The Royal Rumble Match
We now come into the year of 2008 and after what ended up being a pretty chaotic and historic 2007, some of it for the wrong reasons, things seemed to be a bit up in the air as we begin the Road to Wrestlemania XXIV. As I had mentioned back at Armageddon, CM Punk seemed to be running on fumes with his reign as ECW Champion as he had no real solid challengers and was stuck in a tag match where he was the one who was pinned by Big Daddy V. But then, V was completely removed from the title picture and instead Chavo Guerrero was inserted in which felt completely random as Guerrero had been out of action for a few months and was not even in any major feud after losing the Cruiserweight Title back in the summer. Not only that, but even weirder was when Guerrero upset Punk to win the ECW Title right before this show and even though both men were already announced for the Rumble match, it was still bizarre to see Guerrero win the title fairly clean even though Edge had gotten involved. Now, you had to wonder what was going to happen with Punk going into WM and if he was possibly going to get the title back or if he was ready to move on from ECW.
On the 12/18 ECW, Punk defeated Montel Vontavious Porter by disqualification and after the match, Guerrero made his surprise return as he assaulted Punk and gave him the Frog Splash, and on the 12/21 Smackdown Punk teamed with Kane and Rey Mysterio to defeat MVP, Mark Henry, and Big Daddy V in a 6-man tag match. On the 1/1 ECW, Punk and Guerrero had a confrontation which led to a match later in the night with the stipulation that if Guerrero won, he would earn a title shot though Punk would defeat Guerrero by countout. On the 1/8 ECW, the two had a rematch with the same stipulation in place and Punk would defeat Guerrero by DQ, and on the 1/15 ECW Edge made an appearance and confronted Punk before he and Guerrero double team him. Later in the night, Guerrero defeated Punk by countout when Edge got involved and Guerrero would earn a title shot, and on the 1/22 ECW Guerrero would defeat Punk in a no-DQ match thanks to Edge to win the ECW Championship as it was also announced both men would participate in the Rumble match. The rest of the build for the Rumble was pretty basic from the other brands as Triple H had to jump various hurdles thanks to William Regal on RAW, and on Smackdown Batista and the Undertaker were looking to win the Rumble and get revenge on Edge for what happened at Armageddon. It was going to be interesting to see how well Punk would do in the Rumble as well as if he and Guerrero would go at it at some point especially since they would more than likely continue the feud after this show.
We get a cool moment as legendary boxing and WCW ring announcer Michael Buffer does the ring introductions for the match, and we get a great start as the Undertaker starts at #1 and Shawn Michaels enters at #2 marking the first time that the two men who finished the Rumble the previous year start the Rumble the following year. The two men square off to start as Taker backs Michaels into the corner and Michaels escapes as he pounds on Taker, and Taker reverses a whip and sends Michaels inside out in the corner as he hoists Michaels up in a choke and tosses him into the corner. He pounds on Michaels and hits a headbutt before whipping him into the other corner as Michaels lands on the top rope, and he kicks at Michaels who gets crotched on the top rope only for Michaels to avoid the boot as Taker crotches himself on the top rope and both men fall to the apron. Michaels charges only for Taker to grab him by the throat as he gets back in the ring only for Michaels to get a kick in, and he pounds on Taker who reverses a whip and hits a big boot as Santino Marella comes out at #3. He keeps his distance from both men and tries to flex only for Michaels to hit Sweet Chin Music on Marella, and Taker throws Marella over the top and eliminates him as Michaels tries to dump him out from behind only for Taker to hit a back elbow. He knocks Michaels down and works the arm as he goes up top only for Michaels to pull him back to the mat, and he hits an atomic drop and pounds on Taker as he hits another atomic drop only for Taker to reverse a whip and Michaels hits the flying forearm. The Great Khali comes out at #4 as Taker hits the chokeslam on Michaels and he pounds on Khali only for Khali to knock him down, and he rams Taker into the buckle and stomps on him in the corner as the crowd chants “You Can’t Wrestle” and Khali nails Taker who tries to battle back. Both men grab each other by the throat as Khali breaks Taker’s grip only for Taker to avoid a chop as he dumps Khali over the top and eliminates him, and Michaels pounds on Taker in the corner as Taker shoves Michaels to the mat and then sets him up for the Last Ride. Hardcore Holly comes out at #5 as Michaels and Taker both go over the top though they land on the apron, and Holly stomps on both men and pounds on Taker in the corner only for Taker to reverse a whip into the other corner and he splashes Holly. He pounds on Holly in the corners as Holly battles back until Taker reverses a whip and he hits a big boot on Holly, and Michaels again grabs Taker from behind only for Taker to hoist him up as he tries to eliminate him and Holly kicks at Taker repeatedly. Michaels pounds on Holly in the corner as Holly battles back only for Taker to get a shot in as John Morrison comes out at #6, and Taker pounds on Michaels in the corner until Morrison nails him from behind and he gets a shot in on Holly before kicking at Michaels. He backs off from Taker while kicking at Holly and Michaels only for Michaels to knock him down, and Taker hits a headbutt on Morrison and Michaels tosses him over the top though he hangs on as Taker stomps on Holly in the corner. He chokes Holly with his boot as Michaels hits a slam on Morrison and goes up top as he drops the elbow on Morrison, and we see Michaels is bleeding from the nose as Taker tries to eliminate Holly and Morrison blocks Sweet Chin Music before hitting a standing enzurgiri on Michaels. Tommy Dreamer comes out at #7 and he knocks Michaels down before pounding on Taker and he knocks Michaels down again, and he hits a clothesline on Morrison and rams Michaels into the buckle only for Taker to catch him with a boot to the face. Holly pounds on Morrison while Taker pounds on Dreamer and Holly rams Morrison and Dreamer’s heads together, and Taker nails Holly and Dreamer as Michaels attempts to suplex Morrison over the top and Dreamer battles back on Taker. Michaels sends Morrison over the top though he lands on the apron and he hotshots Michaels on the top rope, and Dreamer rams Taker into the buckle and tries to eliminate him as Morrison gets a shot in on Holly and knocks him down before stomping on him. He tries to eliminate Holly with Dreamer assisting him as Michaels stomps on Taker in the corner, and Dreamer pounds on Holly and rams Morrison into the buckle until Michaels tries to eliminate him as Batista comes out at #8 to a big pop. He hits a spinebuster on Dreamer and a pair of clotheslines on Holly and Michaels before hitting a backdrop on Morrison, and he and Taker have a staredown until Dreamer gets a kick in and looks for the DDT only for Batista to send Dreamer over the top and eliminates him. Taker tries to eliminate Batista as Holly tries to eliminate Michaels and Morrison pounds on Taker before pounding on Batista. Batista hits a big spear on Morrison and Taker gets a kick in as he pounds on Batista in the corner and stomps on him, and Michaels stomps on Holly in the corner and tries to eliminate him as Taker chokes Batista on the mat with his boot. Taker nails Morrison as Hornswoggle comes out at #9 and everyone stares at him as he hides under the ring, and Batista hits the spear on Taker and tries to eliminate him as Morrison tries to dump Holly and Taker gets a shot in on Batista. Holly pounds on Morrison in the corner and Taker pounds on Michaels in the other corner as he stomps on Batista, and Holly hits a suplex on Morrison and Michaels pounds on Holly as Taker tries to eliminate Batista and Holly reverses a whip before hitting a backdrop on Michaels. He clotheslines Michaels over the top and Michaels lands on the apron as Chuck Palumbo comes out at #10, and he pounds on Batista in the corner and hits a clothesline before knocking Michaels down as Taker chokes Morrison on the mat with his boot. Palumbo pounds on Holly in the corner as Michaels grabs him from behind only for Palumbo to pound on Michaels in the corner, and Holly stomps on Batista in the corner and Taker grabs Morrison by the throat as he sends him over the top though Morrison hangs on. Taker pounds on Palumbo as Michaels hits a baseball slide on Morrison and Taker hits a pair of headbutts on Palumbo, and Taker stomps on Palumbo as Holly tries to dump out Batista and Michaels tries to eliminate Morrison as Batista stomps on Holly repeatedly.
Jamie Noble comes out at #11 as he has his ribs heavily bandaged and Taker slings Morrison over the top back into the ring, and Palumbo grabs Noble and shoves him into the ropes as Noble gets a kick in and pounds on Palumbo. He stomps on Palumbo repeatedly in the corner as Batista pounds on Taker in the other corner and Noble pounds on Palumbo, and Palumbo drops Noble on the apron and gets a kick in as Noble falls to the floor and is eliminated as Morrison stomps on Michaels in the corner. Taker kicks at Palumbo and gets a back elbow in as Batista rams Holly into the buckle and Morrison chokes Michaels, and Batista rams the shoulder into Holly repeatedly as Palumbo pounds on Taker and the trainer comes out to check on Noble. Holly rams Batista into the buckle and Michaels pounds on Morrison who escapes a slam and he knocks Michaels down, and Michaels sends Morrison over the top with Morrison landing on the apron as Punk comes out at #12 to a big pop. He nails Holly from behind and hits the running knee on Palumbo and Taker in the corner before hitting a pair of running knees on Michaels and Morrison, and Taker grabs Punk by the throat only for Punk to get a series of kicks in and he hits another running knee on Michaels in the corner though Taker catches him with a clothesline. Punk recovers and tosses Michaels over the top with Michaels landing on the apron as Morrison pounds on Punk and stomps on him, and Palumbo hits a big boot on Punk as Holly stomps on Taker in the corner and Batista nails Morrison from behind. Palumbo hoists Punk onto his shoulders only for Punk to slide off and he sends Palumbo over the top, but Palumbo lands on the apron and Punk hits the running knee which eliminates Palumbo as Michaels nails Punk from behind. He attempts to suplex Punk over the top which Punk blocks as he sends Michaels over the top with Michaels landing on the apron, and Cody Rhodes comes out at #13 and he pounds on Punk before ducking a shot and he hits an atomic drop before sending Punk over the top. Morrison nails Rhodes from behind as Rhodes knocks Morrison down and rams him into the buckle before attempting to eliminate him. Punk comes over and tries to dump Morrison as Rhodes nails Taker from behind and pounds on him as Taker no-sells his shots, and Taker grabs him by the throat only for Rhodes to get a kick in and he hits a standing dropkick on Taker. Morrison hooks a sleeper on Punk in the corner and Rhodes gets a shot in as Batista escapes a piledriver with a backdrop on Michaels, and Taker nails Rhodes from behind and whips him into the corner before hitting a clothesline as Punk stomps on Batista. Umaga comes out at #14 and he hits a series of clotheslines on Morrison, Punk, and Michaels before nailing Taker and he hits another clothesline on Michaels. Holly ducks a shot and pounds on Umaga in the corner only for Umaga to hit the Samoan Spike which eliminates Holly, and Batista pounds on Umaga in the corner as Punk recovers on the mat until Taker grabs him and hits a series of headbutts. Punk recovers in the corner as Umaga hits a running splash on Batista in the other corner and Rhodes blocks a piledriver attempt from Michaels, and he sends Michaels over the top though Michaels hangs on as Morrison pounds on Rhodes who battles back. Michaels goes up top only for Punk to nail him and toss him to the mat as Snitsky comes out at #15, and he knocks Morrison down and kicks at Punk before stomping on him and he hits a clothesline on Michaels. He kicks at Rhodes and hits a clothesline as Punk recovers in the corner and Morrison nails Snitsky from behind, and Snitsky knocks him down and rams him into the buckle as Umaga pounds on Batista in the other corner. Snitsky stomps on Morrison until Rhodes jumps on his back and sends both of them over the top though they land on the apron, and Punk comes over and tries to push out Snitsky until Morrison nails him from behind and he tries to dump Michaels out. Punk and Rhodes pound on Snitsky until Morrison nails Punk again and pounds on him only for Punk to hoist him onto his shoulders, and the Miz comes out at #16 as Morrison slides off of Punk’s shoulders and Miz kicks at Punk before pounding on him. He and Morrison try to dump Punk out as Punk hangs on and he slides back into the ring as Taker tries to toss out Umaga, and Miz rams Punk into the buckle and stomps on him in the corner with Morrison pounding on Punk and they choke Punk with their boots. They attempt a double team as Punk backdrops Morrison over the top with Morrison landing on the apron, and Miz splashes Punk in the corner and both he and Morrison go up top as Punk pounds on both of them. Shelton Benjamin comes out at #17 and leaps up top as he hotshots Morrison and Miz on the top rope, and he catches a kick attempt and hits the Paydirt on Punk only for Michaels to catch him with Sweet Chin Music which sends Benjamin over the top and eliminates him. Snitsky rams Rhodes into the corner and then he whips him back into the corner before splashing him, and Morrison grinds Punk’s face into the mat and pounds on him in the corner as “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka comes out at #18 in a cool surprise to a big pop. He knocks Morrison down and nails Punk before hitting a headbutt and he pounds on Michaels as he hits a headbutt, and Taker hits a headbutt on Snuka who no-sells it and he hits one of his own on Taker before knocking Snitsky and Miz down as he hits a headbutt on Miz and pounds on Batista. Punk pounds on Morrison in the corner as “Rowdy” Roddy Piper comes out at #19 in another cool surprise to a big pop, and he and Snuka have a staredown as the remaining Superstars keep back and watch in a surreal moment. Piper pounds on Snuka who no-sells his shots and he hits a headbutt on Piper before knocking him down, and Piper rakes the eyes and pounds on Snuka as Punk is clearly marking out on the mat until Morrison stomps on him. Punk gets a shot in and knocks Morrison down as Kane comes out at #20 and dumps out both Piper and Snuka to eliminate them, and Taker grabs Punk who tries to battle back in the corner until Taker hits a headbutt and Kane hits a Chokeslam on Miz. Taker nails Punk as Kane and Michaels try to eliminate Umaga and Rhodes pounds on Morrison in the corner, and Taker looks to be setting up Kane only to turn around and grab Michaels by the throat until Umaga nails him from behind.
Carlito comes out at #21 and spits his apple in Rhodes’ face as Punk continues to recover on the mat and Carlito fires up on numerous Superstars including Punk, and Morrison nails Carlito as Punk grabs him as well and they catch Carlito on a springboard attempt. Carlito escapes a double team and Punk kicks at Morrison only for Carlito to duck a kick and he hits the Backstabber on Punk, and Rhodes hits a running bulldog on Carlito as other are paired off in the corners and Punk recovers on the mat. Kane pounds on Punk as Mick Foley comes out at #22 to a huge pop and he pounds on several men including Punk, and Taker hits the Last Ride on Batista as Morrison knocks Punk down and Umaga hits a Samoan drop on Taker. Foley pounds on Morrison in the corner as Punk recovers in the other corner and Snitsky hits a sidewalk slam on Taker, and Morrison hits a springboard kick on Foley as Punk grabs at Carlito only for Snitsky to knock him down and Umaga stomps on him. Snitsky stomps on Punk as Mr. Kennedy comes out at #23 and Umaga chokes Punk with his foot in the corner, and Kennedy stomps on Rhodes in the corner and hits a running boot before hitting a pair of Mic Checks on Miz and Punk. Taker sits up only for Kennedy to stomp on him until Taker grabs him by the throat and hits the chokeslam, and he fires up on several men and splashes Umaga, Morrison, and Snitsky in the corner before pounding on them and he knocks Punk down. Taker continues to pound on several men and knocks Punk down until Snitsky grabs him by the throat with Taker doing the same, and Big Daddy V comes out at #24 as Taker sends Snitsky over the top and eliminates him only for Michaels to catch Taker with Sweet Chin Music which eliminates him. Michaels shrugs it off only for Kennedy to toss him over the top and eliminate him as Michaels lands at Taker’s feet, and Taker pounds on Snitsky and rams him into the barricade before ramming him into the announce table. Punk regroups in the corner as V hits a sidewalk slam on Miz and Taker hits a legdrop on Snitsky though the table doesn’t break, and Umaga and Kane choke Punk in the corner with their boots as several men try to eliminate each other. Mark Henry comes out at #25 as V grabs Punk and hits a headbutt as Henry pounds on Batista in the corner, and Kane pounds on Henry who hits a clothesline as Kennedy tries to eliminate Miz. Just then, Hornswoggle appears from under the ring and pulls Miz to the floor to eliminate him before crawling back under the ring, and Henry and V pound on Punk in the corner and hit a double headbutt before squashing Punk in between themselves. V tries to eliminate Morrison and Kennedy as Punk pounds on Rhodes in the corner and Guerrero comes out at #26, and Punk and Guerrero trade blows as Punk rams the knee into him repeatedly and tackles him to the mat. They continue to trade blows as Kane backdrops Morrison over the top with Morrison landing on the apron only for Kane to hit a big boot and Morrison is eliminated, and Guerrero pounds on Punk on the mat and stomps on him as he tries to eliminate him and Umaga tosses Carlito over the top though Carlito lands on the apron. Batista nails V from behind and Kane hits a big boot on Kennedy as Henry tries to dump Rhodes and Hornswoggle comes out again, and he reaches for Rhodes though Henry grabs him and pulls him into the ring with V and Guerrero surrounding him. Just then, Finlay runs down to the ring with the shillelagh and he hits all three men with it along with Kennedy as Rhodes avoids a swing, and Finlay takes Hornswoggle to the back as the commentators announce that Finlay has been disqualified for using the shillelagh. Punk regroups on the mat as Guerrero pounds on Rhodes in the corner and everyone continues to pound on each other. Foley stomps on Punk in the corner until Umaga grabs him and tries to eliminate him as Henry pounds on Punk in the corner, and he tries to eliminate Punk as Elijah Burke comes out at #28 and Henry continues to stomp on Punk in the corner. Umaga catches Batista with the Samoan Spike with Batista rolling outside to regroup and Guerrero whips Punk into the ropes, and Punk backdrops Guerrero over the top though Guerrero lands on the apron and pulls Punk over the top and eliminates him. Henry and V double team Umaga as Guerrero pounds on Foley and Rhodes hits a DDT on Carlito, and Triple H comes out at #29 to a big pop and fires up on several men before eliminating Rhodes and he knocks Burke down. He pounds on V who reverses a whip and Triple H catches him ducking with the facebuster before eliminating him, and he catches Umaga ducking with the facebuster and trades blows with Foley in a cool callback to their rivalry. He takes control and sends Foley into Burke as both men go over the top and are eliminated together, and Henry splashes Kane in the corner as Triple H pounds on Umaga and rams him into the buckle before continuing to pound on him in the corner. He rams Umaga into the buckle again and nails Guerrero and Carlito as Umaga reverses a whip into the corner, and Triple H avoids a charge as Umaga hits the post and Triple H sends him into the post again before getting a kick in and he hits the Pedigree. We then get the biggest surprise of the night as John Cena makes his shocking return at #30 to a huge pop, and Henry nails Triple H from behind as Cena fires up on Henry and ducks a shot before hitting a flying tackle. He knocks Carlito and Guerrero down before eliminating both men and then he dumps Henry over the top and eliminates him, and Cena and Triple H have a staredown and trade blows until Triple H gets a kick in only for Cena to catch him ducking with a kick. Triple H hits the spinebuster on Cena only for Umaga to get a shot in and he sets him up for the Samoan Spike, but Batista hits a spear on Umaga and clotheslines Kennedy over the top to eliminate him before clotheslining Umaga over the top and eliminating him. With only four men left, Kane grabs Batista and Triple H by the throats only for both men to kick at Kane as they send him over the top and eliminate him, and Cena, Batista, and Triple H have a staredown as Batista does the thumbs down, Cena taunts both men by saying they can’t see him, and Triple H gives both men the crotch chop. The three men brawl with Batista fighting off both men as he reverses a whip and catches Cena with a back elbow, and he splashes Triple H in the corner and hits a clothesline only for Cena and Triple H to pound on Batista. Batista catches both men with a double clothesline and he whips Cena into the corner only for Cena to catch him with a boot to the face, and Batista catches him in a spinebuster as Triple H gets a kick in only for Batista to escape the Pedigree and he hits the spinebuster. He kicks at Cena and sets up for the Batista Bomb only for Cena to escape with a backdrop as Triple H clotheslines Batista over the top and eliminates him, and with only two men left they both look at the WM sign and point at it as Triple H gets a kick in and pounds on Cena. Cena gets a kick in and battles back on Triple H as they trade blows with Triple H taking control, and Cena ducks a shot and hits a spinout back suplex on Triple H before hitting the Five Knuckle Shuffle. He hoists Triple H onto his shoulders only for Triple H to slide off as he gets a kick in though Cena escapes a Pedigree attempt, and Triple H ducks a shot and both men clothesline each other as Triple H charges only for Cena to catch him with a boot to the face. He hoists Triple H onto his shoulders and tries to eliminate him though Triple H slides off and hits a DDT on Cena, and he hoists Cena onto his shoulders and tries to dump him out as Cena slides off and he hoists Triple H onto his shoulders again. Triple H slides off and gets a kick in only for Cena to block the Pedigree by hoisting Triple H up and dumps him over the top to eliminate him and Cena wins the Rumble.
The match itself was fantastic as all 30 men worked hard and put on a tremendous Rumble that I don’t think gets enough credit for how great it was. The build for the match was pretty solid and there were a good amount of guys in the match that you thought had a chance to win, and there were no real slow spots throughout the match as they kept up a great flow and the crowd was into the match the whole way. Kudos to Kane and Carlito for lasting over 15 minutes, Morrison, Hornswoggle, Rhodes, and Umaga for lasting over 20 minutes, and Taker, Michaels, and Batista for lasting over 30 minutes with Batista being the Ironman at 37 minutes. The surprise appearances of Piper and Snuka were cool too as they kept it short and sweet, and things really got hot at the end with Triple H getting the most eliminations with 6. Obviously, the big story of the match was Cena’s surprise return and he looked great as we had a great final three with him, Triple H, and Batista, and it was a bit of a shock to see Cena win as it seemed like this was Triple H’s to win. As far as Punk goes, he had a solid showing lasting nearly 24 minutes and getting an elimination, but honestly he spent a lot of time getting beat on and didn’t do much in the way of offense which is surprising. While it may seem weak that he was eliminated by Guerrero, it keeps the feud going and Punk wasn’t swallowed up in the end of the match when Triple H and Cena came out. The crowd was red hot for the whole match and popped huge for Cena when he came out and when he won. Cena makes his return and is the shocking winner of the Royal Rumble as he is now heading to Wrestlemania and Punk looks to get back the ECW Title from Guerrero.
Final Grade: ****1/2