Has it been 25 years already? 2012 marks the 25th anniversary of the WWE Royal Rumble.
Wow, I'm getting old. As a kid, the Royal Rumble was always my favorite pay-per-view
event. Wrestlemania had all the pageantry and grandeur, Survivor Series
was cool and inconsequential. Royal Rumble was somewhere in between the
two. It was almost as gimmicky as the Survivor Series, but it upped the ante
with the off-chance of "random" match-ups that often resulted in dream fights--like
Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior. I loved the anticipation that came every two minutes.
Almost anyone could appear from the back and the Royal Rumble was notorious
for its surprise appearances.
Unlike the Survivor Series, the Royal Rumble not only held onto its
namesake match, it doubled-down on the stakes and guaranteed the winner a title
shot at Wrestlemania. Royal Rumble's promise of Wrestlemania
glory has kickstarted the reign of legends such as HBK and Stone Cold Steve Austin.
It's a fast-track to superstardom and notching a Royal Rumble certainly helps
a wrestler's Hall of Fame aspirations. This year young guns such as Miz, Cody Rhodes, Sheamus, and
Jack Swagger all sought to join the fraternity of winners while established stars
such as Chris Jericho, Big Show, and Randy Orton hoped to cement their Hall of Fame
careers with a Royal Rumble win. The event is also notable for bringing in
old favorites and 2012 definitely does not disappoint.
The 2012 Royal Rumble features a mostly lackluster undercard. As if the World
Heavyweight Championship's prestige wasn't diluted enough,
the pay-per-view kicks off with the title match. Yes, the once heralded realm of
Ric Flair, Sting, and Harley Race is now just the warm-up act. Ouch. The event picks
up after a few matches with Brodus Clay finally breathing a little life into the
show with his Funkasaurus jig. The WWE title match is the crown jewel of this event
and is one of the best matches that I have seen all year. I loved the special attention
given to Royal Rumble statistics and its illustrious history. Vignettes such
as this one help develop an element of importance to events that's often lacking
in modern professional wrestling. As for the Rumble itself, it's exciting, has great
action, and you get to watch a very promising, young superstar cement his main event
If you do not already know the match results, then skip past the match-by-match
rundown below to the DVD discussion.
Triple-Threat, Steel Cage: Daniel Bryan (World Heavyweight Champion)
vs. Mark Henry vs. Big Show. So, they thought they could lock little
Danny in a cage and finally let the big men have their way with him. Not quite.
Mark Henry and Big Nasty land nice shots, but Daniel Bryan ultimately backs into
another title victory. I never understood Daniel Bryan's appeal; his string of victories
simply makes a mockery of Mark Henry's monster push, which should've gone on much
longer. Overall, it's a decent cage match with some nice spots, but a predictable
8-Diva Tag Team Match: Beth Phoenix, Natalya, Bella Twins
vs. Kelly Kelly, Eve Torres, Alicia Fox, and Tamina. I like
the idea of women's wrestling more than actually watching it. I appreciate that
the WWE gives the ladies time in the spotlight every show, but these matches almost
never entertain me. The ending, with Beth Phoenix obliterating Kelly Kelly, was
nice. Too bad the rest of the match consisted of the usual hair pulling and airplane
spinning nonsense that is typical of a Diva match. 2/5
John Cena v. Kane: This whole match was yet another attempt to build
Kane up as some sort of monster--for probably the 20th time in his career. It was
old in 1998 and it's still old today. John Cena lands a few good shots, but Kane
stomps Cena down anytime he gains some momentum. This match is ultimately a boring,
slow-paced, story-builder that probably belongs on RAW, not a top tier pay-per-view.
Drew McIntyre v. Brodus Clay: The match is mercifully short, but Brodus
Clay livens up an event that up to this point was completely forgettable. You know
the jolt you feel after slamming a giant can of Monster drink on a slow, Tuesday
afternoon? This is like that. 3/5
CM Punk (WWE Champion) vs. Dolph Ziggler: The fight of the night.
This match is a highlight reel of wrestling moves, with the two wrestlers displaying
some excellent in-ring chemistry. CM Punk even pays a little homage to the Macho
One with a textbook Elbow Smash. This is one of those rare matches that camel-clutches
your attention. The storyline sets up for the played-out, guest referee interference
angle, but the result is satisfyingly unique. The special guest referee, John Laurinaitus,
brilliantly plays his role, exhibiting his primary motivation of
self-preservation. Laurinaitus spends most of the match silently staying out of
CM Punk's way and then, in an exaggerated gesture of good-will, he even helps
the "inside-the-ring ref" make the final count for CM Punk's ultimate victory.
What might have been a cheap, throwaway title bout turned into the early contender for match of the year. 5/5
30-Man Royal Rumble: I have to admit that I was pulling for The Miz
to run the table. The Rumble starts with The Miz at #1 facing his former lackey,
Alex Riley at #2. Cody Rhodes comes in at #4--him and Miz nearly last
for the whole event. The match has its mix of comedy contestants such as Ricardo Rodriguez
and Michael Cole who show up for a couple of laughs and then get the quick
boot. Always a highlight for me is seeing the old-timer cameo appearances. This
year featured Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Road Dogg Jesse James, and a very
slow, but still highly entertaining, Mick Foley. Sheamus and Chris
Jericho make up the last men standing with Sheamus kicking Jericho out after
a few nice, near falls. Royal Rumble matches are always fun to watch and
2012's event was no exception. 4/5
Video: The video is presented in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen. Some instances
of pixelization are visible, especially during entrances with pyrotechnics and smoke.
During the actual matches, any artifacting is barely visible and never distracting.
It's not the best, but the quality is certainly better than the recent Best of Raw/Smackdown
2011 DVD release.
Audio: The audio is represented in 5.1 Dolby Digital. The sound adequately
emphasizes the in-ring brutality and the commentary is crystal clear. The crowd
ambiance is noticeable and I was pleased that I could make out most of the crowd
chants. I've long thought that the WWE needed to increase the crowd's presence
the crowd just needs to get louder.
Extras: The DVD includes brief, after-match interviews with the Royal Rumble
winner and the World Heavyweight Champion. Do not watch them unless you already
know the results.
Bottom Line: The Royal Rumble is consistently one of the WWE's best
pay-per-views every year. The 2012 Royal Rumble starts off rough, even with
a Steel Cage/World Heavyweight Championship match to kick things off. Once the event
gains momentum around the midway point, it doesn't let up. If you haven't seen it,
this event is definitely worth at least one watch. Recommended.