WWE Royal Rumble '03
January 19th, 2003

The journey towards having a review of every WWE/F Rumble continues! I wonder if I'll be done with these before the next Rumble gets here in '08? Anything's possible. Interestingly enough, this was a Rumble that was actually more well-known for a singles match, rather than the Rumble itself. What's going to make this tough is that it's one of Chris Benoit's greatest moments, even in defeat, which is going to cause this former fan to struggle, I'm sure. Hopefully, I can pull myself through it and continue on with the review. Let's get to it.

WWE Royal Rumble '03
Posted by the Accelerator, August 15th, 2007

- The box features Triple H lording it over a wrestling ring. Yep, he's the only one on there. Who needs Angle, Benoit, Steiner, or Lesnar? We've got Helmsley!

- The opening package is kind of cool, as the top stars in the company talk about how important it is to main event Wrestlemania. We've got Chris Jericho, the Big Show, Brock Lesnar, Chris Benoit *sigh*, Triple H, Booker T, Shawn Michaels, and Edge all giving their thoughts. All of the sudden, I want to see Wrestlemania, too. But I'll get to that later on.

- We're in Boston, Massachusetts, with our announcers Jim Ross & Jerry "The King" Lawler (Raw) and Michael Cole & Tazz (Smackdown). Oh, and our wonderful Spanish announcers, as well.

Brock Lesnar vs. the Big Show w/ Paul Heyman, Loser Is Out Of Rumble Match:

Basically, this was part of the continuing story of Lesnar trying to get back to the World Title. For those of you who weren't watching at the time or have forgotten, let me give you a brief overview. Lesnar was the dominant Smackdown Champion at one point, but since he was starting to disregard the advice of his long-time manager, Paul Heyman, Heyman decided to betray him, helping the Big Show win the title from Lesnar. Lesnar thought he struck a deal with Kurt Angle about contendership, as Lesnar helped Angle beat the Big Show for the title. This turned out to be a swerve as well, though, as Angle had also gotten with Heyman. Thus, Lesnar's only chance to get a title shot would be winning the Rumble tonight. The Big Show, as one of Heyman's goons, was there to make sure he didn't even make the Rumble. There you go. Feel caught up now? Good.

Really, I don't think there was a person in the crowd who didn't know what was going to happen in this one. Lesnar showed off his power, getting various suplexes on his massive foe. The Big Show, in turn, showed that he could get in his own hits. Plus, of course, there was Heyman, tripping up Lesnar from the outside. Near the end, the Big Show got the Chokeslam on Lesnar, but "The Next Big Thing" kicked out at 2, then came back to get an enormous F-5 on the Big Show for the victory after around 6 1/2 minutes. Lesnar's still in the Rumble, while the Big Show was done for the night.

Ace Thoughts: Looking back on it, it's still incredible to see the strength of Lesnar. There were only a few wrestlers who could throw around the Big Show like this, after all. The fans were certainly behind him at this point, making a "big man" match actually pretty exciting, despite the shortness of it. The only drawback was that no one really believed that the Big Show had a chance. Clearly, he didn't.

- Terri Runnels (hey, I remember those, er, I mean, her) interviews Chris Jericho, who's still complaining about Michaels getting the #1 entry in the Rumble. Yeah, they had an angle going where Michaels and Jericho WANTED the early spots. Go figure.

William Regal & Lance Storm(c) vs. the Dudley Boyz, WWE World Tag-Team Titles Match:

As I recall for this one (and I'm a little more shaky on this storyline), the Dudley Boyz had basically been at war with Eric Bischoff & Chief Morley (aka Val Venis), while Bischoff supported Regal & Storm. With Morley's help, Regal & Storm won the tag titles from BookDust (still one of my favorite teams of this century so far). Meanwhile, when the Dudleyz went after Bischoff (and nailed Morley instead), Bischoff suspended them, only to have Vince McMahon reinstate them and give them the title shot tonight against Regal & Storm. BTW, this also involved JR & the King, who had been forced to fight Regal & Storm at one point. So, as expected, they're pretty biased in their play-call in this one.

This was a paint-by-numbers tag-team match, as the faces were in control early, until the heels cheated, taking over on Devon. Devon took some punishment, then finally made the hot tag to Bubba Ray, who went to town on the heels. Chief Morley tried to change the usual result, coming down to distract the Dudleyz, but they were ready for Regal's attempt at a swing of the brass knuckles, instead catching Regal with the 3-D, then dropping Storm with a shot from the brass knuckles for the victory. This gave the Dudley Boyz the Tag-Team Titles for the seventh time.

Ace Thoughts: In retrospect, this match really didn't mean that much, as Bischoff set it up the next night on Raw to get Regal & Storm the titles back. In other words, this was a one-day reign to allow them to say that the Dudleyz were 7-time champions. It was during a rough patch for tag-teams, too, as several of the top teams had split up, leaving us with several mis-matched pairings as champs. In other words, this isn't the greatest match I've ever seen, so feel free to skip it, if you want to.

- A promo runs touting the coming of Nathan Jones, the bad man from Australia. You'd think, from these promos, that he would actually have a career run in WWE. I bet there are some people out there reading this going, "Nathan who?", which is perfectly understandable. Just check out my biography on him for more information (PLUG!).

- A video package runs for the Dawn Marie vs. Torrie Wilson story. Do I need to go into this? Yeah, I guess I do. Sadly, this one I haven't forgotten about (plus the promo helps, o'course). In basic terms, Dawn Marie seduced Torrie's dad, Al Wilson. Dawn Marie turns Torrie into a lesbian, at least for one night, as Torrie tries to stop the engagement. Dawn Marie marries Al Wilson anyway, making her Torrie's step-mom. Dawn Marie has a wild honeymoon with Al, killing him (at least in the storyline). Dawn Marie and Torrie feud over a dead man. I still can't believe they did a storyline about this one.

Dawn Marie vs. Torrie Wilson:

The funny thing here is, even back in '03, the fans weren't going for a 'death' storyline, yet Vince tried to resurrect that in '07. Those who don't learn from history, yada yada yada. I could go into some of the wrestling moves that took place here, but no one wants that. Instead, let's throw up a picture I found on line that encompasses everything worth remembering about this storyline:

There you go. Happy now? Oh, as for the match, Torrie won after three minutes or so with a neckbreaker. Yay.

Ace Thoughts: Honestly, Dawn Marie is a better wrestler than this. Maybe it was just the storyline's stink still hanging on it, but this was a horrendous women's match. Look away, people, look away!

- The two GMs of Raw and Smackdown (Eric Bischoff & Stephanie McMahon, respectively) converse about each having a big surprise in store for the next week. Bischoff, I believe, brought back "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (and got beat up for it at the next PPV), while Stephanie brought back Hulk Hogan (who got beat by the Rock at the next PPV). Nice series of moves, there.

- Sean O'Haire does another of his "I'm not telling you anything you didn't know" promos. How'd this guy not get over again? Oh, yeah, they paired him with old man Piper and destroyed him. Bummer.

- We get a video package for Steiner/Triple H, which has been mostly Steiner beating Triple H in arm-wrestling, posedowns, and push-ups. For some strange reason, Steiner hasn't wrestled at all up to this point. I wonder why....

Triple H(c) w/ Ric Flair vs. Scott Steiner, World Heavyweight Title Match:

What makes this match interesting, at least to me, is the crowd watching it. When Steiner first comes out, he gets a sizable pop. They're behind him all the way against the devious Triple H. But as the match goes on, and it becomes clear that Steiner just doesn't have it in him at this point to have a good match, the crowd slowly turns on him. You've never lived until you hear the crowd booing when Steiner hits a 7th or 8th Overhead Suplex. In fact, this is a match full of suplexes, and the crowd despises it. Near the end, when Triple H couldn't get the referee to call for the DQ, he finally goes and gets his sledgehammer. The referee (Earl Hebner) has no choice but to end it via DQ, and the crowd lets it rip, hating everyone and everything in the ring. Afterwards, Steiner takes out Triple H & Flair with the sledgehammer, followed by putting Triple H in the Steiner Recliner, to get some revenge. The crowd doesn't go with it, though, still booing hard.

Ace Thoughts: This was really one of the worst experiments in WWE history, as Big Poppa Pump just wasn't in any condition at this point in his wrestling life to wrestle an 18-minute match. What they should have done is make this one 5-10 minutes, to keep Steiner from looking so dead out there. He's so much better now in TNA, just because they're handling him right. Of course, it was a different kind of WWE crowd at that point, who were more in love with technical match-ups than physical brawls. It's still amazing to me that they decided to have one more Steiner/Triple H match at No Way Out. Guess what? It didn't do that well there, either.

- We get a video package detailing the history of Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit, two men who always seemed to have a great match together. Basically, although Benoit was the unlikely challenger (everyone knew things were being set up for Angle/Lesnar at Wrestlemania), the storyline was enough to make him a threat to actually win the gold.

Kurt Angle(c) w/ Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas vs. Chris Benoit, WWE Championship Match:

Things got great in this one right at the beginning, when Team Angle was almost immediately booted from ringside. This meant that it was a true one-on-one contest, and what a contest it was! If you haven't seen this one, and you can stand watching Benoit at his finest, then be sure to check this match out. It's probably in Benoit's Hard Knocks collection, if you can't find this one. We had technical fighting. We had brawling on the outside. We even had a double clothesline that took both men out, leading to a close 10 count by the referee that the crowd was heavily into. Of course, we had Angle Slams, Ankle Locks, Flying Headbutts, and the Crippler Crossface, all at different times. You haven't lived until you've seen the Crossface escaped and turned into the Angle Slam. After multiple false finishes, Angle was able to reverse the Crossface into the Ankle Lock, and despite all his efforts, Benoit just couldn't get free. When Angle grapevined the leg to add more pressure, Benoit had no choice, tapping out and allowing Angle to retain the title. Afterwards, Team Angle celebrated with Angle, while (after a break) the crowd gave Benoit a standing ovation. Damn, now THAT was hard to watch!

Ace Thoughts: I could go off on another emotional Benoit rant here, about how everything in his career in tainted and all, but let's just stick to the match. Honestly, it's hard to find a better match out there during '03, or even in the last few years. The crowd really made this one, treating it as a possibility that Benoit could win, rather than going with the most likely choice. It's pretty crazy that the crowd, which earlier booed Steiner & Triple H out of the house, practically carried Benoit on their shoulders. I love crowds like that. This was the chance for Benoit to go on to bigger and better things. At the time, though, they had nothing for him, as Benoit would have to wait a whole year before his own Rumble triumph, which propelled him back into the main event scene.

- Rob Van Dam and Kane, currently tag-team partners, discuss how they'll eliminate each other, if that's what it means to win the Rumble. Of course, the smart thing would be to team up until the end, THEN fight it out, but most teams don't think of that.

30-Man Royal Rumble Match:

This is the first Rumble, by the way, where the two brands went at it against each other. The rules were that if a Raw superstar won, he'd challenge for the World Title, while a Smackdown superstar could challenge for the WWE Title. Of course, a loophole in the wording would allow Benoit to switch brands the next year, but for now, we'll stick with what they say. Also of note, at least to me, is that of the 30 competitors involved in this one, only half of the roster is still with WWE after only 4 years. That's a high turnover rate. Don't believe me?

Still Here: Batista, Shelton Benjamin, Booker T, John Cena, Tommy Dreamer, Edge, Chavo Guerrero, Charlie Haas, Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, Jamal, Kane, Shawn Michaels, Rey Mysterio, and the Undertaker.

Gone From WWE: A-Train, Bull Buchanan, Christian, Bill DeMott, Goldust, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho, Brock Lesnar, Maven, Chris Nowinski, Rikishi, Rosey, Tajiri, Test, and Rob Van Dam.

Exactly half. If you include the fact that Haas, both Hardys, and Jamal (now known as Umaga) were all released and brought back, then you have a heck of a deficit. But then, that's the wrestling business. It's like a river, always flowing, with all the fish swimming upstream to spawn. What? Huh? Nevermind. Let's get back to the review. BTW, JR & the King get to do commentary, as Smackdown wasn't given an OUNCE of respect at this point.

#1 is "HBK" Shawn Michaels, the number he requested from Vince McMahon. #2 is Chris Jericho (who won an Over-The-Top Battle Royal and chose #2). However, it isn't Jericho on the ramp, but a dressed-up Christian! This allows Jericho to attack Michaels from behind, beating him down! He even goes to grab a chair, busting HBK open! #3 is Chris Nowinski, and he does little but watch as Jericho gets rid of Michaels. I remember how surprised I was that Michaels went out so quickly in this one. #4 is Rey Mysterio, who quickly goes at it with Jericho. Nowinski also finally gets into the match. #5 is Edge, who teams up with his partner, Mysterio, against Jericho & Nowinski. Of course, this being the Rumble, they also went at it with each other, with Edge nearly getting eliminated on a tumble (one foot hits the floor, but he pulls an HBK and gets back).

#6 is Christian, who tries to make up with his 'brother', Edge. It doesn't work. Meanwhile, Edge & Mysterio team back up to beat on Nowinski some more. #7 is Chavo Guerrero, who almost immediately takes a 619 from Mysterio. Christian takes one as well, followed by the West Coast Pop sending out Nowinski. Mysterio's on fire! Well, at least until Jericho takes advantage of him and clotheslines him to the floor! Rey forgot the cardinal rule of 21st Century Rumbles: if you hit your finisher, you're the one who's likely finished. #8 is Tajiri, with his kicks of fire raining down on everyone. #9 is Bill DeMott, who was into his "angry big man" phase at the time. He can't do much, other than almost tossing Jericho. #10 is Tommy Dreamer and his garbage can of fun! He busts open Jericho with one shot from a cane, which probably wasn't planned. Edge and Dreamer then attack DeMott with multiple cane shots, before sending him out of the match. Dreamer's weapons soon came back to haunt him, as Christian and a bloody Jericho gave him a Con-Garbage Lid-To. Ok, so it doesn't have to same ring as a Con-Chair-To. So sue me. Anyhow, Christian & Jericho then eliminate Dreamer, ending his night after a little violence. Taijiri also falls, after stupidly trying for the Tarantula on Jerico. Once again, avoid finishers, people!

#11 is an injured "B-Squared" Bull Buchanan, who got turned on by John Cena earlier in the week. He doesn't last long, charging Edge, who dumped him over the top rope. That was about it for Bull in WWE, although I hear he's been doing well overseas. Edge soon struck again, Spearing Chavo out of the match. Edge then tossed Jericho, but Jericho hung on, skinning the cat and coming back in where Edge and Christian were going at it, dumping them both! Jericho's alone in the ring. #12 is Rob Van Dam, setting up a great match-up here. Some wild back-and-forth action for a few minutes takes place, with RVD nearly eliminating Jericho with a catapult maneuver. #13 is Matt Hardy, Version 1 (with his 'little buddy,' Shannon Moore), making it two heels against one face for a while. #14 is Eddie Guerrero, who went against his old rival, RVD, eventually getting a Frog Splash on him. I always loved their rivalry. #15 is Jeff Hardy, and once again, a brother extends a hand for a truce, and is once again denied, as the Hardys go at it. Jeff nearly tosses Matt, but Moore makes the save, then tries to block an attempt at the Swanton Bomb with his own body. Jeff had no problems jumping on Moore instead.

#16 is Three Minute Warning's own Rosey (w/Rico). Remember when Rosey looked to be the one with a WWE career, while Jamal was stuck out in Japan? Now Jamal (aka Umaga) is the hot product, while Rosey's on that Fat March, I believe. Life's weird sometimes. No one goes out during the two minutes, as #17 is Test (w/Stacy Keibler). Once again, no one goes out, making me wonder if we're saving up for someone. #18 is John Cena, who wasn't quite Superman yet. In fact, he's just a rapper wannabe at this point. Cena's rap is silenced by RVD, as the two go at it. #19 is Charlie Haas, and I'm counting 9 in the ring right now. No one's been eliminated since Jericho stood alone in the ring. That changes when Jeff decides he wants to fly, going to the top rope. RVD helps him take flight, just in the wrong direction, sending Jeff out of the Rumble. I think that's how Jeff always goes out. He needs to learn to stay away from top ropes during Rumbles. #20 is Rikishi, bringing some meat into the ring. Rikishi and Rosey have a staredown (ahh, those Samoan relations), with Rosey clotheslining Rikishi to keep him from a Stinkface on Matt & Shannon. The two big men go at it. Families At War!!

#21 is Jamal, nowhere near as savage as he is today. He also tries his luck with Rikishi, only to take a Stinkface. Yuck. #22 is Kane, and we're up to 11 in the ring. This changes when Kane gives Rico a Chokeslam, then eliminates Rosey. He also Double Chokeslams Matt & Shannon. Boy, Shannon's taking a lot of abuse, considering he's not even officially in the Rumble! Of course, that's what he's good at: selling. #23 is Shelton Benjamin, who joins up with Haas to take on Cena, while the rest of the ring goes at it. #24 is Booker T, who won't be denied his Spinneroonie, even if he has to stop half-way through it to take out Matt. Guerrero then charged Booker T, only to see himself fly out instead. He didn't follow the Second Rule of Rumbles: Don't Charge. #25 is A-Train, another guy who's doing well in Japan nowadays. Cena takes a Baldo Bomb, but Rikishi slows A-Train down with a quick kick to the jaw. Meanwhile, Shawn Michaels returns to get revenge on Jericho, showing a Hogan-esque "good guy distracts the heel" maneuver, which allows Test to eliminate Jericho from behind, ending Y2J's night. The two fight to the back, building up for their Wrestlemania XIX feud.

#26 is Maven, who seems to be daydreaming about his lucky elimination of the Undertaker the year before, as he goes against Kane. You can picture how that went. #27 is Goldust, bringing us to a dozen wrestlers in the ring. Goldust gets in his Shattered Dreams kick on Maven, but then gets double-teamed and tossed out by Team Angle. Booker T, in trying to avenge his tag-team partner, also gets tossed, ending BookDust's run in the Rumble. #28 is Batista, and once again, we're a few years away from his run at the top. He's still powerful, though, going at it with Test. When Test decided to try a charge (Rule 2) for a Big Boot, he's sent out, as Batista wins the big man challenge. He adds another one a few seconds later, sending out Rikishi as well. #29 is the ultimate big man, Brock Lesnar, who looks intent to get his hands on Team Angle. He fights both men out, sending Benjamin & Haas out at the same time! Matt Hardy also feels Lesnar's pain, as Moore can't do anything to prevent his elimination this time. #30 is the Undertaker, and we're down to the final nine: A-Train, Batista, Cena, Jamal, Kane, Lesnar, Maven, the Undertaker, and Van Dam. Nearly half the final group are future Rumble winners. Cool.

The Undertaker is an unstoppable force pretty quickly, as he sends out Cena, then Jamal. Maven tries his dropkick again, but it isn't quite as successful this time, leading to the Dead Man getting some revenge by launching Maven out. RVD & Kane then double-team A-Train, sending the big man out. But, true to form, Kane turns on Van Dam, sending his own partner to the showers, and probably hurting Kane's chances as well. Our final four are all pretty big guys: Batista, Lesnar, Kane, & the Undertaker. Lesnar gives Kane the F-5, then tries it on the Dead Man, only to fall prey to the Tombstone Piledriver. The Undertaker then manages to get rid of Batista, then pretends to ally with Kane, saying they need to get rid of Lesnar. Probably smart, but then the Undertaker betrays his own brother (in a nice turnaround from Kane's betrayal), throwing Kane out. As the Undertaker goes for Lesnar, Batista returns, swinging a chair! But the Dead Man blocks it, then takes out Batista. This, though, allows a recovered Lesnar to throw out the Undertaker from behind, winning the Rumble! Afterwards, the Undertaker shows Lesnar some respect, as the show ends.

Ace Thoughts: There were different opinions about this show. Some thought that Jericho, who was smoking hot at the time, deserved a Rumble win. Others, though, knew that Lesnar needed that final push back to the big time. It would have been better, though, to have actual major contenders in the final group, rather than it being all too clear who was going to win. That takes a little bit away from this Rumble, keeping it from comparing to the best of the best ('04 and '92, among others). I certainly wasn't a fan of the lack of eliminations during the middle grouping. My thoughts on a good Rumble is when you don't have any dead periods. However, they eliminated too many early on (Jericho was alone in the ring, for pete's sake), then didn't eliminate anyone for nearly 12 minutes. Still, with all that being said, I still enjoyed the match, as well as seeing Lesnar in action again. I was one of his big fans, at least until his jumping off WWE's bandwagon.

All-in-all, if that Angle/Benoit match wasn't on this one, I'd be hard-pressed to recommend this show. The Lesnar/Big Show match was just ok, the tag-team match was poor, Dawn/Torrie was cursed by a terrible angle, and Steiner/Triple H was one of the biggest bombs in recent WWE memory. If you do rent this tape, the best advice I can give is to fast-forward to Angle/Benoit and the Rumble. That is, if you can stomach a great Benoit match. It wasn't easy for me, that's for sure. But, honestly, I'm glad I got to see it again. Maybe that means I'm healing. Maybe. Anyhow, Thumbs Middle for the show, squarely because of the WWE Title Match.

The Accelerator