Welcome to tonight's coverage of the beginning of the road to WrestleMania, which is Royal Rumble.  Tonight, 30 men will battle to see who goes on to get their chance at glory at WrestleMania with a chance for championship gold.  Also tonight, The Rock returns to the Royal Rumble to make good on his promise to challenge the WWE Champion for their belt.  CM Punk says he's ready to go one-on-one with the Great One.

The card is as follows:

Pre-Show:

  • Antonio Cesaro (c) vs. The Miz; WWE United States Championship

Royal Rumble Pay Per View:

  • Team Hell No (Kane and Daniel Bryan, c) vs. Team Rhodes Scholars (Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes); WWE Tag Team Championship
  • Alberto Del Rio (c, w/Ricardo Rodriguez) vs. Big Show; World Heavyweight Championship, fought under Last Man Standing Rules
  • 30-man over the top rope battle royal, known as The Royal Rumble, with the winner getting a title match of their choosing at WrestleMania
  • CM Punk (c) vs. The Rock; WWE Championship

Tune in periodically throughout the evening for results and reaction from the Royal Rumble right here on Ring-Rap.com

Pre Show:

Tony Dawson and Matt Striker are our commentators.  They give us a rundown of the card.

Backstage:

Josh Matthews interviews Big Show.  They air footage of Show's loss to Alberto Del Rio on Smackdown.  Show gets upset because they didn't show him getting the better of Del Rio on Smackdown this past week.

Show says winning the lottery does not make someone a good businessman, and Del Rio hit the lottery.  No one can beat Show twice - "not once, not twice, not happening."  I got a glitch in my feed at that point.

They air the Royal Rumble "by the numbers" video package.

Match #1 - Antonio Cesaro (c) vs. The Miz; WWE United States Championship

Cesaro waves the US flag as he comes out, and Striker says he sides with Cesaro saying Miz embodies all that's wrong with the US. Cesaro hits a really nice powerslam that pops the crowd about two minutes in.

Cesaro controls and throws some punches.  Miz hits a kick but eats a backbreaker moments later.  Cesaro tries another powerslam, but Miz counters into the Reality Check for a near fall.

Miz lands awkwardly and sells an ankle after jumping from the ropes.  Miz rolls Cesaro up for a two, then clips Cesaro from behind.  The fans start their "wooo!" calls, but in the end it was Cesaro with the Neutralizer getting the win.

Winner - Antonio Cesaro to retain the United States Championship

Solid opener with a clean finish that the fans were into.  Seems like Miz got a good face reaction based on what I heard in the feed.  Looks like the ankle might have been intentional and it protected Miz in the loss.

Dawson and Striker talk about the WWE Championship match tonight.  A hype video package airs for CM Punk vs. Rock to conclude the pre-show.

WWE Royal Rumble, Live from the US Airways Arena in Phoenix, Ariz.

The opening video opens with a countdown clock.  "Time, you can never have enough." the narrator says.  They air past Rumble moments and current stars, as well as shifting to the CM Punk vs. Rock feud.

Cole introduces the show, along with JBL and Jerry Lawler.

Match #1 - Alberto Del Rio (c, w/Ricardo Rodriguez) vs. Big Show; World Heavyweight Championship, fought under Last Man Standing Rules

Big Show comes out first.  Del Rio and Rodriguez talk backstage, then they come across Bret Hart.  Bret compares Del Rio to himself, calling Del Rio a "Mexican Bret Hart."  He gives Ricardo his sunglasses.

A bit too much comedy prior to a title match for my liking.

Ricardo comes out and does the intro with Bret's glasses on.  JBL makes fun of Del Rio's uncle, Mil Mascaras, calling him the biggest egomaniac on the planet.

Show controls the early going.  They fight to ringside where Del Rio battles back.  He gets an eight count.  They fight into the set area, where Show grabs something hanging and slams Del Rio with it.  Looks like some sort of light bulb.

Show climbs up the set and pulls Del Rio up.  He chokeslams Del Rio from the set to a table on the floor in an insane spot.  Del Rio crashes but gets up at nine to a big pop.

They work back to the ring and Show goes for the WMD Punch.  Del Rio rolls to ringside to miss it. Show throws Ricardo down and tries to hit a spear, only to eat the timekeeper wall.  Show gets back to his feet at nine and is greeted with five chair shots to the back.

Del Rio puts Show's arm on the ring steps then slams it with a chair.  Show yells "oh shit."  Del Rio sprays Show with a fire extinguisher then they work back in the ring.  Fans start a "this is awesome" chant.

Del Rio locks Show in the Cross Arm Breaker.  Ricardo recovers from being thrown down and tapes Big Show's legs to the bottom rope.  "Show has been hogtied!" says Cole, while JBL doesn't want it to end like this.  The fans count along in Spanish to ten and Del Rio wins.

Winner - Alberto Del Rio to retain the World Heavyweight Championship

The match was fine once they got past the slow dominance of Big Show early on.  If they really want Del Rio to be a babyface though, gotta come at it another way and not use Ricardo so much to help him.

We get an interview backstage with Dolph Ziggler, AJ and Big E Langston.  Dolph says Vickie is jaded and he's going to pick No. 1 because that's what he is.  Striker tells him only a couple men have won from the No. 1 spot.  AJ cuts off Striker.  Langston cuts in and does a mock reporter voice and asks Ziggler what his plans are when he wins the Rumble.

Dolph says he will do something no one has ever done and that's unify the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships on the grandest stage of them all.

I can't hardly take that seriously.  Ziggler hasn't gotten enough meaningful wins on Raw to even consider using him in that unification match.  Langston is much better being the "silent heavy."

Antonio Cesaro, the Prime Time Players, Randy Orton, John Cena, Wade Barrett and Sheamus all deliver  brief, separate, pre-tape promos for the Rumble match.

They needed to show these on either Raw or Smackdown this past week rather than tonight.  We're getting more hype for the Rumble match on the PPV than on free TV, which is backward.

Cole says Ryback is a favorite to win, and Lawler says there will be lots of surprises.  They narrate a recap of Antonio Cesaro vs. The Miz on the free pre-show.

Match #2 - Team Hell No (Kane and Daniel Bryan, c) vs. Team Rhodes Scholars (Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes); WWE Tag Team Championship

Bryan uses a surfboard early on while JBL compares Dr. Shelby to Hannibal Lecter.  The crowd is flat for this early.  Bryan gets them going a little after hitting a suicide dive.

Sandow runs Bryan into the ring apron a few times.  The heels work quick tags to work over Bryan.  The crowd is still flat.  Later on, Kane takes a neckbreaker from Sandow awkwardly, then Bryan tags himself in.  Rhodes Scholars hits a double suplex on Kane.

Bryan tags in, hitting a missile dropkick on Sandow, who has no clue he's legal.  Bryan shoves Rhodes toward Kane for Kane to hit the chokeslam.  Bryan locks Sandow in the No! Lock for the submission win.  Cole says Dr. Shelby deserves a Nobel Prize.

Winner - Team Hell No to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship

I was disappointed by this, and seems the live fans were too by their reaction.  The "yes" "no" stuff seems to have lost its luster a bit.  I was really expecting a title change tonight, but we didn't see that.  I think it's going to be tough to take Rhodes Scholars serious threat to Kane and Bryan with all the losses now  They need to do it as a TV title change first before going to this on PPV again.

We see an ad for Elimination Chamber on Feb. 17, then get a Royal Rumble statistics video package.

Backstage

Kane and Daniel Bryan celebrate their win when Vickie excuses her way in.  She gives them their Rumble entry numbers, wishes them luck then cackles her way out of the picture.  Bryan showed Kane his number, but Kane won't reciprocate.

Bryan claims it's a rule that "I'll show you mine and you show me yours."  Kane tells Bryan he would feel inadequate and it's bad strategy to reveal the entry number.  "See you out there" Kane says, but Bryan retorts "not if I see you first."  Kane called that unlikely.

Kane and Bryan still have their moments.

We get an ad for Raw Roulette tomorrow night

Be sure to join Drew Koscelek for live Raw coverage tomorrow night at 8PM EST.

They show highlights from Royal Rumble Fan Fest yesterday.

Match #3 - The Royal Rumble, 30-Man Over the Top Rope Battle Royale

Dolph Ziggler comes out, with AJ and Big E in tow.  He makes out with AJ a bit then takes the mic.  He says he stands alone in the spotlight exactly where he should be.  He doesn't even care who is No. 2.  Chris Jericho's music hits to a huge pop.

Smart to bring in Jericho given the history with him and Dolph, and very unexpected.

Cole points out that it was a loss to Ziggler that terminated Jericho's contract.  Jericho has new tattoos as well.  Jericho hits a superplex on Ziggler as the fans chant "you've still got it!".

Entrant #3 is Cody Rhodes.  Jericho battles both heels for a bit.  He locks Rhodes in the Walls of Jericho but gets blasted from behind by Ziggler.  Entrant #4 is Kofi Kingston.  He goes right after Cody Rhodes while Ziggler and Jericho go at it.  Ziggler ducks Trouble in Paradise from Kingston at one point.  Kofi tries to eliminate Dolph, but can't quite get it done.

Entrant #5 is Santino Marella.  He gets everyone over the rope, but not to the floor.  The rest of the guys in the ring gang up and toss him out. Santino is the first elimination.

Drew McIntyre enters at #6. Dolph throws Jericho over but Jericho skins the cat.  Entrant #7 is Titus O'Neil.  He grabs Kingston and does the Millions of Dollars before dropping Kingston across his knee. Drew McIntrye is eliminated by Chris Jericho. The Y2J chants get started after that.

Goldust enters at #8.  Cody Rhodes shakes his head, and there's three guys dressed like Goldust who just go nuts.  Goldust and Cody go toe to toe.  Ziggler sticks his nose in but Cody drops down and Goldust punches him.  Goldust and Cody go at it.

David Otunga is in at #9, then Heath Slater at #10. Slater goes after Kingston with punches.  The crowd's pretty flat until the countdown clock comes up.

Sheamus is the #11 entrant.  Cole points out Sheamus won it all last year.  Sheamus hits his forearms to the chest on O'Neil and eliminates him. Titus O'Neil is out. He gives David Otunga the same treatment and hits him with the Brogue Kick. David Otunga eliminated by Sheamus.

Tensai is in at #12.  Pretty routine battle royale action going on here.  Brodus Clay comes out at #13.  He gets an abbreviated entrance with the dancers, who go backstage.

Cody and Goldust battle, and Rhodes ends up on the apron.  Cody catches a charging Goldust with a shoulder.  They battle for position and Rhodes ends up back in the ring.  He throws Goldust to the ring post and he tumbles out.  Goldust eliminated by Cody Rhodes.

Rey Mysterio is #14.  He hits a top rope splash and comes up holding his wrist.  Darren Young is in at #15.  Brodus Clay gets eliminated by a group of wrestlers.  The announcers credit Young as being a difference maker in that moment.

Kofi Kingston eliminates Tensai.  Dolph takes a shot at Kofi. He acts wobbly but jumps onto Tensai's back, then onto the Spanish announce table. Bo Dallas is the #16 entrant.  He got no reaction as the NXT winner from the tournament on Saturday.

Kofi teases a leap from the table, but there's people waiting.  Kingston uses a chair as a pogo stick and gets back to the ring.  Young charges but that was a bad decision. Kofi Kingston eliminates Darren Young.  But Cody Rhodes was waiting for Kingston and hits the Disaster Kick. Cody Rhodes eliminates Kofi Kingston.

The Godfather is the #17 entrant.  He comes out with some "hos" but he doesn't last long as he eats a drop kick. Dolph Ziggler eliminates the Godfather. Wade Barrett is the #18 entrant.

John Cena is in at #19.  He gets a mixed reaction from the live crowd, then gets jumped by a group as he hits the ring.  John Cena eliminates Heath Slater.  Cena goes after the next guy, Cody Rhodes.  John Cena eliminates Cody Rhodes.  He tries to throw out Jericho but can't get it done.

Damien Sandow is #20.  Mysterio hits him with a huracanrana to try and eliminate Sandow but can't quite do it.  Wade Barrett eliminates Rey Mysterio.  Jericho locks Cena in the Walls and gets a big pop for doing so.

Daniel Bryan is #21.  The fans cheer him more this time and chant "yes!' as he dishes out kicks.  A dueling Cena chant gets going too.  Number 22 is Antonio Cesaro.  Number 23 is Great Khali.  He lumbers to the ring then hits a series of chops on people.  Kane is #24.  Cole points out that Kane has been in 16 of these matches and set a record for eliminations with 11.

Zack Ryder is in at 25 as Great Khali is eliminated by Kane.  Kane stands by the ropes and Daniel Bryan attacks him from behind.  Kane eliminated by Daniel Bryan.  Bryan takes a shot from Antonio Cesaro from behind and ends up outside.  Antonio Cesaro eliminates Daniel Bryan.

Randy Orton is in at #26.  He hits elevated DDT's on Ziggler and Bo Dallas, then hits the RKO on Zack Ryder.  Zack Ryder eliminated by Randy Orton as Jinder Mahal enters at #27.  Lawler recalls the promise that one member of 3MB would win the Rumble.  Antonio Cesaro eliminated by John Cena.

Miz enters at #28.  He and Cesaro brawl a bit at ringside.  Cole points out that Miz hurt his ankle in the pre-show match.  Miz hobbles into the ring.  Sheamus eliminates Jinder Mahal as Sin Cara enters at #29.

Bo Dallas and Wade Barrett fight near the ropes.  Bo Dallas eliminates Wade Barrett.  Cole points out that Dallas has lasted 20 minutes.  Barrett ends up getting a measure of revenge though.  Bo Dallas eliminated with help from Wade Barrett.  Barrett hits Dallas with the Bull Hammer for full effect.

Ryback is entrant #30.  Ryback goes on an elimination spree right out of the gate.  Ryback eliminates Damien Sandow, Sin Cara, and The Miz.

Jericho hits Ryback with the Codebreaker, then hits other guys with it also.  He ends up out on the apron and catches his balance but Ziggler hits him with a drop kick. Dolph Ziggler eliminates Chris Jericho.  Orton hits RKO's on Cena, Sheamus, and Ziggler, then hits Ryback with the elevated DDT.

Orton hears voices and hits his Viper pose but Ryback recovers.  Ryback eliminates Randy Orton.  Ziggler ends up out on the apron and eats a Brogue Kick from Sheamus. Sheamus eliminates Dolph Ziggler.

The final three are Sheamus, Cena, and Ryback.  They look at each other, then Cena and Sheamus team up on Ryback.  They hit a double suplex, then look at each other and trade punches.  Ryback recovers and hits a Meathook on Cena.

Sheamus hits Ryback with White Noise, then calls for the Brogue Kick.  He tries it on Ryback but Ryback counters.  Sheamus eliminated by Ryback.  It's down to Cena and Ryback.

Ryback gets a Feed Me More chant going.  Cena gives him the "you can't see me" gesture then starts throwing hands.  Ryback hits a spinebuster and tries for the Meathook again but gets tripped.  Cena locks on the STF.

Ryback acts like the STF has made him pass out.  Cena tries to take him to the ropes but Ryback recovers and hits a Thesz Press.  He slams Cena's head to the mat a few times and picks him up for a slam.  Cena escapes and pushes Ryback out of the ring.

Winner - John Cena

Cole puts over Cena as being the fourth to win multiple Rumble matches.  Pyro goes off as Cena points to the WrestleMania sign.  He looks into a camera on the floor and says he's going to WrestleMania, and poses with some fans wearing anti-Cena shirts.

This was a good Rumble.  I liked the Jericho surprise at the beginning.  The ending felt rushed though there was a good vibe among the final three.  I am sick at the thought of Cena winning personally, but given the potential of a Rock-Cena rematch for the title at Mania, it makes sense I guess.  I would rather have seen a different winner and get to the Rock-Cena title match another way.

They set up Rock vs. Punk with a video package.

Backstage:

Josh Mathews cues up the Rock's interview then leaves after Rock does his "Finally" line.  Rock talks about the adversity he's been through in life.  He says he was down to seven dollars after his college days at age 24, and we can all relate to that.

Rock talks about friends and family members fighting cancer.  He says his mother had cancer and wasn't promised tomorrow but is here tonight.  Rock talks about Punk saying the people don't matter, and that draws boos.  Rock offers his hand to people who have faith, get knocked down and get right back up.  He says he's offering his hand and will end 438 days of misery.  He says when he gets the 1-2-3 it's proof we all matter and become one.

Match #4 - CM Punk (c) vs. The Rock; WWE Championship

Justin Roberts handles the introductions.  Punk needs a bit of censoring as he jaws with a fan at ringside during his intro.

They charge at each other and start throwing hands.  Rock gets the early edge but Punk works some kicks in.  Rock hits a clothesline then they battle to ringside.  Rock starts ripping the Spanish announce table apart.  Punk hits a kick and throws Rock in the ring, then puts the announce table back together and bows to the announcers.  Funny moment.

Dueling chants for both men as they battle back to ringside.  Heyman hits Rock and he no-sells and glares at Heyman.  Heyman backs off and Punk hits Rock from behind for a save.

Back in, Punk locks a hold on.  They battle to their feet and Rock throws punches.  Rock runs the ropes but Punk hits a kick that takes him back down.  Punk walks over and Rock says something that censor guy mutes.  Heyman takes a cheap shot.

Rock leans in and Punk hits a springboard drop kick. Cole points out how Punk landed gingerly on his bad knee.  Punk hits a forearm on the floor and grabs his knee.  Cole plays it up.

Rock goes after the knee in the ring.  Punk throws Rock through the ropes and hits a suicide dive.  He tries another springboard move in the ring and misses, and sells the knee.  Rock kicks Punk in the back a few times then slams his knee in the mat.

Punk tries the GTS, but Rock counters and locks on the sharpshooter.  Punk rolls through and gets the Anaconda Vise.  Rock rolls Punk over and gets a pin attempt to break the hold. Rock fires back with some punches and a DDT.

Rock teases the Rock Bottom but Punk counters and tries to go for the Anaconda again.  Rock counters to the sharpshooter.  Punk reaches the ropes to break it.  They battle to ringside again, and Rock dismantles the Spanish announce table again.  Punk battles back and gets Rock on the table.

Punk calls for the GTS, but Rock counters with the Rock Bottom.  The table fell apart beforehand though.  Rock holds his knee but he rolls in to break the official's count.  Rock hits the Rock Bottom on the floor and throws Punk in for a two count.

Rock gets up first, but takes a big kick to the head from Punk.  Heyman pounds the mat and the official counts both men down.   They both get up and exchange punches.

Rock gets the better of the moment and sets up for the People's Elbow.  The lights go out and commotion could be heard, but no one seen.  Cole yells about the Shield putting Rock through the announce position.  When the lights come back up, the announce table is broken and the Shield is nowhere to be found.  Cole yells at Chioda that it was indeed the Shield.

Punk smiles and shrugs as if he didn't know what happened.  Heyman does likewise.  Punk limps over and points at his eyes, mocking the fans to ask if they saw what happened.  Punk yells at Cole that he had nothing to do with the Shield.  He throws Rock in the ring and pins him.

Winner - CM Punk to Retain the WWE Championship.

JBL defends the official for not being able to call what he couldn't see.  Cole is furious about the Shield helping Punk again.  Punk celebrates in the ring with Heyman.  Before the celebration can go too far, Vince McMahon's music hits and he struts to the stage.

Vince says Punk's celebration is over, and recalls telling Punk that if the Shield interfered, Punk would be stripped.  Vince asks Punk if he thinks he's stupid.  "It's my duty as chairman of the board to officially..." but Rock interrupts.  "We ain't ending this night like that.  You ain't taking it from him, I am.  We start the match now."  Rock says.  Vince says Rock has it and the match is restarted.

CM Punk (c) vs. The Rock, restarted

Rock hobbles back into the ring and Punk roughs him up then hits a top rope elbow for a good near fall.  Punk teases the GTS, but Rock shoves him off and hits a spinebuster.  Rock follows with the People's Elbow to get the win.

Winner - The Rock to win the WWE Championship

The Rock celebrates with the belt after the match.  He climbs up on the ropes and holds it up and then does likewise mid-ring and appears to say "son of a bitch, we did it."  That's the show.

They got the belt off Punk in one of the more awkward ways I'd have expected with the restart and all.  I guess that's their way of protecting a 438-day champion.  I'm good with it, though.

Endings were very predictable tonight, though.  The minute John Cena won the Rumble, I had a feeling Rock would claim the championship.  This will lead us back to Rock vs. Cena 2, which is also predictable.  It did big box office last year, so I can't say I fault them in that regard but at some point you've got to get the younger talents in that bigger scene for the long haul.

The Royal Rumble event was good, but in the end analysis I felt it to be pretty much a "B" grade show on the "A-F" letter grade scale.  I was entertained by the Rumble and Rock vs. Punk but the predictability of how it was going to end took some of the shine off for me.

Be sure to tune in for live Raw coverage for all the fallout tomorrow night starting at 8 p.m. EST.  Thanks for following along tonight.