WWE Royal Rumble 2013 Review feat. CM Punk vs. The Rock

Logo for WWE Royal Rumble 2013
Image Source: WWE
CompanyWWE
EventRoyal Rumble 2013
SeriesRoyal Rumble
Edition26
FormatPay-Per-View
DateSunday January 27 2013
VenueUS Airways Center
LocationPhoenix, Arizona, USA
Attendance15,103

WWE Royal Rumble 2013

WWE Royal Rumble 2013 would be a historic night for WWE. The annual Rumble match alone would give fans some moments to cherish. But of greater significance was the WWE Championship clash between CM Punk and The Rock. Could Punk continue his 434-day reign as WWE Champion on the road to WrestleMania 29? Or could The Rock win his first WWE Title in over a decade? Let’s take a closer look at the show to find out.

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE PREVIOUS TV SHOWS? READ OUR PRE-PPV REVIEWS OF RAW & SMACKDOWN!

WWE World Heavyweight Championship Last Man Standing Match
Alberto Del Rio (C) vs. Big Show

Del Rio recently defeated Show on SmackDown under LMS rules to win the World Title. It was a surprise to see the big belt change hands on SmackDown. And Del Rio being a babyface adds to the shock that remains about that result. With ADR and his personal ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez still finding their feet as good guys, a mountain still remains for them to climb if they wish to achieve lasting stardom as babyfaces. But this rematch would give them (well, Alberto mainly) that opportunity. Show requesting the same stipulation for the return bout is a neat twist, though one that arguably dilutes their efforts in some way.

Beforehand, Bret Hart greeted Del Rio and Rodriguez backstage, and even gave Ricardo some signature sunglasses. No idea about the purpose of this segment. But it got cheers from the Phoenix crowd nonetheless. And who knows, maybe it means we’ll see more of The Hitman in the coming weeks. (Then again, maybe not. After all, what could Bret add to Del Rio’s act? Or maybe it may be a swerve relating to Bret siding with Alberto’s WrestleMania opponent? Okay, I’m blabbering so let’s move on.)

This was a fun opener to say the least. Show has performed with a new vigour over the past few months. It’s as if Paul Wight decided he wanted to actually have great matches rather than simply working as a giant. This means that, while he’s still able to show off his dominance and strength, he can excel as a wrestler too. And with ADR also performing to a high standard at present, the upshot is a feud that currently exceeds expectations.

Of note, Alberto pounded Show with chairshots, a callback perhaps to Sheamus’ similar attack at Survivor Series 2012. Show would rebound with a Chokeslam, though Del Rio would beat the referee’s ten-count. They battled up the aisle, where Show intriguingly used an LED light tube to strike the champ with. Show then hit the move of the match: a Chokeslam to ADR off the entrance set through a table.

At this point, one would think that Show was about to regain the World Title. But it wasn’t to be. Back in the ring, Alberto somehow trapped Show in a Cross Arm-Breaker to put him down. Ricardo then helped to keep him down by wrapping duct tape around the giant’s massive legs. This tactic (shades of John Cena doing the same to Batista at Extreme Rules 2010) did the trick, and Show stayed down for ten. Del Rio had retained the World Title, though the murky nature of his win means Show may receive another rematch. Either way, I enjoyed this opener, and Del Rio is surprisingly getting over strong as a babyface. Who envisioned that when the arrogant Mexican Aristocrat debuted in WWE in summer 2010?

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE PREVIOUS EDITION? READ OUR WWE ROYAL RUMBLE 2012 REVIEW!

Promos next. Dolph Ziggler vowed to win from the #1 position, a punishment by Vickie Guerrero due to relationship difficulties. We also had a callback to the good old days, with John Cena, Ryback and others proclaiming their plans to win the Rumble. Granted, there was nothing to match the batty promos from 1990, but this was fun nonetheless.

WWE Tag Team Championship Match
Team Hell No (C) vs. Team Rhodes Scholars

This was the only bout on the show which didn’t feel like a potential main event attraction. These combos fought at Hell In A Cell 2012, with Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow winning via disqualification. I’m not sure how it took three months for the heels to receive a rematch, but never mind. This was a straightforward doubles match; it was entertaining but unexceptional, and it was forgettable due to the other more significant bouts on the card.

Kane and Daniel Bryan remain over like rover, but I’m not sure whether Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow will stick together. Though they mesh well as a team, I get the feeling they won’t be a duo for too long. The only way to extend their tenure would be for them to capture the Tag Team Titles. And with them losing here, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Not that I’m complaining, though, as I love Team Hell No. A Chokeslam/No Lock combo ensured that the babyfaces would retain here.

Post-match, Vickie Guerrero handed Bryan and Kane their numbers for the Rumble match. Daniel willingly (if foolishly) showed Kane his number, but The Big Red Machine refused to reciprocate. Cue Bryan saying “I showed you mine, but you show me yours!” Kane still refused, and joked about whether Bryan would still be in the ring once he arrived. Their banter remains a laugh, and long may they remain the Tag Team Champions.

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE PREVIOUS PPV? READ OUR WWE TLC 2012 REVIEW!

Royal Rumble Match

The Royal Rumble match is a huge deal, but The Rock returning to the ring is bigger still. Therefore, the 30-man match would be the penultimate bout of the night for the first time since 2006. As is the norm, the winner would receive an opportunity against the champion of their choice at WrestleMania 29. Dolph Ziggler as #1 arguably didn’t need to enter the Rumble due to his Money In The Bank opportunity. But he did note earlier how he planned to win both World Titles at WrestleMania, so I guess it makes sense. Ziggler also stated beforehand that he didn’t care who #2 was, “so just send him out already”.

Cue “Break the walls down!”

“What?

Yes, Chris Jericho made his surprise return to WWE as the second participant. To say that fans were excited would be an understatement; Jericho received the biggest ovation of his career for his comeback. Ziggler, of course, ran Jericho out of WWE back in August 2012, so their hostilities renewed to kick off the Rumble. Though Dolph is popular with the smarks, Jericho remains massively over, as evidenced by the response here. Both men attempted early elimination attempts before Cody Rhodes came out at #3 to further chants of “Cody’s moustache!” Shave it off, Cody. Then again, keep it there. It adds to the appeal of his matches at the moment.

Kofi Kingston entered as #4, and he also got a big pop. I must say that the Phoenix crowd was as loud as any that I’ve heard for a Rumble in a long time. Santino Marella came out as #5 and attempted to throw all each of the four participants. He then celebrated, as if he had already won the Rumble. Sadly for Santino, the celebration would be premature. Cue a Ziggler superkick to make Marella the first casualty of the 2013 Royal Rumble match.

With respect to Drew McIntyre as #6, none of the three members of, erm, 3MB had any chance. So, his inclusion was underwhelming, as was that of Titus O’Neil at #7, though he did get some cheers. Jericho then eliminated McIntyre to a strong reaction, though a bigger cheer was reserved for the return of Goldust at #8. Just like in 2009, Goldust immediately targeted his brother Cody Rhodes, as fans unleashed a huge “Goldust” chant. Can’t every Royal Rumble match take place in Phoenix?

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE FIRST EDITION? READ OUR WWF ROYAL RUMBLE 1988 REVIEW!

David Otunga as #9 and Heath Slater (also of 3MB) as #10 made up the numbers. The next significant participant would be Sheamus as number 11, who started kicking arse, fella. Titus would take some Beats Of The Bowery before Sheamus sent a charging Otunga into Titus, knocking him off the apron to the floor. Otunga himself would then take all Ten Beats Of The Bowery and a Brogue Kick to signal his elimination. Having won the 2012 Rumble, Sheamus was one of the legitimate contenders to win it again this year.

Fans seemed surprised to see Tensai as #12, and they became more interested in loudly chanting “Albert!” Poor guy. Brodus Clay as #13 got some fans excited, though the Funkadactyls (Naomi and Cameron) didn’t stick around. As the match slowed down, Cody eliminated Goldust by whipping him hard into the ring post. Fans did not approve. Rey Mysterio, the 2006 Rumble winner, received a strong reaction as #14, even if his star power has diminished in recent years. Number 15 was Darren Young, the other half of The Prime Time Players, with us now being halfway into the Rumble.

We then got the most memorable elimination of the contest. Kingston eliminated Tensai, with Ziggler knocking Kofi off the apron. But Kingston landed on Tensai’s back and held on, with the former A-Train dropping him onto the announcer’s table and attacking him. Technically, Kofi remained, but he was too far away from the ring to re-enter, right? Wrong. As Bo Dallas of NXT entered as #16 (having won a tournament during Royal Rumble Fan Fest to qualify), the wheels began turning in Kofi’s head. He ended up using John Bradshaw Layfield’s swivel chair as a pogo stick to finally return to the apron, with JBL shouting “This is brilliant!” Fans also reacted very positively to Kofi’s antics, a follow-up to his handstand trick last year. And Kofi even eliminated Darren Young from the apron. After all that, though, Cody struck him with a Disaster Kick to eliminate him.

Number 17 would see another surprise entrant in the form of The Godfather! Jerry Lawler’s surprised “WHAT?” may be the loudest that he’s ever screeched, and that’s saying something. Godfather brought two ladies to the ring with him, though they were never referred to as Ho’s. PG Era, remember. JBL did call them his “rat pack”, which may or may not have significance. Godfather’s Rumble participation lasted seconds, as Dolph dropkicked him out so quickly that his music kept playing as he returned backstage. This was a nice treat for fans to see The Godfather once again in WWE.

Wade Barrett would be #18, but more noteworthy was John Cena as #19. The roar for his entrance was huge, and not just because Cena is WWE’s top full-time babyface. The Rumble hype suggested that Cena was the favourite to win the Rumble for the second time, having also triumphed in 2008. And this was reflected by his early flurry, despite everyone preparing to gang up on him. Cena struck everyone in some form within seconds, and he would quickly eliminate Slater and Cody. Bo Dallas surprisingly controlled Cena in the corner (that’s kind of John) as Damien Sandow became #20.

Daniel Bryan was #21, with him shouting “No!” as fans shouting “Yes!” This would accelerate when Bryan hit Ziggler and Barrett with his signature kicks to those same chants. Antonio Cesaro was #22, having successfully retained the United States Title against The Miz on the pre-show. The Great Khali emerged as #23, appearing less of a threat than ever. Meanwhile, JBL had Michael Cole and The King laughing by discussing Khali’s “interspecies” relationship with Natalya. Kane was in at #24 (just three numbers higher than Bryan despite their earlier conversation), while Zack Ryder was #25.

Team Hell No eliminated Khali with relative ease, only for Bryan to sneak up on Kane and eliminate him! Cesaro then knocked Bryan off the apron and straight into Kane’s arms. Bryan’s expression as he hoped for Kane to save him was hilarious. Just as amusingly, Kane would slowly drop Bryan so that his feet could eventually hit the floor. Again, Team Hell No are awesome. And if you’re not going to win the Rumble, you might as well be eliminated in memorable fashion.

Randy Orton, the 2009 winner, quickly dominated after arriving as #26, which included him eliminating Ryder. Jinder Mahal, the final 3MB member, was #27; Cena then eliminated Cesaro, which led to Antonio brawling with Miz after he became entrant 28. Sheamus eliminated Mahal (what was the point of 3MB entering?), while Sin Cara became #29, returning after an “absence”. (Cole said Cara had missed “a couple of months”, yet he was in action at TLC last month. Weird.) Bo Dallas then surprisingly eliminated Wade Barrett, but the IC Champ dragged him out and nailed him with a Bull Hammer. Will this lead to a Dallas vs. Barrett feud? Presumably.

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE LATEST EDITION? READ OUR WWE ROYAL RUMBLE 2020 REVIEW!

Ryback was the final entrant at #30, and other than Cena, he was arguably odds-on to win the whole thing. Big Hungry would throw out Sandow, Cara and Miz as part of his initial burst of momentum. From there, the ring would slowly empty, one-by-one. However, I felt WWE telegraphed things by having one guy dominate the ring only to face immediate elimination. Case in point, Jericho took control, but ended up being superkicked out by Dolph to enormous boos. It was then Randy’s turn to pound every remaining combatant, which culminated in Ryback clotheslining out The Viper.

Ziggler was somehow still in there, but not for long, as Sheamus Brogue Kicked him to ringside for a huge reaction. That left us with three men: Cena, Sheamus and Ryback. Fans initially popped but then booed, which was odd. Ryback avoiding the Five Knuckle Shuffle with a Meat Hook clothesline was a cool moment. And Ryback continued his strong showing by avoiding a Brogue Kick to throw out The Celtic Warrior.

That left Cena and Ryback as our final two; who would head to the main event of WrestleMania 29? Cena did catch Ryback in an STF, which made little sense in the context of this match. Still, Cena had slowed Ryback down enough to try and lift him up and out. But Ryback rebounded and began humorously pounding John’s skull into the canvas. Ryback then lifted Cena onto his shoulders powerslam-style, a la Big Show and The Rock in 2000. Just like in 2000, the tide would turn once more. Cena came off Ryback’s shoulders and somewhat clumsily threw out Ryback to officially win the 2013 Royal Rumble match!

Fans did react strongly to Cena’s win, which made him the first two-time winner in a long time. Seriously, Stone Cold Steve Austin was the last man to win two Rumbles in 1997 and 1998, and he won a third Rumble in 2001. Since then, we’ve had many one-time winners, amongst them Cena himself. John is now part of an exclusive club, further enhancing his already-strong legacy in WWE. The bigger news, though, was that Cena had overcome his recent on-screen turbulence to book a ticket to another WrestleMania main event. But the question remains: who will he face? The outcome of the next match seemed highly likely to give us an answer.

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE FOLLOWING PPV? READ OUR WWE ELIMINATION CHAMBER 2013 REVIEW!

WWE Championship Match
CM Punk (C) vs. The Rock

Talk about a headline attraction. Punk won the WWE Title at Survivor Series 2011 and had been champion ever since. He was at 434 days on the day of Royal Rumble 2013, the longest reign since Hulk Hogan from 1984-1988. Rock had made a grand return to WWE in 2011, with him beating Cena in a massive encounter at WrestleMania XXVIII. At Raw 1000, Rock revealed his WWE Title opportunity here at the Rumble, with Punk turning heel on him that very night. Despite Punk coming close to losing the gold in the meantime, he lasted long enough to face Rock in this bout, the biggest non-Rumble match to take place at the Rumble in a long, long time.

Beforehand, Rock cut a passionate promo about overcoming adversity, which included an acknowledgement of his mother defeating cancer and being in attendance. The People’s Champion also vowed to win the WWE Title for the people, who Rock asserted were of significance after Punk diminished them previously. I should also mention that Vince McMahon had added a stipulation to this match. If The Shield, who attacked Rock the previous Monday, were to get involved, Punk would be stripped of the title.

There was a real big-fight feel to this clash, with both men achieving major pops. The smarks were there to have their voices heard in Punk’s favour, but Rock was still the clear crowd favourite. This match had a slow start, with the highlight being Punk clearing and then redecorating an announcer’s table. Clearly, he was trying to plot a strategy which wouldn’t work against him in some way. Punk would use basic submission moves to wear down Rock’s ribs; the challenger fired back by targeting Punk’s knee. Back at ringside, Rock made Punk pay for the earlier table tease by planning to Rock Bottom him through it. I say “planning” because the table gave way under him, just like it did when Rock fought Mankind at Royal Rumble 1999. What a strange coincidence.

Thinking on his feet, The Great One would drill Punk with a Rock Bottom on the ringside mats. Back in the ring, Rock drilled Punk with a spinebuster and signalled for the People’s Elbow. Suddenly, the lights would go out. No, The Undertaker wasn’t here. Instead, we heard a huge kerfuffle, which included the sound of a table breaking. We briefly got a glimpse of The Shield members (Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns) giving Rock a triple-powerbomb through the main announcer’s table. Cole assured us that it was The Shield, and he would never lie, right?

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE FOLLOWING EDITION? READ OUR WWE ROYAL RUMBLE 2014 REVIEW!

Referee Mike Chioda was also limping, which suggested that he took some sort of blow along the way. Nevertheless, when the lights came back on, Rock was lying KO’d on the wreckage of an announcer’s table. (By the way, how cool is it for Rock, as a top actor, to risk injury by not only taking a triple powerbomb, but to do so through a table, and in near-darkness?). Punk smirked, as did his manager Paul Heyman, as the WWE Champion sensed victory was in his grasp. Rather than making it appear more accidental, Punk bought right in and rolled Rock into the ring, where he pinned him one-two-three!

Against most predictions, CM Punk had retained the WWE Title against The Rock, albeit controversially. Or had he?

“No chance …”

Fans erupted when Vince McMahon’s music played. Mr. McMahon was no fool, clearly noting The Shield’s involvement and reminding us of the pre-match stipulation. Therefore, Vince would officially strip Punk of the WWE Title, only for Rock to interrupt him. “You’re not taking it from him. I am!” Rock demanded that the match be restarted, and Vince compiled. An aghast Punk tried to wear Rock down quickly and hit his Big Elbow, but Rock kicked out to huge cheers. Sensing that his chances of winning were slipping, Punk then tried to hit Rock with a GTS. But Rock broke away and hit another spinebuster, leading to a People’s Elbow. One-two-three!

The Rock had officially ended CM Punk’s historic reign as WWE Champion to a massive response. Not only was Punk’s run at an end, but Rock himself had achieved something truly significant. Having once been the face of the company, Rock hadn’t held the WWE Title since SummerSlam 2002. He had gone Hollywood, and fans had assumed he would never wrestle again. Now, here at Royal Rumble 2013, Rock had once again become the WWE Champion. What a story. It also conveniently sets up a colossal rematch between Rock and John Cena as our main event for WrestleMania 29. I can’t wait to see it.

I would say, though, that Punk losing the belt via a People’s Elbow was a bit weak. At the very least, we could have gotten a Rock Bottom first, because the People’s Elbow on his own isn’t devastating. It used to be the icing on the cake, rather than the cake itself. Sure, Punk is small in stature, which means the People’s Elbow could be more impactful. But having been WWE Champion for fourteen months, it seemed like an anticlimactic final blow for him to take. Nevertheless, I was very happy to see Rock win the WWE Title, and I now wonder what Punk will do himself at WrestleMania. Also, how surreal is it to have The Rock as WWE Champion once again?

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE FOLLOWING TV SHOWS? READ OUR POST-PPV REVIEWS OF RAW & SMACKDOWN!

WWE Royal Rumble 2013 was a big success on the whole then. The opener was enjoyable enough, while the Tag Team Title clash served its purpose. The Rumble itself wasn’t an all-time classic, but it did have its moments, along with some nice surprises. And Punk vs. Rock lived up to the hype, while delivering a feel-good ending that initiates the road to WrestleMania 29. So, I would give this show a thumbs-up as we begin to prepare for the biggest wrestling event of 2013.

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