“Let’s get ready to rumbleeeeeeeeeeeee!” – Michael Buffer
ROYAL RUMBLE READY
Wrestlemania is the biggest Pay-Per-View of the year for the WWE but to me the Royal Rumble is the most exciting event of the year The Rumble match itself is enough of a selling point but in recent years, the Rumble has become even more exciting with so many surprise returns from wrestlers who were on the shelf injured or past legends. This year is no different. This is also the best time of the year where I can gauge how much interest in wrestling there is by the amount of people who start to discuss who’s winning the Rumble. We all have friends who are either hardcore fans, casual fans, or old-school fans of wrestling. The Rumble brings them all out in full force because it has a little bit of everything for each fan. If you never read Pat Patterson’s interview on WWE.com about how the Rumble match originated, I encourage you to google it and do so. Usually battle royals are too long and boring, but the Rumble isn’t your typical battle royal.
I’ve been lucky enough to attend two Royal Rumble events in my lifetime, both at Madison Square Garden and both nights were memorable for a variety of reasons. Back in 2000, I attended the event with my friend Brian. We were 13 years old at the time and didn’t have any money when tickets had gone on sale so on the day of the event so we borrowed money (or stolen depending on who I’m telling this story to) from our parents and headed to Manhattan. With about 150 bucks to our names, we were hoping there would be new tickets available to purchase. No such luck. The event was sold out but we were desperate so we began to look for scalpers outside the Garden to see if they had any tickets within our budget. Some guy noticed the two of us looking “lost” and mentioned he had tickets but it was 100 bucks each. We told them how much we had between us and he said it was okay. The tickets that we purchased were phony. We should’ve known but we didn’t. That didn’t stop us though. We were able to get inside the arena without any trouble. This would never happen today as now all tickets to any arena are scanned electronically.
We had missed the Sunday Night Heat match but were seated by the time the actual event was to begin. There weren’t many people seated in our section so we felt good despite having those phony tickets that maybe we won’t get caught but it was just a late arriving crowd. We were able to witness the WWE debut of Tazz (defeating the undefeated Kurt Angle) and an exciting tables match between the Hardy Boyz and the Dudley Boyz before security came to us asking to see our tickets. He was showing a couple to their seats and we were seated in them. Despite there being many seats available in the entire section, they still wanted to be seated where we were. I don’t know about you guys but whenever I go to an event and people are seated in my seat, I don’t usually bother them unless it’s packed and I have no choice but to ask them to move. I glanced over at the couple’s tickets and our tickets looked nothing like theirs. We felt like complete idiots. The security guard had told us to wait on the side while he called for help to escort us out the building but we got lucky.
The security guard wandered off for too long when another security guard noticed us and asked if we were lost. We told him the whole truth and instead of escorting us out the building, he told us to follow him. He walked us about halfway to the other side of the arena and seated us by where the WWE.com staff was stationed at. He told us if anybody came up to us to just look for him at the section he found us and he’ll take care of us. God bless that security guard. We were never bothered the rest of the night thanks to him. Not only that but we ended up having a bigger blast than we could’ve ever imagined. We ended up seated in a small section with about ten college students who were drinking and very vocal. They were very friendly with us. On this night we witnessed Mae Young (RIP) exposing her puppies but also Triple H’s coming out party as a main event worthy performer as he defeated Cactus Jack in a Street Fight to retain the WWE title. Then it was time for the Rumble match itself. It was cool to speculate who was coming out next and wonder who had yet to enter the Rumble with those college guys. And of course who doesn’t love to countdown from ten to one as if New Year’s Day didn’t just happen a few weeks prior. As the Rumble match reached the mid-20s entry, we all decided to head down towards the ring. There was a spot at the front our section where you could climb over to the lower level and that’s exactly what we did. Once we were about a section away from ringside though the security guards stopped us and we just stood at the aisle standing as the Rock was able to win the 2000 Royal Rumble match. Somehow, me and Brian were able to sneak all the way down to ringside as the Rock was celebrating his victory. You can’t make this story up and I’m not, truly a night to remember.
Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. One! *BUZZER* The countdown for each entrant is always great for crowd participation but more importantly, anticipation. The past few years the WWE has done a great job of only announcing the majority of the participants of the Rumble but leaving about 4-6 spots open but it has taken on a life of its ever since the 2008 Royal Rumble which I attended with my cousin Marcos. Marcos is a casual fan that’s usually too busy to watch but will sit down on the couch with me a couple Mondays a year to watch RAW, so most of the time I’m helping him catch up to all the storylines and happenings in the WWE. Back in January of 2008, I bought two tickets to the Rumble last minute and brought him along. At the time, Jeff Hardy had a lot of momentum and many people thought maybe the WWE will pull the trigger on him and make him champion, but it was year too soon. Rey Mysterio and Edge had a great match up on the undercard as well with the crowd heavily cheering the heel Edge, though (New York for ya). This night I also witnessed one of Ric Flair’s final WWE matches as he defeated MVP. But of course this Rumble was mostly remembered for the surprise return of John Cena.
The ovation Cena received that night was unlike any other I have heard. It wasn’t the usually mixed crowd reaction he gets now. It was a thunderous ovation out of pure shock and astonishment because many people had thought Cena would be out until Wrestlemania but as we know now, Cena is a fast healer. So it went from the biggest cheers to the biggest jeers within ten seconds. It was hilarious to witness live. It was as if everybody who popped at first looked at each other and said, “Hold up it’s Cena, we’re not supposed to cheer him.” And boos started raining down on Cena after his first couple eliminations but eventually he did win the Rumble match and the crowd went home happy, for the most part. Ever since that Rumble though, every year now we begin to speculate who may show up at the upcoming Rumble. We’ve had guys show up from severe injuries (Cena and Edge), from a long absence (Jericho), or past legends making their returns (Nash, Booker T, Goldust, etc.), so now there’s plenty of anticipation for the Rumble beyond just seeing your favorite superstar winning to become the number contender and headlining Wrestlemania.
The best thing about the Rumble besides the countdown and anticipation of each entrant is all of the stories being told within the match itself. We get tag teams turning on each other, enemies eliminating one another, or a big face-off between two wrestlers who haven’t squared off before. We usually get a sense of the under-card for Wrestlemania through the stories told during the Rumble. We also get some breakthrough performances from guys who end up lasting a long time in the Rumble or getting multiple eliminations. The “numbers” videos of the Rumble shown on RAW prior to the Rumble event are priceless. I’m still mad that Santino beat the Warlord’s record for fastest elimination. I loved when Bushwacker Luke marched to the ring, was tossed out, and kept on marching to the back. H ow about the crowd’s reaction when Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior faced off during the 1990 Rumble? Lex Luger and Bret Hart falling to the outside at the same time, seriously at the same time, couldn’t have scripted that landing any better, unlike Cena and Batista’s attempt at it in 2005. How about Shawn Michaels skinning the cat with only one foot touching the floor in 1995? One of my favorite Rumble moments was in 1997 when "Stone Cold" Steven Austin had eliminated a few wrestlers and sat on the ropes looking at his invisible watch waiting for the next entrant which happened to be Bret Hart and the crowd exploded. More recently, CM Punk’s performance in 2010 was cool as he was talking smack on the microphone in between eliminations and entries. I could go on and on.
This year’s Royal Rumble match offers a lot of intrigue and possibilities due to the rash amount of injuries that have hit several WWE superstars (Cena, Rollins, Orton, Cesaro, etc.) and not only that but for the first time since 1990, the WWE champion (Hulk Hogan) will be involved in the match. And for the first time since 1992, the WWE world title will be up for grabs except this time it’s not vacated but instead will be defended by the WWE champion, Roman Reigns. Reigns seems to finally have the fans on his side but as we saw at last year’s Rumble they can instantly turn on him if they feel he’s being forced down their throats. If Reigns successfully defends the championship against 29 other superstars, I don’t think that’ll go over well with the Orlando crowd which is why I feel we’ll end up with a new champion, which is good and bad. Since Rollins vacated the title, it would mean that the title would have changed hands four times in less than three months which isn’t good. The good part is maybe we end up with a fresh new face as champion (perhaps Bray Wyatt or Kevin Owens?) but the more likely outcome is Brock Lesnar (setting up a rematch from last year’s Wrestlemania) or Triple H (getting payback on Reigns for the beat down he received after TLC last month) winning the championship. Either way, I am intrigued. Usually by this time of year we have an idea of what matches will occur at Wrestlemania and at this moment nothing seems for certain. I’m headed to Dallas for Wrestlemania with my girlfriend and I’m curious to what types of matches will take place but for the moment, I’m enjoying the fact that I have no clue so next Sunday, I’ll be watching the Royal Rumble event intently. I’m Royal Rumble ready!
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