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Posted in: My Two Centsss
My Two Centsss - Reflecting on the Positives of (Another) Disheartening Royal Rumble
By Super Chrisss
Jan 30, 2017 - 1:22:49 PM

Tom Jenner rocks!

Last week on his podcast “The Doc Says…”, my old friend and colleague from Lords of Pain stated that he wanted to take two things away from the 2017 Royal Rumble: a great show and one that leaves fans almost universally excited about the Road to WrestleMania, which has not happened since arguably 2009.

Well, The Doc got one of his predictions right. The 2017 Royal Rumble, with the exception of the final five minutes of the Rumble match, will probably go down as one of the greatest Rumble cards in WWE history. With the exception of Charlotte vs. Bayley, every match exceeded expectations and the only filler was one commercial after another in-between contests (for the record, I don’t mind ads airing during Network specials: I’ll gladly sit through some dumb KFC bullshit if it means keeping the price tag at $9.99/month, thank you very much!). Unfortunately, despite the Rumble winner being someone who only a handful of people predicted beforehand, we are only twelve hours removed from the event and there is already a sour taste in people’s mouths heading into WrestleMania season. But instead of focusing on the negatives, let’s discuss last night’s show in a pro-con format, shall we?

PRO: The Royal Rumble felt and looked like WrestleMania

It was WWE’s goal to try and fill the San Antonio Alamodome with as close to full capacity as possible. Therefore, they made sure to advertise plenty of their top stars (Lesnar, Goldberg, Undertaker) for the Rumble ahead of time while also booking the two biggest world title matches – given the roster and storylines – they could. In the end, they may have missed the mark, but having over 50,000 fans in attendance for a non-WrestleMania ain’t too shabby. The huge crowd and accompanying atmosphere gave the event a big-night feel, even if it resulted in wrestlers taking AGES to make their way down to the ring. Aesthetically, the show looked and felt like a big deal, which made the matches feel special accordingly.

CON: The Charlotte Flair Show continues and I’m done with it

When I made my Royal Rumble predictions last week, I knew with 100% certainty that Charlotte would retain her title against Bayley. I know Charlotte has her ridiculous undefeated at a Pay-Per-View streak going and I didn’t see it ending at the Rumble. However, I thought Charlotte’s win over Bayley would put her at 12-0 or something, but when Michael Cole revealed that Charlotte is now 16-0 on PPV, that’s when I lost my shit. Not only have Charlotte’s PPV matches been lackluster since she defeated Nikki Bella to begin her reign as the Queen of PPV (ugh), but her constantly winning takes away from the suspense factor in her matches. How can you really invest in her matches when there’s a 99.9% chance she’s going to win? I’m sorry, but Charlotte is extremely over-rated. Other than her Raw (not PPV) matches with Sasha Banks, Charlotte consistently under-performs in the ring and her promos are god-awful, as she constantly gets lost and rattled by crowd chants. Sasha Banks should have emerged the winner of their feud and be heading for a show-stealing match with Bayley at WM33. Instead, poor Sasha is busy getting squashed by Nia Jax on the pre-show while Bayley is making Charlotte look strong (remind you of someone?). For weeks, Charlotte has played a major factor in my lack of motivation to watch Raw and her match – and win – over Bayley last night did nothing to change my mind.

PRO: Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns put on a surprisingly great match

Going into the Royal Rumble, I have a feeling I wasn’t the only one who gave next to no fucks about this match. These guys have been feuding for what feels like an eternity, and during that time, Reigns has made both Owens and Chris Jericho his bitches week-in and week-out (at house shows too, apparently). Based on their snooze fest from Roadblock, and many people feeling confident that KO’s time as champ was up, expectations were extremely low heading into this match.

Yet, both men put on a very well-worked, highly entertaining contest last night. Aside from the typical Super Reigns nonsense (Reigns overcoming the 2-on-1 before the match started, Reigns kicking out of a Brass Knuckles Superman Punch, etc.), the No-DQ stipulation helped these guys deliver a four-star performance. In fact, this was probably Reigns’ best singles match since his Extreme Rules clash with AJ Styles last April. The storytelling was done right, the near-falls were nerve-wrecking and I loved the ending. I never saw Braun Strowman interfering to screw Reigns out of the title, even though it makes sense, storyline-wise. Hell, a lot of people were predicting for Seth Rollins to run down and screw KO as a way of getting back at The Authority. True, KO needed help from not one, but two men this time around to retain his title, but I’m much more interested in KO leaving the Rumble as Universal Champion than Roman Reigns. Plus, it opened the door for Chris Jericho to possibly win the Rumble later on…

CON: Speaking of Rollins, where the hell was he last night???

Leave it to WWE to book an awesome moment at NXT TakeOver with Rollins rushing the ring and calling out Triple H only to do nothing to advance the storyline the very next night (I love NXT and TakeOver, but there are WAY more eyeballs on the Rumble, let’s be serious for a moment). I know they showed a clip of Rollins’ actions at TakeOver during the Rumble, and mentioned how Seth would confront Stephanie FACE TO FACE (WOW!) the next night on Raw since she had banned Seth from the building but seriously, that’s it? You purposely leave your number one overall draft pick out of the entire Royal Rumble broadcast to further a storyline that would have continued on Monday regardless if Rollins made an appearance or not? Seriously? That’s just dumb. Out of all the interesting scenarios they could have booked (Seth trying to get into the building, Seth emerging through the crowd and causing chaos in the Rumble, etc.) they went with the most boring option of all: give Seth the night off. Bravo, WWE.

PRO: The King of the Cruiserweights rightfully takes his throne

To the surprise of no one, the crowd did not give a fuck about Neville taking on Rich Swann, but at least they were respectful enough not to hijack it with random chants. That being said, Neville and Swann put on a highly entertaining match that was unjustly treated as the bathroom break for many in attendance. The commentators (a.k.a. the best announce team in the business today) did a great job of telling the story in the ring, as did the lengthy pre-match promo (which I’m surprised they even got). Despite the hot potatoing of the Cruiserweight title, Neville winning the belt was 100% the correct decision as he is the biggest name in the division by far and it’s also Neville’s first championship gold since leaving NXT. Unless they book a multi-man Cruiserweight clusterfuck at WM33 (and they probably will), the only way the division can get back on track is if Neville vs. Jack Gallagher is the direction they’re planning to go in before April. Considering Gallagher was the ONLY Cruiserweight to compete in the Rumble, I’d say that’s a fair prediction, wouldn’t you?

PRO: John Cena and AJ Styles tore down the house, as expected

Although Reigns and Owens did the best they could, there was never any chance they were going to surpass the quality of Styles vs. Cena III. But that’s ok, because no one expected them to. Despite this being their third PPV match (fifth if you include their battles at Battleground and No Mercy which featured other participants), the crowd was hyped from start to finish. For as much of a draw as the Royal Rumble match is, I’d argue that Styles/Cena ranked right up there in terms of fan anticipation. Since 2010, our expectations for the Rumble match – and winner – have increasingly shrunk, but at least everyone knew Styles vs. Cena would deliver. And deliver they did. From Cena teasing a heel turn by going for multiple lariats on AJ, to Styles being the first and only man to ever kick out of a Super AA on more than one occasion, to the closing moments which saw Cena channel some Shinsuke Nakamura by hitting AJ with his finisher multiple times to ensure the victory, it was such a good match that Cena’s victory got a huge pop from the same crowd who had given him the standard 50/50 reaction twenty minutes earlier. Or maybe they were simply excited by the potential of Cena vs. ‘Taker at WM, despite Cena tying the record? I guess we’ll never know. Great match that I think I enjoyed more than their SummerSlam encounter but it’s a close call, either way.

MAJOR CON: The Rumble match was evidence that it’s a New Era in WWE, but only between the months of April and December

I don’t want to be one of those guys who flat-out hated the Rumble match, because there were some good moments. I liked the storyline progression/flashbacks between Zayn and Strowman, Ambrose/Ellsworth/Strowman, Ambrose and Miz, New Day and Sheasaro, and of course, The Wyatt Family. Tye Dillinger coming out at 10 was a nice surprise, not because it was a novel idea, but because I didn’t think WWE would have the balls to do it. As mentioned earlier, Jack Gallagher being the only Cruiserweight to enter the Rumble out of the dozen-or-so guys in the division (including the champ and former champ(s)), should give you an indication of how officials view Gallagher. But man, there were so many let-downs, wasted opportunities and legit WTF moments.

I’m not even going to waste my time bitching about Roman Reigns being entry number 30 instead of at least half a dozen more interesting names. That’s a joke and a waste of time. Actually, that’s WWE trolling the audience and encouraging at least 25,000 people to chant “Bullshit” DURING A ROYAL RUMBLE. WHAT DID THEY THINK WAS GOING TO HAPPEN? I’m not going to say anything else about that because I’m getting a headache just revisiting it in my mind.

As wrestling fans, we’re asked to suspend our beliefs on a regular basis, but you want me to sit here and believe it was “luck of the draw” that the part-timers in Lesnar, ‘Taker and Goldberg all pulled numbers between 26 and 30? Stop it. If that wasn’t bad enough, Lesnar hits the ring and immediately eliminates both Ambrose and Ziggler as if they were James Ellsworth and Curt Hawkins. First off, fuck you for once again putting your part-timers over the guys who have been helping carry SmackDown on their backs since the brand split. Then, Lesnar is yet again quickly disposed of and eliminated by Goldberg. Yeah, I can’t wait to see Lesnar and Goldberg wrestle one more match! I wonder if Lesnar can get his ass kicked even quicker this time around. Fuck that.

Once Undertaker is responsible for eliminating Goldberg (because THAT match would be amazing…not), it doesn’t take long for The Big Dog (STOP CALLING HIM THAT) to piss off the crowd even further by eliminating The Deadman and possibly setting up a WM clash between the two. After all, who needs Taker vs. Cena or Taker vs. Styles when we can get Taker vs. Reigns instead, right? Fuck off.

Finally, instead of giving the Rumble win to someone who could benefit from the magnitude of that kind of victory, Reigns eliminates both Jericho and Bray Wyatt leaving Randy Orton as our only hope against the Roman Empire main-eventing WrestleMania for the third year in a row. Although Orton does manage to get the win, realization soon sets in that John Cena is the new WWE Champion. As a result, there are many fans who went to bed thinking the main-event of WM will be Orton vs. Cena for the 108048th time. Obviously, that will probably change thanks to the Elimination Chamber in two weeks’ time, but is that really the lasting thought of the Rumble you want to leave your viewers with? Sad, if so.

I’m not even upset about the lack of surprise entrants in Samoa Joe, Kurt Angle, Finn Balor, etc. What bothers me is WWE took a major dump on their full-time stars (who will be at WrestleMania in five years’ time, while the part-timers won’t) while simultaneously running back to their ‘safety blanket’ of Cena and Orton. You know who carried SmackDown TV tapings, live events and Pay-Per-Views for the majority of 2016 while Cena and Orton were taking time off, having kids and filming TV shows? Styles, Ambrose, Miz and Ziggler. By the time the Rumble ended, none of those guys have any direction or WM33 feud on the horizon. Instead, Cena is the WWE Champion, Orton is the Rumble winner, while Goldberg/Lesnar and Taker/Reigns look like locks for WM. That’d fucking sad, man. That’s really sad.

There were so many interesting options on the table for WM with Owens retaining and Cena winning the gold. Finn Balor, Chris Jericho or Sami Zayn would have made for compelling Roads to WM on the Raw side; meanwhile, Bray Wyatt, Undertaker, The Miz or even Dean Ambrose winning from SmackDown would have set up an interesting road to Cena at WM. Instead, we have to – once again – adopt the ‘wait and see’ approach and hope for some major shake-ups at the February PPVs.

Screw that, man. I’m tired of being patient and hoping everything will work out in the end. The only reason it worked out in 2014 is because CM Punk quit, fed up of the company’s bullshit and favoritism of part-timers, giving WWE no choice but to push Daniel Bryan (source: Daniel Bryan’s autobiography). When Reigns won the Rumble in 2015, we had to go into WrestleMania 31 PRAYING that Rollins would cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase. Last year, we all rejoiced when Reigns was eliminated from the Rumble by Triple H, but The Game’s eventually victory meant we would still get Reigns vs. HHH at ‘Mania regardless, and look how well that worked out. This year, with the Orton win, are we truly confident they won’t do Orton vs. Cena since a) they haven’t fought since 2014 and b) they never had a one-on-one match at WrestleMania? That, along with possible stinkers of Show vs. Shaq and Goldberg vs. Lesnar elsewhere on the card, WM33 is already shaping up to be a skippable show and we still have two months to go before the event even happens.

That, folks, is what’s truly sad.


YOUR Two Centsss: Based on the events of last night, what's your current excitement level for WrestleMania season?

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