With the 20th anniversary approaching, and with the 2021 edition of this iconic Pay Per View around the corner, it feels appropriate for me to take a look back at one of the last major shows of the famed ‘Attitude Era’ of the then WWF. I would say that 2000 was probably the peak in terms of quality of product that WWF had back then, and now going into 2001 (off the back of the iconic 6 man Hell In A Cell at the December 2000 PPV Armageddon) we were well on our way to THE WrestleMania in Houston’s Astrodome just a few months later. With a vast array of talent on the undercard, Kurt Angle and Triple H in their excellent love triangle feud (that was cut WAY too short, apparently down to HHH’s disbelief in the creative that ‘Kurt Angle’ could possible entice ‘Triple H’s’ girl) with Stephanie and the WWF Championship all involved… and of course… HE was back. Having returned from career-threatening surgery (after almost a full year on the shelf) just a few months prior, Stone Cold Steve Austin was on his road to getting BACK to the top, but in his absence the “1b” to Austin’s 1a had more that staked his claim to be THE guy. The 2001 Royal Rumble was a PPV that would prove to be a pivotal night in the career of Austin, The Rock, WWF Champion Kurt Angle, top contender Triple H (champion for most of the year 2000) and also a night when one of the supporting cast of the time would make Royal Rumble match history. If this show is as good to watch back as it looks on paper I for one am very excited. So join me now as I review the 2001 Royal Rumble PPV.
(In between the first and third matches on this show was a Ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship. For obvious reasons given one of the participants I can’t bring myself to write in detail about it. I will admit though that the match was very good (I’d go for ****3/4, an absolutely superb match), and if you choose or can yourself be OK with watching the match then I’d highly recommend doing so. But I hope you understand why that I will not be talking about it in my review of this show.
There was your usually great opening video, this one focusing on the rumble match specifically featuring all the participants.
This is the attitude era so we had JR and The King on commentary and Finkel doing the ring announcing. They were all their typical best particularly Jim Ross towards the end of the rumble match itself. The show was at the New Orleans Arena in Louisiana.
The Dudley Boys (D-Von and Bubba Ray) defeated Edge & Christian (C) to win the WWF Tag Team Championship
So… as part of the storyline going into this we were shown clips from the previous Raw and SmackDown shows where the heels gave the dudleys storyline concussions… yes 20 years ago it was apparently acceptable that a concussion angle was OK to do… urgh… This was a really fun and very solid opener between two of the most acclaimed and solid tag teams of this and any era. The Dudleys sold for most of the early part and it was almost like everyone was just waiting for the big babyface comeback… so as the match went on we got to Edge talking a lot of trash, he and Christian did frequent tags before D-Von showed some life. There was a small spot where after D-Von got a nearfall he took down Edge but he went down as well… so he went for the hot tag to Bubba, only for the ref to be looking at Christian so he didn’t see the tag. Christian then got some chairs, but as D-Von ducked Christian hit Edge instead with a chair. Then we finally got the big hot tag to Bubba and everyone went wild for it, he came in and cleared house of both heels, he hit the Bubba Bomb on Christian, they did the ‘WASSUP’ spot with D-Von coming off the top, then they had the famous ‘GET THE TABLES’ call, the crowd were going wild for this, Edge went for a shot with the belt but missed, Bubba got a nearfall after a roll up, Christian missed an Unprettier, Edge speared Bubba to stop a 3D, Edge hit the Educution DDT but Bubba kicked out of the pin, Edge and Christian then tried the WASSUP spot but D-Von pushed Edge down to break up the pin. And then finally the Dudleys hit the 3D on Edge and they got the win and won the titles. The crowd and commentary went crazy for the win. This was a great opener and to have the babyfaces win the titles started the show off hot and the crowd were happy. Good stuff all round.
We were shown Comedian Drew Carey entering the arena… oh boy…
JR introduced some footage from Heat… It was Vince McMahon talking about a previous Triple H – Steve Austin confrontation in an interview with Michael Cole. ‘In the interest of fairness’ Stone Cold is in the royal rumble still says Vince, but also Triple H won’t be penalized either as although HHH physically provoked Austin on SmackDown, Vince claimed that only happened after Angle shoved him into Austin. So Triple H’s WWF title shot is still on.
Triple H and Stephanie were backstage. HHH sought reassurances from Stephanie that (even with Trish at ringside) that she wouldn’t interfere in the match (against Angle)… Stephanie said she would be out there to make sure Trish isn’t a factor. Drew Carey then came in, he said he had spoken to KAMALA (OF ALL PEOPLE) but he wanted to find Vince McMahon for pointers on his own PPV (It appeared Carey had a show to promote around this time as they mentioned it SO MANY FUCKING TIMES)… And then somehow we got onto Stephanie asking Carey if he liked ladies, and she said she’d take him to Trish Stratus’ dressing room…
The APA were backstage playing cards and drinking (they did this a lot backstage around this time). They made innuendos about ‘I’ll show you mine if you show me yours’ but of course they were talking about rumble numbers rather than cards. Bradshaw suggested Faarooq should have a drink upon seeing what number he had. Crash Holly (OK then…) then came in and said he would have to eliminate them if they got in his way in the match. This was hilarious to be fair and was sort of R-Truth-like comedy we’d see in modern day so I loved it.
(THIS WAS WHEN WE GOT THE IC TITLE LADDER MATCH I MENTIONED AT THE START. IF YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE DOING SO I’D HIGHLY RECOMMEND WATCHING IT AS IT WAS SPECTACULAR).
Trish and Drew Carey were backstage. Trish said she was ‘involved’ with someone just as Vince McMahon walks in. They AGAIN promoted Carey’s show, with Vince somehow then convincing Drew it would be a good idea for him to enter the Royal Rumble match!!! Vince mentioned how he in fact has won a royal rumble (my god) and how if Carey wanted to impress WWF fans and Trish he should do it. Vince reassured Carey he wouldn’t get hurt. So… yeah this is happening…
We had Chyna backstage with Billie Gunn. Gunn was trying to tell Chyna to take the doctors advice and not have her match tonight but Chyna wasn’t having it……
So… we had a Michael Cole interview with Chris Jericho after the IC title ladder match earlier… and then… urgh… we had a period of the show I FUCKING HATED!!!
So the story they were telling around this time all revolved around Chyna, both on and off screen. She was posing for Playboy around this time, she had… well she looked very different to how Chyna looked when she debuted in the WWF put it that way (much more feminine now for sure)… and then, I don’t know if it was to justify the move or they just didn’t think it was a good look… but Chyna (former IC Champion and royal rumble match entrant) was now exclusively part of the women’s division. And this coincided with them doing a storyline with Chyna having a very serious and career threatening neck injury (really not cool to make a story out of an injury many of your talents have and would have in the future for real)… The pre match video played up this story and how the RTC group and Women’s Champion Ivory had further injured and made fun of Chyna. 2000-2001 was of course the final time Chyna would have in WWF, we still had the great stuff with Eddie Guerrero and her to come but Chyna was gone from the company by November of 2001. And then of course a certain IRL Affair along with her demand for a contract that would’ve put her in a similar basic pay bracket as Stone Cold meant this was very much the beginning of the end for Chyna in WWF… sad times… so this wont take me long so lets get it out the way…
Ivory (C) (with Stevie Richards) defeated Chyna to retain the WWF Women’s Championship
Chyna rag dolled Ivory, Stevie Richards of the RTC got some of Chyna’s attack too, and then Chyna was suddenly on the floor holding her head after she came from doing a somersault into a back elbow into Ivory in the corner… and it appeared the bump was serious and an absolutely battered Ivory kind of just fell and put her arm over Chyna to get the win. They REALLY went to town trying to play up the seriousness of Chyna’s injury, even having Jerry Lawler leave the announce desk to check on her, before she was stretchered out. Billie Gunn and a tonne of officials came out as she was carried away and JR and King were solemn in their tone on commentary. The match went less than 3 and a half minutes.
When you know at WrestleMania X7 that Chyna beats Ivory for the title in minutes… yeah I thought this whole thing was TRASH.
Stephanie and Trish has a verbal duel in the hair and make-up area backstage. Stephanie warned Trish not to get involved in the WWF title match. Trish came back with ‘Why would I get involved in your affairs, I have my own affairs to worry about…’…. I’m not even going to bother as I’m sure when I get round to reviewing Mania X7 I’ll tear that storyline to shreds…
Someone backstage gave Drew Carey some wrestling gear. He then came face to face with KANE in the locker room (remember that later). There was then a weird bit with Vince and Tiger Ali Singh and his goons where basically Vince said that Singh was no longer in the rumble match, and in his place was Drew Carey.
NOW THEN… I promise you everything from here til the end of the show is CLASS. Beginning with a mega world title match…
They showed footage of fans at WWF New York giving their thoughts on who would win in the WWF title match.
Triple H was shown backstage looking into a mirror and snarling and looking angry. Kurt Angle was also shown walking backstage.
They played another brilliant video package, this looking at the Angle – Triple H feud.
Kurt Angle (C) (with Trish Stratus) defeated Triple H (with Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley) to retain the WWF Championship
Off the back of Angle’s incredible run in the year 2000 where he had reigns as WWF, Intercontinental and European Champion at different times, he had another heel challenging him here, so it was an interesting match from that point of view. It was a bit scrappy and pretty even in most of the early going, at one stage Angle whipped Triple H into the corner and he went over the turnbuckle to the outside with a Ric Flair-style bump, and Stephanie looked on very concerned. Triple H not long after tried to pull Angle around the post but Kurt kicked him away, then he threw HHH into the steps, and back in the ring Angle missed the clothesline in the corner and then HHH did the spot he tried earlier by smashing Angle’s leg around the ring post, and as Stephanie distracted the ref HHH took the chance to smash Angle’s knee with a chair! HHH then dropped Angle knee first onto the steps, and HHH went after Angle’s knee again with a couple of chop blocks. He really went in on Angle’s knee before then locking in the figure four leg lock. With the hold locked on Triple H then grabs the ropes for added leverage, Trish Stratus tried to break that up and this led to a big scrap with her and Stephanie, which naturally the crowd ate up. Vince McMahon came out to try and calm things between the two women, and he eventually physically carried Trish away with Stephanie still trying to get into a fight. With Triple H distracted as the two women and Vince left the arena via the stage, Kurt Angle almost rolled him up with an inside cradle but HHH kicked out at 2. Angle then took over a little and eventually got in some strikes and a big DDT for a 2 count nearfall. The ending part of the match was great and all-action, so try and bare with me explaining: Angle hit some strikes, then an inverted atomic drop followed by a belly to back suplex with a bridge for a 2 count, Angle got more offence in but then HHH hit a sort of modified Razor’s edge but Kurt kicked out of 3 pin attempts after to leave Triple H in shock, HHH tried a pedigree but Angle countered, soon after he went up high and hit a beautiful moonsault to a downed HHH but hurt his knee on the way, and HHH kicked out of the pin after, Angle and HHH fought on the outside and the ref Earl Hebner got caught in the crossfire and took several bumps, they found themselves back in the ring and HHH was on the top rope (rare for him that’s for sure), only for Angle to jump up to him and hit an amazing arm drag off the ropes, he got more than a 3 count but with the ref down nothing happened, Angle tried to revive the ref but again Earl got hurt when HHH caused Angle to send Hebner into the steps, HHH got the WWF title belt but Angle hit an overhead Belly to Belly, Angle then went for a belt shot but Triple H hit a Pedigree… but no ref so no pin… and then… the crowd exploded as STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN ran out to attack Triple H, hit him with the WWF title (busting Triple H open), threw the ref in, hit a stunner, and Austin then left as Angle crawled over for the cover. So Kurt Angle retains, and Austin costs Triple H the title just as Triple H did to Stone Cold some weeks prior. HHH was fuming after as he staggered to the back after.
This was every big match in the attitude era; ref bumps, outside interference, blood, a hot crowd, big moves and a huge reaction. I loved it. GREAT stuff.
We were shown shots of Rikishi (who is going to be the number 30 entrant), The Undertaker and finally The Rock. The Rock then had an interview with Kevin Kelly which was tremendous.
The Video package they played hyping the rumble match was excellent.
Stone Cold Steve Austin Won the 2001 Royal Rumble match
Jeff Hardy was number 1. Bull Buchanan of the RTC was number 2. They had a fine exchange and both tried eliminating each other, 3 was Matt Hardy and they double teamed to eliminate Buchanan and then went at one another. Faarooq was number 4 and he attacked both Hardys, but a Twist of Fate and a Swanton Bomb meant he was easy pickings to be eliminated after and so Matt and Jeff fought each other again. Number 5… urgh… was DREW CAREY! He got a pretty big pop, but he really soaked it all in and took his time getting to the ring, meanwhile Matt and Jeff were brawling on the top rope, but they somehow tried a spot that caused them both to fall off and to the floor (it wasn’t a botch it was clearly planned, but they did a great job of making it look like a mistake)… so DREW CAREY was the only man in the match. Jerry Lawler hilariously exclaimed to JR on commentary “do you realize if the royal rumble ended now DREW CAREY would be going to WrestleMania?!?!” … and then of course (remember what happened earlier in the show) Number 6 was KANE! The Big Red Machine more than took his time as he slowly made his way to ringside, and naturally Carey looked on terrified. Eventually when Kane did step into the ring there was an absolutely hilarious spot where Carey offered Kane some form of note money. Carey was spared from what looked to be a certain beating, as Kane finally grabbed Drew number 7, Raven, came in and attacked Kane with a kendo stick. Finally Carey saw sense and decided it would be best if he eliminated himself, so he did just that by making his way over the ring ropes. Kane and Raven continued to fight, Raven making his way to the outside and brining a load of weapons into play, beginning with using a Fire extinguisher and spraying it into Kane’s face. Shortly after Al Snow came running out to attack his hardcore rival, this is where it got a tad confusing for a second as an official came out to lead Snow away. But then apparently he was the next man out at Number 8 anyway… so he just got in the ring after… From here Snow hit trash can shots to Kane and Raven, Snow then went outside and brought more weapons into the ring. He also brought into the ring with him a bowling ball in a bag… and conveniently Raven was laid out in the corner of the ring so Al Snow could roll the ball into Raven’s… yeah… Kane then hits strikes to both only for Snow and Raven to combine and hit bin shots to Kane (who didn’t go down) and then Al Snow and Raven teamed up and hit a double drop toe hold to send Kane into the chair. Number 9 was Perry Saturn (and Terri who walked him to the ring). Saturn targeted Kane’s legs to try and take him down, as Kane became the focus of the other 3’s attack, Kane did get a gorilla press slam to Saturn, but then the 3 others combined and hit all sorts of moves and weapons to try and take out Kane. Number 10 was Steve Blackman. Blackman, using his martial arts sticks, attacked Saturn, Snow and Raven. At this point it was just a glorified multi-man hardcore match, there was all sorts of weapons and shite in the ring. 11 was Grand Master Sexay. He soon hit Al Snow with a trash can lid and tried for an elimination… and this was when Kane started to run wild… he picked up a trash can lid and smashed everyone with it, even eliminating Grand Master by hitting him so hard he flew over the ropes and out. Kane then threw out Blackman, got out Al Snow, Raven and then Perry Saturn to stand tall and rack up some more eliminations… and then if Drew Carey wasn’t enough, at Number 12 we had the HONKY TONK MAN! He got his full entrance as well as Lawler on commentary seemed like he was having the time of his life. He cut a decent promo to Kane telling “big fella” to ‘stand out the way’ and eventually he says he’ll do a song… so as he started to sing his theme song Kane absolutely SMASHED him over the head with his guitar and it completely shattered. Kane then easily eliminated him and that was that. A great and classic rumble spot. Shit REALLY got real after that… as at Number 13 was THE ROCK! He obviously got a HUGE pop, and immediately went at Kane with a series of strikes, and the crowd noise only just grew as Kane and Rock went at it… 14 was The GOODfather of the Right To Censor (URGH…) and thankfully he was set upon by The Rock and then eliminated all in 13 seconds! Number 15 Tazz went a similar way… he ran in, got attacked by Kane and then immediately eliminated in 15 seconds. Number 16 was the APA’s Bradshaw and he attacked Kane with some huge strikes, and after Rock hit Kane too he got caught with a massive Clothesline by Bradshaw. After everyone went at one another Albert was number 17, and he came in hot. Still no eliminations for a little while. 18 was Hardcore Holly, and not long after Albert hit a great Albert bomb to Bradshaw, and Rock nearly eliminated Kane. 19 was K-Kwik (yes that’s R-Truth) whom JR called a ‘young rookie’ which shocked me out fully. Number 20 was the RTC’s Val Venus whom Kane hit with a spinebuster not long after he came in. 21 was the European Champion William Regal. 22 was Test and he immediately eliminated Regal. 23 was the return of the Big Show (he had been taken off TV and sent back to developmental to LOSE WEIGHT and get fitter). He quickly eliminated Test and then K-Kwik, hit chokeslams to Albert, then Val Venus, then Hardcore Holly and then to KANE! He then went to Chokeslam The Rock, but got hit with a low blow and then Big Show was ELIMINATED by The Rock (in a repeat of the ending of the previous year’s rumble match). The crowd was going wild for all this, but then Big Show pulled Rock under the ropes to the outside, so he wasn’t eliminated, but eventually as the action went on after Big Show chokeslammed The Rock through an announce table. As this was happening Number 24 was Crash Holly. Everyone in the ring tried to attack Kane as Rock was laid out, and Big Show walked to the back. The crowd fell proper flat as their hero was laying out in a heap. And then… naturally as everyone was piling on Kane number 25 just had to be… The Undertaker!!! So after Taker rode down to the ring on his motorbike the two brothers of destruction completely cleared house…: Taker eliminated Bradshaw, Kane eliminated Crash and then Albert, and Taker eliminated Hardcore Holly and Val Venus. Jim Ross exclaimed on commentary how Kane had now been in the rumble for 40 minutes, and The Undertaker… about ‘120 seconds’… So as two of the most dominant superstars in WWF history stood side by side in the ring… number 26… to take on these two monsters… was Scotty 2 Hotty… oh boy… and to his credit the look on his face sold how absolutely terrified he was (and commentary did a great job too). He eventually ate a HUGE double chokeslam and they got rid of him (The Rock was stirring but still down by the way). Number 27… at the total opposite end of the scale to poor Scotty… was STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN!!! A Monster pop as he walked down the aisle… but he was quickly jumped by Triple H, and eventually before he was lead away Austin was busted open BAD! Whilst this was going on was when a similarly in bad shape The Rock came back into the ring. Billy Gunn was number 28 as the refs finally pulled Triple H away from Austin. 29 was HAKU (Christ where do I even begin with this badass MOFO, widely known as one of the legit toughest guys in wrestling). All 5 remaining guys were now in the ring and they all exchanged their finishers. Before finally number 30 Rikishi made his way to the ring. But as Rikishi was coming down was when Austin got involved in the match by jumping him, he then got in the ring and eliminated Haku. The Rock (36 minutes) and Kane (50 minutes) had been in the longest now, Taker chokeslammed Rikishi but failed to eliminate The Rock, but then with a huge superkick Rikishi got revenge for the famous chokeslam off the Hell In A Cell the previous month by eliminating him. Rock and Rikishi then brawled, with Rock hitting a low blow and then eliminating Rikishi. Stone Cold soon eliminated Gunn, and then not long after that we got an amazing staredown between Austin and Rock. The moment the two locked eyes on one another was iconic, and the crowd lapped it up. Commentary did their role in playing it up too, it was clear that these two were the biggest stars in the game at that time. They got into it with Rock taking Austin down, Rock failed to hit a Rock Bottom but instead got hit with a Stunner by Austin. Austin took out Kane, but then Rock hit a Rock Bottom to Steve Austin. Kane was sent THROUGH the ropes by Rock (so wasn’t eliminated), Austin tried to eliminate Rock but got raked in the eyes for it, and then as Rock tried to eliminate Austin Kane came back in the ring and threw out The Rock! It was at this point Kane made history with the most eliminations in a single Rumble with 11 (a record that stood for 13 years afterwards). So with Kane as the iron man monster and Austin as the hero as the final 2 they went at it. Kane hit a big chokeslam and did the throat slit after to signal the end was near, but Stone Cold hit a low blow. Kane then went to the outside and got a steel chair, but he missed the chair shot to Austin and soon got hit with a huge Stunner! Austin then grabbed the chair and hit a series of chair shots hard to Kane’s head, but only staggered the monster… and then Austin put everything he had into a big clothesline to send Kane over the ropes and to the floor. STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN WINS THE ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH for a record 3rd time! Crowd went wild, JR on commentary was great in playing up the magnitude of Austin’s win, ‘a year ago he had spinal surgery’ Ross excitedly exclaimed. It was a huge win, and really came off as a big a moment. This was a GREAT Rumble match, nowadays it’s difficult for me to judge rumbles given that the last one we saw (the 2020 men’s) was in my opinion the best one there’s ever been. But nonetheless the 2001 edition was brilliant, start to finish it had everything a great rumble match should have. And of course it set up one half of the main event of one of the most historic and renowned WrestleMania’s of all time…