WWE went rolling right on through the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, last night (Sun., Jan. 25, 2015) with Royal Rumble, its annual beginning of the year pay-per-view (PPV) extravaganza that officially kicks off the "Road to WrestleMania".
This one left a sour taste, just like last year.
Let's not waste time with pleasantries and get right to reactions to the show. Click here for the live blog with full match coverage and here for all the fallout from the event.
Second verse, same as the first
I don't dislike Roman Reigns. I don't even disagree with WWE thinking he's the guy who will carry the torch for the company at some point in the future. He's got everything they could want in a top star, and in no way do I sit here questioning why they would want to give him John Cena's spot.
I absolutely do not agree with the timing and execution.
At some point, it had to be clear to them what would happen. It was clear to all of us. Every single one of us knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if they went into this Royal Rumble in Philadelphia and booked Reigns to win over Daniel Bryan, the fans would reject it.
How is it that you and I can know and understand this and Vince McMahon cannot?
Perhaps he did know and felt like they laid out a match that would prevent Reigns from getting booed out of the building. Bryan would go in at number 10, he would do some work, and Bray Wyatt, on the strength of a super strong early run, would eliminate him.
After all, Wyatt has Bryan's number; he always has.
That would give them ample time to spread things out and allow Reigns to come in fresh at 19 so he could establish as the strong babyface. They dumped Damien Mizdow quickly so he wouldn't gain much momentum, and spaced out the final babyfaces entries in Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler to help dissipate whatever leftover heat there may be for Bryan's elimination.
If there was anything left after that, Reigns would throw out two big monster heels who had just dumped the two super over babyfaces, Ambrose and Ziggler, on his own and if even that wasn't enough, The Rock would show up to provide a glowing endorsement on the way out.
I can concede, at the very least, that a good enough salesman could probably sell me on that plan insomuch as I would consider signing off on it if I was in the position to do so.
But that's not what happened.
Instead, Bryan was tossed and all the air was sucked out of the building. And then it wasn't anticipation followed by disappointment of what was never coming in the first place like in 2014, it was furious rage over what appeared to be the right decision backed by the fans that was ripped away like it was nothing.
What actually happened was Bryan was tossed like a mid-carder who hardly matters in the big picture. Reigns assumed the position Batista held last year, the one of the guy the fans knew WWE wanted and they did not so he immediately became the focus of their negative energy.
It did not help when Wyatt, who had dumped Bryan in unsatisfactory fashion, was himself tossed out to little fanfare, his status as Iron Man in the match a seemingly irrelevant footnote to the larger objective.
Ambrose and Ziggler acted as a brief glimmer of hope, two guys who the fans would attempt to convince themselves had a real chance when the reality was anything but. They were thrown over the top unceremoniously by the two monster heels, and it did nothing but make clear the plan and that just served to enrage everyone further.
Shockingly enough, not even The Rock could help. He was wildly cheered until he endorsed Reigns, at which point the cheers were replaced by boisterous boos for a decision they all despised.
In many ways, this is even worse than last year. Batista could do what he ultimately did, immediately turn heel, put Bryan over at WrestleMania, and disappear without a trace, off to a career in Hollywood. Reigns is going to be counted on to headline major shows for years to come.
This was not the way to get his big push started.
Reigns is the guy, that much is clear. And that's fine. But he shouldn't be the guy right now, at least not yet.
Please don't leave us
Triple threat matches are almost always going to fall short of the mark that could be set by a straight singles match, and that rings especially true for a WWE world heavyweight title match. There's just too much going on to properly service everything that's going on.
That said, we were treated to one of the greatest triple threat matches in history.
I cannot even adequately describe how awesome this was and Brock Lesnar gets the majority of the credit. Why? Because he's the only guy in WWE who consistently has truly special matches that feel different than everything else we get week in and week out.
You can go back and look at each of his matches since he returned a couple years ago and every single one is easily distinguishable from everything anyone else is doing.
His presence is unreal. His size and ability to manipulate the space around him is uncanny. His power is out of this world.
He caught Seth Rollins on his shoulders from halfway across the ring coming down from the top rope with little issue. That's a 220-pound grown man, and it was like he was dealing with a slightly large child. He was in this match just throwing guys around with seemingly little regard for their safety.
I was never as violent with my WWE action figures as a kid as Brock Lesnar is to real live people, and that's the most amazing thing.
The fact that he's still champion and what this sets up for WrestleMania is troublesome, for a lot of reasons, but my heart was pounding when this match finally drew to a close.
Bella Twins vs. Paige & Natalya: I quite enjoyed this match. Nikki and Brie have improved dramatically in the ring and they were actually given some time to show that off. What we were treated to was the Bellas systematically beating the hell out of Paige and Natalya, picking apart the latter and snuffing out a hot tag attempt with some fine heeling and a strong finish. Also, I'm all in on those Nikki uppercuts.
The Usos vs. The Miz & Damien Mizdow: A perfectly fine match, all things considered, but we've seen it so many times already that you immediately forgot everything that happened like five minutes after they went backstage.
The Ascension vs. New Age Outlaws: I'm supposed to buy The Ascension as the rough and tumble young upstarts who will RIP and SHRED their opponents and after getting beat up at first, they turned it around with offense that included a chin lock. Yes, a chin lock. This should have been a squash but even if it's not, I don't understand trotting them out to dump on The Road Warriors and then booking them to win a match while getting next to no offense, and none of it power based. That was not what a wasteland is supposed to look like. That was a somewhat competitive match against two guys in their 50s.
The New Day vs. Tyson Kidd & Cesaro: With no advance notice, they changed this from a six-man to a regular tag with Adam Rose cheering on Kidd and Cesaro for some reason. The crowd hated The New Day, and at the very least they showed some more of the aggression that would seem to precipitate a heel turn. The finish was good, but the match itself was a little too sloppy.
Imagine this show without that perfect triple threat match. A lot of mostly average, forgettable work on the undercard before an insanely satisfying WWE world heavyweight title match followed by an awful Royal Rumble.
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off in the comments section below with all your thoughts on last night's show. How did you like it, if you liked it at all?
(All photos via WWE.com)