No WWE pay-per-view had ever fired off so many hilarious and awesome bumper segments between matches, especially in bulk. Eddie Guerrero picking Ric Flair's pocket, Snitsky and Heidenreich grunting at each other, Christian freestyling on John Cena ("Tomko, gimme a beat." "No."), Batista taking pleasure in giving Triple H bad news, and a drunken JBL being given sobering news - it all worked. Usually, you get maybe one truly awesome segment like that per PPV, if that. But at least five? The creative team had their Wheaties that morning, that much was obvious.
Among the quality in-ring action and the inspired backstage bits, WWE was positioning itself toward a bright future, bringing the Rumble match down to two men on the verge of greatness: Dave Batista and John Cena. A very fun Royal Rumble was also a productive one, as the next class of main event stars were now due for their close-ups.
10. Welcoming Committee
There was even an inspired ad campaign for the Rumble, depicting Raw and SmackDown superstars as the Jets and Sharks from West Side Story, singing their way into a dance fight. The commercial was filmed on a soundstage at Universal Studios in Orlando, which just so happened to be the home of a rival wrestling promotion.
Members of the TNA roster (including Ron "R-Truth" Killings, BG "Road Dogg" James, and others) crashed the shoot while bearing balloons and a tray of cookies, a sarcastic welcome wagon that was filmed for the amusement of the TNA audience. An unmasked Rey Mysterio was filmed carousing with the TNA crew (which included longtime friend Konnan), though his face was blurred out for legal reasons. Killings also famously made off from WWE's catering spread with a plate of mahi-mahi, which he cheerfully devoured on camera.
9. Face Your Fear
The evening's second match would see The Undertaker in a familiar role - battling a heavyweight beast in a casket match. And like some other monsters before him, the unhinged and imposing Heidenreich had a stated fear of caskets. For some reason, monster heels in Undertaker's crosshairs have crapped the proverbial brick at the sight of a casket, which Undertaker would use for his psychological advantage.
But it turned out that Heidenreich's fear was a legitimate one. In a 2017 interview with Devon "Hannibal" Nicholson, Heidenreich revealed that he was unnerved by the sight of caskets, owed to his brother being murdered while Heidenreich was in high school. It's not clear if Heidenreich had any objections to working the gimmick match, but it doesn't seem to be the case, as he added that it added depth to his on-screen projection of fear.
8. Move It Up
When Randy Orton was exiled from Evolution in August 2004, prior to dropping the World Heavyweight title to envious ex-boss Triple H, the road seemed to pave itself - Orton would win the Royal Rumble, go on to WrestleMania 21, and get his revenge by vanquishing "The Game" in order to regain his belt. That was the plan, anyway.
However, a combination of Orton's struggles as a plucky young babyface (Orton's better with a maniacal edge), and WWE's belief that Batista could fill the babyface challenger-turned-champion role much better, led to WWE blowing off Triple H vs. Orton at the Rumble, two months earlier. Given that Batista makes a better babyface, and Orton makes a better heel, that was probably the right call.
7. Fresno Chops
The Rumble match started out with a rather drawn-out beating, as Tough Enough winner Daniel Puder endured chop after chop after chop after chop from Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and Hardcore Holly, in what looked to be a pretty clear case of the new guy getting a rather memorable "welcome" from his locker room elders. According to Holly, there was more to it than just that.
The sudden tradition of chopping Puder into oblivion began at a live event in Chicago, where Holly violently chopped Puder more than 20 times until "his chest black and bloody". The beating was facilitated by Holly finding out from Jimmy Yang that after beating Holly in house show matches, Puder would call his friends and brag about beating Holly, as though it were a real fight. That Chicago beating, and the collective beating at the Rumble, were specifically done to humble the new kid.
6. London's Body Falling Down
Neville's elimination in the 2016 match is criminally underrated, as it follows a similar trajectory as how fellow cruiserweight marvel Paul London met his doom in 2005. The looming Gene Snitsky deposited London to the apron, and violently Clotheslined his smaller foe, causing London to cut a shooting-star flip down to the floor. It looked phenomenal, and has proved to be rather memorable.
London performed the bump as a means of making a strong impression. But apparently, there were those in WWE's power structure that weren't happy with London trying to steal the show, when he was just supposed to be midcard cannon fodder. London remembers Michael Hayes telling him somewhat ambiguously, "That was really good...but it was *too* good."
5. The Sharpest Cut
In the fall of 2009, WWE released a three-disc DVD set for Batista entitled "I Walk Alone", featuring some of his top career highlights to that point. One of the match entries on the DVD is this 2005 Rumble match, from the time Big Dave entered at #28, through to the finish. Curiously, Chris Benoit (who had been excised from any and all WWE releases in the wake of his death) was still in the ring when Batista entered.
If you have access to the DVD, check this out - Benoit came in sixth place, and was present inside the ring when Batista eliminated seventh-place finisher Christian. As soon as Christian's out, there is one hell of an edit in place on the DVD, showing Christian already walking up the aisle in the next shot (what is he, a necromancer?), with Benoit's elimination completely edited out. And it's seamless, too.
4. Reliable Workhorse
He wouldn't quite match his record-setting 61-plus minutes from the previous year's Rumble, but Benoit, 2005's number two entrant, did make quite a showing nonetheless. En route to his sixth-place finish, Benoit lasted 47 minutes and 26 seconds (14 minutes off his record-setting run), making him the Rumble's duration king for the second consecutive year.
Benoit is one of only five men to be the Rumble match's longest-laster more than once (Steve Austin, Triple H, Chris Jericho, and CM Punk are the others), but Benoit is the only one to manage the feat in consecutive years. Both Helmsley and Jericho had long gaps between their marathon performances (1996 and 2009 for Helmsley, 2003 and 2017 for Jericho), whereas Benoit had his back-to-back.
3. Unplanned Chaos
It looked really good, too. Batista has Cena seated on his shoulders for what would've been a Batista Bomb, only for the two to have a stumble near the ropes. Cena falls over, his legs pulling Batista along for the ride, and both men hit the floor at the same time. All four feet seemed to hit the ground at the same time. Pretty awesome double elimination!
Except it wasn't *supposed* to be a double elimination. According to referee Jim Korderas, Batista was supposed to hang onto the ropes while Cena fell to his doom, with "The Animal" winning the match then and there. However, Batista slipped and landed on the floor simultaneously (thankfully) with Cena. This led to the scene of confusion and improvisation, as they had to figure out what to do next.
2. Vince Won't Stand For This
Amid all the confusion from the unscheduled double-elimination, Vince McMahon stormed the ring, his face redder than a Jersey tomato. The match needed to be restarted, so some authority figure had to make that decree clear. That's when he hit the ring and....well, you know what happened next - he slammed too hard into the apron on the slide in, tried to stand up, and crumpled to the mat in a darkly-comical moment.
McMahon ended up tearing both quadriceps that night, but on the botched entry, he only tore one, that in his right leg. Vince required assistance to the locker room (after sitting on the canvas, no-selling the pain), and tried to walk on his own from there. It was during his unassisted attempt at walking that he tore his *left* quadriceps, his lone good leg trying to hard to compensate. He would be walking again by April, because Vince simply isn't human.
1. Consolation Prize
After the restart, Batista would redeposit Cena to the floor, this time with plenty of clarity, and zero controversy. After a few storyline teases involving JBL, Batista would end up getting the World Heavyweight title shot at Triple H at WrestleMania 21, leaving JBL open for Cena (the winner of a #1 contender's tournament in February) to face at the event.
Cena would be the first of six consecutive Rumble runners-up to get a World title match at WrestleMania anyway. Randy Orton in 2006 found his way into Rey Mysterio's title match, while Shawn Michaels got John Cena the following year. Triple H worked his way into a triple threat for the WWE title in 2008, and would actually be the *defending* champion the following year, after winning the belt at No Way Out. Ending the chain is Cena himself, who was 2010's runner-up, but got a shot at Batista's WWE title at WrestleMania 26. So yeah, winning *isn't* everything.