Date: 25th January, 2004
Venue: Wachovia Center
City: Philadelphia, PA
Commentators (RAW): Jim Ross & Jerry “The King” Lawler
(& Jonathan Coachman for the opening match)
Commentators (SmackDown!): Michael Cole & Tazz
Theme Song: Nothing Left To Lose by Puddle of Mudd
The buildup to the Royal Rumble match started on January 1, 2004 edition of SmackDown, when John Cena interrupted a promo of the SmackDown General Manager Paul Heyman about Tribute to the Troops in Iraq event. This angered Heyman and Heyman forced Cena to compete in a Handicap match with a partner and the two needed to win the match to gain entry in the Royal Rumble match. Cena’s partner was revealed to be Chris Benoit and the two defeated Full Blooded Italians (Nunzio, Chuck Palumbo and Johnny Stamboli) in a Handicap match to qualify for the Royal Rumble match. As a result, all the three members of Full Blooded Italians lost their spots in the Royal Rumble match. If Cena and Benoit would have lost, neither would have been able to participate in the match. After the match, Kurt Angle announced that he would participate in the Royal Rumble match and would win it. Later that night, Benoit insulted Heyman and Heyman forced Benoit to compete at the #1 spot in the Royal Rumble. On January 5 edition of Raw, Kane announced that he was going to win the Royal Rumble but was confronted by Booker T, who claimed that he would eliminate Kane from the match and win the match. On January 8 edition of SmackDown, Benoit defeated Full Blooded Italians in a Handicap Mini Royal Rumble to retain his spot in the Royal Rumble. On January 12 edition of Raw, Goldberg defeated Matt Hardy and announced that he would participate in the Royal Rumble match. On January 15 edition of SmackDown, several qualifying matches were held for the Royal Rumble, including a battle royal between Full Blooded Italians, which Nunzio won. On January 19 edition of Raw, Goldberg, Randy Orton,Rob Van Dam, Booker T, Mark Henry and Chris Jericho won matches to qualify for a Battle Royal to determine the #30 entrant of the Royal Rumble match. Goldberg won the Battle Royal and earned the #30 spot in the Royal Rumble.
The main rivalry heading into the event from the SmackDown brand was between Brock Lesnar and Hardcore Holly over the WWE Championship. The rivalry could be dated back to September 12, 2002 edition of SmackDown, when Lesnar defeated Holly in a non-title match and injured him by breaking his neck, putting him out of action for over a year. A year later, at Survivor Series, Holly returned to WWE from injury to take revenge from Lesnar. On November 20 edition of SmackDown, Holly was fired by the SmackDown General Manager Paul Heyman for attacking Lesnar. On December 18 edition of SmackDown, Heyman announced that Holly would team with Shannon Moore in a tag team match against A-Train and Matt Morgan, in which Holly could get a match of his choosing if he won but if he lost, his WWE contract would be terminated. Holly and Moore won the match, allowing Holly to wrestle a match of his choosing. On January 1 edition of SmackDown, Holly intentionally got disqualified in a match against Big Show by brutally assaulting him. On January 8 edition of SmackDown, Holly defeated Big Show in a Street Fight. As a result, Big Show placed a restraining order on Holly and Lesnar stayed with Big Show to protect himself from Holly. On January 22 edition of SmackDown, Holly attacked Lesnar during a Handicap match pitting Lesnar, Big Show, Matt Morgan and Rhyno against John Cena and Chris Benoit in a Handicap match. This led to a match between Lesnar and Holly for the WWE Championship at Royal Rumble.
The main rivalry heading into the event from the Raw brand was between Triple H and Shawn Michaels over the World Heavyweight Championship. At Armageddon, Triple H defeated then-champion Goldberg and Kane in a No Disqualification Triple Threat match to win the World Heavyweight Championship. On December 15 edition of Raw, Michaels and Rob Van Dam defeated Evolution (Triple H, Ric Flair and Batista) in a Handicap match, when Michaels pinned Triple H. As a result of pinning Triple H, Michaels earned a World Championship match against Triple H on December 29 edition of Raw. Michaels seemingly pinned Triple H to win the title but the Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff declared the match a draw because both men’s shoulders were down on the mat during the pinfall. As a result, Triple H retained the title. On January 5 edition of Raw, the self-proclaimed Sheriff of Raw Stone Cold Steve Austin announced that Triple H would defend the title against Michaels in a Last Man Standing match at Royal Rumble.
A secondary rivalry heading into the event from the SmackDown brand was between Eddie Guerrero and Chavo Guerrero. At Survivor Series, Basham Brothers (Doug and Danny) defeated Los Guerreros (Eddie and Chavo) to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship. After the event, Los Guerreros started to break up as a team when Chavo began blaming Eddie for the team’s recent failure. On November 20 edition of SmackDown, Los Guerreros defeated World’s Greatest Tag Team (Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin) but after the match, Haas and Benjamin attacked Chavo and injured his leg. This caused Chavo to blame Eddie for the injury. On November 27 edition of SmackDown, Chavo was attacked again and he blamed Eddie again. This continued on December 4 edition of SmackDown, when Eddie helped Chavo in defeating Benjamin in a one-on-one match. Chavo blamed Eddie for stealing the spotlight that Chavo needed. On January 1 edition of SmackDown, Eddie and Chavo finally broke up the team after losing to World’s Greatest Tag Team. However, on January 8 edition of SmackDown, Kurt Angle reunited Los Guerreros and earned them a Tag Team Championship match against Basham Brothers, which Los Guerreros lost. After the match, Los Guerreros finally ended when Chavo attacked Eddie and caused him to bleed. As a result, Chavo became a villain. On January 15 edition of SmackDown, Angle informed Eddie that the SmackDown General Manager Paul Heyman had made a match between Eddie and Chavo at Royal Rumble.
Another secondary rivalry heading into the event from the SmackDown brand was between Rey Mysterio and Jamie Noble over the WWE Cruiserweight Championship. On January 1 edition ofSmackDown, Mysterio defeated Tajiri to win the Cruiserweight Championship. On January 8 edition of SmackDown, Tajiri and Noble were scheduled to have a #1 contender’s match for the Cruiserweight Championship, but Noble was not present on the show. As a result, the SmackDown General Manager Paul Heyman ordered Noble’s manager Nidia to replace Noble in the match. Tajiri easily defeated Nidia. After the match, Tajiri tried to assault Nidia, but Mysterio rescued her. This prompted Noble to come out and attack Mysterio as he thought that Mysterio was trying to harm Nidia. On January 15 edition of SmackDown, Noble defeated Tajiri to become the #1 contender for the Cruiserweight Championship at Royal Rumble.
The secondary rivalry heading into the event from the Raw brand was between Evolution (Ric Flair and Batista) and Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray and D-Von) over the World Tag Team Championship. At Armageddon, Flair and Batista defeated Dudley Boyz in a Tag Team Turmoil match to win the Tag Team Championship. On December 29 edition of Raw, Flair served as the special refereeduring a match pitting Dudley Boyz against two enhancement talents. Flair awarded the victory to enhancement talents by disqualifying Dudley Boyz. Batista then came out and attacked Dudley Boyz from behind. On January 5 edition of Raw, Flair and Batista defeated Dudley Boyz to retain the Tag Team Championship. On January 12 edition of Raw, Batista defeated D-Von in a one-on-one match. After the match, Flair tossed a table into the ring and Batista set it up but Bubba Ray entered the ring and chased Flair and Batista. On January 19 edition of Raw, Evolution member Randy Orton defeated The Hurricane in a match. After the match, Flair and Batista came out to congratulate Orton. Hurricane’s tag team partner Rosey came out to check on him but was attacked by Batista. It led to Dudley Boyz coming out to deliver a 3-D on Flair through the table but Jonathan Coachman ran down to stop them and was hit with a 3D on the table by Dudley Boyz. This led to a Tables match between Dudley Boyz and Evolution for the Tag Team Championship at Royal Rumble.
World Tag Team Championship:
Tag Team Tables Match:
Evolution (c) defeated The Dudley Boyz (4:23)
Rey Mysterio (c) defeated Jamie Noble (with Nidia) (3:12)
Eddie Guerrero defeated Chavo Guerrero (with Chavo Guerrero, Sr.) (8:03)
Brock Lesnar (c) defeated Hardcore Holly (6:30)
World Heavyweight Championship:
Last Man Standing Match:
Triple H (c) fought Shawn Michaels to a draw (22:46)
Royal Rumble Match:
Chris Benoit won by last eliminating The Big Show (1:01:30)
On the following night’s edition of Raw, during a confrontation at the beginning of the program between Triple H and Shawn Michaels, the Raw Sheriff Stone Cold Steve Austin intervened and announced that even though he could not make a match between the two (Austin having lost his General Manager powers in November 2003), he would “uphold the law” and announced that Michaels would not get the next shot at Triple H because he did not win the Royal Rumble. Austin revealed that the Royal Rumble winner face “the champion” at WrestleMania, but that there was no specification as to which champion— thus, creating a loophole that Chris Benoit, who was then property of SmackDown, exploited to announce that he would instead chase the World Heavyweight Championship due in part to bad feelings between himself and his general manager, Paul Heyman. On the February 9 edition of Raw Benoit and Triple H were to have their contract signing for the WrestleMania match, but Michaels interfered and hit Sweet Chin Music on Benoit then signed the contract himself. Michaels signed the contract himself. The following week, Austin announced that Triple H would defend the title against Benoit and Michaels in a Triple Threat match at WrestleMania. At WrestleMania XX, Benoit defeated Michaels and Triple H in a Triple Threat match to win the World Heavyweight Championship. Benoit’s defection led to a rule change for the Rumble winner, where he could now choose which world champion he would face at WrestleMania.
Meanwhile, on SmackDown, in order to make up for Benoit’s defection, Heyman announced that a second Royal Rumble match featuring fifteen of SmackDown’s wrestlers competing for a shot atBrock Lesnar’s WWE Championship at No Way Out in February. The thirteen SmackDown wrestlers (Kurt Angle, Rhyno, Charlie Haas, Shelton Benjamin, Bradshaw, Ernest Miller, Tajiri, Billy Gunn, Big Show, John Cena, Nunzio, A-Train, and Rikishi) who competed in the original Royal Rumble match were given entries in the match as were Hardcore Holly and Eddie Guerrero (Holly, who replaced an injured Matt Morgan, wrestled and lost to Lesnar at the Rumble and Guerrero, who replaced Benoit, was continuing his feud with his nephew Chavo and his brother Chavo Sr. at the Rumble). Guerrero won the match and earned the title opportunity. At No Way Out, Guerrero defeated Lesnar to win the WWE Championship.
Royal Rumble Stats
|13||Spike Dudley||Raw||–||Attacked by Kane before entering the ring||0:00|
|19||Kurt Angle||SmackDown!||27||Big Show||29:04|
|24||The Big Show||SmackDown!||28||Benoit||22:38|
|25||Chris Jericho||Raw||26||Big Show||14:58|
|26||Charlie Haas||SmackDown!||20||Goldberg & Van Dam||06:53|
|28||John Cena||SmackDown!||24||Big Show||07:37|
|29||Rob Van Dam||Raw||25||Big Show||06:44|
* = Test was originally the 21st entrant but was found unconscious and replaced by Mick Foley