Match 1: Daniel Bryan retained the WHC in a Steel Cage match in 9-minutes (DOC’S rating - **) (DOC’S note – This was a decent match. Bryan played the role of little annoying heel champ well and bumped around pretty good. I really didn’t think there was much to sink my teeth into until the finish, which I thought boosted the overall profile of this match tremendously. The finishing sequence with Show hanging onto Bryan as the champ hung off the side of the cage was really nicely done. I seriously question, though, if Bryan can make it to Mania as champ. I just don’t see that being the case. I think he cashed in early solely for the purpose of getting him out of the title picture BEFORE Mania)
Match 2: Some Divas wrestled (DOC’S rating - *) (DOC’S note – There was absolutely nothing to get invested in, here, as the champion of the division has been off TV for weeks)
Match 3: Kane and John Cena fought to a count out in 11-minutes (DOC’S rating – **) (DOC’S note - I thought the match was going fine until the predictable non-finish. Kane is really being set-up to look dominant, making me wonder what they have in store for him at Wrestlemania. I can’t imagine someone that has owned John Cena not being involved in a major match, but I can’t for the life of me think of a scenario that’s interesting for him. Kane is such a tired, played out act even with the mask)
Match 4: Brodus Clay defeated Drew McIntyre (DOC’S rating – ½ *) (DOC’S note – I think Clay is entertaining, but I thought it was kind of stupid for an unannounced match like this to take place at the second biggest PPV, arguably, of the year. This was TV fluff. Boo)
Match 5: CM Punk retained the title over Dolph Ziggler in 15-minutes (DOC’S rating - ***1/2) (DOC’S note – I swear if the WWE ever gave these two 25-minutes, they could have the MOTY. There were flashes of brilliance throughout this match, interwoven between the Johnny Ace vs. Punk storyline. I thought Ziggler shined just like he did last year, although this match wasn’t quite as good as the one with Edge. It could’ve been much better, but the final few minutes rightly focused on the central figures in this feud. I thought Punk was showcased well, here. Whatever he does at Wrestlemania will benefit from his strong booking tonight. I wonder when the payoff will come for the story with Ace, though. I can’t imagine it will be tomorrow night; not with all the TV time spent on it. I wonder if it has the legs to get all the way to Mania – a scenario I don’t favor, but think could be possible. Ziggler will hopefully not go back to being just another mid-card guy like he did last year)
Match 6: Sheamus won the Royal Rumble in 55-minutes (DOC’S rating - ***3/4) (DOC’S note – This was a good Rumble, cut from the same mold as the Rumble last year in that there were several fun moments to go along with a lot of standard, Rumble-style action. The difference between this year and last year was the final few minutes. When Orton got eliminated from the match and it came down to Jericho vs. Sheamus, the reaction from me and the guys I was watching with was, “OK, Jericho’s got it.” Well, my hat is off to those two. What a helluva final few minutes we got out of those two. Sheamus winning was a great moment, as he’s one of my new favorites. It’s about damn time that he did something important, after being pushed well ever since turning face, but having little to show for it. He’s a combination of size, strength, agility, and charisma that you won’t often find. It was the right call to elevate him to the next level. I guess the question now becomes: Who does he face? The multi-man scenario is looking more and more likely, but I wouldn’t count out Orton or Barrett winning the Elimination Chamber. My money is on Orton. I’m curious to see what kind of story that they can put together. They’ve wrestled numerous times in the past with mixed results. I just don’t see Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus as a main-event at a PPV much less a Mania, so I suspect the belt either gets put on a more established guy like Orton or they go with a multi-man scenario. The wildcard is also Mark Henry, but his health is a MAJOR concern right now)
Backstage skits and interviews (DOC’s rating - ***) (DOC’s note – The video packages for Rock vs. Cena really got me thinking about Mania. They seemed, to me, to be setting the stage for Cena to turn heel. There’s just too much focus on the haters right now for that not to come into play in a more significant way in the coming months. Anyhow, those were a nice way of reminding everyone of what’s really at stake in 2 months. This is not just WWE star vs. WWE star; this is a media force of one generation against the media force of another)
Doc’s PPV Rating System
0-1.5 stars = Demand a refund and don't take no for an answer. If it was this bad, they should pay you to watch the next two PPVs, at least. (Great American Bash 2005)
1.75-2.25 stars = A below average PPV that wasn't worth the money spent watching. (Survivor Series 2010)
2.5-2.75 stars = An average to above average event that was worth watching on that given night. (Wrestlemania XXVII, Survivor Series 2011)
3.0-3.25 = A really good show that you'd buy on DVD and watch again (Money in the Bank 2011, Summerslam 2011)
3.5 = This is how PPV should be done (Summerslam 2002)
3.75-5.0 = You never thought a PPV could be this good...
Royal Rumble 2012’s Final Score = **1/4 (DOC’S note – I won’t say that it was not worth the money, as there was some good stuff at the Rumble this year. However, I will say that it was not as good as last year’s event, overall. I’d put it more on par with the 2010 Rumble, which was solid yet unspectacular with few exceptions. The Rumble and the WWE title match, along with the Cena-Rock videos, were clearly the highlights of the show. I don’t think anyone will ever write books about how awesome the 2012 Rumble PPV turned out to be, but we’re on the Road to Wrestlemania now and it’s about to get more interesting. Thus, it’s hard to complain too much)
My apologies, dear readers, for I am about to jump off the Wrestlemania hype train and join about every other columnist on the internet on the road to the Royal Rumble. I just watched the 2007 version to help get myself in the Rumble spirit and I feel compelled to pause the Wrestlemania Countdown until tomorrow. This is a time of year where I get really excited about the current product and this year, thus far, is no exception. As promised months ago, I have (for the most part) taken the critic hat off for the next few months to fully enjoy – in a different way – the Road to Wrestlemania 28. When you get a match like Rock vs. Cena – a literal once-a-decade kind of match – then I think burdening yourself with backstage rumors, spoilers, and trying to rate everything gets a little tedious. I’ve been there; I’ve done that. Let’s change it up a little bit, shall we?
The Rumble is Sunday and this will serve as a spot for both my PREview and my REview of the event. Looking at the numbers, the Rumble has basically become the second biggest PPV of the WWE year. While Summerslam buys continue to dip every year, the Rumble is holding on strong in the range of 450,000. That’s pretty outstanding and is thanks in no small part to the ramifications that the Rumble PPV has for Wrestlemania. Business trends are fascinating. The WWE’s overall business has declined in recent years, but Wrestlemania business remains better than ever. The Rumble gets some rub from that. Over the last four years, the WWE has created some added drama around the Rumble match, specifically, by having the winners from 2008-2011 fail to capture the gold in their Mania title matches. There’s a storyline waiting to happen there after four straight Rumble winners blanked on the grand stage. I’m curious to see if this year’s winner will be reminded of that streak. I’m also curious to see how the buyrate turns out. The past couple of Rumble events have suffered from an extreme lack of hype for the actual Battle Royal. Perhaps one or two guys have made their intentions clear, but for the most part the superstars kept quiet about it. The focus has, instead, been on the title matches in the undercard.
Call me crazy, but there are several potential winners this year and each have both cut a promo claiming that they’ll win (or something close to winning in Y2J’s case) and have been booked very strong in their matches to make them look like credible World/WWE title threats for Mania. My wife loves the show, Glee. It’s actually quite entertaining, skeptical males. One of the reasons it works is because the focus is on so many different characters. It’s very diverse. That’s the 2012 Royal Rumble…and almost 100% of the credit for that goes to the Smackdown brand. Yes, Raw has been pretty good the last two weeks and Chris Jericho has got to be considered the prohibitive favorite to win the 30-man match. However, SD’s World title situation is compelling on multiple levels. I wonder who the WWE originally wanted as the champion heading to Mania. Randy Orton has taken over for Edge as the face of the brand. Mark Henry was so impressive as champion that it once seemed like a shoe-in that he’d be the guy walking into Miami with the belt, but he got injured. He’s impressively still working a full-time schedule despite the limitations of the injury, but Daniel Bryan has done a great job as a character since cashing in MITB. Because there are legitimately three guys (four if you count Show) that could realistically still become champ by the tail end of February, you could make a case that the most intriguing way to further that situation would be for a SD star to win the Rumble. Sheamus comes to mind, here. The Celtic Warrior has done very little in the last year, but he has been booked like a top guy for the last six months – they just haven’t pulled the trigger, yet. He’s over, he can talk, and he can wrestle. For him to a headliner at Mania would not be a stretch of the imagination. Wade Barrett also comes to mind. He’s doing great work. He, along with Cody Rhodes, is ready and able to make the jump to the main-event whenever called upon. Speaking of Rhodes, he’s on the outside looking in for this conversation, but he’s still an option.
The most likely candidate from SD to win would be Orton. The Rumble is in STL. It makes sense. One reason to favor Orton is that Wrestlemania – because the Rumble winner is 0 for the last 4 Mania attempts – has lacked that classic story of a top babyface winning the Rumble and winning the title. He had such a great year in 2011 and will likely be lost in the shuffle at Mania behind 3 other matches, so why not deservedly elevate his match for the World title by having him win the Rumble and end the mini-streak? I think it makes sense and that it’s the best scenario for Orton, assuming that something bigger isn’t planned for him (which is a lot to assume right now, granted). The other most likely winner is Chris Jericho. Since coming back, he’s been very quiet (which I’ve loved). The rumor has been for months that he’ll face CM Punk at Mania. A victory for Jericho would be another feather in the cap for his career and set-up the match with Punk logically, giving them plenty of room in the 2 months that followed to build their story. Of course, Mania would lack that babyface challenger conquering all to win the gold for a fifth straight edition, but what it gives up on the front it would gain in ensuring that Punk is made to look like a big star in front of a sizably larger viewing audience than usual. It is important that Punk vs. Jericho, if it does happen, be for the WWE Championship. Punk needs to gain traction as a top star and anything less than a WWE title match for him would not fully accomplish what he needs in the short or long-term to be thought of as “Austin worthy,” as I’ll call it for the next year.
My pick is Jericho. I’d love to see it come down to Orton and Jericho in a situation similar to HBK and Taker from ’07 where they’re given about 5 or so minutes by themselves to create a rivalry (or continue one, I guess) for the future. Doc’s Note – I wouldn’t be shocked if The Rock wins the Rumble. The thing about “any WWE superstar” being eligible may be nothing or it may be important – Rock winning would be satisfying in the short-term, but a waste in the long-term. Rock-Cena needs no title to be amazing and draw huge at the box office. I’m not sure adding the title helps it, but I’m quite sure that adding the title to their match takes away from CM Punk.
Any match that may look likely after the Rumble event will be competing for air time and fan reaction with Cena vs. Rock. That’s a fact of life. The question is how we get to Cena vs. Rock. The “Embrace the Hate” campaign from Kane has been solid TV. It’s not blowing the LCD off my TV, but it’s a good in-between feud for Cena right now. I’m curious to see how the booking of the match will play out. I hope this is treated like a blow off, as I think they can have a very good match in those circumstances. I suspect a DQ or something of the sort will go down, leading to a future Raw match, though. At this point with Cena, I just want them to cut the crap and move on to non-stop Rock-Cena hype. There’s plenty of material for them to work with for the next 2 months. The only question is whether or not Cena gets a title shot. My hope? This was just an exercise to give Cena something to do, while introducing something for his character to do until Mania season officially begins. Cena wins at the Rumble to look strong heading toward April.
Last year, the WWE used the extra viewers brought about by the Rumble to showcase new guys that would be focal points at Wrestlemania. Guys like Miz, Punk, and Del Rio (Ziggler to a lesser extent) were made to be highlights of that night and it worked well in the long-term. They were the stars of the event last year. This year, a similar opportunity exists for Daniel Bryan if they want him as the champion going into Mania. I don’t necessarily think that it is the plan for that to happen. I have never thought of Bryan as a World title guy for Mania. Never. However, his heel turn has played out so well that I have little doubt that there’ strong consideration to keeping the title on him until Mania. I also think that they’ll consider a Fatal Fourway with Orton, Bryan, Sheamus, and Henry – so much so that I want to make that my official prediction for the Mania WHC match. This cage match at the Rumble should be a good one and I expect Bryan to find a way to win, setting up the story of him escaping with the title by the skin of his teeth for the next few months. However, it should be interesting to see if he can make it to Mania. If Orton wins the Rumble, there could be a lot of rumblings (pun intended) that Barrett or Henry could take the title before Mania.
The WWE title match should be great. Ziggler is awesome. His mic work has been limited, but excellent. This whole scenario with Johnny Ace seems like a classic “stack the deck against the babyface so he comes out looking strong” scenario. Think Austin vs. Foley with Vince as the ref from 1998. I fully expect that Punk will find a way to win, but if the WWE wants the title off Punk before Mania, then this is the ideal time to pull the trigger. Ziggler would be a good transition champ to get the belt on Cena, if they go that route. Here’s hoping that Punk wins after a great match with awesome crowd heat. An early MOTY contender? Possibly…