It’s time for a rumble! It’s time for the ROYAL RUMBLE! 30 superstars vie for a WrestleMania title shot tonight! Plus five other titles will be decided!

royal_rumble_2017

It’s the 30th annual Royal Rumble, and the 25th time that the match will give the winner the option of wrestling in one of the main events of the April 2nd event in Orlando. Unlike the last few years, this year’s winner isn’t at all obvious and the show could go in any number of directions, which makes everything more exciting.

The Royal Rumble was always one of my favorite shows of the year, because of the feeling that anything can happen in the 30-man match, but the last few years have been real disappointments, unfortunately. I’m hoping things turn around tonight, though, because there is a lot of potential for some amazing things to lead into WrestleMania.

Pre-Show

Becky Lynch, Nikki Bella and Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss, Mickey James and Natalya 

Let’s see, former SmackDown Women’s champion Lynch has issues with current champ Bliss and the returning James. Bella is in the midst of a feud with Natalya. Naomi is thrown in there because we need an extra body. James is also back in the WWE after several years in TNA and a return to NXT in November. I would have preferred this to be a grudge match between Bella and Natalya here with a tag match between the rest of the competitors on the main card. Like most of these multi-woman matches, this was time filler with nothing really of note going on. Naomi gets the win with a pin on Champion Bliss, which means she will be the next one in line for a title match… which should be predictable considering the other women on the team are feuding already. It’s the pre-show, no one should expect six stars.

Cesaro and Sheamus (c) vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson – Raw Tag Team Championship 

Cesaro and Sheamus have gone from wacky tag team partners who hate each other to a pretty fun set of tag team champions, while Gallows and Anderson, who had a lot of people excited when they came in, have largely been a disappointment. Gallows and Anderson got a false finish win over the champs on a recent Monday Night Raw where they thought they won the titles to set up this match. You figure Cesaro and Sheamus would retain here given how useless the other team has been on Raw, but no. After a knocked out referee and a little bit of brawling, Anderson uses the ROLL-UP OF DOOM to pin Cesaro for the titles. Pretty surprised at the finish, since there’s little else for Cesaro and Sheamus to do. Where do they go from here, though? Not really sure outside of rematches.

Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax 

Banks spent the last few months trading the Raw Women’s Title back and forth with Charlotte and she came out on the short end there, so now she’s on the pre-show fighting Nia Jax. Jax ended up hurting Banks’ knee a few weeks ago and continues her dominance over the Boss here tonight. Building Nia Jax up as a tough-to-beat monster is a smart way to go, and since Banks has little else to do, it makes sense for her to be the sacrificial lamb. Thankfully for her, it’s on a pre-show, so no one will remember it in a few weeks.

Royal Rumble 2017!

It’s officially the Road to WrestleMania! Live from San Antonio, Texas, in the Alamo Dome, the show kicks off with a title match, since all but the main event are title matches…

Charlotte Flair (c)  vs. Bayley – Raw Women’s Championship 

Charlotte boasts that she never loses on Sundays and Bayley has her first shot at the Raw Women’s Championship after having beaten Charlotte on her way to ruling the roost in NXT. These two had a lot to live up to, as the Charlotte-Sasha matches in recent months have been great and the pedigree of the two means people expect a better than average match.

Charlotte has been getting so much better in the ring over the last year and a half, as she takes after her father, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, with her trash talking of her opponents and the fans. The little things she does in every match just make everything better. Much like her dad did. Bayley, on the other hand, just isn’t ready to carry the Raw women’s division. But she’s close. If they want her to be the Sting or Ricky Steamboat to Charlotte, having her pluck up and up her game, like she did in NXT, would lead to a great moment at WrestleMania. Charlotte hits Bayley with Natural Selection on the apron and pins the Hugger to retain. Look for that Sunday win streak to be broken on April 2.

Kevin Owens (c) vs. Roman Reigns – No Disqualification Raw Universal Championship with Chris Jericho hanging from a shark cage above the ring 

It is amazing to me that Roman Reigns is still in the title picture after nothing he did worked to get himself over for the last year or so. He’s one of the most protected guys on the roster and not at all received at the same level from fans. But I don’t think Owens’ title reign – hoisted upon him when Seth Rollins injured Finn Balor at SummerSlam – has been anything special, either. It’s mostly taken a back seat to Owens’ friendship with Jericho, which is obviously setting up a feud between the two, because this is wrestling.

Putting Jericho in a shark cage allows him to be out for the whole match without making the result super obvious. Of course, going into the crowd and over to the international announcers just defeats the purpose. The gimmick pays off with Jericho dropping brass knuckles to Owens after a fun brawl all around the ring, with tables and chairs being used. Owens hit Reigns with a Superman Punch for a two-count after that. More brawling until Reigns tosses Owens through a tower of chairs and then destroyed the announce table with a power bomb early. And just when you think the match is over and Reigns is the new champion, Brawn Strowman assaults Reigns and puts him through a table with a powerslam. And that’s the match, as Owens crawls over to get the pin to retain the title. Is that Reigns’ WrestleMania program? I guess we’ll see later tonight if Reigns costs Strowman the Rumble match.

An hour and 20 minutes into the main card and we have two matches done with three to go…

Rich Swann (c) vs. Neville – WWE Cruiserweight Championship 

Neville was a guy who, at one point, was considered to be brought up to the main roster with a Mighty Mouse-type gimmick. And now he’s supposed to be the bad-ass big threat for Rich Swann’s Cruiserweight title. It’s a tough needle to thread, but it’s a much better fit than forcing Brian Kendrick on everyone. Putting the title on Swann was also a good idea, as he moves better and has more charisma than most everyone else on the 205 Live roster.

Neville and Swann have a good but quick match and Swann taps out to give Neville the title. I’m sure we’ll have a ton of rematches between the two, but hopefully they start to elevate someone else to chase Neville and give him a lengthy title reign.

With three matches down in just over an hour and a half, you’ve got to assume the last two matches are going to take up some time.

AJ Styles (c) vs. John Cena – WWE Championship 

Styles’ WWE debut was at last year’s Royal Rumble, when he entered the match at number 3. John Cena is seeking his 16th World Title, which would tie Ric Flair’s record for most world championships held. But he’s been beaten twice by the Phenomenal One, a rare feat for anyone. Both of the previous matches have been Match of the Night and this was no different. It’s a WWE Main Event on … ahem… steroids. These guys know how to put an amazing match together.

Sure, it was finishing move crazy, with Attitude Adjustments and Styles Clashes and SUPER DUPER Attitude Adjustments, but you expect that from Cena matches nowadays. When two of the best guys in the modern era are in the ring, of course you’re going to go for your best moves to finish them off.

Cena nails multiple AAs on Styles after countering a Phenomenal Forearm to get the win and his record-tying title reign. Now, will his WrestleMania opponent be revealed in the main event? Or will the winner challenge for the Universal Title?

 

The Royal Rumble Match 

Before the match kicks off, Big Cass comes down to the ring with Enzo, who cuts a promo to eat a few more minutes and hype the main event of the show we’ve been watching for the last four and a half hours. The one that Cass is out to kick off at number one. That’s alright, I love these guys. Cass is joined by US Champion Chris Jericho at number 2, his 10th Rumble, and I would be shocked to see these two at the end. Graves goes over the rules AGAIN, I’m assuming because they want to take the show as close to 11 pm Eastern  as possible and the match isn’t likely to go 90 minutes.

With Kalisto and Mojo Rawley coming in at 3 and 4, they’re clearly running through the people I don’t care about early. The announcers annoy me by not pointing out that Rawley won a Battle Royal on SmackDown to win his spot in this match. The first elimination in the match goes to number 6 Mark Henry, who took out number 5 Jack Gallaher. I was bummed about that.

Brawn Strowman at number 7 is clearly getting the 2017 Diesel push by eliminating everyone he can find in the ring, while Jericho hides outside the ring. Way to early to clear out chaff in the ring, as we’ve not even reached the one-third point of the match. Strowman, who couldn’t get rid of Sami Zayn at 8 tosses Big Show out at nine and then my least favorite person on NXT – The Perfect 10 Tye Dillenger – comes out at Number 10. Jericho is still resting. Strowman does not toss Dillenger out after 10 seconds, much to my chagrin, and the ring starts to fill up again as James Ellsworth comes in at number 11. And my hopes for a good Royal Rumble begin to fade.

Geez, I step away for a meeting and I miss Strowman eliminating seven guys (including Ellsworth and Dillenger), Baron Corbin at number 13 eliminating Strowman and the ring filling up again with seven guys in the ring when Rusev comes in at number 18. Way too much laying around as Cesaro is number 19, joining Sheamus, who showed up as number 16. Cesaro swings everyone he can find, including Sheamus, almost, before Rusev kicks him in the face.

Xavier Woods at number 20 completes the New Day trilogy as Kofi (14) and Big E (17) were already in the ring. They triple team Sheamus, one of the guys who beat them for the tag belts, but don’t toss him out. Idiots. Bray Wyatt at number 21 takes out The Miz (15) and Dean Ambrose (12) before getting into it with members of the New Day. Apollo Crews is in at 22 and I’m getting bored as Sheamus and Cesaro eliminate all of New Day and then they get eliminated by Jericho. And we’re down to 8 people in with 8 people left as Randy Orton – who was a betting line favorite this weekend – comes in at 23. Please don’t have Orton win…

Dolph Ziggler hits at 24 and then Luke Harper comes in at 25, meaning Goldberg and Brock Lesner are both in the final 5 competitors to come out. Everyone is laying around the ring taking the Roman Reigns route as Harper goes after Wyatt and Orton, his own family members. Please don’t have Orton win…

And here comes the Beast Incarnate, BROCK LESNAR, at 26. This should clear the ring. Lesnar destroys everyone in the ring and Enzo comes back out at 27 and gets sacrificed to the Beast, who toss him easily. This whole match took a turn for the worse. Goldberg comes in at 28 and everything else in the match should take a backseat to this while he and Lesnar figure out a way to eliminate each other.

Scratch that, as Goldberg eliminates Lesnar easily. And then he turns to the rest of the ring, littered with people taking naps. Sami Zayn eats a Jackhammer before Orton and Wyatt attack and here comes the Undertaker at 29, surprisingly showing up in the ring and facing off with Goldberg. But Corbin and Rusev attack. Neither are long for the match as Goldberg spears Taker and eliminates Harper before Undertaker tosses Goldberg. Good pacing. But who’s number 30?

Roman Reigns? Oh you’ve GOT to be kidding me. WWE is just fucking with us now. I give up, this is terrible.

Miz, Orton, Wyatt, Jericho and the rest watch as Reigns and Undertaker go at it and now I’m HOPING Orton wins the Rumble. The crowd turns on the match, too, cheering Undertaker for chokeslamming Reigns. So long Miz, bye bye Zayn. Taker is taking people out as Jericho nears an hour. Reigns takes out the Undertaker and the crowd in San Antonio is PISSED. Jericho’s Iron Man is over as Reigns hits him with the Superman Punch. Reigns eliminates Bray Wyatt and then Orton takes out Reigns to win the Royal Rumble.

What the hell…

So Orton, a SmackDown Live superstar wins his second Royal Rumble and is now set to go to WrestleMania to challenge John Cena for the WWE Title? That’s… underwhelming. The show was going along fine until the back half of the Rumble just kind of killed all the momentum for the show. Eventually, the WWE is going to have to realize that they should use the Rumble to elevate someone rather than keep having the same old, same old or guys the crowd doesn’t want to see win it.

A good show with an underwhelming ending that’s not going down in the books as a classic Rumble match.

John Cena defends his newly won WWE Title in the Elimination Chamber in the appropriately-titled Network Special event, The Elimination Chamber on February 12 for the next big event.

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