The Katz Files – Arnie Katz
My Royal Rumble Recap & Analysis!!
The Kingfish Arnie Katz reports on what happened at Royal Rumble and delves into the stories behind the show.
Those who found Armageddon disappointing ought to be a lot happier with Royal Rumble, even if they may not be happy about some of the surprises.
Not that all of the shocks were negative. The ending of the Cena-Leyfield match was really exciting and fans enjoyed seeing Melina take the title from Beth Phoenix.
This was one of the strongest WWE pay per views in sometime and a good first step on the road to WrestleMania 25</I.
Let’s look at what happened at Royal Rumble — and why…
“The road to WrestleMania begins tonight,” said Jack Korpella when he opened the pre-show. The half-hour put the Rumble match in the spotlight, as expected, but it also put a lot of emphasis on the Michaels-Leyfield-Cena situation. Also given a lot of attention was the confrontation between Randy Orton and Vince McMahon, which resulted in the Legend Killer Punting WWE’s chairman. The Jeff Hardy storyline, highlighted by those mysterious “accidents,” also came in for plenty of attention,
The Kingfish comments: This was one of WWE’s most effective pre-shows in some time. It hit all the major matches hard and did not have nearly as many repetitions as some past pre-shows (or the ones TNA presents).
Royal Rumble, from Detroit, MI, opened with a video montage o logos and action clips.
When Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler took the mic, live from Detroit, they reported that the McMahon family wasn’t discussing Vince’s condition. They said that Randy Orton probably faced a suspension, a fine or some other kind of punishment.
Jack Swagger d. Matt Hardy
ECW Title Match
The Story: Jack Swagger is the rising force in ECW. After beating many of the men on the ECW roster, it’s time for him to test his mettle against the best, the champion.
My Prediction: There’s nothing for Jack Swagger to do except either hold the ECW title or go to one of the other shows and work his way up from the lower mid-card. That means Swagger can either win this match or lose under circumstances that make a re-match both mandatory and highly marketable. The ultimate plan may be to match Swagger against Tommy Dream in a new-versus-old ECW storyline. The best way to achieve that might be to have Dreamer help Hardy retain the title, perhaps on a DQ win, and then have Swagger and Dream fight on ECW to lead up to a Hardy-Swagger-Dreamer Three-way Dance in which Swagger would pin Dreamer to take the belt.
Predicted Grade: B
The Actual Match: Matt Hardy blocked an Enzuiguiri and leveled Swagger with a Clothesline. The champion immediately ducked out of the ring to catch his breath. Matt connected with a Low-Altitude Dropkick and a Bulldog, but Swagger wouldn’t stay down for the three count.
Jack Swagger worked on Hardy’s left arm, which color man Matt Stryker pointed out was the one he used for the Twist of Fate. When Matt did try his big move, the ECW kingpin turned it into a Belly-to-Belly Suplex that almost got the decision! After they each blocked the others Suplex attempts, Swagger broke the stalemate with an Inverted DDT! It still wasn’t enough to close out the match.
When Jack Swagger put Matt Hardy on the top turnbuckle, the challenger threw him to the canvas, Hardy pulled off a Moonsault, but Swagger got one massive shoulder off the mat in time.
Swagger locked a Twist of Fate and a Side Effect. The champ sent Hardy into the turnbuckle and hit him with the Gut-wrench Powerbomb to seal the deal and keep the WWE Championship belt.
Actual Grade: B+
The Kingfish comments: It wouldn’t be surprising if Matt Hardy now left ECW, or at least put in mostly on the back burner, to try his luck on Smackdown.
A video showed the arrival of Randy Orton earlier in the day. Everyone either stared at him in disbelief or averted their eyes.
The Kingfish comments: The build up to a confrontation started in the pre-show and continued to intensify through the entire show. This very short scene got across the fact that Orton is in trouble and facing unknown consequences better than 20 minutes of breathless rant could’ve accomplished. Showing people something is always more powerful than merely telling them about it.
Melina’s entrance proved to be a real eye-catcher. She started walked the ramp shrouded in feathers like an old-time fan dancer. Then she threw away the feathers to reveal her shiny blue (and quite revealing) ring outfit. She capped her promenade to the ring with her unique signature entrance.
The Kingfish comments: Wasn’t there someone in Glow or POWW who used Melina’s entrance move as her finisher. I believe she called it the Pussy Pounder.
Michael Cole referred to a “life blog” earlier in the day in which Melina stated that she hadn’t come back fro injury only to lose this title match.
The Kingfish comments: Leaving aside the overuse of the buzzword “blog,” this is another step in WWE’s campaign to make the Internet more of a promotional tool. Fans who didn’t turn out for Melina’s interview may well wish they had. And those who didn’t, still got the news.
The Story: Melina, the former champion, has returned after an injury to challenge her former friend Beth Phoenix for the title. Complicated matters are the mysterious Rosa Mendez, who appears to have a score to settle with Melina, and Santino Marella.
My Prediction: Although the 1/19 RAW pretty much killed the heat for Rosa Mendez, WWE is not likely to change whatever was planned for her to do at Royal Rumble. That most likely is interference that will decide the match. In this case, I think we’re looking at Rosa screwing up and doing something that causes Beth Phoenix to lose the match, though maybe not the title.
Predicted Grade: B-
The Actual Match: Melina’s best move of the night may have been a Tilt-a-Whirl Armbar. She gyrated impressively, but she couldn’t seem to bring down the Glamazon. Phoenix picked up Melina like a feather and tossed her into a corner of the ring with seemingly no effort.
Beth Phoenix worked on Melina with an Anklelock. The Latin Spitfire screamed load enough to shake the rafters, but she refused to submit. Phoenix somehow used Melina’s own foot to kick the challenger in the head.
Melinda squirmed out of a potential Gorilla Press Slam and stunned the champion with a Jaw-Jacker. Beth broke free of Melina’s clutches. Melina employed a Drop Toehold to send Phoenix sprawling across the middle rope. Melina immediately pulled off a Bronco Buster, but Phoenix avoided the pin.
Melina caught Phoenix in Body Scissors. She turned it into a Sunset Flip and got the all-important three count to win the match and the title.
Actual Grade: B
The Kingfish comments: The most obvious thing about this match is that WWE dropped the Rosa Mendez plotline, or at least put it away for the night. After all those run-ins, fans might’ve expected the mystery woman to do something or, at minimum, be at ringside to serve as a threat and a distraction.
If WWE hasn’t dropped the whole idea, they will probably bring forward Rosa Mendez starting on the 1/26 RAW. With Melina now champion, they might even be able to overcome the poor writing and acting that marred the concept on the RAW right before the pay per view.
A long series of videos provided a detailed recapitulation of the Shawn Michaels-John Leyfield-John Cena story.
After the footage finished, the backstage camera caught Leyfield trying to give HBK a pep talk. The Cowboy Financier told his employee not to be conflicted. He then sweetened the deal by telling Shawn that if Leyfield took the title from Cena, JBL would pay him all the money right then and would guarantee a spot in the Royal Rumble.
After Leyfield walked out of the scene, Undertaker told HBK that, “It’s sometimes hell getting to heaven.”
The Kingfish comments: This accomplished its goal very well. WWE wanted to ratchet up the tension over whether Shawn Michaels would follow JBL’s orders or do the right thing and this certainly did it. Leyfield altered the conditions of their deal so that only moral considerations could cause Shawn to refrain from interfering in the match against John Cena.
John Cena d. John Bradshaw Leyfield (with Shawn Michaels)
World Heavyweight Championship
The Story: John Bradshaw Leyfield will do just about anything to gain the World Heavyweight Championship. He has taken advantage of the current Depression to virtually enslave Shawn Michaels, GBK can groan and grimace all he wants, but JBL continues to get dividends from his purchase as one of WWE’s greatest wrestlers does the bidding of the Cowboy Financier. John Cena says that he doesn’t believe that Michaels will help Leyfield win the gold when it comes down to crunch time. When the bell rings at Royal Rumble, we’ll know for sure.
My Prediction: The eventual climax of this type of storyline figures to be Michaels rebelling against Leyfield. This is such an obvious and expectable development that it actually makes it harder to predict any individual match in the program. WWE could decide to speed up the story at any time and have Michaels turn on his employer. Michaels-Leyfield would make a good middle-of-the-card match for WrestleMania, so the revolution is unlikely to happen at Royal Rumble. One way to do that would be to have Cena win by a DQ due to interference by Michaels. They could then do a cage match at No Way Out. From there, Cena could go forward to fight Leyfield or Michaels at WM, depending on how WWE wants to spin it.
Predicted Grade: A
The Actual Match: After some chain wrestling, Leyfield clobbered Cena with a Clothesline. The champ immediately replied with a Back Elbow.
After a short conference with Michaels, HBL clubbed Cena across the back of the neck and battered him in the corner. When Leyfield tried to whip him to the opposite turnbuckle, Cena reversed and then hit a Bulldog. He covered, but it was too early in the match for that.
Shawn Michaels provided a momentary distraction when Cena was chasing Leyfield around the ringside area. It did the job; Leyfield turned on the champ and bashed his head against everything in sight before shoving him back inside for an attempted pin that came up one count sort.
When the Cowboy Financier couldn’t deck Cena with a Clothesline, he unloaded with five Elbow Drops. He still couldn’t keep Cena shoulders on the mat, though. Leyfield knocked Cena off the apron, followed him outside and smashed his head against the ring steps!
JBL pounded away at Cena in the corner. He put him on the turnbuckle with the intention of giving him a Superplex, but the champ’s right hands ruined that plan. Cena’s Legdrop from the top looked good, but he took munch too long to attempt a cover.
Cena went on a major offensive run. He whipped Leyfield into two turnbuckles, Clotheslined him twice and dealt an Atomic Hot Seat! After the Five-Knuckle Shuffle, Cena went for the FU. Leyfield whacked him on the bridge of the nose to disrupt it. Cena applied the STFU as Michaels watched, impassively, from ringside. The referee took the opportunity to warn HBK to stay where he was and not get involved. When Cena broke the hold to approach Michaels, Layfield kicked him entirely out of the ring!
Leyfield’s Clothesline from Hell wasn’t sufficient to do in Cena, so JBL launched another one. Cena dodged, but referee Mike Chioda didn’t. He went down hard and stayed there.
Both Cena and Leyfield went down after the mix-up as Michaels got in the ring.
Both men stood, with Cena between the Nefarious Capitalist and his employee! Michaels launched Sweet Chin Music – and took out Leyfield!
John Cena, a look of surprise on his face, approached Michaels to thank him for not helping Leyfield – and Michaels gave him Sweet Chin Music, too!! Michaels placed Leyfield on top of Cena and trudged up the ramp toward the dressing room.
A substitute referee finally came to the ring. From pure instinct, Cena kicked out in time!
Leyfield and Cena got to their feet, though neither looked too strong. Cena tried an FU, but Leyfield broke free. The challenger unsuccessfully tried a Clothesline. The champion intercepted him with an FU to win the match and keep the title.
Actual Grade: A
The Kingfish comments: Chioda took a great bump to set up the finish. The world’s few remaining marks may have wondered why the EMTs didn’t come out for him, but that’s a minor quibble.
The finish sets up a lot of possibilities. We’ll know on the 1/26 RAW, so I won’t waste everyone’s time by predicting which one I think WWE will follow.
A video reprised the series of mishaps that have befallen Jeff Hardy.
Edge d. Jeff Hardy
The Story: Who is responsible or the frightening mishaps that have assailed Jeff Hardy (and his girlfriend)? Jeff is strongly suspicious of Edge, who has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence. Fans of the Charismatic Enigma have to wonder if this powerful distraction will be enough to allow Edge to recapture the championship.
My Prediction: The attacks on Hardy serve a dual purpose. They are a way to introduce Christian and an excuse for Edge winning the title from Hardy on this card. I don’t think Hardy will learn who is behind the attacks at this time, but we will probably see some kind of unsettling incident at this show. It is even possible that WWE will take Jeff Hardy right off the card in order to build up an even bigger WM showdown. Most likely, Jeff takes some punishment from Edge, but holds onto the strap.
Predicted Grade: A-
The Actual Match: With Hardy already in the ring, General Manager Vickie Guerrero announced that she was making the match “No DQ.” She introduced Edge as “the next WWE champion.”
Hardy took the fight to Edge from the opening bell. Maybe he hoped he could short-circuit the match and end it before Vickie had a chance to do anything else.
Edge and Hardy chased each other in and out of the ring for a while. The champion grabbed a chair. He would’ve used it if Edge hadn’t bashed it back into his face!
Jeff left the ring and practically dared Edge to try a Baseball Slide. When the Rated R Superstar did exactly that, Hardy not only evaded the move, but zipped back into the ring and nailed Edge with a Baseball Slide! Before Edge could rise, Hardy floored him with a Cross-Body Fly from the ring apron.
Chavo Guerrero, standing at ringside, diverted Jeff’s attention long enough for Edge to launch a counter-attack in the ringside area. He banged Hardy’s head against the announce table three times!
Jeff Hardy tried a top-rope move that failed badly when Edge blasted him with a Missile Dropkick! Edge went outside and returned with two chairs. The champion Speared him off the apron, almost all the way to the outer barricade.
Soon, Hardy and Edge were battling on the ring apron! Jeff hit a Twist of Fate, but both men took damage when they fell off the apron to the arena floor!
Hardy mashed Edge’s face against the announce table. He cleared off the top of the table and then took a ladder from underneath the ring. Chavo tried to stop him as he climbed the ladder. This earned him the dubious privilege of replacing Edge as the target on the table! Hardy came off the ladder and put Chavo through the table!
Hardy dragged Edge back into the ring after introducing him to the ring post at high speed. He came off he top with a Cross-Body Block, but Edge got his shoulder off the mat.
Edge knocked down Hardy with a Clothesline and used the rest to remove the cover of a turnbuckle. Hardy blocked Edge’s attempt to use the exposed buckle and then nearly pinned him with a Cross Body from the top!
Edge blocked a Twist of Fate and scored with a DDT! Still, he only got a two count.
Edge tried a rare airborne move. He should’ve skipped this one, too, because Hardy got his knees up in time to make it a rough landing for the Rated R Superstar. Hardy Monkey Flipped Edge into the corner and nearly pinned him on the rebound.
Edge survived a Sit-out Inverted Powerbomb and rocketed Hardy toward the exposed turnbuckle. The tactic only earned a two-count, though.
Edge launched a Spear! Hardy turned it into a crushing Twist of Fate! When he started to climb to the top, Vickie Guerrero tried to interfere. Hardy pushed her away and hit the Swanton Bomb! This time, it didn’t lead to a pin. It would’ve been a three-count, but Vickie hauled the official out of the ring before he could slap canvas for the final time!
Matt Hardy came to the ring and stopped Vickie from doing anything further. Matt had Jeff get a second chair and it looked like they planned to give Edge a Con-chair-to, a taste of his own bitter medicine.
Then, suddenly, Matt turned and smashed his brother with a chair! Edge pounced on his fallen foe and scored the pin to recapture the WWE Championship!
Boos rang in Matt’s ears as he left the arena. The fans were angry, but there was nothing to do for Jeff Hardy, a double loser in this match.
Actual Grade: A
The Kingfish comments: Now that’s what I call a shocker! We’ll have to wait for Smackdown to find out the answers to two huge questions: First, is Matt the one responsible for the accidents? Second? What is the reason for his attack? The writers had better have something really big up their sleeves or the fans are going to be very unhappy about breaking up the brothers.
A video revealed that the WWE’s two biggest titles will be on the line in Elimination Chamber Matches at No Way Out.
The Kingfish comments: This is another clever WWE strategy to give itself room to revise the storylines leading to WrestleMania 25 if it proved necessary or desirable to do so. An Elimination Chamber match makes it very easy to change the champion or set up insta-feuds. Two of them will give WWE incredible flexibility going forward.
From a timing standpoint, it might’ve been better t run it earlier in the show, before the WWE and World Heavyweight championship matches to add even more uncertainty.
Chris Jericho and Randy Orton had a testy conversation. The Legend Killer accused Chris of kissing up to him. Jericho replied that he was just talking now, because he thinks that the McMahon family will probably fire Orton!.
The Kingfish comments: I’ve always thought it was strange that, in wrestling, all heels like other heels and all faces like other faces unless the plot specifically is about a feud. Why should Orton and Jericho get along? They both want the same thing, the championship. There’s no reason for them to cooperate or even be cordial if they don’t have some other, shorter-range goal to bind them together.
The Royal Rumble Match
The Story: You were expecting a Survivor Series match? The inside-out battle royal gave the show its name. The brilliant decision to give the winner a title shot at WrestleMania gives the Rumble something a lot of similar gimmick matches lack: a point.
My Prediction: The Rumble always has a lot of stars, but WWE has really packed this one with a lot of guys who, if they won, could carry a championship match at WrestleMania. The guy who needs it most is Vladimir Kozlov. It could make a Hardy-Kozlov (or even a Triple H-Kozlov) match at WrestleMania a lot more interesting to fans. We might even see a Rumble finish that leads to Triple H-Kozlov at No way Out with the winner to face Hardy at WM
Predicted Grade: A-
The Actual Match: Rey Mysterio (1) and John Morrison (2) started the Rumble.
Just as it looked like the Masked Marvel was about to eliminate Morrison with a Baseball Slide, Carlito (3) ran to the ring. His Springboard moves nearly got rid of Morrison.
MVP (4) entered the Rumble, followed by Great Khali (5). Everyone tried to attack Khali, but he used Clotheslines and Chokeslams to keep them at bay.
Kozlov (6) entered and went right at Great Khali. Kozlov got the big man over the ropes to make Great Khali the first man eliminated.
MVP ran at Kozlov who, after a short battle, threw MVP out. Kozlov then knocked down Carlito and Bealed him over the top.
As Mysterio and Kozlov fought furiously, Triple H (7) joined the Rumble.
Triple H and Kozlov went at it hammer-and-tongs until The Game tossed him out of the ring and out of the match. John Morrison got active again and squared off against the Cerebral Assassin.
Randy Orton (8) assaulted Triple H as soon as he got into the Rumble. Orton missed his RKO, but when HHH went for the Pedigree, Morrison blasted him with a second-rope Springboard move.
JTG (9) and Shad Gaspar came out together, though only one could actually be in the match. JTG won a coin toss, but it was only after the winner was already inside the ropes when Shad realized that he’d been duped by a two-headed coin!
Ted DiBiase (10) and Chris Jericho (11) were the next entrants.
As Mike Knox (12) entered and went right for Mysterio, Orton and DiBiase worked over JTG. The Miz (13) joined his partner John Morrison in the ring. Triple G eliminated The Miz andMorrison in one shot.
As Finlay (14) joined the battle, Rey Mysterio cleverly used the prone bodies of Miz and Morrison to avoid landing with both feet on the arena floor.
Cody Rhodes (15) made it three Legacy members, all committed to working together. Mysterio tried to help Triple H, who took the brunt of Legacy’s triple-teaming, but it only set up the Masked Luchador for an Orton RKO!
Undertaker (16) climbed through the ropes and sent JTG over the top to eliminate him.
When Goldust (17) came out, Jerry Lawler quipped that he was the skeleton in his family’s closet.
Goldust came face to face with his brother Cody. The two men paused, looking at each other. Finally, they went into action. Goldust Back Body Dropped his sibling, but Cody clung to the apron to safe himself. Randy Orton ordered Cody Rhodes to eliminate Goldust and he got it done.
CM Punk (18) catapulted himself right into the thick of the action. He jolted Triple H with a GTS, but no one felt up to the task of boosting all that dead weight over the top strand.
Mark Henry (19) and Shelton Benjamin (20) arrived next. Finlay looked like he might be the next to go, but he hung on and the danger passed.
William Regal (21) came to the ring. Like the others, he simply ran down the ramp, minus the usual entrance pomp and circumstance.
Mark Henry’s elimination caught the announcers by surprise. Rey Mysterio pulled down the rope and the World’s Strongest Man sailed out over the top.
Kofi Kingston (22) was the next to come to the ring, but the focus was on Undertaker. Though bleeding, the Dead Man was still a force in the ring.
As several heels dangled Rey Mysterio over the edge of the ring, Kane (23) rumbled towards the Rumble. Kane came face to face with his brother, but he and Taker decided it would be much more fun to Double Chokeslam DiBiase.
William Regal spotted CM Punk lying on the ring apron and decided to force him out. Mr. Straight Edge turned the tables and it was Regal who went out over the top.
R-Truth (24) was next, but the real reaction went for the next man, Rob Van Dam (25). RVD tore through the ring like a tornado!
The Brian Kendrick (26) came out accompanied by Ezekiel Jones. Of course, the bodyguard wasn’t allowed to participate. Kendrick quickly eliminated Kofi Kingston. Triple H quickly Irish Whipped The Brian Kendrick over the ropes to the floor.
Dolf Zigler (27) had the spot that has produced the most Rumble winners. He tried to introduce himself to Kane, who simply flipped him over the ropes to a quick exit.
Santino Morella (28) got into the ring only to have Kane toss him out immediately. No word as to whether or not this was a new record.
Hacksaw Jim Duggan (29)won the first Rumble, but not this one.
The Big Show (3) rounded out the Rumble field.
Undertake and Big Show stood toe to toe, but it was Kane who knocked down the WWE’s largest competitor. Hacksaw made a strong effort to eliminate Big Show, who abruptly turned the tables and propelledHacksaw Jim Duggan out of the match.
Big Show used a Gorilla Press to heave R-Truth out of the Rumble.
Big Show tried, unsuccessfully at first, and finally succeeded in getting rid of CM Punk.
Rey Mysterio and Mike Knox eliminated each other.
Hornswoggle injected himself into the match, but the Little Squirt only fooled around with Big Show for a little while before the Giant turned his attention back to Finlay and sent the Fighting Irishman to the showers.
When Taker and Big Show got into a striking exchange, the Dead Man blocked almost every blow while getting in quite a few of his own.
Rob Van Dam hit a Five-Star Frogsplash, but the outcome wasn’t want he wanted. Jericho saw he was vulnerable and threw RVD out.
Undertaker turned Chris Jericho’s corner charge into a Back Body Drop that landed Chris out of the Rumble. Legacy, working together, overpowered Kane.
Legacy next ganged up against Undertaker, who gave each of them a Chokeslam.
As Undertaker and Big Show fought on the apron, Randy Orton bounced out Big Show with an RKO and then Legacy shoved Undertaker off the apron. Big Show and Undertaker continued to fight each other, battling into the crowd and away from the ring.
Triple H survived a three-on-one beatdown in the corner and an Orton RKO and then went to work on the other two Legacy members. Triple H gave Cody Rhodes a Pedigree, tossed Ted DiBiase over the top and then sent Coy Rhodes the same way.
Randy came up behind Triple H and threw him out to win the Rumble and advance to a title shot at WrestleMania 25.
Actual Grade: A
The Kingfish comments: The finish wasn’t outstanding, but the match as a whole was exciting with a minimum of aimless loitering.
Orton’s win suggests that the Leyfield-Michaels storyline is coming to an end, perhaps with a match between the boss and the employee at WrestleMania
Predicted Grade for Royal Rumble: B+
Actual Grade for Royal Rumble: A-
That’s it for today. I’ll be back on tomorrow with another installment of the Internet’s fastest-rising daily wrestling column. I hope you’ll join me then and, please, bring your friends.
— Arnie Katz