Last night, the WWE held its annual Royal Rumble event at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. The Rumble is thought of as the beginning of the “Road to WrestleMania” and is traditionally one of my favorite PPVs of the year. The last two years have seen some pretty serious morning after backlash with Batista winning in 2014 and Roman Reigns (and not Daniel Bryan) winning last year.
I realize as I sit down to write this review that I’m still not quite sure what I thought of the show. I had really high hopes for the event and I think overall it did a pretty good job setting up things to come up to and through WrestleMania which is really what it’s meant to do. I can’t help but feeling a bit let down by the lack of surprise entrants into the Rumble and the way the title picture is being booked but that’s in part due to my fantasy booking scenarios. If I take a step back and look at this show objectively I think I have to say it was a very strong outing that makes a lot of sense.
For the second PPV in a row we had technical difficulties watching the show. Last month it was the WWE Network being a bit wonky and last night it was my Internet connection. We moved from my basement back to Mark’s house and we were off and running.
Let’s get into it. (All photos courtesy WWE.com)
The preshow match saw Mark Henry and Jack Swagger defeat Darren Young and Damien Sandow, The Dudley Boyz and The Ascension to make their way into the Rumble match later in the evening. We didn’t watch this match and at least on paper I’m glad we didn’t. Especially with the way Henry and Swagger went out of the Rumble this seemed to be a complete waste of time and merely a way to get some folks on the card.
Dean Ambrose Defeated Kevin Owens To Retain The Intercontinental Championship – Last Man Standing Match
This was outstanding. These guys busted their asses and put on a hell of a match right out of the shoot. Ambrose is my current favorite on the roster and he worked really well with Owens. It’s tough to have a true Last Man Standing match in the PG era the WWE finds itself in but these guys did it… and did it well. I’m happy to see Ambrose getting the push he deserves and Owens sure as hell didn’t do anything to embarrass himself. In fact, seeing him drag his ass down to the Rumble match itself elevated him even further in my mind. Ambrose would have a tremendous showing in the Rumble match as well. These guys were big fat winners last night. GREAT way to start off the card.
The New Day Defeated The Usos To Retain The Tag Team Championship
Not bad. Not great. Nothing too terribly surprising here with New Day holding on to their titles. They’re clearly very over with the fans so it wasn’t shocking at all for the WWE to keep them in the spotlight. I’ll be honest though. At least for me, the New Day shtick is wearing a bit thin. They’re supposed to be heels, but with all of their pre match stuff they’re getting face pops. They’re treading dangerously close to Santino territory where they’re going to cease to be legit in ring Superstars and will be nothing but merch salesmen. They need to be put into a program where they can be legit heels and really show off what they can do in the ring. I’m just not sure where that threat to their titles is coming from.
Kalisto defeated Alberto Del Rio For The US Championship
Very happy to see Kalisto get his title back here. That’s partially due to the fact that I don’t really care for Del Rio and its partially due to the fact that I think Kalisto is great. Let’s face it… dude is the new Rey Mysterio. I loved Rey back in the day and I’m enjoying Kalisto now. He does have a tendency to get a bit sloppy with some of his spots and the announce team even called out a few of his flubs last night. That being said, he’s really the only the true lucha guy on the main roster currently and he’s a nice change of pace. I’d like to see him hold onto the title for a good long time and I’m hoping he’s done with Del Rio though it wouldn’t surprise me to see this feud go at least one more PPV to Fast Lane.
Charlotte Defeated Becky Lynch To Retain The Divas Championship
This is the first of my predictions that I missed. The match itself was decent but it could have been a hell of a lot better. I feel really bad for Becky Lynch coming out of last night. Not only did she basically get sexually assaulted live on PPV but she also becomes a forgotten entity in the Divas title picture. This was a match that went over 11 minutes and all of that was overshadowed by a wonky finish where Ric got involved and then a HUGE crowd reaction when Sasha Banks came out and laid waste to Charlotte. I can only hope for a triple threat match that includes Lynch, Banks and Flair leading to an inevitable Banks title match at Mania. The only question is who it will be against.
Triple H Won The Royal Rumble And The World Heavyweight Championship
In retrospect the way the Rumble match itself was booked makes a lot of sense but there were some glaring issues that I have to point out. Before I get to the bad stuff, let’s talk about the good stuff.
AJ FUCKING STYLES!!! While many WWE fans might not know who this guy is, the IWC (Internet Wrestling Community) lost its collective shit when Styles walked through the curtain. It was by my estimation the loudest pop of the night and a well deserved one at that. If you’re not familiar with Styles I’d urge you to hit YouTube and check out some of his work. He’s a welcome addition to the roster and I see great things for him on the horizon.
The Wyatt Family
Braun Strowman single handily eliminated both The Big Show and Kane from the Rumble. If that’s not a signal that this is the new “big man” of the WWE I don’t know what is. Couple that with the fact that Bray Wyatt is on a collision course with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania and the Wyatt family is looking very strong after last night’s Rumble.
Dude had a hell of a match to start the night and was in the final two at the end. The crowd was going nuts for Ambrose all night and I can only hope the WWE brass took notice. I’ve got think we may revisit him vs. Jericho at Mania after the seeds that were planted way back at Night of Champions.
OK… with the good out of the lets examine some of the lesser pieces of last night’s Rumble match.
Roman Reigns lost his title which isn’t a bad thing. But the way he lost it was piss pour. He was absent for the majority of the match. The way this was booked made the crowd boo Reigns rather than cheer him. Should have just left him out there. No need or reason for him to take a break. Bad decision.
Lack of Surprises
The Rumble is traditionally a time where new folks debut and we get at least a couple of surprise entrants. With the exception of AJ Styles and Sami Zayn we got a whole bunch of nothing. I’m sorry but I saw HHH returning a mile away. The fact that we didn’t get Daniel Bryan here doesn’t bode well for his long term WWE future. No WWE Legends? With a roster SO decimated by injury I was certain we would have seen someone for nostalgia purposes. No Undertaker? Sure it was far fetched, but I was really proud of my prediction and thought it made a hell of a lot of sense and would have made for some super compelling television.
HHH In The Top Spot
In retrospect this makes a lot of sense. WWE is looking to fill 100,000 seats in Texas for WrestleMania 32 and they need a big name at the top of the card. I just think they may have missed an opportunity here. I’m firmly of the belief at this point that we’re going to see HHH face Roman Reigns at Mania. Who knows, maybe HHH will put his career on the line. But couldn’t that match be just as big without the title involved? Couldn’t they tell the same “revenge” story culminating with a huge blowout at Mania without the title? I personally think they should have. That way, you’d have TWO marquee matches headed into Mania. Triple H and Reigns PLUS the title match. Not only that but you could have had an opportunity to put the top title on a new Superstar.
We’re well on the Road to WrestleMania. Tonight’s RAW should fill in some blanks but we’ve I think it’s fair to say we’ve got a clear direction with at least a few of the matches. HHH vs. Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar vs. Bray Wyatt, Chris Jerico vs. Dean Ambrose and Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens seem pretty clear to me at this point. Will we see guys like The Rock and Steve Austin return? Where does The Undertaker fit on the WrestleMania card? Those and other questions will be answered in the coming weeks. For now I think it’s fair to say that The Royal Rumble did it’s job this year. It elevated some stars, introduced others and set us on a path for the next several months of programming. I’m looking forward to RAW this evening and will be re-watching the Rumble at some point but I’m super pumped at the direction we’re headed in. The injury bug has hit hard as of late but with the exception of HHH at the top it appears that maybe, just maybe, the WWE is finally going to start pushing some of its younger stars in the right direction.
Did you watch this year’s Royal Rumble? What’d you think?