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   Sat, January 10, 2004



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Royal roster over-the-top


Just two weeks to go until WWE kicks off its 2004 pay-per-view season with the 16th annual Royal Rumble, taking place at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. As always, the show will be headlined by the Rumble match, in which 30 superstars (15 from Raw, 15 from Smackdown) duke it out in an over-the-top-rope battle royal.

Wrestlers enter the fray at intervals ranging from one to two minutes (WWE has never been particularly good at keeping time in the Rumble environment). The last man remaining in the ring after all 30 competitors have entered wins a title shot at Wrestlemania.

At one point, the plan was to give John Cena the Rumble win this year and somehow knock him out of the 'Mania main event in the following weeks. But Vince McMahon's inner circle is staying quiet about the final decision on who will be getting his arm raised on the big day.

Names announced for the Rumble match so far include Cena, Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Kane, Billy Gunn and Booker T.

Also at the show, Triple H defends his world title against Shawn Michaels in a last-man-standing match, Rey Mysterio puts his cruiserweight strap up against Tajiri and Brock Lesnar wraps up his feud with Bob Holly.

- - -

PAGE TURNERS: A string of new wrestling books are set for release in May 2004, including Triple H's bodybuilding book and an autobiography by William Regal.

Ric Flair is also working on his highly anticipated autobiography, with longtime WWE Magazine scribe Keith Elliot Greenberg, for a tentative June release.

Meanwhile, The Life and Death of Owen Hart finally will be available in the U.S. market in March 2004.

The biography, written by Owen's widow Martha Hart and the Calgary Sun's Eric Francis, deals with Owen's personal and professional lives, plus the aftermath of his tragic death at a WWF pay-per-view in May 1999.

- - -

SURVIVOR GRAPPLES NEW ROLE: He was known for mimicking his favourite wrestlers on the previous season of Survivor but reality TV's biggest grappling fan could be in line for some ring time of his own.

Jon Dalton -- a.k.a. Jonny Fairplay from Survivor: Pearl Islands -- is reportedly set to debut for NWA TNA in a matter of weeks.

Dalton, who once worked as a personal assistant to Rowdy Roddy Piper, has been vying for a wrestling deal since his run on the top-rated CBS reality franchise.

- - -

NASH EXPIRED: Kevin Nash is officially finished with WWE.

In a statement, Nash confirmed his contract expired Dec. 31 and he has turned down an offer to work in the creative end of the company.

Nash hinted he'd be willing to work for other wrestling groups (presumably TNA in North America and Zero-One in Japan) but seemed focused on movie and television roles, the first of which is a part in Marvel Comics' Punisher movie, due for release in April.

- - -

DROP KICKS: Maven is taking a leave of absence from WWE to spend time with his mother, who is battling cancer and is in critical condition in a Virginia hospital ... Chris Jericho's angle with Trish Stratus has been the best thing on Raw this past month and now it looks like the storyline will culminate with Y2J rejoining the babyface ranks. At house shows last weekend, Jericho worked as the good guy in matches against Kane ... Bill Goldberg is on his way back to WWE after a successful run in Japan.