Match #1: ECW Championship Match -- Jack Swagger (C) vs. Matt Hardy
How far we've come in a year-and-a-half. Pretty much everyone involved in this match is on Smackdown now, including Tony Chimel (ring announcer) and Matt Striker & Todd Grisham (commentators). They talk up Swagger's potential and, yeah, I'd say he lived up to some of that. The ECW title was huge, physically. I loved that belt -- the final, silver version they had. This match was fine. Nothing special really. You could see the beginnings of Swagger's ability, while Hardy did a good job in making Swagger look decent. Odd moment when Hardy goes for a moonsault and it was one of the worst moonsaults I've ever seen. Nearly botched entirely. This was the sort of match I hate: a guy wins the belt just before the PPV, so he's going to retain automatically. More about giving Swagger a chance to do some PPV work than anything else.
Winner and STILL ECW Champion: Jack Swagger [**1/2]
Match #2: WWE Women's Championship Match -- Beth Phoenix (C) vs. Melina
Wow, a Divas match that didn't constantly make me cringe. This was a good effort by both women and has one of the few memorable Divas spots: Beth Phoenix bending Melina's leg back and using it to beat Melina in the head. For some reason, the ref broke that up and I can't figure out why except that if it continued much longer, Melina would have lost right there and then. Melina won and looked pretty good doing it in the upset. Fun fact: for Halloween in 2008, Michelle and I dressed up as Beth Phoenix and Santino Marella.
Winner and NEW WWE Women's Champion: Melina [**]
Match #3: WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match -- John Cena (C) vs. JBL
The story here was JBL employing Shawn Michaels after Michaels lost all of his savings in the economic crash of 2008. Prior to the match, JBL promises Michaels all of the money JBL would have paid him over the course of his employment, a release from JBL's employment, and a Royal Rumble spot if Michaels makes sure JBL wins the belt off Cena. After JBL leaves, Michaels turns and there's the Undertaker to say "Sometimes, it's Hell trying to get into Heaven." Nice tease for their WrestleMania match. This match was enjoyable. Cena started strong, but JBL's brutality and the odd distraction from Michaels shifted things JBL's way for a lot of the match. The big moment came when JBL accidentally nailed the ref with a big boot and Michaels entered the ring, delivering a superkick to JBL and THEN! hit one on Cena, too. He put JBL's body on Cena and went to the back to get a ref. But, he took too long and Cena kicked out, hit the FU, and retained the belt. A solid, entertaining match that set up the match at No Way Out between Michaels and JBL.
Winner and STILL WWE World Heavyweight Champion: John Cena [***]
Match #4: No Disqualification Match for the WWE Championship -- Jeff Hardy (C) vs. Edge
Hardy had won the title (his first world championship) the previous month in a triple threat match against Triple H and Edge. Prior to this match, Vickie Guerrero (then-Smackdown General Manager and 'wife' of Edge) came out and made it a no DQ match. This match was a fun one to see live, because I'm a fan of Edge, but not a Jeff Hardy fan really, so I cheered Edge and booed Hardy. This little kid, maybe eight or nine sitting in front of us noticed and it blew his mind. He looked at me and couldn't fathom how someone could cheer for Edge, while also booing Jeff Hardy. For the rest of the match, we would cheer/boo for our respective people while giving looks to one another. Yes, I started a feud against a little kid at a wrestling event (in good fun, I must add). This match was really strong, I thought. Hardy was motivated and both men worked their asses off. There was a spot that tells you everything you need to know about the Jeff Hardy character: he jumps off a ladder through the announce table on Chavo Guerrero, who was at ringside. Yeah, he risked an injury and getting beat down to take out someone other than his opponent. Hardy in a nutshell. This was also the match that finished the big story of someone trying to take Hardy out permanently. It was apparently supposed to be Christian's return to the WWE, but that's what everyone assumed, so the WWE swerved and went with... Matt Hardy. Yet another example of McMahon choosing 'surprising' over 'good.' It didn't make much sense when Matt nailed Jeff with a chair and it didn't work as a feud, but it would have made sense with Christian. I wonder how it would have played out with Christian instead. Nonetheless, a better match than I remember. Hardy looked especially impressive. It puts his recent work at TNA into perspective a bit.
Winner and NEW WWE Champion: Edge [***3/4]
Match #5: Royal Rumble Match
I'll do this one bullet point style.
* The match began with Rey Mysterio and John Morrison. Watching it tonight, I ranted about Mysterio being a chickenshit pussy coward. Michelle disagreed. What? He is! He attacks people without notice and runs away. He spends most of the Royal Rumble on the ground, clinging to the ropes. He always relies on being the 'underdog' to act as a reason to not stand up and fight with honour. He acts like a heel most of the time. It's funny how people love him.
* Before the first entry, Mysterio was on the ground, clinging to the bottom rope.
* Number of people in the match no longer with the WWE: five (Carlito, Mike Knox, The Brian Kendrick, Shelton Benjamin, and "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan) plus Rob Van Dam, but his appearance was a 'one night only' thing, so that doesn't count. Still, a year-and-a-half later and 20% of the people in this match aren't with the WWE anymore.
* I assume that Cryme Tyme were given the spot being held for Shawn Michaels in case JBL won the belt, because they needed to flip a coin to see who would enter the Rumble. JTG cheated and used a double-sided coin. Thus began Shad seeing that it needed to be his tyme.
* Kozlov enters the match and immediately eliminates the Great Khali. It's funny to see old Kozlov stuff where he was booked as a threat. Now? He teams up with Santino.
* Pre-"Dashing" Cody Rhodes is not nearly as awesome as "Dashing" Cody Rhodes, but his confrontation with Goldust was fantastic. Goldust makes both Rhodes and Ted DiBiase look like bitches until Randy Orton walks over, hits the RKO, and instructs Cody on how to toss his big brother over the top rope, while DiBiase gets his ass kicked behind them. The Legacy storytelling was great.
* Kane enters, kicks tons of ass until it's just him and the Undertaker standing. They look at one another and resume kicking everyone else's ass.
* Cody Rhodes skins the cat, like, 39 times in this match.
* The Big Show enters at #30 and has a staredown with the Undertaker until Kane comes out of nowhere to punch Big Show in the face.
* Santino is
* Man, I miss The Brian Kendrick. I like his character (when he appears) on TNA now, but the funny dancing and singing along to his own entrance music? AWESOME. I've made Michelle laugh many times by doing Kendrick's little dance with his arms out at his sides.
* JR and the King could barely keep up at a few times because, like, half of the 30 guys were in the ring at one time.
* The final six: Big Show, Undertaker, Triple H, and all three members of Legacy. The four 'groups' were in a corner.
* The Big Show is the definition of a sore loser as he eliminates the Undertaker after he was just eliminated. Baby.
* Rhodes and DiBiase act as cannon fodder, so Orton can eliminate Trips for the win and, then, he fails to find his mark to set off the fireworks and conclude the show.
* All in all, a very entertaining match. The right guy won and I loved the use of the Legacy faction. One of the few times it actually accomplished anything.
Winner: Randy Orton [****]
Show Rating: 8.0 (out of 10)