The Road to WrestleMania 25 started last night with the Royal Rumble from the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. Always an important event, the focus of the Royal Rumble pay-per-view is always on the Rumble match itself rather than the undercard. Last night’s undercard featured four title matches where the WWE Women’s Championship and the WWE Championship changed hands. Jack Swagger retained his ECW Championship clean against Matt Hardy while John Cena retained after help from Shawn Michaels. Matt Hardy cost his brother the WWE Championship with a surprising heel turn and Beth Phoenix got rolled up by Melina to drop the WWE Women’s Championship. Below are my thoughts on last night’s show on a match by match basis.
The show opened with Jack Swagger defending the ECW Championship against Matt Hardy. There are a lot of people that are saying that Swagger’s push as the ECW Champ has come too soon but the more I see of him in the ring, the more I disagree. Regardless of how much work that his mic skills may need, the guy can go in the ring. Last night he and Matt Hardy had a very solid match to open the show, with the crowd very much into it. Hardy had the crowd wrapped around his finger and Swagger drew decent heat. I agree with Swagger retaining not only to free him up for an inevitable run against Jeff but it was too early to end Swagger’s reign and “undefeated” streak.
The Women’s Championship match with Beth Phoenix defending against Melina was up next. The bout was kept relatively short but it actually wasn’t bad from an in-ring standpoint. While Beth has been carrying the Raw Divas for quite some time, Melina stepped up last night and looked pretty decent. The way it was booked with Melina countering Beth’s finisher and rolling her up for the win, didn’t make Beth look weak, but I do not agree with the move of putting the strap on Melina. Beth has carried the women’s division and should get another run with Mickie James for WrestleMania. However, it looks if WWE is going to extend Melina and Beth Phoenix.
The World Heavyweight Championship match was your typical John Cena match. The company booked it to look like Cena had every reason in the world to drop the title but in the end, Cena hit the FU (excuse me, the Throwback) for the win. Shawn Michaels interfered, hitting JBL with Sweet Chin Music as well as John Cena, only to put JBL over Cena and leave the ring. With the referee out of the ring I felt like I was watching TNA as Michaels went to the back. Finally another referee came in and it was too late, Cena had enough time to defy the odds yet again. It’s booking like this that makes me understand why people hate Cena. Just when it looks like there is no way the guy is going to retain, he mounts an insurmountable comeback for the win. The match was solid but a little too gimmicky for my liking. Expect more JBL/Michaels fallout on Raw tonight.
Jeff Hardy, the WWE Champion at the beginning of the match, came to the ring first which is unusual for a championship match. I had heard that there was a good possibility that Jeff would be dropping the title to Edge, so I wasn’t surprised when it happened. Hardy and Edge had a very good match, with an incredible ladder spot by Hardy on the outside where he set Chavo Guerrero up on the Raw announce table and went off, barely escaping the tumbling ladder. Vickie Guerrero made the match a no-disqualification match and still got involved to help out Edge. The most surprising spot of the night was when Matt Hardy rushed out, looking to help Jeff, only to end up betraying him with a chair shot and allowing Edge to secure the victory. I had heard that Jeff and Matt were open to doing a program together and this looks to be the start of it leading into WrestleMania. One can only wonder how Christian is going to fit into it all as it looks as if Matt Hardy will be revealed as Jeff’s “attacker”. I was very impressed with the work of both Edge and Jeff Hardy although there was a lot of outside interference for my liking, especially when the previous bout had just had a lot of interference.
Last night’s short card culminated with the 30-Man Royal Rumble match that was just like any other Royal Rumble match. We knew most of the entrants while the remaining spots were filled with people like Goldust and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and one surprise with Rob Van Dam. The plans for the match changed significantly on Thursday when there was some type of break down in a WWE creative meeting, which led to RVD being called in and the outcome being changed. I had originally heard that it was going to be Shawn Michaels coming in as a surprise entrant and going over, then Chris Jericho. By yesterday afternoon, the clear favorite was Randy Orton and WWE creative never looked back. My problem with Orton winning the match was how predictable that it was. There was no swerve, no surprise, just Legacy dominating the Rumble only for Orton to get the win and to go on to main event WrestleMania. Unless there is a swerve with Orton being “reprimanded” for his actions on Vince McMahon, I expect him to face Cena this April. Compared to last year’s Rumble where WWE was able to surprise us all with a John Cena return, this year’s was a disappointment.
Royal Rumble 2009 had some good parts to it but it was not what I had expected for the beginning of the Road to WrestleMania and a “big four” WWE pay-per-view. I didn’t like all the interference in the two title matches nor did I like my intelligence being insulted in the Royal Rumble match. It was just too predictable. I get on TNA all the time for having pay-per-views filled with confusing stipulations and gimmicks and last night WWE took a page out of their playbook. Not only did WWE creative book Vickie Guerrero to come out and change the rules to the WWE Championship match moments before it happened, but it cut Jeff Hardy’s title reign extremely short which was predicted, but unwarranted. The John Cena/JBL match was annoying because of how it was booked, making Cena look unstoppable, because even with help from Michaels, no one is any match for the almighty Cena. Melina as Women’s Champion makes me roll my eyes and the only booking that made logical sense was Jack Swagger getting the rub against Matt Hardy. Royal Rumble 2009 was a newsworthy show but it did not live up to any of my expectations.
Richard can be contacted at richard [at] grayinternet.com
Richard Gray is a professional wrestling journalist and frequent contributor to Rajah.com. He has been covering the world of professional wrestling since 1999 and has had the opportunity to cover ground breaking stories such as the demise of ECW, the WCW buyout, the Benoit tragedy, Bobby Lashley leaving WWE, and more. For more on Richard check out his web site, Wrestling News World.
– “Richard Reacts” Archive By WrestlingNewsWorld.com’s Richard Gray