WWE Royal Rumble '02
January 20th, 2002

It's a little nostalgia for your wrestling addiction, as we go back to the year 2002 to check in on a wrestling classic. I've always been a fan of Royal Rumbles, and even the worst ones (i.e. McMahon winning) still get an occassional viewing from me. So I decided to sit down and take on a few of my favorites, writing a review of those shows. This here is the first one of that collection. Read on.

WWF Royal Rumble '02
Posted by the Accelerator, January '07

- This one has one of my favorite Royal Rumble intro videos ever, as it covers many of the previous winners, including Hacksaw Jim Duggan winning the first one (a lot of people forget about his Rumble win), Shawn Michaels’ toe-tapping survival, Austin (as a heel) coming back in to throw out Bret Hart, and even Vince McMahon’s infamous win.

Match #1 - Spike Dudley & Tazz(c) vs. the Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray & D-Von Dudley) w/ Stacey Keibler, WWF World Tag-Team Titles Match:

As expected, the Dudley Boyz dominated early in this one, focusing on Spike’s already injured neck. Spike managed to get the Dudley Dog on Bubba Ray at one point, but D-Von managed to distract the ref long enough to keep him from seeing Spike’s tag to Tazz, keeping Spike in the ring. It didn’t last long, as Spike was able to avoid a double clothesline attempt, with the Dudley Boyz clotheslining each other. Spike then got the tag to Tazz, who suplexed the heck out of both men. Near the end, Spike took out Bubba Ray with another Dudley Dog, even as Tazz approaching Stacey (who was on the apron) and caught her in the Tazzmission! D-Von broke it up, and avoided a Dudley Dog from Spike, but Tazz managed to come back and lock on the Tazzmission on D-Von to force him to tap out. Spike & Tazz retain.

Ace Thoughts: I actually enjoyed this one somewhat, but then, I’m a sucker for underdogs winning out. The crowd seemed to be behind Spike & Tazz, rooting against the evil Dudleyz. While not a long bout, it still set a good tone to start the PPV.

- A clip showed William Regal knocking out Rob Van Dam & Edge with brass knuckles on a recent Raw. Another clip, from Smackdown, showed Edge losing it, attacking Regal (and later referee Nick Patrick) with a steel chair. Edge was then interviewed by Lillian Garcia, with Edge showing off the bent chair and saying that he can play dirty just like Regal.

Edge: "Do I want to gamble with the devil? Well, tonight, sunshine, I say the devil gets burnt!"

Match #2 - Edge(c) vs. William Regal, WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Title Match:

Before the match, referee Nick Patrick searched Regal and found his brass knuckles (reaching into his pants, yikes), removing the weapon. Of course, Patrick then just left the knuckles sitting on the ringpost, not exactly the best way to get rid of them. This one was a brawl, as Edge was still enraged with Regal at the time. At one point, Regal went for a double underhook powerbomb on Edge, only to have Edge reverse it and go for the pin. Surprisingly, though, Regal got up with the arms still held and nailed a powerbomb of his own. Nice one. Late in the match, Regal got the Regal Stretch on Edge, only to have Edge reach the ropes. A frustrated Regal tried to drag Edge back, but Edge reversed into his own Regal Stretch, with Regal then having to reach the ropes himself! After a few more moves, Edge went for the Spear on Regal, but Regal got the referee in the way, with Patrick taking the hit. Regal then came out with a ‘back-up’ set of brass knuckles, knocking Edge out and pinning him to win the gold. Michael Cole interviewed Regal after the match, with Regal claiming the “Power of the Punch”, basically denying having the brass knuckles.

Ace Thoughts: This one had a few good spots, and a few blown spots. That’s just the way it went back then for Edge/Regal. In the end, it’s an ok match, if you’re a fan of Regal (which I just so happen to be).

Match #3 - Trish Stratus(c) vs. Jazz, WWF World Women’s Title Match:

Stratus came into this one with an injured wrist, courtesy of a sneak-attack from Jazz on Smackdown. Jacqueline was the special referee. Jazz dominated early on, having caught Trish on the way into the ring. The two exchanged a great rolling series of pins at one point, reminding me how women’s wrestling used to be at one point. Jazz and Jacqueline later had a confrontation, with Jacqueline hesitating on a Jazz pinfall (possibly costing her the win). In the end, Jazz ran at Trish in the corner, with Stratus getting her feet up. Stratus then ran forward and got the Stratusfaction Bulldog on Jazz for the victory, retaining the title.

Ace Thoughts: While not a bad match, it was really too short to mean anything. It was surprising to see Jazz be beaten clean, when she had been portrayed as such a monster. Trish beat her with one hand, and sure, Jacqueline screwed things up for Jazz, but it was still a sudden end to the match.

- Next, we had a review clip of the feud between Vince McMahon and “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, with the two co-owners of the WWF breaking down against each other. It was actually a pretty smart feud, as Flair used the fact that McMahon had “owner/wrestler” on his contract to get McMahon in a “Street Fight” Match at the Rumble. It would be Flair’s return, as it was his first PPV match since the fall of WCW.

Match #4 - Ric Flair vs. Vince McMahon, Street Fight:

I’ve read Flair’s biography, “To Be The Man”, so I know all about the stress going through Flair’s head going into this bout. To be honest, though, you can’t see it in the way he wrestles. This one was a typically bloody Street Fight match, with McMahon bloodying Flair with a “Keep Off” sign and a trashcan lid at one point. There’s nothing like red blood running through blonde hair. McMahon later stole a camera from Flair’s wife, Beth, and took a picture of the bleeding Flair in front of his son, Reid. But Flair would come back (thanks to a huge low blow), beating on McMahon and getting Beth to take a better picture later on. In the end, Flair nailed McMahon with a pipe, then locked on the Figure Four, causing Vince to tap out.

Ace Thoughts: This was definitely the non-Rumble Match of the Night, not exactly what you would expect, since Vince was in the match. But, love him or hate him, Vince definitely knows how to get the crowd riled up, and Flair was a huge crowd favorite. The audience made this match great (although, to be fair, the two men in the squared circle did a lot, too). The only bad part

- Michael Cole was shown in the back, still trying to get more dirt on William Regal by interviewing Nick Patrick about the brass knuckles. Patrick was sent away, though, by Stephanie McMahon, who wanted to talk about her husband, Triple H, winning the Rumble. Steve Austin then came up behind Stephanie and did his “What?” routine, sending Stephanie running away, screaming. Austin then said that he would win the Rumble. Of course, everyone says that before the Rumble, and it’s not like we take most of them seriously (Val Venis? Please).

Steve Austin: "What? What? What? What? What? What? What?"

Match #5 - Chris Jericho(c) vs. the Rock, WWF Undisputed Heavyweight Title Match:

This was during the Jericho Experiment, trying to make Jericho a believable World Champion by having him face guys like Austin and the Rock. I still say it wasn’t Jericho’s fault that it didn’t get over; he was just pushed up too fast. During the match, Jericho got multiple Lionsaults on the Rock, but only got a 2 count. As Jericho argued with referee Earl Hebner, the Rock recovered and got the Sharpshooter locked in. Luckily for Jericho, Lance Storm & Christian distracted Hebner, keeping him from seeing Jericho tap out. The Rock took care of Storm & Christian, but Jericho nearly won afterwards with a Rock Bottom. Meanwhile, Nick Patrick came out and sent Storm & Christian to the back, seemingly being a ‘good’ ref (this is important later). The Rock soon came back, taking the champ to the outside and giving Jericho a Rock Bottom through an announcing table! Back in the ring, Jericho reversed a Rock Bottom into the Walls of Jericho, with the Rock able to fight to the ropes. Near the end, with Hebner down, Jericho nailed the Rock with the World Title, but only got a 2 count from new referee Nick Patrick. When the Rock then got a DDT on the champ, Patrick refused to count, leading to the Rock taking him out. The Rock then got the People’s Elbow on Jericho, but there was no ref (since the Rock took him out, one of the drawbacks about doing that). This allowed Jericho to come back with a low blow and a shot into an exposed turnbuckle. To finish things off, Jericho put his feet on the ropes during the pin, staying the champion. A dazed Hebner made the count, somehow missing Jericho being three feet above him (due to the ropes).

Ace Thoughts: There was really too much going on in this one (Christian/Storm, Patrick, et cetera) for this to be a 5-star match. It also didn’t make Jericho look as strong as they might have been hoping for, as he needed almost every cheating method in the WWF to stay the ‘Undisputed’ Champion. Quite frankly, I think they could have it done it just as well with less dramatics and more wrestling. But that’s just me.

- Shawn Michaels was shown in WWF New York (remember that place?), where he gave his two picks for the Rumble: fellow Texans Steve Austin and the Undertaker. I wanted to insert a comment about how Michaels had forgotten only one person wins the Rumble, but then I remembered that Michaels was there when Bret Hart & Lex Luger co-won it, so I guess it WAS possible that his two picks would both win it.

- A clip review for the Rumble basically set the favorites, as almost every wrestler got about 2 seconds’ worth of clips, except for Steve Austin, Triple H, and the Undertaker, who were heavily covered. Kurt Angle and Kane also got a little more time, although not much.

Match #6 - 30 Man Royal Rumble Match:

The winner of this one, of course, gets a title shot at Wrestlemania. Rikishi came in at #1, with the returning Goldust taking #2.

Jerry Lawler: "This means we might see 29 Stinkfaces tonight! People will be hurling all over the place! Is that a new shirt you’ve got on (JR)?"

Rikishi and Goldust fought for the next 2 minutes, with Goldust nearly being eliminated multiple times. Next, #3 the Big Boss Man (RIP) came in to try to help Goldust double-team the big Samoan. Of course, when they failed to throw out Rikishi, Goldust turned on the Boss Man. I never understood that. Throw out the threat, AND THEN turn on your ally! Anyhow, #4 was a bearded, longhaired Bradshaw of the APA. Lawler correctly points out that Shawn Michaels forgot to mention Bradshaw when praising the Texans in the Rumble. Bummer for Bradshaw, who was years away from a good singles push. In the meantime, Rikishi got the Stinkface on the Boss Man, then threw him out before he could throw up.

Bradshaw attacked Rikishi afterwards, but took a painful release Samoan Drop (that I’m not sure was supposed to be released). #5 was Lance Storm, who quickly went after Goldust. Just as a note, of the first 5 guys, only one (Bradshaw) is still officially on WWE television in ‘06, if only in a broadcasting position. #6, Al Snow, rushed in to attack everyone, using his Tough Enough stature to his advantage. Meanwhile, Bradshaw took out Storm with the Clothesline From Hell, but wasn’t able to get him out. The ring continued to fill up, as #7, Billy Gunn, came out. This was at the time that Billy was partnered with Chuck Palumbo as the ambiguously gay duo (who later ‘proved’ they weren’t gay). During this period, Snow & Storm fought on the apron, with Snow winning the battle by giving Storm a Superkick and sending Storm out of the match.

As the match continued, Bradshaw went to toss out Goldust, but instead got tossed out himself by Billy, once again sending an APA member out without an elimination. That seemed to happen a lot back in the day. Using JR’s own quote, business picked up with #8, as the first favorite, the Undertaker, came down on his motorcycle and began destroying people immediately, Chokeslamming Billy. Basically, the Undertaker destroyed everyone, Chokeslamming Goldust out of the ring, then following by tossing out Snow, Rikishi, and Billy to clear the ring and stand alone.

#9 was Matt Hardy, who had been feuding with the Undertaker along with Jeff and Lita. The Undertaker immediately went for a Chokeslam on Matt, but Lita entered the ring, barely avoiding a Chokeslam herself by getting a low blow. Matt and Lita then double-teamed the Dead Man for a minute, allowing Matt to stay alive. Just as the Undertaker was getting back control, #10 came out, which was, coincidentally, Jeff Hardy. It makes for a great story, but it’s really not that believable. Then again, this is pro wrestling; why am I looking for believability? The Hardyz & Lita triple-teamed the Dead Man (with refs pulling Lita out of the ring). The Hardyz did well against the Undertaker, at one point getting the Twist of Fate/Senton Bomb combination. But the Undertaker was able to catch Jeff in mid-air during another double-team maneuver, throwing Jeff out of the ring. The Undertaker then easily gave Matt the Last Ride and threw him out, winning the battle. #11 next came out, which was rookie Maven (from Tough Enough). The Undertaker seemed to have everything under control, but his downfall came when he knocked down Lita, causing Matt & Jeff to reenter the ring and attack again! The Undertaker again managed to fight the Hardyz off, but as he turned his back to taunt the two men, Maven drop-kicked him from behind, sending the Undertaker out of the ring! Definitely one of the moments of the night.

Of course, the Undertaker didn’t take it well, coming back into the ring and absolutely destroying Maven, eventually carrying him out of the ring (eliminating him) and dragging him to the back, where he threw Maven’s head into a popcorn machine. It was a brutal beating, especially the unprotected chair shot that Maven took at ringside. Yeouch. #12 Scotty Too Hotty was also involved in the Undertaker’s wrath, getting punched and laid out. One punch, Scotty? That just sucks. Scotty eventually recovered to face off against #13, Christian (who was lounging in the ring), as the Rumble continued. #14 Diamond Dallas Page soon joined the fight, going after Christian, even as Maven got medical help in the back. Help the rook! In the ring, Scotty got in the Worm on Christian, forgetting that, if you get your finisher, it means that your time is about up. And, sure enough, DDP came back in and tossed out Scotty right after the Worm, ending Scotty’s run.

#15 Chuck Palumbo was the next one in, sporting his blonde ‘do. It’s hard to believe that Billy & Chuck were actually over for a while, until the writers opted to take away their heat and try to make them ‘faces’. It was mainly DDP vs. the two other wrestlers in a handicap match, with Page not winning. The best entrance of the night happened soon after, with #16 the Godfather making his return, constantly running backstage to bring out more and more hos to bring to the ring with him. During this fun intro, DDP got eliminated by Christian, which we got to see in a replay. I guess that at least showed that the match was continuing during the dancing of the hos. By the time the Godfather got to the ring, it was almost time for another contestant. #17 Albert ran down to the ring, making it a two-on-two contest, at least until the Godfather opted to attack Albert. The two big men fought it out, but Christian & Chucky took advantage, grabbing Albert from behind and quickly tossing him. The Godfather then had to fight both men, missing the Ho Train and getting tossed by Christian & Chuck, leaving the two heels in the ring.

#18 was Perry Saturn, who immediately went to work trying to beat down both heels in his cow-spotted ring gear. Hey, they went well with the tattoos, so who am I to criticize? The battle between the three men continued, with Palumbo and Christian no longer working as a team. It was all soon shown not to matter, as #19 was “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, the second favorite in the match. Austin dominated just as quickly as the Undertaker did, destroying all three men while the fans chanted “What?” In no time at all, Austin eliminated Christian, Chuck, and Saturn, clearing the ring. He did it so fast, he checked his ‘watch’ (he wasn’t wearing one) and brought Christian and Chuck back into the ring, gave them both Stunners, then tossed both again! He then engaged in a “What?” conversation with the fans, killing some more time. You gotta love the crazy Rattlesnake.

Next up was #20 Val Venis, making his return to the WWF. Although he got in some offense on Austin, though, Venis wasn’t doing too great against the Rattlesnake. Enter #21 Test, who teamed up with Venis to try and take care of Austin. That plan soon failed, as Test gave the Big Boot to the wrong person, allowing Austin to toss out Venis, soon followed by Test. Austin was again alone in the ring, although apparently his ‘watch’ was no longer working (he tapped it as if it was not ticking).

Things picked up at #22, as Triple H came down to go nose-to-nose with Austin (after a long entrance, of course). The two quickly started hammering each other around the ring, leading to a double clothesline that laid out both men. This allowed #23, the Hurricane (now known as Gregory Helms) coming in and threatening to Chokeslam both men! Of course, it didn’t work out, as both Triple H and Austin shrugged off the superhero and sent him out of the ring, ending the Hurricane’s night early. #24 Faarooq of the APA came down next to break up the Austin/Triple H fight, and things ended up pretty much the same way, with Austin giving Faarooq the Stone Cold Stunner, followed by Triple H throwing him out. It was a 30-second night for Faarooq, not a good night for a former WCW World Champion. We’re back to Austin/Triple H, with the two superstars continuing to go at it.

#25 was Mr. Perfect (RIP), who actually looked in pretty good shape for this one. Perfect held his own against Austin and Triple H, staying in the match. He was soon joined by #26 Kurt Angle, with the Olympic gold medallist joining Mr. Perfect in double-teaming Austin & the Game.

Atlanta Crowd: "You Suck! What? You Suck! What?"

I love ingenuity. Anyway, the battle between the faces & the heels continued for the next few minutes, with Angle trying desperately to throw out Triple H, only to have Austin made the save (which made no sense, but oh well). #27 came out, and it was the Big Show, who really hadn’t been talked about as a favorite, despite having all the qualifications to win this late in the Rumble. The Big Show quickly took control, taking out everyone, even surviving a double-team from Austin/Triple H to rule the ring. We also had another strange ‘save’, as Triple H stopped the Big Show from sending Angle out of the ring via press slam. JR tried to explain it as how the Game saw the Big Show as a bigger threat, which at least makes a little sense.

The Big Show’s match came out at #28, as the Big Red Machine, Kane, stomped out to have a big vs. big match-up. The Big Show seemed to still be in control, winning the Chokeslam battle, but Kane then got a low blow and shockingly lifted the Big Show off the ground, body-slamming him out of the ring! That was it for Kane, too, though, as Austin got a Stunner on him and clotheslined him out, making it a really short night for Kane.

#29 was fan-favorite Rob Van Dam, as the crowd went crazy. Van Dam quickly pumped up the fans even more by landing the Five Star Frog Splash on Angle. Van Dam then attacked every wrestler in the ring, getting in some great shots on Austin. However, Triple H quickly ended that by Pedigreeing RVD and knocking him cold. Sad, how quickly they ended his momentum like that. The crowd certainly didn’t like it. They liked it even less when #30 Booker T came in and quickly threw Van Dam out, ending RVD’s run in the Rumble. However, Booker T then got too cocky and tried a Spinneroonie. Austin took advantage, grabbing Booker and throwing him out. Booker officially had the shortest time in this year’s Rumble, but at least he got to both toss someone and got in his favorite move, right?

We’re down to the Final Four: Austin, Triple H, Angle, & Mr. Perfect. In other words, we were back to the tag-team match. Angle & Perfect worked on Austin, as the Game was down for a long while. It worked for the heels, as Angle caught Austin from behind (while Austin tried to toss Perfect), throwing Austin out of the ring! A furious Austin grabbed Perfect and dragged him to the outside, but Angle followed them out, helping to save Perfect. I guess he wanted him for the double-team. As Angle & Perfect went back into the ring to attack Triple H, though, Austin returned again, hitting Angle, Perfect, and even Triple H with chairshots before leaving! What a sore loser.

The three men in the ring fought to recover, with Angle getting up first (after all, he got hit first, so he should recover first). The heel miscommunication soon began afterwards, as Angle accidentally hit Perfect, nearly eliminating him. The heels went at it, with Perfect getting the Perfect-Plex on Angle. Of course, he used his move, so Triple H quickly eliminated him. Hey, it’s a rule for the Rumble! This left Triple H and Angle, with the two furiously going at it. Each got in some good shots, with Angle nearly winning by back-dropping Triple H over the ropes. But the Game made it to the turnbuckle, then came back as Angle celebrated, stunning Angle and sending him over the ropes to give Triple H the Wrestlemania shot!

Ace Thoughts: This Rumble rates as one of my all-time favorites, as it had several memorable moments, including Maven eliminating the Undertaker, the Hurricane’s attempted Double Chokeslam, Kane’s slam of the Big Show, and Mr. Perfect’s performance, just to name a few. I still rank ’92 and ’04 ahead of it, but it’s definitely in my top five. A very good end to a pretty good pay-per-view.

All-in-all, if you’re a fan of Rumbles like I am, this event is a good one to have in your wrestling video/DVD library. It also showcases how the title picture in the WWF/WWE used to be a heck of a lot more interesting, as you had four of the five other matches on the show involving a champion defending his or her title. Of course, I still rate the non-title match (McMahon/Flair Street Fight) as my favorite, besides the Rumble, of course. Check it out sometime if you ever get the chance.

The Accelerator