We’re on the road to Wrestlemania, first PPV event for 2017 and the undercard – a series of title matches – was particularly strong. Lots of feuds to end, to re-ignite, to develop; new feuds to kick in, new matches to get set up for WM. And The Royal Rumble has been the signal for so much of that now, and not just the Royal Rumble Main Event.
This year’s event starts very strongly. And this is proof/recognition of just how strong the revamped/rebranded women’s division is – now capable of opening and/or closing PPV events, not merely the filler. So we have Bayley and Charlotte in singles competition and it was perfect heel/face stuff; Charlotte so good, so dominant and Bayley a perfect ‘goodie’ in pursuit. Charlotte proved too strong, too powerful and tactical but the crowd was pretty hot for this – a nice opener. Next up it’s Kevin Owens against Roman Reigns. It’s no DQ but – oddly – they’ve got Chris Jericho hanging in a shark cage above the ring. Can’t he just interfere anyway since there’s no disqualification…okay, okay, I get that’s exactly why he was up there hanging in the cage – so he didn’t interfere. Didn’t mean we didn’t get outside interference but we also got a helluva match, one of the best I’ve seen in a while, and I’m not even that much of a Roman Reigns fan. Owens though is gold – he’ll go at it and give everything he’s got every time. So this was great.
It meant that Neville and Rich Swann’s Cruiserweight Championship lost steam; maybe the crowd was worn out – two great matches on the back of three warm-up bouts too. Time for a break. A brutal submission move from Neville to win the belt from Swann couldn’t make the match mean any more. It was good but no one seemed to care.
John Cena and AJ Styles proved again the potent blend of winning chemistry and solid individual performances. Both go into any match knowing how to deliver, how to sell, how to work. But they also manage to bring out new things in each other and this was fantastic – Cena eventually taking the match but only after delivering seemingly every finisher he could (and more than once).
The Royal Rumble Match was, for me, a disappointment. None of the magic – despite the repeated promos promising so much and reminding that it was the 30th Anniversary of the event.
We have our winner – Randy Orton. And odd winner in the context of the match. And we don’t have a whole lot else. Disappointingly there were no blast-from-the-past cameos. No Brooklyn Brawler-types or Honky Tonk Men. In previous years that’s been a big part of the fun.
This was often a clusterfuck with too many clinging to the ring apron for too long and not doing a whole lot. We had 10-11 men in the ring for quite some time and none of the eliminations were spectacular. It was safe and by rote and often dull-as-dishwater.
The event, overall, solid enough. But no sparkle in this year’s rumble. That seems a missed opportunity. Well, we have a few events before Wrestlemania. And the titles might change hands again as the card starts to take shape for the wrestling calendar’s biggest day.
You can watch Royal Rumble and any/all WWE content exclusively on the network at WWE.com