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Are You Ready to Rumble?  Not Until
You Read this PPV Preview!
January 18, 2002

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


If Gene Okerlund were here right now, I could probably convince him to say, "Ladies and Gentlemen, it's now the shank of the wrestling year."  Lord knows I don't know anyone else who uses the word "shank" in that context...

Oh yeah, this is when it's fun to be a fan: the Rumble-to-Mania corridor is book-ended my two favorite events of the year, and can be counted on to deliver the year's biggest and best stories and match...  and it all starts Sunday at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view.

It's a show that looks very promising "on paper":  from a gimmick-y perspective, you can get fired up about stuff like the first PPV match for Ric Flair since March, or the first for HHH since May, or the appearances of Mr. Perfect and Goldust.  From a more straight-up wrestling perspective, you can get fired up by a loaded Rumble roster that includes several viable winners which should create a lot of drama.  Or you could get fired up for what should be another really good match-up between Chris Jericho and the Rock.

Just do me a favor, and don't go getting fired up for Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, or Hulk Hogan...  Jim Ross is telling you they won't be there.  Remember when you didn't listen to good ol' JR a month ago?  Remember how you got your panties all in a bunch because you were SURE HHH would be at Vengeance, and then he wasn't, even though JR TOLD you he wouldn't be?  Why can't you just sit back and be willing to be surprised, people?

Of course, I say that with my foot threatening to enter my mouth, since part of the function of this column is to prepare you for every possibility...  so let's can the small talk and get on with the utterly hypocritical Royal Rumble PPV Preview!


The WWF has announced an official list of 30 men entered in the Rumble, leaving no room for additional surprise entrants.  Unless, of course, you'd find yourself really fired up for the super surprise of seeing the Hardy Boyz, Maven, or Al Snow back on TV for the first time in a while.

Right at the top, let's run down the list of 30:

Triple H, Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Booker T, Undertaker, Rob Van Dam, Kane, Big Show, Dallas Page, Rikishi, Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy, Test, Faarooq, Bradshaw, Albert, Scotty 2 Hotty, Billy Gunn, Chuck Palumbo, Christian, Lance Storm, Hurricane, Perry Saturn, Big Bossman, Al Snow, Maven, the Godfather, Val Venis, Goldust, and Mr. Perfect.

Not a bad line-up...  on top, you've definitely got a handful of completely legitimate contenders, instead of a single obvious choice for a winner.  With no clear direction for the creation of a WrestleMania main event, it makes it even easier to consider "underdogs" like Booker, Taker, or even RVD as possible winners.  Toss in the fact that the Rumble winner has actually been the one to get the WM title shot only 56% of the time since that stipulation was added in 1993 (thank you, Will Parrish), and you could have any of the top 7 or 8 names I listed get the Rumble win, only to lose the title shot to one of the three Mania-main-event-caliber options (HHH, Austin, Angle).  Just compare with, for instance, the 2000 Rumble Roster, which really only had two possible winners.

As you move down the Rumble roster, it seems like the Fed's done a pretty decent job of making sure that even if someone's not considered a possible winner, they'll still pop the crowd upon making an entrance.  The goal has got to be to assemble a roster where, when the buzzer goes off, the crowd responds in some fashion, rather than just sitting on their hands saying, "So what?".  That's where the "Rumble Returns" concept with Venis, Godfather, Perfect, and Goldust helps out.  Even Al Snow and Maven should get a little lovin' from the crowd, just cuz it seems so many people enjoyed the "Tough Enough."  I figure Billy, Chuck, Bossman, and Saturn run the biggest risks of getting the "So what?" reaction...  but as long as you space those out, it's no big deal.

The Fed is waffling on the interval between entries, it seems...  Michael Cole was back to saying "every couple of minutes" last night on SD!, despite earlier indications that the Rumble would be down to 60 second intervals.  I, personally, cannot over-emphasize how vital I think the longer intervals are.  Two minutes between entries gives you enough time to keep a good ebb and flow, and tell some stories.  At one minute intervals, you might as well just give up and do a regular battle royal...  cuz everything starts running together.

A properly paced Rumble does not suffer from the same pitfalls as a battle royal:  by only having a handful of workers in the ring at any given time, you can actually look for some solid wrestling and spots, rather than just 30 guys punching and kicking in the ropes, trying to stay out of each other's way.  There's time and room for everybody to hit a trademark move or spot, which usually doesn't happen until the latter stages of a regular battle royal.

The Rumble match is also fun because it allows for a lot of viewer involvement...  Denny started a thread in the OO Forums where you play along by predicting the #1 entrant, the #2 entrant, the #30 entrant, the "Marathon Man" (stays in Rumble the longest, but doesn't actually win), and the winner of the Rumble.  I'm not sure what the prize is, but it's fun to play along...

My own crew has a play-along game in which five of us pick a number (1 through 5) out of a hat.  #1 gets entrants 1, 6, 11, 16, 21 and 26.  #2 gets entrants 2, 7, 12, 17, 22 and 27.  And so on and so forth (you can also play with 3, 6 or 10 participants and maintain parity).  Your stable of wrestlers accrues points by eliminating other wrestlers from the Rumble (1 point per elimination, half a point if in on a "group elimination"), and by making it to the end (the winner gets 10 points, the runner up gets 5 points...  there is also a bonus of 5 points given to the player with the most wrestlers in the Final Five, but that has usually ended in a tie).  Every year, I think up ways to enhance our scoring system, but in the end, we keep the same simple system in place.  It's actually a good system:  it keeps everybody pretty close, the bonuses for making it to the end mean even the stragglers can pin their hopes on one guy in the final minutes, and the simplicity means you'll be able to keep accurate track of scores even if you've been hitting the sauce!  

It's also fun to taunt your friends when the buzzer goes off and they find out that they've just drawn the Big Bossman!  You get a lot more involved when everybody has a personal stake in who comes out next...  

But now I'm really digressing.  I just enjoy the Rumble concept, and want to pass along one way that you might enjoy it as much as I do.

My Prediction:  Even after I got done talking about all the "viable winners," I'll go ultra-safe and say Triple H will win... mostly cuz I don't see any need for Steve Austin to be a four-time Rumble winner.  I like RVD as the night's "marathon man," and just to complete the Denny-style predictions, I'll say Godfather and Billy Gunn will be #1 and #2 (it's the only way the Godfather can make a grand entrance with all his ho's...  and Billy's as good a disposable heel as any).

CHRIS JERICHO vs. THE ROCK (Unified Title Match)

I know it seems like they've been feuding forever, but Jericho and the Rock keep adding layers to the rivalry, and once again, I'm pretty excited for a PPV showdown.  Or maybe that's just because of Jericho's killer promo last night on SD!

I love it when storylines can focus on realistic elements, and Jericho played into that big time when he talked about fans perceiving him as a fluke/transitional champ.  Casual fans feel that way because of Jericho's cocky, cheating asshole routine; his wins do seem fluke-y and undeserved to them.  Smart fans don't really see Jericho as a WM main eventer yet, and as such, have him pegged to drop the title very soon.  It was the perfect material to use, and Jericho delivered it with passion.

By simply addressing the "foregone conclusion" issue, Jericho might even have erased the foregone conclusion entirely.  Like many, I figured the Rock would go over on Sunday night, since it's the easiest way to get him in the main event mix for WM.  And I figure the Rock HAS to be on top come April, because the Fed's gonna want to play off the release of "The Scorpion King" by having the Rock front and center.  Now, I'm not so sure.

Jericho's promo becomes meaningless if he drops the title on Sunday, and as a result, his entire heel turn would stall out.  My gut now says Jericho's GOTTA win.  My brain still says that the movie star needs to be headed to WM on top.  I love it when they go to war like that!

With the drama and storyline firmly in place, the other element to address is the in-ring action itself.  And there's no reason to doubt that Jericho and Rock will deliver anything less than the high quality ringwork that we've seen out of them on PPVs for the last four months.  Should be good...

My Prediction:  I'll go with gut over brain...  Jericho somehow beats the Rock yet agayn!

RIC FLAIR vs. VINCE McMAHON (Street Fight)

You tell me that two men in their mid-50s are fighting, and I'll probably take a pass.  Then tell me that one of them is Ric Flair, and I'll change my tune pretty fast.  Sure, he's not the same performer who could have a good match against a broomstick, but dammit, he's the Nature Boy, and I haven't seen him work in 10 months.  So cut me some slack...

With non-wrestler Vince as his opponent, Flair will almost have to live up to the old broomstick maxim...  although truth be told, Vince can be counted on to bust his ass and take part in whatever big spots are necessary to keep this thing entertaining.  That's where the Street Fight stipulation comes into play, too.

By eliminating the rules, Vince and Flair will be able to deviate from a standard wrestling match and have themselves a Sports Entertainment Segment.  They can go all over the building, they can use all kinds of international objects, they can even have any number of other personalities get involved...  it'll all help to cover up whatever wrestling deficiencies may exist between the two.

Storyline-wise, this match is now just about McMahon's ego...  originally slated to be the genesis of the split of the WWF into two promotions, one under Vince and one under Flair, the two co-owners are now entangled because of Vince's fetish for using his power to "destroy icons."  Not quite as compelling, but it'll do.  And the split's still coming, eventually; I'm sure this match will keep the hostilities simmering till that later date.

My Prediction:  usually the best way to keep a feud brewing is to have the heel go over.  But in this case, it's Flair who made the Street Fight stip, so it seems like they might be hinting that the Nature Boy has a plan.  It's another toss-up, really...  I'll take a stab and say Flair gets the win here.


Regal's act is really starting to catch on, it seems.  The heelish brass-knucks-wielding routine has him firmly established as a legit challenger to the WWF's secondary singles title.  It's taken time, and it's something that was lacking from the match when Regal and Edge matched up last month on PPV.

With the added sizzle of Regal's newfound heat, I just hope these two can duplicate the in-ring effort from last month, which I dubbed "a pleasant surprise."  Regal and Edge work fairly divergent styles, yet were totally on the same page at Vengeance.  The result was a quality wrestling match where I expected a clash of styles.

My Prediction:  now healthy following his nose surgeries, it's now or never for Regal to take the next step.  I wish the Fed would get behind him, but I have a feeling Edge will retain here.  He's the one with the fancy entrance music and main event potential, afterall.


This one reeks of Heyman!  In a good way!

Not only do you have four ECW alums involved in this feud, you've got the ECW tradition of a seemingly make-shift team holding the tag straps.  On top of that, the positively wicked bump taken by Spike last night on SmackDown! (a 3-D onto concrete) was ECW-caliber physicality, and in a sick sort of way was the highlight of SD!...

Tazz and Spike scored the upset tag title win over the Duds two weeks ago, after having previously won a non-title match over them.  Then, on Monday, Spike beat D-Von in a singles match.  The underdogs seemed to have ALL the momentum coming into this match (which, of course, I took as a surefire sign that they'd be losing the titles back to the Duds)...  then on last night's SD!, everything changed as Duds stuffed Tazz into a car trunk while brutalizing Spike.  Now the underdogs are coming into a title match beaten down...  which, of course, I take as a sign that they'll somehow display amazing amounts of heart en route to another surprising win.

I'm not sure if there's time, but finding a way to add a stipulation to this match would really help out...  these four guys are at their best when brawling, ECW-style.  Make it a tables match, or hardcore rules, or something, and you'll really be opening the doors for them to deliver the goods.

My Prediction:  Tazz and Spike retain, mostly because the tag division needs something OTHER than the Dudleys on top right now...

TRISH STRATUS vs. JAZZ (Women's Title Match)

Jazz's return to the WWF may as well have been her debut.  She appeared all of ONE TIME as a member of the Alliance before the Alliance was written out.  Now she's getting a chance to display a bit more character, though...  and the character has "bitch" written all over her.

Jazz is not a "diva," she's a wrestler.  And so she's done everything in her power to destroy the chesty women's champ, Trish, who Jazz doesn't consider a real wrestler.  Jazz even interrupted a wet t-shirt contest, no doubt because she thought it inappropriate behavior for a women's wrestling champ.

Putting on-screen characters aside, Jazz really is about as proficient a worker as you'll find on the women's roster.  With Trish's recent improvements in that area, we might just get a reasonably good wrestling match here.  And if it doesn't click, well, Trish will still be attired in something tight and cling-y...  she just can't help being a diva!

My Prediction:  Project Trish will not be derailed.  Trish pins Jazz and begins looking for more fresh competition.

That's it, five regular matches, plus the big 30-man Rumble...  unlike most PPVs, I can't sit here and tell you that there may well be another match or two added to the show.  This is a full slate (especially if the WWF does the right thing and keeps the Rumble intervals long), and on top of that, it seems like just about everybody on the roster is already scheduled to work.  I don't even know if they'll be able to scrape together two guys to do a warm-up match for Heat!

Once again, due to Time Warner Cable's moronic policy of requiring an upgrade to digital cable just to have the privilege of ordering PPV, I will not be able to view the Rumble at my own house.  This pertains to you because it means that my immediate post-show recap will probably be delayed until midnight or so, after I get back from whatever bar or friend's house I end up watching the show at.

Perhaps the denizens of the OO Forums will be posting updates throughout the show for those of you who want results without shelling out to watch the show...

If nothing else, I'll get my recap up as soon as possible on Sunday night/early Monday morning, and OO will also be adding Scott's PPV Rant on Monday.  

I'd say "see you then," except that I also encourage you to stop off here at OO on Saturday, as you'll be treated to a fresh edition of TimeLine, and also the latest installment of the OO Year in Review!



Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.


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