The iron man is one of the most basic Rumble tropes. Somebody comes in at the beginning and lasts the whole time. The best example might be Chris Benoit at Royal Rumble 2004. Due to machinations by Smackdown GM Paul Heyman, Benoit was forced to enter the Rumble first. That didn’t stop him from going the distance and winning the match in one of the best Rumble performances ever.
The Rest of the Card:
-Evolution (Ric Flair and Batista) defeated The Dudley Boyz in a Tables Match to retain the World Tag Team Championship
-Rey Mysterio defeated Jamie Noble to retain the Cruiserweight Championship
-Eddie Guerrero defeated Chavo Guerrero
-Brock Lesnar defeated Hardcore Holly to retain the WWE Championship
-Triple H and Shawn Michaels fought to a draw in a Last Man Standing Match (Triple H retained the World Heavyweight Championship)
Jim Ross and Tazz are on commentary, so we’ve got a mixed Raw/Smackdown crew.
Chris Benoit is entrant #1. Randy Orton is #2. They have a good exchange before Mark Henry enters #3. Not much happens before Tajiri enters #4. Bradshaw is #5 to a surprisingly good reaction. He dishes out Clotheslines from Hell to everyone but Benoit. Benoit hooks him in the Crippler Crossface. Bradshawn powers out and nearly dumps Benoit but ends up getting dragged over the top by Benoit.
#6 is Rhyno. Tajiri gets Mark Henry in the Tarantula, but Rhyno Spears Henry and Tajiri falls to the floor. Benoit sneaks behind Henry and dumps him. #7 is Matt Hardy, still rocking the Version 1.0 gimmick. #8 is Scott Steiner. He’s really just going through the motions at this point, he was basically finished in WWE after the Triple H feud. Matt Morgan is #9. That was a guy with a massive amount of potential who WWE never managed to do anything with. #10 is The Hurricane. He lasts less than a minute before being eliminated by Morgan.
Booker T is #11. Not much happens before Kane enters #12. This is his first Rumble since losing his mask. Booker T eliminated Steiner during Kane’s entrance, as we see on a replay. Chokeslams for Benoit and Morgan. The lights go out and Undertaker’s bell tolls at the next entrance, but he doesn’t show up. Kane is distracted and that allows Booker T to dump him. #13 is actually Spike Dudley, and Kane crushes him with a Chokeslam on the ramp. #14 is Rikishi. Absolutely no reaction for him, he was pretty much finished by this point.
Benoit dumps Rhyno. Rikishi gets Morgan with a Stinkface, which does pop the crowd. Renee Dupree is #15. He eliminates Matt Hardy with a Dropkick. But then Dupree eats a Superkick from Rikishi and is gone. A-Train is #16 and he enters as Benoit dumps Morgan. Orton manages to eliminate Rikishi and then takes out Booker T. Shelton Benjamin is #17. Benoit eliminates A-Train. Orton eliminates Shelton and we’re back to Benoit and Orton, the two guys who started the match.
#18 is Ernest “The Cat” Miller. He enters as Benoit and Orton are both knocked out. And he spends the next two minutes dancing. Tazz sings along with his “somebody call my momma” song. Benoit and Orton wake up and eliminate him. Kurt Angle is #19 and it feels like the match is on for real now. He’s a face here, he guaranteed victory and dedicated it to the troops. #20 is Rico. He lasts only a minute before getting an RKO from Orton and being tossed out.
#21 is Test, but he doesn’t come out. We cut to backstage where Test is laid out and Steve Austin tells someone offscreen that they can take Test’s spot if they want a fight. And then Mick Foley’s music hits and the crowd goes insane. He had been challenged to a match by Randy Orton in December and walked out rather than fight. But now he’s ready to go. Orton and Foley go at it and Foley ends up taking them both over the top rope with a Cactus Jack Clothesline. They continue to brawl on the outside.
Christian is #22. We’re rounding toward the finish here with a near empty ring. Dean Malenko is out to try to break up the fight between Foley and Orton. #23 is Nunzio and he runs into a Socko Claw from Foley. Orton breaks that up with a low blow and flees. Foley follows Orton to the back. #24 is Big Show. It’s always a fun game to try to remember if Big Show was a face or heel at the Rumble. Believe he was a heel here, he was the U.S. Champion and faced John Cena at Wrestlemania.
Show hammers everyone in the ring. Chris Jericho is #25. Charlie Haas is #26. Jericho eliminates Christian with a Back Drop. Billy Gunn is #27. Apparently he was returning. No memory of any of that. He’s back to being Mr. Ass. One of those where it hadn’t been quite long enough for people to be nostalgic. John Cena is #28 and he gets a huge pop. Incredible change from last year when he was the lamest thing in the match. Cena notices Nunzio, he has been hiding at ringside for ten minutes. Cena throws Nunzio into the ring.
#29 is Rob Van Dam. He always got big pops at the Rumble. #30 is Goldberg, who won the spot after winning a battle royal on Raw. He’s got a badass beard here. Spear on Big Show! Spear to Billy Gunn! Goldberg destroys everyone in the ring. He tosses Haas. And Billy Gunn. And Nunzio. He sets up for the Jackhammer on Big Show but is interrupted by Brock Lesnar. F5 on Goldberg. That allows Angle to toss Goldberg.
Everyone gangs up on Big Show but they can’t get him over. Everyone hits finishers on Big Show. They still can’t get him out. Big Show tosses Cena. And Van Dam. Final four: Benoit, Big Show, Jericho, and Angle. Jericho skins the cat and tries to dump Show but can’t do it. He locks Show in the Walls of the Jericho and Show taps out. Always hate that sort of thing, no point to it. Show recovers and Chokeslams Jericho out to the floor. Sidewalk Slam on Angle, then a Chokeslam on Benoit.
Angle hits an Angle Slam on Big Show, then on Benoit. Big Show recovers, goes for the Chokeslam, and Angle reverses into the Ankle Lock. Show manages to roll through it and send Angle over the top. We’re down to just Benoit and Big Show.
Show is exhausted and leans over the ropes, which allows Benoit to hit him with a Flying Headbutt. Show goozles Benoit, but the Crippler reverses into a Crippler Crossface. Big Show taps out for the third time. It’s like they had some allergy to booking him in truly dominant fashion. Big Show recovers and tries to dump Benoit. Benoit gets him in a guillotine and ever so gradually leverages Show over the top to the floor. Awesome finish there.
Rating: ****¼. Really good Rumble. First half was a little dull, but that last 30 minutes (basically starting with Foley’s entry) was on fire. Show was so dominant and it perfectly set up Benoit to be the man to eliminate him. Benoit lasted an hour and for a lot of the match was quiet, but the final battle against Big Show was perfection.
Benoit would make a surprise move and jump to Raw to challenge Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship. Shawn Michaels ended up being added to the match due to a lack of a big match for Michaels and some concern over Benoit’s ability to draw as a challenger. Benoit would tap out Triple H to become the World Heavyweight Champion.
Over on Smackdown, Eddie Guerrero would win the “Smackdown Royal Rumble” to get an opportunity to face Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship at No Way Out. Guerrero would score one of the biggest upsets in WWE history to win the title. Meanwhile, Kurt Angle won a Triple Threat Match against John Cena and Big Show to become the #1 contender for Wrestlemania. Guerrero retained the title after his boot came off in Angle’s Ankle Lock.