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Batista claims the Rumble
By DALE PLUMMER and NICK TYLWALK -- SLAM! Wrestling


Even the most die-hard WWE apologist would have to admit that over the past few years, the promotion has done a lot of things that haven't made much sense. Whether it was a storyline that got dropped with no logical explanation or a finish to a match that left a bad taste in the mouth, there was something at almost every pay-per-view that left viewers either unsatisfied, or even worse, confused. Sunday's 2005 edition of the Royal Rumble won't go down as the most exciting or unpredictable of all time, but the finish of the Rumble match that saw Batista win a world heavyweight title shot at WrestleMania made all the sense in the world.

Batista's growing popularity (and probable face turn) have been the dominant theme on Raw for months, and Triple H's efforts to avoid a showdown with his Evolution teammate have been a large part of every episode. When Batista tossed Smackdown's John Cena over the top rope to claim his victory, it virtually assured that the pay-off to this long-running storyline will take place in the main event in March. Give the WWE credit for building the upcoming feud for so long and realizing that this year's Rumble was one time when the obvious thing to do was probably the best.

For a couple of minutes, it looked like the expected finish might not happen. Batista and Cena outlasted the usual field of 30 competitors to reach a final four that also included Raw's Edge and Smackdown's Rey Mysterio. Edge sent Mysterio packing, but the frustrated Canadian was unable to avoid elimination at the hands of the two finalists. A few minutes later, Batista and Cena both went tumbling over the top rope to the floor simultaneously, and both got their hands raised in victory by their respective show's referees. A strong feeling of, "here we go again" was in the air.

Leave it to Vince McMahon to save the day. The WWE Chairman stormed to the ring to order the match restarted, though it appeared he may have injured himself in the process, landing awkwardly on his knee when he entered the ring. A few minutes later, Batista escaped an F-U and hit a spinebuster that softened Cena up enough to be thrown over the top.

Triple H did his part to ensure he stayed on a collision course with his teammate with - surprise - a successful title defense against Randy Orton. A small amount of drama was added when Eric Bischoff banned Batista and Ric Flair from ringside, but otherwise the match was a fairly by-the-numbers affair that fans have already seen before. A large portion of the match saw The Game working over Orton's leg, and the extended length of a PPV bout only highlights how the Legend Killer could use a few more moves in his arsenal to replace the nearly endless amount of right hands.

The end came shortly after ref Earl Hebner got caught in the action and Triple H was able to locate his trusty sledgehammer. He never got to use it, but it occupied enough of Orton's attention to open him up for a clothesline. A Pedigree followed and Hebner revived just in time to count the pinfall.

Smackdown also offered little in the way of surprises when defending WWE Champion John Bradshaw Layfield managed to escape a three-way dance with Kurt Angle and The Big Show with the gold around his waist - again. Show almost became a non-factor after a low blow from Angle sent him staggering into a fall that put him through the announcers' table. But he recovered from that and an Angle Slam and turned the tables on the champ by putting him through a section of the retaining wall on the floor in the coolest spot of the night.

JBL's cabinet proved to be the key factor, dragging the ref out of the ring at a critical juncture and rolling their boss back into the ring at just the right time. A Clothesline from Hell was enough to put Show down for three and continue JBL's seemingly endless title reign.

The next WWE Pay-Per-View is the Smackdown-only No Way Out on February 20th.

The coming of another dual-brand PPV means another round of commentary from SLAM! Wrestling Raw reporter Nick Tylwalk and Smackdown reporter Dale Plummer. Nick won the pre-article coin toss and has chosen not to be in italics this time out.

I only have one thought going into this report: thank goodness we get to collaborate on a pay-per-view other than Armageddon!

Yea, well, the matches from Smackdown! are definitely Armageddon quality, if you know what I mean.

Match #1 - Edge vs. Shawn Michaels

At least the show is starting off with a quality match, tonight.

You know I have a soft spot for the Showstoppa. Frustrated Edge is slowly growing on me - his version of "warming up the band" right before he hits the Spear is pretty amusing. Edge isn't amused when HBK kicks out though. Shawn hits his big elbowdrop but can't connect with Sweet Chin Music. Both men have a chance to win it, but it's Edge who ends up on top after a series of reversals, and he isn't above holding on to the ropes to secure the three count. Now who screwed who?

I'm sure this decision will be reversed on RAW Monday night, and we'll see these two go at it again at WrestleMania. By the way, are these guys collecting two bonus cheques tonight, since they are also in the actually Rumble itself?

Winner ... Edge at 17 minutes and 50 seconds

Match Rating: 6.5/10

In past years the number one and number thirty spots in the Royal Rumble had been named before the PPV, but this year nothing has been decided. As Hurricane would say, "What's up wit dat?"

Maybe this next segment will clear that up. Eric Bischoff and Theodore Long exchange pleasantries - alright, they're talking smack to each other - while Christy Hemme and Torrie Wilson man that old wrestling favorite, the drum full of numbers. Ric Flair and Eddie Guerrero are the first two wrestlers to pick, and the Nature Boy seems pretty happy with his draw.

Eddie, on the other hand, looks like someone just nicked the paint job on his ride. Don't fret, kids. Guerrero pulls a fast one on the old man, congratulating him with a handshake and hug, all the while swiping his number. After Guerrero leaves, everyone asks to see Flair's number. The Nature Boy presents only to see that it's not what he originally drew. I'm sure this will get resolved in due time.

Smart money says Flair is now entering the Rumble first. Come on Ric, that's just making Raw look bad.

Gene Snitzky introduces himself to Heidenreich backstage. This was just plain creepy and weird. I feel like I need to take a hot shower right about now.

Match #2 - The Undertaker vs. Heidenreich - Casket Match

It's been awhile since we've seen a casket match, so here's a quick recap of the rules. To win you must place your opponent in the casket, and shut the lid. That's it.

Maybe this is why Snitsky and Heidenreich were scheming together backstage. It's a safe bet that individually, neither one of them is smart enough to understand such a complicated gimmick match.

Like most of my Smackdown! reports, I'll spare you most of the details of this match. Things get interesting when Snitzky hits the ring, and the Undertaker gets double-teamed. After a double verticle suplex, the Dead man is dragged toward the casket. The referees open to the lid, only to have Kane pop out. The Big Red Machine cleans house, and knocks Snitzky out of the ring. The two battle into the crowd, leaving Undertaker alone with Heidenreich. Undertaker wows the crowd by crushing Heidenreich between the casket and the ring with a guillotine leg drop. The crazed poet is finished off with a chokeslam and a tombstone. Undertaker rolls Heidenreich into the casket, and slams the lid down for the win.

Winner ... The Undertaker at 12 minutes and 37 seconds

Match Rating: 4/10

Party pooper Long goes after Guerrero and makes him return the number he stole from Flair. And since he's giving that back, Eddie decides to give Flair his wallet back too. Elsewhere, Batista wants to go pick his number for the Rumble, but Triple H wants to talk strategy for the Orton match. For the umpteenth time, it looks like blows might be exchanges until Flair steps in. Back in the GM office, Christian and John Cena are on hand to select their numbers. They end up getting into a rap-off, which is kind of like Eminem having a freestyle battle with Vanilla Ice. I shouldn't have to tell you who 'wins.'

Match #3 - Kurt Angle (challenger) vs. Big Show (challenger) vs. JBL (champion) - WWE Championship Match

Winner ... and still WWE Champion ... JBL at 14 minutes and 49 seconds

Match Rating: 5/10

Just to clarify, the time on the last match is an approximation, as time seemed to stop, and we just lost track.

Nothing stops Carlito Caribbean Cool from getting signatures for his petition to get rid of Teddy Long, not even the Royal Rumble; until he runs into Batista that is. Batista declines to sign, and Carlito takes a big bite of his apple. I guess the big man has seen this shtick before, and reminds Triple C what he did with the Quebec flag on RAW. Carlito just swallows and walks away.

Back in GM land, Long and Bischoff are at it again, this time riding each other about outside interference in matches. Bischoff is so moved by the dialogue that he bans Evolution from ringside during the Triple H-Orton match. And if you don't know why Batista thinks it's funny when Eric tells him he needs to tell Trips and Flair, then you haven't been reading my Raw reports for the past few months. Shame on you.

Match #4 - Randy Orton (challenger) vs. Triple H (champion) - World Heavyweight Championship Match

Winner ... and still World Heavyweight Champion ... Triple H at 21 minutes and 28 seconds

Match Rating: 6/10

Nunzio seems pleased with his draw in the Rumble, then Kurt Angle crosses his path. Angle is determined to win the WWE championship, so he just steals Nunzio's spot. Where are Stamboli and Palumbo when you need them?

F-B-I! F-B-I!

JBL and the cabinet barge into the GM's office, celebrating their win. Teddy Long takes exception to the interference in the match, and books a title bout for No Way Out. JBL will be defending his title against the Big Show, in a barbed wire steel cage match. Your guess is as good as mine.

The Royal Rumble

Happenings...

* Recent Tough Enough winner Daniel Puder says he'll be making history by becoming the first show graduate to win the Royal Rumble. Amazingly, Benoit and Guerrero stop laughing long enough to join Hardcore Holly in a contest to see who can give Puder the loudest chops. Holly eventually makes Puder the first man to exit the Rumble.

* Bischoff and Long both make their way down to ringside, seemingly to play cheerleader for their guys in the match.

* Some things just get everybody to agree. In this case, it's the wrestlers from both shows putting aside their differences to beat the tar out of Muhammad Hassan. Face and heel, Raw and Smackdown all join forces to rough up the Arab-American, who is eliminated in short order.

* Angle is so upset with his elimination at the hands of HBK that he returns to ringside just long enough to get the ideal payback by pulling Michaels over the top rope and eliminating him.

Royal Rumble Stats
No. Drawn No. Elim. Elim. By
1 Eddie Guerrero 1 Puder Hardcore Holly
2 Chris Benoit 2 Hardcore Holly Benoit/Guerrero
3 Daniel Puder 3 Hurricane Guerrero
4 Hardcore Holly 4 Suzuki Mysterio
5 Hurricane 5 Hassan Everyone
6 Kenzo Suzuki 6 Reigns Booker T
7 Edge 7 Jordan Booker T
8 Rey Mysterio 8 Booker T Guerrero
9 Shelton Benjamin 9 Benjamin Edge
10 Booker T 10 Guerrero Edge
11 Chris Jericho 11 Simon Dean Michaels
12 Luther Reigns 12 Charlie Haas Michaels
13 Muhammad Hassan 13 Kurt Angle Michaels
14 Orlando Jordan 14 Michaels Angle
15 Scotty II Hotty* 15 Renee Dupree Jericho
16 Charlie Haas 16 Viscera John Cena
17 Renee Dupree 17 Paul London Snitzky
18 Simon Dean 18 Mark Jindrak Kane
19 Shawn Michaels 19 Snitzky Batista
20 Kurt Angle 20 Jericho Batista
21 Coach 21 Kane Cena
22 Mark Jindrak 22 Coach Flair
23 Viscera 23 Christian Batista
24 Paul London 24 Benoit Flair
25 John Cena 25 Flair Edge
26 Gene Snitzky 26 Mysterio Edge
27 Kane 27 Edge Batista/Cena
28 Batista 28 Cena Batista
29 Christian
30 Ric Flair

* Scotty II Hotty did not enter.

Match Rating: 6.5/10

Total Event Time: 2 hours and 56 minutes

Event Rating: 6/10


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    Dale Plummer has been writing for SLAM! Wrestling since 2003, while Nick Tylwalk has been on the beat since 1998. Despite being 3,000 miles away, Nick and Dale still had better seats for this Royal Rumble. They watched last year's live at in Philadelphia strapped to the rafters of the Wachovia Center.