The Royal Rumble Match
As 2007 started, there was a lot of uncertainty regarding the ECW brand and most of its Superstars, in particular CM Punk. It was pretty common knowledge that he was a big-time Paul Heyman guy and was one of his prospects for the future, but with Heyman now out of the company many wondered what would happen to Punk. Most of the fans were scared to death of whether Punk would get a fair shake or would get buried by the company, and one could say that this is where the backlash against the company due to Punk’s status began. One could say that most of the fear was simply due to paranoia and they had nothing to worry about, but most knew that Punk would’ve been booked strong while Heyman was there and now no one was sure. We were know headed down the Road to WrestleMania and many wondered if Punk would be involved in the biggest show of the year, or if he would be left out in the cold and not be involved.
The build for the Rumble was pretty standard for all three brands as the 30 men involved all jockeyed to gain momentum going into the match. Following December to Dismember, Punk would be involved in a feud with Hardcore Holly and 2 days after the PPV, Punk would defeat Holly by DQ in a tag match. On the 12/12 ECW, Punk would defeat Holly by DQ only to force him to tap out after the match to the Anaconda Vice, and the next week the two men went to a draw after Holly challenged Punk to force him to tap within 3 minutes which Punk failed to do. On the 1/9 ECW, Holly would defeat Punk clean and ended his undefeated streak on TV while the feud also ended on TV, which I’m sure didn’t make fans happy that not only did Holly beat Punk clean but Punk never actually beat him in a match. The next week, Punk was announced as a participant in the Rumble match and defeated Matt Striker to build momentum, and on 1/22 Punk continued to build momentum by defeating Elijah Burke. Going into the Rumble, I think most fans probably assumed Punk was not going to win just because of how stacked the Rumble was and that he was currently not that high on the totem pole, but I think most just hoped that he had a solid run in the match against some top guys. On a side note since this will be the first of several Rumbles that Punk is in, I will talk about the match as a whole until he comes in at which point I will keep the focus on him until he is eliminated, and I will also note the entrances and eliminations as well during that time.
This year’s Rumble match was billed as the most star-studded Rumble match in history and considering that it was also the 20th anniversary of the Rumble, it was pretty fitting as this list of Superstars was pretty stacked and could compare to the 1992 Rumble in a way. I like how it was Cole, JBL, and Lawler doing the commentary as Cole and JBL had gelled well into a really good team while Lawler worked his lines in as well. We get a pretty cool opening for the match as Ric Flair and Finlay start the match at numbers 1 and 2, and the two men lock up to start with Finlay hooking a headlock and he knocks Flair down. They lock up again with Finlay pounding on Flair in the corner only for Flair to battle back, but Finlay reverses a whip into the other corner and hits a backdrop on Flair. Finlay hoists Flair up and tries to dump him out until Flair rakes the eyes and he pounds on Finlay in the corner, and Flair hits a back elbow on Finlay as Kenny Dykstra comes out at #3. Flair goes right for Kenny and pounds on him until Finlay nails him and both men stomp on him, but then Finlay almost eliminates Kenny as Flair comes up from behind and tries to dump both men out. Flair and Kenny trade blows with Kenny getting the advantage in the corner as Finlay stomps on him, and both men double team Flair as Matt Hardy comes out at #4 while still selling the beating he took in the tag match earlier tonight. He pounds on Kenny and hits the Side Effect as Flair pounds on Finlay in the corner before trying to dump him out, and Matt tries to eliminate Kenny and stomps on him until Kenny rams him into the corner. Finlay rakes Flair’s eyes as Kenny rams the shoulder into Matt’s ribs and Finlay drops a knee on Flair, and Kenny pounds on Flair as Matt pounds on Finlay and rams him into the buckle. Matt tries to eliminate Finlay as Flair tears at Kenny’s face and pounds on him in the corner, and Flair tries to dump Kenny out as Edge comes in at #5 and he hits a pair of Spears on Flair and Finlay. He sets up for a Spear on Matt only for Matt to move and Edge hits the buckle, and then Matt hits the Twist of Fate on Edge only for Kenny to pound on him as Flair rolls out of the ring. Matt and Kenny hit stereo clotheslines as Flair throws a pair of chairs into the ring only for Kenny to nail him and he slides the chairs back out, and Flair pounds on Edge only for Kenny to get a shot in and Edge eliminates Flair as Kenny is late to assist. Kenny and Edge exchange hi-fives and Kenny does a strut to mock Flair only for Edge to come up from behind and eliminate him, effectively ending Kenny’s usefulness as a potential top guy. Finlay hoists Matt up and tries to dump him as the first ECW Superstar Tommy Dreamer comes out at #6, and Dreamer pounds on Edge as the crowd chants “ECW” and Matt and Finlay trade blows in the corner. Dreamer puts Edge in the tree of woe in the corner before hitting the baseball slide to the face, and Matt whips Finlay into the corner only for Finlay to catch him with a boot to the face and then he hits a clothesline on Dreamer. Finlay stomps on Matt and pounds on Dreamer in the corner as Dreamer tries to battle back, and Matt pounds on Edge as Finlay tries to dump Dreamer out and I would like to mention how good the commentary has been as Cole goes through the history of the Rumble while JBL and King get their two cents in. Matt tries to dump Edge out only for Edge to roll back in as Dreamer rakes Finlay’s eyes, and the four men pair off in the corners as Sabu comes out at #7 and he pulls a table out from under the ring and sets it up before rolling into the ring. Sabu pounds on Dreamer and hits a sloppy springboard DDT as Finlay tries to dump out Edge and Sabu knocks Matt down and stomps on him, and Edge pounds on Finlay as Sabu pounds on both Dreamer and Matt before attempting a springboard only for Dreamer to catch him with a clothesline. Edge tries to dump out Finlay as Matt tries to eliminate Sabu and Dreamer assists Edge with Finlay, and Matt pounds on Sabu and hits a running bulldog out of the corner as Gregory Helms comes out at #8. Helms goes right after Matt and pounds on him in the corner as Edge rams Finlay into the buckle, and Helms stomps on Matt as Sabu pounds on Finlay and Dreamer pounds on Edge as Sabu tries to dump Finlay out. Helms hits a neckbreaker on Matt as Dreamer tries to dump Edge out and Sabu chokes Finlay on the mat, and Helms tries to eliminate Matt as Finlay tries to dump out Sabu and Helms tries to shove Matt to the floor. Edge rakes Dreamer’s eyes as Sabu pounds on Finlay and then he nails Helms and tries to dump him out, and all 6 men pair off again in the corners as Shelton Benjamin comes out at #9. He pounds on Matt and then tries to eliminate Dreamer as Helms and Sabu try to eliminate Edge, and Benjamin pounds on Matt before tossing him over the top only for Matt to land on the apron. Benjamin stomps on him and Finlay pounds on Dreamer along with Sabu as Edge and Helms trade blows, and Finlay nails Benjamin and tries to throw him out only for Matt to come up from behind and try to eliminate him. Sabu tries to dump Dreamer as Helms pounds on Edge until Edge tries to eliminate him as Dreamer tries to dump Sabu, and Matt tries to suplex Benjamin over the top only for Benjamin to block it and he tries to suplex Matt over the top. Kane comes out at #10 and hits a big boot on Dreamer before getting a shot in on everyone else as he hits a tilt-a-whirl powerslam on Helms, and he hits the chokeslam on Edge before eliminating Dreamer. Kane nails Sabu and hoists him up only for Sabu to slide off and he pounds on Kane, but Kane backdrops him over the top with Sabu landing on the apron only for Kane to chokeslam Sabu through the table in a great spot and he eliminates Sabu. Kane pounds on Finlay and tries to eliminate him as Benjamin and Helms trade blows in the corner while Edge and Matt pound on each other in the other corner. So far, the first 10 guys in the match have been pretty solid and Kane having a mini-dominant performance topped with the table spot was a good way to close out the first third of the match.
Punk comes out next at #11 to a big pop and he tries to dump Edge out until Finlay kicks him from behind, but Punk pounds on Finlay only for Finlay to rake the eyes and tries to throw him out only for Punk to swing back into the ring. Finlay stomps on him as well as Edge only for Punk to reverse a whip into the corner and he hits the running knee on Edge, and he again tries to dump Edge out only for Finlay to nail him from behind. Finlay hits a pair of headbutts on Punk and pounds on him before hoisting him up and trying to eliminate him, and King Booker comes out at #12 as Helms rakes Punk’s face across the top rope and pounds on him until Booker pounds on Helms. Booker then eliminates Helms and pounds on Punk before ramming him into the buckle, and he tries to dump Punk out only for Punk to save himself and Booker stomps on him in the corner. Booker and Benjamin try to eliminate Punk as Super Crazy comes out at #13 and Punk hits a series of elbows on Booker, and he kicks at Benjamin and tries to eliminate him until Benjamin gets an elbow in and saves himself. Edge gets a shot in on Punk and then Kane nails Punk and knocks him down, and Punk regroups on the mat before pounding on Edge in the corner before tripping him up as Jeff Hardy comes out at #14 and he also sells the beating from the tag match earlier tonight. Punk pulls Edge up only for Edge to get a shot in and Punk regroups in the corner, and Punk pounds on Finlay in the corner and tries to eliminate him until Booker nails him from behind and he hits a superkick on Punk. Finlay hits a headbutt and pounds on Punk as Sandman comes out at #15 from the crowd, and in a funny moment is an usher reacting to Sandman cracking his beer open and her getting drenched by it. The commentary team try to compare Sandman to Steve Austin and his dominance as Sandman nails the Hardys and Crazy with the cane, but Booker gets a side kick in and eliminates Sandman with JBL getting the last quip in by saying he’s not Steve Austin. Finlay stomps on Punk’s knee on the mat and then Kane pounds on Punk in the corner, and he stomps on Punk and chokes him on the mat before throwing him over the top only for Punk to hang on and he swings back into the ring. Randy Orton comes out at #16 and Rated-RKO quickly eliminate Crazy as Punk regroups on the mat, and Orton hits the inverted backbreaker on Matt as Jeff tries to assist only for Rated-RKO to eliminate Jeff and then Matt back-to-back. Punk pounds on Benjamin in the corner until Rated-RKO come over and nail him with Edge pounding on Punk in the corner, and Edge hits a headbutt on Punk and tries to toss him out only for Punk to hang on as Chris Benoit comes out at #17. Benoit nails Punk before pounding on a few other guys as Benjamin pounds on Punk and hoists him up in a powerbomb before trying to dump him out, and Benjamin tries to knock Punk off the apron until Benoit nails him from behind as Punk slides back into the ring. Punk regroups in the corner on the mat before getting a kick in on Benjamin. He tosses Benjamin over the top and tries to shove him to the floor as Rob Van Dam comes out at #18, and Punk regroups again as RVD gets a kick in on Booker which allows Kane to eliminate him. Punk comes over and tries to assist Benoit in eliminating Finlay as Booker comes back in and hits a side kick on Kane before hitting the axe kick and then he eliminates Kane. Finlay gets a shot in on Punk as Booker rams Kane into the steps and pounds on him as Benjamin pounds on Punk, and Viscera comes out at #19 as Booker continues to pound on Kane until officials force him to the back. Orton pounds on Punk in the corner and chokes him with his knee before turning to Viscera, and Punk again regroups in the corner and goes to assist Benjamin in trying to eliminate Benoit as Johnny Nitro comes out at #20 though unlike the Hardys, he doesn’t show any ill effects from the tag match earlier tonight. Punk tries to eliminate Benjamin with Benoit’s assistance before squaring off with Finlay only for Viscera to stalk him, and Viscera squashes Punk in the corner before trying to toss him over the top and Punk hangs onto the bottom rope before rolling back in. Now that we are 20 men into the match, it has been very solid as a couple of guys are getting some good time to shine and the eliminations were somewhat balanced out and now we look to have a strong finish with the final 10.
Kevin Thorn comes in at #21 as Punk pounds on Viscera only for Viscera to hit a headbutt and knock him down as RVD hits a legdrop on Punk, and Punk regroups on the mat before choking Orton in the corner with his knee and stomps on him. He hits a kick on Orton as Hardcore Holly comes in at #22 and Punk tries to dump Orton out, but Orton gets a shot in and he hoists Punk up and tries to eliminate him. Punk slides off of Orton’s shoulders and rams his shoulder repeatedly into the ribs of Orton, and then Benoit gets a shot in on Punk and hoists him up to try and eliminate him. Punk nails Benoit repeatedly with the elbow and pounds on him before hitting a headbutt, and then he joins everyone else in trying to eliminate Viscera as the hometown hero Shawn Michaels comes out at #23 to a huge pop. Everyone including Punk continue to try and eliminate Viscera as Michaels fires up on Finlay and finally eliminates him, ending his great run in this Rumble as Viscera shoves everyone away. Michaels hits Sweet Chin Music on Viscera and everyone including Punk finally tip him over the top and eliminate him, and Thorn stomps on Punk as Michaels backdrops Benjamin over the top and eliminates him as well. Thorn tries to eliminate Punk only for Punk to fall to the mat and retreat to the corner, and Thorn chokes Punk on the mat until Orton nails him from behind as Chris Masters comes out at #24. Punk again regroups in the corner as Benoit knocks Nitro off the middle rope over the top and eliminates him, and Masters pounds on Punk in the corner before trying to eliminate him. Punk kicks at Masters and lands on the mat only for Masters to pound on him and Punk gets a kick in, and he rams Masters into the buckle as Chavo Guerrero comes out at #25. Masters stomps on Punk until Guerrero pounds on him as Benoit pulls Thorn over the top and eliminates him, and Punk regroups on the mat before getting a kick in on RVD and he pounds on him in the corner. Punk tries to force RVD over the top as RVD holds onto Punk and the ropes and Punk pounds on him, but RVD battles back and leaps to the middle rope as Punk charges at Edge only for Edge to catch him with a boot to the face. MVP comes out at #26 still selling the burns on his back as Edge pounds on Punk in the corner and Orton assists him, and RVD flips over Masters and dropkicks him over the top to the floor and eliminates him. Orton hoists Punk onto his shoulders and tries to throw him out as Punk lands on the apron, and Orton tries to knock him to the floor only for Punk to get a shoulder in. He falls back into the ring as Carlito comes out at #27 and RVD stomps on Punk as does Carlito, and Punk again regroups in the corner before kicking at Carlito and he tries to eliminate him. Carlito gets a shot in and knocks Punk down before choking him on the mat, and Punk tries to regroup only for RVD to stomp on him and he tries to throw Punk out as the Great Khali comes out at #28. RVD knocks Punk to the apron and Punk rolls back in the ring as Khali lays everyone out including Punk with headbutts and chops, and then Khali eliminates Holly and Benoit back-to-back as the Miz comes out at #29. He goes right after Khali only for Khali to quickly eliminate him and then he hoists RVD up by the arm and eliminates him, and Punk tries to get a shot in only for Khali to eliminate him and end his run in the Rumble. Carlito goes after Khali only for Khali to throw him over the top though Carlito lands on the apron and attempts a springboard, but Khali hits a chop and eliminates him before also eliminating Guerrero right after that. He raises his arms up in victory as Michaels comes from behind and pounds on him, but then Khali grabs him and hits the Khali Bomb before celebrating again as the Undertaker comes out last at #30 to a huge pop. Taker and Khali trade blows until Khali grabs Taker by the throat only for Taker to escape and he clotheslines Khali over the top and eliminates him to a big pop, and Taker knocks down Edge, Orton, and MVP repeatedly before grabbing MVP by the arm and hitting Old School before eliminating MVP. This last segment with the final 10 men was interesting as they clearly let the ring fill up significantly just to have Khali come in and destroy everyone, and we now have probably one of the best final fours in Rumble history with Michaels, Taker, Orton, and Edge left.
With only four remaining, Edge pounds on Taker only for Taker to duck a shot and hit the flying clothesline as MVP tries to bring a chair into the ring, and Taker tosses Edge over the top though he hangs on as Orton grabs the chair and nails Taker in the head with it which busts him open. Orton taunts Taker as Edge sets up for the Spear only for Orton to tease hitting him with the chair, and they argue before Orton hits the RKO on Michaels which sends him under the rope to the outside. Rated-RKO pound on Taker in the corner and knock him to the mat before taunting the crowd, but Taker battles back on both men and he splashes both men in the corners before hitting a clothesline on Edge. He grabs both men for a double chokeslam only for them to get a pair of kicks in, but Taker ducks a double clothesline attempt and hits one of his own on Rated-RKO. Taker whips Edge into the corner before hoisting him up and hitting Snake Eyes and a big boot, and then Taker sets Orton up for the chokeslam only for Edge to hit the Spear on Taker. Edge grabs the chair and nails a stiff shot to Taker’s head before rolling outside and bringing a second chair into the ring, and they set up for the Con-Chair-To as Michaels rolls back into the ring and he backdrops Orton over the top and eliminates him. He then ducks a chair shot from Edge and hits Sweet Chin Music that eliminates Edge, and he collapses to the mat as we are down to Michaels and Taker as the crowd pops for both men. Taker sits up and gets to his feet as Michaels nips up and the crowd starts buzzing big time, and Michaels avoids a shot and pounds on Taker in the corner until Taker tosses him to the mat only for Michaels to again pound on him in the corner as Taker again tosses him to the mat. Taker grabs Michaels and tosses him into the corner before pounding on him, and he tries to toss Michaels out only for Michaels to battle back and he pounds on Taker in the corner. Taker reverses a whip and sends Michaels inside out in the corner with Michaels landing on the top rope, and he falls to the apron as Taker charges only to Michaels to duck and Taker crotches himself on the top rope. He falls to the apron as Michaels charges only for Taker to hit a back elbow and return to the ring, and Taker gets a shot in only for Michaels to catch him ducking with a swinging neckbreaker. Michaels pounds on Taker as the crowd chants “HBK” and he ducks a shot only for Taker to hit a big boot, and then Taker hoists Michaels up in a suplex and tries to eliminate him only for Michaels to land on the apron. Michaels pounds on Taker and rams him into the buckle before going up top, but Taker gets a shot in and goes up himself as both men exchange blows with Michaels gaining control and he knocks Taker to the mat. Michaels sets himself on the top rope and hits the elbow on Taker before setting up for Sweet Chin Music, but Taker blocks the superkick and hits a big chokeslam on Michaels. He sets Michaels up for the Tombstone only for Michaels to slide off and he hits Sweet Chin Music, and Michaels looks for another one as Taker pulls himself up only for Taker to duck the superkick and he backdrops Michaels over the top, eliminating him and Taker wins the Royal Rumble. After the match, a disappointed Michaels lies on the floor as he and Taker exchange looks of respect at each other.
The match itself was tremendous as all 30 men worked hard and put on probably one of the best, and in my opinion somewhat underrated Rumbles in history. I mentioned earlier that this was billed as the “most star-studded Rumble” in history and it was pretty stacked with talent, and while it may not quite top the star power in 1992 it does come pretty close. The match was had a pretty consistent flow throughout with a few big spots like Kane putting Sabu through the table, everyone ganging up to eliminate Viscera, and Khali dominating the field close to the end. The last 10-15 minutes is probably some of the best in Rumble history between a very strong final four (Michaels, Taker, Edge, Orton) and then the best finish with Michaels and Taker in a foreshadowing of things to come with them. There were a few guys that got some good time to shine as Matt, Benoit, and RVD last over 15 minutes while Benjamin, Punk, Orton, and Michaels last over 20, but the real iron men are Finlay who surprisingly lasts over 30 minutes while Edge has the longest run with just over 44 minutes. We would also be remiss if we didn’t mention Khali looking so dominant at the end by getting 7 eliminations by himself within the span of 5 minutes, so props to him for still looking very strong. Before we get to the ending, let’s talk about Punk as I had mentioned earlier that I’m sure many assumed that he wasn’t going to win and hoped that he at least had a good run. He did have a good run as he lasted 27:16 which was the third longest in the match behind Finlay and Edge, but he did spend much of the match either lying around or getting beat on so he didn’t look particularly strong, though lasting that long was impressive and showed that he was in the plans at least going into WM. As mentioned, the ending was absolutely awesome with Taker and Michaels going at it for the first time since the Rumble 11 years ago and the crowd was eating it up with a spoon. This was also one of the times where you honestly didn’t know who would win as you could see either man winning, but it was more interesting that they had Michaels lose in his hometown more so than Taker winning the match. The other factor to think about is whether this would be an automatic win for Taker as he still had the Streak going on at WM, but there was some thought that either Batista or Cena could end the Streak. As mentioned, the crowd was hot for the whole match and stayed in it all throughout while peaking at the end, and they did pop for Taker though they were noticeably disappointed when Michaels lost. In the end, Taker wins the Rumble and is headed to the main event of WM while we will wait to see what Punk will be doing at WM if he’s involved at all.
Final Grade: ****