To begin the final year of the decade, the now-PG WWE made the decision to hearken back to the grandiose edginess that defined the Attitude Era that kicked off the millennium. The 2009 Royal Rumble was an evening in which the major plot points were driven by actions and moments that could be categorized as over-the-line, but were certainly over-the-top.
Matt Hardy’s betrayal of brother Jeff in the WWE Championship match would call back on instances of attempted murder-by-pyro, and an act of arson. Randy Orton’s involvement in the Royal Rumble match had the recent moment of his attack on Vince McMahon hanging over his head, casting him not only as a fiendish villain, but one that apparently struggled to control his violent outbursts. That storyline would soon descend into utter insanity, even without Vince Russo there to push the pen.
On top of it all, A-list actor Mickey Rourke, in the midst of Hollywood’s award season, was drawn to WWE through his gut-wrenching portrayal of Randy “The Ram” Robinson in The Wrestler, the touch of mainstream magic that the road to WrestleMania thrives on. The 2009 Royal Rumble was an eventful show that made you forget about WWE’s sudden family-friendly doctrine, feeding the maws of the salivating fans with plenty of edgy intrigue.
10. Royal Rumble-Fish
Chris Jericho was surprised to learn that at the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards in Los Angeles (more than 2000 miles away from the Rumble’s location of Detroit), Mickey Rourke had told a camera lens that he was “coming after (Jericho’s) ass at WrestleMania.” Jericho had no idea why the resurgent film star was issuing fighting words in his direction.
Jericho would soon learn that WWE had struck a deal with Rourke regarding WrestleMania and a match with Jericho, but hadn’t informed Jericho of said plans. There was no need to, because Rourke apparently wasn’t supposed to spill the beans on the angle until after the Oscars the following month. Rourke jumped the gun, but his comments did what they were intended to do – create a story. The match would sadly be scrapped, but that’s a story for WrestleMania time.