Ten Years After: WWE Royal Rumble 2005

Happy Royal Rumble/Pro Bowl Weekend, everyone. What better way to celebrate and look back at what went down at the Royal Rumble ten years ago? I’ve seen this pay per view once about three or four years ago when I was trying to rewatch all of the Rumbles but damned if I can remember a thing about it other than the callback to the ’94 finish (and Vince destroying both of his quads, charging into the ring to protest it) so let’s cut to the chase and go to ringside!

WWE Royal Rumble
January 30th, 2005
Live from the SaveMart Center in Fresno, California
Announcers: Jim Ross (RAW/Royal Rumble Match), Jerry Lawler (RAW), Michael Cole (Smackdown!), and Tazz (Smackdown!/Royal Rumble Match) 

We open with a standard, unremarkable “History of the Royal Rumble” video package.

We are live from Fresno, California. I was remarking during the New Year’s Revolution review last week how it was a bad sign for WWE’s popularity that they had to do a pay per view in Puerto Rico…well, it’s another bad sign that they held a Big 4 PPV in Fresno. Actually, come to think of it, this was the second Royal Rumble held in Fresno. They held the PPV there in ’96, another slow time in business for WWE. Weird to think Fresno’s hosted as many Royal Rumbles as New York City…

Shawn Michaels Vs Edge
Edge is seething that HBK cost him the World Title earlier this month at New Year’s Revolution. Michaels kicks Edge’s ass in his goofy ring gear to start off. Both of these guys are pulling double duty as they’re scheduled for the Rumble later on tonight. JR clarifies that is IF both of these guys are healthy enough to compete after this match. JR says this is the first time that the Rumble has aired in New Zealand! Shout out to the Bushwhackers, Luke & Butch. JR & Lawler seem assured that a RAW guy will win the Royal Rumble. Lawler’s commentary in the mid ’00s was weird as he was sort of a heel but not really and whenever he wrestled, he was a babyface. Like he admits Edge is a jerk but is like “Eh, I like jerks.” Funny to think his commentary was really tired ten years ago and he’s still in the booth!

These guys are two of the all the time greats but for whatever reason, this match doesn’t 100% click. I’m not sure if it’s because they’re pacing themselves because they knew they got to get out there again in hour or what. Kind of inclined to believe that, HBK Version 2.0 was much more careful about picking his spots and pacing himself. Not going balls to the wall with crazy bumps all the time. Match is fine but just not the instant classic you’d expect from putting these two together. Ironically, just as I typed that sentence about HBK not doing as many crazy bumps in the ’00s as he did in the ’90s, he takes a spear to the floor from Edge.

Edge does a sweet counter to the Sweet Chin Music, ducking it and hitting Shawn Michaels with an Electric Chair Drop. Edge gets a cheap win with a rollover, grabbing the ropes for leverage. **1/2. This HBK-Edge feud can’t help but feel like a huge letdown. In a lot of ways, Edge was the Shawn Michaels of his generation (tag team guy who slowly worked his way up the ladder to become a World Champion before suffering an untimely career ending injury) and HBK passing the torch should have seemed like a big deal but the matches were kind of lackluster. Oh well. Both guys will be on to much better things shortly after this.

RAW GM Eric Bischoff and Smackdown! GM are backstage with Torrie Wilson and Christy Hemme for the Number Drawing for the Royal Rumble. Eddie Guerrero and Ric Flair come in to select the numbers. Elders go first and Flair grabs the pick. WOOO! He’s psyched about his pick. Eddie hugs it out with him and then sheepishly walks out of the room. Flair dances around and shows everyone his number. Teddy asks him to look at it again. Flair takes another look. Guerrero stole his number! D’oh! That wacky Latino Heat always stealin’ stuff!

Heidenreich is backstage talking about how he hates snakes CASKETS! He’s comforted by a bandaged up Snitsky. They have an awkward, whispery  bonding session. They hate caskets but they like each other.

Michael Cole & Tazz are weirded out by this. We take a look back at the Undertaker-Heidenreich feud. This feud revolved around Heidenreich destroying Undertaker’s hearse and reciting poetry. Heidenreich definitely up there with The Million Dollar Corporation and Voodoo Using Booker T for lamest Undertaker feuds.

Casket Match: The Undertaker Vs Heidenreich
You know it’s a bad Undertaker feud when the druids get involved. Tazz & Cole make old jokes about JR & Lawler as the druids carry out the caskets. Heidenreich is another of those mid ’00s who had a great look but probably needed more seasoning before he was thrown onto the big show. Tazz asks Cole if he’d ever be in a Casket Match. Man, I hope not… The Undertaker chokes out Heidenreich but Snitsky runs in. COLE IS APPALLED BY WHAT HE IS SEEING! SNITSKY’S A RAW GUY… THIS IS A SMACKDOWN! ISSUE! Snitsky & Heidenreich (Snitenreich? Heidensky?) double team Undertaker. They open the casket… and IT’S KANE! Nice pop from the crowd. Remember when Brothers of Destruction Vs Snitsky & Heidenreich was thought to be a potential WrestleMania 21 match?  Kane & Snitsky brawl through the crowd and it’s back to a one on one match. I like how Heidenreich checks the second casket to make sure no one’s hiding in it. He runs over Undertaker with the casket.

Heidenreich is an idiot who keeps trying to make pinfalls during a casket match. Tombstone finally finishes this off. Match was slightly better than I expected but only slightly. * Thankfully, Undertaker would get a more interesting opponent for WrestleMania.

Backstage, Teddy Long tries to get Eddie Guerrero to give Flair’s number back. Evolution barges in to yell at Eddie. Eddie finally gives the number and Flair’s wallet back. Flair freaks out as Eddie flees. Nature Boy then hypes up Batista & Triple H! This is Evolution’s night! No need for dissension! They’re united!

Meanwhile in the RAW locker room, Christian & Tomko try to get Eric Bischoff to reveal everybody else’s number. Christian & Bischoff troll Teddy Long. John Cena comes in a Ruck Fules t-shirt. Christian wants to battle rap John Cena. Cena OWNZ Christian with some gay jokes and Cole chuckles like he’s watching Seinfeld. 

Triple Threat Match for the WWE Title: John Bradshaw Layfield (c) Vs The Big Show Vs Kurt Angle
I kind of wish there was a pre-match video package before this because having not watched TV during this era, I really don’t know what the beef is here. I know from watching a few ’04 PPVs on the Network that Big Show chokeslammed Angle off a ledge, which resulted in Professor X Smackdown! GM Kurt Angle but no idea where JBL enters into it.

JBL’s character has aged fairly well. He was a solid throwback that helped carry a ridiculously thin roster but at the time, it was confusing as hell to see Bradshaw suddenly being a snooty heel. They probably could have erased a lot of their problems by just turning JBL heel six months earlier than they did. I mean, the world would not be missing much if the APA-Basham Brothers feud never happened…

Big Show throws around the two heels to start the match. Heels take advantage Angle low blows Big Show and hits him with a TV monitor, causing Show to crash through a table. Glad we get to see an extended JBL-Angle segment cause I’m a sucker for heel-heel matchups and I can’t remember these two working against each other too much.

Big Show tackles JBL through a barricade and the EMTs rush to ringside and in the confusion, the Cabinet runs in. On paper), The Cabinet might be the lamest main event heel stable ever. JBL was cool but the rest? Orlando Jordan? The Basham Brothers? Luther Reigns? The Bashahm Brothers? Mark Jindrak? That’s a Who’s Who of Who Cares? During all of the confusion the ref gets distracted and Orlando Jordan jostles JBL awake and JBL nails Angle with the Clothesline From Hell for the win. Fun match but a bit too short for my liking. Finish was goofy but served its purpose. ***

Carlito wants Batista to sign his petition to fire Teddy Long as GM of Smackdown! Batista says “Thanks but no thanks.” Carlito goes to spit apple in Batista’s face but stops himself after Batista threatens to shove the petition up his ass. Batista goes to pick his number as Teddy Long & Eric Bischoff argue. Bischoff announces Evolution is banned from ringside for Triple H’s World Title defense against Randy Orton.

Pre-match video package for Triple H Vs Randy Orton makes me feel #blessed that this is the last PPV I’ll have to watch featuring “Fiery babyface” Randy Orton.

World Championship Match: Triple H (c) Vs Randy Orton
This is the end of the first Triple H-Randy Orton feud that no one really cared about. I think this a rare case of two guys who have styles that are too similar to  each other to have truly great singles matches. I don’t hate any of their matches that I’ve seen but I wouldn’t write home about any of them either. Just dry, paint by numbers but well executed stuff.  I notice Earl Hebner is the referee here Only a few more months left before he’d get turfed for selling bootleg merchandise. Triple H destroys Orton with the Sledgehammer. There’s a ref bump but Triple H just dominates Orton while Hebner’s knocked out and pins Orton with the Pedigree. Huh. Weird booking to that match. Just kind of buried Orton as a babyface but unlike most Triple H burials, maybe this one was for the better. Orton would turn heel again soon and we can all try and forget that this run happened… **

Backstage, Kurt Angle bullies Nunzio and steals his Royal Rumble number.

JBL celebrates in the Royal Rumble selection room and trolls Teddy Long. JBL says he should have gotten Teddy Long a 40 and my eyes bulge out of my head. JBL says he’s got an escort service to call. Hold up, playa! Teddy Long says JBL will be facing The Big Show at Smackdown’s next pay per view, No Way Out 2005 in the first ever Barbed Wire Steel Cage Match. JBL is dumbfounded.

Tazz says this takes barbarism to a new level. No Way Out ’05 is going down in three weeks! JR joins Cole & Tazz. Tazz will be representing Smackdown and JR will be representing RAW in announcing the 2005 Royal Rumble. JR gives us a Boomer Sooner and Tazz yells “Go Brooklyn!” to play up the vaunted Brooklyn-Oklahoma rivalry.

30 Man Royal Rumble Match to earn a World Title Shot at WrestleMania 21 
Smackdown’s Eddie Guerrero is #1. He main evented WrestleMania last year and he wants in again. #2 is the winner of WrestleMania XX’s other main event, RAW’s Chris Benoit. JR and Tazz mark out for the renewal of this classic rivalry. Last year, Benoit went coast to coast and won the Rumble as the #1 entrant. Can history repeat itself!? Eddie and Benoit test each other out with some mat wrestling.

WWE Tough Enough winner Daniel Puder comes in at #3. He begs off and gets a heel promo. He’s gonna be the first TE winner to win the Rumble. Benoit and Guerrero beat the hell out of him with stiff chops and suplexes. Entrant #4 is Hardcore Holly. I smell potatoes. Eddie and Benoit let Holly beat the shit out of the rookie. The old dogs take turns chopping Puder. Tazz (after an Eddie chop): I think that one knocked his arreola off. Holly kicks Puder in the dick and gives him an Alabama Slam. Coming in at #5 is RAW’s The Hurricane. As he makes his entrance, Puder is eliminated by Hardcore Holly (Elimination #1). Immediately after, Benoit and Guerrero team up to eliminate Holly (Elimination #2). The former Radicalz immediately double team Hurricane. Guerrero tries to double cross Benoit but Benoit fights him off. This allows Hurricane to fight back and hit an Eye of the Hurricane on Guerrero. This momentum is short lived as he quickly gets dumped by Guerrero (Elimination #3). #6 is the Frozen Japanese Warlord, Smackdown’s Kenzo Suzuki, making his Royal Rumble Debut/final Royal Rumble appearance. Benoit and Guerrero kick his ass too. Kenzo’s awful and taught me that not all Japanese wrestlers are automatically awesome. “The Rated R” Superstar comes in at #7. He’s a house of fire and tries to dump Eddie. Guerrero, by far, is the most over guy on the show so far. His pop even blowing away the reaction to legends like HBK and Undertaker.

#8 is Rey Mysterio. Wow. They’re bringing out the big guns early. He gets almost as big of a reaction as Eddie. Mysterio sends Kenzo Suzuki out of the ring with a headscissors to the floor (Elimination #4). Now we have a super short Smackdown! Six mini-reunion. Intercontinental Champ Shelton Benjamin enters at #9. Rey & Eddie team up to try and eliminate Benoit. Smackdown’s Booker T is our #10 entrant. They loaded up the first 10 with three WWE Hall of Famers (and one future Hall of Famer in Rey and one guy who woulda been a Hall of Famer if he wasn’t a murderer in Benoit). RAW GM Eric Bischoff charges down to watch the action up close. And the stars don’t stop as Chris Jericho comes in at #11. Y2J is also over way huge. Maybe Fresno is inexplicably a WCW hotspot given how Eddie, Rey, and Jericho are most over guys so far. PLAYAPLAYAPLAYA! Smackdown GM Teddy Long in the house to cheer on his guys! ’05 was probably the peak of them pretending RAW & Smackdown were rivals.

Streak of awesome entrants ends with Luther Reigns coming at #12. JR and Tazz think Luther Reigns could shock the world. JR puts over his “street fighting background”. The RAW and Smackdown guys band together and face off to a big pop.Tazz (on Jericho and Mysterio facing off): C’mon Jericho, pick on someone your own size! This guy has a mask on.! Muhammad Hassan is #13. JR and Tazz are APPALLED. RAW & Smackdown band together to kick his as for AMERICA! Rey hits him with a 619 and then he gets tossed out by everybody (Elimination #5). After a hot start, now we get a cold streak as Orlando Jordan comes in in the unlucky #14 spot. We’re at the halfway point…Scotty 2 Hotty is the #15 entrant. Scotty 2 Hotty was still a thing in 2005. He’s making his return according to Tazz. Muhammad Hassan attacks him from behind and puts him in the Camel Clutch and humbles him. I guess their way of giving Hassan his heat back was having him attack a past being past his prime era Scotty 2 Hotty? I guess Scotty 2 Hotty has been eliminated as a result of this attack (Elimination #6)

Smackdown’s Charlie Haas is #16. Tazz half heartedly says “That’s cool”. Ring is getting a bit too clogged up for my liking as I type that. Booker T clotheslines Luther Reigns out (Elimination #7) and throws Orlando Jordan out as well (Elimination #8). He celebrates by doing the Spinarooni. Conveniently everyone else in the ring is fighting in the corner. Eddie and Rey do think the Rumble is for Rumblin’ not for Dancin (See what happened to Scotty 2 Hotty!) and eliminate Booker (Elimination #9). Team Angle reunites to kick Eddie Guerrero’s ass. Smackdown’s Rene Dupree (with Fifi) enters in at #17. Man, this roster was thin…Tazz wonders if French Poodles are allowed in the Rumble. JR’s not sure. Team Angle gets some hot spots. Shelton tries to go off the top though but gets pushed off and eliminated by Edge (Elimination #10). Simon Dean is #18. JR: If it’s not Chicken Fried or Barbecued, I don’t eat it! JR also says he doesn’t trust anyone who wears powder blue. Simon does some knee bends which pisses off JR even further. Eddie Guerrero gets eliminated by Edge and Edge does Eddie’s dance to huge heel heat (Elimination #11). Tazz says Eddie only got humiliated because he was distracted by Simon Dean’s warm up. Simon runs in before the next entrant so he’s not eliminated.

Business has picked up as Shawn Michaels is #19. He immediately clotheslines that health nut doof Simon Dean out of the ring (Elimination #12). Crowd chants for Eddie again as he walks to the back. Charlie Haas is eliminated after missing a charge at HBK (Elimination #13). JR gets him mixed up with Rene Dupree apparently as he says “Au Revoir!” as Haas flies out of the ring. Another guy who was in a main event at WrestleMania XX, Kurt Angle, is entrant #20. AngleSlams all around! Shawn Michaels tries to hit him with the Sweet Chin Music but gets put in the Angle Lock. Michaels fights out of it and eliminates Angle (Elimination #14) and the crowd is stunned. Maybe one of the shortest Rumble runs from a former World Champ.

Jonathan Coachman is #21 and Tazz is PISSED OFF. He doesn’t deserve to be in the Rumble. JR says it’s Bischoff’s fault. I’m guessing Coach’s “I’m The Coach And That’s Why!” shirt was one of the worst selling shirts in WWE Shopzone history. He immediately cowers and hangs on to the bottom rope. Benoit kicks his ass and rips off Coach’s shirt #22 is “The Reflection of Perfection” Mark Jindrak. As this happens, Angle charges back in and eliminates Shawn Michaels and beats the hell out of Shawn Michaels (Elimination #15). I guess this was a year where you could be eliminated by guys not in the match. I guess you could say here though that it wasn’t Angle throwing Michaels over the top that was the cause of elimination but Angle beating Michaels until he couldn’t compete was the reason. Road Agents Skinner, Fit Finlay, and Dean Malenko break up the scrum. Funny to think Finlay would compete in numerous Rumbles after this. Viscera comes in at #23. He was still doing the Ministry gimmick and not a Love Machine yet. JR talks about the late Yokozuna being the fattest Royal Rumble winner in 1993. “The Intrepid Traveler” Paul London is our #24 entrant. London has nothing to lose and everything to gain! Dupree goes for the French Tickler but Jericho ain’t having none of that and tosses him (Elimination #16).

John Cena comes in at #25. Yeah, another mid ’00s new arrival that didn’t go on to do shit. Always weird to hear adult males chanting for Cena. Cena tosses Big Vis (elimination #17). Rey Bronco Busters Coach. Ah. I wish I could forget his time in the Filthy Animals. Wait, Coach has been in this match for almost ten minutes!? WTF? Baby Kickin’ Snitsky is #26. His elimination of Paul London is sick as hell and one of the most replayed moments from this Rumble (Elimination #18). Cena facing off with Snitsky gets a huge pop. 2005! “The Big Red Machine” Kane comes in at lucky #27. Kane had the record for eliminating the most men in a single Rumble at this point (2001). He tosses Mark Jindrak (elimination #19). Coach dumbly tries to attack Kane. You think he shows his ESPN SportsCenter colleagues this stuff and brags? “Big” Dave Batista from Evolution is #28. He clotheslines Snitsky out of the ring (Elimination #20). Batista and Kane face off. Fresno crowd lovin’ Batista too. He Batista Bombs Kane. Batista press slams Jericho out of the ring (Elimination #21). Christian comes in at #29. Couldn’t Tomko have been in this match instead of Coach? I thought Coach was coming in just for a comedy spot but he’s been in for going on fifteen minutes! Cena sends Kane out of the ring with the FU (Elimination #22) Rey and Cena agree team up. WOOO! Ric Flair is #30 and our final entrant. Evolution kicks Coach’s ass and Flair finally tosses the future ESPN anchor (Elimination #23). Batista eliminates Christian by press slamming him onto Tomko (Elimination #24). #2 entrant Benoit is still in there. Could he go coast to coast again? Nope! He gets eliminated by Flair and Batista (Elimination #25). Impressive back to back runs by Benoit in ’04-05. Going an hour and winning in ’04 then lasting forty seven and a half minutes in ’05. Flair awkwardly tries to double cross Batista. Edge and Rey Mysterio double dropkick Batista. Edge tosses out Flair (Elimination #26). And we’re down to…

The Final Four: Edge, Rey Mysterio, John Cena, and Batista. Rey and Cena from Smackdown let Edge and Batista beat each other up for a bit but it backfires when Cena eats a spear from Edge. I’m sure those two will see more of each other in the future. Edge spears Mysterio out through the ropes (Elimination #27). Edge eliminated both Mysterio and Guerrero, playing up the great Canada-Mexico rivalry. Batista and Cena team up to toss out their mutual future rival Edge (Elimination #28). Crowd is nuclear as Batista and Cena face off. Batista fights out of the FU.  Cena fights out of a Batista Bomb and both men fall out. RAW ref Jack Doane gives the match to Batista! Smackdown ref Jim Korderas gives the match to John Cena! JR channels Ed Whalen and says we have a malfunction at the junction. Vince McMahon is PISSED OFF and does the Vince McMahon Walk into the ring and tears his quad. I got to say Vince kind of no sells the legit freak injury.  In the scrum, both men eliminate each other. Vince McMahon restarts the match. Batista tosses Cena out after a spinebuster (Elimination #29) to become the 2005 Royal Rumble Winner.

Interesting to note that Batista won the Rumble as the 28th Entrant at the Royal Rumble last year too.

Overall, I enjoyed this Rumble and would consider it very good but not great. This match got off to a terrific start and there were some great moments towards the end as well (everything from Flair’s entrance up to Batista and Cena’s double elimination was on point) but a glut of lackluster midcarders (and inexplicably long appearance by The Coach) knocks this down a peg. Also the really awkward, rushed finish put a sour note on the end…which I mean you can’t blame them too much for since I’m sure everybody just wanted to go home after Vince McMahon’s freak injury. I think ***1/2 is the right ranking for this match.

Well, 2005 not off to a great start with a one match show and then a fairly lackluster Royal Rumble PPV (although the Rumble match itself and the Triple Threat for the WWE Title were enjoyable enough. Looking at the card for the February PPV, I’m not super psyched for that show either but things always pick up on the Road to WrestleMania so I’m hoping for a few surprises….

Next Time on Ten Years After… Smackdown! Presents their first brand exclusive PPV of the year and the final PPV before WrestleMania 21, No Way Out! John Bradshaw Layfield defends the WWE Title against The Big Show in a Barbed Wire Steel Cage Match plus Kurt Angles faces John Cena for the right to challenge the winner of the WWE Title Match at WrestleMania 21! 


Written by Connor McGrath

Connor McGrath is a public access television show host and part-time amateur comedian, who resides in Portland, Maine. He contributes reviews of Northeast independent wrestling promotion, NWA On Fire along with occasional guest articles.

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