The 14th Royal Rumble came at a time when the WWF was at its absolute best, in my humble opinion. I think the period from the 2000 Rumble to WrestleMania X7 was the best 15 month run in the history of the company due to the talent on the roster, the stories they told and the matches they had.

 A lot of the top guys were at or near their prime and they had a good mix of younger guys in the midcard scene as well. As a result you have the 2001 Royal Rumble with a stacked lineup of talented wrestlers heading into the WMX7 PPV that is the best in WWE history.

The big story going in was Steve Austin's return after missing most of 2000 with a neck injury. Could he complete the comeback with a Rumble win?

WWF Royal Rumble

January 21, 2001

New Orleans, Louisiana

The announcers are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. The intervals are back to the 2 minute mark this time. The only thing we know going in is that Rikishi, a heel, would be #30 in this match.

There's Jeff Hardy as the #1 entrant. In at #2 is Bull Buchanan of the Right To Censor stable. At this time the Hardys were still a very popular tag team in the WWF, so Jeff was very over here. It's Matt Hardy in the #3 spot. He goes right for Buchanan, they double team Bull and then they clothesline him out of the ring. The Hardys wrestle eachother with Matt trying to eliminate Jeff and then he hits a back suplex. Jeff comes back. He tries to eliminate Matt as the #4 competitor comes in and it's Faarooq of the APA. He hits a double clothesline on the Hardy brothers. They avoid his attacks, Matt hits the Twist of Fate and Jeff hits the Swanton. They throw Faarooq out. Matt tries to throw Jeff out, but he hangs on and they're so serious now that they take their shirts off to fight. Jeff's so mad that he ties his shirt around his waist! What a badass! Or weirdo. Take your pick. Jeff hits Matt with the Twist of Fate. Huge pop for the #5 entrant comedian Drew Carey. He had a PPV event the following Saturday, so he was there to promote it. The crowd starts a "Drew" chant. The Hardys keep fighting while Drew slowly gets in the ring. Matt and Jeff are fighting on the turnbuckle and they eliminate eachother via a suplex. Drew's all alone in the ring, celebrating.

The #6 spot belongs to Kane while Drew starts freaking out. Kane's sporting the mask and the red singlet in this era. He turned heel and face so many times in this era, but he was basically a face at this point. "Thank God Drew Carey's wearing black plants," says JR in reference to the fact that he's probably pissing himself in fear. Drew tries to offer him money. Kane doesn't want it. He chokes Drew and Raven came in at #7 with a kendo stick. Drew climbs over the ropes to eliminate himself. Raven was the Hardcore Champion here, so he brought in a weapon. He slid out to the floor to use a fire extinguisher on Kane and he threw in trash cans. Al Snow showed up out of nowhere to attack Raven even though he was early. It turns out that Al Snow is #8 after all. He brings more weapons in. He even has a bowling ball that's in a bag. He rolls it into Raven's nuts because Raven had his legs open of course. That drew a nice pop. Snow and Raven took turns attacking Kane with the trashcan lids, but he didn't go down. They do a double drop toe hold onto the trashcan. Kane sits up. There's Perry Saturn at #9. King says things are a little nipply tonight as Terri comes out with Saturn while wearing a tight outfit up top. Kane press slams Saturn and whips Snow down. Then Raven slows him down and the other two attack. There's Steve Blackman at #10 with those sticks of his. He goes after Al Snow. Oh no, Headcheese is erupting before our eyes! This is like the Megapowers all over again! Not really. There are some small weapon shots going on, but nothing major.

It's time to turn it up for #11 Grandmaster Sexay of Too Cool. The crowd loves the dancing. He uses the trashcan lid to beat on some people. Then Raven uses the lid to hit some people. Kane gets a trash can and he eliminates Sexay. He throws Blackman out, finishing him off with a trashcan lid. He throws Snow out and boots Raven out. There goes Saturn too. The ring is empty except for Kane. That was an awesome run right there. We've got a surprise at #12, the Honky Tonk Man. He grabs the microphone and gets into the ring calling himself the best Intercontinental Champion of all time. He knows we want to hear him sing his song. Kane stands there staring at him as the Honky Tonk Man starts. Kane grabs the guitar and smashes it over his head to a huge pop. He eliminates Honky Tonk Man. The Rock is #13. He gets a massive babyface pop as the crowd is going crazy. Big clothesline on Kane. Kane knocks him down with a clothesline. They do some exchanges, but nobody gets thrown out. There's The Goodfather at #14, which is another gimmick for Charles Wright in the Rumble following previous gimmicks like Papa Shango, Kama and The Godfather. He was a gimmick whore. Rock eliminates him after 14 seconds. Kane hits Rock with a suplex. Rock fights back with punches, but Kane knocks him down with a side slam. It's Tazz at #15, who gets a quick double choke from Kane and then gets punched out of the ring to be eliminated. That's a 10 second appearance for Tazz. He didn't wrestle for that much longer after this and this was his only Rumble appearance after debuting in the WWF at the 2000 Rumble. Rock nearly eliminates Kane and the crowd believes it might happen, but it doesn't. Rock hits a Samoan Drop as both guys lay down awaiting the next person.

It's a future WWE Champion at #16 Bradshaw of the APA. Rock gets a big clothesline on Kane and Bradshaw hits a big one on Rock just for fun. Rock hits the spinebuster on Bradshaw and then he gets knocked down by a Kane clothesline. It's a clothesline fest. It's Albert, no longer a Prince, at #17. Big clothesline by Bradshaw on Albert as JR mentions that Bradshaw loves the clothesline. Ya think? Hardcore Holly is #18 as I think of how far he's come from that awful Sparky Plugg gimmick. I don't miss the mid 90s Rumble recaps, trust me. Bradshaw and Holly try to get rid of Rock and the crowd believes that it might happen, but Rock hangs on. Rock comes back with a clothesline on Bradshaw and nearly eliminates Kane. The big man is able to stay in, though. It's K-Kwik getting rowdy at #19. He is now known as R-Truth of course. Kane hits a huge powerslam on Holly while Bradshaw destroys Kwik at the same time. There are six guys in the ring at the moment. More Right To Censor as Val Venis is #20 sporting a tie. Choke the guy with a tie! I always used to yell that about IRS when I was a kid. Kane hits him with a spinebuster. Bradshaw hits Kwik with a football tackle or I guess you could call it a spear. Rock hits a powerslam on Kwik, who is getting his ass kicked in this match. That's the truth.

The European Champion William Regal comes in at #21. I should add all the weapons are out of the ring by now as Regal hits a suplex on Kwik. Rock gets a spinebuster on Venis. Bradshaw hits a couple of clotheslines on Val. I wonder if he likes clotheslines? Val charges into Bradshaw and guess what move he does? A clothesline. Test is #22 and he quickly throws out Regal as we have eight guys in the ring at the moment. Not a whole lot happens during this time. It's a surprise entrant at #23…the Big Show. He was out for a few months to end 2000 because he wasn't in good enough shape. They sent him down to OVW and this was his return to a very nice pop. He's working in a t-shirt. He throws out Test and press slams K-Kwik rather easily. Chokeslam for Albert and Bradshaw. Chokeslam for Venis. Chokeslam for Holly. Chokeslam on Kane that was very impressive. Rock kicks him in the balls, hits his punches and clotheslines him out. Crowd goes nuts. Big Show was only in the ring for about a minute and a half, but that was very impressive. After his elimination, Big Show pulls Rock out of the ring and sets up the announce table. He puts Rock through the table with a chokeslam. This was a great way of re-introducing Big Show. Oh, I should add that Crash Holly was #24, but they barely mentioned that due to the Show-Rock story. It's so nice of the heels to remove the TV monitors from the desk. They are so thoughtful. Everybody in the ring tries to eliminate Kane, but they can't do it. The Undertaker is #25 as the American Badass on the motorcycle. He saves his brother Kane since they were on good terms at this time. Undertaker signaled to Kane, so Taker throws out Bradshaw, Kane throws out Crash, Taker throws out Hardcore, Kane throws out Albert and Undertaker throws out Val leaving us with Undertaker, Kane and The Rock on the floor. The brothers have a long staredown as the announcers wonder what might happen. Nice "Sara" tattoo on the neck by Undertaker. These days it looks like an ink blot. That's why you don't tattoo your wife's name on your neck, fellas. You never know. That's some real talk for you.

The #26 man is Scotty Too Hotty, who is very reluctant to get in the ring due to Undertaker and Kane staring at him. Undertaker and Kane take turns beating on him. Boot to the face, bodyslam and a double chokeslam. They throw Scotty out of the ring together because they like to share brotherly moments like that. They show Rock still struggling at the announce table. The glass breaks for #27 as the crowd goes nuts for "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Before Austin can get there, HHH comes out to attack him because they had an ongoing feud. Austin cost HHH the belt earlier in the night. A month later they'd have one of my favorite matches in WWF history. If you want to know why the WWF was so good at this time look at the five guys going at it right here. They are very talented. Triple H continues to attack Austin on the floor with Austin bleeding now. Rock is getting beat up in the ring by Kane and Undertaker. Here's Billy Gunn at #28, known as "The One" in this match. I don't know what that gimmick meant except that it rhymed with his last name. Finally, the refs pull HHH off Austin. Stone Cold's blood is all over the place. Jim Ross going nuts and he freaks out as Undertaker hits a DDT on Rock, saying he's never seen a DDT like that in his life. The #29 entrant is the former Meng from WCW, Haku. He had a run in the WWF as Haku and this was his return. He only lasted in the WWF until the summer when he got released. They show Austin on the floor and JR notes how tough Austin would be to win the match after being attacked the way he was. The crowd chants for Austin as he tries to make it back in. The #30 entrant we know is Rikishi, who is in his heel run after his "I did it for the Rock" storyline to end 2000 where they found out he was the one that ran over Stone Cold in his car. His heel run wasn't nearly as good as his babyface work. He sees Austin in the aisle and they start brawling. JR is spazzing out! He is going nuts, man. Haha I miss JR!

Austin eliminates Haku with a clothesline leaving us with six guys. Undertaker hits a chokeslam on Rikishi. Undertaker goes to throw Rock out, but Rock holds on. Kane gets a big boot on Austin while Rikishi superkicks Undertaker and Undertaker is eliminated. Undertaker got softened up because he gave Rikishi headbutts, which Rikishi no-sold due to the "Samoans have harder heads than anybody else" rule. I remember thinking at the time that they would do Undertaker vs. Rikishi at WrestleMania 17. That didn't happen. They did Undertaker vs. Triple H instead. We've got four main event level guys in there plus Billy Gunn. Lawler picks Rikishi to win as he sets up Rock for the Banzai Drop. Rock gets up, low blows him and punches him to eliminate him.

Final four is Rock, Kane, Gunn and Austin. One of these four just doesn't belong. Gunn actually hits the Fameasser on Austin, but then Austin quickly throws him out leaving us with three. Now that's a little bit better. People always ask why do I dislike Billy Gunn. Because he was overrated and overused by WWE. He was always a marginal talent. The crowd freaks out as Austin & Rock lock eyes. Austin's face is a bloody mess. Here's your WrestleMania preview. Spit punch by Rock that Austin oversells. He elbows his way out of the Rock Bottom and hits a Stunner that Rock oversells like always. I like how Rock sold it, though. Austin hits the Thesz Press on Kane to a huge pop. Austin goes for a clothesline on Rock, but Rock comes back with the Rock Bottom. Rock throws Kane out through the middle ropes, so he's still in the match leaving us with Rock and Austin again. Austin's close to dumping him out, so Rock rakes his eyes. JR is losing his voice in excitement. Rock holds up Austin in a bodyslam position, so Kane sneaks in and dumps Rock out of the ring to eliminate him. That's 11 eliminations for Kane in this match. Austin charges in, Kane catches him and hits a huge chokeslam. Austin's full of blood while Kane's been in the match for over 50 minutes. Austin hits Kane with a low blow that JR calls a "XFL-like punt." I'm pretty sure this is the only Rumble with a XFL reference. Kane rolls out to the floor to grab a steel chair. Austin kicks it out of his hands and after a struggle he hits a great Stone Cold Stunner. Austin hits Kane with three consecutive chair shots to the head, Kane stumbles back into the ropes and Austin clotheslines him out of the ring to win the match.

Winner: Steve Austin

JR: "STONE COLD! STONE COLD! STONE COLD IS GOING TO WRESTLEMANIA! By God they're on their feet in New Orleans! The toughest son of a bitch in the WWF has done it!" That's why JR is the best ever, folks.

The match ended at 61:55.

 

FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS

- The way they booked Kane as a monster was phenomenal. He was the most dominant person in the history of the Rumble as he eliminated 11 guys in 53 minutes of action. He didn't take too many bumps, but I was cool with that because it really made him look strong. It's not like they booked him so strong that it hurt the match. It helped the match because Austin eliminating him made Austin look badass. It also made Kane look great because it took three chairshots to the head to get him out of the ring.

- It was a really good Rumble with smart booking from start to finish. I enjoyed so many different aspects of it from Kane's dominance, to the hardcore action, Big Show's attack on Rock, the Kane-Undertaker domination, Austin fighting back from the attack at the hands of Triple H and then the finish where Kane eliminated Rock even though I thought Austin would be the one to do that. I don't think there was a whole lot I would have changed here if I was booking it.

- There were a lot of fun moments here. I liked how the first third of the match was hardcore style because that's different for a Rumble. I also liked the Drew Carey thing. It was silly, but funny. You have an hour long match, so you need to have light hearted moments too. If you do it early in the match it works because the last half is usually the more serious part where you want to up the intensity.

- I liked how the battle between Austin, Rock and Kane at the end lasted five minutes or so. Let them tell a story because they were the ones that carried the match. You had Kane's dominant story, Austin overcoming the odds as the babyface and Rock was trying to recover from Big Show's attack as well. The crowd reaction for Austin-Rock was fantastic too. It got me really excited for WMX7, which definitely delivered the goods.

- This might have been Jim Ross' best Rumble performance. He was YELLING by the end of it and he made you care. It wasn't forced. It felt real. That's why he's the best ever because he made you care. That's what wrestling announcers are supposed to do.

 

FACTS & OPINIONS

Person that lasted the longest: Kane at 53:46.

Most Eliminations: Kane with 11.

Best Performers (3): Kane - This is my favorite Kane match ever. Better than any of his singles matches. I loved him in this.

The Rock - Very good work by the People's Champ in nearly 39 minutes of action.

Steve Austin - He spent much of the match selling because of the blood and it made his comeback work.

Best Elimination: Austin eliminating Kane at the end was the best because of how strong Kane was booked for over 50 minutes.

Match Rating: **** It is only the second Rumble to reach the four star (out of five) level to this point.

Ranking the Rumble matches in terms of star ratings:

1992: ****1/2

2001: ****

2000: ***3/4

1990: ***1/2

1997: ***1/4

1994: ***

1995: **3/4

1998: **1/2

1988: **1/2

1996: **1/4

1993: **1/4

1991: **1/4

1999: **

1989: **

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Here's a link to previous Rumble recaps:

1988 Royal Rumble won by Hacksaw Jim Duggan

1989 Royal Rumble won by Big John Studd

1990 Royal Rumble won by Hulk Hogan

1991 Royal Rumble won by Hulk Hogan

1992 Royal Rumble won by Ric Flair

1993 Royal Rumble won by Yokozuna

1994 Royal Rumble won by Bret Hart & Lex Luger

1995 Royal Rumble won by Shawn Michaels

1996 Royal Rumble won by Shawn Michaels

1997 Royal Rumble won by Steve Austin

1998 Royal Rumble won by Steve Austin

1999 Royal Rumble won by Vince McMahon

2000 Royal Rumble won by The Rock

We're onto 2002 next time as Triple H returns from missing most of 2001 with a torn quad injury.

John Canton - mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

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