Welcome back to the series! This is a detailed WWE Royal Rumble 2008 match review. The concept of the Rumble is unique, and I’ve had alotta fun reliving the classics.
WWE Royal Rumble 2008 – Madison Square Garden
While watching it again, I kinda forgot who won this match til very late on. This is the second year in a row when the Raw, SmackDown and ECW brands were represented; and unlike the previous Rumble, the amount of wrestlers featured from each brand was more equal. Unlike 2007, several qualification matches were held over the course of the month preceding the event. Those who qualified include: Umaga, Snitsky, Hardcore Holly, John Morrison, The Miz, Hornswoggle, Mick Foley, Jamie Noble, Cody Rhodes, Carlito, Santino Marella, Shawn Michaels, Triple H and CM Punk.
As for the rest of the card, Jimmy Wang Yang and Shannon Moore defeated Deuce N’ Domino in a dark match. In the opening match, Ric Flair had his career on the line in a match with MVP, but went on to win with his Figure Four Leg Lock submission. JBL won in his match against Chris Jericho because the latter used a steel chair in front of the referee. Edge & Randy Orton defended their WWE and World Championships in separate singles matches against Rey Mysterio (Edge) and Jeff Hardy (Orton). With a below average mid-card, the Royal Rumble match served as the main event for a second year in a row.
Royal Rumble 2008 Roundup (#1-6)
Before the match, Michael Buffer was on hand to give us an extra long introduction; certainly an upgrade from Finkel. As predicted, Buffer milked every second and closed out nicely with “Let’s Get Ready To RUMMMMBBBBBBLLLLEE!”. The commentary table consisted of six voices representing the three brands: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole, Jonathan Coachman, Tazz and Joey Styles. Out of the six voices, Joey Styles is noticeably quiet and only chimes in when there’s ECW business to discuss.
For the first time in history, the last remaining competitors from the previous years match happen to start this one. As Undertaker and Shawn Michaels get underway, commentary makes light of Jonathan Coachman’s former experience. Undertaker big boots HBK just in time for the next competitor. Oh! It’s Santino Marella’s Rumble debut. He tries to look threatening but it’s kinda pointless. HBK comes back to life and hits him square in the chin with Sweet Chin Music. Undertaker dumps Santino’s lifeless body out and HBK tries getting an advantage but gets elbowed. Old School is countered by Michaels. Here comes #4, former World Champion The Great Khali.
Undertaker chokeslams HBK in time to take on Khali by himself. The crowd chant “You Can’t Wrestle” at Khali. After a choke exchange, Khali misses a big chop which leaves him half straddled on the top rope. Undertaker grabs his legs and eliminates the bigger man. Hardcore Holly hits the ring and takes it straight to ’em, but The Deadman fires back with strikes. HBK intervenes and attempts an elimination, but Holly gets involved. John Morrison is #6 and Joey Styles finally gets some time to use his voice. He explains how Morrison and his tag team champion partner were mobbed at an appearance last night by 500 frantic female fans.
Michael Cole says that has nothing to do with what’s happening here, but Joey Styles stresses they were probably partying all night so it may be relevant. Morrison gets bounced around by Undertaker and HBK. Tommy Dreamer is #7! Joey Styles says that most WWE Superstars would go after the WWE title if they won, but Dreamer is obsessed with becoming ECW Champion. Tommy’s hometown fans chant his name, and out of the eight ECW guys in the match, he happens to be the only ECW Original. Batista is out, and he takes down a few of the guys before getting in to a staredown with The Undertaker.
Dreamer interjects himself and goes after Batista .. which is the wrong move as he’s eliminated shortly after. Vince McMahon’s son is here .. no, not Shane, I mean Hornswoggle. He takes one look at the superstars in the ring and decides hiding under it is a better idea. Batista spears ‘Taker while he’s distracted. Chuck Palumbo out .. but WWE places so much stock in the guy they don’t bother to pan the camera over during the entrance. The taped up arch rival of Chuck Palumbo, Jamie Noble, enters the match and fights Palumbo desperately for 20 seconds til he’s eliminated by a giant knee. A referee calls to the trainer to help Noble.
A nice pop for the hometown guy CM Punk at #12; who only qualified for the match the night before. He takes it to everybody, but it’s The Undertaker who stops his momentum. Chuck Palumbo tries his luck slamming Punk, but is soon eliminated with a running knee. Cody Rhodes makes his Royal Rumble debut, and who is the first person he hits? CM Punk. He also gets close to eliminating the Straight Edge Superstar, but Morrison interferes.
Cody Rhodes goes one-on-one with Undertaker, impressively flooring him with a dropkick. Next up, the character of Umaga enters for his Rumble debut (he appeared years before as Jamal) and takes on everybody with his intense offense. An error by Holly, as he gets in Umaga’s way and is eliminated via Samoan Spike. There’s no eliminations for a while, as (psycho yellow teeth) Snitsky, The Miz and Shelton Benjamin join the fray. Major praise for Morrison, as Jim Ross says he looks like a young Shawn Michaels. Miz & Morrison both hate Punk and spend time working him over.
Undertaker fails to eliminate the 400 Ib Umaga. Benjamin gets some offense in on The Miz, Morrison and Punk, before being Sweet Chin Music’d over the top rope! That’s the third year in a row Benjamin’s been eliminated by HBK. Super .. Super .. Superfly! It’s Jimmy Snuka. The superstars sell the offense like he’s a tank. Even The Undertaker looks dazed after headbutting Superfly. Who’s next!? RODDY PIPER! The crowd pops as the bagpipes blare, and Snuka looks like he’s seen a ghost. The superstars stop and watch as the two legends fire their best shots at each other. Oh oh, it’s the record breaking Kane .. and he gets rid of Piper & Snuka right away. Boo! Chokeslam to The Miz. Carlito is here, and I guess he’s still cool? He spits in the face of Cody Rhodes.
Somewhere somehow, Shawn Michaels is busted open due to a broken nose. Carlito, Morrison and Punk have a nice exchange, which ends with Punk getting a backstabber. Mick Foley gets a thunderous pop as the #22 entrant; loud “Foley” chants. He takes it to whoever is in the way, including Kane. KENNEDY! Is #23. And no lie, this is Mr. Kennedy’s one-and-only Royal Rumble appearance.
He does the smart thing by picking his spots, rather than going wild. So many bodies in the ring now, and The Undertaker gets a new lease of life. Here comes the 500 Ib Big Daddy V, and ‘Taker eliminates Snitsky in time for his arrival. But wait! HBK eliminates Undertaker! The Deadman stares daggers at him, which is enough of a distraction for Mr. Kennedy to take advantage and eliminate HBK! Undertaker takes one look at Michaels, but instead decides to drive Snitsky through the announce table with a running leg drop. Mark Henry enters next, and King jokingly says he’s Tazz’s new favourite (both he & Tazz have a habit of switching their favorites mid-match).
Hornswoggle emerges and helps to eliminate The Miz. Henry and Daddy V team up to double headbutt CM Punk. “Ooooo Chavo!”, interesting factoid: Chavo Guerrero is the first World Champion to compete in the Rumble since Hulk Hogan in 1990. Joey Styles says he effectively stole the ECW title last week, thanks to Edge’s interference. The most intense brawl of the match ensues between bitter rivals CM Punk & Chavo. Morrison spent close to thirty minutes in the match before being dumped unceremoniously by Kane. Hornswoggle tries getting involved again .. but Mark Henry grabs and lifts him in to the ring.
The little man finds himself stood between two giants in Henry & Daddy V. Chavo wants a piece of him too, but Finlay’s here with his shillelagh and unloads on Henry, Daddy V, Chavo, and Kennedy. He was meant to enter at #27, but is disqualified (although no rules in the Rumble!) for using a weapon to protect Hornswoggle; who is also eliminated after being escorted backstage. Remember Elijah Burke (aka The Pope D’Angelo Dinero)? Well, this is his first and last Rumble appearance.
CM Punk seems spent as Chavo fights him on the apron and eliminates his rival without much fight. Triple H pops up at #29 and the game changes. First thing he does is eliminate Cody Rhodes (wouldn’t it be cool if we could see this now?), followed by taking out Big Daddy V all on his own. The crowd erupts as Mick Foley and Triple H reignite their feud, but it doesn’t last .. as The Game sends Foley crashing over the top rope with Elijah Burke. Eight men remain with one left to appear. Triple H pedigrees Umaga as the countdown clock cues the entrance of .. JOHN CENA! Triple H is in shock. Cena was scheduled to be out for 8-12 months, but seen as he’s not human .. he’s back after only 3 months.
Mark Henry floors Triple H from behind just before Cena gets in the ring. There’s a mixed reaction from the crowd, as everyone is either cheering or booing Cena. He eliminates Carlito, Chavo and Mark Henry in quick succession. There’s a big staredown between Cena & Triple H, teasing an encounter at WrestleMania. Umaga gets involved and is about to Samoan Spike Hunter, but Batista spears him! We totally forgot about him, he’s not exactly stood out in this match. The Animal gets rid of Kennedy, and suddenly he’s a force to be reckoned with. He gets rid of Umaga and teams up with HHH to eliminate Kane. We’re down to the final three: Triple H, Batista and John Cena.
The crowd erupt because they rarely (up to this point) see these guys in the same vicinity on opposing sides. Batista gives them a double thumbs up, thumbs down, and is more than ready to fight. Cena shakes his hand and tells them they both can’t see him. Triple H tells ’em to “Suck It” and the match continues. Batista looks good as he double clotheslines them both, before giving Cena a spinebuster. Pedigree is countered in to a spinebuster as well. Batista sets up the Batista Bomb but Cena counters, and Triple H uses the opportunity to eliminate him! So we’re down to just Triple H and John Cena.
Triple H points at the WrestleMania sign; starting the trend of winners pointing up at it. The crowd cheer for The Game and boo Cena in an exchange of strikes. 5-Knuckle Shuffle followed by an FU attempt, leads to an Irish whip and double clothesline cancelling each other out. After Cena goes to eliminate HHH, he is countered with a DDT. Triple H places him on his shoulders and tries getting him out, but Cena escapes. HHH goes for the Pedigree, but Cena counters, gets him up on to his shoulders .. and simply launches HHH over the top to the floor! Michael Buffer announces John Cena as the 2008 Royal Rumble winner, and he sets a record for winning the Rumble in the least amount of time (8:28).
Facts & Figures
Traditionally, the Royal Rumble match often sets storylines in motion to culminate at Wrestlemania. Yet in 2008, the best it could do was hype the WWE Championship program; which became a triple threat between Randy Orton, John Cena and Triple H (so him losing the Rumble didn’t matter). As for Shawn Michaels eliminating The Undertaker, nothing came of it because HBK went on to face Ric Flair, while Undertaker challenged Edge for the World Championship in the main event.
Royal Rumble 2008 featured some of the biggest men in WWE (Big Daddy V, Mark Henry, Great Khali, Umaga, The Undertaker, Kane and Snitsky), yet all except Kane were eliminated by one man each. Early in the match, commentary stated “big men have the advantage”, but this philosophy was proven wrong. We also saw a rare disqualification (to Finlay), in a match with no hard set rules regarding the use of weapons or entering prematurely. The legends took up spots that could’ve gone to someone else, as they only lasted a couple minutes each.
Outside of The Undertaker, Kane, Batista, Shawn Michaels and the final two, no one else managed more than one elimination. Kennedy throwing Michaels out was probably the most shocking. Outside of that, it’s hard to find any standout performances. Batista lasted the longest with 37 minutes; although he kept a low profile for at least 30 minutes. Outside the big names, John Morrison lasted almost half an hour, which is twice as long as most superstars got. As stated above, John Cena broke Brock Lesnar’s old record of least time taken to win a Rumble.
Honestly, outside of John Cena’s return there wasn’t much to it. No crazy spots or innovative escapes from elimination. And the excitement for other surprises lasted as long as their entrances. I can count at least 10 superstars who were either eliminated under a few minutes, or never seriously got into it: Santino, Great Khali, Tommy Dreamer, Hornswoggle, Jamie Noble, Shelton Benjamin, Jimmy Snuka, Roddy Piper, Finlay and Elijah Burke.
Not only that, but John Cena being out with injury for what many assumed would be another five months (at least), only for him to return and win so easily? It’s not hard to see how it greatly contributed to the already polarizing figure he’d become. To many fans, it was a foregone conclusion he’d win the second his music hit. Super Cena was back in full effect .. and you either loved it, or hated it (even if you respected his passion to return so soon). WWE didn’t do much to help the mid-card either, as they continued to rely on the old guard to carry proceedings. And oh my god! I’ve never heard Joey Styles be so quiet in my life. How are you supposed to manage six guys on commentary?
All in all, I enjoyed some of this .. but not enough to say it was anything more than average. Considering the talent pool, so much potential wasted before our eyes to put over the same old thing. And to quote a Linkin Park song: “Because in the end, it doesn’t even matter”. How much so? You can find out in my old, yet freshly edited WrestleMania XXIV review in the link below. Thank you for reading! And see you again next time for Royal Rumble 2009. – WrestleMania XXIV