Pro Wrestling

10 Ways WWE Made The Royal Rumble Great Again Source:

For the first time since 1992, the WWE World Heavyweight Title was essentially up for grabs in the 2016 Royal Rumble match, all but guaranteeing that we’d see a new champion (but with the nagging worry that we might not). And while WWE didn’t instantly solve all the myriad problems they’ve been having with their product in single night, they did do enough to make the Royal Rumble Pay Per View, which had come under fire in recent years, an fairly entertaining show that had plenty of things worth talking about. And since we’re in such a positive mood about the Rumble, we thought we’d share with you the many ways that WWE made it a much better show than most of what they put on in the last year (or longer).

10. When A Man Hates Another Man, And Also Michael Cole

First of all, we have to give kudos to both Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens for actually having a fight instead of a wrestling match. The whole idea behind feuds that escalate into things like Last Man Standing matches are that the wrestlers involve hate each other so much that they literally want to attempt to end each others’ existences. The problem is, more often than not in modern wrestling, the match will still start with regular collar-and-elbow tie-ups and chain wrestling, building to the big spots at the end. But in this instance, Owens and Ambrose started firing away with punches the second the bell rang, and just ramped up the damage from there. The match was non-stop action and innovative offense, full of big spots that looked impressive but were also well-planned and less risky than the wild head-shots and raised bars of the Attitude Era. It was a wrestling representation of a war between two people, and while the end was the traditionally anti-climatic moment of waiting for a ten-count to finish, it was by far the best match of the evening and the right way to start the show. Extra points go to Kevin Owens for managing to hurl himself over the announce table and neatly take out a clearly unsuspecting Michael Cole, also “accidentally” (because it sure looked like he had a plan) breaking Cole’s glasses while attempting to recover, continuing to escalate their ridiculously one-sided feud. Source:

9. This Is The Part Where You Fall Down

It probably should have occurred to us that New Day are smart and practical enough to just buy a new trombone, but it’s the sadistic glee with which they revealed their new instrument that makes them so incredible. And frankly, the match between the Usos, whose main character traits seem to be “happy” and “use lots of Superkicks”, and The New Day, could have been seen as a microcosm of the bigger issue WWE has with Roman Reigns, who possesses adequate tools to be a perfectly competent pro wrestler, but is surrounded by far more interesting and engaging characters who the fans would prefer to see. In this case, The New Day emerge triumphant yet again, and really, really need a fresh opponent for whatever they want to do at WrestleMania, someone who can actually hang on their level in terms of creativity. Before we leave this mostly forgettable but technically good match behind, we must continue to shine the spotlight on Xavier Woods, who spent part of the match yelling lines from the Mortal Kombat movie (which is actually not a bad film, as video game movies go), and ended by playing the theme to the popular fighting game. It’s fair to say at this point that nobody knows exactly what fanbase watches wrestling quite like Xavier Woods. Source:

8. When You Care Enough To Try

One of the chief complaints against Alberto Del Rio since his return is that he clearly doesn’t care about what he’s doing. In the brief time that he was on the independent scene, reports were everywhere about how fired up and interesting he was, having great matches and cutting incredible promos. All that disappeared when he came back to WWE and got mired in the MexAmerica debacle, as he wrestled matches against Jack Swagger with the air of someone who is constantly thinking “I came back for this?” and resigning themselves to the fact that at least they’re getting paid fairly well. But with Kalisto, Del Rio has finally found something that eluded him ever since he originally arrived in WWE: a luchador he can have great matches with. While Sin Cara was a bust and Rey Mysterio far too injured to ever put on the expected classics with Del Rio, Kalisto is young, relatively healthy, and able to force Del Rio to raise his game in the ring, to the point that when Kalisto was shaky leading up to the finish, Del Rio was able to expertly cover for the mistakes. We may not agree with having three title changes in two weeks to get to the same place we could have in just one, but at least the matches have been a good sight better than anything we’ve seen out of Del Rio in WWE for a while. Source:

7. Ew, Ric. Don’t Do That

So, during the match between Charlotte and Becky Lynch, Ric Flair kissed Becky as a distraction tactic, and it was extremely uncomfortable for about seventeen different reasons. It did fit into the character of Charlotte and Ric Flair that they would use that to try and distract Becky, because Charlotte wants to win by any means necessary and Ric Flair has become a parody of his younger self who still believes that he’s God’s gift to women (and in a way he is, but only if you’re getting alimony payments from him). It just seemed out of place in a match between two excellent female wrestlers, who were in the process of continuing to raise the bar for women’s wrestling in WWE. Maybe it would have come off better if Becky had actually floored him with a punch afterwards, instead of the weak jab she actually threw, but to be fair, she was probably worried that she might shatter the bones of a two-time WWE Hall of Famer if she tried to make it look real. In the end, it was a fairly good match, with a weak distraction ending where Ric Flair’s coat magically got attached to Becky’s face (which, knowing what we do about Ric Flair, we’re kind of willing to accept that his jacket might actually stick to someone after he’d been wearing it long enough). It’s a shame Becky didn’t get a big win, but it would have been poor planning to have Charlotte finally round into a marketable character only to take the title away from her immediately afterwards. Source:

6. Handle Your Business Like A Boss

Honestly, as good as the match was, we’re all probably going to forget it going forward, because Sasha Banks is back after a brief absence with an undisclosed possible injury, and she is all the crowd cared about by the end of that segment. The good news is, while we’ll have to wait and see if Banks not being accompanied by the rest of Team B.A.D. was just a temporary thing, even though she got a hero’s welcome, Sasha is decidedly not the good girl in this feud. She doesn’t like Becky, she doesn’t like Charlotte, she just wants the title, and that’s perfect. The crowd’s going to cheer her when she does awesome, Sasha Banks things, and because she’s going to be the fan favorite when matched up against Charlotte, but she proved in NXT that she’s also a damned good heel who knows how to turn a crowd during a match. And most importantly, it means she’s not going to change her character and start pandering to the fans and being nice to all the faces (well, face, since Becky is looking pretty lonely right now), which is an important facet of what makes her character work. She’s not good, she’s not bad, she’s The Boss. Source:

5. He’s Probably Going To Be A Really Big Deal

Well, even though the crack WWE production staff, which missed shots all night, decided that we’d rather see a closeup of Roman Reigns staring blankly than his actual entrance, AJ Styles burst into WWE at #3 and was an instant example of why Roman Reigns is just not working (but more on that later). The crowd (an admittedly “smart” one) came unglued and the roar that ensued was one of the biggest for a wrestler’s debut since we don’t even know when. And it wasn’t just the crowd reaction, or the fact that he got to survive in the Rumble for half an hour and show off a lot of what has made him one of the best wrestlers on the planet these last few years. It was the fact that the commentary repeatedly talked about him, how big a star he is, and how impressive he was. AJ Styles t-shirts were on sale online before the Rumble ended, and there are at least three or four new articles and videos on the front of their webpage about the incredible showing he put on and why we should care about AJ Styles. Although nothing is guaranteed, one would have to figure that you don’t pay as much money as WWE is allegedly paying AJ Styles without at least attempting to make him a big star, and for the first night, WWE did their best to make him seem like something special. Source:

4. Two Immortals Locked In An Epic Battle Until Judgment Day

Of course, AJ’s Rumble run came to an end well before the finish, at the hands of a man who everyone already hates anyway. Yes, Kevin Owens limped his way into the Rumble match, kicked Styles in the mouth to deny the crowd getting to see a Styles Clash finisher for the first time in WWE, screamed “Welcome to WWE!” in Styles’ face, and tossed him out of the match. Kevin Owens’ ability to be the worst person in the world, and be amazingly self-aware about it, is why he may one day go down in history as one of wrestling’s greatest heels. And the best part is, right when things were finally starting to go his way, Sami Zayn entered the Rumble with one thought on his mind: eliminating his former best friend turned mortal enemy. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are going to be tied together forever in wrestling history, even as they begin a new chapter in WWE, because they’re two halves of a single entity. Sami, the light side, is cheerful and optimistic, works really hard, and eventually, things work out for him. Owens, the dark side, is never happy, hates everyone, and no matter how well he’s doing, will always be jealous of Sami. They won’t fight each other all the time, but sooner or later, some cosmic twist of fate will push them back together, and the end result is that wrestling fans will get to see one of the best lifelong rivalries in the business go around one more time. Source:

3. The Unsung Heroes

So many big, important things happened at the Rumble, that’s it’s hard to remember the smaller ones. Like Damien Sandow, off television for months and months through no fault of his own, making his return as the eighth-most important guy in a four-team tag match and receiving a massive hero’s welcome from the crowd, which will hopefully push WWE into remembering that’s he’s an incredibly talented guy that they should be using. Or R-Truth thinking he’s in a Money in the Bank match instead of the Royal Rumble and completely selling the entire bit in a way that was legitimately funny instead of groan-worthy. Or Ryback, throwing running high knees in the corners just because he can (and because he’s apparently dedicated his career to lifting moves from CM Punk). Or Rusev, who randomly stole one of the TV monitors from the destroyed announce table and then later declared himself the new WWE TV Champion on Twitter, because seriously, how can they not find something better for him to do? Or how about Chris Jericho, back on another nostalgia trip, spending 50 minutes in the Rumble match, basically directing traffic the entire time like the incredible ring veteran we know he is. There is so much talent in WWE that it’s sometimes scary what they can come up with when the reins are a little looser, and hopefully they’ll all get more chances to shine in the future. Source:

2. Anyone But You, Roman

And that brings us to our erstwhile but probably doomed hero of this tale, Roman Reigns. After a rare bright spot following TLC, where fans seemed willing to forgive and accept, WWE continued to backslide on the Reigns character that had earned enough goodwill to reasonably become WWE World Heavyweight Champion. The unhinged, angry, ass-kicking juggernaut kept disappearing, replaced by wry comments, stilted promos, and a Cena-esque ability to overcome ridiculous odds against all believable expectations. Once again, we’re back where we started with Reigns, a guy who might actually have been something, had WWE not decided that they wanted him to be something he is clearly ill-suited for, fan reactions be damned. When WWE opened the door on the idea that they listened to their fans, it was a transparent lie that we all went along with because, for a while, what WWE wanted lined up reasonably well with what the fans thought they liked. But in recent years, the relationship between WWE and their fans has grown more and more adversarial, and the ultimate casualty is going to be Roman Reigns. In their attempts to make Reigns an underdog, WWE has been too blatant in their manipulation, and once again at the Rumble, the fans pushed back. The worst part is, Reigns could have won them back by putting on a gutsy performance in the match, toughing it out for nearly an hour and falling prey to a rested Triple H at #30. But Reigns isn’t that guy, and probably never will be, so he had to be airlifted out of the match and rest backstage so that he’d be able to come back in and perform at the end. An Iron Man Rumble performance where you weren’t wrestling for half of it won’t endear you to anyone, and that’s why Reigns received only boos for his “courageous” return, while Dean Ambrose, who survived a brutal Last Man Standing match plus twenty minutes in the Rumble, looked like the world-beating hero that fans were clamoring to see emerge victorious. Source:

1. It’s Not Perfect, But It’s Not Bad, Either

Overall, while we can’t be thrilled about Triple H holding the WWE World Heavyweight Title while being mostly retired, in an obvious ploy to give Roman Reigns another shot at a big WrestleMania moment that will make him a 3-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion inside of six months (and probably won’t work like WWE clearly wants it to), it’s hard to dislike the Royal Rumble Pay Per View as a whole. The Last Man Standing match will probably be talked about at the end of the year when awards for great matches are handed out, the US and Tag Title matches were entertaining, and the women’s match was another in a growing number of good outings from an always-improving division we’d thought better left for dead long ago. The Rumble match itself was well-booked, had multiple great stories woven throughout it, set up several potential WrestleMania matches we can feel good about, and had the debut of someone who could be a significant factor in the future of WWE. The fact that Reigns is once again floundering badly and a combination of injuries and WWE failing to build up credible heels so badly that Triple H was the only real choice to take the title from him is disappointing, but only one black mark on a show that did so many things correctly. For the most part, we enjoyed what we saw, and we hope that you did too.–T63877955-1-0-545968034-455T Source:
Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.