Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Revisiting the 2001 WWF Royal Rumble!

Fond recollections of quite possibly the greatest Royal Rumble PPV the WWE has ever produced (and that it's the only one featuring Drew Carey, I assure you, is merely a coincidence.)

By: Jimbo X

Overall, I feel that the Attitude Era was vastly overrated. What you had there was sort of an inverted bell curve, where the beginning and ends in 1997 and 2001 were fucking outstanding, but everything in between is just various shades of shit. Go ahead, I dare you to rewatch WrestleMania 14 or the 1999 iteration of SummerSlam and then tell me that stuff still holds up.

In the grand scheme of things, just about everybody can agree that WrestleMania X-7 in 2001 represented the "end" of the Attitude Era. Which I suppose makes that year's Royal Rumble sort of the penultimate gasp of the most lucrative boom period in pro wrestling history, and thus, a significant event very much worth revisiting and deconstructing.

I've written about the inherent greatness of the Royal Rumble format at least twice now, so I'm not going to extol the basic joys of watching fat dudes and guys on steroids pretending to struggle to throw one another over the top rope like discarded potato sacks yet again. Simply put, even on off years the Royal Rumble is usually one of the more entertaining wrestling shows of the year, and even if the rest of the card is crap, the feature attraction very rarely disappoints.

And there's very good reason to at least consider the '01 festivities to be among the best Rumbles ever - if not the absolute best ever. But don't take it from me - how about we pop in this old ass DVD and re-experience the event together?

We open with an overly dramatic sepia tone intro. The announcer keeps talking about wrestlers having their only chance to compete for the world title tonight while split second flashes of The Goodfather, Hardcore Holly and Test pop up onscreen. Boy, talk about instant nostalgia.

We are coming to you LIVE from somewhere in New Orleans. Hey, remember when WWF New York was a thing? Wow, you are old as fuck if you do. 

J.R. and Jerry Lawler are doing commentary duties. The Dudley Boyz are jerking this curtain wide open. They'll be challenging Edge and Christian for the WWF Tag Team titles. Apparently, E&C Pearl Harbored D'Von and Buh-Buh Ray on Raw and Smackdown, so naturally, they HAVE to settle their differences in the ring TONIGHT.

We get some frenzied brawling to begin. Christian eats a double shoulder tackle while Lawler makes jokes about the Dudleys NOT knowing they have concussions. Holy shit, that SO wouldn't fly today. Edge gets tagged in and D'Von power slams him. Christian clubs him on the back of the head when he flies off the ropes. Edge with a suplex. Christian gets tagged in and he hits a Russian leg sweep. Edge chokes D'Von in the corner while the ref is distracted. Edge with a snapmare, then he starts wrenching the arm. Edge applies a sleeperhold. Edge hits a neckbreaker, but he only gets a two count. The crowd, of course, cries for SOMEBODY to break out the wooden furniture. Christian is tagged in. He gets a few stomps in and Edge gets the tag. D'Von slingshots Edge into Christian, who is sitting on the top rope. A double clothesline facilitates our "hot tag" sequence. Of course, the ref doesn't see Buh-Buh get tagged in and E&C bring in some chairs behind the official's back. They go for the Con-CHAIR-To, but D'Von ducks and they smack each other. THEN Buh Buh gets the hot tag and he starts slammin' the shit out of EVERYBODY. D'von headbutts Edge in the testicles and then the Dudleys start hunting for some lumber. Buh-Buh goes for a schoolboy, but Edge kicks out. The Dudleys go for the 3D, but Edge spears Buh-Buh. He only gets a two-count out of it. Then E&C mock the Dudley Boyz' patented headbutt to the balls maneuver, but Buh-Buh counters it so Christian face-balls his own kayfabe brother. This allows the Dudleys to hit the 3D on Christian and, naturally, score the pinfall to win the titles.

Eh, not a fantastic match by any stretch, but for a 10-minute opening attraction, it wasn't too bad. [** 3/4]. Oh, and unlike a certain Wrestling Observer, you'll be happy to know that MY star ratings aren't just arbitrary designations - I've got a rubric and everything, and you can take a nice long gander at it right here.

We watch Drew Carey enter the arena. You'll see why in just a minute. In the back, Triple H - who is so absurdly jacked on 'roids it's hilarious - talks about how much he hates Trish Stratus in front of Stephanie McMahon. And holy shit, Drew Carey walks in and tells Triple H about seeing Kamala at the airport. He plugs his upcoming improv PPV and asks if he can see Vince McMahon. Meanwhile, the A.P.A. drink beer and play cards in the boiler room. Then Crash Holly shows up out of the blue and says he'll throw 'em out of the Rumble even if they are friends. Well, that was awkward.

Time for a video package recapping the Chris Benoit/Chris Jericho rivalry. Their impending Intercontinental title bout will be contested as a ladder match.

The next time a household appliance put a hurtin' this bad on Chris Benoit, BowFlex got a fuck ton of unwanted publicity.

They start tradin' blows as soon as they get into the ring. Jericho with running forearm smashes early and chops and kicks in the corner. Benoit looks for the Crossface and Jericho counters with a Walls of Jericho attempt. Benoit worms his way out and he throws Jericho head first into the ring post. Benoit with a shoulder breaker. Jericho comes off the ropes with another elbow smash. Benoit pulls down the top rope so Jericho crashes and burns on a plancha attempt. Benoit slings Jericho into the metal post and grabs a ladder. Jericho tries to do a baseball slide into the ladder, but Benoit effortlessly rolls out of the way, grabs Jericho and lawn darts him into the metal steps. Benoit situates the ladder in the middle of the ring, and Jericho pursues. He gives him a reverse Electric Chair Drop and starts chopping him in the corners. He picks up the ladder and battering rams Benoit right in the kisser. More Jericho chops. He spears Benoit in the corner with the ladder, then he sets it atop the adjacent ring post. Benoit reverse an Irish whip and sends Jericho into Chekov's ladder teeth first. Then Benoit goes for a plancha but Jericho hits a home run shot with a chair as soon as Benoit comes flying at him. Man, it gets all kinds of eerie when Jim Ross calls the spot "a suicide dive." Jericho drops Benoit gut first over the ringside barrier. Then he pushes the ladder towards the barrier, but Benoit rolls out of the way. Benoit grabs it and smacks Jericho right in the schnoz. 

Then he grabs a chair and slaps him with it a few times. Benoit grabs the ladder and sets it up in the corner. He lawn darts Jericho into it again. He goes for it again, but Jericho slips out and throws Benoit into the ladder face first. Jericho crotches Benoit on the ladder and pulls it down, so both men land on their backs. Lawler makes a joke about the ladder hitting Benoit in the balls so he can't have any more "little Wolverines" in the future. Benoit drop kicks the ladder into Jericho's face. Benoit with a high angle suplex. Jericho reverses an Irish whip and Benoit runs teeth first into the ladder again. Jericho does this AWESOME spot where he puts the ladder over the top rope, then he leapfrogs over the rope and flips the ladder right into Benoit's face. He uses the ladder to land a missile dropkick, and he starts climbing towards the belt. Benoit grabs Jericho and back body drops him over the ropes. Benoit starts climbing towards the championship belt. Jericho gets kicked off, but he climbs right back up and hooks in a modified version of the Walls of Jericho with Benoit's back torquing over the ladder. That's definitely one of my favorite spots from ANY WWF match right there. 

Jericho shucks him off the ladder like a sack of potatoes, but then Benoit kicks the ladder out from underneath him and he crash lands against the ropes. Benoit gets battering rammed again and Jericho sets up the ladder. Benoit locks in the Crossface. Of course, you can't win by submission, so Benoit's just doing it to torture the motherfucker. Benoit runs Jericho into the turnbuckle shoulder first, then Jericho catapults Benoit into the ladder. Jericho pins Benoit between the ring post and the ladder. Jericho gets punched off and Benoit goes for the flying headbutt. Jericho, of course, rolls out of the way at the very last second. Then Jericho pins Benoit underneath the ladder and starts climbing. Benoit flails his arms for a bit and then he shucks the ladder - and Jericho - over the top rope. Benoit starts climbing again and Jericho retrieves another ladder. Jericho smacks him with the metal climbing aide a few times and dumps Benoit over the top rope. Jericho starts climbing for the belt. And he gets it.

I remember thinking that was one of the best matches ever back in the day, and thankfully, age hasn't tarnished this one a bit. In fact, I reckon it's STILL my all-time favorite ladder match and easily one of the absolute best matches of the Attitude Era. This is an absolute must see match, and it's WELL worth going out of your way to watch it. [**** 3/4]

Yeah - this was pretty much her default facial expression from 2005 onward.

Drew Carey is talking to Trish Stratus in the back. Vince McMahon walks in and Drew calls him "the king of PPV." Drew asks him for some advice on promoting his improv PPV. And Vince floats up the idea of putting Drew in the Royal Rumble match. Elsewhere, Chyna and Billy Gunn are bickering about whether or not she's medically able to compete tonight. 

We cut to Michael Cole interviewing Chris Jericho in the back. He calls Benoit a "tough bastard" and says he finally proved his foe wrong. Get it, because that was Benoit's catchphrase for a while?

We get a video package detailing how Chyna had her neck broken by Bull Buchanan, so of course, she wants to take out her frustrations on Ivory. Who is in the Right to Censor, the same group Bull was a part of. 

Goddamn, I forgot how annoying the Right To Censor theme was. It's basically dueling car alarms. And here comes Chyna, wth her giant penis-shaped fireworks shooter. You know, her theme music always confused me. OK, if she doesn't want anybody to treat her like a man or a woman, what DOES she want people to treat her like? Anyhoo, Chyna makes a bee line to Ivory and ragdolls that ho all over the ring. We've got a snapmare off the top rope, elbow shots in the corner, and plenty of mudhole stompin'. Also, LOL at all of these superfluous references to the XFL, which was still a thing when this event happened. Time for some crowd brawling. Chyna gorilla press slams her over the barricade and Jerry asks Chyna to drop Ivory on "her ugly face." Chyna slams Ivory like a sack of flour and then she pulls Stevie Richards into the ring. LOL at Jim Ross making fun of his white socks. Chyna does a handspring elbow smash and then she starts acting like she has a pinched nerve in her neck. Ivory capitalizes on her foe apparently having a stinger and makes an opportunistic pinfall. Lawler climbs in the ring and asks the ref to get the EMTs. For whatever reason, Billy Gunn gets a mild pop when he rushes to her rescue. Here come the paramedics to suit her up for a cervical collar. Of course, it's all set-up for the big WM blowoff bout. As a stand-alone match it was pretty much a glorified squash with a lame, sports-entertainmenty non-finish that only served to whet our appetites for a "revenge" match ... which nobody wanted to see in the first place. [* 1/2]

In the makeup room, Stephanie McMahon and Trish Stratus jaw at each other because Stephanie doesn't like Trish getting close to her man or some shit. Meanwhile, Drew Carey receives his wrestling gear in the back and runs afoul of Kane, whom he calls "a goofy guy in a mask." And speaking of things you haven't thought of in 18 years, there's a great segment where Vince has to tell D'lo Brown and Chaz (yep, of Lo Down fame) that neither one of them will be competing in the Royal Rumble so Drew Carey can take their place.

Let's go to WWF New York, where fans are asked who they think will win tonight's championship bout between Kurt Angle and Triple H. And yep, these people look Pre-9/11-tastic. We cut to the back and Triple H is mean mugging in front of a miror. Time for a video recap of the Triple H/Kurt Angle rivalry. Which, yeah, is mostly about Stephanie being mad that Trish is trying to bone her daddy. Man, this shit really was soap operatic back in the day.

Still a better champion than Roman Reigns, though.

By the way, Kurt Angle has Trish Stratus in his corner for his title defense against Triple H. Trips with a bunch of arm wrenches to begin, and Angle flips around and counters it. He lands a pseudo-amateur wrestling takedown, a hip toss and then he dumps HHH over the top rope. Loud "Angle sucks" chants pop up. Back in the ring, and Angle goes back to wringing the arm. Triple H with a knee to the chest, but Angle counters with a series of snap suplexes. Time for some brawling down the entrance ramp. HHH launches Angle into the barricade several times, then drops him face first on the barrier. Angle eats metal step  then he staggers HHH with a couple of stiff shots before HHH trips him up and twists his foe's ankle with an Indian death lock. Triple H with a dragon screw leg whip. Angle totally whiffs on the enziguri, but HHH sells it anyway. OMG, I can't believe Jim Ross just BURIED Man on the Moon, the Andy Kaufman biopic he and Lawler both starred in. He called it a movie "eight people saw." 

Anyway, Angle dumps HHH to the outside, then he kicks Trips in the face while he tries to slam his leg against the metal ring rope. Angle slams Triple H into the metal steps, then makes him eat canvas. Lawler says something about George W. hanging out with Kurt Angle at his inauguration and then Triple H whacks Angle with a chair while Stephanie distracts the ref. Back in the ring, and Triple H sinks Angle with several chop blocks. Now Triple H is elbow dropping Angle's knee. Triple H locks in what Jim Ross calls "a Native American Death Lock." Triple H hits that jumping knee face buster thing, but he only gets a two count. Trips keeps working Angle's left knee. Huh - who said Attitude Era 'rasslin was devoid of sound psychology? HHH locks in the figure four, but nobody in the crowd screams "Woo" because there were noticeably fewer assholes alive back in 2001. Ross says the figure four puts pressure on seven different pressure points in the human leg. Then Stephanie and Trish start duking it out on the Spanish announce table, and here comes Vince to play peacemaker. Eventually, Vince sacks Trish over his shoulder and simply drags her back to the locker room. Trips goes for the figure four again, but Kurt reverses it into a small package, but he only gets a two count. Angle lands a DDT. Just a two. Kurt hits a Manhattan Drop, then a German suplex. Again, just a two. Kurt with a side Russian leg sweep, then he goes up top. HHH crotches him and hits him with a top rope Razor's Edge. It can only net a two. 

Triple H sets up the Pedigree, but Angle snakes out. Triple H pushes Kurt into the ring ropes, and he falls face first on HHH's balls. Then Angle goes up top and hits a BEAUTIFUL moonsault, but apparently Triple H kinda-sorta-but-not-really got his knees up on the landing. Triple H tosses Angle over the top rope and HHH accidentally clobbers the ref. Angle eats ringpost and Trips throws him back into the ring. HHH goes up top and Angle hits the first top rope Japanese arm drag I've ever seen in my life. HHH throws Angle
into the metal steps again and he squashes ref Earl Hebner in the process. HHH grabs the belt and Angle hits a sweet belly to belly suplex. Angle picks up the strap but Triple H hits him with the pedigree before he can clock him. But of course, there's no ref, so it's all for naught. Trips tries to revive the ref, but here comes Stone Cold to beat the dog shit out of Triple H. He clobbers him with the belt, then Austin tosses the ref back into the ring. You see, Stone Cold is getting revenge for Triple H costing HIM the championship on the 2001 New Year's Day episode of Raw. See, I remember that vividly because I was sick as shit the next day and puked all over the school bus. Anyhoo, Stone Cold hits Triple H with the Stunner and, ever the opportunist, Angle makes the cover on Trips for the W. 

OK, that was WAY better than I remember. The sports-entertainment bullshit was weaved perfectly around the actual matwork, and everything just fucking clicked. Great in-ring action, great booking and a tremendous ending - this is a hell of a little 'rasslin match right here. [****]

Hey, isn't that that Faith No More looking guy from all those ECW shows sitting behind J.R. and The King? In the back, Kevin Kelly interviews The Rock, who says this year's Rumble is like a pot of jumbalaya and insinuates The Undertaker tickles Kane's "big red nipple." He also name drops "Perry Saturn," which yeah, is all kinds of weird, even in context.

Alright, time for the Rumble match itself. And if you don't know how this shit works by now, I just can't help you. For you Johnny-Come-Latelies, Howard Finkel is here to explain the ground rules of the match. Entrant No. 1 is Jeff Hardy, wearing a mesh hairnet for a shirt. Entrant No. 2 is Bull Buchanan. Bull ragdolls Jeff early and Hardy lands a tilt-a-whirl headscissors takedown. Buchanan feigns eliminating Jeff with a gorilla press slam, but Jeff sneaks his way out of the predicament. And entrant No. 3 is ... Matt Hardy. Of course, he and his brother tag team on Bull, hitting all of the usual double team moves before double clotheslining Bull over the top rope. Then Jeff and Matt shake hands and start doing some friendly scuffling. Matt hits Jeff with a back suplex, then Jeff hits him with that sitout jawjacker thingy. Entrant No. 4 is Farooq. You know, Ron Simmons. He double clothelines the Hardys and starts beating the shit out of Matt. Farooq goes for the Dominator, but Matt counters it into the Twist of Fate, then Jeff hits him with a Swanton.

It's either a grainy JPEG of Kane breaking a guitar over the Honkytonk Man's skull or the most abstract Magic Eye painting ever.

They dump Farooq over the top rope, and then Matt tries to cheap shot eliminate his brother. So they take their shirts off, the girls in the crowd cheer and entrant No. 5 - Drew Carey - makes his way down to the ring while wearing a track suit. Jim Ross calls him one of Hollywood's biggest stars, which even THEN was a bold-faced lie. The fans are actually cheering for Drew, and Lawler asks him to do a hurrancanranna and to take his glasses off because he's not a Dudley. Meanwhile, the Hardys accidentally eliminate one another, leaving Drew as the only man left in the ring. And entrant No. 6 is Kane. Lawler creams his pants thinking about all the publicity Entertainment Tonight and the E! Network will give them, while Jim Ross says Drew is "sweating Crisco" and hopes he has good insurance with the Screen Actors Guild (kind of a ballsy thing to say, seeing as how the WWE STILL doesn't give its employees insurance.) 

Kane ALMOST eliminates Drew, but entrant No. 7 - Raven - whacks Kane with a Kendo stick, allowing Drew ample time to eliminate himself from the Rumble. Raven rolls under the ring and hits Kane with a fire extinguisher. He pulls out  metal trash can, but Al Snow comes out and roughs him up a little. Raven clobbers Kane with the trash can lid. Well, apparently Al Snow IS entrant No. 9. There are no less than three garbage cans in the ring now. Al Snow pulls out a bowling ball and rolls it right into Raven's balls. Then Kane kicks Al Snow right in the fuckin' face. Wait a minute, they were a tag team in Smoky Mountain Wrestling - see, somebody remembered. Anyhoo, Snow and Raven take turns hitting Kane with trash cans, then he gets leg tripped face first on to a metal canister. Entrant No. 10 is Perry Saturn, accompanied by Terri Runnels. Man, I forget how jacked the dude used to be. He starts working on Kane as soon as he enters the ring. Kane lands a gorilla press slam on Saturn and Snow smacks Kane with a cookie sheet while Raven puts him in a sleeper hold. 

Entrant No. 11 is Steve Blackman. And of course, he's got a Kendo stick with him. Man, I don't remember this Rumble being so garbage-y. Entrant No. 12 is Grandmastah Sexay, Brian Christopher. He grabs a metal trashcan lid and goes to town on everybody. Fuck, this whole thing just feels like a Saturday night session of Smackdown 2! on the PlayStation. Kane grabs a trash can and eliminates literally EVERYBODY. And entrant No 13 is - the motherfuckin' goddamn Honkytonk Man. He grabs the house mic and he's STILL referring to himself as the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all-time and he starts singing his theme music and then Kane grabs his acoustic guitar and El Kabongs him right out of his shoes and it's fucking fantastic. I'll just say what I said back in 2001 - "he's cool, he's cocky, he's unconscious." And entrant No. - what is it, 14 now? - is The Rock. Wait, Jim Ross says he's No. 13. The Rock gets a quick offensive flurry in, but Kane quickly slams on the brakes and starts stomping the shit out of him. Entrant No. 14 is The Goodfather. No, not The Godfather, the pimp, the reformed pimp brainwashed by Stevie Richards. Anyhoo, The Rock kicks him out of the ring in like, five seconds. So it's back to Kane and The Rock scuffling, complete with Kane hitting him with a huge suplex. The Rock gets his second wind, but Kane stops that with a sidewalk slam. Entrant No. 15 is Tazz. Yep, with two Zs. Kane puts him on the top rope and punches him out of the Rumble in about ten seconds. Fuuuuck. 

LOL at this dude holding a sign that reads "my crap is bigger than Tazz." Which might be closer to a true statement than parody. The Rock desperately tries to eliminate Kane, but he just can't get him off his feet. The Rock hits a Samoan Drop and entrant No. 16 is Bradshaw. He and The Rock double team Kane. And then Bradshaw hits The Rock with a PHAT Lariat. The Rock retaliates with a spinebuster, and Kane drops him with a clothesline. Entrant No. 17 is Albert. He beats up on the Rock, then Kane and Bradshaw start double teaming Al. Bradshaw hits Albert with a clothesline, then he kicks his face off. Entrant, uh, 18, I think, is Hardcore Holly, who gets NO reaction from the crowd. Albert hits the sitout choke bomb on Bradshaw. Holly and Bradshaw tease eliminating the Rock, but he holds on. Albert hits Kane with a scissors kick. The Rock almost eliminates Kane, but he survives. Entrant No. 19 is K-Kwik (aka, Ron Killings, aka R-Truth, aka probably like nine other different names by now) and somehow, he gets an even quieter reaction than Bob Holly. Albert pounds on him in the corner, then The Rock picks up K-Kwik and tries to toss him over the top rope, but he just can't lift him all the way up. Entrant No. 20 is - Val Venis? I totally forgot he was a member of the Right To Censor. Bradshaw spears K-Kwik while Kane chops on Val in the corner. Albert chokes Holly with his boot and The Rock power slams K-Kwik. Entrant No. 21 is William Regal. Hey, remember, when the WWE used to have a European title? How odd, they put it on the only Englishman in the company. Venis eats a spinebuster and Kane hits Regal with a shitty clothesline.

This was what life was like before the Xbox, kids. Be grateful.

Venis feigns eliminating The Rock, but Bradshaw - of all people - saves him from elimination. Now Bob Holly is trying to eliminate the Rock. Entrant No. 22 is Test. Man, I meant to take stock of all the wrestlers on this show who are dead now. Anyway, Regal gets eliminated. Test stomps on his old tag team partner Albert. BTW, Test was the one who dumped Regal. Entrant No. 23 is The Big Show, who had been out of action for quite a few months. He immediately eliminates Test and K-Kwik. He chokeslams Albert, Bradshaw, Venis and Bob Holly. Then he takes down Kane, but The Rock kicks him in the balls so he can clothesline him over the top rope. Entrant No., uh, 25, I think, is Crash Holly. Meanwhile, The Big Show drags The Rock under the bottom rope and chokeslams him through the announcer's desk. Back in the ring, EVERYBODY is ganging up on Kane. Entrant No. 26 (I think) is - rather fortuitously, considering his brother is about to get eliminated - The Undertaker. Yep, the "American Badass" incarnation. Kane and Taker then proceed to eliminate EVERYBODY in the Rumble, then they just circle each other for a bit. Remember: The Rock STILL hasn't been eliminated from the Rumble. And entrant No. 27 is - Scotty 2 Hotty, who makes the most apprehensive face of all-time as he walks down to the ring. Taker and Kane double chokeslam him and toss him over the top. Meanwhile, The Rock is just now climbing his way out of the ringisde wreckage. And Entrant No. - is it 28? - is Stone Cold, who gets a MONSTROUS reaction. Oh shit, but before he can get to the ring, Triple H Pearl Harbors him. This gives The Rock some time to sneak back into the ring, but it's only a matter of time until the "Brothers of Destruction" start double teaming him. Entrant No. 28 is "The One" Billy Gunn, who surprisingly gets a pretty big pop from the audience. Triple H and Stone Cold continue to scuffle on the outside while Taker and Kane gang up on the former "Mr. Ass." The Rock gets his second wind, but the Undertaker plants him with a DDT off the ropes. 

Entrant No. 29 is FUCKING HAKU, whom Ross describes as "one of the baddest animals you'll ever see," and that, I assure you, is a shoot. Austin juices buckets on the outside and Taker and Kane work a number on Meng. And our 30th and final entrant is Rikishi. Stone Cold Pearl Harbors him before he can get to the ring (remember, he ran him over at Survivor Series 1999 or something like that.) Austin eliminates Haku, so we're down to our final six participants. Rikishi gets chokeslammed by Kane, then Rikishi kicks the Undertaker out of the ring and drags the Rock over to the corner so he can drop his big fat ass on him. But the Rock low blows him and tosses him over the top rope. And that makes our final four Austin, Rock, Kane and Billy Gunn. Gunn counters the Stunner and hits Austin with the Fame Asser. But Austin counters the elimination attempt and tosses Billy out of the ring. Austin and the Rock prepare to square off. Austin counters the Rock Bottom and hits the Stunner, complete with the Rock doing his showy, flippy-dippy sell of the maneuver. 

Lou Thesz press on Kane, then he kicks him in the nuts. And there's the Rock with the Rock Bottom on Stone Cold. The Rock tosses Kane through the top and second rope, so he ain't officially eliminated yet. The Rock and Austin continue to trade blows in the ring, and it's AWESOME. Stone Cold almost eliminates the Rock, then the Rock is about to eliminate Austin, then Kane re-enters the fray and dumps The Rock. Stone Cold tries to clothesline The Big Red Machine over the top rope, but Kane catches him at the last second with a chokeslam. Austin with a desperation kick to the balls, which J.R. calls "an XFL-like punt." Kane slips to the outside and grabs a chair. He re-enters the fray, and Austin counters the Tombstone with a Stunner. He grabs the chair and El Kabongs Kane thrice before FINALLY eliminating Kane with a lariat. Man, how cool is that ending foreshadowing the finish of WM-X7? As per tradition, Austin celebrates with a beer bash, and we slowly but steadily fade to black.

Nothing says "pre-9/11 American society" quite like watching the masses cheer an alcoholic skinhead for "eliminating" a black man and a burn victim.

Granted, I haven't seen the last, I don't know, 14 or 15 Rumbles, but as far as I'm concerned that one is the best booked one of 'em all. It had everything - some cool surprises, some great comedy segments, a lot of overlapping stories and one of the best (if not THE best) finishing stretches in the nearly three-decade run of the R.R. I'd easily feel confident giving this one a superb [**** 1/4] rating, which officially gives us three [****] or higher matches on the card.

It's pretty easy to go into shows like this and let the fog of nostalgia taint everything, but this really is a great card from start to finish. The Benoit/Jericho match is quite possibly the best ladder match ever, the HHH/Angle bout is a fun-as-hell forgotten mini-gem and the main event just plain fuckin' delivers. I had a blast taking this three hour trip down memory lane, and much to my jubilant surprise, the actual in-ring product still holds up astonishingly well. Yeah, this may have been "sports entertainment" at its zenith, but we still get some great wrestling to go along with all of the tomfoolery. Amazing how many people forget that aspect of the "good old days," huh?

In some ways, this show is even more entertaining than WrestleMania X-7, which is pretty much the gold standard for WWF/WWE events, even damn near 20 years down the road. Virtually all of the marquee names of the era are involved, to some degree, and if you're a Johnny Come Lately or some damn millennial trying to figure out why everybody's still droning on and on about how much better things were during that mythical "Attitude Era," this is probably the best standalone show to watch to understand why. 

You really can' go that wrong with any old school Rumble, and you sure as hell can't go wrong with this one. If you haven't seen it in a couple of years, it's well worth revisiting, and if for some stupid ass reason you've never seen it before? Buddy, that's a character defect you ought to remedy pronto.


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