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Royal Rumble Preview and 
Weekend Newsbites
January 17, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Part One: Royal Rumble PPV Preview

For the fifteenth time on PPV (and the 16th time, overall, counting Jim Duggan's free-cable win in a 20-man version of the Rumble in 1988), WWE will present the innovative Royal Rumble this weekend.  Tweaking the established battle royal concept by staggering the entrants into the match, the Rumble is the sort of annual event that generates tons of indelible memories and a preponderance of stats and records for fans who like to obsess over such things.

For instance, the 1992 Rumble is probably the perfect confluence of both those elements.  Ric Flair's performance in that match (he drew #3, lasted about an hour, and won the match and the WWF Title) stands out as one of my favorite moments as a fan, but it's also a notable performance for the stats junkies.  Though Shawn Michaels would later draw #1 and win, it wasn't as impressive a performance as Flair's since Michaels only had 60-second intervals to work through; and though other men would also exceed the 60-minute barrier, they didn't do so with Flair's style and win.

And outside of the Rumble match, there are always plenty of other attractions, too.  Perhaps the 2000 Rumble PPV takes the cake from that perspective, as it included Tazz's debut, a wild tables match, and a bikini contest that fans who saw it will never forget (albeit for dubious reasons).

Are there any promises that 2003's Rumble will live up to these past glories?  No.  In fact, there are reasons to be mighty suspicious of at least a couple portions of the card.  But for whatever reason, it's really hard to keep that Smart Hat firmly affixed when getting prepped for this show every year.  I remember the good from the past, and I don't want to try too hard to convince myself that we won't get more of it this time.

Here's the as-announced card for Sunday's pay-per-view:


The Fed has not really finalized a final roster of 30 men (15 each from SD! and RAW), but in graphics hyping the match, they have clued us in as to the 29 men currently slated for spots in the Rumble match.

They are (from RAW):  Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, Rob Van Dam, Kane, Booker T, Jeff Hardy, Test, Rosie, Jamal, Goldust, Maven, Chris Nowinski, Batista, Christian, and Tommy Dreamer.  And from SD!:  Brock Lesnar OR Big Show, Edge, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, Rikishi, Matt Hardy, Charlie Haas, Shelton Benjamin, Tajiri, John Cena, A-Train, Bill DeMott, B-2, and Chavo Guerrero.  By this list, SD! has one open spot, which might be the spot being saved aside for the Undertaker, who is promised as returning Sunday at the PPV.

Of course, just as the Fed has sent preliminary signs out that this Rumble might see a return to 60-second intervals (a move that won't be finalized until Sunday), this set of 29 names may not necessarily hold up, either.  But I'll say this:  any changes are more likely to be along the lines of adding a Jamie Noble or a Hurricane and taking out a Tommy Dreamer or a B-2 than they are to be surprise appearances by someone like Stone Cold Steve Austin.  In the name of not getting yourself worked up for surprises that may very well not happen, please do not put too much stock into any wild rumors at this point.  If something surprising happens, hey, what's the crime in actually BEING SURPRISED?

The stories that exist between 29 (or 30) different men are too difficult to summarize here.  Suffice to say that one big story will be Brock Lesnar's attempt to use this match as his only way to earn a shot at the WWF Title for as long as its controlled by Paul Heyman; first, he'll have to go through the Big Show.  And then, if he can do that, he'll be partially spent and STILL have to go through 29 other men to earn the shot.  That won't be easy, but it hasn't stopped folks from openly predicting Lesnar as the hands-down favorite for the Rumble, anyway.

The other big story is Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho's game of one-ups-manship.  Michaels, wanting to prove he's still "got it" (by duplicating his past performance), asked for and received the #1 spot.  And Jericho, wanting to prove he's as good as Michaels, asked for and got the #2 spot.  Those two should get to do plenty of work with each other over the course of the match, and might even (much like Michaels and the Bulldog in '95) last the entire duration of the match to be there at the end...  where I'd expect them to be eliminated by Brock Lesnar.

My Prediction:  Well, it might be a tad obvious, but this is the only logical way to get Brock Lesnar into a title match against Kurt Angle for WM19, so I say he wins.  "Obvious" is not always bad, and in this case, having him endure first the Big Show and then 29 other men will add to his mystique, I think.  Yes, it'd be nice if they'd use this match as a way to elevate someone surprising from the RAW roster (either Booker or RVD) into that top level so Steiner and HHH aren't the only guys we'r relying on, but they'd just have to do too much convoluted screwing around to get Lesnar and Angle together for WM if they don't just give Lesnar the win here, so...  I predict the obvious.

TRIPLE H vs. SCOTT STEINER (World Heavyweight Title)

When HHH injured his leg just prior to last month's PPV, it meant he'd be limited in terms of what he could do to build interest in this new feud against Steiner.  So we've had things like posedowns and arm wrestling contests serving as the primary causes of their antagonism.  They finally got into an honest-to-god brawl just this week on RAW.  From a storyline perspective, this hasn't been a thrilling feud.

And in terms of what we can expect in the ring this Sunday?  Nobody knows for sure.  HHH should be at pretty close to full speed, but it's Steiner's status that most are concerned about.  Already having lost several notches with the bulk he added during the late 90s, he's now coming back from a pretty debilitating injury and hasn't shown fans at house shows a whole lot.  But maybe there's something special in the tank for pay-per-views.

Mr Prediction:  with Chris Jericho as the only other real top heel on the RAW roster (and he's tied up with Shawn Michaels right now), I'd say keep the belt on HHH and then -- if Steiner looks good and can justify further title shots -- you can keep this feud rolling or -- if Steiner tanks -- you can try Booker T, Rob Van Dam, or Kane as a top contender.  And this time, do it for real, without any necrophilia or shit like that.  HHH retains.


This match is everything that the RAW Title match is not: it's got great backstory (dating back years, even) and it's a lock to deliver the goods in the ring.

Angle and Benoit were rivals even back in 2000, right after both men had just arrived in the company.  Their feud was re-ignited in 2002, with Benoit notching a singles match win over Angle on PPV in September.  Then, by edict of Stephanie McMahon, the two men were forced to work together as a tag team.  Their competitive nature meant neither man was willing to lose, and so they became tag champs together despite their lingering animosity.

Then, Angle's singles agenda took him to the WWE Title, and the partnership dissolved for good.  Benoit established as the top contender over the Big Show, and now, the two men who have delivered so many amazing matches both as rivals an as partners will get the chance to do so in a major PPV world title match.  It is a beautiful thing.

My Prediction:  all roads lead to Angle vs. Lesnar at WM19, so Angle's gotta go over here, I think.  I have no doubts -- especially after his killer promo last night on SD! -- that Benoit's championship material, but this just isn't the right time.


Good bit of storytelling here, as Show is the man who took Lesnar's WWE Title, and is still represented by the man who stabbed Lesnar in the back (Paul Heyman).  Though Kurt Angle now has the title, Heyman has thrown Show into Lesnar's path as a speed bump.  Only the winner of this match will advance to the Royal Rumble match and have a chance to earn the WM19 title shot against (presumably) Angle.

Though the storytelling is good here, the match itself will rely heavily on Lesnar's feats of strength.  Their brief PPV match at Survivor Series hid Show's limitations, and spotlighted Lesnar's power by keeping the length under 4 minutes and including an amazing F-5.  If they can duplicate that basic formula (short, tight match with a "Holy Shit" moment or two), this should be OK.

One thing to look for:  Undertaker would be a good fit for a final Rumble slot, but this would also be the other spot on the card that would be perfect for his return.  Show is, afterall, the guy who put him on the sidelines in storylines.

My Prediction:  well, I picked Lesnar to win the Rumble, so I'd be a dolt not to pick him here, too.  Maybe he gets a little help from Taker to advance to the Rumble...


The Duds reunited about 2 months ago, and after battling both Three Minute Warning and former champs Chris Jericho and Christian.  In all the mess, Storm and Regal have been on a tear, basically beating everybody they've faced, with one exception:  Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler beat them, with the help of the Duds.

So when Storm and Regal won the tag straps two weeks ago, it made perfect sense for the Dudleys to be the team that stepped up to challenge them.  Although Eric Bischoff tried to suspend the Duds, Vince McMahon made this match just five days ago on RAW.

You've got all the pieces here:  Storm and Regal are great workers, the Duds are no slouches themselves, and they've got sure-fire crowd heat if they decide to Get the Tables.  Should be pretty good.

My Prediction:  there's no real logical reason to go with either team over the other.  There are reasonable challengers on both the heel and face sides, so it's a pick 'em.  I'd rather see Storm and Regal retain so that they can really establish themselves, but I'm gonna go ahead and pick the Duds to get the nod from the creative team.


You're joking, right?  You think I'm going to give this match the time of day?  HA!

Look, nothing against the girls... they did this match at Survivor Series, and it wasn't necessarily all that pretty, but it served its purpose there.  Here, we've taken the storyline to such new depths of retardation that any iota of value re-hashing the match MIGHT have had is long since gone.  Somebody should burn in hell for this nonsense.

My Prediction:  Torrie wins, and other stupid crap happens.

That's probably just about all they'll be able to squeeze onto the PPV...  five matches plus the Rumble itself is a pretty full plate.  Well, four matches plus what I'm hoping and praying is just a short little interlude with Torrie and Dawn.  But still, if they added even one more match, it'd probably necessitate the dreaded 60-second intervals everybody's worried about.

Here's hoping they manage their time well, and at the very least manage to keep 90-second intervals.

However it all goes down on Sunday, be sure to come on back to OO in the hour following the PPV to get full results!  I'll have a recap up at some point in the 11pm (eastern) hour...

Part Two: Some Quick NewsBites

  • Last night's SmackDown had some cool moments, including a solid main event tag match between Kurt Angle/Shelton Benjamin/Charlie Haas and Edge/Chris Benoit...  but when the only thing that sticks in your head is "Oh, sweet Jesus, I can't believe this utter crap!" that is not a good thing.
    I don't know who could possibly have thought the storyline of Al Wilson "dying" has any value whatsoever, and on top of that, I don't know how SOMEbody on the creative team didn't step up and and question the idea at some point.  For the mere concept to have even made it to TV baffles the mind of any person who has spent any time watching pro wrestling and observing what works and what doesn't.  I could go on at length with the precise whys and hows, but the onus is not on me to prove this sucked, it's one the SD! creative team to prove it doesn't.  I know I'm right, and I'm not gonna waste any more of my breath stating the obvious.  [I know it won't happen, but I'd love to have that dialogue with someone who wanted to defend their "Death of Al Wilson" creation...  that could be illuminating.]
    On top of that, the execution of the angle once it was "a go" was just cheesy.  My guess is maybe they wanted it that way... I mean, I have to assume the "out" is some kind of shocking swerve where Al Wilson, for some reason, feigned his own death.  Otherwise, some of Dawn's "acting" will have to go down as suspect, rather than as a bit of foreshadowing wink-wink, nudge-nudge.
    Just terrible.
  • The overnight rating for SD! was a 4.3.  A final rating should be available by Monday.
  • Eddie Guerrero seemed like he might have really been hurt in the opening match on SD!; a head/neck injury could very easily have taken place when B-2 hit a "Vertical Bomb" (as called by Tazz... but I thought that move was a "Falcon's Arrow") a bit awkwardly.
    That Chavo had to use Eddie's frog splash to get the win probably proves there was a bit of improv there...  but don't fret: Eddie may have been shook up in the match, but was said to be fine later on in the night.
  • Big Show was on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" last night.  Rather than talk about wrestling or hype the Royal Rumble, Show had some humorous anecdotes and was generally very entertaining.  You can keep an eye out for the repeat on Comedy Central tonight or Monday, I think.
  • Lastly, I screwed up on Wednesday when I said theaters in Canada were no longer screening WWE PPVs... turns out, they're still doing it, and still drawing decent crowds.  I just hadn't heard from anyone who gone to one of those deals in so long, I guess I just assumed that the practice had ended.  Oh well...
  • See you Sunday night with the Royal Rumble Recap, and then again on Monday with a fresh full-length OO!


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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