I made it home after a week in Cancun with just minutes to spare before the start of the Royal Rumble. Mexico was amazing though, naturally I was a total tourist and bought some lucha masks, I also got to watch some of Raw on Monday with the Spanish announcers. I had always wondered how they handled in-ring promos and such during foreign language broadcasts and the fact they just have some dudes do voice-overs while the wrestlers are talking is awesome. Fuck subtitles, hearing a dude say "me llamo C... M... PUUUUUUAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANK!" is just great.
But I was glad to make it home for the Rumble. 2012 wound up being the least wrestling-oriented year of my life, but I could never skip the Rumble, it's my favorite PPV of the year and the perfect show to help with the blog relaunch and to grab my interest.
I'm not exactly sure why Alberto Del Rio vs. Big Show was another Last Man Standing match, but I'll be damned, they made it work. I suppose WWE was banking on the success of past LMS matches at the event - HHH/HBK and Cena/Umaga - and this match could easily stand alongside those. The gimmick does work for the PPV though since the big match, the Rumble itself, is almost always confined to the ring, so this allows them to get around the arena a bit and show off the set.
Or, throw off the set, as Del Rio was with a sickening chokeslam that sent him off a scaffold and head first into a table. It was gross. Del Rio is really shining as a good guy though, which I didn't think was possible since he has the greatest punch-me-face in the history of the industry, but he's been absolutely wonderful since the inexplicable turn. Meanwhile, Big Show has quietly become the best thing in professional wrestling today, and no, that's not hyperbole. I can't think of anyone that has hit their stride almost 20 years into their career, but Show has just been absolutely perfect over the last few months. He's been consistently great since JeriShow and has proven time and time again that he is the most versatile performer on the roster, fitting into any role.
Tonight's role was to solidify Del Rio's turn, which he did. Del Rio took an ass-whoopin, but after turning the tables and busting out the old duct tape trick, I think the transition is complete. Is WWE heading to Mexico before Mania? Because I'd love to hear that crowd explode for the World Champ.
Okay, I'm sold on Hell No. For the last few months, this whole Kane and Daniel Bryan thing has just seemed like something for these dudes to do while they try to figure something out for them, but they're just so fun together. Sometimes the jokes fall flat, but I have a hard time shrugging off something where the performers are clearly having fun. Kane and Bryan are obviously having a blast out there and when it comes together in a good match, like tonight's against Rhodes Scholars, I finally see what all the fuss is about. I'm still incredibly skeptical of WWE doing anything serious with the tag division, but if they are, Hell No is the team to build it around.
I generally hate whenever the Royal Rumble doesn't close the show, but this year, it made sense, Punk vs. Rock is just too big. Now, when it comes to the Rumble, if I'm "reviewing" the match itself, it was superb, one of the best ever. If I'm looking at the WrestleMania implications, I'm not so sure.
But yeah, the match was wonderful. Dolph Ziggler almost going the distance, Chris Jericho's OMG! return, the red-hot crowd, it was just an excellent showing. Or how about Goldust FINALLY trading punches with his little brother? And Godfather getting the Santino treatment, but giving no fucks? Or Kofi Kingston doing it again and using an office chair as a pogo stick?
I don't think anyone watches the Rumble expecting a technical wrestling clinic, we watch for the anticipation of the next entrant, the surprises, the drama, the near-eliminations, the "who's gonna win?!" factor and this year had it all in spades. I'm not completely sold on John Cena winning since it was brutally obvious and I'm starting to get serious Cena fatigue, but I'm willing to see where this whole "2013 = THE YEAR OF CENA!" thing goes.
I was hoping for Ryback to win as I did think Ryback dethroning Punk at WrestleMania would create a mega-star, but I also can see how the ship may have sailed there. Not that Ryback is a lost cause or anything, but I don't know if that particular story had the legs to get to April 7.
What transpired in the main event doesn't help with my apprehension for the future, but again, if I'm just talking about the match, CM Punk vs. The Rock was just lovely. Not counting Survivor Series 2011, which was essentially an infomercial for WrestleMania, this was The Rock's second match in nearly a decade, but THIS was what I expected from his return. This wasn't the movie star coming back for one more match, this was The Rock we saw wrestle every week in the 90s, warts and all.
The Rock is not, nor has he ever been a technical wizard, but he does bring a certain energy to the squared circle that is unrivaled. That energy was sorely lacking from his match with Cena last year, but I think even he realized that and did what he had to do to fix it. Obviously Punk has the ability to bring out the best in his opponents, which he clearly did tonight, but you shouldn't discredit The Rock. "Big fight feel" gets thrown around a lot, but it is an apt description of this match.
I was not a fan of the shenanigans at the end though. Obviously The Shield had to make some sort of impact, but restarting the match only to have The Rock win exactly how he was going to before the lights went out just seemed unnecessary. Obviously it gives Punk a legitimate gripe and perhaps sets up a Triple Threat at WrestleMania, so I'll reserve final judgment in terms of storytelling, but it did throw off the match.
But hey, The Rock is WWE Champion, that's weird, right? And John Cena won the Rumble, so you know what that means. I really wasn't a fan of their match last year, but if a sequel is the planned main event, I suspect we'll get something special this time around, especially if this Rock shows up.
I am not upset about Punk losing the belt, his record is set in stone and it's possible it will never be duplicated, but I'm not surprised the Twittersphere does not agree with the decision. I'm already hearing the usual gripes that Cena doesn't "need" the title, Rock vs. Cena doesn't "need" to be for the belt, let guys who "need" it fight for the belt, etc.
I'm sorry, but the notion of someone not needing a title makes said title useless. That's part of the problem with everyone else being a rung below the Cenas and Rocks of the world, them not "needing" the titles, makes the titles beneath them. If Rock and Cena II is the biggest match possible, then it needs to be for the belt, that elevates the title immensely, and eventually, the guy who beats one of them for it.
I understand and agree with the complaints that WWE needs to elevate new guys, they absolutely do, but when the option to have The Rock wrestle is there and the crowd is still responding, why not take advantage? This isn't WCW circa 1998 with an aging roster stinking up the main event scene while the truly talented guys are spinning their wheels in hour 1. The Rock showed tonight he can still go and while I'm tired of Cena's character, very few people can outperform him in a big match situation.
So it may not be the match you want to see (if it does happen as it's shaping up), but shrugging Rock off as "the actor" after this performance is unfair and not expecting WWE to put on the biggest match possible at their premiere event is just naive. Work needs to be done to get it there, but if you want titles and main events to matter, it's probably the right call.
So while I'm not sure where we are heading into WrestleMania, I am sure that this show was fantastic from top to bottom. It helps that there were only four matches, but with one of them being a terrific Royal Rumble match, the best in recent years (regardless of feelings on the winner), and a tremendous main event, it was definitely a case of quality over quantity.