Saturday, January 18, 2003

The World's Greatest WWE Royal Rumble 2003 Preview

Oh, my. It can't have been thirty days already, can it? How's everybody doing this fine winter's eve, morning, or afternoon (depending on your time zone)? Me, I'm just peachy. I've got a weekend coming up, and it's been a relaxing Friday here at the office. Just about the perfect way to wrap up a work week. And since I'm in such high spirits, I have no problem letting you know that you've tuned in to the longest running PPV Preview column in the world (claims subject to any sort of verification), the World's Greatest WWE Preview.

So I was a little rough on last month's PPV. Taking a look back, now that hindsight's in full 20/20 mode, can you say I was wrong? Armageddon was a shell of a show, despite two big World Title changes, but the build toward the Rumble has been a little more solid than what we were seeing prior to the big "A" thirty days in our past. RAW's been, surprisingly, a much stronger show this month while Smackdown coasted along with the Dawn Marie / Al Wilson fiasco. Then again, the introduction of Team Angle and a World Title shot for Chris Benoit have ensured at least partial enjoyment of the Thursday night fights. We've got two title matches this month, and all of the participants have a legitimate reason to be there. Add to that the Rumble match itself, which I've always loved, and you've got a pretty decent-looking card going in. The WWE's done very well with their premiere events over the last nine months, giving us a Summerslam and Survivor Series to remember, and it feels like they'll continue that trend here.

Torrie Wilson vs. Dawn Marie

God DAMN, why can't this thing just end? It's like watching a week long, clothes hanger style abortion, live as it happens. With Al Wilson as the nurse on call. It's like the WWE didn't learn their lesson from the whole Katie Vick affair. People don't like watching anything about funerals, dead or dying people. Especially on a program that's supposed to be centered on athletic competition. Folks REALLY don't like watching that shit when two people start fighting over it. It's uncomfortable. It's silly. It's bound to fail, even before they film the first scene. Hell, I saved the shot on the Smackdown main page earlier today, featuring Dawn sneaking up on a mourning Torrie, seated in front of the casket, with a lamp held menacingly above her head. Not because I wanted to remember the angle, or because I cared who won this, but because it's one of those images that's so incredibly stupid, it actually becomes funny.

Who's betting Al Wilson rises from his grave at some point? I don't give a fuck who wins this match, it's pissing me off to even see it on the card. Why don't they have a casket match and get it over with? Or maybe the Undertaker will wheel ol' Al down to ringside? Who cares?
Winner: Let's say Torrie, so this mess can end

Brock Lesnar vs. Big Show
Winner Enters The Rumble

This looked to be a big money feud during the weeks after the Survivor Series, with Lesnar really breaking out as a face during his run-ins on the Show during Smackdown. Unfortunately, some of the air's been let out of the intensity between these two, and I'm feeling like this one's become something of a lame duck matchup. We've all seen Lesnar F-5 the big man, so we know it can be done. He showed us at the Series how easily he could manhandle the big man, so there's no point in learning that lesson once again. I guess the point I just keep coming back to is how these two don't have anything new and exciting to show us any more. Going in, the big question was if the Next Big Thing could get the Show up on his shoulders. Now, there's nothing left that's unanswered. Needless to say, this should serve as the blowoff to the feud between Paul Heyman's first client and his largest. And, as if there's any question as to the finish, Brock's gotta come out on top.
Winner: Brock Lesnar

Dudley Boyz vs. William Regal and Lance Storm
World Tag Team Championship

I'm really glad to see Regal and Storm holding the belts. I've always loved a good, competitive tag team and that embodies Storm and Regal to a "T". So long as they don't turn them into pussies, as they've been hinting over the last couple weeks, this title run should be very solid. They've got the natural atheticism and personality to get them over as convincingly difficult opponents, and they're both born heels. Storm can lean on Regal a little as the team's mouthpiece, and Regal can count on Storm to really put them on the map in the ring. I've really grown tired of the cowardly heel over the last five years, seeing as how that's what EVERY heel has regressed to, and if they're held to the same standards as face teams in that respect, Storm and Regal will build a legacy for themselves. They shouldn't back down, and their use of the knucks as a finisher should be limited at best. That's the way you'll get the fans to really loathe them as champions.. by proving that they can compete with the top faces without relying on foreign objects and outside interference. They can beat 'em at their own game.

Well.. that was a little tangent. Anyway, this should be a really nice match. These two teams have never had a chance to really sit down and put on a match with each other, and I'm anticipating some fireworks this Sunday when they're finally given that opportunity. The Dudleys have reached the peak of their current wave of popularity, so it's the right time to give them the title shot. Storm and Regal, despite recent involvement with Lawler & Ross, are still regarded as a tough duo. I've no idea where each team could go from here, and I'd put my money on the foreigners as a better long term investment for the company. Thus, we've got the champs retaining their gold.
Winners: Storm and Regal

Scott Steiner vs. Triple H
World Heavyweight Championship

If you're a regular reader of the Oratory RAW Review Crew, you'll know that I've enjoyed the build to this one. It's funny how we haven't thought of it this way, but with very few exceptions, every World Title match over the last few years has been built almost the exact same way. Sure, there have been deviations to convince us we're watching something fresh and new every month, but what it all comes down to is a surprisingly familiar formula. Heel attacks face. Face retaliates in scathing promo. Heel comes down to answer challenge. Face challenges heel "right here, tonight." Heel backs off. Face and heel exchange wins in a series of handicap and / or tag matches. PPV Main event serves as blowoff singles match. Instead, what we've got with Steiner / Hunter is a taste of something different. With Hunter nursing an injured leg all month and Scotty still rusty between the ropes, it's no surprise they backed off the physicalities a bit, but I think it all worked out very effectively.

Think about it; instead of exploiting both guys when they're at their weakest in the ring, the WWE built them up by showcasing their more readily available positive aspects. Steiner was still a little rough in the ring, so they gave him few opportunities to show off his hulking physique. Hunter's thigh was sore, so they gave him the chance to play some mind games with his opponent. Both guys look like they've got a shot this Sunday night, and neither one looks weak. How much more of an ideal situation could that be? I don't have to like either guy to say I think their feud has been handled better than I'd expected.

I'd like to see the gold off Triple H's waist, but I don't think Steiner's the right guy to do it with. The impact of his arrival has already worn off, and fans are starting to say "OK, he's a moron on the mic and he's got a big body.. is there anything more to this guy?!" They'll have an offbeat match, to say the least. Steiner's always worked better against lighter guys, as they're much easier to throw around the ring. Trips is not as light guy. If anything, he's about the right size for Steiner to have a little difficulty handling him. I don't think we'll see anything as decisive as a kick-wham-pedigree, but I'm not expecting the belt to change hands in the end. Maybe Scotty S will get himself disqualified, allowing HHH to keep the belt but maintaining the 'out of control' personality that's such a key to his character's success.
Winner: Triple H

Royal Rumble Match

I've always been a big fan of huge battle royals. There's just something in the air, a certain unpredictability, that makes it fun to watch. There's so much to look at, so many things going on that you'll never get bored with it. This is the WWE's real proving grounds. Forget King of the Ring, everybody who's anybody in the WWF proved themselves in the Royal Rumble. Hulk Hogan. Ric Flair. Bret Hart. Shawn Michaels. Steve Austin. The Rock. Triple H. Hell, Andre the Giant won the Royal Rumble before it was even called the Royal Rumble. Instead they just threw a bunch of guys in the ring at Wrestlemania 2. Now, there's no question a few names are missing from my list of who's who in WWE history. Mick Foley has never won the Royal Rumble, nor has Kurt Angle. Randy Savage was never victorious in the match. It's not the be-all, end-all of building yourself as the biggest man in the wrestling world, but it sure as hell helps.

With that said, there are a couple big names trying to cement their spot in history this year, with perhaps three contenders emerging as true possibilities. You've got Brock Lesnar, Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels. Jericho and Michaels have been lighting the world on first over the last few months, between their meetings on the way to the Elimination Chamber and their confrontation just last week during the closing moments of RAW. Therefore, there's no question in my mind that these two will be at each other's throats from start to finish. It'd be really cool to see HBK eliminated midway through the match, only to have Y2J thrown out at the tail end, but now I'm playing the role of booker myself. If they're as serious about this feud as I think they are, both guys need to put on the show of their lives. But they also need to take each other over the top rope. Brock's almost a lock to put this one under his belt.

Oh, and did I mention I'm two for three in calling the results of the Rumble match? Just thought I'd throw that out there.
Winner: Brock Lesnar

Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle
WWE Championship

I'm not sure what more can be said about this match that I haven't covered already. Chris Benoit is one HELL of an athlete, and Kurt Angle is the living embodyment of professional wrestling. He's a complete package, from head to toe. He can take any situation and thrive on it, as he proved with his promo at RAW X a few nights ago. He can't be touched in the ring, and he can run circles around anybody on the mic. He's holding the WWE Title, he's defending it against a guy who deserves to be the champion, and everything is right with the world.

These guys have had some real barn burners in the past, and with the added carrot of the WWE Title dangling in front of their faces, you've gotta believe they'll turn it up just a little bit more here. This is a match that's been years in the making, and even though the end result is all too obvious, that won't detract from my enjoyment of it in the least. Team Angle is a perfect compliment to Kurt's character, and they'll be the deciding factor here. I don't know, I just keep getting visions of Angle tapping out to the crossface while the ref is laid out on the floor. Call it a hunch.
Winner: Kurt Angle

In Closing...

Looks good on paper. If Dawn / Torrie is kept short and the Rumble runs a little long, it'll be a great sign for the evening. There's nothing really earth-shaking that seems ready to happen here, which could mean it's the calm before the storm... but don't go making bets on that one, either. These matches could all go either way and turn out well, which is a very good sign for any PPV. I remain optimistic about the future of the WWE.
until next time, i remain

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