then comes back with a DDT for two. Hardy gets an inside cradle for two. He’s firing up and tries the dropkick in the corner, but Edge drops him face-first onto the exposed turnbuckle (cool spot). That only gets two. Edge tries a Spear but Hardy catches him with an awesome Twist of Fate. Hardy goes up for the Swanton Bomb but Vickie Guerrero interferes. He kicks her down and then hits the Swanton. Vickie pulls the referee out at two. Matt Hardy comes down to defend his brother and take care of the Smackdown General Manager. He gives Jeff a chair, and gets another one for himself. They set up for a con-chair-toe, but then Matt clobbers his own brother with the chair! The crowd is unhappy. Edge rolls over to get the pin and win his fourth WWE Championship (seventh World Title overall) at 19:23. Jeff and Edge might work together better than Matt and Edge did. That was a very entertaining match, and the finish worked for the story they were telling.
MATCH #5: Royal Rumble Match
Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross are calling the action. Rey Mysterio draws #1 and John Morrison is #2. Intervals are 90 seconds, allegedly. Rey staves off elimination, delivers a headscissors, and almost eliminates Morrison. Carlito is the #3 entrant, and he spits apple in Morrison’s eyes. Morrison recovers and takes both babyfaces down. MVP is #4, and he takes shots at everybody. The Great Khali is #5, and have I mentioned how much I love his new music? He throws chops at everyone, and slams Morrison to the mat. Then he nails Carlito with the Punjabi Plunge. Khali stands alone as #6 is Vladimir Kozlov. The big Russian single-handedly eliminates Khali in seconds. MVP tries to hit Kozlov with the Drive-By but it misses and MVP is tossed over the top. Carlito makes a valiant effort, but he gets hit with the Iron Curtain and tossed to the floor. Triple H comes out at #7! He’s a former Rumble winner and has a bone to pick with Kozlov. They slug it out and Triple H takes the advantage and quickly eliminates Kozlov. Next out is Randy Orton at #8. Triple H obviously has a bone to pick with him, and they go right at it. Morrison and Rey rejoin the battle to take Triple H and Orton down, and then Rey hits Morrison with the 619. #9 is a member of Cryme Tyme, and they flip a coin to decide who gets to go. JTG wins the toss and enters the ring. Ted DiBiase comes out at #10, and now Orton has some backup. Morrison and JTG almost eliminate each other but manage to hang on. Ditto for Rey and DiBiase. The 2008 Superstar of the Year Chris Jericho is #11. He goes right after Orton. Mike Knox comes out at #12, and I have to admit that I like him. The Miz is lucky #13, and now both World Tag Team Champions are in the ring together.
Orton starts dishing out RKO’s to everyone in sight. Triple H cuts him off with a Pedigree, and then the Game eliminates both tag champions at the same time. Of course he does. Finlay comes out at #14. Not much happens and then #15 comes out and it’s Cody Rhodes! Legacy is in full force now and they take advantage of it. Rey tries a springboard body press but Orton catches him with the RKO. We’re into the second half with Undertaker at #16! Undertaker, the 2007 Rumble winner, tosses JTG out right away. The bizarre Goldust is #17. He goes right after his Cody, his own flesh and blood. Straight Edge and Proud, Intercontinental Champion CM Punk comes out at #18. He throws kicks and knees, all while hearing his own name chanted by the Joe Louis Arena. He hits Triple H with the Go 2 Sleep! Mark Henry is the #19 entrant. He goes toe-to-toe with the Undertaker. The United States Champion, the “Gold Standard” Shelton Benjamin is #20. Next out at #21 is William Regal, the 2008 King of the Ring. Regal goes right after Punk, the man who took the Intercontinental Title from him. Mysterio is able to eliminate Henry, which is pretty impressive given the size differential. #22 is Kofi Kingston. The ring is looking pretty full. Kane is #23, and he happens to hold the record for most eliminations in a Rumble match (2001). He and his half-brother Undertaker work together. Punk eliminates Regal, and then R-Truth comes out at #24. Next up is #25, ROB VAN DAM! His home state reacts pretty favorable to him, and the wrestlers are so impressed that they stand there and let him take everyone out individually.
The Brian Kendrick is #26. He eliminates Kofi right away, and then gets tossed over himself by Triple H. Dolph Ziggler is #27 and he’s quickly eliminated by Kane. Santino Marella comes out at #28 and Kane clotheslines him out immediately for a new record. The first-ever Rumble winner, Hacksaw Jim Duggan is entry #29 and the crowd digs him. The final entrant, #30, is the enormous Big Show. He tosses Duggan out. Moments later he slams R-Truth to the floor. Next to go is CM punk via a vicious right hand. Tired of eliminating just one man, next show tosses Mysterio and Knox out at the same time. Mysterio lasted an impressive 49 minutes. Hornswoggle tries to help Finlay by distracting Kane, but Finlay winds up getting eliminated by the Big Red Machine. Orton hits the DDT on Triple H. Undertaker and Show square off now. RVD hits Orton with the 5-Star Frog Splash, but then gets tossed out by Jericho. Unfortunately for Jericho, Undertaker is right behind him. Jericho is able to hit a Code Breaker, but Undertaker recovers and tosses Jericho to the floor. Legacy joins forces to eliminate Kane, and we’re down to the final six – Legacy, Triple H, Big Show, and Undertaker. Show hits Triple H with a Chokeslam. He then battles Show on the apron. Orton eliminates Show with an RKO, and then Show pulls Undertaker to the floor to eliminate the Dead Man. We’re down to the final four, and it doesn’t look good for Triple H. Legacy triple teams the Game for a while. But Triple H recovers long enough to eliminate Rhodes and DiBiase, but then Orton gets the last laugh, eliminating Triple H for the win at 58:34. I’m pretty easy to please with Royal Rumbles, and this one was a lot of fun. I love the story of Legacy surviving throughout the match, and there was lots of other fun stuff throughout the match. I think Orton going over was definitely the right move.
Longest Lasting Superstar in the Ring: Triple H, 50 minutes
Superstar With Most Eliminations: Big Show and Triple H, 6
Royal Rumble Rookies: Vladimir Kozlov, JTG, Ted DiBiase (Jr.), Mike Knox, Kofi Kingston, The Brian Kendrick, and Dolph Ziggler