WWE’s road to WrestleMania kicked off tonight with the Royal Rumble – and we got an early shout for match of the year as well!
Naomi, Nikki Bella & Becky Lynch vs. Alexa Bliss, Mickie James & Natalya
Natalya and Nikki start, with Nikki getting in a slap after Natalya mocked John Cena’s mannerisms… so she tags out and brings in Bliss. Bella kicks away a back body drop and gets a near-fall early on, before Naomi comes in and scores a dropkick as Bliss is sent to the corner.
Naomi’s blindingly-fluorescent gear starts off a chain of suplexes, as the heels roll to the outside from a triple suplex, before Naomi flies into them with a plancha as we head to a commercial break. Gotta love adverts on the pre-show…
We return to see Becky dropping Natalya with dropkicks, before a springboard side kick sent the Canadian to the outside. Mickie James throws Lynch into the security walls to give Natalya a helping hand, and Lynch has to throw herself out of a rear chinlock as she’s eventually taken back into the corner as the heels take over. Natalya takes too long taunting Nikki Bella, but after a schoolboy roll-up she kicks out and drops Lynch with a clothesline.
Eventually Becky throws Bliss to the outside, but Natalya pulls Bella off the apron to prevent a tag out. Finally the tag’s made as fluorescent Naomi comes in and flies into Alexa with flipping clotheslines and a facebuster, before she does those Mike Bailey rapid kicks for a near-fall. Mickie James’ break-up gets her the Bexploder from Lynch, as Nikki speared Natalya out of the ring. That leaves Bliss and Naomi in the ring, and a split-legged moonsault gets Naomi the surprise win! Decent enough for what it was – and that result seems to set up Naomi as a contender, perhaps ahead of Becky? **¼
The pre-show randomly showed Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton heading to ringside – those are usually hidden with a video package, are they not?
WWE Raw Tag Team Championship: Cesaro & Sheamus (c) vs. Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows
We’ve got two referees for this match after a Dusty Finish saw the former Club robbed of the tag titles on Raw a few weeks back.
Cesaro starts by shoving down Anderson for a near-fall, before he goes to the gutwrench powerbomb for another two-count. The champions combine with a Finlay roll and a double-stomp for a two-count, but Anderson kicks away at Cesaro as the challengers took over briefly. Sheamus comes back with a knee-drop as he gets a two-count, before Gallows dumps Cesaro with a big back body drop. Cesaro fights out of the Club’s corner, and drills Gallows with an uppercut, before the former Festus kicks back as we head to a commercial break. Yep, another of those…
We return from the break as a suplex gets Cesaro some separation, before he rolls away from Gallows to make a tag to Sheamus, who knocked Gallows with an over-the-ropes kick (a la Alex Shane) en route to a middle rope clothesline. Anderson almost wins it with his feet on the ropes from a roll-up – but the second referee comes in to stop the count as referee #1 missed it.
A pop-up uppercut gets Cesaro a near-fall, as the Swiss follows up with the Swiss-19 and a crossbody for a near-fall, before the pair trade uppercuts back and forth. Anderson lands a spinebuster for a two-count, before Sheamus’ block from a Magic Killer leads to him wiping out a referee with a Brogue Kick.
A giant swing from Cesaro sees the second ref have to swerve away from Anderson, as the follow-up Sharpshooter ended with Gallows kicking Cesaro out of the hold. All four men end up in the ring as the remaining referee loses control, leading to the Magic Killer on Sheamus… and Karl Anderson runs in with a schoolboy to win the titles! Their first gold after a year in WWE – and they’re not doing any Dusty Finish teases after that ref bump, so yay! A good tag match, but now there’s going to be questions over why all multi-man matches don’t have multiple refs… **¾
Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax
Simplifying the story, this was based on Nia Jax attacking Sasha’s injured knee a few weeks back… and so we go from Sasha main eventing Hell in a Cell, to main-eventing the Royal Rumble Kickoff!
Jax charges Banks into the ropes from the off, before a pie-face leads to Sasha trying for a headlock takedown. It doesn’t work, but a double knee in the corner does… a second one is caught as Banks lays into Jax with palm strikes, before a tornado DDT is caught and turned into a corner charge from Jax.
Jax obliterates Banks with a shoulder barge, and that sends us – yes – into a commercial break.
After the break, Banks has Jax caught in a crossface, but Nia just powers free and elbows Sasha in her injured knee. A Stretch Muffler adds the pressure to Banks’ knee, who somehow manages to get out of it with a sunset flip before she’s taken to the corner. Sasha dodges a shoulder tackle as Jax hits the ring post, and this is where Sasha uses some knees to try and mount a comeback, as a Meteora off the top rope saw her eventually get a near-fall… and seconds later, Jax drills Sasha with a pop-up Samoan drop out of nowhere for the win. Well, they established Nia as a monster, but this was too short to have any real substance. The match wasn’t bad, just one-sided. As intended… *½
In the final quarter of an hour of the pre-show, Stephanie McMahon announced that Seth Rollins had been banned from the Alamo Dome. Angle alert!
Shawn Michaels had a brief promo before the pre-show finished hyping up the Royal Rumble and some potential winners. Brock Lesnar (boo), Goldberg (mixed), Braun Strowman (more mixed) – yeah, there’s no clear babyface winner in this field, is there?
The show-opening video package was your usual WWE slice of greatness – highlighting some Royal Rumble winners and some other moments like Santino’s quick exit – before going to an impressively-packed Alamodome. Over 52,000 was the number WWE called out from the off…
WWE Raw Women’s Championship: Bayley vs. Charlotte Flair (c)
Charlotte grabs a headlock and takes down Bayley in the early going, but Bayley fires back with a shove before eventually sending Charlotte to the outside. A stunner off the middle rope stuns Charlotte, as a diving headscissor takedown to the outside keeps them both on the floor, as does a crossbody!
Charlotte kicks out at two, then rolls to the outside, where she suckers Bayley by pulling her head-first into the side of the ring. Flair gets a near-fall from an overhead suplex, then she ragdolls Bayley with rear chinlock, before pulling Bayley down for a one-count. Bayley tries to mount a comeback with a backslide, but Charlotte powers out into a neckbreaker before scoring a two-count out of a big boot.
From some headscissors, Charlotte follows up by driving Bayley’s head into the mat as the figure-four headscissors look to force a submission, but those headscissors end up rolling Bayley around the ring and into the ropes. Charlotte riles up Bayley by calling her “one of them” (the crowd), and that earns her a slap and a double-clothesline as both women crash to the mat.
Bayley comes back with a springboard cross body after hopping in from the apron, before she aborted a leap off the top rope and just jumps down to cover Charlotte. An elbow drop off the top gets Bayley a two-count, but Charlotte kicks away the leg and goes back to the figure four as she looks for the submission, before she rolls over to reverse the hold.
Charlotte rolls back and gets into the figure eight, but she grabs the ropes for leverage… and the referee catches her to force a break. It looked like that elbow drop bloodied Charlotte’s mouth, so cue the black gloves on the referee as Charlotte goes for a moonsault, but Bayley just about blocks with her knees and gets a two-count out of that.
A slap from Charlotte knocks Bayley down, as the challenger’s then shoved to the floor as she persisted with her superplex attempt. The Natural Selection dumps Bayley onto the apron, and that’s surprisingly enough for the win. A good opener and I liked how Charlotte won with a move that wasn’t her finisher – we need more of that in wrestling – but that to me doesn’t feel like the end of the feud. ***¼
The shark cage is coming down… so it’s time for the Universal championship match!
No Disqualification Match for WWE Universal Championship: Kevin Owens (c) vs. Roman Reigns
Chris Jericho’s in a shark cage above the ring after what happened at Roadblock last month… he’s wearing his United States title and is extremely hesitant to get in, but this leads to a two-on-one beatdown as Jericho and Owens kicks down Reigns. Roman fights back and eventually sends Jericho into the shark cage with a flapjack-like move before he’s tossed into the structure.
The cage rises as the bell rings, and we start with Owens pounding on a grounded Reigns, before the tables turn as Reigns punches Owens into the crowd. They brawl into the international commentators’ area, and use some tensabarrier stands on each other before Funaki gets an eye-ful of Owens.
The top of the German announce table gets thrown onto Owens, who’s then thrown into the German announce table itself, before reversing an Irish whip to send Reigns into the ring steps. Owens goes under the ring and pulls out what looks like an entire row’s worth of chairs, which he uses on Reigns, before a TV monitor’s jabbed into Roman before a cannonball senton squashes the challenger against the barricade.
Owens sets up a wacky structure of chairs – four on the bottom and three on top – which looks like it’ll be painful as all hell to land on. The champion looks to powerbomb Reigns off the apron onto that house of cards-with-steel-chairs, but Reigns blocks it and instead tries to superplex Owens from the ring to the floor. That too fails, as Owens drops Reigns on the top rope, but Roman comes back into the ring with a clothesline to prevent a painful landing.
Reigns grabs a table from under the ring, but a back cracker gets Owens a near-fall as Roman was looking to set it up. Roman comes back with a sit-out powerbomb for a near-fall, before Owens rolls to the outside to avoid a Superman punch… instead getting a Drive By dropkick on the outside. That table gets set-up outside, but Owens recovers to superkick Roman onto it, before he goes up top for a frog splash through the wood!
Yep, that looked like it killed Roman!
Roman’s rolled back inside as Owens gets a near-fall, before Owens wedges a chair between the top two turnbuckles. They trade boots back and forth until a superkick from Owens leads to Reigns getting thrown into that chair for another near-fall… and Jericho’s throwing down some brass knuckles! Wonder if they were Regal’s?
Kevin puts on the knuckles for a Kryptonite punch, I guess? It’s blocked anyway at the first attempt as Reigns tries to disarm the champion… but it doesn’t matter as Kevin lands it for a near-fall. Owens tries to powerbomb Reigns through a chair, but it’s reversed as Owens takes a Samoan drop through the chair instead… kicking out at two!
Reigns goes back under the ring for another chair… and remember we have the malicious chair pyramid out there too. After kicking out of a schoolboy, Reigns lands a Superman punch for a near-fall… before Owens crawls back to his feet near the table, but he avoids it and delivers a Stunner for a near-fall. The Austin influence continues as Owens stomps a mudhole in Reigns en route to another cannonball, and that pyramid of chairs is eyed up once again as Owens looks for a superplex… and Wrestling Logic returned as Owens took a Superman punch as he took a Nestea plunge through those chairs. That looked horrific.
Reigns didn’t go for a cover, but instead stared a hole through the English announce desk, and yes… Owens takes a powerbomb through that too. Out of nowhere, Braun Strowman comes out and chokeslams Reigns onto the German announce desk – which didn’t break – before a Bulldog-like powerslam takes Reigns through the table in the corner! Braun exits stage left, and all that’s left is for Owens to roll over to score the win. This was a damn good match, making a little too much use of the plunder on offer (Kevin… those chair bumps were awful to watch!), and we’ve now got a direction for Roman after the title shot! ****
We’re backstage with Enzo Amore and Big Cass… Enzo’s apparently a “southern G”, and he’s apparently on a date tonight. Oh, it’s just an advert for KFC. Moving on!
After a promo piece, Stephanie McMahon dresses down Mick Foley for the “ineffective” shark cage… All four GMs and commissioners are there with the Royal Rumble tumbler, and in comes Sami Zayn to draw his number. He grabs a blue ball, but Dean Ambrose comes in before it can be opened… Dean gets one, but it’s not opened… he opens Sami’s instead, and Zayn’s gotten number 8.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Neville vs. Rich Swann (c)
Swann ducks some shots in the corner early before Neville swipes away a dropkick… a second connects as Swann flies to the outside with a plancha in a fairly fast-paced start.
Neville comes back with a powerslam as he slows things down, going up top for a missile dropkick that barely gets the challenger a near-fall. Swann counters a fireman’s carry into a crucifix pin for a near-fall, before Neville tries for a double armbar as Swann scrambled into the ropes for safety.
A grounded chinlock keeps Swann down, as does Neville throwing him into the barricade, before Neville throws Swann back in and perches up top for another missile dropkick… but Swann hits a superkick to knock Neville to the mat!
Swann turns up the pace when he sent Neville to the outside, then met him there with a Phoenix Splash. Back inside, a roundhouse kick takes down Neville for a near-fall, before a standing frog splash gets a similar result. He tries it off the top rope, but Neville crotches him and goes for his recent dreaded finisher – the superplex!
Swann leaps over Neville to the mat, but quickly takes a superkick as he ran at his challenger, before Swann almost wins it with a superkick. A back heel kick gets a two-count as Neville gets his foot on the ropes at the last second, but Swann takes too long in following up, and Neville joins him up top for a superplex for a near-fall. Neville follows up from the kick-out with the Rings of Saturn… and that’s it! Neville’s crowned the King of the Cruiserweights, and hopefully he’ll get a crown and a cape.
A pretty good match, met with a sheer lack of reaction from the crowd. This presentation of cruiserweights in WWE is so far removed from what we saw last summer in the Cruiserweight Classic, it’s not even funny… ***¼
WWE Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs. John Cena
We’ve got two hours left for two matches. This may be a WrestleKingdom-rival for length…
Styles tries to chop Cena’s legs away, but gets a clothesline in the opening exchanges, as Cena and AJ went back and forth – a back body drop dumping AJ after he’d mocked Cena’s taunts. An enziguiri knocks Cena down as he blocks an initial kick to the thigh, but Cena comes back with some of his moves of doom, until AJ counters a side suplex with a ‘rana.
AJ’s diving clothesline gets him a near-fall, but Cena flapjacks Styles, who replies with a wheelbarrow facebuster for a two-count of his own. A lariat takes AJ down as the pace remains rather deliberate, which sees a superplex attempt countered into a torture rack (of all things) and a helicopter spin as AJ gets a near-fall.
Styles’ springboard misses as Cena follows up with an Attitude Adjustment for a two-count – and at ten minutes into the match, it’s way too early for this to end! Another lariat from Cena gets him a near-fall, and convinces some he’s been binging on his Kojima tapes during his time off, before another lariat misses as Styles hits back with a Pele kick. AJ hits back with a Phenomenal Forearm for a two-count as my feed buffers and stutters. Cena comes back with an Electric Chair Facebuster (and not a One Winged Angel) when my feed becomes watchable, as the pair trade forearm shots back and forth. Another AA attempt is countered as AJ ties in the Calf Crusher, before Cena flips out into the STF, which AJ reverses into one of his own!
Cena stands up out of the STF into an AA, but AJ pops up into a ‘rana… which Cena counters and locks in a figure four as he teases tying Flair’s championship record with the Nature Boy’s old finisher! AJ gets out into an armbreaker, which Cena frees himself by standing up and powerbombing AJ to the mat. With AJ down, Cena climbs the turnbuckles in search of that top rope legdrop that… sometimes works, but this time AJ catches it and turns it into a powerbomb, before a Styles Clash gets him a two-count!
A springboard 450 from AJ gets blocked by Cena’s knees, and John follows up with a Code Red (?!) for a near-fall. AJ hits back with an ushigoroshi (Tye Breaker in NXT land), before the back and forth continues with a catapult to AJ, then a Big Ending-like Cutter for another two-count. Cena goes up top for an avalanche AA, which almost wins it, before a regular AA is countered and turned into a second Styles Clash… but AJ can’t roll over to make the cover!
Another springboard is turned into an AA, but Cena rolls him up for another one… and John Cena wins his 16th world title! That was incredible – the best WWE match I’ve seen for quite some time, and it’s quite fitting that it was a record-tying match that did it. Big Match John does it again! ****¾
Cena celebrated his title win with a Make a Wish kid in the crowd – which is all sorts of class from WWE and Cena. Say what you will about him, but Cena’s worthy of his spot and the accolades he’s piled up.
They replay Seth Rollins’ brief invasion of NXT last night… which leads to nothing but Jerry Lawler’s entrance for the Royal Rumble. Michael Cole tells us all that Seth Rollins isn’t in the Rumble “because he was distracted by music”… and so that one line tells us how dumb wrestlers are for falling for that finish. Corey Graves and Michael Cole join the King on commentary, which makes me thing that Seth’s going to have an angle in the Rumble itself.
Royal Rumble Match
We start with Big Cass at number one, and he’s got Enzo with him for the full entrance… with the crowd helping along! After a LONG, LONG, LONG promo, in which I shaved, grew a beard and shaved again, number two is Chris Jericho – after getting over his time in the shark cage.
Cass replies to a slap by charging Jericho into the corners, following up with a Stinger splash and a fallaway slam, but he doesn’t try to throw out Jericho, instead going for his usual moves – missing with the Empire Elbow. Jericho tries to turn Cass into the Walls of Jericho, but he’s shoved into the corner as number three emerges as… Kalisto! He comes in with a springboard dropkick to Cass, before giving Jericho a handspring overhead kick, then a series of kicks to Cass, who replies with an old-fashioned big boot.
Jericho targets Cass, rather than the downed Kalisto, and number four comes out – Mojo Rawley! Yeah, hear the apathy! Mojo drills Jericho with a running forearm, which looks to have sent Y2J down awkwardly, but he returns to team up with Mojo to try and throw out Cass as the clock counts down to number 5: Jack Gallagher! Gallagher uses the umbrella instantly on Kalisto, then again to crotch Jericho as he opens the umbrella and spins it around Jericho’s midsection. Wonderful!
Sixth out is Mark Henry – who’s barely been around at all in the last three months – and Henry charges straight at Cass. Gallagher headbutts Henry in the midsection, but it isn’t effective as Gallagher gets turfed out through the ropes… so he’s still safe. Cass launches into Henry, but Gallagher comes back flying with the umbrella before Henry throws him over the top for our first elimination… just as the seventh man appears as Braun Strowman!
Everyone cowers from Braun, except Mojo, who tries to punch away, before a Stinger splash just earns him a pop-up chokeslam as Mojo is turfed out. Jericho’s escaped the ring for a breather, just as Cass crotches himself to allow Braun to eliminate him too, before Kalisto gets biel’d out of the ring to the floor! That leaves Braun and Mark for some slobberknocking fun, and Henry’s thrown out as Braun is on fire!
Sami Zayn comes out at number eight – to no surprise – and all of a sudden, this makes sense. Zayn goes straight at Braun, eventually trying for a brainbuster, but he loses it as Braun misses a shoulder charge in the corner. Zayn keeps having a go, but Braun knocks him down with a shoulder tackle as the ninth man out is… the Big Show!
They’re getting the big guys in and out early then! Big Show takes forever for his entrance, as Braun and Show stare holes through each other, but Strowman comes back with a clothesline to drop Big Show to the mat. The crowd chants “ten” in anticipation of our next entrant, and after Braun takes a chokeslam, Jericho rushes in … and his Codebreaker attempt misses as he gets a punch instead. Big Show tries to slam Braun out of the ring, but he loses him as Strowman eventually turfs Show over the top to the floor!
Then comes number ten… and YES! ITS TYE DILLINGER!
Dillinger launches himself at Strowman with leaping forearms, then his mounted corner punches, and now Sami Zayn pops back up to help Tye double-team Strowman. A double suplex is reversed, and we get number eleven in the form of James Ellsworth. Ugh. Carmella encourages him to enter the ring, but his very presence is a distraction as Dillinger and Zayn almost eliminate Braun, but he recovers and drops the pair of them with a shoulder tackle.
Ellsworth still hasn’t gotten in, but our 12th man out is Dean Ambrose, who suckers Ellsworth into the ring, and James gets eliminated via a chokeslam over the top rope. That had to have sucked. Ambrose gets in and tries to shoulder charge Strowman as Tye, Dean and Sami triple-team the big man, who roars back up and flattens everyone once more. Another countdown leads to number 13: Baron Corbin. I forgot WWE had so many big guys on their roster…
Everyone piles onto Braun – except the MIA Jericho – but Braun roars up and tosses Dillinger to a chorus of boos. Zayn uses a beard-assisted jawbreaker to Strowman as Zayn rushes in with a Helluva kick, and Baron Corbin clotheslines Braun out of the match! I think we have our WrestleMania match! Ambrose rushes in with the Dirty Deeds to Corbin, who’s left laying as entrant 14 comes out – and it’s Kofi Kingston!
Kofi flies into Zayn with a dropkick, before his attempt to eliminate him leads to a series of attempted eliminations, as The Miz comes out at number 15. A Skull Crushing Finale dumps Zayn, before Corbin blasts him with the Deep Six after Miz went on a rampage. Kofi climbs up top, and gets knocked off the ring post, but he holds on and comes back into the ring to drop Corbin with the Trouble in Paradise. Number 16 emerges as Sheamus, and he tears into everyone with clotheslines before dishing out backbreakers and back suplexes as if they were going out of style.
Jericho returns to the match as Miz takes some crossface punches, but Jericho’s dropped with a Brogue Kick as he’s left laying once more. Out at number 17 is Big E, and he immediately catches Miz in an abdominal stretch with ass slapping. New Day double-team Miz, who takes a clothesline, whilst Ambrose and Zayn try to eliminate each other. Number 18 comes out as Rusev, wearing a face mask after Kofi broke his nose last week, but it’s Miz and Ambrose, then Zayn who takes avalanches from the Bulgarian.
Sheamus gets a spinning heel kick from Rusev, who then tries to eliminate a few folks, and there’s not much happening until Cesaro comes out in the number 19 slot. Miz takes a Giant Swing briefly, as does Zayn, then Ambrose, then Kofi, and that spot’s lost its meaning by the time Big E barely gets up for it. Baron Corbin gets a brief revolution, before Cesaro catches Sheamus in the hold, but Rusev kicks him out of it before they can get going. Number 20 is Xavier Woods, and he goes straight for Sheamus, as do the rest of the New Day as they stretch him out for a big splash from Big E.
Next out at 21 is Bray Wyatt, who stares down Woods before going for Sister Abigail… and eventually just decks Woods with a clothesline. The 22nd guy is Apollo Crews (remember him?)… and Miz again takes the new guy’s stuff in the form of a standing moonsault from Crews. Sheamus and Cesaro dump all three members of the New Day, before Jericho returns to drop the former tag champions, who go face-to-face after their eliminations. Number 23 is Randy Orton, and yes, Miz takes his first stuff. Corbin takes an RKO, as does Rusev, before Zayn leaps off the middle rope into another RKO. Bray Wyatt celebrates, and he’s safe (for now), and we just kill time before Dolph Ziggler comes out at 24. Dolph dishes out superkicks to all – bar Miz – before Miz and Crews takes a double DDT. They take superkicks eventually, and we’re killing time again until Luke Harper appears at 25.
Harper goes straight for Crews, then backdrops him out of the match as we get a three-way Wyatt staredown. Harper drops Bray with a discus lariat, before Orton’s booted, as he then looks to give Bray a taste of his own medicine… but a Sister Abigal is cut-off with an RKO. Number 26 comes out… and it’s Brock Lesnar! The crowd wakes up as his music hits, and Lesnar immediately throws out Dean Ambrose (reckon he heard the podcast?). Then Ziggler.
German suplexes become the order of the day for anyone left standing, before Miz takes an F5. Then Orton… and the ring is full of prone bodies. Speaking of, number 27 is going to add to that, because it’s Enzo Amore! Enzo runs head-long into the ring, but he puts on the brakes as Corey Graves is wetting himself with excitement… a clothesline dumps Enzo on the mat, and Brock just dumps him like old rubbish.
Sami Zayn’s thrown around a bit, and out comes Goldberg at 28. He’s not bleeding from the forehead this time, so he didn’t headbutt the locker hard again… Spear from Goldberg! Lesnar’s down… and he’s eliminated by a clothesline! That’s two humiliations in a row against Bill!
Corbin takes a clothesline, as does Rusev, before Jericho’s barged down by Goldberg, who then gives Sami Zayn a jackhammer for the hell of it. The Wyatts double-team Goldberg for a spell, but a spear knocks them both down as number 29 appears… and it’s the Undertaker! The Undertaker popped up in the ring behind Goldberg – saving us that long entrance – but everyone breaks up a possible chokeslam. Eventually, Goldberg spears the Undertaker, but the Dead Man eliminates him with ease as the ring cleared a little. We eventually get to number 30, who is Roman Reigns, to the disappointment of those who wanted Finn Balor or Samoa Joe.
At least we got someone of Samoan descent, I guess?
Undertaker and Reigns trade punches, ending with Reigns escaping a chokeslam and hitting a Superman punch. A second one’s caught and turned into a chokeslam, before Miz and Zayn get eliminated by the Dead Man. Reigns hangs on from an attempted elimination, as Jericho jumps into a chokeslam, before Reigns throws the Undertaker out!
Yeah, the crowd did NOT like that elimination… so they’re doing Undertaker/Reigns?
Reigns tries to eliminate Jericho, but he hangs on… before a Superman punch knocks Jericho off the top rope to the floor. It’s now Reigns against the Wyatts, and the numbers game takes hold quickly. A rope-hung DDT dumps Reigns, but Roman escapes a Sister Abigail/RKO with some Superman punches, before he dumps Wyatt… that leaves us with Orton and Reigns, but an RKO and a clothesline settles it, and Randy Orton is going to WrestleMania (although he would have anyway…). As a Rumble, it wasn’t the worst, but it sure did feel odd having no major surprises or legends from the past. I guess nobody picked up the call? The Rumble certainly did set up some teases for WrestleMania – Strowman/Corbin, Undertaker/Reigns, and the continuation of Goldberg/Lesnar. ***
Randy Orton gets the big pyro show, and the four-hour show that some thought was going to spill beyond that ends well short… which isn’t a bad thing!
What Worked: The Royal Rumble worked perfectly to build up several guys – Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin is a real prospect after this, and although it may not be one for the purists, I’m kinda interested now! John Cena vs. AJ Styles is going to be pretty high up a lot of folks’ ballots for match of the year – with just cause!
Owens vs. Reigns was a fun match that made use of the no DQ stuff – and found a way to get Reigns out of the title picture without it being too hokey.
What Didn’t: The Network! I “enjoyed” buffering and varying picture quality on my Roku… others reported dropped feeds and worse. Hopefully WWE didn’t borrow the FloSlam network for this!
I’m not writing it off, but the Cruiserweights have sadly become the new “Women’s match” when it comes to fans looking for beer runs/toilet break matches. When you’ve got smaller guys working the same WWE style – and nothing to differentiate them from the rest of the roster – you’re going to be in trouble…