Royal Rumble: Sheamus' Rise and the 15 Most Memorable Moments of the 2012 Event
Courtesy of WWE.com
The 2012 Royal Rumble was ripe with storylines and potential happenings as fans waited to see if John Cena would embrace the hate, if John Laurinaitis would screw CM Punk out of the WWE title and what exactly Chris Jericho meant by "the end of the world."
However, shortly after Sheamus had booted Jericho off of the ring apron to secure his Wrestlemania title shot and celebrated amidst a lively fireworks display, one particular thing was clear.
The silver anniversary of the Royal Rumble will be remembered more for what didn't happen than for what did.
What did happen: Sheamus powered his way to a Rumble victory by beating the man who many assumed would win the thing, Chris Jericho.
And while we still have to wait to see how Jericho's return storyline unfolds, Sheamus' future is now a little clearer.
The Rumble win proves that the WWE is serious about pushing the Celtic warrior to new heights.
Sheamus has gained great popularity since turning babyface last year and the WWE has shown its belief in him with this victory.
Sheamus has won the WWE title twice and has been crowned King of the Ring, but this will prove to be the biggest win of his career to this point.
And while the future still remains foggy for John Cena, Chris Jericho and John Laurinaitis, the 2012 Royal Rumble still had its share of memorable moments.
Here are the 15 most memorable moments from this year's PPV event.
Cody Rhodes Strong Showing
Courtesy of WWE.com
In the Royal Rumble match, Cody Rhodes showed why he is one of the WWE's young stars to watch in 2012.
Rhodes entered at No. 4 but managed to stick around for 40-plus minutes.
He was involved in a number of heat-inducing eliminations as well, dumping crowd favorites Mick Foley, Santino Marella, Jerry Lawler, Jim Duggan and Booker T.
Foley vs. Santino
Mick Foley and Santino Marella came face-to-face, and sock-to-sock, early in the Royal Rumble match.
Foley pulled out Mr. Socko, Santino countered with the Cobra and the two had it out in the middle of the ring.
When the injured Alberto Del Rio's music hit, nobody expected Ricardo Rodriguez to pull into the arena in a beat-up old Datsun in place of last year's Rumble winner.
But Rodriguez popped out of the car and entered the ring to a nice face reaction.
Rodriguez teamed with Mick Foley to eliminate Justin Gabriel before he was eliminated by Santino Marella.
Rodriguez' appearance, though brief, provided plenty of comedy early in the match.
Hacksaw Jim Duggan's Appearance
"Hacksaw" Jim Duggan won the inaugural Royal Rumble match in 1988, so it was only fitting that he be a part of the 25th anniversary.
Duggan's appearances always delight the crowd, and this was no different.
He didn't last long in the match, but the gung ho Duggan is better in short bursts anyway. Just enough time for him to wave his flag and 2x4, yell "hoooo!" a few times, and then go back to his life as a retired 58-year-old.
Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and Booker T Enter the Rumble
Each of the three announcers had a chance to leave the table and briefly join the fray.
After Jerry Lawler and Booker T had been eliminated, Michael Cole surprisingly had his shot.
Seeing Cole in his amateur wrestling attire, complete with the ear guard, is always comical, as was his attempt to look tough while also staying away from the action.
Cole stuck around for a short time before he was spooked by the returning Kharma, allowing King and Booker T to pull him off the ring apron.
Speaking of Kharma, she became the third woman to compete in a Royal Rumble match, and she made quite the impact.
After scaring Michael Cole out of the ring, she easily tossed Hunico out and nailed Dolph Ziggler with her double underhook facebuster (formerly called the Implant Buster in TNA, but I don't know what WWE is referring to the move as these days).
Ziggler ultimately got the best of her by eliminating her from the match, but for the minute that she was in the match, Kharma ruled the ring.
Road Dogg Returns
Road Dogg's Royal Rumble return was quite the spectacle.
His entrance and in-ring theatrics always get the crowd going.
The D-O-double G did a little shaking, a little rattling and a little rolling on Cody Rhodes before he nailed the Miz with his signature pump-handle slam.
Road Dogg stuck around for nearly five minutes, but Wade Barrett was able put an end to his night.
CM Punk Retains; Laurinaitis' Odd Behavior
CM Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler was just an odd match overall.
John Laurinaitis was expected to be the guest referee and the WWE had built up for weeks how Laurinaitis was placing himself in the match because he wanted to make sure it was called correctly.
So it was a little strange when Laurinaitis began by saying he would call the match on the outside of the ring while a regular referee took care of the in-ring action.
The ref bump made sense, allowing Laurinaitis a chance to screw Punk while pretending he was caring for the injured referee, and Ziggler turning the G.T.S. into a Fameasser was also impressive.
But the ending just was a continuation of the strange behavior by Johnny Ace as he insisted on making the three count simultaneously with the other referee.
Cena vs. Kane Fails to Answer Any Questions
After weeks of build-up between Cena and Kane, one question stood out.
Would Cena embrace the hate?
Or, would he at least show signs that he was going one way or the other?
Cena did neither, as his match with Kane turned into a pretty generic brawl that fizzled out at the end when both men were counted out.
The two continued fighting backstage, with Kane knocking Cena out.
He found a wheelchair-bound Zack Ryder, wheeled him to the ring, and tombstoned him, then chokeslammed Cena before leaving a crying Eve in the ring with Ryder.
Not a good sign for the WWE that Kane's despicable actions got big cheers from the crowd.
So Does Jericho's Rumble Appearance
Last Monday on Raw, Jericho said the Royal Rumble would be "the end of the world as we know it," which led to rampant fan speculation as to what that meant.
Would Jericho interfere in Punk's match, costing him the WWE title? Would he win the Royal Rumble and go on to Wrestlemania to challenge Punk?
As it turns out, Jericho didn't do anything controversial and his return remains shrouded in mystery.
Jericho vs. Sheamus
After Chris Jericho tossed out hometown hero Randy Orton, the Rumble match was left with just two competitors.
Jericho and Sheamus.
The two have differing styles but really worked well together to put on an exciting and unpredictable finish.
Jericho nearly eliminated Sheamus several times, but the Celtic Warrior managed to hang on to the rope and keep his body on the ring apron.
Sheamus was finally able to knock Jericho off with a Brogue Kick, surprising everyone who predicted Jericho would win the Rumble in his return and go on to face CM Punk at Wrestlemania.
Jericho may still face Punk, but Sheamus stood tall last night.
Brodus Clay Squashes Drew McIntyre
How long before Drew McIntyre gets "future endeavored?"
McIntyre was the latest victim of the Funkasaurus, as the Scottish superstar was crushed by Brodus Clay in a short match.
That McIntyre was even on the PPV is a small victory for his fans, but it wasn't a strong showing from a guy who has really fallen far since he was proclaimed "the chosen one" by Vince McMahon.
As for Brodus Clay, how long before the WWE starts putting him in non-squash matches?
His exuberant entrances have been much longer than his matches and the Royal Rumble continued that trend.
Daniel Bryan Retains
Daniel Bryan besting Big Show and Mark Henry in a steel cage match was a big moment in Bryan's WWE career.
It showed that the WWE is behind Bryan as the World Heavyweight Champion going forward, possible as far as Wrestlemania.
The true test will be whether Bryan gets out of the Elimination Chamber with the gold, but beating the two behemoths at the Rumble is a nice step for the champ.
Big Show Briefly Dominates in the Rumble
With all the crying Big Show sometimes does as part of his sensitive big guy gimmick, it's easy to forget what a dominant force he can be.
The Rumble always serves as a reminder of that, as Show has finished second twice, and was in the Final Four last night.
Big Show entered at No. 30, and promptly eliminated Jack Swagger, Dolph Ziggler, the Miz and Cody Rhodes before Randy Orton hit him with an RKO and got rid of him.
Still, Show's brief stint in the Rumble had a major impact, as young stars Ziggler, Miz and Rhodes were three guys who could have potentially won the match.
Kofi Kingston's Handstand
One year after John Morrison used the barricade to stave off elimination, Kofi turned the Rumble match upside down. Literally.
Kingston found himself face-to-face with elimination, but he used a handstand to hold himself up.
When Miz flipped his feet in an attempt to make Kofi fall over, Kingston hand-walked his way to the ring steps in an amazing feat of strength, athleticism, and balance.