Royal Rumble 2003 was the sixteenth annual Royal Rumble professional wrestling pay-per-view event produced by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). It was sponsored by PlayStation and took place on January 19, 2003 at the Fleet Center in Boston, Massachusetts, was the first Royal Rumble produced under the WWE name and featured talent from the Raw and SmackDown! brands. As has been customary since 1993, the Royal Rumble match winner received a match at that year's WrestleMania, (in this instance: WrestleMania XIX) for a shot at his brand's World Championship, either the WWE Championship or the World Heavyweight Championship.
Six professional wrestling matches were featured on the event's supercard, a scheduling of more than one main event. The main event was the annual 30-man Royal Rumble match, which featured wrestlers from both brands. Brock Lesnar, the twenty-ninth entrant, won the match by last eliminating The Undertaker, the thirtieth entrant. The primary match on the Raw brand was Triple H versus Scott Steiner for the World Heavyweight Championship, which Steiner won by disqualification resulting in Triple H retaining the championship. The predominant match on the SmackDown! brand was between Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit for the WWE Championship, which Angle won by making Benoit tap out to the Ankle Lock. The featured match on the undercard was a Royal Rumble qualification match between Brock Lesnar and The Big Show, which Lesnar won; he would then go on to win the Rumble match later that night.
Royal Rumble featured professional wrestling matches that involved different wrestlers from pre-existing scripted feuds, plots, and storylines that were played out on Raw and SmackDown! – World Wrestling Entertainment's (WWE) primary television programs. Wrestlers portrayed a villain or a hero as they followed a series of events that built tension, and culminated into a wrestling match or series of matches. The event featured wrestlers from WWE's Raw and SmackDown! brands – a storyline division in which WWE employees were assigned to a television program of the same name.
The buildup to the Royal Rumble match began on December 23 edition of Raw, when the Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff discussed about the upcoming Royal Rumble match that 15 wrestlers would represent Raw brand and 15 wrestlers would represent SmackDown brand in the match, because it was going to be the first Royal Rumble match to take place after WWE's Brand Extension. The buildup continued on January 2 edition of SmackDown, a vignette aired hyping the return of The Undertaker in the Royal Rumble match. Later that night, Paul Heyman announced that Brock Lesnar and Big Show would wrestle in a Royal Rumble qualification match at Royal Rumble. On January 6 edition of Raw, Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels argued over who would be drawing #1 entry in the Royal Rumble match. On January 13 edition of Raw, a Royal Rumble qualification match took place in which Jeff Hardy defeated Raven. Later that night, Jericho defeated Batista, Kane and Rob Van Dam in an Over the Top Rope Challenge to earn the right choose an entry number of his choice. Jericho chose #2 because #1 was already given to Michaels.
The main rivalry heading into the event from the SmackDown brand was between Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit over the WWE Championship. At Armageddon, Angle defeated Big Show via interference from Brock Lesnar, to win the WWE title. Prior to the event, Angle had promised Lesnar to get his suspension lifted if he helped Angle in defeating Big Show for the title. Angle had also promised Lesnar to give him the first title shot after winning the title. However, despite helping Angle in winning the title, Lesnar was not given his title shot as on December 19 edition of SmackDown Angle and Big Show's manager Paul Heyman cancelled Lesnar's title shot and Big Show was given his title rematch. Later that night, Angle lost to Chris Benoit in a non-title match by disqualification when Big Show interfered in the match and attacked Benoit. However, Lesnar rescued Benoit from the post-match assault by Angle and Big Show and brutally assaulted Angle, injuring him. As a result of Angle's injury, the SmackDown General Manager Stephanie McMahon cancelled Angle's title match against Big Show and decided that Big Show would wrestle Benoit to determine the #1 contender for the WWE title. Benoit defeated Big Show to become the #1 contender for the title at Royal Rumble.
The main rivalry heading into the event from the Raw brand was between Triple H and Scott Steiner over the World Heavyweight Championship. On October 24, 2002, WWE had announced on its official website that Scott Steiner had signed a three-year contract with WWE. After eight years away, Steiner returned to WWE as a free agent at Survivor Series and attacked Matt Hardy and Christopher Nowinski for insulting New York City. Steiner was approached by the Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff and the SmackDown General Manager Stephanie McMahon for their respective brands. He initially decided to join the SmackDown brand but after McMahon rejected Steiner's advances, he moved to the Raw brand. At Armageddon, Triple H defeated Shawn Michaels in a Three Stages of Hell to win the World Heavyweight Championship. On December 16 edition of Raw, Triple H held an Appreciation Ceremony on winning the title but the ceremony was interrupted by Steiner, who announced that his contract said that he would earn a world title shot. As a result, Steiner and Triple H's match for the World Heavyweight Championship was made official at Royal Rumble.
The secondary rivalry heading into the event from the Raw brand was between Lance Storm and William Regal and Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray and D-Von) over the World Tag Team Championship. On December 23 edition of Raw, the Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff forced Raw commentators Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler to wrestle in a tag team match against Storm and Regal for making bad comments against Bischoff. Ross and Lawler defeated Storm and Regal after interference by Dudley Boyz. As a result, on January 6 edition of Raw, Bischoff forced Dudley Boyz to wrestle 3-Minute Warning (Rosey and Umaga), Rico and Batista in a Handicap match. Storm and Regal avenged their loss by costing Dudley Boyz, the match. Later that night, Storm and Regal defeated Booker T and Goldust for the World Tag Team Championship. This led to a title match between Storm and Regal and Dudley Boyz at Royal Rumble.
The secondary rivalry heading into the event from the SmackDown brand was between Torrie Wilson and Dawn Marie. At Armageddon, Dawn showed footage from an earlier episode of SmackDown where she and Torrie did a lesbian segment in a hotel room. On December 19 edition of SmackDown, Torrie gave bad remarks about her storyline father Al Wilson on getting married with Dawn. On January 2 edition of SmackDown, Dawn and Al had their storyline wedding in their undergarments. On January 9 edition of SmackDown, Josh Mathews announced that Dawn and Torrie would wrestle in a match at Royal Rumble built as a "stepmother vs stepdaughter" match. The week before the event however, Al Wilson (Kayfabe) died of a heart attack during his honeymoon with Dawn.
The third rivalry heading into the event from the SmackDown brand was between Brock Lesnar and Big Show. Paul Heyman who was Big Show and Kurt Angle's manager reminded fans that Big Show was the only man to pin Lesnar at Survivor Series. On the January 2nd edition of SmackDown, Heyman on behalf of Big Show challenged Lesnar to a match at Royal Rumble with the winner getting the chance to enter the Royal Rumble match. Lesnar accepted the challenge.
As the event concluded, the first match that aired was a Royal Rumble qualification match between Big Show and Brock Lesnar. As the match started, Big Show shoved Lesnar into the corner twice until Lesnar drove him into the corner by spearing him. Lesnar started dominating Big Show and hit him with two consecutive Belly to Belly Suplexes and attempted to perform a third one but Big Show prevented Lesnar from performing the move by grabbing his throat. Big Show then tossed Lesnar over the top rope to the ringside. After Lesnar returned to the ring, Big Show charged at him in the corner but Lesnar avoided the charge and pulled Big Show out of the corner by performing a German Suplex and got a near-fall. Lesnar tried to escape the ring but his former and Big Show's then-manager Paul Heyman grabbed Lesnar's leg, allowing Big Show to kick him in the face. Big Show then attempted to perform a Chokeslam on Lesnar but Lesnar reversed the move into an Oklahoma Roll to get a near-fall. Lesnar followed it by performing a Belly to Belly Suplex on Big Show. Heyman distracted Lesnar by climbing the apron and Lesnar pulled him into the ring and attempted to perform a F5 on Heyman but Big Show prevented Lesnar from hitting F5 by delivering him a Chokeslam. Big Show got a near-fall. He became frustrated and attempted to perform another Chokeslam on Lesnar but Lesnar avoided the move and shoved Big Show into Heyman, who was standing on the ring apron. This allowed Lesnar to finish Big Show with a F5 and Lesnar qualified for the Royal Rumble match.
The second match was a tag team match for the World Tag Team Championship. Lance Storm and William Regal defended the titles against Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray and D-Von). Bubba Ray and Storm started the match by exchanging Armbars until Storm started applying submission maneuvers on Bubba Ray. He whipped Bubba Ray off the ropes and Bubba Ray performed a Shoulder Block. Bubba started dominating the match as he hit Storm with a Side Slam, a Release German Suplex and a Bionic Elbow before finishing Storm with a Sitout Full Nelson Atomic Drop, which he called Bubba Bomb. Bubba Ray attempted to pin Storm but Regal interfered and broke the pinfall. Bubba Ray hit Regal with a Scoop Slam and then Dudley Boyz performed a Whassup on Regal. D-Von was tagged in and Dudley Boyz focused on the legal wrestler Storm and hit him with a Double Flapjack, giving D-Von a near-fall. Dudley Boyz followed by attempting to perform a 3D on Storm, but Chief Morley interfered in the match and decided that Storm and Regal retained the titles by disqualification but the referee refused and the match continued. Regal took advantage of the situation and took a pair of brass knuckles to hit Dudley Boyz with the pair but Dudley Boyz performed a 3D on Regal. D-Von grabbed the brass knuckles and hit Storm with it and pinned him to win the Tag Team Championship.
Next match was Torrie Wilson versus Dawn Marie. Before the match started, the referee Mike Sparks asked Torrie if she wanted to start the match but before Torrie could make a choice, Dawn attacked her and started the match. The match went back and forth until Torrie performed a Swinging Neckbreaker on Dawn to win the match.
Main event matches
The Raw brand main event was between Triple H and Scott Steiner for the World Heavyweight Championship. Steiner dominated Triple H for much of the earlier match. Steiner applied a Boston Crab on Triple H but Triple H caught the ropes and got out of the hold. Steiner released Triple H and Triple H performed a Knee Smash Facebreaker but Steiner was not affected by the move and he applied a Bearhug on Triple H and followed it by performing a Belly to Belly Suplex for a nearfall. Steiner then attempted to apply a Steiner Recliner on Triple H but Triple H's manager Ric Flair pulled Triple H out of the ring to prevent Triple H from receiving the hold. Steiner started chasing Flair but the referee interjected himself to stop Steiner. Triple H started gaining momentum on a distracted Steiner before attempting to perform a Pedigree on Steiner but Steiner broke the move and performed an Exploder Suplex and tried to perform a Military Press Slam but Triple H countered it and performed a Neckbreaker to get a near-fall. Flair continuously interfered in the match, prompting the referee to eject him from the ringside. Triple H eventually tossed the referee out of the ring but the referee did not disqualify Triple H and the match continued. Triple H eventually grabbed a sledgehammer and nailed Steiner in the gut with it and the referee disqualified Triple H. As a result, Triple H retained the title but Steiner attacked Triple H after the match and applied a Steiner Recliner.
The final match on the undercard was the SmackDown brand main event. It was between Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit for the WWE Championship. As the match started, Angle's Team Angle (Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin) interfered in the match, forcing the referee to eject Team Angle from the ringside area. After a back and forth action, the match nearly ended when Benoit attempted to perform a Diving Headbutt on Angle but Angle rolled out of the way. He attempted to perform an Angle Slam, on Benoit but Benoit countered it and applied a Sharpshooter on Angle but Angle caught the ropes to get out of the hold. The action continued until Angle attempted to hit Benoit with an Angle Slam but Benoit countered it and applied a Crippler Crossface on Angle but Angle caught the ropes and got out of the hold. Benoit then applied Angle's own submission maneuver Ankle Lock on Angle until Angle reversed into applying his own Ankle Lock. Benoit countered into a Crippler Crossface and Angle got out of it by performing an Angle Slam for a near-fall. Benoit went on to hit Angle with a Diving Headbutt to get a near-fall. Angle then slammed Benoit into the top turnbuckle and performed an Angle Slam from the top rope but again got a near-fall. The match came to its end when Benoit applied a Crippler Crossface on Angle but Angle countered it into an Ankle Lock, forcing Benoit to tap out to the hold. As a result, Angle retained the WWE Championship. After the match, the crowd gave Benoit a standing ovation for his effort.
The main event was the annual Royal Rumble match. The first two entrants were Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho. Christian appeared during Jericho's entrance, wearing Jericho's gear and distracted Michaels. Jericho took advantage and attacked Michaels from behind. Jericho grabbed a chair from ringside and hit Michaels in the head with it, causing Michaels to bleed from mouth. Christopher Nowinski entered at #3 but instead of coming to the ring, he stayed outside the ring. Jericho continued to attack Michaels before easily eliminating him over the top rope. After Michaels' elimination, Rey Mysterio entered at #4 and started fighting Jericho while Nowinski stayed out of the ring before eventually entering the ring and attacking Mysterio. Edge entered at #5 and immediately speared both Jericho and Nowinski. He tried to perform a Spear on Mysterio, but Mysterio tossed Edge into the ropes and attempted to perform a 619 on Edge, but Edge avoided the move. Mysterio and Edge continued to fight each other until Christian entered at #6. After entering the ring, Christian embraced with his former tag team partner Edge but was speared by Edge. Edge and Mysterio then hit Nowinski with a double missile dropkick, which caused Nowinski to receive a concussion after Edge landed on Nowinski's head.
One half of the then WWE Tag Team Champions Chavo Guerrero entered at #7. After entering the ring, Guerrero was attacked by Mysterio. Mysterio then eliminated Nowinski from the match. However, after eliminating Nowinski, Mysterio, himself was eliminated by Jericho. Tajiri entered at #8. Tajiri fought with Christian, while Edge and Jericho fought with each other. Bill DeMott entered at #9. DeMott started attacking all the participants and had nearly eliminated Jericho. Tommy Dreamer entered at #10. Dreamer brought kendo sticks with himself to the ring and started attacking everyone with the kendo sticks. Edge hit DeMott with a kendo stick, causing DeMott to get eliminated by falling over the top rope to the floor. Jericho and Christian attacked Dreamer with trashcan lids and tossed him over the top rope. Tajiri fought with Jericho and attempted to apply a Tarantula on Jericho but his attempt failed and Jericho dumped Tajiri over the top rope, eliminating him. B-2 entered at #11 but was quickly eliminated by Edge. After eliminating B-2, Edge eliminated Guerrero. Edge also attempted to eliminate Jericho but he held on. Edge and Christian fought each other until Jericho eliminated both of them from the match and became the only remaining person until Rob Van Dam entered at #12. After entering the ring, RVD began attacking Jericho and performed a Rolling Thunder on Jericho.
RVD and Jericho continued to battle each other and RVD had nearly eliminated Jericho until Matt Hardy entered at #13 and performed a Side Effect on RVD. Jericho and Hardy double-teamed RVD until second half of then WWE Tag Team Champions Eddie Guerrero entered at #14 and began attacking RVD and Hardy. Guerrero and Hardy double-teamed RVD, where Hardy helped Guerrero from being eliminated and performed a Scoop Slam on RVD, allowing Guerrero to perform a Frog Splash on RVD. However, Hardy ended his teamwork with Guerrero by hitting him with a Twist of Fate. Jeff Hardy entered at #15 and Jeff began fighting Matt. Jeff delivered Matt, a Twist of Fate and climbed the top rope to perform a Swanton Bomb, but Matt's manager Shannon Moore joined the ring and covered Matt with his body. Jeff performed a Swanton Bomb on Moore, that hurt both Matt and Moore. Rosey entered at #16 and started fighting with RVD until Test entered at #17 and started attacking everyone in the ring. Test performed a Pumphandle Slam on Matt and began attacking Jericho and had nearly eliminated him. John Cena entered at #18 but instead of entering the ring, Cena began rapping outside the ring until RVD went to the ringside and attacked Cena, tossing him into the ring.
Charlie Haas entered at #19. Haas started fighting with Matt. RVD and Jeff started double-teaming Jericho. Jeff climbed on the top rope to perform a high-flying move but RVD pushed him, causing Jeff to fall to the floor and get eliminated from the match. Rikishi entered at #20 and started fighting Rosey. Jamal entered at #21 and began teaming with his 3-Minute Warning partner Rosey to duble-team Rikishi. Jericho fought with RVD and had nearly eliminated RVD. Kane entered at #22 and started dominating all the participants in the ring and eliminated Rosey by backdropping him over the top rope. After eliminating Rosey, Kane attempted to eliminate Jericho but Jericho held on. Shelton Benjamin entered at #23 and began teaming with his Team Angle partner Haas. Booker T entered at #24 and performed a Scissors Kick on Kane and a Flapjack on Matt. Booker went on to eliminate Guerrero by backdropping him over the top rope.
A-Train entered at #25 and started dominating his opponents by performing a Derailer on Cena, an Train Wreck, on Benjamin and a Derailer on RVD before receiving a Savate Kick by Rikishi. Shawn Michaels returned to the ring after being attacked by Jericho in the earlier match and avenged his elimination by attacking Jericho, helping Test to eliminate Jericho from the match. Michaels continued to attack Jericho after the match. Maven entered at #26 but was dominated by Kane. Goldust entered at #27 and started battling Haas and Benjamin, but they quickly eliminated him. Goldust's tag team partner Booker tried to avenge his partner's elimination by battling Haas and Benjamin, but he was too eliminated by Haas and Benjamin. Batista entered at #28 and started dominating everyone. Shortly after entering, Batista eliminated Test and then Rikishi. Brock Lesnar entered at #29 and he started fighting all the participants. Lesnar eliminated Haas and Benjamin and then eliminated Matt by tossing him over the top rope onto Haas and Benjamin. The Undertaker returned to WWE after a three-month injury by entering at #30 as the final entrant of the match.
Undertaker quickly eliminated Cena and then eliminated Jamal. Maven attacked Undertaker from behind and celebrated, thinking that he eliminated Undertaker for the second year in a row but Undertaker eliminated Maven. Kane and RVD started double-teaming Batista and Kane was gonna Gorilla press slam RVD on Batista but Kane instead tossed RVD over the top rope, eliminating him from the match. Kane and Batista started teaming as they were the remaining participants from Raw and battled Lesnar and Undertaker, who were the remaining participants from SmackDown. Undertaker eventually eliminated Batista and then battled Kane before eliminating him. Batista was angered at his elimination, so he distracted Undertaker by attempting to hit him with a chair but Undertaker avoided it and nailed Batista with a chair. Lesnar took advantage of the situation and eliminated a distracted Undertaker to win the Royal Rumble match.
Due to winning the Royal Rumble match, Brock Lesnar earned a WWE Championship match at WrestleMania. As a result, he began a rivalry with the WWE Champion Kurt Angle. Chris Benoit also continued his rivalry with Angle after losing to him at Royal Rumble. At No Way Out, Lesnar, Benoit and Edge were scheduled to take on Team Angle (Kurt Angle, Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin) in a six-man tag team match, but Edge was injured before the event. As a result, the match became a handicap match but Lesnar and Benoit managed to defeat Team Angle. At WrestleMania XIX, Lesnar defeated Angle to win the WWE Championship.
After retaining the World Heavyweight Championship against Scott Steiner by getting disqualified, Triple H continued his rivalry with Steiner over the title. On February 3 edition of Raw, Steiner became the #1 contender for the title by defeating Chris Jericho. At No Way Out, Triple H defeated Steiner to retain the title.
Royal Rumble qualification matches
- The Damaja defeated Nova on Ohio Valley Wrestling TV
- Jeff Hardy defeated Raven on Raw
- Brock Lesnar defeated The Big Show at the start of the PPV, earning himself a spot in the Royal Rumble.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- Sunday Night HEAT: Spike Dudley defeated Steven Richards (w/ Victoria) (3:36)
- Brock Lesnar defeated The Big Show (w/ Paul Heyman) in a Royal Rumble Qualifying Match
- The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray & D-Von Dudley) defeated Lance Storm & William Regal (c) to win the World Tag Team Championship (7:24)
- Torrie Wilson defeated Dawn Marie (3:36)
- Scott Steiner defeated Triple H (c) by DQ. Triple H retains the World Heavyweight Championship (18:14)
- Kurt Angle (c) defeated Chris Benoit to retain the WWE Championship (20:01)
- Brock Lesnar won the Royal Rumble (53:41)
Royal Rumble entrances and eliminations
|10||Tommy Dreamer||Raw||5||Jericho & Christian||0:48|
|12||Rob Van Dam||Raw||27||Kane||33:02|
|15||Jeff Hardy||Raw||11||Van Dam||7:26|
|24||Booker T||Raw||16||Benjamin & Haas||6:20|
|25||A-Train||SD!||25||Kane & Van Dam||11:33|
Other on-screen talent
- Official Website
- Royal Rumble 2003 at CAGEMATCH.net
- Royal Rumble 2003 at Online World of Wrestling
- Royal Rumble 2003 on WWE Network
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