RAW: No. 30 in the Rumble is....
NICK TYLWALK -- SLAM! Wrestling
Ask and ye shall receive. As if to answer my incessant complaining about why we don't know who will be representing Raw in the Royal Rumble, the intro to tonight's show addresses that very issue. Jonathan Coachman speaks to all 15 Raw participants, announcing that Eric Bischoff has secured the coveted number 30 entrance position for a member of this roster. Ah, but there's a catch. Read on to find out exactly what it is as Raw goes live from the homeland of cheese, Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Chris Jericho has a great idea for putting someone in the 30th spot. Since he has yet to use his Survivor Series favor, he asks The Coach if he can redeem it for the spot. Trouble is, Bischoff is away on business, and he's left Coachman in charge as the interim GM in a move that's sure to tick off J.R. In any case, Bischoff has decreed that the 15 participants will face off in a series of matches on tonight's show (not all singles matches, mind you), with the winners advancing to a Rumble-style over-the-top battle royal. And the winner of that match will be the man who enters last in Philadelphia. Simple, right? To prevent any foul play on the part of those who like to run in groups (Randy Orton, this means you), Coach also says that anyone interfering in any of the advancement matches will not only lose their shot at 30, but also be out of the Rumble altogether. We've got our theme for the night ladies and gents, so as P. Diddy would say, let's go.
Match 1 - Rob Van Dam and Booker T vs. Christian and Matt Hardy (Ver. 1.0) - Advancement Match
Quick tags get everyone involved right from the jump, but it's Booker who ends up on the receiving end of the most punishment. Hardy has him in trouble twice with a leg drop and the Side Effect, but he finally manages to tag in Van Dam, who immediately begins cleaning house. After two near falls on Hardy, Van Dam goes for Rolling Thunder only to be rebuffed by two raised knees. Matt tries a cheating cover to no avail, then his attempt to double team with Christian is thwarted by Booker's double scissor kick. RVD takes advantage with a twisting Five Star Frog Splash to get the three count and advance himself and Booker to the battle royal.
Despite his lofty position for the night, Coach struts down to the announce table to join J.R. and The King. He must be testing well in the focus groups.
Match 2 - Chris Jericho vs. Rene Dupree - Advancement Match
Consider this the latest development in the very long (yet very well done) Jericho face turn. He goes for the Walls early but can't lock in the hold, so he uses a springboard dropkick to knock Dupree to the floor. The Frenchman rallies with a dropkick that catches CJ coming off the top rope and uses a leg whip to get a near fall. An abdominal stretch is next, but Jericho reverses it before getting thrown down and hit with a series of elbow drops. He dodges the last one, then follows with a drop toehold and a bulldog. Dupree gets his legs up to fight off a Lionsault, but his take on a Death Valley Driver isn't enough to put Jericho away. Chris gets the Walls of Jericho applied correctly this time and forces Dupree to tap out.
The latest Randy Orton ad attacking Mick Foley airs here. Don't try that in Iowa Randy - the results are in, and those people in the Midwest don't like mudslinging. Back in the locker room, Christian applauds his buddy Jericho for his win, but also bemoans his loss. Reluctantly, Christian asks if Jericho will use his Survivor Series favour to let his best friend sub for him in the battle royal. To convince him, Christian reminds Jericho who has been standing beside him through the Trish Stratus soap opera and who showed him a great night on the town when he was down. Jericho acknowledges the friendship, but says he can't give up the spot because this is his chance to get back to the main event at WrestleMania. Christian says he knew it was a long shot but had to ask. He wishes his pal good luck, but you kind of get the feeling that his heart's not in it. He's looking a little green to me. You know, with envy?
Next on the agenda is a video package spotlighting the Royal Rumble title match between Triple H and Shawn Michaels. There's some quality footage from the DX days, both the original unit and Triple H's expanded roster. It just kind of warms the heart to think back to a time when Triple H could make three mid-carders and Chyna cool.
Match 3 - Mark Henry vs. Rico - Advancement Match
Um, do you really need me to tell you who's going over here? There are some early laughs when Rico kisses Theodore Long on the top of his bald head, but Long interferes later when the opportunity presents itself. Henry picks Rico up off the mat and drops him back down with the World's Strongest Slam to win the match.
Orton and Batista do some product placement with the new issue of Raw magazine, then Ric Flair drops by to feed their egos. Just remember Ric, whatever you do, never, ever feed them after midnight. An especially funny moment comes when Batista flexes one of his massive arms and Flair asks what he puts in it. Just protein powder Ric. Wink!
Match 4 - Kane vs. Spike Dudley - Advancement Match
Hey, come on now. My girlfriend makes a point of saying that she hopes Spike gets paid more than the other wrestlers for stuff like this. A game Spike is dropped by a big boot and looks like he's in trouble in the corner. He shoves the ref and rolls out, leaving the official to assume that it was Kane who pushed him and causing him to call for the bell for a disqualification. Spike wins! Kane doesn't let him enjoy it for long, sending him hard into the post and the steps before returning to the ring to do his, 'look at me seethe, I'm so angry,' bit.
Match 5 - Scott Steiner vs. Test vs. Goldberg
This one also looks less than kosher, given that Steiner and Test are tag team partners and usually best buds. They join forces right after the bell, but a double clothesline has them both on their backs. The numbers game soon works again, at least until Goldberg ducks a Test clothesline that takes out Steiner. Test gets tossed to the floor as his partner goes up for an impressive gorilla press, with Goldberg even getting an extra rep in overhead. He looks for a spear but has to stop to knock Test back off the apron, then turns right into Steiner's face buster finisher. A cover is made but Test breaks it up, and the two heels eventually come to blows with each other. Steiner emerges from the fray and gets the Steiner Recliner on Goldberg, but Test's big boot soon puts a stop to that. With only one foe still standing, Goldberg hits Test with a spear and Jackhammer to win and advance.
Yet another Orton attack ad makes Stone Cold Steve Austin shake his head as he watches on backstage monitor. Hey, just wait until New Hampshire Steve. After the break, Austin rides his four-wheeler to the ring to deliver a message to Foley. It's a pretty simple one: he expects Mick to be at the Royal Rumble to deal with Orton or the Rattlesnake will drive up to Long Island and drag Foley to Philly. That gets the lusty support of the Green Bay crowd, as does the beer drinking that follows. The guy tossing the beers is dead on as usual, making me wonder what would have happened Sunday if he replaced Donovan McNabb and Stone Cold's sure hands replaced Todd Pinkston at wide receiver. Quick, someone get me Andy Reid's number.
A video package shows a long, long line at 'Midnight Madness' for the release of the WWE Originals music CD. Austin was among the superstars who autographed copies of the coaster, I mean, album. Back at the ranch, Molly Holly talks some smack to Stratus, but it's Christian who really wants to talk to her. He tells Trish he's glad she never wants to talk to Jericho again, because that's the exact same way he feels about her. To back up his point, he shows a few pictures on his camera phone of the two Canadians living it up with quite a few ladies last Monday. I sense powerful reverse psychology at work here.
Match 6 - Lita vs. Jazz
Sorry ladies, but this is not for a spot in the battle royal. Jazz uses some mat wrestling to obtain the early edge, then shakes off a near fall to score with a dropkick and a series of elbows. Lita fires back with a spinning head scissors and a sidewalk slam for two, then hits an inverted Twist of Fate that looks like it will seal the deal until Long makes his presence felt. Jazz shows her gratitude by rolling up Lita with a handful of shorts to get the duke.
Terri tells The Hurricane that she doesn't like his chances against Orton in the final advancement match and frankly, neither do I. The super hero replies that he has a chance because he believes in himself. I'm thinking the only way he's winning is if he whips out the Vertebreaker and does it for real. Off to a commercial, then back to get a recap of Orton offering a ticket and limo ride to Foley for the Long Island Raw, then Mick not showing up. As much as this is getting pounded into our heads, Foley better be at the Rumble. I'm not playing.
Match 7 - Randy Orton vs. The Hurricane - Advancement Match
Orton tries to wrap the match up quickly but it's The Hurricane who carries most of the offense. An Overcast gets a two count, then three more near falls in quick succession. The 'Cane goes up top and hits a high cross body but it's still not enough. Orton pulls the RKO out of his rear end and finishes the match. Thanks for playing Hurricane - there are some lovely parting gifts for you on your way out. Rosey comes down to check on his mentor, but he gets punked by Batista and Flair. The Dudley Boyz come flying down to even the odds, laying out Evolution and getting out a table. It looks like Flair is going to taste wood when Coach comes down the ramp to put a stop to it. The interim GM says he'll give the Dudleys until the count of three to leave the ring, but they choose to give him a 3-D through the table instead. You kind of thought that might happen.
In the back for the last time, Henry asks Jericho how a little guy like him expects to eliminate the World's Strongest Man. When CJ fires back with an insult about Henry's odor, Mark replies that it's his 'stank' and that it can also be found all over Trish. Ouch! You know you're having a bad night when you lose a war of words with Mark Henry. We're off for two more previews for You Got Served (the Breakin' of this generation?), then we head to WWE headquarters so Michael Cole and Tazz can run down the Smackdown part of the Rumble card. Apparently Hardcore Holly is getting a WWE Title shot, and for some reason it does not seem like a joke. Interesting.
Main Event - Number 30 Over the Top Rope Challenge
The field of seven has been reduced to six since Spike is unable to compete thanks to Kane. Goldberg lays out everyone in sight, but a Bookend, a Lionsault and a Five Star Frog Splash knock him down for a while. RVD is the first one out courtesy of a bicycle kick from Booker, who in turn is tossed out by Jericho. Both Orton and Jericho are thrown over the top; both grab the ropes to prevent elimination. Jericho saves himself a second time by landing on the apron, then climbs to hit Henry with a missile dropkick. Henry dusts himself off and teams with Orton to eliminate Y2J. Goldberg finally recovers enough to spear Henry, though he soon tastes a dropkick from Orton. Randy turns his attention to Henry, and Goldberg comes charging over with a shoulder block that provides enough force to eliminate the World's Strongest Man. That leaves just Orton and Goldberg to stare each other down, though Flair and Batista come down the ramp to watch. The spear finds its mark, then Goldberg hoists Orton in the air and tosses him onto his teammates on the floor to win the battle royal and enter last at the Rumble. Given that he's booked to be almost unstoppable, this seems like an unnecessary advantage to me. That's all she wrote for tonight - you'll hear from me next with a live, first-hand recap of the Royal Rumble from Philadelphia.
Nick Tylwalk has been a SLAM! Wrestling contributor since 1998. He hopes to be a secret entrant into this year's Rumble, so keep your eyes peeled for a guy too impossibly scrawny to belong in the ring.
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