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Steve Cook’s 2012 WWE Royal Rumble Road Trip

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2012 Royal Rumble

Steve Cook takes you on a stroll down memory lane as he attends the 2012 WWE Royal Rumble live and in person!

It’s Royal Rumble Week! If you’re anything like me you get nostalgic during these huge events in the wrestling year. We can’t help but think about some of our favorite Royal Rumble memories. Ric Flair winning the WWF Championship in the 1992 Rumble still rates as my favorite match ever. I watch it at least once or twice a year. Stone Cold Steve Austin’s various Rumble victories were a highlight of my teenage years. I think I can mention now that I watched them on a black box of questionable legality.

The one I remember most has to be the 2012 Royal Rumble. Internet experts might not agree with the idea of it being memorable. 2012 wasn’t one of the more well-received editions of the event. I might not remember it either if I wasn’t there. Oddly enough, I still have many fond memories of my trip to St. Louis. Since I was nowhere near sober for most of the weekend, this surprises me.

I thought it would be fun to dip into the archives and take a look back at that trip. The following originally appeared in the 02.01.12 edition of News From Cook’s Corner. If you’d like to read more of my classic writing, or even more of my recent stuff, 411mania.com has plenty of both.


The Royal Rumble has always been one of my favorite events of the year. There’s nothing quite like the Rumble Match, where thirty wrestlers enter in intervals to determine who will challenge for the WWE or the World title at WrestleMania. I’ve always wanted to see it live, but never had the opportunity until this year. The Rumble was in St. Louis, Missouri, which is a couple of states over from where I live and a couple of hours from the home of my Offtheteam.com podcasting partner and best Internet friend, Trent “The Penguin” Howell. I hadn’t seen ol’ Trent in person since we went to a Raw house show back in 2004, so going to the Rumble with him seemed like a darn good idea.

I spent a lot of time before the trip worrying about the weather for the 6+ hour drive to Cape Girardeau. Weather is always an issue in this part of the country this time of year, but I was blessed with clear skies and decent temperatures for the trip. Saturday night in Cape was pretty fun, we hit a couple bars once Trent finally got the headlight on his motor vehicle working after two trips to an auto part store. Trent’s wife joined us later in the evening and she was even cooler than he said she was. If you think AJ’s attractive you’d like her, as they’re the same size. Better-looking face too. Trent did good there.

On Sunday we headed up to St. Louis and set up camp in Harrah’s. I haven’t been to too many casinos in my day, but I might have to make that happen more often because the vibe there was awesome. Even if they rob you blind they’re really nice about it. They’ll give you a bottle of water when they close the bar at 3 AM. (By the way, if you’ve listened to our OTT podcasts and think we’re ridiculous, you should hear us talking sports & politics at 3 AM after a long, long night.) The chicken fingers I had at 2 AM really hit the spot. Making things even better was the fact that they were having a Chinese New Year’s celebration and the place was full of fine Asian chicks. Chinese New Year’s is my new favorite holiday.

But you’re not here to read about my casino adventure with the Penguins, you want some Royal Rumble thoughts! We were joined for the show by Trent’s friend Shawn and Andy Critchell, Larry Csonka’s Monday night 411 on Wrestling co-host. Andy is a very jovial fella and went absolutely crazy for Mark Henry, so he was pretty much what I expected. Good dude. I thought the crowd was really good but apparently it didn’t come across that way on TV for whatever reason. It was a pretty smart crowd, one that started chanting about how Cena sucked before the show started. The people around us were pretty good…there was somebody in front of me that held up a sign early on, but I approved because it said “I Paid To See Daniel Bryan”. If you want to block my view for a couple of minutes during a three-hour show I won’t mind if you have something that’s worth saying. I thought the crowd was a lot better than the crowds I’ve been part of in places like Cincinnati & Lexington, where people actually don’t respond to much of anything. People were reacting to stuff here, and all of us were going crazy at various points in the show.

Dark Match: Yoshi Tatsu d. Heath Slater

This would have fit right in on Superstars for sure. It wasn’t spectacular or anything, but both guys worked hard and it definitely wasn‘t bad. Yoshi was quite popular with the crowd and Heath got a good heel reaction. For all I know this might actually be a feud on NXT. I like Yoshi a lot, and Heath’s going to be around for awhile because he’s good at making other people look good.

Triple Threat Cage Match: World Champion Daniel Bryan d. Big Show & Mark Henry

With Mark Henry hurt and Big Show reportedly hurt, it was on Daniel Bryan to put on a show and he did just that. D-Bry got a hell of a mixed reaction from the St. Louis crowd, as boos dominated his entrance but there were a few loud “DANIEL BRYAN CLAP-CLAP-CLAP-CLAP-CLAP” chants during the match. Like I told Larry (Csonka) people can’t say that he doesn’t get a reaction now. Well, they can say it, but they’re wrong. I question the reports of Big Show being hurt because he looked pretty good here and even got his 450-pound butt on top of the cage. Nice story here, with Bryan constantly trying to get out of the cage early, getting some offense in later, and a great ending sequence with Bryan hanging off the wrist of Big Show. Eventually he fell to the floor and retained the title, and I screamed about how that was my boy D-Bryan. Watching Critchell mark out for Mark Henry in person was quite the experience, and I don’t know what he would have done if Mizark had won.

Beth Phoenix, Natalya & the Bella Twins d. Kelly Kelly, Eve, Alicia Fox & Tamina

I wasn’t sure how they would get the Divas on the show, so we probably should have seen this match coming. This had Kelly Kelly doing a freaking cross-body off the top rope to the floor, so it was better than any Diva match I’d seen in quite awhile. Also, it was nice to see that Beth Phoenix is still alive and they actually had her win the match. Guess it’s time to build her up for her next challenger.

John Cena vs. Kane – Double Countout

I wasn’t feeling this at all going in, and the match & aftermath only made things less interesting. The Cena crowd response was interesting, as they got the LET’S GO CENA/CENA SUCKS chant going a couple of times (For the record, Critchell chanted the former while Penguin and I chanted the latter), but when that wasn’t going on nobody really knew what to do. Match was pretty much what you’d expect, then they went to the back so Kane could drag Zack Ryder out of his locker room and Tombstone him. I had a feeling something would happen to Zack when I saw that he had his own locker room. I guess it was nice that all the people that bought Broski headbands got to see their guy, even if he got Tombstoned.

The stretcher job seemed like a good time to get a t-shirt, but the Royal Rumble XXL shirts sold out. I probably should have seen that one coming. Fortunately I got back in time for the next match…

Funkasaurus d. Drew McIntyre

I was happy when Drew came out, then Funkasaurus came out and I lost my shit. You can’t help it, that song will get stuck in your head for days and how many chances will you have to dance along with a Funkasaurus? Hell yes I did the Dactyl arms. I got my Funkasaurus entrance so I didn’t have to start a riot or anything. Good times. I love the Funkasaurus and I’m so happy I got to see him do his thing live.

There were quite a few people wearing their James Laurinaitis St. Louis Rams jerseys at the show, but that didn’t stop John Laurinaitis from getting booed out of the building when he came out. He had to wear the sleeveless ref shirt so he could show off the guns!

CM Punk d. Dolph Ziggler

This got off to a really great start and most of it was enjoyable, but the overbooking at the end drug it down a bit. Of course that was to be expected with Big Johnny out there as the ringside enforcer, but it seemed kind of blah to me. Some darn good wrestling led up to it, but it didn’t quite live up to the MOTYC potential that most of us thought it had. Punk was rather popular. Ziggler had a solid performance, but as good as he is I don’t think he’s quite ready to carry Raw’s main title yet. He could be very soon, but he doesn’t quite have that connection with the audience.

As somebody who has watched CM Punk & Daniel Bryan compete on ROH shows with about 500 people at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds and at an IWA-MS show in a national guard armory with somewhere around 50 people, it was incredible to see both of them retaining their world championships with 18,120 other people in a huge arena. People often ask me why I bother with that indy wrestling stuff that isn‘t as slickly produced as WWE or Impact Wrestling, and that’s the reason. To see guys like Punk & Bryan go from performing at county fairgrounds & national guard armories to huge arenas…it’s a beautiful thing.

Royal Rumble Match

It was 55 minutes, so it’s best if I cover it in the Raw Thoughts format…

-Miz had a long run in the match and was the Iron Man by a couple of minutes over Cody Rhodes, but he didn’t do a whole lot for most of it. He laid on the floor for awhile after R-Truth took him out, then he got back in the ring and laid around most of the time. It’s like most of Miz’s career…he accomplishes stuff like winning the WWE title and headlining WrestleMania, but it doesn’t quite connect the way it should.

-I called Alex Riley being number two, and he lasted about as long as I expected.

-Cody had a much more impressive showing at number four, as he was active most of the time and threw out a pretty good collection of legends. Something tells me he’ll be feuding with a veteran at WrestleMania. It might be his brother Goldust, or perhaps his elimination of Mick Foley will lead to something. Either could work pretty well.

-Ricardo Rodriguez was fantastic. I thought it was actually ADR at first because I didn’t see just how wrecked the car was. I wonder if WWE expected a “RICARDO” chant.

-Socko vs. the Cobra got a tremendous reaction. I guess Santino started wearing the cobra sock just for that spot. Why not?

-Kofi Kingston needs to be doing something since his tag partner‘s having issues, and if Sunday’s Rumble performance & Monday’s victory over The Miz are any indication WWE gets that too. The walking handstand to remain in the Rumble was insane.

-I don’t need to see another Khali/Jinder feud, but at least Khali eliminated Jinder from the match. Speaking of which, WWE has some interesting wrestlers on the sides of their semis:

Khali
Drew McIntyre
Beth Phoenix
Kelly Kelly
Sin Cara
Ezekiel Jackson
Kane (without mask)

There are some more I’m forgetting, but there were some interesting choices. They also have a couple of Rock/Cena WrestleMania semis.

-I know some of you guys didn’t like having all the announcers in, but the crowd went crazy for Lawler & Booker and booed the hell out of Cole. We were glad not to have to listen to them all night, but it would have been interesting to hear how they handled things when they all got back to the announce table.

-Hacksaw & Road Dogg got huge pops (and apparently Road Dogg still has it), but to me the biggest surprise in the Rumble by far was Kharma. We were actually talking about her earlier in the day while explaining the current storylines to Mrs. Penguin, and weren’t sure when she’d be coming back. Good job by her keeping that a secret, and the Implant Buster on Dolph Ziggler was tremendous.

Not a fan of the new Wade Barrett music. He finally had a decent re-mix of his old theme so I guess it was time to change it.

-People in the crowd were getting way too excited over who #30 would be. I told them not to get their hopes up, but no, they were sure that it’d be Batista or Rey Mysterio or somebody else making a big comeback. So they were pretty disappointed when it was Big Show.

-They saved a whole lot of the heavy-hitters for the end of the match, but it made sense to keep Orton’s return appearance a bit brief and it was Jericho’s first real in-ring action since September 2010. Not that you could tell, because the ending sequence with Jericho vs. Sheamus was the best part of the match. I had no idea who was going to win out of those two, and they showed some damn good chemistry. I’m sure we’ll be seeing it again sometime down the road.

-No Hornswoggle. I’m not really complaining, I’m just saying he wasn’t in the match.

-Sheamus won! He was one of the favorites to win and the person I went with on the podcast, and he’s a fine choice to have in one of the title matches at WrestleMania. I’m hoping it ends up being Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan, as it’d be pretty cool to have a match that got bumped off of WrestleMania XXVII be one of the main events for WrestleMania XXVIII. I was one of the people that thought Sheamus was getting pushed too soon a couple of years back, but he’s proven to be a solid wrestler, a good/unique promo, and he always comes off well as a spokesperson for the company whenever he’s doing radio shows & TV appearances. I, for one, will not be hopping off the Sheamus bandwagon anytime soon. Dude does a good job.

-Of course, if he goes against my boy D-Bry I’ll have to root against him at WrestleMania. But I won’t be too broken-hearted if he gets the win.

-I thought the Rumble match was pretty good overall. The comedy went over pretty well, the stretch with Jericho & Sheamus at the end was awesome, and there was a lot of Cody Rhodes. There were a lot of people in the match that didn’t have a chance of winning, I wouldn’t rate it as one of the greatest Rumble fields of all time or anything like that. It was still put together really well and had some good spots. You would think that yelling the countdown numbers over and over again gets old, but it really doesn’t.

After the show we met up with a gentleman from England that goes by “Snowman” on the OTT Forums and headed to the Sheraton for drinks. Yeah, he flew in from England so he could see the Rumble & Raw. That doesn’t suck. The Penguins and I went back to the casino, and that is pretty much the end of our story. There are more stories, but I think I’ll save them for another time…Trent and I are doing a Super Bowl podcast on Thursday night so I’m sure we’ll be talking about some of the crazy things that happened then.

If I had to rate the weekend on a scale from 1-10, it would come in at about an 11 because I had so much fun. I can officially cross the Royal Rumble off of my wrestling bucket list. And hey, as Trent said, maybe St. Louis will host a WrestleMania after they build another football stadium for the team they get after the Rams leave. So there’s hope I can see one of those too.

——————–

…St. Louis ain’t getting no WrestleMania.

Can you believe I still had a full news column after this? Man, 2012 was great if you liked reading lots & lots of words about wrestling.


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