MATCH #1: Steel Cage Match for the World Heavyweight Title – Daniel Bryan vs. Big Show vs. Mark Henry
Bryan has been the Champion since 12.18.11, and this is his fourth defense. Pin, submission, and escape rules are in effect here. The Champ immediately tries to climb out but gets brought back down. Show turns his attention to Henry, and squashes him between the ropes and the cage. Bryan tries to get out again but Show slams him down. Show is dominant here until Bryan cuts him off with a dropkick to the knee. Bryan delivers kicks to Henry as well, and then tries to walk out the door but Henry stops him. Show recovers and starts throwing Bryan around again. Henry rejoins the fray and takes them both out. For two big guys like Henry and Show the action has been pretty non-stop. Henry tries to squash Bryan between the ropes and cage but Bryan avoids him and Henry hits the cage wall. Show hits Henry with a Spear and Bryan covers for two. Bryan is able to hit Show with a big Tornado DDT for two. He locks on the LeBell Lock and Henry breaks it up. Henry picks Bryan up for the World’s Strongest Slam and Show stops that with a WMD! Show covers Henry and Bryan breaks it up. Bryan climbs to the top of the cage and makes it over but Show pulls him back in! The resilient Champion fights Show off and drops to the floor to get the win at 9:07. That was short but they packed a lot of action in there and kept up a pretty good pace. Bryan looks good in lasting with the monsters, and he won fair and square.
MATCH #2: Eight Diva Tag Team Match – Eve Torres, Kelly Kelly, Alicia Fox & Tamina vs. Beth Phoenix, Natalya & The Bella Twins
Natalya and Tamina start the match with some aggressive chain wrestling. I’m not sure if you knew this, but both Tamina and Natalya are second-generation superstars. Tamina takes the advantage and tags Torres, who finds the most whoreish way to hit a standing moonsault for a two-count. Natalya forces Torres back into her corner and Phoenix tags in. Torres lands a clothesline, but when she tries the somersault senton she hits nothing but knees. Phoenix takes the advantage and even allows the Bella Twins to get a piece of the action. Torres avoids an attack and makes the tag to Fox, who is a house afire. Phoenix distracts the referee and the Bellas switch places to take control. Fox is able to escape out of a chinlock and make the tag. Kelly comes in and delivers a headscissors on Brie, and then a modified bulldog. All hell breaks loose on the floor and Kelly wipes everyone out with a high cross body from the top rope. Back in the ring Phoenix tags herself in and flattens Kelly with the Glam Slam to get the win for her team at 5:28. I’m not sure what eight people are supposed to do with five and a half minutes, but they kept this one going fine enough.
MATCH #3: John Cena vs. Kane
Cena goes right after Kane but the Big Red Monster weathers the storm. They quickly spill to the floor, where Cena reverses a whip and sends Kane knees-first into the steel steps. Back in the ring Cena goes for the Attitude Adjustment but can’t complete the move. Kane goes right back to work, kicking Cena in the face for a two-count. Every time Cena tries to fight up, Kane just slugs him right back down. Kane tries to smother Cena but Cena reverses to a Crossface. That doesn’t last too long as Kane powers out of it and hits a side suplex. Kane goes up top and hits a flying clothesline. He tries the Chokeslam but Cena avoids it and hits two shoulderblocks and the Protoplex. Cena signals for the Five Knuckle Shuffle but Kane gets up and boots Cena square in the face for a two-count. They go up top and Cena shoves Kane down. Cena follows with a super Five Knuckle Shuffle. He goes for the Attitude Adjustment again but can’t hit it, so he dropkicks Kane in the knee. Cena goes for the STF but Kane kicks him to the floor. Kane follows him out and they brawl around until the double-countout at 10:55. That was not a particularly exciting or memorable brawl, but Cena seemed to be trying hard to make Kane a monster.
The brawl continues backstage, where Kane takes advantage and cracks Cena repeatedly with a steel chair. Kane spots Zack Ryder’s dressing room, where the Long Island Iced Z is sitting in his wheelchair from the last beating Kane gave him. Things get worse for Ryder as Kane smothers him to unconsciousness in about five seconds, and then wheels him out to the arena. Kane throws Ryder (wearing a chest brace) into the ring and Eve Torres comes out to beg for Ryder’s life. Against Eve’s wishes, Kane hits a Tombstone Piledriver. Kane turns his attention to Eve, but NOW Cena can come out to make the save, not when Ryder was getting beat up. Tough luck for Cena though, as Kane hits him with a Chokeslam. I legitimately do not know what the point of any of this ended up being, except to humiliate Zack Ryder and make him look like as big of a pussy as possible.
MATCH #4: Brodus Clay vs. Drew McIntyre
McIntyre doesn’t appreciate Clay’s antics, so he attacks right at the bell. Clay shrugs him off and drills him with a headbutt to the chest. He hits a T-bone suplex and an Avalanche. Clay finishes this grueling contest with What the Funk for the pin at 1:06. That was certainly a match that happened.
MATCH #5: WWE Championship Match – CM Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler
Punk has been the Champion since 11.20.11, and this is his fourth defense. John Laurinaitas is the special guest referee. Before the match can start though, Laurinaitas decides that he will officiate the match from outside the ring, and a regular referee will be inside the ring. Ziggler is accompanied by Vickie Guerrero, who gets kicked out by Laurinaitas before the match can even begin. You see, Laurinaitas has a job performance review tomorrow night on RAW, so he is trying to be fair. The match finally begins and Punk almost hits an early Go 2 Sleep but Ziggler avoids it. Ziggler is arrogant in the early going, trying to get under Punk’s skin. Punk is unflappable though, and he sends Ziggler to the floor and wipes him out with a suicide dive. Back in the ring Punk goes up top and Ziggler sweeps his legs out from under him to take the advantage. Ziggler wears Punk down, even using his vaunted Sleeper hold. Punk does try to fight up but Ziggler is able to cut him off each time for several minutes. Ziggler goes for the Fame-Ass-er, but Punk catches him in a sitout powerbomb for two. Punk goes on a roll and reels off a series of maneuvers but can’t put Ziggler away. He drills Ziggler with a kick to the skull but only gets two. Punk slams Ziggler and goes up top for Hail to the King. That also only gets a two-count. Punk goes for Go 2 Sleep again but Ziggler slips out and inadvertently shoves Punk into the referee, who goes down. Now is Big Johnny’s time to shine! Punk cinches on the Anaconda Vise and Ziggler taps, but Laurinaitas is checking on the original referee so he doesn’t see it. Moments later Punk traps Ziggler in an O’Connor Roll but once again Laurinaitas doesn’t see it! Punk is pretty angry and rightfully so. Ziggler tries to attack but Punk picks him up for Go 2 Sleep, and accidentally swings Ziggler’s legs into Laurinaitas, knocking him down. Punk hits the Go 2 Sleep but no one is there to make the count. That is three times Punk has had Ziggler beaten. Punk goes for Go 2 Sleep again but Ziggler counters with the Fame-Ass-er for a near-fall! Ziggler tries another Fame-Ass-er but Punk catches him and catapults him into the buckles. Punk then hits Go 2 Sleep to get the pin at 14:32. For the second straight year, Ziggler has a terrific showing in a title match that eventually led to nothing. The involvement with Laurinaitas was actually well done and built intrigue for his story with Punk without overwhelming it. These two have great chemistry.
MATCH #6: Royal Rumble Match
The Miz is #1, and his former apprentice Alex Riley is #2. They go back and forth a bit and Riley thinks he has Miz eliminated, but Miz lands on the apron. Riley charges and Miz drops the top rope, sending Riley to the floor. Next up is Miz’s former tag team partner R-Truth at #3. Truth tears into his former partner and they brawl aggressively. Both men are still in when #4, the Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes comes out. Rhodes and Miz team up on Truth but can’t eliminate him. Justin Gabriel is #5 and he starts flying all over in his second Rumble appearance. Another Champion arrives as one half of the WWE Tag Team Champions, Primo, is #6. Miz eliminates Truth, and the sore loser Truth pulls him under the bottom rope and hits him with the What’s Up on the floor. The Hardcore Legend Mick Foley returns to the ring at #7. I believe this is Foley’s first match in WWE since the 2008 Royal Rumble match. Foley quickly dumps Primo out and continues to brawl. Alberto Del Rio’s music hits, but a beat up old car comes out, and it’s actually Ricardo Rodriguez at #8! That’s pretty great. The crowd actually chants for Rodriguez, and he shows some impressive spunk. Foley joins up with Rodriguez to eliminate Gabriel. Santino Marella is the #9 man in the ring. Marella has some fun with Rodriguez and then dumps him out. Then it’s the epic showdown we’ve been waiting for, as Mr. Socko and The Cobra go face to face! The other Tag Team Champion, Epico comes in the middle of it at #10, and Foley eliminates him in a matter of seconds. Socko and Cobra lock up, but Miz and Rhodes come back alive to break it up. Rhodes tosses Marella out. Foley puts Mr. Socko on Miz, and Rhodes sneaks up from behind and eliminates Foley. Kofi Kingston is #11. Kingston takes both Miz and Rhodes off their feet and hits them with the Boom Drop. Next up at #12 is color commentator Jerry “The King” Lawler! Miz and Rhodes look eager to attack the Hall of Famer, but the wily veteran is able to thwart his much younger opponents. Lawler takes the strap down and hits Miz with the fist drop from the second rope. It’s not to last though, as Rhodes throws Lawler out and then points at the WrestleMania sign. Lucky #13 is Ezekiel Jackson. Jinder Mahal is #14, making his Rumble debut. Mahal’s brother-in-law The Great Khali is #15. Khali starts throwing chops at everyone and dumps Mahal out. He throws Jackson out as well. Hunico makes his Rumble debut at #16, as he’s driven to the ring by his henchman Camacho. Not much happens until the second announcer enters the Rumble with Booker T at #17. Rhodes thinks he has Kingston eliminated, but Kingston is able to walk on his hands and make it back to the ring. The rules do say that “both feet” must hit the floor so that is genius. Dolph Ziggler is #18. Next up at #19 is the first-ever Royal Rumble winner, the one and only Hacksaw Jim Duggan. The crowd is loving it, quickly chanting “USA.” Unfortunately for Duggan and the fans he does not last too long before Rhodes throws him out. T and Khali are brawling near the ropes and get thrown out by Ziggler and Rhodes. The commentary trifecta is complete when Michael Cole enters the match at #20! Cole has his ridiculous gear on under his suit.
We start the last third of the entrants with another surprise, Kharma is #21! She’s the third woman to enter the Rumble match. Cole looks terrified as Kharma bowls him over. He climbs over the top rope to the apron and begs off, which gives Lawler and T easy access to pull him to the floor. Ziggler doesn’t take too kindly to Kharma being there, so she hits him with the Implant Buster! Vickie gets on the apron to protest and quickly runs away. Kharma then hurls Hunico to the floor. Ziggler then eliminates Kharma, doing everyone else in the Rumble a solid. Next up at #22 is Sheamus, who quickly throws Kingston to the floor. For some reason Road Rogg is #23. Dogg gets his signature spots in, including the Pumphandle Slam on Miz. Jey Uso is #24, and he’s rolling without his brother. The United States Champion Jack Swagger makes his way out at #25. Michael Cole’s pick to win is #26 Wade Barrett. The Barrett Barrage is immediately felt by just about everyone in the ring, but Road Dogg gets it the worst when he is hurled over the top rope. Lucky #27 is David Otunga. The crowd erupts when #28 comes out and it’s Randy Orton! The Viper destroys everything in sight and hits a simultaneous Rope-hung DDT on Rhodes and Ziggler. Orton tosses Jey to the floor and then flattens Barrett with an RKO and dumps him out. The recently returned Chris Jericho is #29. Jericho quickly eliminates Otunga. The field is complete with the Big Show at #30.
Show helps Sheamus eliminate Swagger before even getting in the ring, and then he knocks Swagger out with a punch just for fun. He then throws out both Rhodes and Miz at the same time, ending their impressive 40 minute plus runs. Ziggler is next to go by Show’s hands. That leaves us with a Final Four of Sheamus, Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, and Big Show, none of whom entered any lower than #22. Orton, Jericho, and Sheamus wisely try to triple-team Show and Orton is able to nail him with an RKO. Orton eliminates Show and then gets eliminated by Jericho, and thus we have two men left. Jericho and Sheamus tear into each other, and Jericho strikes with a missile dropkick from the second rope. Sheamus fights back and hits the Irish Curse. He goes for the Pale Justice but Jericho slips out and almost gets the elimination. Jericho puts on the Walls of Jericho. Sheamus reaches the ropes but that’s not going to do anything for him here. They battle up on the top rope and knock each other to the apron. Jericho hits a Codebreaker and tries to throw Sheamus out. Sheamus gets angry and comes after Jericho, who tries another Codebreaker but Sheamus catches him and deposits him to the apron. Sheamus then delivers a Brogue Kick to knock Jericho to the floor and win the Rumble at 54:55. Conventional wisdom here had Jericho going over and challenging Punk for WrestleMania, so the Internet exploded a little bit when this happened. I like Sheamus and they found a way for Jericho to get to Punk anyway so I’m okay with the result. In fact Sheamus winning was a little less predictable. They worked some great spots throughout the match with Foley, the commentators, Kharma, and a fun mini-match between Jericho and Sheamus at the end. I feel like this is an underrated Rumble.
Royal Rumble Trivia
Longest Lasting Superstar in the Ring: The Miz, 46 minutes
Superstar With Most Eliminations: Cody Rhodes, 5
Royal Rumble Rookies: Epico, Hunico, Jey Uso, Jinder Mahal, Kharma, Michael Cole, Primo, and Ricardo Rodriguez
BONUS MATCH #1: CM Punk & John Cena vs. Dolph Ziggler & Jack Swagger, Monday Night RAW, 1.23.12
Swagger is the current United States Champion. He and Ziggler are accompanied by Vickie Guerrero. Cena and Ziggler start the match. Just guess who takes the early advantage. Punk gets the tag and tries an early Go 2 Sleep, but Ziggler slips out and rolls to the floor to take a breather. That’s a good time to take a commercial break. When we come back Cena is wearing Ziggler down and trying to keep him on the mat. Ziggler avoids a Cena attack and makes the tag. Swagger and Ziggler use some shady tactics to take the advantage and Cena is the face-in-peril. After several minutes Cena is able to pick Swagger up and hit the Attitude Adjustment! Tags are made and Punk comes in guns blazing. Punk unleashes a flurry of offense on Ziggler, including a roundhouse kick for a near-fall. Cena and Swagger brawl out to the floor, where Swagger puts on an Ankle Lock, which Cena reverses to the STF. Meanwhile Punk goes to the top rope and Laurinaitis gets on the apron to distract him. That of course allows Ziggler to grab an O’Connor Roll to get the pin at 8:08 (shown). That was solid formula stuff, with Cena making Ziggler and Swagger look like threats. The finish was cliché, but makes sense going into the PPV.
BONUS MATCH #2: Falls Count Anywhere Match – Zack Ryder vs. Kane, Monday Night RAW, 1.23.12
Ryder has Eve in his corner. He bravely attacks the Big Red Monster but gets overpowered and kicked off the apron into the announce table. Kane throws Ryder around ringside, using the steel post and the steel steps to his advantage. We go to commercial, and when we come back it’s almost like we never left because Kane is still dominating. They make their way through the crowd and the slaughter goes on. Up on the entrance ramp Kane delivers a Chokeslam through the stage and Ryder may be actually dead. The referee goes under the stage to check on Ryder, and there is no bell but that’s presumably a no-contest around 7:49? Kane chases after Eve, who gets away, as Cena comes out to check on his little buddy. This was complete and utter burial, as Ryder got maybe one or two punches in for the entire match. I just don’t get the point.
BONUS MATCH #3: Brodus Clay vs. Alex Riley, Friday Night SmackDown, 1.27.12
Riley wants to have fun and dance with the Funkasaurus, but Clay grabs him with a t-bone suplex instead. Clay squashes Riley in the corner and then hits What the Funk to get the win at 0:37. Well that was exhausting.
BONUS MATCH #4: Big Show vs. Mark Henry, Friday Night SmackDown, 1.27.12
World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan comes out to watch the match from ringside. Show goes right after Henry and sends him to the floor. He follows Henry out and puts him right back in the ring. Show continues to dominate as we go to commercial. When we come back from the break Bryan is attacking Show with a steel chair, and the commentators explain that Show won by countout during the break, so we saw about 1:00 of the actual match. That makes it pretty hard to rate, and therefore they get the goose egg.