John Cena def. Cody Rhodes and named his World Title challenge at WrestleMania 29; The Shield attacked
Two of the 2013 Royal Rumble Match’s most fierce competitors squared off one-on-one in Las Vegas, but fate was not on Cody Rhodes’ side just one night after turning in a strong performance in the January free-for-all. No, chance instead favored John Cena, who continued his 2013 winning streak with a victory over “The Essence of Mustachioed Magnificence” (who attempted to leave after declaring the match a “waste of Cody Rhodes”) before taking the microphone and rocking the WWE Universe with the announcement of his World Championship opportunity at WrestleMania 29. After one night of deliberation, John Cena declared he would challenge for the WWE Championship.
But before Cena could address his potential opponents — The Rock or CM Punk — The Shield swarmed the Cenation leader and administered a ferocious beatdown on the Royal Rumble winner that not even aid from Sheamus or Ryback could stem. Having beaten back Cena’s would-be protectors, The Shield punctuated their assault as they always do: with a triple powerbomb that left Cena staring at the lights. We would imagine he saw his evening unfolding slightly differently, but hey, that’s Vegas for you.
PHOENIX — On New Year’s Eve, John Cena made a promise to himself and to the WWE Universe: After a disastrous 2012, the Cenation leader vowed to turn things around and make 2013 his year. Tonight, the 10-time WWE Champion took a big step in that direction, outlasting 29 other Superstars to win the Royal Rumble Match and earn a World Title opportunity against the champion of his choosing at WrestleMania 29 on April 7.
It was only fitting, perhaps, that the road to Cena’s big win began with the very Superstar to whom the Cenation leader made his now-prescient New Year’s toast, as Dolph Ziggler chose to enter the over-the-top-rope challenge at No. 1. But it was the emergence of the No. 2 entrant just 90 seconds later that sent the WWE Universe in Phoenix into a frenzy. When the familiar strands of “Break the Walls Down” blared and the lights went out, Chris Jericho made his shocking return to WWE.
With the crowd still on its feet and the entire mood of the night suddenly and irrevocably altered, the two Superstars circled each other inside the ring, and a rivalry that came to a head at SummerSlam was quickly renewed.
Jericho and Ziggler furiously traded blows until the ring filled up with other entering Superstars. As Ziggler, Jericho, Cody Rhodes and Kofi Kingston battled it out, Santino Marella made his way to the ring and looked for a moment to have eliminated everyone else in the ring. But all of the rumblers landed on the apron, not the floor. Despite striking Kofi with The Cobra, Santino would be the first elimination of the night, tossed over the ropes by Rhodes.
When the ring inevitably filled with competitors, Ziggler and Jericho fought as the match dictated, battling whomever stood in their way. Still, they both seemingly drifted back towards one another, always looking to settle their long-standing score.
Like Shawn Michaels and Rey Mysterio before him, “The Showoff” may have drawn an unlucky number, but with an abundance of talent on his side, Ziggler looked to make the best of a badly dealt hand, despite the fact that he seemingly found himself teetering on the ring apron constantly over the course of the melee.
One of the time-honored traditions that makes the Royal Rumble Match so unique is the guessing game that takes place in living rooms of WWE Universe members all over the world — which past Superstars will make their one-night return to enter the melee?
This year was certainly no different, as a number of beloved Superstars arrived back on the scene.
With his brother Cody still in the ring, Goldust made his return to WWE and made a beeline for his younger sibling. Cody would eventually eliminate Goldust, but the most bizarre Superstar in WWE history did the Rhodes family proud, quickly winning over the crowd. Some returns aren’t as successful, however, as The Godfather arrived to the Royal Rumble Match, just to be dumped out of the ring by Dolph Ziggler in mere seconds.
Entering at No. 11, Sheamus came into the bout like a man on fire, laying waste to the bevy of Superstars gathered in the ring, and tossing both Titus O’Neil and David Otunga over the ropes in quick succession. A year after winning the 2012 Royal Rumble Match en route to one of the greatest years in WWE history, The Celtic Warrior looked to have history repeat itself.
Rey Mysterio also made his return, arriving in the 14-spot and going right to work, using his trademark acrobatic attack to his advantage. And speaking of acrobatic, when Kofi Kingston was tossed over the ropes by The Showoff, he literally landed on the back of Tensai at ringside, his feet never touching the ground.
Then, with “The Wildcat” perched on the Spanish announce table, the high-flying Superstar asked for JBL’s chair, then proceeded to use it like a pogo stick, hopping his way back to the ring apron, and eliminating Darren Young, all in one fell swoop. Kofi’s Royal Rumble Match came to an end moments later, though, courtesy of a Disaster Kick delivered by Cody Rhodes. (THE WWE UNIVERSE REACTS)
Entering at No. 16, Bo Dallas — winner of the NXT eight-man tournament held during the Royal Rumble Fan Fest — made a good showing, turning heads by eliminating Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett and going a long way in making a name for himself in WWE.
But as would soon become clear, the number to remember on this night would be 19.
When John Cena won the 2008 Royal Rumble Match, he did so after entering the fray at No. 30. Cena wouldn’t have such a luxury tonight, however, as the Cenation leader came in at No. 19, and faced a long, difficult road ahead of him. But he wasted no time tonight, immediately going to work eliminating Heath Slater and Cody Rhodes in impressive fashion.
Soon after, Daniel Bryan arrived with a flurry of kicks that brought the competition to its knees. Even so, the ring remained stacked with Superstars when Bryan’s tag team partner, Kane, entered the battle minutes later. They may have proven to be a cohesive unit in their title defense, but when it came time to compete in the over-the-top challenge, Team Hell No was anything but.
After Kane eliminated The Great Khali, Bryan dumped Kane over the ropes, shocking The Big Red Monster. United States Champion Antonio Cesaro then knocked Bryan out of the ring, and directly into Kane’s arms. The choice then became a simple matter of yes or no. Yes, Kane could toss his partner back into the ring, or no, The Big Red Monster could dump Bryan onto the ringside floor. Kane chose no, and Bryan was eliminated.
Randy Orton, entering at 26, made his presence felt right away, once again proving why he is WWE’s Apex Predator. Soon after, the Royal Rumble Match card was finalized when the monstrous Ryback arrived and cleaned house, eliminating Damien Sandow, the newly returned Sin Cara and The Miz before Jericho hit the Codebreaker and put an abrupt halt to Ryback’s destruction.
Usually, the focus of any Royal Rumble Match centers around the final four competitors left inside the ring. But on this night, when the herd was thinned out, there were six Superstars in the spotlight. John Cena found himself surrounded by a bevy of all-star talent, as Chris Jericho, Dolph Ziggler, Sheamus, Randy Orton and Ryback all remained. The action reached a fever pitch, though, as the epic battle sprinted toward its conclusion.
Dolph Ziggler finally eliminated his nemesis Jericho and The Showoff approached the 50-minute mark. Orton then hit a flurry of RKOs before planting Ryback with devastating DDT. With Orton the only man still standing, The Viper looked to strike, but Ryback turned the tables and tossed Orton to the floor. A Brogue Kick to Ziggler on the apron finally sent The Showoff crashing to the floor and out of the Royal Rumble Match, leaving Cena, Sheamus and the still-fresh Ryback.
As the titanic trio stared each other down, Cena and Sheamus ganged up on Ryback before unloading on each other. But when Ryback popped back up, a ring-shaking clothesline put Cena flat on his back. Sheamus was able to halt Ryback’s forward progress, drilling the beastly Superstar with White Noise.
With both Cena and Ryback down, Sheamus called for the Brogue Kick, but Ryback caught The Celtic Warrior in the corner and heaved him over the top rope and to the floor.
And so the 2013 Royal Rumble Match came down to John Cena and Ryback.
With a trip to WrestleMania 29 and a chance at a World Title at stake, Cena and Ryback engaged in a brutal back and forth that left US Airways Arena breathless. Cena locked Ryback in the STF in an attempt to wear down his monstrous opponent, and it worked, as Ryback went limp on the canvas. Ryback didn’t stay down for long, though, and he quickly made an attempt to take back control of the match.
Cena found a way to turn the tables again, sliding out of Ryback’s clutches and forcing the scary-strong Superstar over the ropes and to the floor, leaving the Cenation leader alone inside the ring, overcoming 29 others in a truly unforgettable bout.
On a night that saw The Rock claim the WWE Championship and Alberto Del Rio retain his World Title, Cena’s monumental victory is the second such of his storied career, and more importantly, it has earned him a chance to challenge for the title of his choosing on The Grandest Stage of Them All. So will a New Year’s Eve prophecy be fulfilled? Will 2013 be the year of John Cena?
That remains to be seen, but one thing is crystal-clear: On The Road to WrestleMania, John Cena is in the driver’s seat.