In one month, the annual Royal Rumble Match – to be held Jan. 27 in Phoenix, Ariz. - will determine a challenger for either the WWE or World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania. The evening after Christmas on WWE Main Event, the WWE Universe was treated to an early preview of the action-packed, over-the-top-rope contest, as 20 Superstars engaged in a battle royal to establish a No. 1 contender to Antonio Cesaro's United States Championship. The opportunity for the prestigious title – and silence Cesaro's constant rants – featured former U.S. Champions like Santino Marella and Zack Ryder, as well as former Intercontinental Champions Cody Rhodes, Drew McIntyre and Wade Barrett. The United States Champion, meanwhile, joined Michael Cole and The Miz at the announce table to observe his potential opponents.
Former World Heavyweight Champion The Great Khali undoubtedly posed the greatest threat for the other 19 competitors, which included Brodus Clay and The Prime Time Players. As soon as the opening bell sounded, it appeared that the Punjabi giant might be teamed up on and the first to go. However, as Yoshi Tatsu charged the goliath, the Japanese Superstar was tossed over the top rope with ease, and the in-ring chaos ensued. Though a number of tag teams competed in the battle royal in addition to The Prime Time Players, the contest proved a key element that will undoubtedly play into the Royal Rumble Match: when a prestigious World championship is on the line, allegiances are fragile and contests become every man for himself.
That was certainly the case when the field cleared down to only four competitors – Barrett, Marella, Ryder and Khali. Each Superstar was exhausted from the high stakes battle that tested the mettle of everyone involved. Santino – who nearly won the Royal Rumble in 2011 – built up a great deal of momentum against Barrett, and brought the WWE Universe to its feet as he unleashed a devastating Cobra. With The Bareknuckle Brawler reeling, Santino encouraged Ryder to deliver a Broski Boot. Often joining forces as tag team partners, the duo appeared to be on the same page, poised to remove Barrett from the equation. Santino had other plans, however, and eliminated The Long Island Iced-Z immediately after a Broski Boot was delivered.
His actions against Ryder soon proved to be Santino's folly. Barrett recovered, then successfully tipped the Italian Stallion over the top rope. Cesaro could only watch as he was moments away from a daunting challenge no matter the victor – Wade Barrett or The Great Khali.
Refusing to back down, Barrett and Khali traded blows, though the impact of the Punjabi's massive blows couldn't prevent Barrett from taking his eye off the prize. The Bareknuckle Brawler mounted an aggressive offense trying to wear down his monstrous foe and make the journey over the top rope as effortless as possible. However, the sheer size of The Great Khali was too much for Barrett;The Punjabi Playboy overpowered him, and after tossing him over the top rope and onto the apron, he secured the victory with a massive chop to the skull.
With the No. 1 contender to Cesaro's U.S. Title decided and the battle set for next week on WWE Main Event, Cesaro congratulated his gigantic opponent. However, the Swiss Superman's apparent sportsmanship was short-lived, attacking his challenger during a post-match interview. Khali was barely phased, though, striking back and sending the champion running from the fight he started.
Two weeks removed from a highly competitive 3-on-2 handicap contest on WWE Main Event, Justin Gabriel & Tyson Kidd once again battled 3MB – only this time the odds were even as the injured Heath Slater remained at ringside while Jinder Mahal and Drew McIntyre competed. Even though all four Superstars engaged had just competed in the 20-man battle royal, the fast-paced and incredibly agile performance of Gabriel & Kidd made it seem as though the tag contest was their first match of the evening.
Mahal and McIntyre mounted a dominant offensive, but the resilience and agility of Gabriel & Kidd ultimately proved to be too much, as they seized every opportunity available to execute high-impact, high-reward maneuvers. Their strategy paid off, and the high-flying duo executed an incredible move that widened eyes and dropped jaws across the WWE Universe before securing the win.
- The Great Khali won a 20-Man Battle Royal to determine the No.1 contender for the United States Champion (18:16)
- Justin Gabriel & Tyson Kidd defeated 3MB (Drew McIntyre & Jinder Mahal) (w/ Heath Slater) (13:56)
Other on-screen talent