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.
9. Family Reunion
The mystery of Jeff Hardy's unseen attacker came to a head during the WWE Championship match when it was revealed that brother Matt was the one that had spent many weeks attempting to delete his brother out of existence. The angle would lead through WrestleMania 25 and a handful of violent confrontations, but originally, the broken brother wasn't meant to be the assailant.
That role was meant for Christian, who was about to re-debut in WWE after three years with TNA. Assisting Edge in victory made perfect sense, though a little too much sense - WWE shifted the role of the culprit to Matt after too many people figured out that Christian was going to be the grand reveal. So instead, Christian made his return on a random episode of ECW, a moment known more for commentator Todd Grisham displaying an energy level somewhere between "dead" and "dead, but a tooth is loudly rattling."
8. It Never Happened
It just wouldn't be Royal Rumble season without a storyline centered around stacking the deck against a babyface Rumble entrant. In this case, erstwhile-He-Man Triple H was entered into a match with Vladimir Kozlov on the SmackDown that aired nine nights before the Rumble, in which Helmsley would have to enter the Rumble first if he lost. Big Show was added as Kozlov's partner to make it unfair, and Helmsley indeed lost.
If you've seen the Rumble (or just read the Wikipedia entry in conjunction with this list), you know well that Helmsley did not enter first, but rather seventh. For unclear reasons, WWE simply decided to ignore this plot point altogether, pretending that it never even happened. Given that SmackDown aired on Friday nights when many young people should be out having fun, they probably just figured nobody with a reasonable memory was watching.
7. Extremely Light
The writing had been on the wall for the ECW brand ever since the main event focus shifted away from Rob Van Dam and Sabu, and toward Big Show and Bobby Lashley in the latter half of 2006. It wasn't the ECW of any diehard's memories, and aside from elevating gifted stars like CM Punk and John Morrison, the brand was clearly treated as a distant third.
This was made more evident when only four representatives from the ECW brand competed in the Rumble match: Morrison, The Miz, Finlay, and Mark Henry. Van Dam also took part, but he was a "free agent" special guest, having left the company in June 2007. None of the ECW reps (Van Dam included) scored an elimination, which may explain why Christian went to the brand - they needed some reputable star power badly.
6. Highly Short Notice
Van Dam was a welcome surprise at the number 25 spot, getting into fisticuffs with a few old rivals, including the likes of Triple H, Chris Jericho, and Randy Orton. It was only a one-off return (Van Dam would show in TNA one year later with one of the most muddled debuts in history), but it was nice to see him back inside a WWE ring for a night.
According to The Wrestling Observer, Van Dam was only contacted two days prior to the Rumble about doing the match. The Observer notes that Van Dam looked a bit heavier (kinda hard to get in "ring shape" in 48 hours), but his work didn't suffer for it, as he appeared to be just as spry and nimble across his 14 minutes in the match.
5. Not Your Stepping Stone
One of the more creative moments of the match would see number one entrant Rey Mysterio narrowly avoid elimination. After being dumped over the ropes almost halfway into the fray, Mysterio used the bodies of John Morrison and The Miz (who had just been eliminated moments earlier) as makeshift steps to avoid the floor, before stepping back into the match.
As brilliant as the moment was, it had actually been done almost a year earlier. In the pre-show battle royal at WrestleMania 24 (where the winner earned an ECW Championship match that night), Jamie Noble did the same spot in order to avoid elimination at one juncture. Not too many people cried plagiarism, since said battle royal was about as memorable as your last four blinks.
4. He Wasn't Ready
Some of the later entries into the match didn't stay very long. The Brian Kendrick was sent rocketing out after 15 seconds, while a handshake-happy Dolph Ziggler was sent flying after 21 seconds. None of them had anything on the man who followed them into the battle, a man that would make WWE history.
Running in at number 28, Santino Marella was clotheslined out by Kane after one second, setting a brand new record for Royal Rumble brevity. For 20 years, the record of The Warlord stood tall (if that's the word), as the former Powers of Pain member was clotheslined over the ropes by Hulk Hogan after a gruelling two seconds. Sadly, Warlord didn't loudly insist that he "wasn't ready" with an exaggerated accent.
3. Rich Blood
The final four of the match would present a rather unfair advantage for a trio of heels - Legacy's Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes, and Ted DiBiase outsized Triple H, creating a scenario wherein three unscrupulous jackals would tear at the mighty Hunter. Though DiBiase has had the least distinguished career of the three, his participation here is rather historic.
Twenty years after his father, The Million Dollar Man, was the runner-up in the 1989 match, Ted DiBiase, Jr and his dad became the first father/son duo to each make it to a Royal Rumble final four. Given the sheer number of second-generation stars that WWE likes to link up to their famous parents, you'd figure this would happen more often, yet the DiBiases are the only ones that have managed this. Look for the Flairs to join them soon enough, though.
2. Endurance Test
As part of the hype for the Royal Rumble match, WWE will make it clear that the later entries into the match have the best odds of winning, despite the high number of winners that have come from earlier in the order. The 2009 match does quite a bit to shatter that conventional line of thinking, as well.
For the only time in Royal Rumble history, each participant in the final four came from the first half of the field. Triple H entered at seven, Randy Orton followed at eight, Ted DiBiase at 10, and Cody Rhodes to finish out the first half at 15. Meanwhile, the 26th through 28th entries lasted a combined 37 seconds, because the match organizers felt like being a bit silly this year.
1. Evolution Of Man
Orton stood tall in the end after a rush on the last three eliminations - Helmsley threw out a charging DiBiase in stride, dumped unconscious Rhodes over the ropes, and was then chucked out by Orton while his back was turned. The entire finishing sequence lasted about 10 seconds, but put over everyone's favourite anger-riddled villain as the winner.
With the win came a ringing endorsement for the Evolution stable, as Orton became the fourth and final member of the group to win the match (no, Mark Jindrak doesn't count). Ric Flair won the match in 1992, Triple H in 2002, and Batista in 2005, previously. And Helmsley, Batista, and Orton would all go on to win additional Rumble matches, adding more depth to why Evolution is a mystery.