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WWE Royal Rumble 2003
January 19, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


The undercard was a combination of the outstanding and the subpar, and the Rumble match itself contained both surprising developments and an expected outcome.  Royal Rumble 2003 was a truly schizophrenic affair.

Brock Lesnar first won his way into the Rumble match by defeating the Big Show, and then -- after drawing #29 -- won the Rumble to earn a WrestleMania title shot against Kurt Angle.  For his part, Angle maintained a claim on his half of the Mania main event by getting Chris Benoit to tap out in their tremendous WWE Title match.

Also on the show:  Triple H held on to his title, but only by getting himself disqualified against Scott Steiner...  the Dudley Boyz won the World Tag Team Titles from Lance Storm and William Regal... and Torrie Wilson pinned Dawn Marie.

Here are full match-by-match results (with editorial thoughts tacked on in red italics) of the just-completed WWE Royal Rumble 2003 pay-per-view event:

  • The show opened with Brock Lesnar and the Big Show in their "play-in" match.  After a quick start, Lesnar found himself on the defensive, as Show dominated a middle portion of the match.  When Lesnar rallied, Paul Heyman tried to interject himself.  He succeeded partially, allowing Show to hit a chokeslam following one of his distractions.  But Lesnar kicked out, eliminated Heyman from the equation, and then hit an F-5 to score the pinfall on Show and to move on to the Rumble match. [At a little over 5 minutes, this was just about the perfect length to build Show up with some dominating offense before bringing out Lesnar's impressive power arsenal for a quick showcase.  I won't try to tell you this was a workrate classic or anything, but it was well-put-together and effective in getting its point across.  An OK opener.]
  • The RAW brand's World Tag Team Titles were on the line next, and before the match started, ref Nick Patrick gave Lance Storm and William Regal a thorough once-over to make sure they weren't packing brass knucks.  With the match underway, the champs were eventually able to gain the edge over the Dudley Boyz, isolating D-Von for an extended portion of the match.  After D-Von was able to make a hot tag to Bubba, things picked up; the Duds had just hit the "Whassup?!?" spot, and were fixing to either 3-D Lance Storm or to get some tables when Chief Morley ran out to stick his two cents worth into the match.  With the ref distracted by Morley, Regal brought out a pair of brass knucks, but his attack was short-circuited by a 3-D.  D-Von took the knucks and KO'ed Storm while Bubba dispatched Morley.  The ref turned around and counted D-Von's cover on Storm.  Counting past ECW and WCW tag reigns, this was hyped as the Duds 17th tag title win.  [A formula tag match for most of its 10 or so minutes, but with a nice hot finish...  definitely nothing exceptional or that would have been out of place on a typical edition of RAW, but entertaining enough.  I don't know if this is the plan or not, but I'd now like to see them scare up a good partner for Morley and give him something worthwhile to do as part of this on-going story.]
  • Torrie Wilson pinned Dawn Marie with a neckbreaker of sorts after about 5 minutes of action.  Up until the finish, a lot of the match was Dawn on the offensive, pausing randomly to shout something like "That one's for your father" at Torrie, who for her part was trying to convey "emotional" throughout the match.  [This match would not have been all that good if presented in a vacuum, and it was made worse by all the crap that went on to set it up... all of which was conveniently recapped in a pre-match video package that had a couple of my friends who hadn't been following SD! alternately laughing and shaking their heads in befuddlement.  The live crowd didn't get into this one, either.  This was just not good; and please note that I do not lay the blame on Torrie and Dawn, whose worst crime in all this was being asked to try to sell us fans a steaming pile of turds.]
  • Backstage, Eric Bischoff and Stephanie McMahon had a little chat, the gist of which was Stephanie saying "You're gonna get fired, na-na-na-na-na-nah" to which Eric responded "What makes you think your job is safe?" to which Steph said "Blood's thicker than water" at which point they both promised us huge bombshells this week on their respective shows.
  • Triple H got himself disqualified about 20 minutes into his World Title defense against Scott Steiner, so he could lose the match but hold on to his title.  Steiner, who started the match sounding like most fans were behind him, eventually lost those fans as his arsenal seemed limited, and some of the moves he executed did not look sharp (he drew vicious boos after a botched underhook suplex late in the match).  The story of the match had Steiner dominating lengthy segments, then HHH doing something dastardly to regain control, only to be unable to put Steiner away.  When Steiner's dominance seemed unquestionable, HHH first tried to get counted out, but Steiner chased him down and dragged him back to the ring.  Then HHH tried to get disqualified by shoving ref Earl Hebner, but Hebner was on to HHH's plan, and didn't call for the bell.  But Hebner had no choice when HHH brought a sledge hammer into the ring and used it on Steiner.  That brought the DQ.  But Steiner wouldn't stay down as a result of the sledge attack: he eventually got the hammer for himself, and pounded on HHH.  Then he locked in a (half-assed) Steiner Recliner for a few minutes until referees and Eric Bischoff hit the ring and got him to break it up.  [The story of the match, with HHH realizing Steiner's for real and then wanting to get counted out or DQ'ed, was actually a pretty cool idea.  But the performance was not up to par.  They were wise to keep Steiner off TV in an actual wrestling match until this one, as it took only one 20 minute match -- and a cheap finish, admittedly -- to eliminate Steiner's mystique and have fans booing him.  Time for another top babyface plan for RAW... it's gotta be time to pull the trigger on Stone Cold.]
  • In a match that was everything that the previous one was not, Kurt Angle retained his WWE Title from Chris Benoit.  Some slower mat-based stuff got us started, but before long, we were clicking along at a brisk clip.  The final 10 minutes or so of this match was off-the-charts fantastic, too, with near falls and tons of reversals of submission moves.  Benoit kicked out of an Angle Slam and was able to reverse or reach the ropes while in a couple of ankle locks.  Angle, for his part, escaped a number of crossfaces and an ankle lock, and also kicked out after a big time swandive headbutt.  The final portion of the match had Benoit escape a regular ankle lock, only to have Angle counter with a sort of super-duper ankle lock that was augmented with a sort of leg scissors to trap Benoit's leg and make it harder to reverse or reach the ropes.  Realizing there was no out, Benoit finally tapped out at about the 25 minute mark.  Angle celebrated and was carried out by Team Angle (who ran back out after having been banned from the ring at the start of the match), while Benoit eventually received a standing ovation from the crowd on his way out.  [I may come up a bit shy of Tazz's declaration of this as a "five star" classic, but this was some damn fine TV.  The last half of the match was spectacular, after the tepid start.  After the RAW Title match, seeing such wide-ranging arsenals executed at full speed was a special treat.]
  • The Royal Rumble match started with Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels, a pair who I'd sort of assumed would shadow each other until the final stages of the match...  but that turned out not to be so, as Michaels was eliminated about five minutes into the match by Jericho.  Jericho, then would go on to last over 40 minutes (the Fed seemed to be shaving time on a number of the intervals, which were ostensibly at 2 minutes, so I'm just sort of guessing at the 40 minute figure... Jericho was ousted when they were in the mid-20s in terms of number of entries), and when he went out, it was only because Shawn Michaels ran back out to interfere (although, in fairness, it looked like Jericho may have been eliminated twice, as cameras caught him hitting the floor outside the ring with both feet in spots that were SUPPOSED to be near misses).  The first stage of the match had the ring filling up a bit, only to have Jericho and Edge each score a bunch of eliminations; then Jericho was able to oust Edge, and was briefly in the ring by himself.  At that point (I think this was near entry #14), the ring began filling up again, and there were very few eliminations until late in the match, when Brock Lesnar (#29) and Undertaker (#30) entered, and each scored what seemed like about a half-dozen eliminations to get us down to the Final Four.  Taker and Lesnar wanted to go at each other, but were side-swiped by the RAW duo of Kane (who went after Lesnar) and Batista (who grappled with Taker).  The SD! pair subdued Kane and Batista, and did get to tussle, with Taker getting the better of Lesnar after hitting a Tombstone Piledriver.  With Lesnar crumpled in a corner, Taker next eliminated Batista, and then proposed a partnership with his little brother, Kane.  When Kane took the bait, Taker quickly turned on him and tossed him out of the ring.  But while that was taking place, Lesnar was able to recover enough to come up behind Taker and eliminate him.  [The last half of the match, as the ring filled up without any major entrants or eliminations, kind of dragged until they finally busted out Taker and Lesnar... I don't think they needed to have the pool QUITE that fully stocked for them to score eliminations.  Screwed up near-misses aside, I liked the over-arching story with Jericho, and also thought the end game was pretty well done.  They might have built up a bit more drama if they'd dragged out a Taker/Kane partnership just a bit more than the 20 seconds they did, but as it was, it was enough to cause a minor distraction for Lesnar to recover and then win the match, as he was widely expected to do.]

Far from the home run event that you'd want when you set off on the Road to WrestleMania, Rumble '03 still had a few genuine highlights that make me think that we've got some good stuff brewing for WM19...  at present, the prospect of Angle vs. Lesnar is really enticing on the SD! side (with the standing O given to Benoit indicating that he could be waiting in the wings for additional top level exposure in the coming months, too).  And on RAW, I gotta admit being fired up at the idea of Michaels vs. Jericho as a major singles feud to be blown off at Mania; it stands tall above anything else the brand's got to offer, anyway.

Check on back tomorrow for further thoughts in OO, a PPV Rant from Scott, and lots more...


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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