The Royal Rumble, right… guess we should just dive right into this.
Last week I discussed how many fans felt that Raw did not do enough to build the Royal Rumble up, but Smackdown was there to correct that. There was a kind of classic feel to Dean Ambrose switching out his number with Fandango’s, and the Dust Brothers—as I shall now call them—showing tension over the upcoming event and laying some seeds for a bit of in-ring storytelling. I thought the scene with the Usos approaching Mizdow did this the best; building the fans’ anticipation for the eventual face turn of Damien Sandow, that could have easily happened at the big event. Eric Rowan lost his match—which was a nice surprise—and therefore his spot in the Royal Rumble, which I thought would be cool to see one of the three rehires turned heel, but I doubt that will happen. Smackdown ended in the way almost every rumble hype match thinks it needs to go to push the event, by having most of the roster brawling in the ring as everything fades to black.
The New Day took on The Masters of the Universe—oh how I love that name—in a decent match for the pre-show. The Ascension started the show proper though, which I see as a chance given to them to make an impression, taking on the legendary New Age Outlaws. It was not bad, but even though I was right about The Ascension needing/getting the win, I am not sure if it will do them much good. This new team needs a lot, but will the fans and the backstage give them the time and/or ability to achieve all of that?
The Miz tried to retrieve his tag team titles from the Usos in another decent match. I know some people are complaining that these two teams have been fighting too much lately, but their bouts are solid and this was another decent outing with an ending I really enjoyed. After a fun backstage segment with Noble, Mercury, and Rollins, Paige and Natalya took on the Bella Twins, furthering the odd relationship between the black hearts. That was quite the interesting pin by Paige on Brie for sure—it was completely PG, Hyde—but it seemed like there was some honest confusion as to who the legal woman was at one point. There were cool points to this, but they were a bit spotty. I want to see more though, as it looks like creative is using this to reset the divas division pieces as they wait on AJ Lee to heal, leading up to Wrestlemania Play. That is what I am calling it now, since it has that symbol.
I really enjoy the promos before the rumble match, each individual or pair of wrestlers explaining how important this is and why they will win. It helps the anticipation for the rumble reach a fever pitch, but there would be a pause just before that, for the best match of the night.
I said weeks ago that I thought adding Seth Rollins to the title match at Royal Rumble was a great idea. I knew it would add a solid element; a hungry warrior who was ready to go out there and bust his ass to impress the audience. I do not like to call match of the year candidates too early, but I have a feeling this one will be discussed for quite a while. Each participant did their part well: Rollins was cunning, Cena was determined, and Lesnar was pure brutality. The contest was not a perfect match, but my complaints were almost all nitpicky stuff. I kept smiling during this match. When Brock slammed both members of J&J Security, when he caught Rollins, when he and Cena went through the barricade; this match seemed to have everything it needed in energy, intensity, and holy crap the announcers actually helped accent the action and storytelling.
Lesnar won, retaining the title, and I am quite alright with that, because his time is coming. WWE has built the allusive beast, and it is time for someone to slay him. The real winner of this match to me was Rollins though, whose top rope work was impeccable, who showed near catlike balance, and who made me believe that given another chance, he really could beat Lesnar and earn the right to wear the strap—even if his hair game was really messed up and off point after the bell. I could honestly go into how great this match was a lot more, but I think the best praise I can give it is by pointing out that this is my sixth time watching the match, and it will not be my last. As great as Rollins is, praise needs to go all around. This, a match with John Cena and Brock Lesnar in it, was when the crowd was chanting, “This is awesome!”
But now for the main event…
I thought it was an interesting choice to have Miz and R-Truth start, but I liked it. When Bubba Ray hit the ring I almost stood up out of my seat, and his fun tag team moves with R-Truth were awesome. I loved Ray’s run as a heel in TNA and truly hope to see more of him in WWE. Rowan stealing Curtis Axel’s spot was a good follow-up from Smackdown, but I doubt they will do much else with it, but it was all worth it to see everything go down with the Wyatt Family. Boogeyman was fun. Zack Ryder was robbed though, and should have won. Also, DDP was a blast, and almost had me popping again with that off top turnbuckle diamond cutter.
Daniel Bryan came out at number ten and had a great showing in the rumble. I am so glad to see that it looks like his time off did not hurt him. I loved the whole sequence with him against Rusev and Bray Wyatt, up until I almost choked on JBL’s octopus joke I mean, but this leads into the problem almost everyone had with this PPV I think. Daniel Bryan is eliminated by Wyatt almost unceremoniously and seemingly without a good story reason. I have not heard any plans to have these two faceoff in the near future, and their feud was quite a while back now, so I am just not sure this had any real sense to it. I thought there might be something more after the close-up of Bryan shaking his head in disappointment, but nothing. Bryan is a huge fan favorite, but that does not mean he will win. WWE does not owe it to the fans to have their favorite win, but I would think they might want to do something a bit better than what occurred. There were a lot more options. I hope Bryan lands a good spot at Wrestlemania Play again like he did last year, even if it is not for the title.
All of that is what I would call the first half of the match, which seemed to have a different pacing and feel to it. Many had different opinions on how sparse the ring was near the beginning of that part, seeing a lot of eliminations, which is why I think the big surprise entrants happened then, compared to the second more crowded half with more legitimate possible winners. The second half was meant to feel more like a serious match, especially after that elimination of Bryan. I am sure it happened earlier so that the fans would not be pissed and still booing by the time the end came, but I think the bookers underestimated the Philadelphia crowd. I know a lot of people wanted to see Bryan win, or thought that he should have at least made it to the final four, but there would have been another set of problems by doing that. It was all just poorly planned and played out, but Bryan was not the direction the company wanted to go.
Man, those boos were loud when Roman Reigns came out. It sucks in a way, because I liked that he came out through the crowd, even at the Royal Rumble, and the man looked good in the beginning. I was rooting for him so hard last year against Batista as well. Watching it through again I did not realize how much downtime Reigns got during the match, which makes me wonder how long of a match he could actually do. I know that is how these matches go, but this is an element that needs to be handled well. I loved the part with Mizdow, obviously, and thought they would go further with the split, but was happy with what happened. I would have been cool with Dean Ambrose or Dolph Ziggler winning, but I found myself completely behind Bray Wyatt. The man looked great in the match, lasting a long time and sporting several eliminations. I was sad when he was thrown out, and hope we see some good stuff from him in the coming months. Like Bryan, Wyatt was also sadly dumped out nonchalantly without any fanfare or good story to it. I almost forgot to make a note of it because it was kind of like, “oh, that’s what we’re doing here?” His elimination felt a lot like Bryan’s, even though they came at this match from two completely different angles.
Good work with Rusev I suppose, because I did honestly forget he had rolled out, but after Reigns beat both Big Show and Kane, and then all that stuff with The Rock happened, that spot with Rusev felt like tacked on… like what the crowd was chanting—bullshit. To be clear; I do not blame Reigns in the slightest. I still do question if I want to see him in a main event at the biggest show of the year, but the fault for this rumble falls on booking; bad timing, storytelling, and a lack of excitement. That is just in the rumble match itself though. The rest of the show was great. I honestly wonder if putting the title match last would have helped the overall feel.
It is what it is though. I still think it was better than last year’s overall, and now it is time to focus on building Wrestlemania Play. Will Brock’s supposed rib injury be used in the near future? Will there be any swerves at Fast Lane? Could Cena vs Rusev actually be good? I do not know, but I am excited to find out—even if I am still morning the loss of Elimination Chamber. Also, snowstorms have horrible timing. WWE needed a strong Raw to do some control work, but there is a coolness to the interviews in that episode they threw together.
On a personal note…
For those who were upset enough with the Royal Rumble to want to #CancelWWENetwork or claimed they would not be watching until after Wrestlemania, good. Take some time off. Unclog my Twitter timeline of some of that bitching. Think about what you liked about wrestling other than it not being exactly what you wanted, and come back after that. I’ll be here.
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