Much like he for whom I mark like no other (Chris Jericho), I made my return last night for the Royal Rumble after months of absence.
Unlike my wrestling idol, I'm not so certain that was a good idea.
I came into the Rumble almost blind. I'd heard a teeny bit here and there, and had watched the final pre-Rumble promos of CM Punk and the Rock, but as far as storylines went, basically all I knew were that entities like the Shield, the Rhodes Scholars, and Team Hell No existed.
As such, when I judge my opinion on the Royal Rumble, I admit that I may not have the entire picture. Even so, I do not feel like that invalidates my opinion, but rather that I am giving a different perspective on the event. I won't say it's unbiased, because I know that not to be the case, but it is definitely different from those of you who have been watching all along. So with that in mind, remember that whatever judgments I make about the show, I will try to keep about the show itself, as opposed to my recent comments where I've pretty much given the WWE in general a Hannibal Lecture.
So, let's get the elephant out of the room right away: you can give me all the storyline reasons you want, and they might even mitigate some of the elements. It doesn't change the fact that the ending to the Punk/Rock (I love that) match wasn't just sub-par, it was at "oh, just take 8 strokes for pity's sake and forget about it" bad. The supposedly covert beatdown failed at being covert. The lights going out was like a warning siren going off, saying "SHENANIGANS! SHENANIGANS!" It was crystalline-clear what WWE was trying to go far, and not in any good way. And then we don't have the referee restarting the match (despite the fact that his obliviousness breaks any suspension of disbelief); we have Vincent Kennedy Deus-Ex-McMachina. (At least, in the context of the PPV, that's how it came off.) I still hold that the interruption actually hurt the match on the whole and did not help the end at all. Just because it's the Rumble doesn't mean you have to make the fans go home somewhat placated. Punk looks weaker; the Rock doesn't really look like the transcendental star he supposedly is; I'm left wondering if it couldn't have been done a different way and better.
Now, time warp back to the first match of the night: Big Show and Alberto Del Rio. Full disclosure: I've been rather erratic on Big Show over the years, and as for Del Rio, my opinion of him was that he was pretty good in the ring, but his persona left a lot to be desired. However, gimmick matches can cover a multitude of shortcomings. Last Man Standing is a good stipulation, perhaps my personal favorite stipulation. And the ring set/table spot was pretty stunning. However, there are three things about this match that bugged me.
- LMS is No Disqualification. So naturally, the person who took advantage of that fact the most...was the designated face. Even as a fan of Eddie Guerrero when he was still alive, I'm not certain how I feel about that, really.
- The fire extinguisher spot. Unless you're going to clock someone with it, fire extinguishers are not imposing, and getting sprayed with cold carbon dioxide is not going to do much except blind you, make it hard to breathe for a bit, and maybe give you the chills. This spot needs to go away.
- The duct tape. I'm going to temporarily break my own rules here to talk about my feelings about when John Cena used it a few years before. I didn't like it, as I found it to be a rather cheap way to end the match, but at least then it was novel. Now it gets used again, with the only wrinkle being Ricardo's involvement. Looks rather lazy.
As for the tag match...well, not much to say there. That match itself was good, and Bryan and Kane make probably the best oddest pairing I've ever seen. It bears mentioning, though, that Cody Rhodes' mustache looks like the squirrel that committed seppuku on the transformer behind my house last weekend. For the love of John Bradshaw Layfield, Cody, SHAVE IT OFF! (And stay away from power lines.)
So last but not least for the matches, we have the Rumble (I didn't watch the pre-show). The third match in chronological order. As Rumbles go, this one wasn't very compelling. Only one surprise entrant was truly overwhelming (Jericho, natch), one was a bit funny (Godfather), and the other was GOLDUST. In all fairness, despite my bordering-on-irrational loathing of Dustin Rhodes' wrestling and gimmicks, his interaction with his brother Cody was interesting, though it could have done without the Goldust gimmick. On the whole, the crop was rather thin, and when it was whittled down to the final three, well...when Ryback is actually the most appealing option, you got trouble, son. When the dust settled, Cena won, to the surprise of few but the consternation of many. It should be noted that you could barely hear the crowd's reaction to this, because Cena's music was blaringly loud. This is not coincidental.
Final words on the PPV itself: even accounting for the length of the eponymous match itself, a major PPV with only 4 matches is a bit on the insulting side. You'd think I'd be happy that no match on the actual paid show itself was less than 9 minutes (restart not counting as a separate match), but it still doesn't feel right. I think that the Royal Rumble PPV could actually benefit from being 4 hours, which I realize might seem like heresy. After all, two 4-hour PPVs within three months of each other? But see, that allows more room to build in one, maybe two more matches and maybe even expand the Rumble back up to 40 superstars like they did two years ago. In fact, why not make the Big 4 PPVs all four hours and keep the lesser ones at 3?
In the heat of the moment, I may not have given the Royal Rumble as much credit as it actually deserved, though, and thanks to the late William Hartnell (the original Doctor), I am now detoxed and relaxed enough to say that as a PPV itself, it was probably about C-level. However, it should be noted that the name "Royal Rumble" and the history behind it gives the show innately elevated expectations, and this Rumble did not meet them. I might have been more charitable towards it had it been one of the minor PPVs, but with the Rumble, you expect more.
So in conclusion, looking at the Royal Rumble for its own sake, it was about average, maybe a bit below. Filter all the surrounding context, trends, and history in, though, and it only drags the show down farther.