Royal Rumble Count-Up: 2002 – Game On

Royal Rumble 2002
Date: January 20, 2002
Location: Phillips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
Attendance: 12,915
Commentators: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler

WCW is dead. That’s the big deal here obviously. A lot of the wrestlers from there are now here. Well mainly just those with talent or those that will sell t-shirts. Other than that, you have one major thing going on here: HHH is back tonight. Look up the video where he returns.  It’s absolutely awesome.

It is by far and away the coolest moment I can ever remember on Raw. HHH, out about 8 months with a torn quad, is back now to reclaim his glory in the Royal Rumble. Also in the Rumble we have Austin, Angle, Taker and that’s about it. Other than the Rumble, we have Vince vs. Flair in a street fight and Rock facing Jericho for the newly formed Undisputed Title.

This show more or less is designed to give HHH the Mania shot but still making it look cool. The end of the Monday Night Wars have kind of hurt the company though, as there’s no reason to go insane in trying to crush WCW anymore. Anyway, let’s get to this as the card looks pretty good.

The intro is set to Cocky by Kid Rock and it showcases all of the major stars that are in the Rumble, which is a smart idea if nothing else. It wasn’t as generic as it has been in the past so that’s a perk if nothing else.

Tag Titles: Dudley Boys vs. Spike Dudley and Tazz

Spike and Tazz were some of the oddest tag champions of all time. I vaguely remember them being champions, but not by much. They held them for a month and a half just before the draft and other than that they never did a thing again. This is the hottest period of Stacy’s career as the Duchess of Dudleyville. Just pure perfection in a woman.

The Dudleys beat on Spike on Smackdown and gave him a 3D in the parking lot so his neck is messed up. King is very annoying here too. This feels a lot like a TV match. The heels hit an AWESOME looking double flapjack on Spike, getting him way up there. This match is way too short here as it’s only about five minutes long.

Spike hits a Dudley Dog and finally, which is a stretch as he was only down for a bit, gets the tag to Tazz. Stacy gets up on the apron but for no reason at all we go to a shot of the crowd that looks like it’s at the beginning of a TV show. Anyway, within seconds, Tazz has D-Von in the Tazmission and we’re done. Yeah that’s really it.

Rating: C-. This was a bit out there. It felt like something that belonged on Raw. I really don’t get the point of this pairing but it works fine I suppose. The Dudleys were still the best tag team in the company, but with no one to feud with on their level they were really kind of worthless. And people say the tag division has been alive for a long time. Yeah right.

Edge and Regal have been fighting for a long time now.

Edge is in the back and says that he’s ready for a fight.

Intercontinental Title: Edge vs. William Regal

Edge is defending here. Regal was using brass knuckles a lot around this time so Nick Patrick looks all over the place for them before the match starts. Edge is rocking the completely awesome Rob Zombie song here. DAng I love that song. Edge gets one heck of a pop. If there has ever been a poster boy for coming up from the bottom of the card to the midcard to the main event in the modern era, it’s Edge. He needs to come back as a face.

The referee finds knuckles on Regal in his tights. That brings on a ton of jokes from Lawler of course. Edge broke Regal’s nose with a chair to cause him to need a bunch of nose surgeries. We get a MASSIVE Regal sucks chant as the crowd is very hot. Nick Patrick’s voice is very deep to say the least. Lawler gives us some great insight here by telling us a broken nose hurts. In a cool spot, Regal has a double underhook (setup for the Pedigree) and Edge backdrops him but Regal hangs on.

That looked good. Lawler talking about noses is getting up to the level of annoyance of puppies here. Regal’s agility is underrated. He really is light on his feet. Regal hooks the Regal Stretch which lasts for a little while. Edge’s eyes are of course greatness personified. Edge gets the bastard version of it on to be rude but it doesn’t work at all.

A fan shouts break his neck Regal, which is ironic as Edge would do just that in just over a year. The referee gets speared so Regal can get the knuckles out. The longest time to make a count in history ends this for Regal. He of course swears it was all just a regular punch.

Rating: C-. The main thing this has going for it is that it’s brutal. I mean these two beat each other up very well. Again though, I could have seen this on a Raw or Smackdown. PPV matches are supposed to be special ones that the TV shows build up to. That wasn’t the case here as there’s nothing here to justify paying for. That’s not good.

With no transition at all, here we are at the next match.

Women’s Title: Jazz vs. Trish Stratus

Jazz was more or less the Chyna of ECW. They brought her over in the Invasion angle and then realized the flaw in that plan: no one knew who she was. She had been around for about a year and did a few things of note but nothing worthy of being known on this scale. Anyway, Jacqueline is the guest referee here. This wasn’t announced on TV, and the reason is there’s no point to it and no one would have cared anyway.

They were trying to make it a big deal that women were refereeing here, but they couldn’t have done it worse. For one thing, she might have been the least cared about Diva ever. I mean did anyone like her? Also, naturally, she’s in a tied off top so it’s about sex appeal (or in her case the lack thereof) all over again. Trish is still pretty bad in the ring at this point but you can see that there’s talent there. At the time I’m writing this, I’m debating why ECW failed as a national company with NSL.

While Jazz is on the way to the ring, we see a very quick video of Jazz hurting Trish’s hand while King alludes to Jazz going after Trish in the past few weeks. See what they did right there? Inside of 30 seconds they’ve explained that Jazz has been aggressive towards Trish, established Jazz as the heel here, shown that Trish might not be 100% coming into this match, and said that this has been going on for at least a few weeks because King is mentioning other things that Jazz has done.

That took about 20 seconds. ECW at Barely Legal didn’t do that for most of the matches, and it would have helped tremendously. Apparently Jackie was the other option for #1 contender and lost, so that validates her being a referee. Again, there’s an explanation. It’s freaking stupid, but it’s something at least. Trish’s hand is indeed bandaged.

Jazz takes her apart for the most part early on but Trish manages to get a sunset flip to set up a very good pinfall reversal sequence that was very impressive. Jazz and Jackie get into it after Jazz takes over. Jackie gives a slow count as this is just horrible. Trish gets a not great Stratusfaction for two and Jazz is dominating again. She hits it again for the win. Yeah that’s it. Jazz destroyed her for the majority of the three minutes and then that bulldog ends it. WOW.

Rating: D+. This was very, very sloppy. Jackie had no point to being in this at all and added nothing to it. Jazz was just not worth having in there at all either as no one bought her as a big deal. Trish was just awful at this point but it was clear she had some skills. There would be times in her matches where you would stop and go hokey smoke at the things she would come up with. Eventually she would get a lot better, but not for awhile.

We recap Vince vs. Flair which makes me think there have been almost no backstage segments tonight which is very odd for a show like the Rumble. Anyway, this feud is because after the Alliance died, Flair bought Shane and Stephanie’s shares of the company, which led to the brand split soon after this. Vince said that it was his company so he hates Flair, leading to this match. Yeah it’s contrived but who cares?

Ric Flair vs. Vince McMahon

Naturally it’s a street fight. This was back in the day when Flair still was in passable shape and could have some decent matches in the ring. Flair’s family is in the front row. Ross actually thinks it’s a big deal that Vince made Flair bleed. A hard stare can do that. Fink in the ring in the tux just looks right. Ross points out that both men are former world champions and former Rumble winners as it occurs to me how completely ridiculous Vince has been about pushing himself as a wrestler.

I know that he loves this very much but there comes a point where it’s just pushing yourself way too hard. Even Eric Bischoff didn’t get this bad. This has been a standard match so far. It’s very sad when a guy like Flair, who could put on classic matches with absolutely anyone (he had a very good match with Hawk of all people at Bunkhouse Stampede. If that doesn’t prove he’s the best ever, nothing will) has to get beaten up by Vince here, so Vince’s ego can be stroked.

Now we bring in the weapons which we need pretty badly here to validate Vince’s advantage. The fans are all behind Flair here of course. Flair is bleeding. I’m blown away. Lawler is cheering Vince on to no end here, which doesn’t surprise me. Flair showed up in Memphis around 1984 or 85 for a one night appearance and started the Jimmy Hart vs. Jerry Lawler feud that went on for the better part of a decade and caused more injuries to Lawler than should be humanly possible.

They’ve been on the floor for a good while now and Vince is dominating. He gets the camera from Flair’s family and takes a picture of them. That was just freaking pointless but then again Vince is involved in it so there we are. Oh good night take me now Vince is trying to use wrestling holds. Oh yeah the gimmick of the match is that Vince is turned on by destroying people, leading to a ton of bad jokes from Lawler.

Flair gets put in the figure four after having his legs worked on. Ross says this would ruin his professional career. That happened years before this so we have no worries there. Flair get the reversal and after being in the hold all of 2 seconds, Vince is limping. Holy oversell Batman. Vince finds a pipe that he hit Flair with a few weeks ago. Flair gets the forearm to the area below the balls but not quite to the back to break that up though.

Ross says Vince’s heart, if he has one, is blacker than sin. No one can ever accuse Ross of being underwhelming. For no apparent reason, Flair looks at a monitor, which would show him looking at a monitor. This fascinates him for some reason. That makes great sense I suppose. Not really but I want to move on.

In a sick spot, Flair bites Vince’s open cut. I really hope he’s not a Twilight fan. Flair gets Vince’s pipe and knocks him over the head with a decent sounding shot. He puts the figure four on and Vince taps out. Apparently the pain causes him to wake up. The hold is released and Vince passes out again. That was pretty bad.

Rating: D+. This was a waste of time. It was two old guys fighting and trying to be hardcore and it failed miserably. The cut Flair had was decent but I still fail to see what the point of this was. Flair, a legendary wrestler, beat a non wrestler and that’s a big deal? This was just to say that Flair fought Vince and nothing more. This was pretty weak.

We see Jericho beating Rock at Vengeance to win the Undisputed Title, which is misleading because he beat Rock for the WCW title then Austin later on. To say Jericho was in over his head in this role is an understatement. Rock beat Booker to get his shot tonight. Jericho having a mental meltdown over Rock making fun of him is pretty good stuff.

Stephanie brags about what HHH is going to do to Austin tonight and what she would like to do to Debra, Austin’s wife. Austin comes up behind her and hilarity ensues. The WHAT chant could work really well if the timing was there.

WWF Title: Rock vs. Chris Jericho

Jericho still has both belts here which is kind of odd. They needed to just use the WWF one as it’s perfect looking as a title. The story was that HHH was supposed to be the champion first but since he wasn’t ready in time he got a Mania title win out of it and a new belt to go with it. No one bought Jericho as champion and I don’t think anyone ever has in any of his reigns. To be fair though, while he’s amazing on the mic as a heel, in the ring it just falls short.

No heel, especially one the size of Jericho, is going to be believable with a submission as his primary finishing move. It just doesn’t work. These two had been feuding over the WCW title for awhile before the Undisputed Title came into being. The promos of course were off the charts. That should be what this match is: a debate. It would have been more entertaining, which is saying a lot as the matches tended to be at least pretty good.

The beginning here is mainly feeling each other out which is fine. Jericho goes shoulder first into the post yet stays in control anyway. Well ok then. They’re starting slowly here. Not boring mind you but just slowly. That’s fine as it’s building to a big finish, which is that pesky little thing called psychology. Rock has his really short hair here which I’ve never liked at all. Jericho goes up but gets crotched as Rock hits the ropes. If nothing else that’s realistic so I’ll take it.

Ross says a pair of 2’s don’t beat anything. Any card player want to blast him there? The crowd is quite hot for this match which is always a good sign. Rock kicks out of two Lionsaults, as he brings the move back to life to kill its credibility even worse than it already was.

Rock hooks the really bad Sharpshooter while barely sitting back on it but Lance Storm and Christian, who were the UnAmericans soon after this with Jericho as an associate member soon after this, have the referee’s attention while Jericho taps. He gets out of it though and hits a Rock Bottom on the Rock for two. Jericho follows it up with the People’s Elbow as I’m just not buying him in the main event here.

He’s trying as hard as he can and the match is fine here, but he’s just in over his head I think. They hit the floor and Jericho takes a sweet looking Rock Bottom through the Spanish announce table. Finkel running away from the area is a great visual. Lawler for some reason tells Fink to put the table back together. The image of him as a carpenter with that perfect voice of his is very amusing for some reason.

After a Walls of Jericho doesn’t work (SHOCKED), the referee goes down so we get Nick Patrick, who has been very pro-Jericho recently. Rock gets a cover but Patrick won’t count. He gets a Rock Bottom and Jericho gets the elbow. With the referee still down, Jericho gets a low blow and a rollup with his feet on the ropes for the pin. Apparently Rock’s head hit an exposed turnbuckle too. That’s better I guess.

Rating: B+. While I didn’t really buy Jericho out there and there were some bad spots, this was a solid 20 minute match. It was designed to put Jericho over as a heel and I think it did that. The key thing was that there was at least a pin and not him keeping the belt by DQ or something. He cheated to get it, but that’s what a heel does. Rock was a bigger star so Jericho shouldn’t have gotten a clean pin so to me this was acceptable.

Jericho had it in the ring, but he didn’t feel like a world champion. Granted having to contend with the still incredibly popular Rock and Austin and the returning HHH and being more or less a guy to keep the belt warm for HHH, AND the NWO returning the next month, there was no way Jericho was going to get a fair shot at being seen as the top guy at the moment. This was good stuff though.

We get a long package about the Rumble which had been shown on TV a bunch of times in the weeks leading up to this.

Royal Rumble

Fink’s intro takes just shy of forever to get through. Rikishi is number one and Goldust is number 2. This is around the time that Rikishi was transitioning into something close to being a tough guy. Goldust is making a return here as apparently they were really hard up for talent or something. We’ve been going about 90 seconds here and I’m already bored out of my mind with this. They really couldn’t have picked a worse pair to start this out.

Three is Big Boss Man, who just won’t go away for some reason. This enforcer role never got over at all. He hits a clothesline on Rikishi and the fat guy does his inside out flip. Why is that impressive when we see it every time he gets hit by a clothesline? Bradshaw is fourth and this is just flat out horrible so far. The smallest guy in there is 6’6 and 260lbs. That might have something to do with it.

Stink face to Boss Man, which is still the dumbest move in history. Rikishi uses one of the two moves he was good at, a superkick, to set up the elimination of Boss Man. Bradshaw hits a powerbomb on Goldust to hopefully give him something resembling interest in him as Lance Storm is 5th. There is just nothing of note going on here. It’s just guys that you know aren’t going to win trying to throw each other out in something that’s never going to happen.

Snow brings the level of interest up to nonexistent at number 7. Storm takes a solid Clothesline. The fans aren’t that into this either so it’s not just me. Oddly enough, Snow gets the biggest reaction of anyone. Billy, currently being homosexual, is 8th. In a very cool sequence, Snow and Storm fight on the apron in a kind of karate match until Snow puts Storm out. That was a lot cooler than it sounded. Bradshaw is out too.

We have Billy, Goldust, Rikishi and Snow in there at the moment as Taker is 9th. He had been vowing to win the Rumble and he’s also recently heel. He puts out all four with relative ease. Typically I like that format, but there’s just pure apathy from me on this for some reason. Matt Hardy with a delicious looking Lita is next. Taker had beaten up the Hardys and Lita recently so there’s some story here.

Lita comes in also and manages to slow down Taker which is more than the worthless Matt can do. Say it with me: Jeff is 10th. He’s wearing a hat for no apparent reason. They get him down and then Lita comes in and they triple stomp him. Apparently the three of them had been fighting recently which I vaguely remember. They hit their double team move, and for the life of me I don’t get why Taker doesn’t know how to take the Twist of Fate.

He always sells it like a spinning neckbreaker and ends up on his back which is just completely wrong. Jeff gets thrown out and Matt gets a Last Ride before he’s out too. Eyebrows Huffman, more commonly known as Maven, is number 11. He had won Tough Enough maybe 4 months prior to this so he’s a complete rookie here. Lita gets up on the apron and the Hardys come back in.

They get tossed with ease, but as Taker is yelling at them, Maven gets back up and in easily the biggest upset in Rumble history, Maven hits a dropkick to the back of Taker to eliminate him. The reaction from the crowd and Ross and the look on Taker’s face are by far and away the best thing since 97 when Austin heard Hart’s music. I mean this was like Santino on his first night beating Umaga without Lashley’s help.

It was completely insane as Taker was one of the heavy favorites for this. Taker more or less loses any sense of emotion on his face but slowly turns to look at Maven. Just take a guess as to what starts happening next. Once the beating starts they go to the floor and Maven takes a freaking sick chair shot. Taker shoves a cameraman down and we get a shot of his legs flying into the air which is just amusing. Taker puts him back in the ring as Scotty comes in at number 12.

Taker punches him down, and this winds up keeping him down for about three minutes. Yeah one punch does that apparently. Taker throws Maven over the ropes and we go into the crowd where there just happens to be a space with no fans there. What a coincidence! They go up the stairs and into a concession area where Taker puts Maven through a popcorn machine. Christian is in at 13 somewhere during this time but we just see him in the ring.

Scotty is still down by the way. FINALLY he gets up and after the audience has had nothing to see for about 5 minutes we have the clash of Scotty vs. Christian. Maven is officially still in but they just say screw it. He got a world title match the next night that did nothing at all. DDP is 14th. He might be the worse use of a character that Vince has ever had. I mean he was a god in WCW and he’s a self help guy in the WWF. That’s Vince for you.

We see Maven again and if nothing else he sells quite well for a rookie. We get a Diamond Cutter on Christian and there goes Scotty after the Worm, which actually might be dumber than the Stink Face. Chuck is 15th as the jobber Rumble continues. I mean really why in the world should I care about this match in the slightest? Actually scratch that. I get why I should care about the match but there’s zero reason to care about any of the people in there.

Christian is European Champion which you need to know because typing it killed some time here. This whole show has been that way. The matches have been ok up to this point but GEEZ there is just nothing appealing about this match at all for me. To further the greatness here we have Godfather returning but no longer as a pimp. He now owns an escort service. Just take me now please.

He has 12 women with him and spends so much time dancing with them that not only do we miss DDP’s elimination but Albert, the Hip Hop Hippo at this point and I wish I was making that up, is being counted down for the 17th entrant as Godfather gets in the ring. Christian and Chuck put him out in about 30 seconds. Godfather goes out soon thereafter but not before we get that stupid as heck running splash.

Perry Saturn, completely insane at this point is 18th. His tights have a cow pattern on them. This really is mind numbingly boring at this point. No one cares about anything in this match for the most part either. THANK GOODNESS Austin is 19th to breathe some much needed life into this thing. He clears the ring before anyone else is in. In a funny moment he looks at an invisible watch and goes out and gets Christian and Chuck and throws them in to stun them and then throw them out again.

The crowd is awake for the first time in this whole match. Val Venis returns (it’s a theme thing tonight) and doesn’t look as good with short hair. His gimmick overshadowed his in ring ability as he was actually pretty good in the ring. The crowd is just insane for Austin here as we’re in the WHAT phase of his career. Part of the problem here is that there haven’t been a lot of people in the ring that aren’t jobbers.

The small amounts of people make it hard to really get anything going that feels like a good Rumble. Test is 21st. Geez did they ever miss the boat on him in 1999. He never got anywhere close to that level again either. Test misses a big boot on Austin and hits Venis so he’s gone. Test follows him about 30 seconds later so Austin is alone again and we have 9 entries to go.

22 is HHH and the reaction is good but not what JR wants us to believe. To make sure we don’t have a great showdown for two minutes or close to it because that would be, you know, interesting, HHH walks at an Undertaker pace. They really must have been trying to protect HHH here as they talk for a bit and they punch each other for ten seconds before the clock starts again and it’s Hurricane at 23.

He lasts about 30 seconds so at least we’ll get some Austin vs. HHH here. What are Hurricane’s powers supposed to be anyway? Have they ever been listed? Farrooq is 24th but instead of allowing him to start a ring full of people he’s out in less time than Hurricane. Mr. freaking Perfect is 25th which was a surprise I think. He would actually stick around for a few months after this. He was still relatively young here at 42, so it’s not like he was ancient.

For some reason we again are told that he made his Rumble debut in 93, which is just wrong as he was 4th in 89. Angle makes is in his first Rumble match at 26. For absolutely no apparent reason, Austin saves HHH just before Big Show comes in at 27. He’s wearing that one piece swimsuit that they claim was ring attire. They say he’s the biggest athlete in sports entertainment history which is so wrong I’m not even going to touch it.

Show and Austin never had that big match which I’m sure would have at least been pretty good. Angle is in a gorilla press but HHH makes the save, as Ross does the smart thing and says in essence that Angle would be useful in helping get rid of Show. Kane is 28th and I really want this thing to just end already. They do the completely clichéd double chokeslam spot that is just stupid at this point.

Kane does something impressive though by picking Show up and cleanly throwing him over the top in a slam. Angle puts Kane out less than a minute after he got in. Are we not allowed to have more than 5 people in a match for more than 30 seconds or something? RVD is 29th to a GREAT pop. He can’t be world champion though. He can just get great pops and put on great matches and look awesome, but he’s clearly not world title material.

He comes in with a Five Star on Angle. He gets an awesome RVD chant in his honor, but HHH’s pop killing sense kicks in and he hits a Pedigree to end that. We can’t have someone else getting over now can we? I didn’t think so. Let’s have no more of such crazy thoughts now. Booker is 30th, so your final group is Booker, RVD, Angle, Perfect, Austin and HHH. Well if nothing else the ending is star packed.

Why in the world would you get rid of Show and Kane that fast though? They pointed out how awesome Kane was last year so it’s not like that’s been forgotten. Booker eliminates Van Dam less than 10 seconds after he gets in and does a Spinarooni and is put out after being in the ring 30 seconds. Ok seriously, WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON??? Why in the world are these major stars going out in like a minute and a half each?

Austin breaks up a string of Germans with a WEAK low blow. I mean that was awful looking. This has to be a way to protect HHH or something. That’s the only way to explain the absurd booking of this thing. As Austin explains a spot to Perfect, Angle runs up and executes said spot by putting Austin out. To further protect HHH, everyone but him goes to the floor. That lasts all of four seconds, making it completely pointless.

Austin gets a chair and kills everyone not named HHH with it but then nails him anyway to make sure it’s a completely matched set. That was just a completely pointless bit as Austin just wasn’t a huge deal anymore. He should have fought Hogan at Mania though and there is zero arguing that, period. There’s no way anyone can convince me that Rock vs. Hogan was bigger than Austin vs. Hogan would have been.

Also, why in the world would you put Austin, the guy who main evented Mania the previous year, in a midcard throwaway match with SCOTT FREAKING HALL??? Perfect, the genius that he is, hooks the Perfectplex, which in this situation is a short suplex that doesn’t have a snap to it.

HHH puts him out so we’ve got Angle vs. HHH to finish us. And of course HHH Hulks Up and wins it to send us to the most lackluster main event of Mania in years because Hogan vs. should have been Austin was the real main event.

Rating: C-. The ending was the only appealing thing about this and even it was bad. Seriously, Booker, RVD, Show and Kane, four former world champions, were in the match a combined six and a half minutes, with about 90 seconds of that being walking to the ring. That’s just ridiculous on a ton of levels. It’s not like they would have been unrealistic in the ending or anything like that.

Last year’s was great, but there are three things here that messed this one up for me. First of all, it was pretty clear that HHH was going to win. I know there were legit alternatives in there at the end so that helped a lot, but it was still pretty clear. Second, the Iron Man last year was Kane at about 53 minutes. This year it was HHH at about 23. See the problem there? There’s no one that’s there for the entire Rumble to build up anything with.

Finally, unless I missed it, the longest amount of time there were six guys or more in there was about 45 seconds at the end. That’s just not enough to really get anything going. This was a bad Rumble in my eyes.

Overall Rating: B-. This is a quite good show. The women’s match is less than 4 minutes so the only bad match is a pizza break match. Still though, despite a solid card and a series of pretty good matches (while the Rumble was bad, it’s still watchable because it’s the Rumble and the ending is solid. I’m going to change that from a D+ actually.) there’s just something missing here.

It lacks the pop of 2000 and 2001, which may be because they knew WCW was on the run and that they could taste victory while here they have it. This show is good enough though as there may be some badly ranked matches, everything here is at least watchable. The street fight is fine for what it is I suppose and I could see some people liking it.

That sums this up well: I could see people liking it. I think part of it is not a lot of people watch these back to back so they have a lot of time between 2001 and 2002 to forget how awesome the previous two were. Anyway, this is a good but not great show that’s worth checking out, even though you won’t remember much of it a month later.

1 comment

  1. WWTNA says:

    Your right KB, this PPV was a real step down from 01’s Royal Rumble. They gave us some throw away matches but the only thing I enjoyed about this PPV was The Rock vs Chris Jericho and the Royal Rumble. This Ruble had no twits nor turns as we all knew Triple H was going to win. Nothing really special about this one tbh.