PPV REVIEW: WWF Royal Rumble 2002

WWE / WWF Royal Rumble 2002 - Event Poster
January 20, 2002
Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia

In the final PPV of 2001, Chris Jericho beat The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin on the same night to become the first-ever Undisputed Champion.

Of course, you already know that because Jericho would spend the better part of the following decade bragging about it.

What you may not know -or at least not remember quite so vividly- is that after his monumental, history-making victory, Y2J would spend most of January 2002 playing second fiddle to storylines revolving around Vince McMahon’s rivalry with WWF Co-Owner Ric Flair, Triple H’s triumphant return from injury, and the major stars entering the Royal Rumble match.

In fact, the Undisputed Champion was so overlooked that on the Smackdown before the 2002 Royal Rumble, stars like Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, The Undertaker, and The Game himself had all confronted Jericho’s opponent for tonight’s show -The Rock- to tell him how much they were looking forward to going one on one with The Great One at Wrestlemania, taking it as a given that he would beat Y2J.

Was that the case? Was tonight’s Undisputed Championship match a foregone conclusion or would Chris Jericho prove that he wasn’t someone to be underestimated?

Let’s review the 2002 Royal Rumble and find out together, shall we?

30 Men. 1 Winner.

WWE / WWF Royal Rumble 2002 - Jim Ross and Jerry 'The King' Lawler called the event
Tonight’s opening video was another pretty captivating moment, first looking at some historic moments such as Hacksaw Jim Duggan winning the 1988 Royal Rumble, Vince McMahon winning the 1999 event and so on before reminding us that Val Venis, Goldust, The Godfather, and the legendary Mr. Perfect would all be returning for tonight’s battle royal extravaganza.

Speaking of legends, this well-made video finished by reminding us that almost all of the company’s main event stars not named Jericho or The Rock would be also be aiming to throw each other over the top rope en route to WrestleMania.

With that out of the way, we got crowd shots and pyro galore along with the obligatory welcome from announcers Jim Ross and Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler before heading down to the ring for our opening match.

World Wrestling Federation World Tag Team Championship
WWF Tag Team Champions Tazz & Spike Dudley vs. The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray & D’Von Dudley w/ Stacy Kiebler)

WWE / WWF Royal Rumble 2002 - Stacy Keibler accompanied The Dudley Boyz
The interesting thing about reviewing most of these shows from mid-2001 on is that I’ve never seen them before and have very little clue about what actually happened on them outside of major stuff like Jericho’s aforementioned Undisputed Championship win and the upcoming Rock/Hogan match at Wrestlemania 18.

Around this time I tuned out of wrestling altogether and wouldn’t start watching again until 2008.

So everything I’m seeing all this for the first time and have to admit I was pretty surprised to see Tazz and Spike Dudley pick up a win here.

They had beaten The Dudleyz on either a Raw or Smackdown broadcast (I forget which) that came from Madison Square Garden.

This cynical fan had assumed that it was just a fun way to pop the New York crowd before Spike and Tazz handed the belts back in this opening contest.

Alas, that wasn’t to be. After a reasonably entertaining six minute match were nothing of note happened, Tazz slapped the Tazzmission on D’Von Dudley to retain the gold.
Your Winners and Still Tag Team Champions: Tazz & Spike Dudley

WWE / WWF Royal Rumble 2002 -Edge talks to Lilian Garcia about whacking William Regal with a chair
Prior to the next match, we got a look back at the intense and violent rivalry between William Regal and Intercontinental Champion Edge. The champ had broken The Englishman’s nose but Regal had been busy hiding brass knuckles about the place and secretly using them to deck both Edge and Rob Van Dam.

Eventually, Edge had lost his mind and went nutso with a steel chair.

The two would meet tonight, but not before the champion gave an interview to Lillian Garcia.

Showing flashes of the charisma that would eventually make him a main event star, Edge told Lillian that if it came to it, he would simply deck Regal with a chair just like he’d done when he broke his nose.

World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Championship
WWF Intercontinental Champion Edge vs. William Regal

WWE / WWF Royal Rumble 2002 -Edge vs. William Regal
Prior to the match, referee Nick Patrick gave Regal a full pay down and found those ominous brass knuckles stuffed down his pants.

Naturally, he confiscated them, forcing Regal to fight fairly (or at least as fairly as heels ever did) in his second of two solid PPV outings with the future Rated R Superstar.

Like their last match at Vengeance 2001, this one saw Regal’s experience and technical ability give him the upper hand, only for Edge’s youth and tenacity to keep him in the fight.

After a good showing, Patrick got bumped, allowing the challenger to reveal that he’d had another International Object in his knickers the whole time and punch Edge’s lights out with it.

One three count from a groggy zebra later and we had ourselves a new Intercontinental Champion.
Your Winner and New Intercontinental Champion: William Regal

Post match, Michael Cole caught up with Regal in one of those ring-side interviews we hadn’t seen since the days of Todd Pettingill. Ever the heel, Regal claimed to know nothing about an illegal weapon and insisted that he’d beaten Edge because he’d been ‘blessed with the power of the punch.’

World Wrestling Federation Women’s Championship
WWF Women’s Champion Trish Stratus vs. Jazz

Special Guest Referee: Jacqueline

WWE / WWF Royal Rumble 2002 -Jaqueline was the special referee for Trish Stratus vs. Jazz
Last seen on pay per view as The Alliance’s mystery woman in the women’s elimination match at Survivor Series, Jazz had since been “rehired” by the WWF and built up as a serious brute, going straight after women’s champion Trish Stratus and beating the crap out of her.

Things got even more serious on the go-home Smackdown when she’d slammed Trish’s hand in a trunk, forcing the blonde beauty to head to ringside with said hand heavily bandaged.

This match was more of the same from the former ECW wrestler. Jazz battered Trish from pillar to post in a way that made you convinced she was going to pulverise her into submission and take her title.

Instead, Stratus -who had hit maybe two offensive moves in the entirety of this short match- simply landed her patented Stratusfaction bulldog and retained her title.

This short encounter wasn’t terrible or anything, but it was weird that they built up Jazz to look so tough and then had her lose so easily.
Your Winner and Still Women’s Champion: Trish Stratus

Earlier that day, Ric Flair had arrived at the arena with his daughter Meghan and son Reid.

The Nature Boy had little time for interviewer Jonathan Coachman, simply stating that his kids were there to watch him kick Vince McMahon’s ass.

That match was apparently next.

Street Fight
Nature Boy Ric Flair vs. Vince McMahon

WWE / WWF Royal Rumble 2002 -Vince McMahon faced Ric Flair
For those keeping score, this was Flair’s first PPV match since WCW Greed and his first WWF PPV match since Survivor Series 1992.

It was also awesome, not necessarily for the quality of the wrestling but because both men were fantastic entertainers who excelled in their respective roles; McMahon as the absolute d**k heel and Flair as the Dirtiest Player in the Game who could give every bit as good as he got.

Naturally, Nature Boy began bleeding about three minutes into the match as he sold The Chairman’s offence like he’d just been stabbed in the face. There was also a fun spot where McMahon snatched a camera from Megan Flair and used it to take a selfie with his opponent years before any of us knew what that word meant.

Eventually, Flair made his valiant comeback, busted McMahon wide open and made him tap to the Figure Four, bringing to an end what had proved to be a very fun match indeed.
Your Winner: Ric Flair

Backstage, Michael Cole tried to interview Nick Patrick and ask him if he’d reviewed the footage from the Regal/Edge match.

WWE / WWF Royal Rumble 2002 -Steve Austin sneaks up on Stephanie McMahon
Before he could reply, however, your reviewer’s favorite referee was interrupted by Stephanie McMahon who wanted to brag about how her husband, Triple H, was going to kick everyone’s ass in the Royal Rumble, including Stone Cold Steve Austin’s.

Not content with that, Steph, who had been having problems with Austin’s wife Debra, promised to kick her ass too.

It was at that point that she was interrupted by Stone Cold himself.


I said she was interrupted by Stone Cold Steve Austin.


I said she was interrupted by Austin who just yelled WHAT at her until she left, leaving The Texas Rattlesnake to tell Michael Cole that he -Stone Cold- was going to win the Rumble match.


I said he told...Ah, forgot it.

Anyway, after a hype video for our Undisputed Championship match, we went down to ringside for Rock/Jericho.

World Wrestling Federation Undisputed Championship
WWF Undisputed Champion Chris Jericho vs. The Rock

WWE / WWF Royal Rumble 2002 -Undisputed Champion Chris Jericho faced The Rock
Every time Rock and Jericho met it was good stuff, and while this fan still prefers their awesome outing at No Mercy 2001 as the best of their three PPV bouts, this one was still fantastic.

Halfway through, Rock looked to have the match won with that terrible sharpshooter he used to do, only for Jericho’s allies Lance Storm and Christian to distract Earl Hebner so that the ref didn’t see Y2J tapping.

The match then continued, heading to the outside where the challenger hit the champion with a Rock Bottom off the Spanish announce table through the English language announces table.

With every twist and turn things got better and better, with Hebner once taking a bump and Nick Patrick running in, only to reveal his true heel colors and refuse to count what could have been a match-winning three count for The Great One.

Naturally, Rock planted Patrick with a Rock Bottom, but got kicked in the goolies and had his head rammed into an exposed turnbuckle before Jericho covered him with both feet on the ropes.

One three count later, Chris Jericho, the man it seemed nobody in the WWF had expected to win, had done just that.
Your Winner and Still Undisputed Champion: Chris Jericho

WWE / WWF Royal Rumble 2002 - Shawn Michaels gets a little hot under the collar
As the carnage was cleared up and we prepared for the Rumble, we went to WWF New York where Shawn Michaels had been entertaining the crowd.

Speaking to Jim Ross, HBK said he’d enjoyed being a wrestling fan and watching ‘the two men most influential on [his] career,’ Ric Flair and Vince McMahon, going at it earlier on the show.

Encouraged to predict a Rumble winner by JR, Michaels didn’t pick his former DX buddy Triple H but said it was likely to be one of his fellow Texans, Stone Cold or The Undertaker.

Finally, it was time for what we’d all been waiting for:

The 2002 Royal Rumble Match
Featuring: Rikishi, Goldust, Big Boss Man, Bradshaw, Kurt Angle, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Undertaker, Triple H, Mr. Perfect, Val Venis, The Godfather, Lance Storm

WWE / WWF Royal Rumble 2002 - Undertaker was a bad ass
We started with Rikishi at number one and the returning Goldust getting a big flashy entrance as Howard Finkel announced him as ‘the individual who drew number two.’

Ross and Lawler made out like nobody had seen Goldust In decades, but it had only been about two and half years since he last left the WWF and he’d appeared at WCW Greed a year earlier.

Anyway, he and Rikishi got into some early brawling notable only for the fact that Goldust got thrown over the ropes a couple of times and only narrowly hung on.

The Big Boss Man, who had recently returned as an ally of Vince McMahon and Booker T was up next but didn’t last long and was done not long after number four entrant Bradshaw arrived.

Lance Storm, Al Snow and Billy ‘I’m Gay Now LOL’ Gunn also showed up, while Goldust and Rikishi showed themselves to be resilient by staying in the match, but it was all a little underwhelming as you never got the feeling that any of these wrestlers might actually win.

Then, finally, The Undertaker rolled into Atlanta, GA on his motorbike and business, in the immortal words of JR, was very much about to pick up.

Taker quickly cleaned house, leaving him ready for a showdown with the next two entrants, Matt and Jeff Hardy.

This was the payoff for an Angle on a recent Smackdown where he had destroyed both brothers and Lita, putting all three in the hospital.

Matt and Jeff had been at odds back at then but this beat down had brought them back together and they waged war on their aggressor until he finally eliminated them.

Then, Maven entered, and in one of the most famous moments in Royal Rumble history, eliminated Taker with a swift drop kick after Big Evil was distracted by The Hardyz on the outside of the ring.

Not one for taking the embarrassment too lightly, Undertaker unleashed holy hell on Maven, destroying him with a chair then thrashing him all the way though the crowd to the concession stand and ramming the Tough Enough winner’s head through a pop corn machine.

Other Royal Rumble 2002 highlights included:

The Godfather bringing out three different sets of hos for his big return and dancing with them for so long that by the time he finally got to the ring the ten count started for the next competitor to enter. As he did all this, King & JR talked about how he’d ‘gone legit’ by opening his own escort service.

WWE / WWF Royal Rumble 2002 - Stone Cold Steve Austin
Steve Austin getting a huge pop as he entered and quickly eliminated Christian, Chuck Palumbo, and Perry Saturn. While he was bored waiting for the next entrant, Austin threw Christian and Chuck back in the ring, Stone Cold Stunnered then again and then eliminated them a second time.

The Hurricane comically grabbing both Austin and Triple H by the throat for a chokeslam. The two - who had been beating the hell out of each other up until that point- reacted in pain, then looked at each other as if to say ‘what the hell is this?’ And then swiftly chucked the WWF’s resident superhero out of the ring.

Mr Perfect getting a huge ovation first for his entrance and then later for busting out a PerfectPlex then lasting all the way to the final four.

Perfect was joined in this group by Austin, Kurt Angle, and The Game. Surprisingly, Austin was the first to go, returning to the match moments later to take everybody out with a steel chair before Hennig finally got thrown over.

Last but not least, Angle thought he’d eliminated HHH and was celebrating when Hunter revealed he’d held onto the ropes.

One hard clothesline later and the 2002 Royal Rumble was over.
Your Winner: Triple H

While not the best Royal Rumble match ever, that one did at least have its moments and the final stretch leading into The Cerebral Assassin’s big victory was the most exciting part.

This show was built entirely around the last three matches and all of them were decent to great.

The Rumble match was the least entertaining of the three, though as I just mentioned, even that had its bright spots.

McMahon/Flair was surprisingly very enjoyable and Rock/Jericho was the undeniable highlight of the night.

Throw in a good Intercontinental title match, and the WWF was off to a good start to the year.

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