Feb. 11, 2017
WWE Royal Rumble 2017 Review
This year's Royal Rumble event had much higher expectations than usual, due to the massive hype that surrounded it. Though it didn't exceed expectations, it was pretty much what it was advertised to be.
The major surprise of the night was Randy Orton winning the Royal Rumble. While many informed fans saw this coming from a mile away, Orton's win was a shocker for the casual fanbase.
Also on the show was John Cena winning his 16th world title against AJ Styles in another stellar match. Cena will now defend his title in two weeks inside the Elimination Chamber, where he must overcome five other men to make it into the "main event" of Wrestlemania.
Here is a match-by-match review of the show:
1. Naomi, Becky Lynch, and Nikki Bella defeated Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, and Natalya at 9:35: Nobody will remember this match in a week's time, besides it being Mickie Jame's return match. Naomi pinned Alexa Bliss after a moonsault to get the win for the babyfaces. While I understand the need to get Naomi over for a title match against Bliss, Mickie James deserved a win in her return match. (**)
2. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson defeated Cesaro and Sheamus to win the RAW Tag Team Championships at 10:28: The two-referee stipulation in this match raised this match above average levels. At one point, Sheamus accidentally kicked a referee, but it didn't matter because there was a second referee. The finish came when Anderson rolled up Cesaro with a handful of tights. I'm not opposed to a title change, but doing it in the middle of a pre-show made it meaningless. It would have been more memorable if it was on RAW, as more people would have seen it, and it would elevate RAW and the new champions. (**1/4)
3. Nia Jax defeated Sasha Banks at 5:10: This was a bad match. I'd argue that Nia Jax is the worst worker in the women's division, closely followed only by Carmella. The finish made sense, though. Jax's monster image was boosted and Banks had an excuse with her knee injury. (*)
4. Charlotte Flair defeated Bayley to retain the RAW Women's Championship at 13:05: This match felt important and the fans were into it. Neither women went all out, but the match wasn't designed for them to. Midway through, Charlotte started bleeding out of her mouth, which the commentators did not acknowledge. Charlotte applied the Figure Four Leglock but Bayley reversed the pressure. Late in the match, Charlotte went for a moonsault, but Bayley got her knees up. As both women went to gain control of the top rope, Charlotte knocked Bayley down and hit Natural Selection onto the apron, otherwise known as the "hardest part of the ring." She rolled Bayley in the ring and pinned her to retain her title. I knew Charlotte would retain, but I was not expecting such a clean finish. Hopefully this is only the first in a series of matches that culminate at WrestleMania. (**3/4)
5. Kevin Owens defeated Roman Reigns to retain the Universal Championship at 22:55: The No DQ stipulation was a good call, as it immensely benefited the quality of this match. Before Jericho was locked in the Shark Cage, he and Owens double teamed Reigns. Reigns, of course, overcame the two and locked Jericho in the shark cage. Jericho freaked out as the cage rose over the ring. The match following this was great. Reigns and Owens brawled into the crowd for a little while, before Owens grabbed a bunch of chairs from under the ring and formed a steel chair pyramid. After some back and forth action, Owens frogsplashed Reigns through a table at ringside and regained control in the ring. Jericho, from the shark cage, dropped Brass Knuckles for Owens to use. Those who have seen a "shark cage" match before saw this coming. Owens imitated Reigns and hit a Superman Punch with the knuckles for a near fall. Reigns came back with a Samoan Drop through a chair, and later threw Owens onto the pyramid of chairs built earlier, which looked brutal. After powerbombing Owens through an announce table, Braun Strowman appeared out of nowhere, chokeslammed Reigns on another announce table, and slammed him through a table in the corner. Owens then pinned Reigns to retain his title. This was an awesome match, with a somewhat unexpected twist of Strowman interfering. I wonder if Reigns vs. Strowman is planned for WrestleMania, or if Strowman will simply serve as a detour at Fastlane next month before Reigns goes onto bigger things. (****)
6. Neville defeated Rich Swann to win the WWE Cruiserweight Championship at 14:00: This was dreadful to sit through. The match wasn't bad, but after the epic match that preceded this, the last thing the fans wanted to sit through was 14 minutes of Cruiserweights putting each other in headlocks. There were some nice spots, including Swann hitting a corkscrew flip onto Neville from the outside, but it was just too long for a program with such little intrigue. Neville submitted Swann with his new chokehold to capture the title. Swann isn't bad by any means, but he isn't getting over with the fans, so transferring the belt to a more established star was the right call. (*1/2)
7. John Cena defeated AJ Styles to win the WWE Championship at 24:10: Once again, these two men stole the show. Styles and Cena have amazing chemistry together and it was once again displayed at this show. As the match began, both men stalled for a little bit before getting into the action. The match picked up rather quickly with both men attempting their finishers early on. Styles went for a Phenomenal Forearm but Cena capitalized with an Attitude Adjustment for a near fall. At around the ten-minute mark, Styles hit Cena with the Phenomenal Forearm, which Cena kicked out right at two. Both men exchanged some cool offense, including an Electric Chair Facebuster by Cena and a modified Attitude Adjustment backbreaker from Styles. At one point in the match, Styles reversed the STF with an STF of his own. Cena reversed this counter with a Figure Four Leglock as a tribute to Ric Flair, whose record Cena was looking to tie. As a throwback to their Summerslam match, Cena hit a top rope AA onto Styles, which Styles once again kicked out of. Continuing to emulate their Summerslam classic, Styles almost immediately capitalized with a Styles Clash. But this time, as he went to finish Cena off with the Phenomenal Forearm, Cena caught him with a third AA, followed by a fourth AA to finally finish him off. This wasn't quite as good as their match at Summerslam, but it was tremendous nonetheless. (****1/2)
8. Randy Orton won the Royal Rumble at 1:02:07: BIG CASS entered first with Enzo Amore, who did their spiel. CHRIS JERICHO entered second to an ovation from the crowd. No. 3 was KALISTO, followed by MOJO RAWLEY at No. 4 and JACK GALAGHER at No. 5. Galagher low blowed Jericho with his umbrella and got a nice pop from the crowd. MARK HENRY came out at No. 6 and quickly eliminated Galagher. The idea at this point was to get all the jobbers in at the beginning so the No. 7 entrant, BRAUN STROWMAN, could eliminate them all. After Strowman eliminated everyone but Jericho, who was hiding outside the ring, SAMI ZAYN came out at No. 8. Strowman destroyed him for a little while, until BIG SHOW appeared at No. 9. He and Strowman had a quick back and forth before Strowman impressively eliminated Show. No. 10 was "Perfect 10" TYE DILLINGER, which got a huge pop from the crowd. Dillinger and Zayn double teamed Strowman, but they both were taken out. JAMES ELLSWORTH was next at No. 11, but he refused to get into the ring. No. 12 was DEAN AMBROSE, who tricked Ellsworth into entering the ring and being brutally eliminated by Strowman. BARON CORBIN entered at No. 13. All four men teamed up on Strowman, but TYE DILLINGER was eliminated in the process. Despite this, Corbin managed to eliminate Strowman for a nice pop. I was surprised they eliminated Strowman so early on, as I expected him to be in the mix with the special attractions. This was a missed opportunity.
No. 14 was KOFI KINGSTON, followed by THE MIZ at No. 15. Kingston did his yearly spot, hanging onto the ring post after being knocked down from it. This was a big step down from his usual spots, but we knew he'd eventually have to run out of ideas. No. 16 was SHEAMUS, followed by BIG E at No. 17, RUSEV (with a facemask) at No. 18, and CESARO at No. 19. Cesaro did his Cesaro Swing on a bunch of people, before screwing up after getting dizzy himself. In an awkward spot, he pointed at Baron Corbin to come over and get swung. Next, he accidentally got Sheamus in swinging position, before it was broken up. No. 20 was XAVIER WOODS, followed by BRAY WYATT at No. 21, and APOLLO CREWS at No. 22. Crews got the award for quietest pop of the night. Cesaro and Sheamus eliminated the entire New Day at once. After Sheamus tried to eliminate Cesaro, they bickered before both men were thrown out by Chris Jericho, who had returned from ringside. RANDY ORTON entered at No. 23 and RKO'd a bunch of people. DOLPH ZIGGLER entered at No. 24 and did pretty much nothing. No. 25 was Luke Harper, who went after Orton and Wyatt. He put Wyatt in Sister Abigail position for a nice pop, but Orton RKO'd him. After the fans had waited so long to see a special attraction, BROCK LESNAR entered at No. 26 and beat everyone up. He eliminated Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler. He suplexed a bunch of people until ENZO AMORE came out at lucky No. 27. Lesnar, of course, eliminated him. GOLDBERG entered with an ovation at No. 28. He immediately speared Lesnar and eliminated him, in another major surprise. No. 29 was THE UNDERTAKER, who eliminated Rusev and Baron Corbin. After Goldberg eliminated Luke Harper, he was thrown out by The Undertaker. So much for Goldberg being invincible. As fans marveled in excitement to see who No. 30 would be, out came the last person they wanted to see: Roman Reigns. Roman received thunderous boos and a "This is bullshit!" chant from the crowd. Roman immediately eliminated Chris Jericho. After Undertaker eliminated The Miz and Sami Zayn, Roman Reigns threw out Undertaker from behind and told him, "It's my yard now!" to even more boos. The final three were Wyatt, Orton, and Reigns. As Wyatt and Orton set Reigns up with their finisher combination, Reigns overpowered them and eliminated Wyatt. As the fans thunderously booed in fear Reigns was going to win, Roman went to spear Orton but was caught mid-spear with an RKO, to a massive pop. Reigns then conveniently got up to be eliminated by Orton.
I have very mixed feelings on this match. On one hand, I thought they did a great job setting up the key WrestleMania matches, which appear to be Roman vs. Taker and Goldberg vs. Lesnar. I was shocked that Goldberg annihilated Lesnar again, as I assumed they would even the score to give Lesnar some heat back. A lot of people were disappointed with Reigns being No. 30, but I thought it was the right call to get them where they wanted to go. WWE never guaranteed anyone a huge surprise entrant, and honestly, it's good that they didn't because they would be eliminated anyway. Putting Reigns in the final two was a great strategy, as it got Orton over huge when he eliminated him. The major problem with this match was that it was too contrived. In a match that is supposed to have randomly ordered entrants, it was awfully convenient for the "Perfect 10" to come out at No. 10 and for the three major attractions to be the final five entrants. Not only did the special attractions seem privileged, but they all were eliminated within minutes of entering. WWE put so much effort into advertising these names, but all three of their appearances felt cheapened. Undertaker looked pretty bad physically, as he looked like he was having trouble moving around. Overall, this was a decent Rumble match. They got off to a stale start with all the jobbers coming out first, but it picked up a bit after Braun entered. The final ten minutes were fast-paced and enjoyable, and I like the choice to go with Randy. It's a surprise for sure to many, but Randy has been rejuvenated as an act and going with a surprise winner is a refresher compared to the past five years of Rumble matches. (***1/4)
Overall, this was an above average Rumble. The two world title matches were tremendous, and though I had some problems with the Rumble match, it wasn't enough to hinder the show. I expect Goldberg to win the title against Kevin Owens at WWE Fastlane and to defend it against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. Also at Fastlane, I expect Roman Reigns to challenge Braun Strowman, before moving onto a WrestleMania feud with The Undertaker. I seriously doubt they're going to go with Cena vs. Orton at 'Mania, so look for Cena to drop it to Bray Wyatt in two weeks inside the Elimination Chamber. This isn't my ideal WrestleMania card, but for what it is, WWE did a good job getting where they needed to go tonight. (8/10)