WWE // 2009 // 180 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // May 8th, 2009
The road to Wrestlemania begins...
In lead up to the silver anniversary of Wrestlemania, World Wrestling Entertainment presents their twenty-second annual Royal Rumble, from the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, MI. By the end of the night, we will know one participant in the main event of the biggest stage in wrestling but, before that, let's have a look at the preliminary matches.
* Jack Swagger vs. Matt Hardy (ECW Championship):
Swagger's young and still a little green, but he has all the tools to be special in the business. He's made a good showing of himself in his first run with a major title and, paired against a workhorse veteran like Matt Hardy, this match proves to be a fast-paced, athletic opening contest.
* Beth Phoenix vs. Melina (Women's Championship):
The glory days of women's wrestling in WWE is long gone, but Beth Phoenix has the size to look credible and, slowly but surely, she has developed the skills to back it up. I've always loved Melina; her look and skill is the best since Trish Stratus (though not a close second; I do wish she would come back). The two work well together and this is one of their better matches to date. A highlight: because of Melina's ridiculous flexibility, Phoenix is able to make Melina kick herself in the back of her own head. This is the kind of maneuver that men's wrestling simply cannot offer.
* John Cena vs. JBL (World Heavyweight Championship):
Of all the sub-standard fare WWE force feeds its audience these days, the storyline in which JBL has hired Shawn Michaels to do evil work because HBK is flat broke is something I really like. That said, this is a title match I cannot stand behind. The combination of hustle, loyalty, and respect do not equal wrestling skill, something Cena sorely lacks. JBL steps it up in title matches but, with WWE's renewed commitment to family entertainment, even his normal violent attacks are muffled. Still, this match works far better than what comes next.
* Jeff Hardy vs. Edge (WWE Championship):
Ugh. If somebody told me a decade ago that Edge and Jeff Hardy would wrestle a world title match, I may have quit on wrestling. Here we are, however. Challenging, we have Edge, a guy much too big to effectively wrestle his style, against champion Jeff Hardy, who never realized that just because a spot looks dangerous doesn't mean it belongs in a match. Hardy's in his glow-in-the-dark face paint, which is totally rad if you're eleven, so I'm even more sickened by the match. The two jump around trying not to hurt each other until one pins the other. The most underwhelming match on the card sets up the Rumble, so enough with this and let's get to the main attraction.
The rules of the Royal Rumble are simple. Two men enter and the match begins. Every ninety seconds, another wrestler (chosen at random, supposedly) enters the ring. This goes on until all thirty participants have come down the aisle. To be eliminated, a wrestler must go over the top rope and have both feet touch the floor. The last wrestler in the ring is the winner and is guaranteed a title shot of his choice at Wrestlemania (except for about a third of the time, when they take the slot away for some storyline reason). Traditionally, the Royal Rumble is my favorite event of the year because it allows us to see nearly the entire roster on the card. This gives the second and third tier wrestlers a pay-per-view payday they wouldn't ordinarily get and allows them the chance to shine, even if it's just a little bit, on a big stage. This year's event has only three people who could, reasonably, be called surprises, and really only one of those is truly unexpected. This Rumble doesn't have the same kind of excitement that past years' events had, but the storylines they write at this moment aren't too compelling, either. It is a well-constructed Royal Rumble. Not their best, but far from their worst. More than other WWE events, the Rumble is especially good years down the line, when you can sit back and try to remember the name of the blonde guy who got a cup of coffee in the organization.
As usual, WWE has presented a very good release for one of their top shows of the year. The image looks great, nearly as good as the HD PPV broadcasts though, since they film their programming in Hi-Def, I wonder why they haven't entered the Blu-ray market. The transfer is perfect with brilliant, glistening clarity and realistic flesh tones. The surround mix is good and, again, much like the original broadcast. Most of the spoken sound comes from the center speaker, while the crowd noise fills out the surround channels. WWE DVDs are generally light on extras and this is no exception. We do, however, have an interview with that aforementioned surprise Rumble entrant, which is about as good as you would expect from this particular wrestler, and the following night's Raw segment with Randy Orton and Stephanie McMahon. As always, a solid release from WWE. If only they could put this kind of effort into writing, they might have something.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 180 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Footage
* Official Site