Royal Rumble (2008) - Background


See also: Professional wrestling

Royal Rumble featured professional wrestling matches that involved different wrestlers from pre-existing scripted feuds, plots, and storylines that were played out on Raw, SmackDown, and ECW on Sci Fi – 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, SmackDown, and ECW brands – a storyline division in which WWE employees were assigned to a television program of the same name.

The main feud on the Raw brand was between the Intercontinental Champion Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton, with the two feuding over the WWE Championship, which was held by Orton. Orton retained the title at Armageddon against the returning Chris Jericho after being disqualified, when the then-SmackDown! broadcaster John "Bradshaw" Layfield ran-in, and booted Jericho in the head. Orton retained the championship, as a result, due to titles not changing hands on disqualifications. On the same night earlier, Jeff Hardy had defeated Triple H to earn the opportunity to face Orton at the Royal Rumble for the WWE Championship. The following night, on the December 17, 2007 edition of Raw, Hardy teamed up with Shawn Michaels to take on Orton and Mr. Kennedy. Hardy gained advantage over Orton, and pinned the champion after a Swanton Bomb to earn the victory for himself and Michaels. Two weeks later, on the last Raw of 2007, Hardy and Orton met face-to-face in an in-ring segment. Orton looked set to RKO Hardy, but Hardy countered, and delivered the Twist of Fate to Orton. Later in the night, Hardy looked set to defeat Santino Marella, until Orton appeared on the Raw TitanTron and stated that he had kicked Jeff's brother Matt where his appendix used to be, proceeding further to punt him in the head. The following week on a special "Raw Roulette" edition of Raw, Hardy defended his Intercontinental Championship against Umaga in a Steel Cage match. Hardy managed to overcome the odds in the Cage, jumping off the top of the cage onto Umaga and hitting a Whisper in the Wind to defeat Umaga. On the January 14, 2008 edition of Raw, Hardy agreed to face Orton that night with his Intercontinental Championship on the line. However, as soon as the bell rang for the match, Orton immediately low-blowed Hardy, getting himself disqualified. Orton tried to deliver an RKO to Hardy on the concrete floor outside that he had exposed by removing the black floor padding, but Hardy retaliated and the two began to brawl up the ramp. When Orton looked set to kick Hardy in the head, the Intercontinental Champion countered and back-dropped Orton onto the arena floor below. Hardy then climbed 30-feet above on the Raw set, and then Swanton Bombed off the side of the set onto Orton below. The following week on Raw, Hardy and Orton were scheduled to "shake hands", but Hardy instead shook the hands of "people he respected more than Orton", like Lilian Garcia, Jerry Lawler, Jim Ross, and several fans in the crowd before re-entering the ring to confront Orton. A frustrated Orton ordered Hardy to shake hands with him, but Hardy performed a Twist of Fate on the WWE Champion instead.

The main feud on the SmackDown brand was between Rey Mysterio and Edge with the two feuding over the latter's World Heavyweight Championship. Mysterio won a Beat the Clock Challenge on the January 4, 2008 edition of SmackDown! defeating Edge with 90 seconds to go, and securing an opportunity for the World Heavyweight Championship at the Royal Rumble.

The rivalry between Chris Jericho and John "Bradshaw" Layfield started in Jericho's WWE Championship match against the defending champion, Randy Orton, at Armageddon. During the match, Orton whipped Jericho over the SmackDown! announce table straight into JBL. As Jericho tried to get up, he ended up "nudging" JBL out of his way. Later in the match, Jericho had Orton trapped in the Walls of Jericho, when, JBL stormed into the ring and gave a kick to Jericho's face, thus giving the win to Jericho, but via disqualification, and hence, Jericho did not win the WWE Championship. This led to an argument the next night on Raw, where Jericho, who was angry about not becoming the new WWE Champion, ended up stating to JBL, who confronted Y2J via satellite from the Raw TitanTron, that "John, you are no longer a wrestling god, you're a wrestling afterthought". Afterward, JBL gave his farewell address as SmackDown color commentator on the December 21, 2007 airing of Friday Night SmackDown and announced his return as an active wrestler on Raw. When JBL made his return to Raw on December 31, entering in his personal limousine with balloons and confetti shooting from the ceiling, and proceeded to address the crowd, Jericho quickly interrupted his promo and the two got engaged in a brawl along the barricade. The following week, Jericho was put into a handicap match against Snitsky and JBL. The match started with Snitsky and Jericho in the ring, but, soon after Jericho hit a Springboard dropkick on Snitsky, JBL came into the ring and attacked Jericho from behind. JBL get the better of this confrontation as he hit Jericho on the head with the ring bell and tied a cable wire around his neck. JBL then dragged Jericho, by the wire, from near the ring to the Raw set, where he assaulted him some more. Jericho suffered from a bruised larynx, burns around his neck, and had difficulty speaking for a week.

Prior to the annual Royal Rumble match, several qualifying matches for the match took place on Raw. The first qualifying match was on the December 31, 2007 edition of Raw as Umaga quickly defeated Jim Duggan to earn a place in the Rumble. Snitsky also defeated Drew McIntyre at a house show in White Plains, New York to also qualify for the Royal Rumble. Triple H failed to beat Ric Flair; therefore he was no longer allowed to compete in the Royal Rumble match, per the order of Raw General Manager William Regal. After Triple H destroyed part of the lower TitanTron on the January 14 Raw, however, Vince McMahon announced he would allow Triple H a second chance at the Royal Rumble if he could defeat his opponent on the January 21 edition of Raw. The Game defeated Snitsky, Mark Henry, and William Regal in a gauntlet match to gain entry.

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