The 17th Royal Rumble is the one WWE doesn't want you to remember. Why? Chris Benoit. Yep. I said the name. It's arguably the most infamous name in the history of the company due to the double murder suicide that occurred in the summer of 2007.

I thought long and hard about what I'd do once I get to the 2004 Rumble because it's tough for me. Benoit was one of my favorite wrestlers ever. Since the murder, though, that changed. I'm not here to debate his mental state or anything like that. That's up to you to decide on your own.

What I'm going to do is present the Rumble match to you as I've done for the past 16 Rumbles. I actually wrote this one live in 2004, so I'm using that copy. No re-watch. As a result I don't do too much of the heel-face designation, but hopefully you can figure it out as you go along. Let's get to it.

WWE Royal Rumble

January 25, 2004

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The announcers are Jim Ross of Raw and Tazz of Smackdown. I was excited about this team because I thought Tazz had surpassed Lawler by this point. The intervals are back to 90 seconds.

As we know, Chris Benoit is #1. Randy Orton is #2. Benoit stomps him down in the corner. Snap suplex by Benoit. Orton fights out with kicks and forearms. He stomps Benoit in the gut while he's in the corner. Hard lockup. Knee to the ribs by Benoit. #3 is Mark Henry. Benoit's trying to toss Orton out. Henry comes in, going after Benoit with headbutts. He stomps Orton down in the corner. Benoit chops on Henry, but he shrugs him off. Orton gets decked by Henry. Tazz says Big Show is his pick. Benoit stomps on Henry in the corner. Henry & Benoit fight in the corner while Orton waits. #4 is Tajiri. Orton gets kicked all over by him. Handspring elbow on Orton.  Two German suplexes by Benoit. Orton goes to throw out Henry in the corner. Henry tries to toss Orton, but he hangs on. They pair off with Benoit and Tajiri and Orton and Henry. #5 is Bradshaw. He gets clotheslines on Orton, Henry and Tajiri. Benoit reverses a clothesline into the crossface. Bradshaw ties to toss him out, but Benoit holds on and Bradshaw falls out. Benoit eliminates Bradshaw.

In the #6 spot is Rhyno. Rhyno comes after Benoit. Tajiri kicks at Henry. He gets the Tarantula on Mark Henry, with only one leg. Meanwhile, Rhyno gores Henry and that sends Tajiri out. Cool spot. Benoit charges at Henry, shoving him out of the ring. Huge pop for that. Rhyno and Orton double Benoit, but he holds on. Replay showed that Tajiri used his mist. With Benoit, Orton and Rhyno in the ring, #7 is Matt Hardy. He goes after everybody. Side effect on Rhyno. Benoit tosses Hardy, but he hangs on. Rhyno with a shoulder tackle to Hardy in the corner. JR and Tazz are awesome together as a team. #8 is Scott Steiner. Steiner clotheslines all four people in the ring. T-Bone Suplex on Orton. Side belly-to-belly suplex to Benoit. T-Bone suplex to Rhyno. Benoit reverses a suplex on Steiner, hitting two German suplexes on him. JR notes that there are no former Rumble winners in this match. First time ever for that. Orton's almost out, but holds on. #9 is Matt Morgan. JR calls him a blue-chipper. Didn't take long. Six in the ring now. He decks Matt Hardy with a big boot. Steiner suplexes Rhyno. JR called him a hoss. Took 30 seconds! Hardy tries to throw out Steiner. Rhyno helps him with that, but Morgan breaks that up. Rookie mistake, the announcers say. #10 is the Hurricane. Hurricane comes in with cross body blocks on just about everybody. Morgan catches him and tosses him off his shoulders all the way to the floor. Impressive. Morgan almost throws Hardy out. It was close, but he hangs on.

There's Booker T at #11, who JR notes is a favorite. Steiner goes at him, exchanging blows. There's seven in the ring now. Booker gets a scissors kick on Orton. Morgan chops down Benoit. Booker gets a big kick to the jaw of Steiner. #12 is Kane. Steiner just got eliminated although we never saw it. Replay shows that it was Booker. Kane gets a chokeslam on Benoit. Morgan's powerbomb on Kane is reversed to a backdrop. Chokeslam on Morgan. Sidewalk slam on Hardy. Rhyno's gore is blocked with a big kick. RKO by Orton is reversed to a chokeslam by Orton. Kane has dominated everybody. #13 sounds and it's the Undertaker's music. Booker goes up from behind Kane, eliminating him by tossing him out. #13 is really Spike Dudley. Kane chokeslams him on the steel ramp way before Spike could ever come down. No sign of Undertaker. Benoit tries to throw Hardy out. There's six in the ring now, trying to throw eachother out and Spike's in the aisle, still technically in the match. #14 is Rikishi. Rhyno charges at Benoit, who sends Rhyno out over the top with a backdrop. Rhyno is out. Stinkface on Matt Morgan. The six in the ring now are Benoit, Orton, Hardy, Booker, Morgan and Rikishi. Spike Dudley should be in too, but he's not even on the ramp anymore. Not much going on. They're just trying to toss eachother out. #15 is Rene Dupree. Hardy goes for a Twist of Fate, but it's reversed. Dupree suplexes Hardy on the top rope and knocks out Hardy. Dupree does his dance. Rikishi hits a sidekick to send Dupree out. I marked out for that dance a little bit.

A-Train is #16, the sixth man in the ring. Benoit eliminates Matt Morgan as they are brawling in the corner. As Rikishi is trying to eliminate A-Train, Orton throws out Rikishi. He quickly throws out Booker T. soon after. A-Train works on Benoit in the corner. There's only three in the ring now. Shoulderblock by A-Train on Benoit. #17 is Shelton Benjamin. Benoit backdrops A-Train out of the ring. Benoit and Orton are on a roll. That's the story so far. Benjamin is working on Orton. Sidekick misses Orton, crotching Benjamin on the top. Orton throws him out. It's just Benoit and Orton in there now. Their heads collide, sending them both down as the next entrant comes. The Cat's butler introduces #18 Ernest Miller. Nobody cares. Especially me. While Benoit and Orton are still down, The Cat dances. No reaction the entire time. Tazz is hilarious, though, as he sings the theme song. Benoit tosses Lamont the butler. Orton tosses The Cat. They got pops for that. Can't blame the crowd. Why is The Cat employed? JR says that The Cat will have plenty of time to call his momma now. #19 is Kurt Angle. He goes after Orton. Benoit clotheslines him down twice. Chops on Angle by Benoit. Benoit charges. Angle decks him with a big clothesline. Suplex by Angle. Angle goes to lift Benoit out, but he's hanging on. Orton attacks Angle from behind. #20 is Rico. Rico comes in working on Orton, kicking him down. Angle is trying to toss Benoit on the other side. In the middle, Benoit hits three German suplexes on Angle. Orton gets the RKO on Rico. He picks him up on his shoulders and tosses him. Benoit to the top for the headbutt on Angle. Angle pops up, crotching Benoit. He can't toss him.

The #21 entrant is supposed to be Test. He never comes out. Orton gets the RKO on Angle. Test is shown backstage laying on his back. Austin shows up, yelling at somebody that they are the 21st entrant now. We never see who it is. Car Crash! Mick Foley is #21! Orton looks shocked. He's got the flannel! They meet in the middle, exchanging blows. Foley pounds him in the corner. Orton is hanging on the ropes. Foley with the Cactus clothesline sending Orton and himself out. Benoit & Angle are alone in the ring. On the outside, Foley tosses him headfirst into the steps. Foley chokes Orton with a cord on the outside. #22 is Christian. He's beating him up out there. He picks up the steel steps, hitting an official. Orton comes back at him with chair shots. One shot to the knee and one to the face. Orton beats him up down the aisle, slamming the back of Foley's head on the steel. Foley fights back with a punch to the back. Clothesline on the ramp. They haven't shown the in-ring action since then. #23 is Nunzio. Foley gives him the Socko Mandible Claw for some reason. Orton kicks Foley in the nuts. Foley and Orton head to the back. Awesome brawl with them. Crowd was nuts for Foley, with good reason.

In the ring, Christian and Benoit are trying to throw Angle out. Nunzio is on the floor, saying he doesn't want to win. Benoit's been in for almost 40 minutes now. Angle comes back out, German suplex on Christian and one on Benoit. Nunzio is still on the floor, not going in the ring yet. Angle can't throw out Christian. Benoit is opening up on Angle. #24 is the Big Show, Tazz's pick for the winner. Benoit's working over Christian in the corner. Show goes after Angle, knocking him down with a kick. Chops on Christian, then one for Benoit. He pounds on all three guys in the ring. Big hiptoss on Christian. #25 is Chris Jericho. He goes after Angle. He and Christian double team on Angle. Big Show grabs them, head butting them both at the same time. Another headbutt on Jericho. Christian jumps on his back. Now all four gang up on Show. Tazz says he might go because the Smackdown guys (Benoit & Angle) are helping. Show fights all of them off. Angle & Jericho exchange blows.

There's Charlie Haas in the #26 spot. Jericho & Christian give a double suplex to Haas. Nunzio is still on the floor. Jericho and Christian toss Benoit, but he hangs on. Jericho turns on Christian, but Jericho holds on. He backdrops Christian out to the floor, eliminating him. #27 is Billy Gunn with no reaction. Fameasser on Angle. Fameasser on Jericho. Fameasser on Big Show. Impressive, but he still sucks. They show Nunzio on the floor again. In the ring are Benoit, Angle, Jericho, Big Show, Haas and Gunn, as well as Nunzio who is on the floor. Benoit gets a German suplex on Jericho. #28 is John Cena, wearing a hometown Philadelphia Phillies jersey, who comes out to one of the bigger pops. Show is waiting for him. Cena sees Nunzio on the ground. He tosses him in. Show chops Cena hard in the chest. Nunzio tries to throw out Show, but he eats a chop to the back instead. Cena's firing away on Big Show. Big Show is getting doubled by Gunn and Nunzio. Cena & Jericho teaming on Show. #29 is Rob Van Dam. One more left after this. RVD opens up on Big Show with a dropkick. Spinkick for Jericho. Everybody's paired off. Cena gets the FU on Kurt Angle. He can't toss him out, however. #30 is Bill Goldberg, as we know. This is it.

Goldberg gets a spear on Big Show. Spear on Billy Gunn. Punch to Angle, Jericho, RVD and a slam to Haas. Nunzio jumps on his back. Goldberg tosses Haas out with Nunzio on his back. He slams Nunzio down. He gets the spear on Nunzio. Goldberg clotheslines Billy Gunn out. Press slam on Nunzio by Goldberg, so he's out. Show is going for a Jackhammer on Show. Brock Lesnar comes in out of nowhere and gives Goldberg the F5 to HUGE heat. Goldberg says "You're next you son of a bitch." Angle comes up from behind Goldberg, tossing him out. There's six left. Benoit, RVD, Angle, Jericho, Show and Cena. Cena, Angle, Jericho, Benoit and RVD all gang up on Big Show. He tosses them all off. He clotheslines them all down. Headbutt to Jericho. Slam to Cena is prevented by Angle with a chop block. Jericho with a Lionsault on Show. RVD with a frog splash on Big Show. Cena with a five-knuckle shuffle drop. Benoit with a headbutt. Great sequence of spots. Angle orders them to toss out Show. All five of them can't even lift him. Show shoves them out. He tosses Cena out over the top, eliminating him. Van Dam tries to monkey flip Big Show out of there. Show blocks him, sending him out.

Final four are Benoit, Angle, Jericho and Big Show. Show tosses Jericho, but he skins the cat, hanging on just barely. Another attempt by Show is blocked by Jericho. Jericho comes back with a bulldog off the middle rope. Jericho gets the Walls of Jericho on Big Show. He taps. Doesn't matter though. Jericho is trying to toss Angle. Show slams down Benoit, then goes after Jericho. Chokeslam on Jericho to the floor! Jericho is out. That was huge. Show takes down Angle and hits Benoit with a chokeslam. The final three are all Smackdown people, Tazz notes. Angle's German suplex doesn't work on Show. He does get an Angle Slam, however. Benoit goes after Angle. He eats an Angle Slam. Show is up with a chokeslam, but Angle rolls through into the ankle lock. Show gets ropes. Angle doesn't let up. Show is standing up in the ankle lock. He uses his momentum to flip Angle out over the top. Awesome elimination there. Very unique. The final two are Big Show and Chris Benoit.

Show is on the apron, leaning over the top rope with his head in the middle of the ring. Benoit to the top. He gets a headbutt on Show while he's leaning over. Sick spot there. Benoit's been in there for exactly one hour now. He charges, but Show gets a goozle on the throat. Benoit reverses to the crossface. Show taps again. That's the third time now. Doesn't matter. Show gets to his feet, dropping Benoit down on his side. Crowd is waiting for something to happen. Show gets up first, onto one knee. Show picks him up in the press slam position. Benoit fights out of it, grabbing him in a headlock. Benoit's on the apron while Show is in the ring. He pulls him, pulls him, pulls him and Big Show falls out. Chris Benoit wins.

Winner: Chris Benoit

The match ended at 61:30.

 

FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS

- This match did a tremendous job of elevating Chris Benoit to the next level, which is what it needed. I think the best Rumbles are the ones where the winner is somebody that hasn't been at that main event level before and all they need is the push of the Rumble to get there. It told the story well of Benoit overcoming the odds to get the victory in the end. He started the match, he carried the match and he won it with heart at the end.

- They really did a nice job booking Orton heel. He wasn't even in the previous year's Rumble, but by this point they had started to really push him. The Foley angle was really hot and would lead to a fantastic feud that went into WrestleMania and Backlash. He was the story of the first half of the match with Benoit. He did very well. Later in the year he'd become the youngest World Champion in company history.

-  The Lesnar/Goldberg thing was a huge deal. We had heard rumblings of a feud starting between them and they touched on it a bit before the match too. Little did we know that two months later they'd have the match at WrestleMania that would be the last time either guy wrestled in WWE? I marked out huge when Lesnar attacked Goldberg with the F5, though.

- Big Show's elimination of Angle was fantastic. I remember thinking at the time that they'd have the Benoit/Angle showdown since Benoit didn't beat Angle in the feud they had a year earlier (a fantastic match at the 2003 Rumble). It would have been nice to see that, but Benoit using all of his strength to get rid of Show was a fantastic visual too. He literally dragged him out.

- I really didn't like Ernest Miller, but Tazz singing his song was a fantastic moment. What? I had nothing else to add.

 

FACTS & OPINIONS

Person that lasted the longest: Chris Benoit at 61:30

Most Eliminations: Chris Benoit with 6.

Best Performers (3): Chris Benoit - Clearly the star of the match.

Randy Orton - Looked good for the majority of it and the brawl with Foley was well done too.

Big Show - He was awesome as the big man monster here.

Best Elimination: Benoit eliminating Show at the end is one of the best finishes to a Rumble ever.

Match Rating: ***1/2 A very good Rumble, but due to dragging at some points it kept it from being great.

Ranking the Rumble matches in terms of star ratings:

1992: ****1/2

2001: ****

2002: ***3/4

2000: ***3/4

2004: ***1/2

1990: ***1/2

2003: ***1/4

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

2001 Royal Rumble won by Steve Austin

2002 Royal Rumble won by Triple H

2003 Royal Rumble won by Brock Lesnar

The 2005 Royal Rumble featured two guys that would be future main eventers in the final two, a torn quad and the setup of a dream match.  

John Canton - mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

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