The sold out and enthusiastic crowd at the TD Banknorth Garden, in Boston, Massachusetts, eagerly anticipated the WWE’s first pay-per-view event of the year – the 2011 Royal Rumble. It was a night filled with exhilarating action that kept the crowd involved throughout the show. The event, as always, is headlined by “The Royal Rumble Match.” This year, instead of the traditional 30 wrestlers, 40 WWE superstars entered the contest. The winner received an automatic slot in the main event at Wrestlemania against either the WWE or World Heavyweight Champion. Those two championships were also defended during the night. The opening match featured the World title being defended, as Edge battled Dolph Ziggler.

A few days before the contest, at a well watched Smackdown television event, the “acting General Manager,” and Dolph’s “girlfriend” Vickie Guerrero, banned the champion’s finisher – “the spear” from the match, stating that if it was used, Edge would be disqualified and a new champion would be crowned.

Near the conclusion of the match, Vickie stood on the apron, distracted Edge, and slapped him a couple of times. For some unknown reason, one of the WWE Divas, Kelly Kelly entered the arena, pulled Guerrero off the apron, and started fighting with her. Inside the ring, Dolph applied a sleeperhold and Edge started to fade. However, with the crowd urging him on, he fought back. The champion accidently knocked the referee down as he was trying to escape the hold. So, with both “authority figures” down, Edge utilized the spear on his opponent. The champion also pretended to get knocked down after his move, so he would not get disqualified. When the ref awoke, so did Edge, and executed a “killswitch” – a move used by his friend, Christian. The referee counted to three, and Edge retained the World Heavyweight Championship, to the delight of the fans, albeit in controversial fashion. Despite the loss, I think Dolph Ziggler looked great in defeat. He proved he belongs in the main event title picture, and I also believe he will become World Champion at some point in 2011.

The WWE Championship was at stake as The Miz defended the belt against Randy Orton. The crowd was not as excited about this match, probably because it’s been fought numerous times, and because of the amount of energy they exerted in the opening contest. But, like that match, there were many close calls, along with a controversial finish.

The finish came as the two competitors were fighting outside the ring, and Orton rolled back into the ring. As The Miz was about to re-enter, Randy stopped him, and nailed a DDT. He waited for his opponent to get up, so that he could finish the champion off with his RKO. Just then, the New Nexus walked down the ramp, which distracted Orton. Alex Riley (The Miz’s “apprentice”) entered the ring, but was immediately tossed onto the New Nexus. Then, C.M. Punk (the group’s leader) snuck into the ring, and hit his “Go to Sleep” finisher on Orton. The Miz quickly covered his opponent for the three count to retain the WWE title.

The crowd was upset with this result – the boos were loud and echoed throughout the arena. My hope is that the next challenger for the WWE title is someone fresh, so that some new energy would be brought into the title picture.

The main event was the 40 man “Royal Rumble Match.” The only way to be eliminated, is by being thrown over the top rope, with both feet hitting the floor. The competitor who drew number one, was C.M. Punk. But, as he was waiting for the second entrant, members of Wade Barrett’s new group “The Corre” rushed into the ring and attacked Punk. The Nexus ran into the ring, and a big brawl between the two groups erupted. The fans went wild, and encourage the groups to continue battling. Eventually, order was restored, and Daniel Bryan entered the match as the second participant.

Moving ahead, the seventh entrant was John Morrison. After a flurry of moves, William Regal tried to toss him out of the ring. He succeeded, but Morrison landed on the barricade, which protected the fans from the wrestlers. He got up, walked along it, and jumped onto the ring steps to re-enter the ring. All this time, Morrison’s feet did not touch the ground. What athleticism he displayed, and fans were impressed by his skill.

As the match progressed, C.M. Punk was joined by members of his Nexus group, and one-by-one, they eliminated superstars, including the first surprise entrant. At number 21, Booker T entered. The crowd was stunned, and became boisterous as they cheered. Unfortunately, after a brief offensive flurry, he was eliminated. It appeared that nobody could stop Punk’s group. It seemed that C.M. Punk would win and advance to Wrestlemania. But, that changed rather quickly.

Entry number 22 was the hometown favourite – John Cena. He clotheslined both Michael McGuillicuty and David Otunga over the top rope, and then threw out Mason Ryan and C.M. Punk. The crowd was on its feet as Cena singlehandedly eliminated all of Nexus. John kept on eliminating a lot of other superstars who entered the fray. But, another Rumble surprise was on its way.

At number 32, fans erupted at the return of another legend – Diesel (also known by his real name of Kevin Nash.) He entered, and was immediately attacked by Wade Barrett, who eventually eliminated Diesel to the disappointment of the crowd. However, they chanted “Thank you Diesel,” which I thought was a nice touch. As he was making his way to the back, the 33rd entrant appeared, and it was the Big Show. The two giants stood on the ramp and had a staredown before Show entered the Rumble match. That altercation could lead to a match between the two. While it would be great to see the two giants in a match, the quality will not amount to much, as Kevin Nash cannot move around well because of height and age, and the Big Show is usually pretty slow in the ring.

The final four were apparently Wade Barrett, Alberto Del Rio, John Cena, and Randy Orton. John Cena was about to eliminate Del Rio, but a previously eliminated Alex Riley got involved, and was tossed from the ring, which allowed The Miz, who was doing commentary, to sneak into the ring and eliminate Cena. The fans were not impressed with this turn of events, because their hero was not going to win the Rumble.

With Cena out, three superstars were vying for a shot to main event Wrestlemania: Wade Barrett, Alberto Del Rio and Randy Orton. Orton was about to eliminate Del Rio, but Barrett attempted to sneak up on Randy. Orton saw him coming, and swiftly eliminated Wade. Almost immediately after, Del Rio threw Orton out of the ring. So it seemed like Alberto Del Rio was going to Wrestlemania, but while he was celebrating, Santino Marella re-entered the ring (he was never eliminated, since he went through the ropes,) and nailed Del Rio with his “cobra” finishing move. When he was about to eliminate Alberto, he reversed it to eliminate Santino. As a result, Alberto Del Rio won the Royal Rumble Match, and the right to challenge either the WWE or World Heavyweight Champion at Wrestlemania.

The crowd was not too happy with the outcome – their disapproval was evident from their vocal reaction. However, I was thrilled with the result. I believed Alberto had a good chance to win – he’s young, arrogant, plays his heel (bad guy) role really, really well, and does a great job of making fans dislike his television character.

The 2011 Royal Rumble was a tremendous event. The title matches were spectacular, and it was great to see Dolph Ziggler shine, even though it was in a losing effort. The right individual won the Rumble match. I am sure Del Rio will do his part to make sure fans take him seriously as a championship contender. The WWE should be commended for putting on a spectacular event to start the year. The “Road to Wrestlemania” has officially begun. The next few months will provide fans with exciting action and buildup towards the WWE’s biggest event of the year.

Azeem Kayum

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