Monday, January 29, 2018

2018 Royal Rumble - reviewed.

So, what did everyone think of this year's Rumble?

I was curious to see a few things: how the pay-per-view would feel with two Royal Rumble matches on the same night, if Ronda Rousey would show up, who the women's Rumble surprise entrants would be, if they would put the Universal Title on Strowman and if they'd give Roman Reigns another Royal Rumble victory.

Pre-show match: Bobby Roode vs. Mojo Rawley

I came in halfway on this match, so I didn't see much of it.  Seemed like a throw away match to get Roode on the card (surprised he wasn't in the Rumble, itself).  Mojo is as good an initial opponent as any I guess.

Handicap match for the WWE Heavyweight Title: A.J. Styles (champion) vs. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens

What can you say?  It was a good match.  Styles always delivers.  Sami and Kevin are both good workers themselves.  Great match.  Great athletic showing -- if not a bit of a spot fest.  Good match though.

2 out of 3 falls match for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles: The Usos (champions) vs. Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable

It was nice to see The Usos get a spot on the main card of one of the Big 4 WWE events for a change.  They did well.  I'm glad they extended the reign of the Usos.  I was somewhat expecting a Benjamin / Gable victory due to the recent DUI arrest of Jimmy Uso, but WWE gave them the first two falls, ending the match decisively.

I feel like a Benjamin / Gable feud is coming.  Maybe this will be the catalyst for it.

Men's Rumble

This was a really good match!  Going into the Royal Rumble, I watched some previous years and it made me realize how crappy the past few years have been.  Thankfully WWE delivered this year.

Rusev got a great reception.  I'm glad.  I wasn't the biggest fan of his when he first debuted, but when he got the boots and rejoined Lana and lost some weight, he seemed to improve his ring work as well.  Ever since then, he's grown on me.  I'm a fan now.

Finn Balor as #2 makes sense.  He needs a good showing in his first Rumble match.  I figured he'd be a workhorse throughout the match.

Rhyno was the only ECW original for this Philadelphia Royal Rumble.  I was kind of surprised by that.  It's been a while since I've seen him in a match.  He's definitely lost most of his muscle tone, but he was moving around pretty well.

Baron Corbin just doesn't do it for me.  I'm not entertained by him -- at all.  He works well enough, but his look with the wet, thin, long hair is odd and his personality isn't very over-the-top.  If WWE could tweak him a bit, he'd be much better off.

I was glad to see he got eliminated so early on.  He didn't really lose much credibility because he ended up destroying everyone in the match after he was eliminated.

I haven't seen much of Elias.  Still not sure I understand the gimmick.  It's basically a male, acoustic version of Jillian Hall I guess.

Heath Slater getting knocked down by several Rumble participants had me laughing.  Poor guy.  He's got kids!  Finally, Sheamus shows he has a heart and helps Slater into the ring, only to be eliminated by Slater!

The participation from the members of The New Day was fine.  Xavier and Big E didn't really do much, but Kofi had another memorable moment.  I often wondered why people hadn't hopped on one foot in the past -- or crawled on their knees (with their feet in the air) --  to avoid elimination.  It was nice to see them make a big deal about both feet having to touch the floor.

Apollo Crews had a nice outing, even if it was on the shorter side.  Shinsuke Nakamura was great, as always.  Andrade "Cien" Almas being in the match was awesome!  He's so talented and with Zelina Vega by his side, he's had a good gimmick going.

Jinder Mahal getting eliminated was a good thing.  Cesaro's elimination by the hands (or feet, actually) of Seth Rollins was cool.  Awful tights though.  It looked like a badly designed kite on his tights.

Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt eliminating each other was fun.  More to come there, for sure.

Cena showed up but promptly got beat up.  That was awesome to see (I'm no Cena fan).

The Hurricane?  I was surprised to see that happen.  Very quick elimination after a showdown with John Cena.  Kind of pointless, but fun, I suppose.

The Miz and his entourage seemed to follow up on his feud with Reigns.  I don't know if that means they'll be feuding into Wrestlemania or if they'll go in another direction with them.  Not a bad elimination though.  And then Reigns threw Rollins over the top rope.

Dolph!  He's back.  He was kind of stumbling over himself, but that's OK.

Goldust still competing as good as he ever has always amazes me.  He's gotten better with age.  I don't know how many years he has left in him, but I'd love to see him make a few more Rumble appearances, giving him the distinction of having the most Rumble appearances ever.

He's a two-time Intercontinental Champion, a pivotal character of the Attitude Era and a well-respected member of the roster, but he hasn't really been given the spotlight he deserves since his time tagging with Booker T.  It's unlikely he'll ever win a championship in WWE again.  At least let him lay claim to having the most Rumble appearances of all time.

Rey Mysterio!!!  Wow.  I thought they were still on bad terms.  I was very happy to see what appeared to be a very in-shape Rey Mysterio flying around that ring.

The showdown between the old guard (Cena, Orton and Mysterio) against the up-and-comers (Balor, Nakamura and Reigns).

Uh oh.  Down to Reigns and Nakamura.  WWE wouldn't repeat their mistake again would they?

Nope.  Nakamura wins it, thankfully.

Raw Tag Team Title Match: Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan (champions) vs. Sheamus and Cesaro

It's interesting that WWE seems to be listening to us with Jordan.  His current run is not working well, so they may as well make Jordan a bumbling fool.  I gotta' say, I love Booker's commentary when it comes to Jordan.  The match wasn't bad.  They all tried.  But it didn't work -- mostly due to the placing of the match on the card.

That crowd was understandably spent after the men's Royal Rumble.

Triple threat match for the WWE Title: Brock Lesnar (champion) with Paul Heyman vs. Kane vs. Braun Strowman

This was a bit underwhelming -- at least the parts that involved Kane and Brock Lesnar.  Any part involving Strowman was the best part of the match.  He's a beast.  He's a good worker, too.  He needs to be WWE champion.

Listen to us, WWE!  We want Lesnar vs. Strowman at Wrestlemania!  Make it happen.

Women's Rumble

There were a few sloppy points in this match, but overall it was really good.  Considering they lost two of their competitors (Paige, Alicia Fox) due to injury and two of their women (Charlotte, Alexa Bliss) couldn't compete due to being champions, I was wondering who they'd call in to fill the 30 spots.

While most of the women I blogged about previously weren't used, it was cool to see several familiar faces.

The booking was great.  Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch as #1 and #2 made sense.  Let me just say it out front, too: Sasha Banks carried this match.  She subtly turned heel as the match progressed, she avoided a couple of possible botches due to her ring awareness and she helped control the flow very nicely.

Lita's return was nice (though she was winded by the end of her time in the Rumble).  Molly Holly was on fire!

Lana's little bit of fury there was fun to watch.

I figured Michelle McCool would come out after I saw Molly Holly.  They've mentioned always wanting to work together.  McCool eliminated a lot more people than I was expecting her to.  McCool was a very good athlete when she was in WWE, but she, too, was not ring ready.

That makes sense.  She probably had very little notice for this match.  McCool's spot with Kelly Kelly (the horribly botched headscissors) made me realize why they never tried something like this in the past.

Today's group of women wrestlers are much more talented than a lot of the women who came in after Trish and Lita retired.

Dana Brooke surprisingly eliminated Kairi Sane, proving that anything can happen in WWE.  She, Sonya Deville (eliminated too early in my opinion), Mandy Rose, Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan were kind of fillers in the match.  No really standout moments, but they are the newest members of the roster so that makes sense.

I read that Tamina may have been injured prior to the match, but I guess not.  Then again, she wasn't in the Rumble too long, so maybe she toughed it out.

Vicki Guerrero coming back was a little puzzling.  It was a great moment for women's wrestling and women in pro wrestling -- sure.  I get that.  But Vicki seemed like an odd choice.  Maybe it was due to Alicia Fox's injury?  She's still a heat magnet!

Fun interaction with Vicki and Carmella, too.

I wasn't that disappointed in Becky getting eliminated.  She's a gorgeous girl, but I think she's overrated when it comes to ring work.  She's easily the last talented of the 4 horsewomen of WWE.

Natalya's bits were good.  She got to wrestle Trish (who always mentions Natalya as an opponent she wanted to face).  She got a reunion with Beth Phoenix, too.

Beth's booking was great.  Who would face Nia Jax and go toe-to-toe?  I was hoping for Kharma, but Beth Phoenix was a great alternative.  She and Nia got a great reaction!

Nia, by the way, has grown on me because she's not anywhere as green as she once was.  Much like Trish Stratus in her prime, Nia was pushed too fast.  Nia has learned to be more aggressive (while not injuring anyone) and her ring presence is much more suiting to her personality now.  She was just 'the big girl' when she first showed up in NXT and on Raw.  Now she's the monster that WWE has been looking for.

Ember Moon!  I was happy to see Ember give a valiant one-armed effort.  She had a great interaction with Nia and she had a little tease with Asuka, building a future rematch for some time in the future.  Ember did a great job selling the 'injury' from last night.  Can't wait to see her on the main roster.

Naomi's Kofi Kingston-like spot was awesome.  She's the most athletic woman on the roster.  Not necessarily the best wrestler, but absolutely the most athletic woman.

Trish Stratus coming in at number 30 was somewhat surprising.  I was wondering how they'd book that.  One spot left and it goes to either Trish or Ronda Rousey.  I couldn't imagine Trish not competing in the Rumble, but stranger things have happened.

Trish really didn't lose a beat.  She, Jackie and Molly definitely outshone Torrie, Lita, McCool and Kelly when it came to in-ring work.  Trish and Bayley got to trade a few shots.  Sasha confronting Trish was awesome!  It was perfect for her character and the fact that she eliminated Trish (and Bayley) showed that she was in it to win it.

Trish and Mickie got a nice reaction too!  Nice little bit of homage to their classic feud.  I want to see them work another singles match seeing as how Mickie is almost an entirely different worker with so much more confidence than during her time with Trish.

The Bella Twins returning did absolutely nothing for me.  I fully expected them to return and while they didn't botch, they are nowhere near as natural in the ring as Ruby Riot or Sasha Banks.  I'm sure they were excited to be in the ring with Trish and Asuka, but they looked so out of place.  Thank God WWE didn't try to give Nikki the victory!

I've seen a lot of complaints about Rousey's debut overshadowing Asuka's win, but I don't see it that way.  Let's face it: the women would not be main eventing a regular pay per view at this stage in the women's evolution.

Sasha and Charlotte did it, but that was a Hell in a Cell match.  The first 'big 4' event that women main event in WWE was the Royal Rumble.  It literally took all of their star power to grab the main event slot.  And Ronda Rousey.

If it weren't for Rousey's debut, I'd have questioned putting that match on last.  Rousey has the star power, like it or not.  She's what is going to get WWE headlines and WWE paid her a hefty chunk of change, I'm sure, so they better make the most out of her.

Next year: does WWE do two matches again?

I think they have to now.  It seems like it's almost overkill or takes away from the event a bit if we get two of them every year, but I think WWE has to do it.  They started it off this way and have to continue doing the same for image reasons, if nothing else.

So what do they do?

I think you'll see a lot of women debuting from NXT over the next year.

Take a look at their on-air roster: Aliyah, Bianca Belair, Billie Kay, Peyton Royce, Nikki Cross, Ember Moon, Kairi Sane, Lacey Evans, Dakota Kai, Taynara Conti, Shayna Baszler, Vanessa Borne and Zelina Vega.  That's 13 women right there.

Then you have a crapload of women who are at the performance center but aren't on NXT TV or haven't debuted yet: Candice LeRae, Abbey Laith, Kavita Devi, Sage Beckett and Kacy Catanzaro (of American Ninja Warrior fame).  5 more women.

Plus WWE will likely sign Tessa Blanchard this year, especially now that they signed Ricochet (they're dating or engaged I believe).  Another woman.

And they still have some legends they could bring back for spots: Madusa (she had a bum knee this year), Kharma, Eve Torres, Melina, Victoria, Gail Kim, Kaitlyn, A.J. Lee, Ivory, Jazz and Jillian Hall.  11 more women there.

So even though WWE seemed to rush into this first-ever match, they have a year to build up 18 more women, plus Ronda, plus 11 legends who haven't been used yet.

The crowd seemed to be into both matches this year, so that was good.

If I were WWE, I'd have one match open the show and one match closing it.  Maybe even a segment in between or a Hall of Fame announcement --- just to give the crowd a break?

Either way, good event --- mostly due to the 2 Rumble matches.