Sunday, October 19, 2014

Through The Years Reviews: Royal Rumble 2003

Royal Rumble 2003
January 19th, 2003 – Fleet Center in Boston, Massachusetts – Attendance: 15,338

So, the average score for the 2002 shows that I reviewed was about a 6.5, which would fall into the above average category. The post WrestleMania/pre-SummerSlam stuff was rough at times. All in all though, I know that 2002 is a great year with SummerSlam, the Rumble and Survivor Series being the best shows. Onto 2003, Kurt Angle was the WWE Champion and had just introduced one of my favorite tag teams ever, Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin. Meanwhile, Scott Steiner was gearing up for a big program with Triple H over big gold. 2003 is another year that I remember some stuff fondly from so let's get right into it, especially since Royal Rumble Pay-Per-Views are almost always great. Also, this is the first ever brand split Royal Rumble.

The opening video really does a good job putting over how important it is to main event WrestleMania, and what the Royal Rumble means for that. Nothing else really happens before the first match as we go right to that. Commentary teams are the usual Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross for Raw, and Michael Cole and Tazz for Smackdown.

Royal Rumble Qualifying Match
Big Show w/ Paul Heyman vs. Brock Lesnar

WELP! HERE COMES THE PAIN! It's so odd seeing Brock Lesnar as a face. They start by brawling until Brock impresses like he did at Survivor Series by overhead belly to belly suplexing Show twice in a row. Show blocks a third with a choke hold and he manhandles Brock by tossing outside with ease. Show gets in his offense for a bit but Brock hits a big German suplex for two. Paul Heyman grabs his leg in the referee's view but there's no disqualification called. It's like it's a WCW referee or something. Show hits a big boot and calls for the Chokeslam, but Brock stops him. He hits yet another suplex and brings Heyman in the ring the hard way. He tries to F5 Heyman but gets chokeslam instead. Brock kicks out to genuine surprise from the majority of the fans and myself. He blocks a second one, knocks Heyman off the apron and hits Show with an F5 to advance to the Royal Rumble.

Winner: Brock Lesnar in 6:29
Fine choice for an opener. Brock Lesnar was an incredibly hot act, the fans were into it and it was kept relatively short. **1/2

Terri Runnels interviews Chris Jericho, who is sporting his excellent “Don't be an Ass Clown” shirt. He says that he picked the #2 entry number because HBK got #1. Also, because he's Jericho, he has to bring up being the first ever Undisputed Champion.

World Tag Team Championship
Lance Storm and William Regal (c) vs. The Dudley Boyz

They built an entire Fatal Four Way match at Armageddon around Goldust not being a weak link and winning the Tag Titles with Booker, only to lose them to Storm and Regal before the next Pay-Per-View? Bubba Ray and Storm start things off and I'm just thinking “ECW! ECW! ECW!” D-Von and Regal get tagged and do some basic stuff. Regal and Storm isolate D-Von in what can be considered a hate crime. Bubba Ray gets the hot tag and splashes the champions in the corner while shouting “DIE YOU BLOODY WANKER”. Interesting. Bubba hits a sweet German suplex on Storm for two. Bubba Bomb on Storm is followed by a pin that's broken up by Regal. D-Von blind tags in and it's time for “WASSSUPP!” Instead of D-Von getting the tables, Storm gets a double flapjack and the Dudleys call for 3D. Chief Morley comes out and distracts the official, so Regal gets brass knuckles. It fails as gets the 3D anyway. D-Von knocks out Storm with the knuckles and they win, so Morley coming out was useless.

Winner and New World Tag Team Champions: The Dudley Boyz in 7:24
The Dudley Boyz were hot since they had just reunited, but this was nothing to write home about. It was really basic but wasn't insulting or anything. **1/4

We get a vignette for the “Colossus of Boggo Road”, otherwise known as Nathan Jones, otherwise known as one of the bigger letdowns in WWE history.

Dawn Marie vs. Torrie Wilson
I have to admit that it's cool that the Smackdown women got a big angle like this even though the Women's Title was exclusive to Raw. Dawn starts by slapping Torrie to the mat, but Torrie responds with a slingshot into nothing. Torrie actually goes for a German suplex, proving that she watches Smackdown weekly. Dawn counters with a good looking armbar but breaks it for no real reason. She actually continues to work the arm, which is surprising. Who knew that these two could work psychology? Forget what I said because Torrie forgets to sell the arm as she hits an arm drag. Dawn retaliates with a springboard clotheslines and no, I didn't make that up. Torrie hits a swinging neckbreaker from out of nowhere and wins.

Winner: Torrie Wilson in 3:36
They tried. There was some arm work, and Torrie went to back to selling it after the match. As I said, I give them points for effort. *1/4

Stephanie McMahon is walking backstage when she sees Eric Bischoff talking to a nerdy looking Randy Orton. She interrupts and it seems they both want to recruit him. He leaves, allowing Stephanie and Eric to banter. Bischoff has a “bombshell” that he's going to drop to save his job. Stephanie claims to have a bombshell to drop on Smackdown. 

A Sean O'Haire, rest in peace, segment is shown. I, along with a lot of other people, thought there was potential in this character. Sadly, it went nowhere. So, O'Haire and Nathan Jones promos on the same show and both were failed experiments.

World Heavyweight Championship
Triple H (c) w/ Ric Flair vs. Scott Steiner

I remember how much of a big deal this had the potential to be, but it would've been huge had it happened in 2001. Trips was coming off of a huge 2000 and Steiner was WCW's hottest star arguably. Triple H has red trunks, which I know wasn't something he did often and he also looks fatter than usual here. A fits fight starts things and Steiner gains the upper hand. He press slams the Champion, who rolls outside to rest. Steiner gets him out there and suplexes him back in. He hits the flex elbow and applies a Boston Crab but HHH breaks it. HHH hits the knee to face but Steiner no sells and locks in a bearhug. Well, this is getting boring quickly. HHH rakes the eyes to break it and Steiner does his first impressive move as he hits a nice belly to belly. He tries the Recliner but Flair pulls HHH out. This allows The Game to hop in the driver's seat as he hits a swinging neckbreaker. Steiner shows more resolve than Dawn Marie because he kicks out. Flair gets in some cheating tactics that draw cheers from the fans. Steiner blocks a Pedigree and hits a very delayed catapult as he's clearly blown up. He hits a suplex and falls down. Literally falls on his own. HHH eats four more belly to belly suplexes as Steiner looks like he's going to die. The crowd has turned on him. Steiner botches a butterfly suplex terribly and hears it from the crowd. HHH and Flair decides to try and leave after a superplex but Steiner stops them with a weak shot. HHH blades and when they get to the ring, Steiner hits, you guessed it, another belly to belly. Steiner stops HHH from leaving again and does push ups but the crowd couldn't care less. Flair distracts Steiner and HHH throws Hebner out of the ring. Hebner violently shakes his head saying he won't disqualify HHH. He wants a clean finish. So Steiner hits a belly to belly again. HHH fights back with a low blow for two before getting the sledgehammer. He hits Steiner with it, causing the disqualification that Hebner said he wouldn't call.

Winner via disqualification: Scott Steiner in 18:14
That was terrible. The match had no redeeming qualities. Steiner sucked hard and was blown up within minutes. The finish was stupid, the match dragged and everything was bad. DUD

Post match, Scott Steiner stops Triple H's sledgehammer attack and takes out both him and Ric Flair but the crowd still doesn't care. We can also see Steiner's thong, which takes away from it.

WWE Championship
Kurt Angle (c) w/ Team Angle vs. Chris Benoit

Team Angle had just debuted and they are one of my favorite tag teams of all time. However, they step in between Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle before the match and get ejected. They start by feeling each other out with some sold wrestling holds and exchanges as one would expect from these two. Angle hits a nice suplex for a near fall as Tazz reminds us that these two were WWE Tag Team Champions a few months ago. Benoit lights up Angle's chest in the corner a few times. He attempts the flying headbutt early on but Angle moves out of the way and goes for the Angle Slam. Benoit blocks and puts on the Sharpshooter only for Kurt to reach the ropes. Angle retaliates with a belly to belly that beats any of the 17 that Scott Steiner did. He goes all Samoa Joe as he locks in a rear naked choke but Benoit breaks free. As they get up they trade German suplexes like they did a few months prior at Unforgiven. Benoit goes up, but Angle meets him up top and hits a top rope belly to belly for two. Benoit mans up and apples the Crossface but Angle reaches the ropes. Benoit changes to an Ankle Lock until Kurt counters with his own. Benoit reverses to a Crossface but Angle reverses to the Angle Slam. These two are amazing. STRAPS ARE DOWN! Benoit blocks the Ankle Lock with a roll up and they trade Germans again. The last one was a release and Angle flips over. Benoit hits a DEEP diving headbutt, like literally across the ring. It only gets a near fall and Angle hits a second Angle Slam for two again. The crowd that died during the last match is alive and wide awake now. Crossface is on! It's reversed into the Ankle Lock! Benoit kicks him off but Angle goes right back to it and won't let go. Angle locks it in with his legs and I've never seen anyone break that. Benoit doesn't and is forced to tap out.

Winner and Still WWE Champion: Kurt Angle in 19:50
Here's the match that showed everyone that Chris Benoit could be the top Champion. This was outstanding and damn near perfect. These two seemingly can't have a bad match together and this is one of my favorite matches. 2003 has a tough job of topping this for Match of the Year already. ****3/4

After a commercial is shown, Chris Benoit is back to his feet and receives a standing ovation from the 15,000+ in Boston there. Great moment. We then cut to RVD and Kane in the back as they discuss the Royal Rumble and how, even though they're teammates, the Rumble is every man for himself. RVD's shirt has a hole in the underarm.

Royal Rumble Match
As we knew from earlier, Shawn Michaels is number one. Number two is Chris Jericho, but his partner Christian is disguised as him in the entrance. This allows Jericho to sneak in from behind and hit HBK with a low blow. He gets a chair and whacks Shawn in the skull, who is now busted open. Chris Nowinski draws the next number and stays outside to let this storyline develop in the ring. Jericho dances as he continues to punch Shawn. Jericho eliminates Michaels' lifeless body to a ton of heat. Back to cheers as Rey Mysterio draws number four. Rey flies around and hits springboard moves while Nowinski stays outside. Rey holds on in a creative way as Nowinski enters and they double team him. Rey's partner to the rescue as Edge runs out at 5. He Spears the world and they knock the heels out before going at each other. Edge nearly goes over and I swear that his long ass legs touched the mat. Rey springboards in but gets caught with a powerbomb. Christian joins the fray for real in his stupid tank top attire. He hugs Edge but eats a Spear. Nowinski thinks he eliminates Edge and Rey but they hold on and double dropkick him, though Edge whiffs. Bronco Buster for Nowinski as number seven, Chavo Guerrero, arrives to his badass LWO theme. He gets fancy with Rey who then hits Christian with the 619 and disposes of Nowinski. Jericho then clotheslines Rey out, which shocked me. Besides Nowinski, the other entrants have all been good to great. Tajiri is number eight. Nothing of note happens here. Bill Demott (your name is Hugh Morris. What? Hugh Morris. What? Is that funny? Is that humorous?) He gets no pop.

Things get extreme as Tommy Dreamer draws number ten. “ECW” chants ring out as he beats up everyone with a kendo stick. Edge helps him, which is the opposite of their 2006 feud. Vitamin C hit him with trash can lids and eliminate Tommy quickly. I must have missed something because Demott is gone. Tajiri goes for the tarantula but Jericho blocks and tosses him, ending JR's rant about how Tajiri had a shot. B2 is out, holding his shoulder for some reason, and lasts about 15 seconds. Chavo hangs on but eats a Spear and we have an all Canadian rumble as it's Edge, Christian and Jericho. Jericho, to continue the HBK feud, skins the cat like it's 1995 and tosses Edge and Christian, leaving himself alone. RVD draws number 12 and these are two guys who can still be counted on to deliver good matches, eleven years later. They have a fun 90 seconds as Jericho survives near elimination. Matt strongly dislikes mustard is today's Matt Fact at Matt joins in next. The heels double team RVD but he fights them off. Side note, Matt's MF-er, Shannon Moore came to ringside with him. RVD hits the Five Star on Jericho as the buzzer sounds and Eddie Guerrero runs out at 14. He gets a monkey flip from RVD that he sells like a champ. Matt stands tall after everyone goes down and Jeff draws 15. The crowd pops as Matt tries to team up but Jeff beats him down. Remember when people thought Matt would go further than his brother? He tosses Matt but Moore props himself under him to keep him in the match. Brilliant! Moore and Matt take a Swanton as 16, Rosey, enters. 3 Minute Warning's theme is dubbed over and I hate life. Test enters at 17 and he gets a pop purely because he's with Stacy Keibler. He dominates actually and JR mentions that Test lasted the longest of anyone in 2000. John Cena arrives next, rapping his way to the ring. It sounds terrible. He wastes about 80 of his 90 seconds doing this. One of my favorites ever, Charlie Haas comes in at 19. RVD knocks Jeff off the top to eliminate him and this has been a Rumble full of talent for the most part.

Number twenty arrives and it's Rikishi. He beats up on Matt and Shannon until Jamal, also known as Umaga, enters. The ring is getting full, which means we need Kane to come in soon and clean house. Jamal eats a stink face. Ask and I shall receive as Kane draws 22. He levels pretty much everyone in the match and even gets Rico, who was outside. He impressively eliminates Rosey and double Chokeslams Matt and Shannon. He goes to dispose of Jericho who hangs on in the most impressive way I have ever seen. Shelton Benjamin draws 23 and instantly does his finisher with Haas. CAN YOU DIG IT SUCKA?! Booker T comes out next and I remember how hot he was at the time. Flapjack on Matt and its SPINAROONIE time! He eliminates Eddie who looks like he messes up his knee on the landing. A-Train is next and he dominates, slamming guys who are much more talented until he eats a kick from Rikishi. Shawn Michaels runs back out and trades shots with Jericho! This allows Test to finally eliminate Jericho, ending a fantastic performance. Michaels launches himself onto Jericho and their brawl continues. Maven, who still hasn't been eliminated from the 2002 Royal Rumble, enters next and goes against Kane. For a former teacher, he's pretty dumb. Goldust draws 27 and he is not in 2014 shape. It's crazy how fantastic he looks now. He shatters Maven's dreams before targeting Haas and Benjamin. Haas dumps him out. DONT MESS WITH THE WORLD'S GREATEST TAG TEAM! They then eliminate the Booker Man. Batista enters at 28 and does good until Test slams him. Test goes to big boot him out, but Batista ducks and he goes over. He then eliminates Rikishi as number 29, Brock Lesnar, joins the fray. He comes in and eliminates Team Angle at the same time before F5ing Matt out of the ring and onto them. DEAD MAN WALKING, Undertaker draws number thirty in his return. He gets rid of Cena and Jamal before Maven dropkicks him and thinks it worked like last year. It didn't. Taker throws him out before A-Train hits a Baldo Bomb on him. Poor RVD is left with A-Train, Kane, Batista, Brock and Undertaker. RVD and Kane work as a team to dump out A-Train before Kane turns on him and eliminates him. RVD understands though, because “whatever, it's cool.” Undertaker and Brock face off, just months after their Hell in a Cell battle but Kane and Batista join in. The four brutes beat each other down and Brock F5s Kane. We get some close calls before Undertaker Tombstones Brock. He then eliminates Batista, leaving Brock alone with the Brothers of Destruction. Taker turns on Kane and eliminates him. Batista jumps back in with a chair but Taker hits him, though it allows Brock to sneak in and win.

Winner: Brock Lesnar in 53:41
Pretty fun Royal Rumble. Chris Jericho was outstanding in arguably the most underrated performances in Rumble history. A lot of fun spots and some solid storytelling. ***3/4

Undertaker gets back in the ring and slaps hands with Brock in a “you got me” sort of way before Brock celebrates to close the show.

Overall: 7/10; Good. The worst of the Royal Rumbles that I've reviewed so far but not bad at all. The first two matches were decent and the women's match was what it should have been. The World Title match is one of the worst I've ever seen but the Royal Rumble was damn good. However, the show stealer was the WWE Title match which is one of the best matches I've ever seen.