Royal Rumble Series #16 (2003)

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A-Train (Albert, Tensai, etc) is #25, and possibly at his most dangerous. I always thought the A-Bomb finisher was his best. Again Jericho is close to being eliminated, this time by Rikishi. Shawn Michaels is out! He’s after Jericho! And for some reason Matt Hardy and John Cena attack him like he’s in the match, when he clearly isn’t. Test intercepts Jericho and launches him over the top! Well, that was unexpected. Michaels launches himself over the top to the floor on Jericho, just to make sure he’s eliminated. Oh my god, it’s my favourite wrestler of all time .. Maven! (joking). To show how far his character progressed in a year, he’s still using his Tough Enough entrance music and video.

Maven takes down Cena (can’t believe I just wrote that), but Kane’s too much for him. There’s been a lot of bodies in this match for long periods; aside from when Jericho briefly got the ring to himself. Goldust is out (with fireworks) .. but doesn’t last a minute before Benjamin & Haas eliminate him. They go one further and get rid of Booker T as well. Batista! Making his Rumble debut. He gets in to a scrap with Test, and is almost eliminated, but manages to dodge a big boot, sending Test hurtling to the floor instead. After a cross body on Shelton, The Animal clotheslines and eliminates Rikishi. Oh my King .. here comes the pain! Brock Lesnar.

He starts off alright, but is soon cornered by Team Angle. They try eliminating him, but are instead eliminated themselves by Brock! Matt tries to do something, but is F-5’d to the outside on top of Team Angle! It takes both A-Train and Batista to stop the momentum of Brock. And #30 is .. Biker Taker! On a bike of course. He gives almost everyone a punch in the face, til he spots Cena and uppercuts him to elimination. Jamal is out next. Maven tries eliminating Undertaker like he did the previous year .. but ‘Taker is wise to it, and makes up for the previous embarrassment by getting rid of Maven after a choke slam.

A-Train hits the A-Bomb on Undertaker. Lesnar goes after Kane, but is choke slammed in the middle of the ring. RVD & Kane work together against Batista, and particularly A-Train. They eliminate the big hairy guy together. Kane motions to RVD for a double team, so he lifts him like he’s going to drop him on to Batista .. but betrays his tag partner and throws him out! It’s every man for himself. Never trust Kane. Four big guys remain: Undertaker, Kane, Lesnar and Batista. We get a familiar sight, with The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar staring each other down from across the ring.


Batista blindsides Undertaker, while Kane goes after Brock. Batista spine busters Taker. Batista and Kane try to double team Lesnar, but The Beast fights back and sends Batista flying with a belly-to-belly. F-5 to Kane. Taker and Lesnar go back to their stare down. They brawl til Lesnar whips off and eats a big boot. He recovers and tries to F5 Taker, but he wriggles out and goes for the Tombstone .. and connects! He turns, sees Batista is up, and clotheslines him out of the ring for elimination. For the first time since Taker got in, he interacts with Kane. He helps him to his feet and signals they should go after Lesnar. But Taker doesn’t need Kane and throws him out anyways!


Sore loser Batista gets in the ring with a steel chair but Taker kicks him down. He picks up the chair and hits Batista with it, and he flops out of the ring. Taker looks down on him, and this is a big enough distraction for Lesnar to recover and eliminate The Deadman! Undertaker grins in disbelief. Brock Lesnar celebrates going to face the champion in the main event at Wrestlemania. Undertaker gets in the ring and tells Brock to go and win the title, before giving him a forceful hand slap. Brock agrees, and Undertaker leaves the ring so he can bask in the spotlight.


Conclusion

It was the first to feature separate rosters for each brand. Triple H continued to dominate Raw, while “the next big thing” climbed to the top of the mountain on Smackdown. I think it was tough for those who couldn’t get behind Triple H or Brock Lesnar, as there were other talents possibly more deserving of a push. Remembering how I felt back in 2003, I missed Austin the most. I don’t blame him at all, but his absence left a gap too wide to fill. It opened up opportunities for guys like Lesnar, Cena, and Batista to peak Vince McMahon’s interest.


WWE’s quest to find the next Stone Cold Steve Austin remains incomplete to this day. You could say John Cena made them a lot of money over a longer period, but he’s another subject altogether. What’s important to understand, is how badly WWE wanted someone who could sell merchandise on Austin or The Rock’s level. And to the fans who could see the writing on the wall, it wasn’t a matter of “if” Lesnar won the Rumble. They were hoping for something more exciting, and unpredictable.


Honestly, it would’ve been more of a shock if Lesnar didn’t win. And I must say, him rolling out at #29 was disappointing. Had he worked hard for at least half the match before eliminating Taker at the end, it may have garnered him more respect with the fans.

Remember the botched shooting star press at Wrestlemania? I believe more remember that moment, than when he was shown a huge amount of respect from The Deadman here. You could see how happy (the man portraying) The Undertaker was for Brock though. Watch his body language, it’s almost like he’s telling everyone .. “He’s the man. We’ll tear it up again down the road”. And they sure did. This marks the beginning of the one-sided story of The Phenom and The Beast. Their interactions made the end sequences more meaningful.

The rest of the match had its moments, but they were few-and-far between because eliminations slowed to a snail’s pace after Jericho eliminated Edge & Christian. There were flashes of fun, fast-paced action, but it soon reverted back to the typical randomness. You know what I mean? With the amount of talent they had, there could have been more spots planned. Jericho vs. HBK was the only serious feud, and they totally delivered.

Bit strange Matt & John Cena attacked a bloodied HBK who was only interested in Jericho, but I’ve seen weirder things. Speaking of which, there wasn’t anything risky or innovative. No controversy. Unless you include Cena’s rap. And who lasted longest? Believe it or not, Chris Jericho (most eliminations with 6), Rob Van Dam and Matt Hardy. No “legends” popped their heads out from behind the curtain either.

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