Review for WWF Royal Rumble 2001, January 21, 2001, No Orleans, Louisiana
After a pretty lackluster last few months of 2000, the WWF were coming back with some direction on the road to WrestleMania X-7. The big story going into this was could Steve Austin win the Royal Rumble, and which way would they go? At the time there were a couple of possibilities, we knew Austin v Rock was where they were going, but how do you get there? Does The Rock win the Rumble, triggering an Austin heel turn and Austin wins the title to set up Rock vs heel Austin? Or, does Austin wins the Rumble, and Rock wins the title later on to set up a face vs face match. A lot of people felt the former was the better way to go due to the staleness of Austin at the time (that would all change pretty soon after, of course).
Hosted by Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler
WWF TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH: Edge & Christian vs The Dudley Boyz
The Dudleys are working with concussions having been the victims of chairshots leading up to this. The heels bail to start but the Dudleys catch them. In the ring, the Dudleys dominate Christian and get some near falls. Sideslam by Bubba gets 2. D’Von in, he takes a cheapshot to make him the face in peril. Edge gets a neckbreaker for 2 and goes to a chinlock. D-Von rams them into each other and rolls Edge up for 2. Conchairto attempt but D’Von ducks it and makes the hot tag. Bubba cleans house and they get the Wassup Headbutt on edge. D’Von gets the tables but Christian prevents it, and they brawl. Edge gets distracted and Bubba rolls him up for 2. They try a 3D on Christian but Edge spears Bubba to prevent it and Christian DDTs D’Von. The champs try their own Wassup but Bubba rolls Christian through and he takes the headbutt. That leaves Edge alone and a 3D finishes it and we have new champs at 10:00.
This was a really good opener. It wasn’t too long so they never had to slow down much and there were some awesome sequences and a hot finish. (***1/2)
Backstage nonsense. Drew Carey arrives to hype his PPV. Triple H tells Stephanie he doesn’t want her and Trish to interfere and ruin his match. Drew interrupts looking for Vince but Stephanie directs him to Trish’s dressing room. Elsewhere The Acolytes show each other their entrant numbers, Crash Holly interrupts and says he’ll throw the APA out if they get in his way. Bradshaw: “And they call us drunks?”
INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH: Chris Benoit vs Chris Jericho
Jericho with a clothesline and chops to start. Benoit goes for the Crossface but Jericho counters into the Walls of Jericho. Benoit posts him and hits a shoulderbreaker. Jericho comes back with a forearm. He tries a springboard dropkick but Benoit simply moves out of the way. Jericho falls to the floor. Benoit gets the ladder and baits Jericho into going for a baseball slide, which misses and Benoit throws him into the steps. Benoit sets up the ladder for the first try. Jericho stops him with an electric chair drop off the ladder. Jericho grabs the ladder and rams it into Benoit’s head, and then again to the ribs. Her sets the ladder up on the turnbuckle, but Benoit whips him into it. Jericho bails and Benoit goes for a suicide dive, which is countered with a ridiculous chair shot. That spot was complete insanity. Jericho suplexes him on the railing and tries to ride the ladder down onto him, but Benoit moves and rams the ladder into Jericho’s face. Back in, Benoit clotheslines him and gets the ladder. He rams Jericho it, shoulder first, second try is reversed. Dropkick ground Benoit and Jericho crotches him on the ladder in the corner. Jericho grabs the ladder, but Benoit dropkicks it on him and hits a back suplex. He puts the ladder on the top, but Jericho whips him into it again, then see saws it into Benoit’s jaw. Jericho pushes the ladder to Benoit and missile dropkicks him. He climbs for the belt. Benoit suplexes him right out of the ring in another insane moment. Benoit goes up, but Jericho catches him. Jericho spins him around and gets the Walls of Jericho on the ladder! Jericho shoves him off and reaches for the gold, but Benoit pushes the ladder over. Jericho clothesline Benoit with the ladder and he climbs. He dives on Benoit but gets caught in the Crossface! Tapout, but it’s meaningless here. Jericho launches Benoit into the ladder and rams it into him. The ladder is set up in the corner, and they both climb. Benoit counters a superplex and knocks Jericho down. He goes for the flying headbutt but misses! Jericho pins Benoit underneath the ladder and climbs but Benoit powers it over. Jericho falls outside and Benoit goes up. Jericho grabs the chair again. He smacks Benoit in the back with it, Benoit shoves him back but Jericho sends him out of the ring and he climbs up, still selling the shoulder and retrieves the belt at 18:43.
One of the greatest ladder matches ever. This was the perfect blend of hatred, psychology and spots. Lots of memorable moments here to go along with good violence. The only minor negative was that the ending might have been a little anti-climactic, but I can’t hold that against it. (*****)
Drew Carey talks to Trish backstage, Vince comes in, uh oh, he decides Drew Carey should compete in the Royal Rumble.
WWF WOMENS TITLE MATCH: Ivory vs Chyna
Chyna dominates Ivory, and then “breaks her neck” on a handspring elbow after a few minutes (like she can do three backflips but brushing her neck against Ivory somehow caused her neck to break). That was stupid enough, and then the announcers practically re-enact Owen Hart’s real life death, with Lawler running from his announce position and JR getting all choked up. They actually replay the spot and it looks even stupider.
Tastelessness in wrestling isn’t anything uncommon, but I can’t overlook this shit. It still makes me angry to this day. (-***)
A bunch of backstage nonsense occurs. Trish and Stephanie get carry in the make up room. Drew Carey tries to befriend Kane. Lo-Down try to work out who’s going to get the spot in the Rumble but Vince tells them they don’t get one because Drew Carey is entering.
WWF TITLE MATCH: Kurt Angle vs Triple H
Trish is with Kurt, and Steph is with HHH. They work some holds to start. Angle gets a hiptoss and clothesline HHH out. Back in, HHH pounds away. Corner whip is reversed, and Angle gets a backdrop. Wristlock but HHH kicks him in the gut. Back suplex is countered with a snap suplex. Angle with a pair of suplexes for 2. They spill outside and Angle meets the barricade. Back in, HHH with a drop toehold and STF. HHH gets a dragon screw, but Angle comes back with a blown Enzuigiri. Angle reverses a whip to the corner, sending Triple H over the top. HHH tries to crotch him on the ringpost, but Kurt pulls him into the post instead. Steph distracts the ref while HHH wraps his leg around the post and smacks it with a chair. HHH goes to the knee again. Indian Deathlock. Kurt comes back but HHH cuts him off with a facebuster. Figure four and he cheats with the ropes. Trish tries to get the refs attention but Steph pulls her out and they have a catfight. Vince McMahon walks out to break it up. Angle counters another figure four attempt with a rollup for 2. HHH clotheslines him and goes for a third one. Angle pushes him into the turnbuckle. A DDT follows for 2. Angle does an atomic drop (rare lapse in psychology for Angle). Angle goes up for a moonsault, but Triple H lowblows him in full view of the ref. He hits a Razor’s Edge for 2. HHH goes for the pedigree, but Angle escapes and accidentally on purpose headbutts him low. Angle to the top and moonsault actually connects for 2. Outside we go again and the ref gets bumped. Back in, HHH goes up but Angle pops up and armdrags him down. Outside again and we get another ref bump. Back in, Angle counters a shot with the belt with an overhead belly to belly. HHH pops up and hits the pedigree, but Steve Austin does a run and nails HHH with the belt and hits a stunner. Angle covers to retain at 24:15.
Heel vs heel matches always lack heat and this was no different. The catfight, Vince and Austin got a far bigger reaction than anything in the match. Match was held back from greatness by a crazy amount of overbooking and a lack of crowd heat but this was a lot better than the match they had at Unforgiven a few months prior. (***1/2)
ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH:
Jeff Hardy is #1, Bull Buchanan is #2. Bull levels Jeff with a clothesline and tries to press slam him out. Jeff escapes that with a rake to the eyes. Matt Hardy is #3. The Hardys team up and eliminate Bill and then go at it. Jeff hits a jawbreaker and tries to put him out. Faarooq is #4, and he misses the Dominator and takes the Twist of Fate and Swanton and goes over the top quickly after. Matt almost dumps Jeff but he sneaks back in. Drew Carey is #5, and hangs out around the ring for a couple of minutes. The Hardys eliminate each other and Drew comes in and celebrates. Kane is #6 and Drew shits himself. He tries to bribe Kane with some money but that’s not happening. Raven is #7 and saves him, at which point Drew eliminates himself. Kane destroys Raven so he bails and gets some weapons. Al Snow is #8, and he nails Kane with the bowling ball, and then gets a 7-10 split on Raven! Right in the jewels. Raven and Snow then team up to pound Kane with trash can shots. Perry Saturn is #9, as he joins in and makes it 3-on-1. Kane fights them off, but a Raven sleeper puts him down. Steve Blackman is #10, and he blows the entire plan by attacking the other guys and everyone pairs off. Grandmaster Sexay is #11, and he gets some shots in before Kane hits him so hard with a trashcan that he flies out. Kane then dumps Snow, Raven, Blackman and Saturn we well leaving him as the only man in the ring, and ending the hardcore segment. Honky Tonk Man is #12, and he sings his song in the ring, but Kane gets tired of listening to that and smacks the guitar over his head and dumps him. Rock is #13 and I think that will spell the end of the comedy stuff. He lays the smackdown, but can’t toss Kane. Godfather is #14 and gets dumped in short order by The Rock. Good. Kane pounds away on Rock. Tazz is #15, and lasts even less time than Goodfather. Kane continues beating on Rock. Bradshaw is #16 and goes after both. Rock hits a spinebuster, and Kane lariats him. Albert is #17, nothing of note. Hardcore Holly is #18, and takes the brunt of the punishment. Rock dumps Kane, but can’t get him off the apron. K-Kwik is #19 and the match slows down a bit here as we just fill up the ring. Val Venis is #20. William Regal is #21. Test is #22 and he tosses Regal. Nothing continues to happen. Big Show is #23 making his return and this should pick things up. He gets rid of Test and K-Kwik, then chokeslams everyone, until he gets to The Rock, who blocks it and dumps him. Crash Holly is #24, Big Show drags Rock out and chokeslams him through the announce table. Everyone goes after Kane but it doesn’t work. Undertaker is #25, and the Brothers of Destruction eliminate everyone and stand side by side. Poor Scotty 2 Hotty is #26 and he knows he’s not getting anywhere, and is tossed in short order. No worm tonight, that seemed to bum out the crowd. Rock struggles back into the ring as Steve Austin is #27, but before he can make the ring HHH beats the holy shit out of him in retaliation for earlier. Billy Gunn is #28 and holds off the brothers. Haku is #29 and goes after Taker and Kane but gets double teamed. Rikishi is #30 and stops to brawl with a bloody Austin, and awakens him. Austin enters the match and beats the hell out of Billy Gunn, then dumps Haku. Rock goes out under the ropes. Rikishi superkicks Taker out. He tries a Banzai Drop on The Rock and gets dumps. So final four is Steve Austin, The Rock, Kane and Billy Gunn. Austin quickly eliminates Billy, and The Rock and Austin go at it! Crowd is split. Rock Bottom blocked, Austin hits the stunner. Kane goes after Austin but gets Thesz Pressed, then walks into a Rock Bottom. Rock tosses Kane through the ropes, so that’s no good. Austin and Rock go at it again and Kane tosses both! But only gets Rock out. Chokeslam for Austin and Kane gets a chair, but gets stunned. Austin grabs the chair and starts swinging like a maniac and follows up with a clothesline to eliminate Kane for the win at 61:52.
Awesome Royal Rumble, really entertaining for the majority of the match, which only a few noticeably dead patches that didn’t last a super long time. The comedy spots were well done, the hardcore segment was well done and the last 10 minutes were absolutely incredible. (****)
This show is great. The Chyna debacle is a real black mark and a downer, but everything else is top notch. One of the greatest ladder matches ever and an awesome Royal Rumble. This is on the same level as the 2000 edition. Thumbs way up.