US Airways Arena – Phoenix, Arizona – January 27, 2013
Michael Cole, Hall of Famer Jerry “The King” Lawler, and JBL are on commentary.
MATCH #1: Last Man Standing Match for the World Heavyweight Title – Alberto Del Rio vs. Big Show
Del Rio has been the Champion since 1.11.13, and this is his first defense. Show starts off the aggressor, eager to try and earn his title back in the same type of match he lost it in. Del Rio comes back and targets Show’s legs, always good strategy againt a larger opponent. Show tries a powerbomb but Del Rio counters with a hurricanrana. Del Rio goes up top and hits a seated senton. I love that face Del Rio wrestles so differently than heel Del Rio. Show counters the Cross Armbreaker into a type of Angle Slam to regain control. The challenger brings a steel chair in the ring but Del Rio dropkicks Show and picks up the chair. Del Rio wears Show out with the chair and the crowd chants “Si!” Show grabs a charging Del Rio and flattens him with a Chokeslam. Del Rio makes it to his feet at the count of nine, but then stumbles to the floor. Show joins Del Rio on the floor and slams him down. They go up the aisle and Del Rio kicks Show square in the nuts, and then drills him with a Superkick. However, Show can’t be kept down and he’s soon back in control, throwing Del Rio into the set and setting up a table. They take it up on top of the set, maybe 10 feet up, and Show throws Del Rio down through the table with a Chokeslam! Amazingly Del Rio makes it back to his feet! They battle back to ringside and Show sets up the steel steps. Rodriguez tries to help Del Rio but he pays for it. Show charges at Del Rio but the Champion moves and Show crashes through the barricade! Show gets back to his feet and Del Rio wears him out with a chair. Del Rio douses Show with a fire extinguisher. Back in the ring Del Rio locks on the Cross Armbreaker while Rodriguez duct tapes Show’s feet to the bottom ropes. It’s been less than three years since Cena did it! I guess if it worked for Cena it’s good enough for Del Rio, and it gets him the win at 16:58. The finish does work in the context of the match and the feud, so at least they stole a finish that made sense, but it really hasn’t been that long since Cena did it to Batista. Even so, this was a very good Last Man Standing match with cool spots and nice progression. Del Rio was such an underrated babyface.
MATCH #2: WWE Tag Team Title Match – Team Hell No vs. Team Rhodes Scholars
Kane and Daniel Bryan have been the Champions since 9.16.12, and this is their sixth defense. Bryan and Cody Rhodes start the match. It doesn’t take long for Bryan to take Rhodes down to the mat and press the advantage. Kane tags in and Rhodes takes him down with a dropkick. Damien Sandow gets the tag but he immediately gets bodyslammed. Kane follows with an elbow drop for two. Bryan tags back in and the Champions are working well together in the opening minutes. Kane knocks both Rhodes and Sandow to the floor and Bryan takes them both out with a suicide dive. The challengers use some questionable tactics to take advantage on Bryan, and they isolate him in their half of the ring. After several minutes Bryan is able to hit Rhodes with a DDT and tags are made! Kane is a house afire, much like the house he may or may not have set afire as a child. Rhodes and Sandow have to work together to cut Kane off, but Kane had already made a blind tag. Bryan nails Sandow with a missile dropkick. Kane flattens Rhodes with a Chokeslam. Bryan finishes it with the LeBell Lock on Sandow for the tap out at 9:24. Nothing special here but a fine tag team formula match. These two teams faced each other a number of times and they never could get past that “pretty good” level, which is a shame.
MATCH #3: Royal Rumble Match
Dolph Ziggler, accompanied by AJ Lee and Big E Langston, is #1. Lee and Langston just come out for the entrance though and don’t come to ringside. The returning Chris Jericho is #2! Jericho has been gone since last summer when Ziggler took him out, so this is the perfect spot for him to return. They start off hot, as Jericho is out for revenge and Ziggler has something to prove. Jericho delivers a superplex and both men are recovering as Cody Rhodes comes out at #3. Rhodes and Ziggler work together on Jericho but are not able to eliminate him. Kofi Kingston is #4 and of course starts flying all over the place. The power walking Santino Marella is #5 and he throws everyone to the apron but no one to the floor. Marella pulls out the Cobra and strikes Kingston with it, but that’s as far as he goes as Jericho knocks him down and Rhodes throws him to the floor. The first member of the 3MB, Drew McIntyre, is the #6 entrant. Next up is Prime Time Player Titus O’Neil at #7. O’Neil uses his size and strength to make an immediate impression on the Rumble veterans in the ring. Jericho maneuvers McIntyre to the apron and eliminates him with the springboard dropkick. In the night’s first surprise return, #8 is Goldust! Rhodes is ready for his older brother and they immediatey take it to each other. The crowd LOVES them some Goldust that’s for sure. David Otunga is #9. Another member of the 3MB, Heath Slater, is the #10 entrant. Jericho and Ziggler keep going at each other every chance they get. Last year’s winner Sheamus is out at #11. Sheamus immediately cleans house, looking like a million bucks. He first eliminates O’Neil, and Otunga is the next to go. The sizable Tensai is #12. Lucky #13 is Brodus Clay, making his Rumble debut. After a struggle on the apron, Rhodes is able to eliminate Goldust. Rey Mysterio is #14, and he flies all over the place, focusing on Ziggler and Jericho, the two men who have been in the longest. That’s just good strategy. We reach the halfway point with Darren Young at #15, and Clay is eliminated by Jericho, Slater, Rhodes, Sheamus, and Young. Kingston eliminates Tensai. Ziggler knocks Kingston off the apron but he lands on Tensai’s back! Tensai throws him onto the announce table and pounds on him, but Kingston’s feet have not touched the floor. NXT standout Bo Dallas is #16. Meanwhile, Kingston commandeers JBL’s chair and uses it to hop back over to the apron and get back in the ring. Kingston low bridges the top rope to eliminate Young, but then gets eliminated himself by Rhodes, much to my wife’s dismay. The returning Godfather comes out at #17. Godfather is in the ring for about two seconds before Ziggler dropkicks him out. Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett is #18. The crowd erupts with John Cena at #19. The action in the ring stops and everyone attacks Cena but he fights htem off. Cena eliminates Slater and Rhodes right away. Damien Sandow is out at #20.
Barrett eliminates Mysterio, but then gets clobbered by Sheamus. Tag Team Champion Daniel Bryan is #21. Bryan of course goes after Sandow, but he has plenty of kicks for Ziggler and Barrett too. United States Champion Antonio Cesaro is next up at #22, and he starts throwing European Uppercuts at everyone. We reach #23 and it’s The Great Khali. The ring is really filling up now. Next out is Kane at #24. Now both Tag Team Champions are in the ring together. Zack Ryder is actually in the Rumble, at #25. Ryder goes after Ziggler as Bryan and Kane eliminate Khali. Bryan then eliminates his own partner! Kane is not happy. Cesaro knocks Bryan over the ropes and Kane catches him. Bryan asks Kane to put him back in the ring, but Kane decides to just let him fall to the floor. Randy Orton is #26, and he’s a house afire. Orton dumps Ryder to the floor. The most winning spot is #27, and Jinder Mahal has that spot this year. Cena dumps Cesaro out. The Miz is #28, and he gets into a fight with Cesaro right by the entrance! Sheamus hinders Jinder by throwing him to the floor. The high-flying Sin Cara is entrant #29. Barrett tries to eliminate Dallas, but the rookie is able to reverse the momentum and pulls the Intercontinental Champion to the floor! A bitter Barrett pulls Dallas to the floor, and this year that counts as an elimination. Barrett then knocks Dallas out with the Bull Hammer, or whatever he was calling his finisher that week. We finally round out the field with Ryback at #30.
Ryback’s first victim is Sandow, and then Cara gets tossed out on top of poor Sandow. Miz tries to eliminate Ryback but it doesn’t work out and Miz gets hurled out. We’re down to the final six, and Ziggler and Jericho are two of them. Ziggler is able to eliminate Jericho and we’re down to five. Jericho lasted over 47 minutes. Orton starts dishing out RKOs to everyone. He hits Ryback with the Rope-hung DDT. Everyone but Orton is down. Ryback ends the domination by clotheslining Orton to the floor. The final four is Dolph Ziggler, Sheamus, John Cena, and Ryback. Sheamus Brogue Kicks Ziggler to the floor. Cena and Sheamus go after Ryback and double-team him, and then tear into each other. Ryback recovers and flattens Cena with the Meat Hook. Sheamus hits Ryback with White Noise. He goes for the Brogue Kick but Ryback catches him and dumps him out! We’re down to Cena and Ryback. Sheamus lasted for over 37 minutes. The crowd is behind Ryback, chanting “Feed Me More.” Ryback hits Cena with a spinebuster and signals for the Meat Hook. Cena ducks it and puts on the STF. He lets go and tries to get Ryback up so he can eliminate him. Ryback comes back with a Thesz Press and tries to slam Cena out but Cena dumps Ryback out instead to win his second Rumble at 55:05. There were parts of this that I liked of course, as the Rumble is generally pretty fun. Jericho and Ziggler were great, and seeing the crowd so into Goldust was great fun. Cena winning was beyond predictable, and was a big part of why this isn’t a classic Rumble, but I still had plenty of fun while it lasted.
MATCH #4: WWE Championship Match – CM Punk vs. The Rock
Punk has been the Champion since 11.20.11, and this is his twenty-first defense. Rock starts off full of fire but Punk is equally fired up. The challenger goes for an early Rock Bottom but Punk avoids it. Punk can’t avoid being clotheslined to the floor though, and Rock follows him out. Momentum shifts back and forth, and Heyman is able to interfere to give Punk the advantage. Punk takes Rock back to the ring and begins wearing him down. Every time Rock tries to fight up Punk is able to cut him off, which makes sense given how much ring rust Rock must have. Punk knocks Rock to the floor and follows him out with a flying forearm off the top rope. Unfortunately for Punk he may have injured his knee on the way down. Back in the ring Rock tries to attack the injured limb but Punk kicks him right back to the floor. Punk then wipes Rock out with a suicide dive. Back in the ring Punk goes for a flying clothesline off the top rope but Rock avoids it and Punk crashes down hard on the knee. Rock smells blood in the water and goes after the knee with gusto. He goes for the Rock Bottom again but Punk avoids it and tries Go 2 Sleep, but Rock catches the knee and goes for the Sharpshooter, and Punk reverses that to the Anaconda Vise. Rock turns that into a cover for two, and then drops Punk with a DDT. He again goes for the Rock Bottom but Punk counters it again. Rock counters the counter and locks on a pretty good looking Sharpshooter. Punk reaches the ropes. Back on the floor Rock slams Punk down. Rock clears off the Spanish Announce Table and they take the fight up there. Punk tries to hit Go 2 Sleep but Rock counters with a Rock Bottom. Unfortunately the table gave way before he could actually hit the move. Rock instead delivers the Rock Bottom right on the floor. Ouch. Back in the ring Rock covers for two. Both men make it back to their feet and Punk levels Rock with a roundhouse kick. Once again both men are down. They get back to their feet and trade bombs. Rock takes Punk off his feet with a big clothesline, and then flattens him with a spinebuster. He goes for the People’s Elbow, but before he can hit it, the lights go out. Apparently The Shield is out and they hit Rock with the triple powerbomb through the announce table. Punk brings Rock back in the ring and gets the pin at 21:24! Well that was certainly unexpected.
But wait! Mr. McMahon makes his way out. McMahon reminds Punk that he said if The Shield interfered, Punk would be stripped of the title. But before McMahon can complete the title transaction, Rock objects. Rock doesn’t want it to end that way, and demands the match be restarted. (41:31)McMahon agrees and here we go. Punk is furious and lays waste to Rock in the corner. He hits the running knee in the corner and takes Rock down with a clothesline. Punk goes up top and hits Hail to the King for a two-count. He tries go 2 Sleep but Rock slips out and hits a spinebuster! Rock hits the People’s Elbow to get the pin and win the title at 1:52 (23:16 total match time). People gave that match a lot of crap, but wrestling fans come up with weird reasons to hate everything. This was certainly no classic, but it was good stuff with a hot crowd. The re-start actually worked in this case because it helped add some drama to an otherwise foregone conclusion. Rock and Punk had good chemistry together, both in promos and in the ring.
Royal Rumble Trivia
Longest Lasting Superstar in the Ring: Dolph Ziggler, 50 minutes
Superstar With Most Eliminations: Ryback, 5
Royal Rumble Rookies: Titus O’Neil, Tensai, Brodus Clay, Darren Young, Bo Dallas, Damien Sandow, Antonio Cesaro, Sin Cara, and Ryback
BONUS MATCH: Ryback vs. Heath Slater, Monday Night RAW #1026, 1.21.13
Slater lands a couple of strikes early on, but Ryback quickly cuts him off with his impressive strength. Ryback clobbers Slater with the Meat Hook, and then brings McIntyre and Mahal into the ring just so he can throw them out again. Ryback then finishes Slater with the Shell Shocked at 1:21. Solid squash for Ryback.
BONUS MATCH: Alberto Del Rio vs. Tensai, Monday Night RAW #1026, 1.21.13
Tensai uses his size to overwhelm Del Rio from the bell. He knocks Del Rio down near the corner and hits two consecutive Vader Bombs but only gets a two-count. Tensai goes for an Avalanche but Del Rio gets his boots up. Del Rio hits a hurricanrana from the second rope and then a release German Suplex! He follows with the step-up enziguiri in the corner, and then hits a nice moonsault from the second rope to get the pin at 1:32. Well they did as much as they could with that time. I’m actually in the camp of Del Rio being underrated as a babyface, because even in this short match I saw him doing moves he never does as a heel, and some guys do all the same stuff regardless of whethere they are heel or face. It was a nice change at least.