January 30, 2011
For the first and only time in history, the Royal Rumble match was expanded to a staggering 40 men, as opposed to the traditional 30 or the original 20. The thought process was clearly to accommodate both the 4 man Corre stable led by Wade Barrett and the 5 man Nexus led by CM Punk. It also allowed for underused talent like Zack Ryder, JTG, William Regal, Chavo Guerrero, Chris Masters and even Tyler Reks a spot on a prestigious pay per view.
And with so many spots available it was certain that a couple old favorites from the past would be pop up. In 2011 the surprises didn’t disappoint as Booker T entered at #21 to huge adoration from the crowd and color commentator Matt Striker. Ten numbers later Kevin Nash of all people, in complete Diesel character and theme music, blew the roof of the place. Both surprises were so successful that it led to full-time returns for both men, with Booker still a part of WWE to this day.
The match told a great story of CM Punk and his Nexus minions completely dominating the first half of the Rumble with the strength in numbers strategy until they ran into a John Cena buzzsaw in early #20s.
The second half slowed down right away with an awful comedy segment involving the diminutive Hornswoggle. But then the rest of the match then picked up with a lot of the proverbial heavy hitters coming out late. With so many big names in late it presented more unpredictability on who the eventual winner would be.
Ultimately veritable WWE newcomer Alberto Del Rio outlasted a bevy of top stars like John Cena, Randy Orton, Wade Barrett and the underdog Santino Marella to win the match. Del Rio was a relative newcomer to WWE at the time, and this victory immediately established him as a player in the company.
With such a big Rumble match obviously most of the night’s focus was on that, but there were three big Title matches as well. Eve Torres was a surprise winner of the Divas Title fatal four way but in reality many were hoping that this would be the night that Kharma would make her long awaited debut.
Also The Miz defeated Randy Orton in a WWE Title match, blowing off their feud after Miz cashed in his Money in the Bank contract on Orton in late 2010. It validated Miz’s earlier victory and gave him a much-needed victory.
And finally World Heavyweight Champion Edge defeated a young, up and coming Dolph Ziggler, who was certainly not established at the main event level at this point. The story of the match saw Edge’s “ex-wife” Vickie Guerrero continuing her cougar ways by going to the younger, newer Ziggler as her new man. It was a good match that gave Ziggler some main event exposure, and continued the trend of Rumble undercards featuring a Champion defend against a fairly un-established challenger.
- R-Truth beat Curt Hawkins in a dark match that happened before the pay per view went live on the air. As a result R-Truth qualified for the Royal Rumble match later in the evening.
- World Heavyweight Champion Edge beat Dolph Ziggler.
- WWE Champion The Miz beat Randy Orton.
- Eve Torres beat Michelle McCool, Layla El and WWE Divas Champion Natalya Neidhart in a Fatal Four Way to win the Championship.
- Alberto Del Rio won the 40-man Royal Rumble match last eliminating Santino Marella. Other participants included Ted DiBiase, Mark Henry, David Otunga, Hornswoggle, Alex Riley, Chavo Guerrero, Husky Harris, Daniel Bryan, The Great Khali, Diesel, Wade Barrett, Tyson Kidd, John Morrison, Ezekiel Jackson, William Regal, Mason Ryan, Booker T, Dolph Ziggler, The Big Show, Heath Slater, R-Truth, Vladimir Kozlov, Mike McGillicutty, Rey Mysterio, Randy Orton, Kofi Kingston, CM Punk, Justin Gabriel, Jack Swagger, Tyler Reks, Drew McIntyre, Sheamus, Chris Masters, Kane, JTG, Yoshi Tatsu, Zack Ryder and John Cena.