The Royal Rumble is like pizza, even when it's bad, it's still pretty good... except 1999, that was the CiCi's Pizza of Royal Rumbles. So with another Rumble in the can, was it good, good because it was a Rumble, or the $5 Rumble buffet?
Daniel Bryan vs. Big Show vs. Mark Henry in a triple threat steel cage match for the World Heavyweight Championship (*deep breath*) was our opening contest. I like when they shake things up a bit in the Rumble undercard with a prop-heavy gimmick match like a ladder or cage. It doesn't detract from the Rumble - I'm pretty sure they could do a 6-man Hell in a Cell Inferno Match and people would still buy the show just for the Rumble - and it's always fun to see something different.
As expected though, the cage walls were there for Daniel Bryan to be bounced around like a pinball and the World Champ did not disappoint. Match was a bit short for my tastes, but hey, we had to fit in a Brodus Clay match! Despite its length, I thought the match was exactly what it needed to be and the visual of Big Show lifting a grown ass man with one arm while sitting on top of the cage was crazy. Bryan managed to slip free and retain his title, but can he survive the Elimination Chamber?
Predictions: 1 for 1
The 8-Diva tag was kinda pointless, but I dug the Aqua Teen Diva Force and Tamina's Mad Max look was cool. And yes, Tamina was a noteworthy part of a match for her style alone... that's the Divas division, kids! Beth telling the Bellas to get out of her ring while she mauled Kelly Kelly was a nice touch though.
John Cena vs. Kane is where things really stalled out though. As exciting as it was to see Kane in his new get-up when he returned, it doesn't change the fact that it's Kane. 15 years of Kane, no less. The match was fine until the lame double count-out around the 10-minute mark; I get it, it's the Rumble, but we didn't need another 10 minutes of lameness. Kane and Cena brawled a bit, and Zack Ryder, who was in a wheelchair (WHEEL, WHEEL, WHEEL!) got rolled out to the ring and Tombstoned. Cena, who was a bit late on the daring rescue, got a chokeslam for his troubles.
What bugs me the most is this all could've been done within the context of the Royal Rumble. Perhaps not the Ryder stuff, but Kane and Cena eliminating each other and brawling over the arena? That's almost a staple of the Rumble match at this point and it wouldn't have ended Kane's Rumble streak.
Predictions: 1 for 2
Brodus Clay vs. Drew McIntyre was another colossal waste of time. Why not just put Brodus in the Rumble? The crowd would've went bonkers for it, especially during the comedy portion of the match (more on that in a minute) and Brodus would've got to do something besides the same match we've seen him wrestle five times now.
And honestly, I'm not really digging The Funkasaurus. It's cute, but the Flash Funk/Rikishi hybrid with Ernest Miller's theme music just strikes me as trying way too hard. It doesn't help that Brodus hasn't really shown us any reason why he's so funky, his dancing isn't really dancing so much as shaking (which is kinda how I dance), and he seems like the only person who's not trying to get this thing over. Commentary acts like it's the greatest thing ever, the whole production that is his entrance is absurdly over the top, but Brodus himself is just kinda there and doesn't seem to know what to do. It's kinda like George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign.
CM Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler for the WWE Title. Ah, now that's the stuff. These two have had better matches against each other, but that doesn't mean that this one wasn't good. I like the chemistry between these two and if WWE plays their cards right, this rivalry could be this generation's Cena vs. Edge.
In the other story in this match though, I'm not sure who I'm supposed to be rooting for, CM Punk or John Laurinaitis? Sure, Johnny Ace came in as a charisma vacuum who looked like a poor choice for the next villainous authority figure, but that hasn't really been the direction the character has taken. Yeah, he can be a jerk, but what boss isn't? At worst, he's flawed, but realizes it. He readily admits mistakes and makes up for them, and even if those make-goods make the situation worse, what average working stiff can't sympathize with that?
Punk, on the other hand, has been a complete prick to Laurinaitis. I know the fantasy since Austin/McMahon has been the opportunity to punch your boss in the face, but McMahon was pure evil. He was the epitome of corporate power in the age of downsizing, Laurinaitis is just the assistant manager at Arby's trying to keep all these damn teenagers on task. How can you sell Beef n' Cheddars when your head cashier keeps yelling at the customers about whatever comes to mind?
My buddy Jason Mann brought up an excellent point that even though Peter was a dick to Bill Lumbergh in Office Space, Lumbergh was also an insufferable douche. There's definitely an element of that though, but I can't help but feel a little sorry for ol' Johnny. Again, McMahon was the big boss, he could do whatever he wanted, but Ace's entire middle-management existence hinges on a performance review from the star of The Chaperone. Laurinaitis isn't Lumbergh, he's Michael Bolton, stuck in a shit job and just trying to keep his head above water.
And I haven't figured out who Milton is in this analogy yet, but when I do, it's going to make an awesome article.
Predictions: 2 for 3
Royal Rumble time! Always a tough match to write about, so I'm going to start with some general thoughts on the match, then break it down by characters and stories that stood out.
Overall, I thought the match was much better paced than in the last two years but there was definitely a lull in the middle. I don't think that's particularly out of the ordinary, especially looking back at some of the older Rumbles, but since we've been conditioned to expect a main event winner, entries like Epico, Primo and Jey Uso really kill the momentum. Perhaps WWE should throw a curveball one year and have a total fluke Rumble victory? Not saying Primo should win the Rumble, but something a bit unexpected compared to what we're used to. This would've been the year to do it though since Cena vs. The Rock is going to sell the show regardless of what the title matches are.
That's probably my biggest, and really only, gripe with this year's match is it really showcased how thin the roster is right now. Obviously Alberto Del Rio, Christian, Evan Bourne, Rey Mysterio, Sin Cara, Zack Ryder and The Undertaker are all incapacitated for one reason or another, but I think making Kane do double duty would've got the crowd more jazzed up than Epico.
Oh wait, I did think of two more gripes! One, I hate, hate, HATE when guys in title matches get to be in the Rumble. You got your title shot, you lost, you should at least have to wait until the Elimination Chamber. Ziggler and Big Show both got to come back in and Big Show was really bad since he was a really anticlimactic #30. Hell, Road Dogg would've been a more exciting #30.
Now, what I did like about some of the more random entries was that it served as a great way to bring some guys back. Alex Riley and Great Khali aren't going to be setting the world on fire anytime soon, but after not seeing them for awhile, it was a nice "oh, that guy" moment.
Of course, no return was cooler than Kharma's which literally made me scream "HOLY SHIT!" from my couch. Kharma was a house of fire too, looking like she hadn't missed a day of work, even hitting Dolph Ziggler with the Implant Buster. Did not expect her back this soon, but it was great to see her. Not gonna lie, I kinda wanted her to win. C'mon, you know Kharma vs. Daniel Bryan for the World Title would be awesome.
One things for sure, this was definitely the funniest Royal Rumble in history. The comedy stylings of Santino & Foley had me in stitches; the Socko vs. Cobra battle was one of those things that if you didn't laugh, you take this shit way too seriously. And of course we can't forget the glorious entrance of Ricardo Rodriguez, driving to the ring in his busted ass ride and very unflattering virgin-white ensemble. And I'm not one to talk about someone's definition, but Ricardo kinda looked like a Ziploc bag filled with cookie dough.
And I loved the nod to 1997 with all three announcers taking a break from their duties to compete in the Rumble, only to be tossed out and return to commentary. King wasn't a huge shocker and his 97 appearance is one of my favorite Rumble comedy bits, but when Booker T stood up in his blazer with no pants on, I nearly pissed myself. The joke almost lost its punch with Cole, but then Kharma saved the whole thing. Great stuff.
Road Dogg & Jim Duggan were great legend picks and I don't care what anyone says about Road Dogg, I'll always love the guy. No, he was never a great wrestler, but he dripped charisma and really could've been a big deal in Attitude Era WWE had he not been his own worst enemy. Though as much as I love the D-O-double-G, I will never forgive him for causing people to think that Billy Gunn didn't suck shit.
Whoever made the call to change Wade Barrett's theme music should be fired. I don't care if it was Vince himself... fired!
No one is ever going to care about Jinder Mahal. I don't think I've ever heard a crowd go as silent as St. Louis did last night during his entrance. The crowd was so dead, you could hear Jimmy's tears hit the floor when he heard the Rumble has a strict one Uso policy.
Wow, Hunico's shtick is hardcore racist. Like 1800s Disney style.
Someone really took time out of their day to make a "KOFI SUCKS" sign? How sad is that guy's life? Even better, he was proven laughably wrong by Kofi's mindblowing handstand walk that kept him from being eliminated. That could've gone wrong so easily, but Kofi made it look almost effortless. Awesome moment and he should've won the Rumble (or at least a renewed push) on that alone. Somewhere, John Morrison stomping around in fur boots, upset that he didn't come up with that.
Chris Jericho eliminating Randy Orton in front of his hometown crowd instantly makes him my favorite wrestler of all the times.
Speaking of Jericho, I loved the ending bit with Sheamus. A really cool moment reminiscent of Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker in 2007 and made the match feel like a big deal. At first glance, I wasn't particularly stoked about Sheamus winning and I still have no idea what they're going to do with him, but it was a good call. Jericho doesn't need it to do whatever he wants to do at WrestleMania and Sheamus is WWE's best opportunity to get a good guy into that elusive upper echelon.
Sheamus, while directionless, has been almost Goldberg-ian as of late. Let him plow through guys until Mania, give him a decisive win and a nice long run with the title and we could see something really special emerge. That's a lot of ifs for the inconsistent WWE, but I don't think they would've given Sheamus the win if they didn't have big plans for him. Would've been very easy to play it safe with Jericho or Orton and it would've packed a bigger punch if Sheamus wasn't a two-time WWE Champion already, but I love the idea of him leading WWE as a good guy. Perhaps a tad anticlimactic, but the right call considering the circumstances.
And I think that sums up the Rumble well. There were a lot of guys on the sidelines but they did the best with what they had and wound up producing a very fun match. We're officially on the Road to WrestleMania now... you can tell because guys were pointing at the sign... and things are shaping up nicely. If I had to take a way-too-early guess:
The Rock vs. John Cena
CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho - WWE Title
Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan - World Title (though I wouldn't be shocked if Orton wins the Title in the Elimination Chamber)
Triple H vs. The Undertaker
Dolph Ziggler vs. Mick Foley
Pure speculation at this point, but what kind of wrestling fan would I be without some of that?
Overall, the undercard was underwhelming, but the Rumble made up for it and that's why we were all watching, right? Good show.