Last night WWE kicked off the traditional road-to-Wrestlemania in style with The Royal Rumble 2016. After the last two Rumble events flopped miserably and caused more of a fan backlash than if Cannibal Corpse dropped an R’n’B album with Lil’ Wayne, WWE knew they simply had to get it right this time. With ratings at an all-time low and most considering the current product had basically become ‘Roman Reigns and friends’. I’m very glad to say that, my initial reaction at least is very positive, and I hugely enjoyed this year’s edition. Now, without further ado, on to the card itself.
McMahon Opening Promo
The show kicked off with a small promo featuring the McMahons, looking all happy because they had this one ‘in the bag’ and nothing could spoil their plans. The segment was, thankfully, very short and did its job relatively well. It reminded us that Mr.McMahon is an evil corporate bellend, in case we’d forgotten after being reminded every week since 1997.
Intercontinental Championship Last Man Standing Match
(C) Dean Ambrose W Vs L Kevin Owens
Now this is how to book an opening contest! Ignoring the pre-show (As I often do) this was the official show-starter and it was a wonderful experience from bell to bell and the first major contender for match of the year. These two beat the holy hell out of each other and were continuously inventive and innovative. We had kendo sticks, a broken barracade, tables, chairs and basically everything else that the P.G era of wrestling can get away with. What impressed me most, however, was the storytelling aspect. Wrestling is a primarily story driven business, and quite often that aspect is lost in the match, but not here. Kevin Owens works the crowd like very few before him. I particularly enjoyed the part where, after Owen refused to stay down yet again, Ambrose screamed in frustration, ‘I hate you’, to which Owens responded ‘I hate you too’. Is it particularly complicated and difficult to do? Of course not. Is it done enough during matches these days? No sir, it is not. The art of storytelling in wrestling is becoming, slowly, a lost one. Not with these two. Here we have two future world champions, proving themselves on the opener. This was a fantastic contest, and a magical way to open the show. In the end, Ambrose retains after putting K.O through a painful looking double-table spot on the outside, and everyone can be happy that they just watched a potential instant-classic.
Rating – 4.7
WWE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
(C) The New Day W Vs L The Usos
Next up, it was time to not be sour, and clap your hands for your two-time world tag team champs and feel the powwwwwwweeeeeeer, it was a New Day, yes it was. Sorry, I know that was incredibly lame, but I really like The New Day. They remain firmly entrenched in that strange position of ‘annoying heels we love to cheer for’. Before the contest, we were treated to a thoroughly entertaining segment in which we were invited to mourn the loss of Francesca the trombone, brutally murdered by Chris Jericho’s knee. Suddenly, during the one-minute silence, the sound of a new trombone came blaring over the P.A, and we were introduced to Francesca 2! I have to admit, sadly, that I giggled at this like a naughty child. Do I feel ashamed? Slightly. Either way, the match was a traditional tag team affair, decently executed, with some nice back and forth action. It ended with a great spot, as Big E caught whichever Uso (I honestly find it hard to tell between them) in mid-air, and dropped him with a big ending. The catch was mightily impressive, as our The New Day as a whole, and their run continues.
Final Rating – 3.9
BRAY WYATT PROMO
‘We are war. We are famine. We are pestilence, and we are death. We slaughtered the beast, and we destroyed your chosen one. The apocalypse begins tonight’
Once again Bray continues to deliver the best promos in the entire company, bar none, and this was no exception. Wouldn’t change a word of it, personally.
US CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
(C) Alberto Del Rio L Vs W Kalisto – New Champion Kalisto.
In terms of booking, other than the Rumble itself, this was the most fascinating match on the card. After Kalisto’s mini-push culminated in a shocking U.S Championship win over Del Rio on Raw, WWE seemingly derailed this by having him drop the championship a mere few days later, back to Del Rio, on Smackdown. The rematch was announced for The Rumble, and everybody thought, ‘Well, what now?’. If I were in charge of booking, I’d have had Del Rio retain here, tell Kalisto he’s a nobody, before Kalisto finally has his big moment in front of 100,000 people in Texas at Wrestlemania 32. Instead, we had a fairly entertaining match last night that ended in Kalisto winning back the U.S Championship, meaning the title has changed hands three times in a matter of weeks. This is an example of WWE’s ‘Clusterfucker panic-booking’ and leaves us unsure as to where this story can actually head from here. Overall, a decent match with a few noticeable mistakes by Kalisto that ended in a very questionable booking decision.
Rating – 3.4
(C) Charlotte W Vs L Becky Lynch
We all feared for the diva’s revolution after the insanely erratic booking of the Summer. Could WWE deliver on their promise to legitimise female wrestling? Could they continue to put the performers across as threats and resist sexist storylines and turning them into jokes? The answer, at the start of this match, seemed a resounding ‘YES!’ as the match was given a big-fight feel with proper in-ring introductions, the type they typically reserve for World Championship matches. The match then proceeded to be really rather good, if never great, as everybody had an eye on the clock knowing The Rumble was on its merry way. Then we had THAT Ric Flair spot that disturbed everyone, before Charlotte wins via shenanigans. The booking was fine, Charlotte should be the bad-girl champion heading into Wrestlemania, but the use of a sixty-plus year old man kissing a competitor to distract her was….worrying. It’s basically sexual assault, and it was played off for laughs. Again, WWE shoots itself in the foot, and again it continues to have a split-personality in terms of the diva’s division. The ending was then saved by Sasha Banks coming out, declaring herself the next challenger to the championship, and the crowd went absolutely mad. Sasha Vs Charlotte is money, and WWE have pulled a master stroke in setting that up early, and in terms saved this contest and caused everyone to temporarily forget the whole casual sexual assault angle.
Overall rating – 4.3
THE ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH
(C) Roman Reigns Vs Everybody.
Winner, and new WWE Champion – Triple H
Finally, FINALLY the WWE has booked a decent Royal Rumble, if ya smell what Trips is cookin’. After the last two Rumbles ended in boos and hatred, and are considered the lowest points in WWE’s recent history, they knew they had to do something different this year. Again, they were pushing Roman Reigns, and having him enter number one, the fans knew they were going to see a lot of him. They had one hope, and one hope alone, that he would not win the contest again. Luckily, for them, he actually didn’t and everybody went home happy. Sort of.
Reigns started off quickly, dispatching number 2 Rusev in prompt fashion. The buzzer hit for number 3, and out came FUCKING A.J STYLES. The crowd went ballistic, and A.J and Reigns had a mini tussle before 4 entered. The match then simmered down and went a bit quiet, with the traditional parade of mid-carders and occasional eliminations of nobodies, until The Wyatts began to take control of the match.
Around this point, Reigns was attacked by McMahon’s cronies, and led out on a stretcher. Everybody collectively groaned. We know he’s going to come back, we’ve seen this story over a thousand times before. All it did was allow the focus to come off of Reigns for a while, as the Wyatt’s dominated everyone….until out come Brock Lesnar. What happened next was pure poetry, and Lesnar basically destroyed anything he came into contact with, eventually eliminating every Wyatt member. Then Bray came out, and we all stopped to consider this dynamic. His family, his helpers, had been eliminated before he even entered the match. What we he do now? Simple, the Royal Rumble is a no D.Q match, remember, so the Wyatts simply came back in and between the four of them they shockingly eliminated Lesnar. This was huge and I was genuinely stunned by Lesnar’s early exit. Bray then dominated for a bit, before Reigns made his triumphant return. The match continued as normal, then number 30 hit….AND OUT CAME TRIPLE H. Safe to say, the crowd went absolutely bonkers for the returning Game, as very few of them would have thought the WWE had the balls to pull this off. The rumble continued, everybody was eliminated, before Trips shockingly threw out Reigns and came down to a one on one with Dean Ambrose.
Now, considering Ambrose had been in a hellatious last man standing match earlier, the amount of time he spent in the rumble match means he deserves a special mention for his efforts. However, he’d come up short, as The Game would capture his 14th World Heavyweight Championship. Now, a lot of people are pissed at this, for pretty obvious reasons. Trips has a long history of politicking his way to titles, and rewarding himself at this point over the younger talent could be considered another ego boost. Now, when we remember that he’s gone seven years without holding this championship, and that this move is to further a storyline as opposed to performing his usual self-fellatio, I think we can excuse it. Besides, at least it wasn’t Roman, right? RIGHT?
Final Rating – 4.9/5
So the 2016 Royal Rumble has been and gone. We had some great moments, like The Last Man Standing Match, and at least two iconic moments (The Game returns to win the championship, A.J Styles debut), and every match on the card was good to great. The Divas match could have done without the whole sexual assault angle, but we can’t win them all. For the first time in three years I’d wholeheartedly recommend this event to a friend, and I actually think, as a structured match, The Rumble was the best since Austin’s win in 2001. Does the fact that Triple H won reiterate the idea that WWE is failing to build new megastars and have to continuously rely on part-timers? Perhaps. I’d be more convinced if half the roster wasn’t unfortunately injured. Overall, a great show, and a damn fine way to kick off 2016. Bray Wyatt came out looking like a beast again. And, considering the unfortunate passing of Motorhead’s Lemmy, seeing ‘The Game’ blasting over the P.A as Trips raises the belt was a nice tribute, if you look at it that way.
Overall Show Rating – 4.4