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Posted in: Oliver's Twist
Oliver's Twist: The Best Rumble Match In Years?
By Oliver
Jan 27, 2014 - 11:00:00 AM

Hello, webfriends, and welcome back to yet another instalment of Oliver’s Twist! Now, I'm just done with watching Royal Rumble 2014 and I have to say I fully enjoyed the PPV from top to bottom. Whilst I felt a little short changed by the ‘match’ between Brock Lesnar and Big Show, I wasn't aware of the injury to the latter until after viewing and in that context it makes sense. Similarly, whilst I didn't necessarily get grabbed around the neck and pulled in by John Cena vs Randy Orton for their ninth one on one pay per view match ever, I still think they put on a good match. Outside of these two, the obvious highlights are the opening bout of the pay per view, where Bray Wyatt put forth his best showing in the ring since being called up to the main roster against Daniel Bryan – I think he might well have finally put his detractors to bed now – and the main event of the evening, the Royal Rumble match itself.

To my mind, this was the best Rumble match since 2009 easily, and if not then the best since 2004 in my opinion. The elements were all there in the run up, with multiple storylines established that could be told within the 30 man match, allowing WWE to build their Rumble house on strong foundations. Was the ending what I wanted? No. But that should not detract from what led towards the finish.

Starting with Punk vs Rollins was an inspired stroke, allowing the main story of The Authority vs CM Punk to be prominent in the mind from the off. With The Shield having been lackeys for Triple H and company since SummerSlam last August, it makes sense that they would want to position one of ‘their’ guys to have a shot at eliminating Punk one on one before anybody else touched the ring. Of course, this removes kayfabe thinking but the premise of the random draw was surely lost long ago, and whilst I'm perfectly happy to buy into it whilst watching it seems pointless when looking at the detail of such things. When you continue to look at the match, as a whole, it’s reasonably easy to see that Punk was the target of every representative of The Shield as well as Kane for a large proportion of the match; indeed, at one point he was the target of both of them, with Rollins holding Punk down when the Big Red Machine entered the ring. A great storytelling point was the entrances of The Shield, as we saw Punk mix it up with Ambrose, Reigns and Rollins from the moment each man entered the ring and on multiple further occasions between the ropes, building the story of Punk vs The Authority.

And of course, this story would reach its climax nearly 50 minutes after it began, with Kane hauling Punk over the top rope and delivering a chokeslam that sent him through the Spanish announce table. Those chaps have probably had to commentate on more minutes of pay per views without a table than they have with one. Poor old Carlos and Marcelo. The method of elimination sets up the much rumoured rematch between CM Punk and HHH at WrestleMania, and it’s interesting to consider what they might do given the high quality of their match at Night of Champions in 2011. Presumably, Kane will be in the way come Elimination Chamber, but he’s more like a sleeping policeman than a full roadblock and I'm sure Punk will overcome him to get his match with the head of The Authority.

Perhaps, though, the best story in the match was told by the aforementioned lackeys of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon – The Shield, and not least the rise of Roman Reigns. From their promo earlier in the night, we knew that The Shield were entering as a deadly unit, ready to take out the other 27 guys in the Rumble before fighting amongst themselves for the WrestleMania main event, and we saw that as the match progressed. When Rollins was in trouble on the apron just as Reigns entered, instead of running into the front of the ring the muscle of The Shield went round to the outside and dropkicked Punk in the head, freeing his teammate to re-enter the ring and find safety. Earlier in the match Rollins would save Ambrose from R-Truth, and when necessary two or three of them would come together to take on bigger foes such as Kevin Nash or The Great Khali. It was teamwork in action, yet unlike in 2011 when the New Nexus ruled The Shield managed to not stop the match in order to do it – they instead worked around the others, keeping the momentum flowing within the match.

Of course, it couldn’t last, and as expected we saw the dissension hinted at in their mid-show promo come to a head as Ambrose tried to take advantage of a distracted Reigns, only for the big man to hold on and then take out both of his buddies and Antonio Cesaro (who was probably a sleeper candidate for Rumble MVP) in one big show of strength. My favourite Reigns moment, for the record, was him catching Kofi Kingston in mid-air and then just powering up to throw him clean over the top rope. Mostly because I laugh at Kingston’s misfortunes, admittedly. However, that sort of thing is why I think we have to expect big things from Roman this summer – he’s impressive enough in terms of stature and ability to ascend the card very quickly. Alongside him engaging full beast mode we also saw a strong showing from Seth Rollins, who’s longevity was only bettered by CM Punk himself, and Ambrose who clocked the second most eliminations of the night after Batista and, of course, his Shield partner. But the unity and subsequent dissension within The Shield was a wonderful microcosm of storytelling for their whole career in the WWE to date – entering as a team, before Ambrose and Reigns seemed to pull them apart with Rollins trying to act the peacemaker. Indeed, the only way it could have been enhanced would have been to see Reigns and Rollins working together while Ambrose played the lone wolf, tying in to their roles in The Shield to date when it comes to being title holders.

By telling the story of The Shield on top of the Punk tale covered above, we actually saw a densely packed Royal Rumble, the stories weaving together, then breaking apart, before coming back together again and again. There were two main stories in the Royal Rumble 2014, and over the hour we saw the beginning, middle and end of each one. What I found, though, really lifted this Rumble above the average was the number of little sub-plots tied in. It seems like every year we see smaller things that mean something, whether it be the elimination of tag team partners or two friends facing off – last year we saw Team Hell No eliminate each other, and previously we’ve seen Daniel Bryan face off with his mentor William Regal. Unfortunately, it often felt like these little storylines were dealt with too quickly, or all centred on one point of the Rumble – referring back to the 2011 event once again, all the stories were gone by the time the New Nexus were eliminated, and the second half of the match was simply a slow walk towards Alberto’s win. But this time they spread things out perfectly, to my thinking – whether it was Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes going at each other with all their history, Goldust eliminating his brother, Alexander Rusev’s much anticipated debut…the list continues – there were little story titbits littered across the match.

I was especially impressed with Rusev’s debut – despite tipping him in an earlier column of mine (and pretty regularly in The NXT Review right here…on LordsofPain.net!) I was caught off guard by his appearance last night, and especially by how well he showed off his skill set. I’ve often used Umaga as his nearest reference point, an agile beast as it were, and I feel like we saw that from his spinning heel and jumping thrust kicks last night, as well as him being the obligatory multi-man elimination. Rusev looked mighty last night, and hopefully it continues as he could be a major player. In the same way, we saw the potential of Big E Langston come to the fore last night, as he was immediately thrust in to an important position and showed his ability against both Sheamus and Batista – a sign, I feel sure, that he will have a big impact in the years to come.

One other thread I’d like to just pull up is how impressive Antonio Cesaro looked last night. I’ve already said he could be a sleeper candidate for the MVP of the Rumble, and when you look at his spots in the match, from spinning the former Tyler Black 25 (I think, although I may have lost count) times to having slugfests with both Luke Harper and Sheamus in the middle of the ring that were the focus of the camera. I’ve been a big fan of the Real American since he debuted in WWE having had little knowledge of him prior to that, and I felt like he really earned his moments in the spotlight last night. That he was leathering the ever loving piss out of people, something I will always enjoy, helped. Cesaro is someone who I think might have a real breakout year now – he’s got the talent to work a match at the top of the card and a strong set of signature moves. Tie that to his look and strength and it’s quite easy to see him at the top of the card. These little stories really add something to the overall feel of the Rumble, and keep the momentum of the match going through its sometimes lacklustre middle.

Long story short – take out the disappointing result, and what you’re left with is a multi-layered, interesting Royal Rumble. So if you’ve got a bitter taste in your mouth right now because the result was exactly what many had anticipated since the news of Batista’s return broke – go back and watch the Royal Rumble again in a couple of days’ time. I think you’ll find it a rewarding experience.

What about you, though? Did you enjoy the Rumble match? Leave me a comment below, or drop me a Tweet (@MrOlliB) or an email using the link at the top of the page. Until we twist again, stay safe when crossing the road and drink more hot chocolate! Selamat Tinggal!

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