Thursday, January 24, 2019

Revisiting the 2004 Royal Rumble!

Just in time for 2019's festivities, we take a trip 15 years down memory lane to relive what many consider the single greatest Royal Rumble of all-time...


By: Jimbo X
JimboXAmerican@gmail.com
@JimboX
The Internet Is In America on Voat

I had a moment recently where I wondered if something that occurred in 2004 could truly be considered "nostalgic." Then I realized "wait, that was 15 years ago," which was the same chronological gap between all of the "retro" '80s shit websites like X-E were gushing over around the early 2000s. So yes, by all objective measurements, one can indeed consider relics from the year 2004 to be nostalgic ephemera — although personally, I still find it weird to consider the year John Kerry ran for president and NHL players refused to play to be "the good old days," by any stretch of the imagination.

While the sociopoliticial and pop cultural landscape may have been sheer shit back then, at least we could take refuge in the epoch's 'rasslin scene. Since this was before the YouTubes and the streaming applications (and really, before social media or smartphones), the 'E was still the only game in town if you wanted to catch wrestling on TV, and 2004 was certainly a banner year for the product. With Stone Cold and The Rock essentially finished wrestling and the embers of WCW and ECW long died out, the E found itself at an impasse; since nobody really gave a fuck about their two most heavily promoted stars — Triple H and this one guy named Brock Lesnar — the company decided to try something radically different. Instead of just putting their belts on whatever hotshot media creation they had in mind, the WWE upper brass actually decided to push their best technical wrestlers as the temporary faces of the company, which meant two long-term mid-carders ... Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero ... were finally getting their opportunities to be "the guys" for the first time in their careers. Of course, even back then we all knew this shit was merely for transitional purposes, as the WWE sieved its way through a plethora of promising up-and-comers until they found their real championship-caliber stars in John Cena and Batista. But for one year, at least, the E (perhaps begrudgingly) gave the marks what they wanted, and the men oft-considered the best North American wrestlers of their era were, at long last, getting a run with the gold.

Of course, we all know how that turned out. After getting the single greatest Wrestlemania moment of all time, within a year and a half's time one of the fan favorites would be dead and barely three years later, the other one would be dead plus a wife and child murderer. But at the time it certainly sounded like a swell idea, and the marks ... despite the dwindling TV numbers and downturn in PPV buys ... nonetheless rejoiced.

But enough waxing nostalgic on my part. How about we fire up this here old-ass DVD of the '04 Royal Rumble and relive the good old "toothless aggression" days, why don't we? Well, too bad, 'cause we're going to anyway.

We begin with this spooky vignette talking about how there's no certainty in life and how everything can change in one instance and your own family will betray you and stuff. "Tonight, fate will rear his head," a disembodied announcer tells us as the show formally begins. The pyro goes off and we are LIVE from the Wachovia Center in Philadelpia for the 17th running of the gay old Rumble. Our announcers are J.R., Jerry Lawler and Jonathan Coachman on the Raw side and Tazz and Michael Cole representing Smackdown. Oh, and there are these two fat Mexican dudes calling the PPV in Mexican. Fun fact: the Spanish term for "Triple H," apparently, is "Triple H."

That awful rappity version of the Dudley Boyz' music displaces the random-ass Puddle of Mudd opening theme and we watch the Coach get 3D'ed through a table on the go-home Raw replay. Cue fuckin' "EVOLUTION IS A MYSTERY" as the tag team champs Batista AND RIC FLAIR make their way ringside. Batista grabs a mic and says the word "ass" like twenty times and says the Dudley Boyz are the biggest losers since the Philadelphia Eagles and the brawl, it 'tis on. By the way, this is a tables match, so the only way to win is to ... well, you can figure it out. We start off with D'von and Ric and Batista runs in and flips the table out of the way before Flair can get 3-D'ed and Batista eats a swinging neckbreaker and gets dumped over the top rope by D'von. Flair chops Bubba Ray in the corner and Bubba slams Ric's head into the furniture and he tells hi to "suck this" and Batista clotheslines Bubba and he stomps on D'von because he's probably racist or something. So I guess this is also a tornado tag match, by default. D'von with a flying clothesline on D'von and Batista eats a tandem reverse neckbreaker. Flair makes D'von eat a spinning back elbow and he goes up top and of course Bubba Ray launches him off and the Coach tries to interfere and Batista just grabs D'von and slams him through the table like it's fucking nothing and this match is OVER. Well damn — that was a LOT shorter than I was expecting. Post-match, Coach tries to interview Ric Flair and Ric Flair says "Evolution forever," which is something you really wouldn't expect an evangelical Christian to say on live television, but whatever. Let's call that one a so-so [**] opener and keep moving forward, shall we?

This one announcer whose name I can't remember but looks like a femboy interviews heel John Cena, who is doing his rapping shtick and RVD walks into the frame and interrupts him and Cena says he's probably high on "Mary Jane" and requests he "suck his candy cane" because you could totally get away with that kind of shit before Obama was president. 

Up next, we've got Rey Mysterio defending the Cruiserweight Championship against Jamie Noble. Fuck, this guy is getting NO reaction whatsoever. Hey, remember that gimmick where Nidia was blinded by Tajiri and she had to walk with a cane and shit? Yeah, me neither. Anyway, both these guys go at it at a million miles an hour and we gets snapmares and back kicks and clotheslines galore from Noble. Chinlock time. Noble transitions to a seated abdominal stretch and Mysterio hits a dropkick and a spinning hurancanranna before landing a sweet-ass flapjack bulldog. Mysterio goes for a crossbody and Noble strikes him right in the gut with his knees. Noble goes for a Tiger Driver and his girlfriend accidentally trips him up. That allows Mysterio to hit the 619 and the springboard legdrop for an easy pinfall. Shit, that match was somehow even shorter than the opening tag! Well ... it was good while it lasted, I guess, although with its absurdly short duration, the absolute best I can afford it is a meager [**].

Yeah ... we really need to build that wall now, for sure.

Time for a commercial for that awful WWE Originals CD complete with a love ballad from Rikishi and a Mexican rap song by Rey Mysterio called "Crossing Borders." Well, fuck me. 

We get a quick video recap describing how Los Guerreros split up ... and would you believe it involves the fuckin' BASHAMS, of all people?

This audience is absolutely DEAD tonight, and considering this is emanating from Philadelphia, that's actually kinda' shocking. Anyway, Chavo comes out with his papa Chavo Sr. and this one dude in the crowd holds up a sign that reads "Battle of the Mexes" and we all laugh out loud at how fun wrestling was before liberals started watching it. Eddie, of course, comes out in his low-rider bean-mobile and he mean mugs Chavo like a motherfucker. Unfortunately, Eddie didn't bring his mullet with him, so that's an automatic star deduction right off the bat. Chavo slaps the taste out of Eddie's mouth and the crowd starts chanting "Eddie" and holy fuck, Nick Patrick is the referee and I had no idea he was STILL employed with the 'E this late into the '00s. Guerrero with a drop-toe-hold into a chinlock. Time for a tie-up in the corner, with Guerrero chopping the DOG SHIT out of his nephew. Chavo with a series of shoulder charges and Eddie flips him off. Time for a chop exchange and Eddie pokes Chavo in the eye with his thumb. I mark out for the guy selling cotton candy in the background — they still do that at 'rasslin shows these days? Guerrero working a reverse armbar and Chavo gets out of it by hurrancanranna-ing Eddie over the top rope. Chavo Sr. makes Eddie eat metal steps and Chavo Jr. starts stomping Eddie like a burlap sack o' dookie. Chavo lands a doule leg takedown and Eddie tries to get a straight armbar. When the fuck did this turn into a Battlarts match? Of course, Chavo makes it to the rope and he hits Eddie with a back body drop. Eddie kicks out at two. Chavo with the Three Amigos suplex chain, excep Eddie counters out on the third one. Guerrero with headbutts galore and then Eddie hits the "real" Three Amigos. Guerrero goes up top and he sticks the frog splash for the fairly anticlimactic three-count. Chavo eats a knuckle sandwich from Eddie after the bell sounds and he pops Chavo good a few times and then he ties Chavo Sr. to the bottom rope and Chavo Jr. juices as Eddie punches da fuq out of him in the corner. Well, if there's one thing I learned from all of this, it's this: kids, don't ever trust a Mexican. Again, it was good while it was going, but that shit was just WAY too short. Still, I reckon it's good enough for a [** 3/4] rating, so let's keep things chugging along, why don't we?

After a commercial for Mick Foley's Greatest Hits and Misses DVD, we get an interview with Chris Benoit, but he's interrupted by Ric Flair and the rest of Evolution. He chugs champagne, says Randy Orton's going to win the Rumble and tells Benoit he'll always be "second-best." I think that's called foreshadowing or something.

Now it's time for a flashback to when Brock Lesnar broke Hardcore Holly's neck back in 2002. Of course, they don't tell the audience that Holly had his neck broken BECAUSE he intentionally sandbagged on Brock to make him look bad and Lesnar just did what he could to maintain kayfabe. So yes ... fuckin' HARDCORE HOLLY once got a WWE World Heavyweight Championship shot on a PPV. In hindsight, it sure is weird seeing Brock coming to the ring without Paul Heyman, ain't it? So the hook here is that Holly has no intention of winning the match, he just wants to paralyze Brock Lesnar FOR REAL. Holly slams Lesnar into the metal post on the inside before the bell even sounds and he goes up top for a flying I-don't-even-know-what-the-fuck-he's-trying-to-do and Brock just rolls out of the way all casual-like. Believe it or not, I think Brock actually looked SMALLER 15 years ago then he does now. Holly gets suplexed and Brock slams him back first into the ring. Now Brock has Holly in a bearhug on the canvas, with a grapevine around his waist. Lesnar with a vicious Fisherman's Buster and he goes right back to the seated gutwrench. Now Brock has a standing bearhug locked in and Holly starts popping him with punches, only for Brock to send him flying with a release belly to back 'plex. Lesnar works a neck crank, and knowing Lesnar, he's probably doing it for real just to get back at that asshole. LOL at the guy in the crowd holding up  sign that reads "Cock Molestor." Yeah, you want be seeing THAT on modern day WWE TV. Holly takes Lesnar off his feet with a clothesline, a dropkick and he actually hits Lesnar with the Alabama Slam. Then he applies a full nelson, but Holly rolls to the outside with the submission still locked in. Holly goes for the full nelson again and Lesnar jacks his jaw on the top rope. Lesnar with a hip toss and an F-5 out of nowhere and yep, that's all she wrote. You know, I'll be honest with you — that was WAY better than I expected it to be. Hell, if it went on for another 5 minutes, it might even have been a LEGITIMATELY great (OK, more like really good) bout. But, as par the course, the condensed timeframe puts this one in the astonishingly solid [** 3/4] range.

I'll just let the lead singer's arrest record speak for itself here.

Hey, did you know "Nothing Left To Lose" by Puddle of Mudd is the official theme song of the 2004 Royal Rumble? Because it totally is. LOL at Tazz calling the song "extremely phat," because he doesn't know what to call it besides "pure dog shit."

We cut to Triple H and Shawn Michaels in the back. HHH is punching air and HBK is praying. And that's our cue for a video package highlighting the formation (and dissolution) of DX. Might want to warm up some Hot Pockets, folks ... this retrospective is going to take a while, no doubt. So anyway, this is a "last man standing" match, so the only way to win is to knock a motherfucker out and make sure he stays out for at least ten seconds. But I think you have to pin him first, so it's actually more like 13 seconds, if we're being sticklers for accuracy. It's a Triple H match, so naturally, it takes him about five minutes to make it to the ring. Your standard collar and elbow tie-up to begin. They exchange blows (but not the homosexual kind) and Triple H finally secures a headlock takedown. HBK retliates with more chops and HHH hits that jumping kneebreaker facebuster thingy. Man, that shit reminds me of No Mercy on the N64, straight up. HHH with an Irish whip into the corner and a follow-up backbreaker. You know, because HBK's back is all hurt and shit? HBK with a dragon scrw leg whip and he locks in a figure four. I love how JR takes the time to shamelessly shill the new Ric Flair DVD as soon as Micheals applies it. The King implies HBK is targetting HHH's ACL, but he won't come out and say it, even though that would REALLY help with the "story-telling" of the match. HHH struggles to get back to his feet and HBK dropkicks his knee. Then the ref starts counting. HHH gets up around 4, and then he pulls down the top rope so HBK sails to the arena floor on an ill-advised crossbody attempt. HHH starts knocking monitors off the Spanish announce table, so you know what that means. Now he's fucking up the Smackdown table. HHH goes for a suplex, but HBK punches him off the table. The crowd boos, because they wanted to see some furniture explode. Shit, it IS Philadelphia after all. Back in the ring and HHH goes for a pedigree, only to get back-dropped over the top rope. HBK goes for a springboard crossbody, but HHH ducks so Michaels flies straight through the Mexican table. Oh, and he's bleeding like a motherfucker, too. Back in the ring and HHH is punching HBK in the face so his gory forehead gets even bloodier. Eww, nasty. Michaels is in full crimson mask mode now. HHH drops HBK with a series of punches but Micheals beats the count at nine. "STAY DOWN, SHAWN," Triple H yells. Now we got a slugfest on our hands. HHH with a spinebuster, and that starts a new 10-count. OK, so apparently you DON'T have to pin a motherfucker no more in a Last Man Standing match to facilitate the ten-count. Well, that's an improvement, if you ask me. HHH drops HBK with a punch again and grabs a chair. He clobbers Michaels right on the back and the ref starts a countin'. HBK is back up at nine. HHH signals for a pedigree on that aforementioned chair, but HBK reverses it and slingshots Triple H into the ringpost. Michaels grabs the chair and conks HHH real good with it. HHH is back to his feet, and HBK drops him with a flying forearm. Both men are splayed out on the canvas, so that means we're getting a double count. Michaels kips up and hits HHH with an inverted atomic drop, which JR says will really "scramble your eggs." Well, I guess that makes sense, if he's talking about ovaries. Michaels goes up top and he connects on the flying elbow drop. Michaels gearing up for some Sweet Chin Music. Triple H counters it, rather brilliantly, by punching HBK right in the cock. Now both men are exchaning fists again. Michaels with a sleeperhold. There's fucking blood everywhere and it's just fantastic. Triple H with a desperation DDT. HBK does the patented HBK retard flop in the corner and Michaels kinda Samoan drops Triple H off the top rope. HHH FINALLY hits the pedigree, but he's too tired to make the pinfall. Oh wait, he doesn't have to pin him. I forgot. Well, HBK gets up at nine and he immediately drops HHH with Sweet Chin Music and both men flop to the canvas and ... you guessed it ... we have ourselves a DOUBLE TEN COUNT finish. That means HHH retains and the fans boo the shit out of such chicanery. Post-match, each men get stretchered to the back, except Michaels, who gets up and says "fuck that, I'll walk my damn self" and then the refs carry him up the rampway. Well, that was a fun little bloodbath — alas, the non-finish was so eggregious that I have to deduct at least a quarter star from the final rating. Let's call it a still solid [*** 3/4] outing, though, as we segue to our REAL main event of the evening.

Jim Ross and Tazz will be calling the Rumble. All of a sudden, Eric Bischoff comes out and says a Raw representative will end up winning the whole she-bang, and this brings out Paul Heyman ... take a wild guess what the fans chant when he comes out? Heyman tosses Bischoff the phone, then they start scufflinf and then STONE COLD comes out on a four-wheeler and Heyman says "don't stun me, I'll drink beer with you." So Eric B gets a Stunner, and Heyman gets a Stunner, because "anti-Semitism," probably. So the biggest WWE star of all-time comes out and dismantles the iconic figureheads of WCW and ECW ... yep, that's probably symbolic or something. Backstage, Terri Runnels interviews Bill Goldberg, then Brock Lesnar comes in and interrupts it and Goldberg says he's going to smash everyone in the Rumble and he scares Brock by saying Hardcore Holly is behind him and then he walks away. Well, that was ... fairly anticlimactic, actually. Tazz outlines his "keys to victory," and that's our cue for entrant No. 1 to enter the fray, and what do you know, it's Chris Benoit. Entrant No. 2 is Randy Orton, who at this time was the Intercontinental Champion. They grapple in the corner for a bit and Benoit stomps him like a bag of dookie. Benoit with a snap suplex and Orton fires back with some European uppercuts. Here comes entrant No. 3, Mark Henry, who is accompanied to the ring by Teddy Long. Also ... Mark Henry is fat. But he's a very special kind of fat, what we like to call strong-fat, so that makes him dangerous as a motherfucker in the Rumble. Entrant No. 4 is Tajiri. "Can you imagine if Tajiri won this thing?" Tazz says, to which J.R. responds "That would be big all over the country, especially Japan." Uhhh ... the fuck you talking about, J.R. Benoit hits a trio of German suplexes on the Jap and Mark Henry attempts to eliminate Orton. Entrant No. 5 is Bradshaw, and he clotheslines the fuck out of everybody in the ring except Benoit, who counters the Clothesline From Hell with a crossface. Bradshaw tries to dump Benoit over the top, but the cagey Canadian holds onto the rope and sends Bradshaw to the floor below, giving us our first official elimination of the night. Entrant No. 6 is Rhyno. He makes a bee-line for Benoit and Orton, while Tajiri leg kicks the fuck out of Henry. Tajiri tries to lock the Tarantula on Henry and Rhyno gores Mark, thus sending Tajiri to the floor below. Then Benoit shoulder charges Henry out of the ring — apparently, Tajiri misted him and the camera totally missed it. Entrant No. 7 is Matt Hardy. Rhyno eats a Side Effect and Benoit tries to dump Matt, but is unsuccessful. Entrant No. 8 is SCOTT STEINER. He gives everybody short-arm clothelines and Benoit receives a T-bone suplex. Benoit gives Steiner two Germans and entrant No. 9, Matt Morgan, enters the fray. He powerbombs the fuck out of Benoit and big boots Hardy out of his shoes. Hey, remember when wrestlers were actually taller than 5'10? Pepperidge Farm remembers. Speaking of manlets, entrant No. 10 is Hurricane Helms. He pokes Matt Morgan in the eyes and Morgan just gorilla slams that honky nigga over the top rope. Entrant 11 is Booker T, and Tazz tells the audience how much he likes that Spoonaronnie of his. Of course, he starts fighting with Scott Steiner, because I guess that's just inherited WCW reflex or something. Man, Matt Morgan just plain had "the look" of a star pro wrestler ... how'd he fuck things up again? Entrant, what is it, 12? Anyway, it's Kane. Steiner is eliminated by Booker T, but of course the camera misses it. Kane and Mat Morgan immediately start scuffling and Kane choke slams him. Kane with a sidewalks slam on Matt Hardy, a big boot for Rhyno and Orton gets choke slammed like a motherfucker. Entrant No. 13 is THE UNDERTAKER. Well, actually, it's just The Undertaker's "gong," which allows Booker T to easily eliminate him. The "real" entrant No. 13 is Spike Dudley, who gets choke slammed by Kane on his way down to the ring. Entrant No. 14 is Rikishi. Benoit eliminates Rhyno and Matt Morgan gets stink-faced in the corner. Entrant No. 15 is Rene Dupree, or as Tazz calls him, "that French guy." He dropkicks Mat Hardy out of the contest and Tazz keeps confusing him for Rob Conway. Rikishi kicks Dupree out of the ring and we officially make it to the halfway point of the Rumble with the arrival of entrant No. 16, the A-Train ... or, as he was once known, just plain Albert.

Mick Foley is an avowed Democrat ... which, yeah, probably explains why he's so eager to lose to everybody.

Benoit eliminates Morgan and everybody gangs up on Albert. Orton eliminates Rikishi, and then he dumps Booker over the top rope. Entrant No. 17 is Shelton Benjamin. Benoit eliminates A-Train and Shelton screams "come on, you sonofabitch" and Orton tosses him over the top rope. So it's down to Benoit and Orton again, about 26 minutes into the affair. They run into each other and bump their noggins as entrant No. 18 makes his way down to the ring ... ERNEST "THE CAT" MILLER. He busts a move while Benoit and Orton remain splayed out on the canvas. Of course, Orton and Benoit get back up and quickly eliminate Ernest's goofy ass. Entrant No. 19 is KURT ANGLE, who dedicated this Rumble outing to the troops in Iraq, per Tazz. Benoit and Angle go at it right away, while Orton takes a breather in the corner. Entrant No. 20 is Rico. Yep, Chuck and Billy's hairdresser. Meanwhile, I'm distracted by this one guy in the crowd bopping everybody with a giant inflatible sledgehammer. Orton RKO's Rico and Benoit suplexes DAFUQ out of Angle. Orton eliminates Rico and entrant No. 21 is TEST. "Is he invisible now?" Tazz says when nobody emerges from the entrance ramp. Apparently, Test got laid out backstage, so we've got a substitution ... MICK FOLEY. He immediately gets into it with Orton and he eliminates himself and Randy with a fat as fuck clothesline. Foley continues to beat the shit out of Orton on the outside while the camera totally misses Benoit and Angle scrapping in the middle of the ring. Foley chokes Orton with a camera cable is entrant No. 22, Christian, makes his way to the ring sans any sort of reaction whatsoever. Orton grabs a steel chair and he positively CLOBBERS Foley with it. LOL, the cameramen don't even give a shit about what's happening in the ring as Foley threatens to apply the Mandible Claw to Orton. Entrant No. 23, Nunzio, shows up and gets the Claw, and Orton uses the opportunity to kick Foley right in his Cactus Sack. Apparently, Nunzio has already been eliminated and they don't even both showing the replay. Angle Germans the fuck out of Christian and Benoit, and Tazz reminds us that Nunio actually has not OFFICIALLY entered the Rumble yet. Entrant No. 24 is The Big Show. He heabutts Angle and chops Christian like a bitch in the corner. Entrant No. 25 is Chris Jericho, who makes a bee line for Kurt Angle. I love how Tazz describes Big Show's head as "typewriter-like." Everybody gangs up on the Big Show but they can't get him over the top rope. Entrant No. 26 is Charlie Haas, who gets double teamed by Chris Jericho and Christian. Remember: Nunzio is STILL technically in this one. Jericho eliminates Christian as entrant no. 27 — Mr. Ass Billy Gunn — makes his triumphant return. Angle and Jericho each eat Fame-Assers, as does the Big Show. Does Nunzio remind anybody of Lazlo from that old Saved By the Bell rip-off USA High? Because he totally does me. Entrant No. 28 is some guy named John Cena ... I wonder what he's up to these days? Nunzio tries to hide, but ironically, Cena actually CAN see him and throws him into the ring. Nunzio tries to eliminate the Big Show and ... it goes about as well as you'd imagine. Entrant no. 29 is ROB VAN DAM. He kicks a whole buncha' people and Cena drops Angle with the F-U. And entrant no. 30, of course, is Bill Goldberg. He spears Big Show and Mr. Ass, poweslams Haas and ... almost gets choked out by Nunzio? Haas gets eliminated and Goldberg spears THE FUCK out of Nunzio. Billy Gunn gets eliminated by Goldberg, then he gorilla press slams Nunzio out of contention. Goldberg tries to Jackhammer the Big Show, but Brock Lesnar comes out and F-5s Billy ... which, naturally, allows Angle an easy opportunity to eliminate him. So we're down to the final six, it appears. Everybody gangs up on The Big Show again but it don't go any better this time than it did the first. Jericho with a Lionsault on Big Show, and RVD hits him with a Five Star Frog Splash. Then Benoit hits him with a flying headbutt, just 'cause. Then everybody tries to pick up Big Show's carcass again. He eliminates John Cena and tosses RVD out of the Rumble in an ill-advised monkey flip. Jericho skins the cat and hits Big Show with a top rope bulldog. And there's Jericho with the Walls of Jericho. Big Show choke slams Jericho out of the ring, so it makes it him, Benoit and Angle remaining. Show drops Angle with a sidewalk slam and he choke slams Benoit. Angle tries to German Big Show and Big Show LITERALLY knocks him down the power of his sphincter muscles. Angle hits Benoit and Big Show with back-to-back Angle Slams and he asks the fans who deserves the Angle Lock more. Big Show is the clear cut winner. LOL when Big Show audibly screams "SHIT!" on camera. The Big Show almost goes over the top, but his leg muscles send Angle reeling over the top. Which makes this one a showdown between The Big Show and Chris Benoit. Benoit hits a flying headbutt on Big Show, but Show accientally tumbles back INTO the ring instead of out of it. Whoops. That makes it one hour in the Rumble for Benoit. Show goes for the Choke Slam, and Benoit counters it into the Crossface. Big Show escapes from the hold via a sidewalk slam. Show has Benoit lifted above his head in the gorilla press slam position and Benoit counters it with a guillotine. He has Big Show on the ropes ... and HE'S GOT HIM ELIMINATED. Your winner of the 2004, Royal Rumble, CHRIS FUCKIN' BENOIT.

The good old days — back when Benoit was only known for figuratively choking.

Well, it's pretty hard to objectively rate Rumbles as "real" pro-wrestling bouts, so to speak, but there's been so damn many of them by now that its nonetheless possible to distinguish the elements that make a good one (i.e., 2001 and 1992) from a shitty one (1999, 2006, 2009, 2010 ... take your pick.) With that in mind, I'd feel comfortable considering this Rumble one of the better ones, and a worthy [****]-caliber outing the whole way through. While it was fairly devoid of surprises, the play-off between Benoit and Orton definitely gave it some heightened melodrama, and the last 10 minutes was pretty damn harrowing. The Benoit/Big Show donnybrook at the end was just fantastic, so good that you kinda' wonder why they never let these two fuckers go at it one-on-one in a real PPV-level match, 'cause they certainly had the chemistry to make it a memorable one.

Beyond that, though, it's a pretty ho-hum show. The HBK/HHH match was good, although that cruddy non-finish was inexcusable. The Guerrero vs. Guerrero match was good (but too short) and I'll be shocked shitless that the Lesnar/Holly match wasn't a debacle (indeed, had it been given a full 10 or 15 minutes, it actually could've been a legitimately outstanding match.) The first two bouts were basically just glorified, throwaway TV matches, so you could probably just fast forward through the whole first half hour and not miss much of nothing.

All in all, I'd argue that the 2004 incarnation of the Rumble is worth catching at least once, if only to see Benoit's impressive iron man performance throughout. Granted, the undercard leaves a LOT to be desired, but the main attraction more than delivers. 

And needless to say — it beats the living dogshit out of just about every Rumble we've had this decade, and by a considerable margin, to boot.

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