WrestleWatch Vault- WWF Royal Rumble 2000
Okay, so we're on the Road to Wrestlemania. As is customary, current WWE is upping its quality heading towards the biggest show of the year. That means one of my favourite events of the year, the Royal Rumble, is just a few days away! So, this trip to the Vault, fittingly enough, is to a Royal Rumble event from years past. But before we get there, I shouldn't assume things. That'd make an ass out of you and me (or u and me), as the saying goes. In case you're living under a rock, what is the Royal Rumble?
Great question, Mick! The Royal Rumble is a battle royal style event, created from the mind of the legendary Pat Patterson. Every January, 30 men compete in an over-the-top rope battle royal, where wrestlers are eliminated from the match when they are thrown over the top rope, and both feet hit the floor. What makes the Rumble unique is that rather than having all participants start in the ring, two competitors start in the ring, and at set intervals (either 90 seconds or 2 minutes), another wrestler enters the match, according to the number they drew. The prize? Typically, it is a title shot at the main event of Wrestlemania, although on two occasions- 1992 and 2016- the WWF/E Championship was on the line in the Rumble Match itself.
Rumble season is typically a lot of fun. The wrestlers have a very tangible goal and directions, as do the writers and all the other staff in the company. Weekly TV episodes in January build towards the Rumble, often involving qualifying matches to get into the Rumble Match- showing its prestige- and sometimes even for specific numbers, like the coveted number 30 spot. The fun continues at the PPV, as over the years, not all the participants for the Rumble Match have been announced leading into the show. This leaves open spots for surprise entrants. Sometimes it's legends from wrestling's past, like the Honky Tonk Man, Diesel, and The Godfather. Sometimes it's a returning superstar, like John Cena, Edge or Chris Jericho. We've even had celebrities in the Rumble- Drew Carey made a memorable cameo in 2001.
But for today's Vault entry, we go to the year 2000. It seems insane to me that this is where we are in time, but this was 20 YEARS AGO TODAY.
The Rumble Match was the main event, as it always should be, but this was a loaded card. As pictured above, the WWF Championship match was between "The Game", Triple H, who beat Big Show at the turn of the millenium to claim wrestling's top prize. Triple H had spent years trying to break into the main event scene. It's popular belief on the Internet that he only became a top guy after marrying the bosses daughter, Stephanie McMahon. In reality, he was still dating Chyna when he won his first WWF Championship, and had been groomed for superstardom for a long time prior. En route to becoming the top heel and champion in the company, he won King Of The Ring and held the European and Intercontinental Championships, working his way up the card. It was a spell as the leader of the Hall of Fame stable, D-Generation X that helped him ascend to the top. After an interview with Jim Ross where he said he wasn't just a student of the game, "I am the fucking Game!", Triple H was off to the races.
His challenger would be Mick Foley, in the most dangerous incarnation of his Three Faces of Foley. The Hardcore Legend, the King of the Deathmatch, Cactus Jack! The match stipulation would be one that played to Cactus' strengths as well... a good old fashioned Street Fight! In real life, Mick Foley's career was winding down after a long time throwing his body on and off the highest, hardest things he could, and he wanted to put over the young blood, Triple H, as best as he could before calling it a day. For his part, Triple H also wanted Foley to go out on a feud and performance that would be as memorable as the highest points of his career.
Also, Kurt Angle was a newcomer to the WWF at this time. Wow, writing that REALLY drives home that this was a long time ago. A couple of months into his WWF career, and he was undefeated. He was so confident in his abilities that he issued an open challenge to any wrestler in the world. This would get very interesting.
In 2000, the WWF tag team division was really heating up, and one of the 2000 Rumble's featured matches would illuminate that fact. It would be the Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz- using Z instead of S was super cool in 2000- in the first ever Tag Team Tables Match! This would be the pre-cursor to the legendary TLC matches starting later that year.
That's all you really need to know going into this. Let's. Do. This.
We start the show off with Kurt Angle and a microphone. God, he was such a great antagonist. He just GOT pro wrestling immediately. He cuts a promo shitting on New York- this event took place in Madison Square Garden- and puts himself over as the greatest thing ever. Suddenly, he's interrupted by the sound of a heartbeat and some heavy rock music. It's the former ECW Champion, the Human Suplex Machine (and Brooklyn's own), Tazz! The Garden erupts for this man, who is making his surprise WWF debut!
Match 1: Tazz defeated Kurt Angle (at 3:15)
Thoughts: This occured in much shorter order than I recall, but wow, what a moment it was! Tazz threw around Angle with ease and wasted little time locking in a submission, the Tazzmission, as it would later be known. Kurt going limp and Tazz gets a standing O. I don't know if it beats Chris Jericho, but undoubtedly it was one of the greatest debuts of all time. Things didn't really work out for Tazz in the WWF/E, at least as a wrestler, but he had lightning in a bottle on this night. (***)
Match 2: Tables Match- The Hardy Boyz def. The Dudley Boyz (at 10:18)
Thoughts: People point to the No Mercy Ladder Match with Edge & Christian and the Hardyz, and the triangle ladder match at Mania 2000 that included the Dudleyz, but for my money, this was an equally significant match in terms of elevating these teams (and the tag division as a whole) to greater heights. Matt and Jeff absolutely killed themselves out there, Bubba and D'Von were all too happy to play into that and use the young high-fliers as crash test dummies, and the finish- Jeff doing the Swanton off the MSG balcony- is iconic. (****)
Miss Rumble 2000 Contest. Judges enter- Sgt Slaughter, Tony Garea, Fabulous Moolah, Johnny V and Classy Freddie Blassie. The MC, Jerry "The King" Lawler (of course). He says to ring announcer Howard Finkel, "These girls aren't your type, they're not inflatable!" Contestants- Ivory, Jacqueline, Terri, BB, Luna, The Kat. Celebrity judge Andy Richter. The ladies strut their stuff, but before the judges make a decision, we have a late entrant- Mae Young! Mae takes her top completely off to the shock of everyone, and thankfully the Network throws a massive "CENSORED" sign on the screen (I remember seeing one saggy old lady titty in a VHS years ago). The judges vote her the winner- Jackie and Terri are disbelieving, and I'm with them. Also, Ivory had a pretty hot body, despite her prude persona. And obviously, Jerry Lawler was a lucky, lucky man to be married to The Kat. She was wearing a bubble wrap bikini!
Match 3- WWF Intercontinental Championship- Chris Jericho def. Chyna and Hardcore Holly (at 7:31)
Thoughts: One of the drawbacks of a Rumble PPV is that other matches are often short on time due to the time needed for the Rumble Match itself. It's not as big a deal anymore since WWE have their own Network and can run as long as they want, but in the year 2000, it was an issue. So Jericho and the IC title were essentially used as a buffer match for all the craziness in the show so far. Jericho and Chyna had this weird feud/partnership where they were co-holders of the Intercontinental Championship, and this match put an end to that silliness by crowning an undisputed champion, so it gets points for that. Hardcore Holly was a bit of a random inclusion, but from what Chris Jericho said in his book "Undisputed", old Sparky Bob was basically there to give Y2J someone decent to work with- Chyna was over and had a great look, but could hardly work worth a damn, really. So it all turned out pretty alright, in the end. (***)
Match 4- WWF Tag Team Championship- New Age Outlaws def. APA (at 2:39)
Thoughts: Remember what I said about matches getting cut short for time? Yep. This was crazy short for a PPV championship match. The Outlaws were the sneaky heels- but would still get "cool heel" pops- and the Acolytes were just straight up ass-kickers, so the DX representatives get it done with some underhanded shenanigans involving a title belt. (*1/2)
Match 5: WWF Championship- Street Fight- Triple H def. Cactus Jack (at 26:55)
Thoughts: This was a classic. One of the best matches of Foley's career, and also of Triple H's- even though he's had 20 years of being a main event superstar following this match. Both men took hellacious bumps, and they took the "hardcore" style as far as it had been taken in the WWF up to that time. Screw your flimsy aluminium cookie sheets and trash cans, how about a metric fuckload of thumbtacks all around the ring to pierce every last inch of exposed flesh? Both men came out of the match elevated, the crowd respecting the toughness on both sides, and while it built sympathy for Foley, it also legitimised Triple H... as much as he was the asshole of all assholes, he was a tough bastard that could back it all up in the ring, no matter the opponent or environment. (****1/2)
Match 6: Royal Rumble Match- The Rock won by eliminating Big Show (at 51:54)
Thoughts: Boy, am I glad I stopped doing these reviews in a play-by-play format! This was tons of fun, where a lot of top WWF Superstars at the time had spots to shine, but one thing that was great about this match- and the Attitude Era in general, really- is that the midcard also got plenty of opportunities to do memorable stuff. Too Cool and Rikishi broke it down with a mid-match dance break (that's right, kids, R-Truth and Carmella didn't invent that). Kaientai kept interfering in the match and getting their asses kicked- including a fantastic moment where Taka is launched out of the ring and lands square on his face! And finally, the most popular Superstar in the WWF, The Rock, won, claiming the right to challenge for the WWF Championship at Wrestlemania 2000 (Vince decided they were too cool to use the proper numbers for the 16th Mania). The only real mark on the match is that it was slightly botched at the finish- Rock's feet actually hit the ground before Big Show, but they could hide it well enough on certain camera angles. It wasn't a fuck up of 2005 proportions, though. (****)
Royal Rumble 2000 was a damn near perfect show to start the new millenium in WWE, or as it was known at the time, the WWF. In the iconic Madison Square Garden, it felt like a massively important show for the Federation at the height of its popularity, in the middle of the Attitude Era. From the Garden blowing the roof off for the debut of Tazz, to the Hardyz and Dudleyz killing each others in the first tag team Tables Match, to the WWF Championship Street Fight, to the Rumble Match itself... the show just went from strength to strength. The great thing about the Rumble Match is that a lot of people got chances to shine, not just a handful of main event guys. Even Kaientai got a little shine! (RIP Taka's face though) And the world championship match was a classic battle that stole the show, with Cactus Jack being at the end of his run as a main event wrestler, and Triple H really just getting started in that role at the time- which really gives perspective to how long ago this all was. Docking it a point because I had to see 80 year old Mae Young's titties during the Miss Rumble contest, but overall, this was one of the best shows WWF/WWE has ever done.
Until next time, take care,