WWE hit the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas for its Royal Rumble pay-per-view (PPV) last night (Sun., Jan. 29, 2017) and delivered the goods in a way they haven’t in a very long time. To read a full rundown of the show, make sure to check out ReverendKain’s in depth live blog here.
Let’s get right to reacting to all the night’s events:
I loved this Royal Rumble.
It started poor, with a long Enzo Amore promo selling me on a match I was literally seconds away from watching, but picked up immediately when Chris Jericho showed up as the number two entrant working his schtick, which is always a good time.
They did SO MUCH right in this match:
- Braun Strowman got over huge by absolutely wrecking shop, eliminating SEVEN wrestlers. They even managed to successfully pull off an entertaining big man showdown with Strowman getting the better of the old veteran Big Show. He also gave us a second killing of James Ellsworth (after a fun comedy bit involving Dean Ambrose) and his elimination at the hands of Sami Zayn and Baron Corbin was a legitimate shock and a big moment early.
- They actually caved and gave us Tye Dillinger entering at number 10!
- They had a bit of a lull after Strowman's big run, but I actually think that worked well strategically because it acted as a bit of a cool down to build anticipation for the big angles to come.
- The Wyatt Family, despite basically breaking up on SmackDown Live recently, gave us a great moment when Luke Harper turned on Bray Wyatt to a thunderous ovation and teased Sister Abigail before Randy Orton put him down with an RKO. They did a masterful job pitting Harper against Wyatt and Orton while never once teasing dissent between The Viper and The Eater of Worlds, even at the end when they could have. That's building the story. That's doing it right.
- Brock Lesnar's entrance was a big deal, and he paid it off with an epic run throwing everyone around. Enzo Amore showing up as a surprise just to get killed by Brock was one of those wonderful Royal Rumble moments that makes it worthwhile to waste a potential surprise spot.
- Goldberg showing up right after for yet another big confrontation with Lesnar and absolutely owning him once again was, for some reason, a big shock. Goldberg owns Lesnar like Lesnar owns Undertaker and it's incredible to see it play out. After years of Brock being untouchable, he has finally run up against an opponent he is utterly helpless against. Guys like Lesnar aren't supposed to ever look so vulnerable. It's amazing to see, and makes Goldberg look like an absolute killer.
- So how do you get that killer out of the match? Undertaker pulling a veteran move and sneaking up on him to toss him out. That's the benefit of all this star power. You aren't sacrificing anyone's heat by having one take out the other. Instead, you're just setting up big matches (potentially) for the future.
- Perhaps the best part of this Rumble was the ultimate troll job: Roman Reigns as entrant 30. He was HATED by that crowd, immediately treated like public enemy number one when he stood across from Undertaker and it suddenly looked like the rumors might be true. No one wanted to think they would actually have Reigns eliminate him but that's exactly what they did. Then, in the most boss move imaginable, he stared The Deadman down, told him "this is my yard now," and didn't care one bit about what anyone in the world thought about it. THAT is the Roman Reigns we need.
- This was also brilliant because it gave us someone to toss Jericho, a favorite, and get booed for it but take that because it flowed with what they had already done.
- That led into a great finishing sequence where Reigns tossed Wyatt to leave him in with Orton. He looked like he might pull it off too, but he was surprised with an RKO while he was going for a Superman Punch, a sequence Orton turned into an elimination and a Rumble win. This was a genius way to get Orton big cheers because they knew Reigns would be the heel after tossing Undertaker and any moaning and groaning about choosing Orton would be lost amid the delirious joy the fans would feel seeing Reigns come up just short. It worked.
That's not to say it was all good. My two gripes, however, are relatively minor: 1) Kofi Kingston's elimination save left me wanting, and 2) Chris Jericho pulling the old trick where he leaves the match for large stretches and then comes back in when he shouldn't hurts the integrity of what the match is supposed to be. But this is wrestling and you're just going to have to deal with little inconsistent nonsense like that. Again, really minor gripes that didn't hurt my overall enjoyment at all.
The best part? I can't wait to see where they go with Strowman, Reigns vs. Undertaker looks like everything I could possibly want out of my pro wrestling, what the hell is Brock Lesnar going to do now, and where does The Wyatt Family go from here?
What an absolutely incredible match AJ Styles and John Cena had. It felt like a WrestleMania main event, with the atmosphere to match. That Cena was involved in it is no surprise but it's still at least somewhat of a shock to the system that Styles is, in WWE matches.
Yet here we are.
The work was amazing. These two have chemistry off the charts -- big surprise that Cena came through in a big match and Styles can work with anyone and make it look like a million dollars -- but they didn't make any mistakes in there. What's more, the story they told worked for the WWE main event style -- yes, they spammed finishers and hit every big move in the book -- and paid off their hot fire promos heading into the match.
Styles told Cena he couldn't hang with him on the indie circuit. Cena came in and indie wrestled the shit out of this match and took the WWE world championship for a record tying 16th time. He showed he could hang, and be better, after talking all the best trash to pay off backing it up in the absolute best way.
Then he capped it by jumping in the crowd and celebrating with a child wearing a Make-A-Wish shirt. He made that kid's life by doing that, and we've come to a point where there isn't a bad word to say about Cena, at least as it pertains to what he does on WWE television.
That crowd was split when he walked out, some booing and chanting "John Cena sucks." They were ALL wildly cheering for his win and gave him a standing ovation on the way out. He turned every person in the building. What a pro.
The true face that runs the place.
Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns had an exceedingly difficult task in front of them on this night: After working together for what felt like every show over the past few months, and burning through damn near every variation of match you can possibly think of, they had to find a way to make this one the payoff, the one that stood out above the rest.
They did just that.
They did this by getting extremely physical, hitting bigger spots than they had at any other time -- that bump Owens took through the chairs from the corner, followed by a powerbomb through the announcer's desk was unreal -- and shocking us with a finish we couldn't see coming.
Even if we maybe should have.
Braun Strowman playing the role he did makes all the sense in the world, if only because he's clearly established himself as a destroyer of worlds, out for himself and only himself and whatever happens along with that happens along with that. They had us so engrossed in the match -- again, quite the feat considering the past couple months -- that when Strowman showed up it took it to another level. It would have been easy for inteference to drag this down but it absolutely elevated everything they were doing.
It also set up Reigns for a match at Fastlane before he gets to Undertaker at WrestleMania 33. Suddenly, he looks like the most interesting guy on the roster. And Owens is still Universal champion while Jericho is still US champion! Where will that go? Don't you want to tune in to find out?
I know I do.
All the best to all the rest
SmackDown six: Naomi establishing as a top title contender makes sense for what they've got going on in the women's division on the blue brand but they didn't have enough time to do anything truly worthwhile here. The good news is we're just a couple weeks away from Elimination Chamber, where this will all be showcased, and they stayed within the framework of all the feuds they're working right now.
Nia Jax def. Sasha Banks: This was executed to perfection. The story is Banks is hurt and Nia is an unstoppable monster. If they had done anything other than a relatively quick victory for Jax, it wouldn't have felt like they were doing justice to the story they're telling. The breaking of the Boss continues. Where it goes next is intriguing enough to tune in for more.
New tag team champions: This was fairly standard, booked well with solid execution on the idea they had. It's still strange from the perspective of the fan wanting to cheer the good guy and boo the bad guy, considering who benefitted from shenanigans and what happened when they leveled the playing field. But it was a fine match and Cesaro and Sheamus should be going their separate ways now.
Charlotte def. Bayley: This was done exceedingly well because they managed to get a huge crowd super hot for everything they were doing despite the fact that said crowd had to be aware they were always headed for this type of finish. Granted, it fell a bit flat because of how it was executed but that was almost certainly by design. You can't create a huge moment by giving away the goods in the smaller moments like this. This was a necessary step in the right direction to crowning Bayley on the biggest stage possible and they entertained with a damn good match along the way. That's all we can ask for with this.
Neville def. Rich Swann: I'm the Kevin Nash of pro wrestling reviewers (state your bias, bloggers, always) but I'm all in on Neville wrecking shop on the cruiserweight division, especially if he's going to be this viscious about it.
This was an AMAZING show.