By 2005 WWE was settling on a new direction. They were fully out of the Attitude Era. And Brock Lesnar, their initial post-Attitude Era building block, had left the company. With Lesnar gone, it was a two man race for the position of next top guy between Batista and John Cena. Randy Orton had already gotten his chance and more or less flopped (I would argue he was betrayed by his booking, but it’s not relevant for these purposes).
So going into the Rumble, the question was whether they would go with Batista or Cena. And that would continue to be the question for about six more months, continuing up until the rosters were shaken up in the June draft.
The Rest of the Card:
-Edge defeated Shawn Michaels
-The Undertaker defeated Heidenreich in a Casket Match
-John “Bradshaw” Layfield defeated Kurt Angle and Big Show to retain the WWE Championship
-Triple H defeated Randy Orton to retain the World Heavyweight Championship
Jim Ross and Tazz are on commentary.
Eddie Guerrero is the #1 entrant. #2 is Chris Benoit. That’s about as good as it gets for a pair to start us off and anchor the early portion of the match. Tough Enough winner Daniel Puder is #3. He’s a smug dick heel who gets on the mic and brags that he’ll in the Rumble tonight. Then he gets in the ring and gets a pretty vicious initiation from Benoit and Guerrero. Some of the hardest chops I’ve ever seen. #4 is Hardcore Holly as the initiation continues. Holly pummels Puder and then tosses him as The Hurricane makes his entrance #5. Guerrero and Benoit combine to dump Holly as Hurricane enters the ring.
Benoit and Guerrero beat up Hurricane and toss him out. Kenzo Sukuzki enters #6. When he showed up I was sure he was going to be amazing because I had heard Japanese wrestlers were amazing and WWE would only sign the best. I turned out to be incredibly wrong. Edge is #7, he’s working double duty after beating Shawn Michaels earlier in the night. #8 is Rey Mysterio. He gets a sequence to show off his high-flying ability and eliminates Suzuki with a Head Scissor. Shelton Benjamin is out #9.
#10 is Booker T. Eric Bischoff, still General Manager of Raw, makes his way down the ramp. Chris Jericho is #11. Pretty good run of talent here. Now Smackdown General Manager Teddy Long comes down. #12 is Luther Reigns. End of that nice run of talent I was talking about. Then we get the famous Raw vs. Smackdown face-off, as the Raw and Smackdown guys separate and then brawl. Crowd popped big for it, I’m surprised it took so long for them to come up with the idea.
In a classic spot, Muhammad Hassan is entrant #13. Everyone gangs up on him and tosses him. The Raw vs. Smackdown spot didn’t really lead to anything until Survivor Series where they did the Raw vs. Smackdown match as the main event. I really think Hassan would have hit it big if not for the bad timing of the angle they shot with Undertaker that aired right after the London bombing. Rumor of the time indicated he was in line to face Batista for the World Heavyweight Championship at Summerslam and I could believe it.
Orlando Jordan is #14. Scotty 2 Hotty is #15 but he doesn’t make it to the ring before getting jumped by Hassan and beaten down. Scotty never makes it to the ring and is eliminated. Charlie Haas is #16. Booker manages to toss Orlando Jordan and Luther Reigns, but he is subsequently eliminated by Mysterio and Eddie after a Spinaroonie. Rene Dupree is #17. Shelton goes to the top and gets pushed off to the floor by Edge. #18 is Simon Dean. Guerrero is eliminated by Edge, which gets a ton of heat.
#19 is Shawn Michaels and business picks up. He quickly eliminates Simon and Haas. Kurt Angle is #20. Lots of double duty this year. Angle hits some Suplexes but then gets caught by Shawn and eliminated after Sweet Chin Music. Angle’s gone in barely 30 seconds. Jonathan Coachman is #21. No idea why anyone thought it was a good idea for him to be a wrestler. #22 is Mark Jindrak. Yawn. He was in a forgettable stable with Angle and Luther Reigns at this point. Angle returns to the ring and eliminates Shawn Michaels, then proceeds to beat him up out on the floor. Instant Wrestlemania feud. Fit Finlay is one of the agents breaking up the fight, I believe he’s in the Rumble next year as a competitor.
#23 is Viscera. I don’t think he’s the World’s Largest Love Machine yet. #24 is Paul London. Based on his entrance his gimmick seems to be that he’s high. Might not be a gimmick. Dupree breaks out his French Tickler dance and gets tossed by Jericho. #25 is John Cena to a huge pop. He’s the reigning United States Champion. He eliminates Viscera with a Back Drop, always an impressive spot. Gene Snitsky is #26 as they really seem to be speeding up the intervals. He hits London with a Clothesline that sends London flipped off the apron into a faceplant on the floor. Absolutely brutal.
#27 is Kane. Chokeslams abound. He eliminates Dupree. #28 is Batista. I had taken a break from WWE before this show and remember being stunned by the pop he got. It was like he got over overnight. The Animal tosses Snitsky and then goes toe-to-toe with Kane. Batista Bomb on Kane, then he tosses Jericho. #29 is Christian with Tomko in tow. Cena eliminate Kane with an FU over the top rope. #30 is Ric Flair. First Rumble for him since 1993. Flair and Batista, Evolution stablemates, team up. Flair tosses Coach. Flair feeds Christian into a Batista Spinebuster and Batista Gorilla Presses Christian out.
Batista goes after Benoit with a big Spinebuster, allowing Flair to make the elimination. Long run for Benoit, 47 minutes. Flair then tries to double cross Batista and gets caught. Edge Spears Flair and tosses him. And we’re down to four: Cena, Batista, Edge, and Mysterio. Edge scores with Spears on Batista and Cena. But he misses the Spear on Rey and eats a 619. Rey goes to the apron and gets Speared out by Edge. Edge proceeds to charge Batista and Cena and gets Back Dropped out of the ring.
Down to Batista and Cena and the crowd is wild. Cena gets Batista up for the FU but Batista blocks. Batista sets up for the Batista Bomb, stumbles, and they both go over the top rope.
And we have an all-time clusterfuck. Pretty sure this was 100% botch. They ad-lib a little with the Raw referees saying Batista won, the Smackdown referees saying Cena won. Now Vince shows up to settle things. Because it wasn’t bizarre enough, he proceeds to tear his quad getting into the ring. Somehow, this doesn’t seem to cause him any pain as he just sits on the mat calmly. Batista and Cena both toss each other over the top to buy a little more time.
Finkel announces the restart. Vince is dragged from the ring and helped to the back. Quick sequence as Cena goes for the FU, Batista hits the Spinebuster, and Batista throws Cena out.
Rating: ****. I quite liked that. Benoit and Guerrero did a great job of anchoring the match and had some really good interactions when they kept trying to eliminate each other. The Puder hazing was fun, the Raw/Smackdown battle was cool, the Hassan elimination was hilarious. Of course the ending was completely screwed up but it didn’t really detract from the match. The amazing thing is that somehow Batista and Cena hit the ground at the exact same time.
Batista was given the option of which champion he wanted to challenge at Wrestlemania. While he weighed his options Triple H and Ric Flair tried to manipulate him into choosing to challenge JBL. He made his choice in one of the best segments in Raw history, as he gave Triple H the big “thumbs down” and slammed Triple H through a table. Batista would go on to Wrestlemania to defeat Triple H in the main event to become the new World Heavyweight Champion.
On the Smackdown side, a tournament was held to determine the #1 contender for Wrestlemania. The finals would be John Cena vs. Kurt Angle, with Cena getting the win. He would go to Wrestlemania and defeat JBL to win the WWE Championship.