PPV REVIEW: WWE Royal Rumble 2003

WWE Royal Rumble 2002 Review - Event Poster

January 19, 2003, 
Fleet Center, Boston, Massachusetts

For the past decade, the winner of the annual 30-man Royal Rumble match had earned an automatic world title shot at The Granddaddy of Them All, Wrestlemania. 

At least in theory, anyway. 

As we saw on occasions such as Wrestlemania 2000, Vince McMahon and his team weren't against reneging on their storyline promise if it meant delivering a card that was more to their liking. 

It got complicated and complex at times, which made you wonder why they didn't just do away with the rule altogether.

After all, the Rumble is such a unique attraction that I'm sure it would still sell on its own without a stipulation that was ignored half the time anyway.

Still, the company persisted with teasing a straight-forward narrative of Wrestler A earning and receiving a title shot against Wrestler B, only to change things up and go with something completely different.

This year, things had the chance to get even more consulted as this was the first Royal Rumble since the WWE Draft and subsequent brand extension, meaning a whole new world of possible scenarios on the road to Wrestlemania. 

We could worry about that some other time though. For now, let's get ready to rumble down in Boston.

Wrestlemania is Very Important

WWE Royal Rumble 2002 Review - Michael Cole and Tazz

Tonight’s opening video featured a montage of WWE performers doing their thing while speaking about how the Road to Wrestlemania began tonight.

This was super important because Wrestlemania itself was super important. Not just super important, but like the most important thing in the whole world.

And if you didn’t believe that, stars like Chris Jericho, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Booker T, and others were all to happy to tell you that nothing mattered more than main eventing on The Grandest Stage of Them All.

This wasn’t the most compelling opening video WWE had ever done, but it served its purpose and was effective.

With that out of the way, we got the obligatory crowd shots, pyro, and rousing greeting from Michael Cole who, along with Tazz, would be calling our first match of the evening.

The Big Show (w/ Paul Heyman) vs. Brock Lesnar

WWE Royal Rumble 2002 Review - Big Show vs. Brock Lesnar

It was back at Survivor Series 2002 that the dastardly Paul Heyman had turned his back on Brock Lesnar by helping Big Show beat The Next Big Thing for the WWE Championship.

Lesnar had extracted a modicum of revenge by ensuring Show then lost that same title to Kurt Angle at Armageddon 2002, making this the first time the two had met for a one-on-one encounter since November.

The match wasn’t quite up to the same standards as their Survivor Series outing, but it was still an enjoyable opener in its own right.

Alright, you weren’t going to get a catch-as-catch-can classic out of these two, but if you like watching two big, burly bruisers beating the crap out of each other, you’ll probably like Show/Lesnar II.

Even though the feud itself was enough of a reason to put these two together, this match had the added stipulation that the winner would earn a place in the Rumble match while the loser wouldn’t be allowed to compete in that match.

With that on the line, the two men went at it hard and heavy, with Lesnar showing that despite being an Ass-Kicking Machine, he could bump with the best of them.

Indeed, the then-youngster got thrown around the ring with abandon by his larger opponent before making a comeback and overcoming a Heyman run-in to put Show away with an F5.

Big Show and Lesnar had excellent chemistry together and it helped create a match that was far superior to what you might imagine it would be.
Your Winner (Earns a place in the Rumble): Brock Lesnar

Backstage, Terri reminded Chris Jericho that he had been given an opportunity to decide which number he entered the Royal Rumble 2003 match at.

WWE Royal Rumble 2002 Review - Terri Runnels interviews Chris Jericho

In a good promo, Jericho refuted the former Marlena’s claim and insisted that he’d only ever had one option:

Not the coveted Number 30 spot but rather the Number 2 spot.


Because Shawn Michaels had already been confirmed as the number one entrant and the two hated one another.

Wrapping things up, The Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla proved that he couldn’t go a single day without telling somebody that he once beat Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock on the same night before vowing to eliminate 29 other athletes and go onto headline Wrestlemania 19.

Up next, we switched to Raw, which meant commentary from King & JR.

WWE Tag Team Championship
WWE Tag Team Champions Lance Storm and William Regal vs. The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray & D’Von Dudley)

WWE Royal Rumble 2002 Review - World Tag Team Champions Lance Storm & William Regal

After Jim Ross told us that Bubba Ray & D’Von Dudley had won 15 tag team championships across three different organizations, Jerry Lawler commented something to the effect that fans would be clamoring for tables.

It was a comment which reminded this fan why I never got too into The Dudleyz.

They weren’t bad wrestlers by any stretch, and I have enjoyed some matches that they were a part of, but it always struck me that nothing they did in the early part of any match actually mattered.

The two could be tearing it up and all the fans would respond with would be a “We want tables” chant, meaning that anything the decorated team did always felt like it was just killing time until the obligatory “D’Von, get the tables!” moment.

Anyway, this wasn’t a bad match by any stretch, but not apart from the aforementioned Dudley problem, the whole thing felt kind of rushed.

Towards the finish, Chief Morley stormed to the ring as he apparently had some beef with The Brothers Dudley.

In the resulting fracas, a pair of brass knuckles came into play which were supposed to give the heels the advantage but instead ended up in the hands of D’Von Dudley.

After a 3D, D’Von blasted Lance Storm with the International Object. One three count later, he and Bubba Ray were now 16 time tag team champions.
Your Winners and NEW WWE Tag Team Champions: The Dudley Boyz

After a commercial for the company’s upcoming house shows, we got a look at impending arrival, Nathan Jones.

Last seen on Retro Pro Wrestling competing at WWA The Inception (where he was given the odd and confusing nickname of ‘The Front Row’), Jones’ real-world prison time was played up to full effect here, with his promo package showing us (what I assume to be) genuine Australian news footage about his time in a maximum-security prison, showing us just how scary and badass this dude was legitimately supposed to be.

The second coming of Nailz this was not.

Al Wilson is Dead

Prior to the next match, we got a lot back at the awful storyline between Torrie Wilson, her dad, Al Wilson, and Al’s lover, Dawn Marie.

This was bad and awkward enough when it was just Dawn Marie trying to get Torrie to have a little lesbian action with her.

It was even worse now that Dawn had since married Wilson and proceeded to, I don’t know, shag him quite literally to death on their honeymoon.

Did anyone actually find this entertaining? Did none of the three people involved stop and say “actually, this is crass and pretty tasteless?”

How did this crap ever get on TV, let alone PPV?

Dawn Marie vs. Torrie Wilson

WWE Royal Rumble 2002 Review - Dawn Marie vs. Torrie Wilson

This match was not good.

Neither woman was exactly known for her technical prowess, yet they tried in vein to wrestle a standard match when the awful storyline hanging over it -as horrible at it was- did at least present an opportunity for a quick cat fight or some overbooked chaos where Torrie just beat the hell out of her evil step-mother.

Predictably, the now Hall of Famer did pick up the win over Marie, and if anybody in the audience cheered, it was likely only because they were glad it was over.
Your Winner: Torrie Wilson

Backstage, Smackdown GM Stephanie McMahon interrupted Randy Orton from talking to Raw boss, Eric Bischoff.

WWE Royal Rumble 2002 Review - Stephanie McMahon interupts Eric Bischoff talking to Randy Orton

McMahon reminded Bischoff that her daddy had promised to fire him in 30 days and wondered what bombshell the author of Controversy Creates Cash would do to try and save his job.

Easy E promised that what he did have planned wasn’t just a bombshell but an “atomic bombshell.”

Unimpressed, Steph related that she had an atomic bombshell of her own to drop on the next episode of Smackdown.

This was followed by a vignette in which Sean O’Haire questioned the existence of God.

I wasn’t watching wrestling at all back in 2003, so I haven’t seen any of O’Haire’s WWE run, though I definitely saw the appeal of him back in WCW, so I’m personally interested to see him as I go through these reviews.

WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Triple H (w/ Ric Flair) vs. Scott Steiner

WWE Royal Rumble 2002 Review - Earl Hebner lays down the law for HHH and Scott Steiner

Prior to the match, we saw a video recap of Big Poppa Pump Scott Steiner challenging Triple H to a title match before beating him in an arm wrestling match to demonstrate his superiority.

The match itself began fine. It wasn’t a balls-to-the-wall epic or anything, sure, but it certainly wasn’t offensive.

Then, Big Poppa Pump knackered himself and wound up botching his way through a succession of repetitive suplexes and sloppy action.

Things were so bad (almost every bit as bad as you’ve heard they were) that the crowd loudly turned on babyface Scott Steiner and crapped all over the match itself.

They crapped the loudest and hardest towards the finish.

The Game tried to get himself disqualified but Earl Hebner was having none of it, instead insisting on a clean finish.

A few moments later, the champion brought out his old pal Sledgie and got DQ’d anyway.

Sure, it was a finish that made it easy to setup a rematch, but that was one rematch nobody wanted to see.
Your Winner via Disqualification: Triple H retains

Post match, Scott Steiner went crazy and destroyed Triple H. A gaggle of officials couldn’t stop The Big Bad Booty Daddy for holding The Game in the Steiner Recliner, but fortunately, Eric Bischoff could.

After a video package highlighting the rivalry between Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle, the two would meet in our second title match of the evening.

WWE Championship
WWE Champion Kurt Angle (w/ Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas)

WWE Royal Rumble 2002 Review - Kurt Angle vs. Krispin Wah

This was an awesome match that outshone Angle and Chris Benoit’s earlier effort back at Unforgiven 2002.

Though it took a little while to build up, it gradually developed into an all-out wrestling masterpiece between two of the best the sport had to offer at that time.

Keeping primarily between the ropes, the two traded holds, suplexes, and a flurry of near falls to deliver an awesome match that made the earlier HHH/Steiner fiasco look like two rookies in their first week of training.

After a thrilling match, the champion retained by making his opponent tap.
Your Winner and Still WWE Champion: Kurt Angle

Post match, the crowd gave Benoit a standing ovation for his tremendous performance.

Benoit, who was clearly over in a big way, acknowledged the love and respect before hobbling to the back with his star on the rise.

Prior to the Rumble match, tag team partners Kane & Rob Van Dam agreed that it really was every man for himself tonight and that they would each do whatever it took to win.

2003 Royal Rumble Match
Featuring: Chris Jericho, Shawn Michaels, Chris Nowinski, Bill Demott,  B-2, Rob Van Dam, Edge, Christian, Tajiri, Tommy Dreamer, Rey Mysterio, Chavo Guerrero, Eddie Guerrero, Shelton Benjamin, Charlie Haas, Rosie, Jamal, Test, Rikishi, A-Train, Matt Hardy, Maven, Goldust, Booker T, Jeff Hardy,  John Cena, Batista, Kane, The Undertaker, Brock Lesnar.

WWE Royal Rumble 2002 Review - The Undertaker confronts and congratulates Brock Lesnar

This was an excellent Royal Rumble match pretty much from start to finish.

Making his first appearance in a rumble match since 1996, number one entrant Shawn Michaels probably set a new record for the least amount of time he’d ever spent in such a match, at least since he split from Marty Jannetty.

He and his number-two placed rival Chris Jericho wasted no time going at it, but Y2J quickly got the upper hand, destroying the Heartbreak Kid with a steel chair and taking him out of the match in no time.

Jericho went on to prove himself to be the MVP of the match. Busted open, he lasted all the way into the part of the match where the final six or seven competitors were entering, only for an irate Michaels to storm back to the ring and extract revenge by eliminating his adversary.

The two were broken up by officials on the outside, but this feud was clearly far, far from over.

After Michaels’ elimination, stars like Edge, Rey Mysterio, Chavo Guerrero, and Tajiri all entered the fray and wowed the crowds, giving us some of the fastest-paced and most exciting action we’d ever seen in a rumble match.

As all this was going on, Christian took his spot in the contest wearing the most garish and god-awful ring attire you’ve ever seen.

Honestly, this fan thinks that was a stroke of genius.

As a heel, it did Christian no favors to try and look cool. Wearing a hideous ensemble that everybody hated only served to make him even more despised.

It was a smart move, but it was Jericho who made the smarter move by eliminating both Christian and his brother Edge at the same time, ultimately clearing the ring and being the only remaining competitor until Rob Van Dam entered the fray and lasted all the way to the final five.

At that point, RVD’s partner Kane set him up, insisting that he would gorilla press slam his partner on top of a prone Batista, but instead hurling him out of the ring.

Eventually, that left us with a final four of Kane, Batista, Lesnar, and a returning Undertaker, who hadn’t been seen on WWE PPV since No Mercy 2002.

Batista went out first, then, just as Kane had betrayed his partner, he was betrayed by his brother as ‘Taker hurled The Big Red Machine out of the ring.

A few moments later, Brock eliminated The Undertaker to stamp his ticket for the main event of Wrestlemania.
Your Winner: Brock Lesnar

Post match, The Dead Man returned to the ring to show some level of respect to his former rival, encouraging Lesnar to give him a title shot if and when he won at ‘Mania.

All in all, Royal Rumble 2003 was a good show.

There was nary a dull moment in the 30-man battle royal, and despite the lack of any surprise participants, it was hugely enjoyable.

The Angle/Benoit match was also off the charts, and the opening Lesnar/Show contest was good stuff.

Sure, the Steiner/HHH match and the women’s debacle both absolutely sucked, but if you take those out of the equation and don’t set your hopes too high for the tag title match, this is a worthwhile watch.

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