WWE PPV Flashbacks: Royal Rumble - January 21, 2001

Royal Rumble
January 21, 2001
New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, LA

Coming off one of the most successful years in WWF history from all standpoints, the company entered the year 2001 on fire. Add in the fact that the biggest show of the year was on the horizon and the excitement was at an all time high. There had been a recent change in terms of the on-screen authority around this time, as on an episode of Raw is War in December, Mr McMahon took control of the day to day running of the company once more, firing Mick Foley from his role as fan friendly Commissioner following the events that took place at Armageddon. Mr McMahon would become more power abusive and egomaniacal than ever and that story would develop over the next few months. For now, we have the Royal Rumble ahead, with the winner of course getting a WWF title match at WrestleMania. Also tonight, WWF Champion Kurt Angle puts his title up against a man who is also resented by the fans in Triple H. Lets dive into this one. Please share your comments with me on Twitter at @Mpmcc91.

The opening video package is all about the Rumble match and the chance to go to WrestleMania. We then head into the arena where our usual announce team of Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler welcome us to the show. They would not be together much longer.

WWF Tag Team Championship:
Edge & Christian (c) vs Dudley Boyz

Despite our current tag team champions being the team that left Armageddon with the titles, there's actually been a bit of activity in the tag title picture over the past month. Of course, Edge & Christian had won the titles in the four way match at our last PPV, however they were actually defeated on Raw is War a few weeks later by a very unusual team in the Rock & the Undertaker. The reign of the Great One and the American Badass was short lived however, as they lost the titles back to Edge & Christian that same week on Smackdown, thanks to some dodgy officiating by guest referee (and E&C buddy) Kurt Angle. Meanwhile, after spending much of the past year out of the title hunt, the Dudley Boyz looked to regain the titles here, after defeating Bull Buchanan & The Goodfather in a number one contender match on the first Smackdown of the new year. In the weeks that followed, the two teams would go at it, with Edge & Christian getting the last laugh on the Raw before this PPV with a conchairto attack on their challengers. The announcers play up that the Dudleyz are recovering from a concussion as a result here. Despite this, the popular challengers take the fight to the champs to start and we get Edge and D-Von in there to get us going. We get a little back and forth with all four guys, with the Dudleyz dominating until Christian nails D-Von in the back of the head to take the advantage. This leads to the heels working D-Von over with some illegal double teaming behind the ref's back. He finally comes back by slingshotting Christian into Edge following a Spike Piledriver attempt by the champions, however the referee does not see the tag to Bubba, so D-Von has to stay in there. Edge & Christian look to put D-Von away with a conchairto, but D-Von gets out of the way and finally makes the hot tag. The Dudleyz go through their usual stuff including the Wazzup spot and the tables, but Edge whacks Bubba with the tag belt. Bubba kicks out at two, and the challengers go to come back with the 3D. E&C counter into their own finishers and then look to try their own Wazzup on Bubba, only for him to roll out and send Edge right into Christian's crotch. This lets the challengers regroup and hit Edge with the 3D, which allows Bubba to score the pin at 9:59. For the first time in almost a year, the Dudley Boyz are once again the WWF Tag Team Champions! Just a really good opener between two teams that always had great chemistry together. A very good start to the show.
Grade: ***

Backstage, Mr McMahon confirms that Stone Cold Steve Austin will participate in the Royal Rumble, despite being assaulted by Triple H a few days ago on Smackdown. That sets things up for later.

Speaking of Triple H, we now go to his dressing room where he tells Stephanie he doesn't want her at ringside tonight. Stephanie responds by saying Trish will be with Kurt so she needs to be out there. They are interrupted by Drew Carey, who was a guest at the PPV to promote his new comedy show at the time. He wants to speak to Vince, but Stephanie says he should come with her to see Trish Stratus instead. By the way, Trish had recently become Vince's mistress after the boss stated he wanted a divorce from Linda.

Elsewhere the APA show each other their numbers for the Rumble tonight. They are interrupted by Crash Holly who tells them to stay out of his way despite being friends out there. From here we go to a video package about our next match.

WWF Intercontinental Championship - Ladder Match:
Chris Benoit (c) vs Chris Jericho

We have the renewal of an old rivalry here in our next match. Benoit won the I.C title after a dominant performance at Armageddon and quickly found his old issues with Y2J resurfacing. Benoit would defend his title against Jericho on the first Smackdown of the new year, however the match would go to a disqualification when Perry Saturn & Dean Malenko interfered to attack the challenger. On the following episode of Raw, Jericho picked up a pin on the champion in a six man tag team match. This led to Jericho demanding a rematch against Benoit for the title, and Benoit would confidently accept later that week on Smackdown, stating that Jericho could even pick the stipulation. Jericho would choose a ladder match, and the next week on Smackdown would compete against Perry Saturn in the same match type as a warm up. He would come up short thanks to the interference of the I.C champ and suffered a Radicalz beat down after the match, putting Benoit at the advantage heading in to this one. The match starts out with these two beating the hell out of each other in super stiff fashion as you would expect. Benoit targets Jericho's injured shoulder, sending it into the post early on, but as Jericho comes back the action takes to the floor. They bring the ladder into play but Benoit ends up sending Jericho crashing into the ring steps before heading back into the ring and attempting to climb. Jericho gets back in and stops him in his tracks and fires back with a ladder shot to the face of the champion. From here we see the two men trading blows and absolutely annihilating one another with the ladder and anything else they can get their hands on. Its a different kind of ladder match than usual, as they are more focused with dismantling their opponent, which fits the long standing rivalry between these two men. There's an insane spot in the match where Benoit goes to dive at Jericho outside the ring head first, only for Y2J to whack him in the face with a chair. Ouch! The action doesn't let up from there however as they continue to pound on each other both inside the ring and out. After being back suplexed off the ladder to the floor, Jericho prevents a subsequent Benoit climb for the belt and ends up locking in the Walls of Jericho on the ladder in another memorable spot. Benoit falls down but manages to kick the ladder sending his opponent crashing down as well. The action continues, with Jericho tapping the Crossface, but of course it doesn't count in this type of match. After some more exciting action, the closing moments of the match see Jericho sent off the ladder to the floor whilst Benoit goes to climb. The challenger recovers and send Benoit down with a shoulder block to the outside. With the champ taken out, Jericho ascends the ladder and retrieves the title at 18:44 to once again become the WWF Intercontinental Champion. Wow, what an amazing match. A fitting culmination to this long feud as these two didn't pull back on any shots and put on a brutal war. Its definitely a forgotten classic in my books and the announcers played it up huge as well afterwards.
Grade: ****1/2

Backstage, Drew Carey has found Trish Stratus and he attempts to hit on her. She tells him that she is involved with someone, and Mr McMahon walks in. Having seen Drew's attempts at flirting with Trish, he talks up the idea of Drew entering the Rumble match. Drew ends up deciding to enter and doesn't yet fully understand what he has got himself into. Fun segment.

Elsewhere, Billy Gunn attempts to talk Chyna out of going through with her match with Ivory tonight due to being injured. She's still going ahead with it. We then go to Chris Jericho who is celebrating his victory and says that he has proved Benoit wrong. Up next we get a package looking at the RTC's recent attack on Chyna.

WWF Women's Championship:
Ivory (c) w/Steven Richards vs Chyna

After being laid out by the Right to Censor following her match with Val Venis at Armageddon, the issues between Chyna and the faction escalated the following night on Raw. That night, Chyna would be the victim of a spike piledriver from Venis and Ivory, which would sideline the Ninth Wonder of the World with an on-screen neck injury. In the weeks that followed, Chyna was interviewed and revealed that she would have to have spinal disc fusion surgery or retire from the ring. This interview was ultimately mocked by the reigning Women's Champion who took credit for taking Chyna out and doing what no man, let alone a woman, had been able to do. With Chyna sidelined, Ivory would issue a challenge to her for the Rumble, not expecting Chyna to be able to compete. Chyna would return on the Smackdown before the PPV however, accepting the challenge and looking to get revenge for the past month of her life. It looks as though Chyna is going to get that revenge as well as she basically destroys Ivory to start this one. Its literally 100% Chyna in terms of offence, as it should be. Ivory attempts to flee into the crowd, but Chyna stops her in her tracks and slams her back into the ring. Steven Richards attempts to interfere on the outside as Chyna continues to dominate, but he takes a clothesline for his efforts. Just as Chyna looks to have the match won, she goes for her handspring elbow on Ivory in the corner, but she ends up collapsing due to her injured neck. The crowd goes silent as Chyna is not moving, and this allows Ivory to cover her to retain the title at 3:32. This was obviously more about the angle than the match. After the match, medics tend to Chyna in the ring along with Billy Gunn. Lawler also leaves the announce desk to check on her as he would begin having issues with the RTC soon enough. Chyna is wheeled out via stretcher. This was a smart way to continue the feud. Chyna's big win was still to come, and you couldn't have Ivory go over her in an actual match as that would look ridiculous.
Grade: 1/2*

We now go to the make up area where Trish and Stephanie get into an altercation. They will both be at ringside for the WWF title match. Elsewhere, Drew Carey gets his ring gear for the Rumble and in a sign of things to come attempts to introduce himself to Kane. From here, its back to Vince's office where Lo Down, along with new manager Tiger Ali Singh (remember him?) are trying to decide which one of them should be in the Rumble (they had qualified for a single spot earlier in the night on Heat). Vince tells them Drew Carey has been given the spot.

Now we cross to WWF New York, where fans are asked who they think will win the WWF Championship match up next. Back at the arena, we see Triple H fired up backstage before going to a video package highlighting the upcoming contest.

WWF Championship:
Kurt Angle (c) w/Trish Stratus vs Triple H w/Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley

Another rivalry from 2000 is renewed, although in this instance, both men are heels now, so that should tell you this is completely transitional in terms of the feud. In fact, reigning WWF Champion Kurt Angle is a bit of an afterthought here. After retaining his title last month at Armageddon, Angle's next major challenge would come in the form of a title match with Stone Cold Steve Austin on Raw is War a few weeks before this show. During that match however, Triple H would interfere and assault Austin with a pipe, costing him his chance at the title. Later that week on Smackdown, Mr McMahon would reward Triple H by naming him the number one contender for the title at the Rumble. Triple H claimed that Angle was only the champion because he had let him hold onto the title until now, but it was clear his focus was still on Austin at this point. Meanwhile, Triple H's wife Stephanie had taken issue with Trish Stratus becoming her father's mistress following Linda going into a sedated state after Vince demanded a divorce from his wife. The issues between the women led to Trish becoming Kurt Angle's business advisor here, a role which would not last long. T&A is done by the way. Anyway, the match starts out as a basic wrestling contest with both men locking up, but after a little back and forth the intensity picks up and the action goes to the floor. After some more action in and around the ring, Kurt ups the ante by sending the Game into the ring steps. He looks to follow up with a charge, but Trips gets out of the way. Stephanie then distracts the ref which allows Triple H to attack Angle with a chair. Trips pounds on Angle some more as the battle returns to the ring and he begins to target the champion's shin, busting out the Indian Deathlock soon enough. Angle fights out, but the Game soon has him in the figure four. Trish attempts to stop Triple H from using the ropes for leverage, and this leads to a catfight on the floor between her and Steph. This gets the crowd going after not really being into this match without anyone to cheer for. Vince ends up coming out to separate the women, picking Trish up over his shoulder, only for Steph to knock them both over going after her some more. Back in the ring, Trips kicks out of a surprise inside cradle by Angle and the match continues. The Game goes back on offence for the most part, but Kurt counters a Pedigree and follows up with a moonsault from the top. He does further damage to his leg in the process though and only gets two. The match continues with Trips accidentally taking out the ref and the two men brawl outside once more. The ref actually takes some more damage out there as he is recovering by the steps, only for Trips to send Angle crashing into him. Back in the ring, Kurt attempts to hit Trips with the title belt, only for the Game to nail the champion with the Pedigree. There's still no referee in sight though, and this brings out Stone Cold to a huge pop. With revenge from Smackdown on his mind, Austin nails Trips with the title belt and busts him open in the process. He follows up with a stunner after waking the ref and then leaves. Meanwhile, Kurt Angle crawls on top of the downed Triple H to retain his championship at 24:16. Once again, Kurt Angle makes the most of an opportunity to hold onto his title. As I said, the crowd had trouble getting into this match for the most part due to the heel/heel dynamic. Still a pretty good match though that managed to further some key feuds going forward, even if the champion was a total afterthought here. Kurt did the best he could with what he was given in this run. The problem was the top of the card was so stacked with all these other rivalries going on.
Grade: ***1/2

Backstage we see Rikishi and the Undertaker separately warming up. They are both in the Rumble.

From here we go to Kevin Kelly who is standing by with the Rock. Huge pop as expected by this point. Rock rips on Kelly before talking about the Rumble. Standard greatness. We go from here to a video package as its Rumble time.

Royal Rumble Match:
We kick things off with Howard Finkel explaining the rules as usual. Its two minute intervals between entrants this year. Our #1 entrant is Jeff Hardy who gets a good pop, whilst #2 is Bull Buchanan of the Right to Censor. They go at it for the first two minutes and are joined by Matt Hardy at #3. Of course, this leads to the Hardy Boyz teaming up on Buchanan and the RTC member is quickly eliminated. Alone in the ring, the Hardy Boyz go at it, emphasising the every man for themselves dynamic. They stop fighting as Faarooq comes out at #4 and team up once more. Matt takes down the APA member with the Twist of Fate and Jeff follows with the Swanton before tossing Faarooq out as well. Alone once more, the Hardy Boyz renew their battle. They keep going at it when Drew Carey comes out as #5. He's not a threat after all. Big pop for Carey by the way with some big Drew Carey chants going. He stands on his own as the Hardy Boyz exchange blows up on the turnbuckle and both end up falling to the floor to be eliminated. This leaves Carey alone in the ring despite not doing anything and he celebrates. The celebration is short lived however, as we get a continuation from earlier in the night when #6 turns out to be Kane. He was still technically a heel here from memory, but he'd essentially turn face overnight. Carey is freaked out and attempts to pay Kane off, only for the Big Red Machine to put his hand around his throat. Before anything can happen though, #7 enters the match, and its the new Hardcore Champion, Raven. He had won the title from Steve Blackman on Raw in December. He brings out a whole bunch of weapons with him and takes the fight to Kane with a fire extinguisher and trash cans. Meanwhile Carey decides he's had enough and climbs over the top rope to eliminate himself from the match. Fun use of Carey there, although in terms of celebrity HOF inductees, he's one of the less deserving. Back to the match, Al Snow actually runs out early to join the fray, but he's #8 anyway. He has a bowling ball with him and the hardcore division is taking over the Rumble. He rolls the ball into Raven's crotch before the two team up on Kane. Perry Saturn is out next at #9 and he has Terri with him. He's followed by Steve Blackman at #10 rounding out our first third of entrants. He goes after Snow and more weapon shots are exchanged.

The Rumble continues with our next entrant, Grandmaster Sexay at #11. He does his dance but doesn't last very long as Kane quickly dumps him after a shot with a trashcan lid. That's only the beginning of the Big Red Machine's dominance though, as within the next interval he also eliminates Blackman, Snow, Raven and Saturn. He's all alone in the ring by the time we get our first surprise entrant in the Honky Tonk Man at #12. Honky gets on the mic and says the crowd want to hear him sing, so Kane should just stand in the corner while he does so. Kane takes this as well as you would imagine and grabs Honky's guitar and smashes it over his head to a big pop. He tosses Honky right out afterwards to end another fun comedy spot. Play time is over though as #13 ends up being the Rock, one of the favourites in this. He and Kane exchange blows as the crowd goes nuts for the Great One. They are interrupted by the Goodfather at #14, but Rock sends him packing pretty much as soon as he enters the ring. Kane and Rock renew their battle until Tazz comes in at #15. He's pretty much a face again after the Lawler feud. His time in the ring is even shorter than Goodfather's as Kane eliminates him about ten seconds in. Rock and Kane go at it once more, and the People's Champion almost dumps Kane, but the Big Red Machine stays in it. The second half of entrants kicks off with the APA's Bradshaw at #16, and he joins the fray. An old foe of the APA member is out next in Albert at #17, and Bradshaw hits him with the Clothesline. Hardcore Holly is #18 and not a huge deal of note happens. K-Kwik is #19 and this would be his last PPV with the company for many years. The Right to Censor makes its presence known once again as Val Venis enters at #20. Meanwhile everyone seems to take their turn in dishing out their offence on K-Kwik.

We have another champion at #21, the reigning European Champion, William Regal. His reign was coming to an end here. Speaking of which, the newly turned face Test comes out at #22. He turned by virtue of the split of T&A and would defeat Regal to win the European title on Raw the night after this show. We get a preview of that tonight as Test tosses Regal from the match. The good-will ambassador would gain a new role soon enough. We have another surprise entrant up next as its the returning Big Show at #23. He gets a big pop off his return from OVW, but he would be established in the heel role going forward. Yeah I suppose thats another turn for those keeping count. Show throws Test out and then press slams K-Kwik over the top as well. He then goes on the chokeslam everyone in the match, with the exception of the Rock who fights back and clotheslines the giant out of the match. After his elimination however, Show is pissed and he cements his heel status by pulling Rock out under the ropes and chokeslamming him through the announce table. Strong showing for the short time Show was in there which is what you needed to reestablish him as a threat. We'll see if that would continue. While all this is going on, Crash Holly enters the match as an afterthought at #24. Everyone decides to team up on Kane, but this plan is cut short when the Undertaker rides out at #25 to a big pop. We now get the reunion of the Brothers of Destruction as Taker comes to his brother's aid. They dominate, with Taker tossing Bradshaw whilst Kane tosses Crash. The dominance continues with Taker throwing out Hardcore and Kane getting rid of Albert. Taker also sends Val Venis packing, and we are down to the two, along with Rock who is still laid out at the announce position. The Brothers of Destruction stare down until Scotty 2 Hotty comes out at #26. He is hesitant to get in there and once he does, Taker and Kane take turns to beat him up and eliminate him from the match. We get another big player at #27 though as Stone Cold Steve Austin heads out to a massive pop. Before he can get to the ring however he is assaulted by Triple H in the aisle, with the Game wanting revenge from earlier. Triple H busts Austin open up in the aisle and JR is freaking out on commentary. Meanwhile Rock struggles back into the ring and does battle with Taker & Kane. Thats some major star power out there. That does not continue with #28 however as its Billy Gunn. Triple H continues to destroy Austin until he is finally forced backstage. We get another blast from the past at #29 as Haku enters the match fresh off an extended stint in WCW. Austin is still laid out on the floor as the crowd chants his name. Rikishi is the final man to enter the match, having won the #30 spot in a fatal four way on Smackdown. Austin finally recovers as he's making his entrance and he brawls with the Bad Man in the aisle towards the ring. Once in, Austin eliminates Haku. The six remaining men go at it and Rikishi eliminates Taker with a superkick to get a little retribution for being tossed off the cell last month. Rikishi's push was still going strong here but would cool significantly in a month or two. Rikishi then looks to go at it with the Rock, but Rock ends up eliminating his fellow Samoan with a low blow and a series of punches over the top.

That brings us down to our final four of Austin, Rock, Kane and Billy Gunn. Yeah, take a guess which one of those is getting eliminated first. Of course, its Billy Gunn, who actually manages to hit Austin with the Fameasser, only for the Rattlesnake to fire back by tossing him to the floor. We get a preview of things to come as Austin and Rock stare down before trading blows. Rock goes for the Rock Bottom, but Austin counters and hits the Stunner on the Great One. He turns his attention to Kane which allows Rock to fire back with the Rock Bottom on Austin, this time with more success. He then throws Kane through the ropes and goes back at it with the Rattlesnake. The crowd is going bananas as you can imagine. As Rock is focused on Austin however, Kane comes back in and tosses the Great One to get his eleventh elimination of the match, a record which would stand for 13 years. That brings us down to Austin and Kane. Austin is a bloody mess and Kane rolls out to grab a chair. Back in the ring he goes to hit Austin with it, but Stone Cold kicks it into Kane's face and follows up with a Stunner to the Big Red Machine. He then grabs the chair and whacks Kane a few times with it before clotheslining him out to win his third Rumble at 61:05. Stone Cold Steve Austin is going to WrestleMania! He celebrates to end the show with the crowd loving it. This was just a really good Rumble all up. It had everything - some fun comedy moments, some memorable surprise entrants, a dominant performance setting a new elimination record and a hugely star studded list of participants. In my mind the best Rumble to this point in history. This was a great one which set up a memorable road to WrestleMania..
Grade: *****

FINAL THOUGHTS:
This was a really strong show. There's not a great deal more to say. Last year's Rumble was a very good event, but this one was even better. The Rumble match was incredibly star studded and had a whole heap of memorable moments that I've talked about above, making it one of the best in the history of the match. We also had a forgotten classic of a ladder match between Benoit and Jericho on the undercard. The rest of the show was also very solid, with the only match under the *** mark being the Women's title match, which only went for a few minutes and was there for the storyline progression anyway. Overall a really good show. Check it out.

Three Stars of the Night:
1. Kane - whenever I think of this Rumble I think of the dominant performance from the Big Red Machine. After a lacklustre heel run in late 2000 this match reestablished Kane as a monster that the crowd could get behind after dumping over a third of the competitors in the match.
2. Steve Austin - of course the Rattlesnake has to get a mention here as he gets his ticket back to the main event of WrestleMania. He has some unfinished business before he can get there though.
3. Chris Benoit/Chris Jericho (tie) - a really good match that is overshadowed on this show by how memorable the Rumble is. These guys busted their asses and put on an amazing climax to their rivalry.

FINAL GRADE: 8.5 out of 10

ALL TIME PERFORMANCE TALLY:
What I do here is add the three stars of the night with each review so as to keep track of who we can say overall is the greatest PPV performer to any given time. First place scores 3 points, second 2 and third 1.

Steve Austin = 93
Bret Hart = 83
Shawn Michaels = 67
The Rock = 48
Triple H = 46
Mick Foley = 38
Randy Savage = 28
Undertaker = 26
Owen Hart = 21
Hulk Hogan = 18
X-Pac = 18
Diesel = 15
Chris Jericho = 14
Ultimate Warrior = 13
Vader = 13
Matt Hardy = 13
Jeff Hardy = 13
British Bulldog = 12
Christian = 11
Kurt Angle = 11
Ted DiBiase = 10
Razor Ramon = 10
Vince McMahon = 10
Edge = 10
Ric Flair = 8
Jim Neidhart = 7
Jerry Lawler = 6
Bubba Ray Dudley = 6
D-Von Dudley = 6
Chris Benoit = 6
Dynamite Kid = 5
Arn Anderson = 5
Roddy Piper = 5
Mr Perfect = 5
Marty Jannetty = 5
Bob Backlund = 5
Ricky Steamboat = 4
Ax = 4
Smash = 4
Bobby Heenan = 4
D’Lo Brown = 4
Rikishi = 4
Greg Valentine = 3
Tully Blanchard = 3
Tanaka = 3
Bam Bam Bigelow = 3
Sato = 3
Jake Roberts = 3
Hakushi = 3
Yokozuna = 3
Savio Vega = 3
Ken Shamrock = 3
Shane McMahon = 3
Chyna = 3
Kane = 3
Brutus Beefcake = 2
Paul Orndorff = 2
Andre the Giant = 2
Rick Rude = 2
Sgt Slaughter = 2
Jeff Jarrett = 2
Jesse Ventura = 1
Texas Tornado = 1
Tito Santana = 1
Virgil = 1
Scott Steiner = 1
Rick Steiner = 1
Lex Luger = 1
The Roadie = 1
Billy Gunn = 1
Bart Gunn = 1
Marc Mero = 1
Flash Funk = 1
Animal = 1
Hawk = 1
Taka Michinoku = 1
Test = 1
Big Show = 1
Dean Malenko = 1
Scotty 2 Hotty = 1

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