The Rumble’s great. Stating the obvious I know, but starting an article’s always a fanny-on. One of the reasons it’s so great it’s so simple to follow: Two guys start off, every two minutes (ish) another wrestler enters, the only way to eliminate someone is by throwing them out, the match continues until all thirty wrestlers have entered and twenty-nine of them have been eliminated. It’s one part wrestling match and one-part game show contest. You don’t need to watch hours of Raw or Smackdown to know touching the floor with both of your feet is a very bad idea. When thinking about the great Rumbles, the obvious ones are 1992, 2001, 2004 and 2010. However, the one that deserves more credit than a lot of people realise is 2000. Especially if you’re in the UK.
First of all, let’s paint a picture of what watching wrestling was like in 2000 when I had dial-up internet which I had to stop using when my mum needed to use the phone (after six because it was cheaper). Quick explanation of TV in the UK: Until a few years ago, you could watch Terrestrial TV with an aerial (and a TV Licence, and BBC still claim they send vans with TV-detecting nobs on top so you pay for it or get busted, proving it’s not just wrestling that enjoys kayfabe) and get BBC 1, BBC 2, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. WCW would appear on ITV in the early 90s and Channel 5 got Worldwide in 1999 and aired it at random times, but WWF was (and still is) associated with Sky. Sky’s the major satellite TV provider in the UK and WWF’s been with them almost since they started in 1989. Sky’s a quality service with sports and movies but it was (and is) expensive, so growing up everyone knew that one lucky kid whose parents weren’t divorced so they could afford it. Everyone else had to wait for World of Wrestling Magazine or Powerslam to report on it.
So it wasn’t easy to watch WWF and I probably would have or joined the Church or become a glue-sniffer like my mates if it hadn’t been for the discovery of something called the Telewest Cable Box (or ”a bit of Sky” if you’re my mum). It looked like this:
Don’t let the Atari aesthetic fool you, for a poor kid this was like finding the Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka’s Wrestling Factory. God bless the salesman that convinced my mum to get this as we got Sky One (with two episodes of The Simpsons every night at 6pm), Cartoon Network (with Dragon Ball Z, Tenchi Muyo and Gundam Wing in one crazy block for an unprepared mind) and TCM (with the giant block of WCW Nitro and Thunder that lasted longer than Wrestlemania 32). The important bit though: Mayfair people may have got Sky Sports (Raw and PPVs) but we at Old Kent Road Telewest Box got Smackdown AM, Metal and Superstars. They were shown on Saturday mornings so they censored the swearing and edited out every table/chair/ladder shot:
And it didn’t matter. This was in June ’99 so I witnessed Vince revealed as The Higher Power, Big Shot Hardcore Holly, Big Boss Man feeding Al Snow his dog, and The Rock being so over that all he needed to do was pose and the crowd would chant ”ROCKY ROCKY” so loud me and my brother would chant it in our living room because he was The Rock and we wanted to be part of his coolness.
Wrestling was still a thing I’d keep to myself as no-one talked about watching it and this that transitional part of childhood where you’d go ”haha, I don’t watch cartoons, they’re for bairns!” and go home to watch Ed, Edd & Eddy.
Then in 2000, it all changed as the WWF (who have always appreciated the UK) did a deal with Channel 4 to air several of their PPVs live. And for free. Sunday Night Heat aired on Channel 4 with newly recorded commentary talking about England, Channel 4 and Friday Night Raw instead of XFL, John Madden and Florida Recounts. I still remember thinking something was going to happen to prevent it airing as it seemed so unbelievable. The Rumble? Live? But I set the tape to record and hoped for the best, half-expecting a three hour block of a scrolling ”God has cancelled your dreams, become a lawyer” message.
It aired and the next day at school EVERYBODY was talking about it. Suddenly wrestling was something you could talk about without looking over your shoulder first, like being gay or supporting Sunderland. It wasn’t just cool, it was awesome too. Or at least the kids who were messed up enough to stay up and watch the PPV and go to school the next day claimed it was. I think I ran home that day. ”Yeah I already did my homework, get out of the way of the TV.”
I can remember nearly all of the PPV from the amount of times I’ve watched and rewatched it so let’s have a quick stroll down The Best Rumble Ever:
Kurt Angle vs. ???
Ah back when Angle looked like a human being. Undefeated Angle was being challenged by a new guy with ’13’ in his titantron. Well he was a mystery to everyone but Madison Square Garden who were able to figure out it was Tazz. That confused me as a kid, how the hell did they know? What’s ECW? This little orange guy had great entrance music though so I instantly liked him. Tazz suplexed (Tazplexed) Angle a load of times and finished with the Tazmission (which was called an illegal choke, but it couldn’t have been that illegal as he used it the rest of his career) as manly drunk cheers filled the arena.
Angle would declare himself still un-defeated as a result of the ”illegal choke” and was able to win the European and Intercontinental Titles on the run to Wrestlemania. And in 2017, Angle is returning to WWE at the Rumble. Hopefully Tazz shows up again and chokes him for old time’s sake. Tazz would spend the rest of his run dealing with not being the BAMF he was in ECW and gradually phased into becoming a commentator. He’d later make TNA tolerable and start a radio show that I was lucky enough to be on and annoy Tazz by calling him ”Irn Bru Oddjob” in a classic example of why I’ll never be a millionaire.
The Hardys vs. The Dudleys (Table Match)
As I said before, we got censored versions of Smackdown via Sky One. So for the longest time I was convinced the weapon shots either missed or the wrestlers hit each other gently. This match soon changed my mind as the two teams destroyed each other in ways I’d never even considered before. One week I’m getting Test and Gangrel throwing plant pots at each other in Hardcore Title brawls and now I’m getting stunt shows with concussion-causing chair shots. The whole match could be GIF’d but I’m picking the bit where the dives and set-ups reached Jackie Chan-levels of coordination:
Eventually both teams ended up in the aisle-way of MSG and Jeff Hardy dove off the top of the entrance way to win the match in a moment that created a generation of backyard wrestlers.
Crazily, both teams would up the ante while adding Edge & Christian to the feud for future Ladder, Table, Cage and TLC matches for the next few years. Jeff and Matt are saving TNA, D-Von, Edge & Christian are retired and Buh Buh still powerbombs people through tables.
We need a comedown after that so…OH MAN IT’S SPANK BANK TIME.
Channel 4 wouldn’t reach these heights of sophistication until Eurotrash. There’s not much else I can type about this other than my wrist muscles thank WWF forever for this segment and OH WAIT SHIT FUCK I forgot about Mae Young exposing her potato sacks filled with mud. The Network version of the show adds more censorship than the live broadcast as the giant red censor missed Mae and showed more of the mushy tentacles than they were intending and…actually you know what, let’s move on.
Oh it’s worth pointing out that Channel 4 played multiple adverts during the live PPV so a Rock promo got interrupted to fit them in. They were hated by everyone but people tend to shut up when you go ”yeah…but it’s free, stupid.”
Chyna vs. Chris Jericho vs. Hardcore Holly (IC Title)
So Chyna and Jericho were both the IC champion because they got a pin at the same time. Holly got wins over both of them so this is to settle things. Made sense on paper but both Chyna and Jericho being declared co-owner of the title was a daft idea. I didn’t mind Chyna wrestling men because she won half the time but now I’m re-watching it I can’t ignore how her offence looks like James Ellsworth attacking Braun Strowman…and Braun having to sell it. Unlike Hardcore Holly’s GREATEST DROPKICK IN ALL OF WRESTLING.
The match was OK but it ended the Jericho/Chyna feud so hooray. Jericho would win/retain the IC Title and feud with the debuting Benoit for some good times. Chyna would have an interesting life following this and Hardcore Holly would stay around for another eight years and continue to dropkick better than anyone.
New Age Outlaws vs. The Acolytes (Tag Titles)
I always forget this match because it’s over so quick, probably because of time reasons. Acolytes weren’t interesting until they became the APA but we got this beautiful Clothesline From Hell/Jannetty Sell.
X-Pac ran in to give the win to D-X. Great, next.
Cactus Jack vs. Triple H (No Holds Barred Street Fight, World Title)
Foley got fired, humiliated and attacked by HHH and Foley decided Mankind wasn’t ready to wrestle him at Rumble…but CACTUS JACK WAS in one of the all-time great Smackdown moments that had me re-winding like JFK. I loved Foley during this period because I got his book and because I suddenly knew so much about him I saw him as a real person on a show filled with actors. I wanted Foley to win because I’d read about him shitting in Japanese toilets and he did things like this:
Anyway JESUS this match. As if exposing the new kids to tables, ladders and silicon titties wasn’t enough this match gave us barbed wire 2x4s, handcuffs and thumbtacks (or drawing pins as we call ’em). Amongst the escalating violence though was realising HHH was able to hang with the King of Hardcore. HHH wasn’t ”it” when he won the title in ’99, what pushed him to the very top was marrying Steph in the drive-thru and this feud with Mick Foley. Even though I hated the guy for picking on Foley, I was shocked to see the big nose blueblood take the pain in Jack’s speciality match to Pedigree Foley onto the thumbtacks for the win. I’d type more about this but it’d be like the tables match. ”and this was good and this was great and” etc.
In highlight form!
-D’Lo Brown draws Number One, his twitch draws Number Two.
-Crazy popular Rikishi is Number Five and eliminates everyone apart from team-mate Grand Master Sexay. Sexay doesn’t want to fight his team-mate so he encourages Rikishi to wait for the next guy.
-Next guy is Scottie Too Hottie. Ulp. Only one thing for it!
-Rikishi gets rid of Blackman and Viscera easily until Boss Man realises he hasn’t got a chance and decides to wait until the next guy comes out to help. Smart strategy Boss Man!
-Until Test shows up and attacks Boss Man before tackling Rikishi because he’s an idiot and still dead.
-Gangrel and Test throw the uninvited Kai En Tai out and Lawler nearly laughs himself to death requesting a replay every five minutes.
-Bob Backlund enters! Back when there was only one token old crazy guy in these things. Then everyone in the match realises they have to team up to eliminate Rikishi to big-arse boos. Backlund gets thrown out shortly afterwards and leaves via the crowd. ”VOTE BACKLUND.”
-Road Dogg’s Rumble strategy is even better than Boss Man’s.
-The Rock enters to Giant Fucking Reaction and a great moment (to a young ‘un) happens as Rock eliminates Boss Man but turns around and gets attacked by Al Snow. The commentators bring up ”hey, Snow may not have the advantage in a singles match but all he has to do is throw Rock out, everybody’s equal in this match” and I 100% believed this because Rock sold for Al. Not like the majority of underdogs vs. Main Event Guys in Rumbles nowadays, when a guy like Zack Ryder or whatever comes out and gets creamed. For some reason, Al Snow attacking Rock stuck with me over the years like a fever dream because even though in reality there was as much chance of Al winning the Rumble as there was me winning, Rock made me believe.
-The Rock eliminates X-Pac by nearly killing him but the refs get distracted with Kane brawling with New Age Outlaws so he runs back in. Show would sort the wee fucker out.
-The Big Show chokeslams The Rock and casually tosses him over…until Rock grabs the ropes and uses Show’s momentum to send him out and wins the whole thing!
-And it didn’t end there! Show claimed for weeks Rock’s feet touched the floor before his and even though he sounded like a sore loser, surprisingly he was able to provide video proof and got a shot at Rock at No Way Out. WWF 2000 was like Smackdown Live every week.
It’s not the retro goggles talking. There’s no bad matches, everything means something and even the losers had great characters (Vampires! 400lb Crash Holly! Bulldog in jeans!) They should have marketed this as the Introduction To WWF because that’s what it did for the easily-influenced youth.
Sadly Channel 4 weren’t impressed with the extreme violence and visible Mae boobage (the VHS of the show was released with an 18 rating) and the higher-ups decided to air Backlash (note: Channel 4 only got five PPVs of 2000, Sky got the rest) on a delay so they could edit out weapon shots and digitise X-Pac’s bleeding forehead. So clearly they weren’t happy, even with it being shown live(ish) in the wee hours of the morning. Sky Box Office got the PPVs back but showed most of them on Sky Sports for free until Rumble 2002 and they tried them out on Sky Box Office as real actual PPVs. They were very well ordered and the needle swung in the opposite direction once Sky realised people would actually pay extra for them, with only a few dregs like New Years Revolution and December To Dismember ending up on Sky Sports.
Coincidentally the mainstream popularity of wrestling in the UK dwindled once the PPVs became Sky-only and Sunday Night Heat was shoved to a late night slot and eventually onto MTV. In the UK, wrestling will always be popular with wrestling fans and new fans are created every year, but I’ve lost count of the number of people who stopped watching wrestling after it went off Channel 4 but still remember ”that Chinese guy landing on his fucking face.”
Christ that was a lot more typing than I intended. If you’re still reading, what were your memories of this PPV-you-didn’t-need-to-pay-for? Here’s some real memories from real people in wrestling:
ICW’s The Wee Man: ”I had an empty that weekend so on the Saturday I had a party that resulted in destroyed wall, shower, hole in the ceiling, one room wall to wall in spew and one dead goldfish. Even though some pals that stayed over to the Sunday managed to fix up some of it the hoose was fucked. Irn Bru stains in a carpet are permanent. Staying up to watch the rumble was my only escape from the dread of my mum coming back on the monday morning. Watching cactus jack hhh is the most weirdly relaxed i’ve ever felt, and i pinpoint the 2000 rumble as when wrestling got properly embedded in my psyche”
WCPW & ICW’s Jamie Kennedy: ”I recall my dad staying up to tape it for me, as I had school the following morning. He was watching something else, but kept flicking back and forth to see if the show was still on. I’ll never forget hearing an almighty, ‘Jesus Christ’ coming from the living room during the bikini bit (I didn’t know it was that bit at the time, but I do remember hearing Jerry Lawler’s voice over a live mic when I woke up). Maybe he was giddy over Terri Runnels, but I have a sneaking suspicion he nearly lost his supper at Mae Young. Ran home from school the next day to watch it, was so excited to see the Tag-Team Tables match. I still have that VHS tape, my dad taped over a Rangers win against Celtic. That’s how much he knew it meant to me!”
Progress commentator Callum Leslie: ”I went round to a friends house and they were watching a tape of it a couple of days after the fact. I got there just in time to see the very end where The Rock eliminates the Big Show, and was instantly intrigued. I needed to know how that was possible! That was the first time I remember ever seeing wrestling.”