The 18th Royal Rumble saw the dawning of a new era in WWE as guys like John Cena and Batista, both of whom were entering their third Rumbles, were ready to break though to that main event level. There was also Edge, who was back to being a heel and had the WWE machine backing him on his way up the card too.

What's interesting about this PPV is that they actually pushed the brand extension hard. It made it feel fresh because when a Raw guy went after a Smackdown guy it felt different. I miss those days.  

Before we get to the actual match, let's re-live the amazing commercial they did to promote it.

Amazing. Why can't they do funny things like that every year?

WWE Royal Rumble

January 30, 2005

Fresno, California

The announcers are Jim Ross of Raw and Tazz of Smackdown. The intervals are at about 90 seconds.

The #1 entrant is Eddie Guerrero, who is a former WWE Champ and #2 entrant is Chris Benoit, who is a former World Champ. When I watched this live in 2005 I marked out for this. Today it’s eerie seeing these two start it out. They did some mat wrestling early on as part of the feeling out process. Both of them are faces. It's $1 million Tough Enough winner Daniel Puder at #3, who beat out The Miz to win that competition. If you're wondering he never got paid $1 million. It was something where he had to work there for a few years to get all that money, which did not happen. He walks in the ring, then he immediately bails to the floor. He grabs the microphone to say he'll be the first Tough Enough champion to win the Rumble. Guerrero and Benoit team up to chop Puder in the chest repeatedly and they follow that up with a double suplex. High angle suplex by Benoit as Eddie hits the Three Amigos suplex. Hardcore Holly is #4, who is a heel that hates rookies. Holly chops Puder as hard as he possibly can. They all take turns chopping Puder. Holly stretches him over the ropes and low blows him. Alabama Slam by Holly on Puder. Holly throws out Puder. That was an entertaining few minutes. Benoit and Guerrero team up to throw Holly out. #5 is The Hurricane, who immediately gets double teamed by Guerrero & Benoit. Eddie tries to turn on Benoit, but he can't eliminate him. Nice neckbreaker by Helms on Guerrero. Benoit throws Hurricane in and Guerrero backdrops him out of the ring leaving us with Eddie & Chris again.

The Bronze Warrior Kenzo Suzuki is #6. He was a bad worker who I never enjoyed watching on Smackdown. They double team Suzuki, but now Benoit tries to throw out Eddie, who hangs on. Edge is #7 and in heel mode here as an egomaniac. He wasn't yet a World Champion or Rated R, but he'd get there. Earlier in the show he beat Shawn Michaels in a singles match. Big pop for #8 Rey Mysterio as we have four elite workers in the ring now along with Kenzo Suzuki, who just doesn't belong. Rey eliminates Kenzo with headscissors. Thanks for that Rey. They mention the Eddie/Rey problems that were starting, which would lead to a long feud later in the year. It's Intercontinental Champion Shelton Benjamin at #9 to a pretty good pop. The five guys in the ring are some of the best workers in the company at the time of the match. Benoit's trying to eliminate Rey, so Eddie goes after Benoit for fun too. Rey gets headscissors on Mysterio as Benoit nearly gets Mysterio out. Here's Booker T coming out in the #10 spot as Tazz mentions Booker T main evented WrestleMania with HHH. It was the 2003 Mania where he lost to HHH in the middle of the show - not really the main event. Eric Bischoff, the Raw GM, comes out cheering for Edge because he's a Raw guy.

Here's a big pop for #11 Chris Jericho as we get another elite worker into the match. Lots of quality in the ring, folks. Huge "Y2J" chant starts up as Jericho hits a suplex on Edge. Here comes Smackdown GM to cheer on the Smackdown guys. This came at a time when they actually pushed the brand extension and being exclusive to your brand. The big man Luther Reigns is #12, who is a heel that was associated with Kurt Angle in 2004. We've got 8 guys in the ring right now as the Raw guys go on one side while the Smackdown guys go on the other side. And the crowd loves it. This is when they cared about the brand extension and it showed. They all pair off and nobody gets eliminated. Huge heel heat for #13 Muhammad Hassan, who is hated by the crowd. He comes out with Daivari who is his spokesman. Everybody in the ring stops to look at Hassan. The crowd chants "USA" at him. All eight guys in the ring circle him as he does his bow. He's got an uncomfortable look on his face while they beat on him. This was a classic moment. Rey hits the 619, then they all put him up on their shoulders and together they throw him out of the match. The crowd loved it. Orlando Jordan is #14, who is a heel that was the Chief of Staff of JBL's cabinet on Smackdown. Benjamin nearly eliminates Jericho, but Chris is able to hang on. Turn it up for #15 Scotty 2 Hotty. He is not a threat to win, but he is dancing like always. In the aisle way Hassan attacks Scotty from behind. He puts him in the camel clutch as the refs yell at him to stop. Scotty's laid out on the floor. He never entered the match. He also never got officially eliminated!

We have Charlie Haas coming in the #16 spot. He was on Smackdown here. Booker eliminates Reigns and Jordan with successive clotheslines. Booker hits the Spinarooni, then Mysterio dropkicks him into Eddie, he ducks and Booker goes flying out. Nice T-Bone suplex by Benjamin on Mysterio. Rene Dupree with Fifi the dog is in the #17 spot. He comes out with the French flag, which draws instant heat because we're trained that foreigners are evil. Haas sets up Dupree on the ropes, then Benjamin spots it and they do their tag team spot together for a nice moment. Benjamin charges in on Edge, he moves, so Shelton jumps onto the top and Edge ends up shoving him out. Our eighth man in the ring is #18 Simon Dean. JR's reaction? "Oh for God's sake." This was a brutal comedy gimmick in case you didn't know. He's a workout guru, so before he enters the ring he does some working out on the floor. Mysterio takes down Eddie with a facebuster, so Edge picks him up and throws out Eddie to huge heel heat. Then he does the Eddie dance! That was funny. Simon is doing the most awkward pushups on the floor as he finally gets in. Here's a big babyface pop for #19 Shawn Michaels. He goes right after Edge. Then he notices Simon Dean and clotheslines him out of the ring to get rid of him. It's a shame Eddie Guerrero got eliminated right before Shawn got in there. That was one of my dream matches. Michaels eliminates Haas with a backdrop. I mark out huge for #20 Kurt Angle to huge heel heat. He stole Nunzio's spot. German suplex on Benoit, belly to belly on Rey, German on Jericho, Angle Slam on Edge. Angle Slam on Dupree. Angle Slam to Michaels…no…Superkick…no, Ankle Lock but Michaels rolls out of it, he hits the Superick on Kurt and that eliminates him. I marked out so hard for this. You have no idea. My two favorites in the business at the time and they never had a match to this point. I was going nuts here.

The #21 man is not a threat to win, Jonathon Coachman. He was a heel assistant to Eric Bischoff as Tazz mocked him on his way in there. He hits Benoit in the back and then runs away, hugging the bottom rope. Jericho eliminates Rey, so Rey counters by putting him in a headscissors. They both hang on. It's Mark Jindrak at #22. As soon as he gets in there, Kurt Angle follows. He picks up Michaels, dumps him over the top and Michaels is eliminated. Kurt gets the ring steps, hits Michaels in the face and Shawn ends up bleeding. He puts Michaels into the Ankle Lock as I mark the fuck out because I knew at this moment they were doing Michaels-Angle at WrestleMania. I had heard whispers going into the match, but after I saw that I knew. It was the match I most wanted to see. It was one that delivered the goods too. It's Viscera at #23, who officially enters with THREAT TO WIN status as he does every year. Not a whole lot happens with Viscera's entrance. It's Paul London, an exciting babyface at #24. Dupree does the French Tickler dance, so Jericho throws him out and then he does the French Tickler dance too. That was fun. The next entrant is on us pretty quick. A huge babyface pop for #25 John Cena, the US Champ, who was still on the Smackdown brand and wasn't a World or WWE Champ yet. His shirt says "Ruck Fules" because he's a rebel like that. I'm reminded that I liked his old theme song a lot. Viscera charges at Cena, so John dips the shoulder and dumps him out of there. That was impressive. Mysterio hits the Bronco Buster on Coachman.

It wasn't my fault at #26 is Gene Snitsky. London jumps on his back to choke him out, they fight on the apron and Snitsky drills him with a clothesline as London bumps face first. That was amazing. It looked painful as hell, but it was an awesome visual. It's Kane at #27 in babyface mode as he goes after Snitsky. They show London getting taken out on a stretcher. Kane chokeslams Edge, Benoit, Cena, Jericho and Mysterio. Then he throws out Jindrak. Coach attacks him in the back. Big mistake, but Snitsky breaks that up as Coach goes back to hugging the bottom rope. Snitsky hits the Pumphandle Slam on Kane. A massive pop for Batista at #28, who is a babyface of course. He clotheslines Snitsky out of there. Showdown with Kane as JR says he likes it. A "Batista" chant starts because he was getting really popular due to the angle with HHH that was really well done. Batista Bomb on Kane. He catches Jericho and press slams him out of the ring. Edge avoids a near elimination. Captain Charisma Christian is #29 along with his Problem Solver Tomko. He goes after Cena because they had a rap-off earlier in the show that was fantastic. JR keeps talking about Cena's Ground & Pound offense. Cena hits the FU/Attitude Adjustment on Kane to eliminate him. That was very cool. Too bad there were better eliminations or that would have been the best. WOO for #30 Ric Flair, who was in heel mode here. He wants to work with Batista, who was still in Evolution, but he was turning. Flair eliminates Coach.

Batista hits a spinebuster on Christian, then he press slams him out of the ring where he goes crashing into Tomko. Benoit starts chopping away with Flair. Batista saves him, hitting a Spinebuster on Benoit. Flair throws Benoit out after he lasted nearly 48 minutes. During the celebration Flair tries to throw out Batista. Then he begs off as if to say he didn't mean to. Rey and Edge dropkick Batista. We have five guys left. Edge hits a spear on Flair and throws him out.

Final four as each guy goes into a corner: Edge, Rey, Cena and Batista. Batista misses a clothesline as Edge hits a spear on him and Cena. Rey gets a 619 on Edge. Edge counters some more offense, nearly throws out Rey, he holds on and Edge spears Rey out to eliminate him. Then like a dumbass Edge charges in against Cena & Batista on the ropes and they double backdrop him out. We're down to Cena & Batista, both of whom have more hair then you're used to. Both of whom were the favorites in this match as JR calls it a dream matchup. Who's going to WrestleMania? Who's going to headline? Cena goes for the FU, but Batista fights out. He goes for the Batista Bomb, Cena's momentum takes them both into the ropes, Cena flips over and Batista goes over as well. They fall out at the exact same time.

The Raw ref Jack Doan says Batista wins, but the Smackdown ref Jimmy Korderas says John Cena won. Here comes Vince McMahon, he throws his jacket down, he's angry, he slides into the ring and he TEARS HIS QUAD as he tries to get up. He sits on the ground, leaning against the bottom rope. It's so awkward to see Vince sitting there like that, yet it has me laughing so hard. Batista throws Cena out and then Cena throws Batista out. None of it counts. The Fink says over the microphone that the match will restart. I guess Vince told one of the refs.

They go for finishers, but neither guy gets it, Batista hits the Spinebuster and then he throws Cena out.

Winner: Batista

The match ended at 51:27.

 

FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS

- Going into the match you knew Batista or Cena was winning. That's fine. It was the right call as both guys were ready for the main event level based on the crowd reactions they were getting. It didn't hurt the match. The match was filled with some of the best workers in company history. Instead of filling it with big guys they filled it with the gifted workers. As a result you have one of the better Rumbles. I'm not really sure what was supposed to happen with the finish, but what they did worked out fine.

- Like I wrote in the write-up the Angle-Michaels stuff was amazing to me. Two of the best guys in the business going at it for the first time ever. They're also two of the best ever whether you like them or not. I loved how they had no issue going in, yet going out of the match they were rivals that would have the best feud of 2005 (at least to me). I literally marked out for everything they did. It was my genuine love for the business because these two embodied everything that I loved about wrestling.

-  They put Edge in the spot of the "guy we want to make a star even though he doesn't win." There must be a shorter name for it. I don't know. That was him, though. He really came out of this match looking like more of a store. A few months later he'd win the first Money in the Bank match and his career would really take off.

- Vince tearing his quad was legendary. The story goes that when he made it backstage he tore his other quad too because he didn't want to sell the fact that he was hurt at all. He's crazy. How about a video tribute to the quad tear?

The music accompanying it was excellent.

- The Hassan elimination was a lot of fun. He was so hated at that time and to see everybody stop what they were doing to throw him out was one of the funnier things we've seen in Rumbles.

 

FACTS & OPINIONS

Person that lasted the longest: Chris Benoit at 47:26.

Most Eliminations: Batista & Edge with 5.

Best Performers (3):  Edge - He lasted the second longest at 41 minutes and had a lot of good spots & eliminations. You can tell they were ready to push him.

Chris Benoit - Carried the first third of the match and did a solid job as usual.

Batista - Showed a lot of fire in winning. He really earned the push that he got.

Best Elimination: There's two I really liked. The Snitsky clothesline on London that saw London crash on the mat face first was the best. I also loved everybody teaming up to throw out Hassan was fantastic. A great moment that the crowd loved.

Match Rating: **** An excellent Rumble. There were a lot of good workers in there to carry it and they did a great job. Lots of fun eliminations too. Third best ever to this point.

 

Ranking the Rumble matches in terms of star ratings:

1992: ****1/2

2001: ****

2005: ****

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

2004 Royal Rumble won by Chris Benoit

The 2006 Royal Rumble happened two months after the death of Eddie Guerrero, so there were a lot of heavy hearts heading into that one.   

John Canton - mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

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