WWE Royal Rumble 2017 (January 29, 2017)

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I love gimmick matches and in my rather humble opinion there is no finer gimmick than the Royal Rumble. Thirty men enter. One man walks out with a shot a championship gold. There are usually some comedic spots, some decent in-ring action, and a surprise entrant or two that make it a must watch PPV, more so even than the Granddaddy of them all, WrestleMania. So how was the 2017 Rumble? Let’s find out.

There were three matches during the pre-show, but since the Rumble itself was over three hours long and I am not made out of clocks, I skipped them. Maybe sometime in the future I’ll watch them. Probably not.

We’re in San Antonio, Texas and we’re kicking things off with ladies wrestling. Charlotte Flair is the champion and is undefeated in singles competition at PPVs. Bayley is a perpetual underdog.

Match 1: Charlotte Flair vs. Bayley

I’m glad Charlotte gets a last name again. Bayley meanwhile comes out with a ring jacket that declares, “Just Bayley,” on the back of it so I doubt we’ll ever know what her surname is.

The beginning of this match is a little sloppy, but they pull things together pretty quickly. Bayley had the advantage in the early going, but Charlotte sent her head into the ring apron (“The hardest part of the ring,” according to Michael Cole) to take control.

Charlotte worked over Bayley’s knee for awhile, but Bayley fought back. She blocked a moonsault attempt from Charlotte, but was unable to capitalize because she’d used her injured knee to block.

Charlotte got her mouth busted open at some point right before the finish of the match, but I’m not entirely sure how. The finish saw Charlotte getting the win via the Natural Selection.

Winner: Charlotte Flair

This was a pretty decent opening match though I’ve seen these two have better matches with each other before.

Match 2: Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns

This is a no disqualification match for the WWE Universal Championship and in spite of that stipulation, Kevin Owens’ BFF, Chris Jericho gets locked in a shark cage and hoisted above the ring Starrcade ’86 style.

They go outside pretty early on and fight through the crowd before heading back down to the ringside area. Owens lays out Reigns and then assembles a pyramid of chairs that they attempt to put each other through to no avail before returning to the ring.

Reigns levels Owens with a clothesline and then snags a table from under the ring and brings it in to set up. Owens is back up though and nails Reigns with a backstabber. He tosses the table out of the ring and goes for a cannonball but eats a big boot and a powerbomb for a two count.

Owens goes to the outside but Reigns is all over him like ugly on an ape and catches Owens with the Drive By. Reigns sets up the table at ringside, but before he has a chance to do anything with it, Owens hits him with a superkick that lays him out on the table. Owens goes to the top rope and BAM! FROG SPLASH RIGHT THROUGH THE GODDAMN TABLE! ECW! ECW! ECW! ECW!

Owens snags some chairs and they head back into the ring. He wedges one between the ropes in the corner. Roman fights him off and works him over for a bit, but Owens superkicks him and then whips him into the prepared chair for a two count.

Jericho drops a pair of brass knuckles down from the cage that Owens equips. He goes for the Superman Punch but is blocked so he does it a second time and catches Reigns in the face with brass knucks earning…a two count?! Are you fucking serious WWE?! A two count?! With brass knuckles?! That was William Regal’s finisher for years! C’mon!

Owens decides to abandon the plan of pummeling a dude with brass knuckles and sets up a chair that he attempts to powerbomb Reigns into. Reigns has other plans though and counters, sending Owens through the chair with a Samoan Drop for a count of two.

Reigns heads out and picks up another table that he brings into the ring and sets up in the corner, but Owens gets a NWA 1986 roll up on him while he’s not paying attention for two. Reigns hits Owens with a Superman Punch for two of his own and then goes for a spear through the table.

STUNNER! STUNNER! KEV-O! KEV-O!

Owens hits a stunner and then stomps a mud hole in Reigns and walks it dry. He hits another cannonball and then goes to superplex Reigns into the pyramid of chairs that is still standing ringside. Reigns fights him off and then nails Owens with another Superman Punch that send him off the ropes through the chair pyramid in a spot that looks like it hurt like hell.

Reigns pulls apart the announce table and powerbombs Owens through it. There’s a Spanish announce table and a German announce table right there Reigns, why you gotta use the main announce table? What did Corey Graves and Michael Cole ever do to you? Reign’s not caring about the destruction of property ringside, rolls Owens back into the ring and sets up for a spear through the table.

BRAUN STROWMAN OUTTA NOWHERE!

Strowman wrecks Reigns’ shit and takes him outside where he chokeslams Reign into the German announce table, but it does not break. Maybe they imported it from Japan. Undeterred, Strowman brings Reigns back into the ring and powerslams him through the table in the corner. Owens makes the pin and picks up the win.

Winner: Kevin Owens

This was a fight, not really a wrestling match, and that probably made it more fun than it otherwise could have been. For all the shit people give Roman Reigns, he’s honestly pretty good at brawling. The kicking out of a brass knuckles spot was kind of stupid (especially since Reigns lost anyway), but this was otherwise a pretty decent brawl between two dudes.

I’m kind of curious where they’ll go from here with all these dudes. Reigns probably has to move on to deal with Strowman but what does that leave for Owens?

Meanwhile Backstage…

Sami Zayn is picking his entry number out of a tumbler, but he’s nervous about it. Dean Ambrose shows up and picks his number. He then asks Sami if he wants him to open the ball and check his number. Sami does.

“It’s 8…oh wait I have it upside down. It’s 8,” Dean says and then walks off without checking his own number.

“I don’t want to ruin the surprise,” he says.

Match 3: Rich Swann vs. Neville

Cruiserweight action! Neville’s heeling it up so he’s all grappley and 1980s big man power moves while Rich Swann’s more like “WCW SATURDAY NIGHT CIRCA 1996!!!” bouncing around the ring like a superball. I think over the course of the match, Neville only went off the top rope twice and both times it was countered by Swann.

Good back and forth between these two. Neville works chin locks and things of that ilk while he’s in control. Swann hits a bunch of highflying shit including a Phoenix Splash at on point.

The conclusion of the match sees Swann go up top for the 9,000th time, but Neville leaps up to the top rope and stops Swann before he can do whatever high flying maneuver he was going to do. Neville nails the superplex and goes for the pin but Neville kicks out at two, but Neville goes into what looks like the Rings of Saturn and Swann has no choice but to tap out.

Winner: Neville

I love heel Neville. I love that he’s all in on being a heel. His moveset is different. His look is different. His music is different. He’s really committed to it unlike the vast majority of wrestlers who wrestle/look/act the same whether they’re faces or heels (‘sup eyepoking face “Real American” Hulk Hogan).

I’m glad Neville got the win here. The cruiserweight division really needed a strong focal point and I think Neville works nicely here. The division has a lot more credible faces than heels so it works better with a strong heel champ for the faces to chase. I wouldn’t be surprised if Neville holds the strap for awhile.

Match 4: AJ Styles vs. John Cena

Styles is reigning WWE Champion and is out first. John Cena comes out second and stands at the top of the ramp. Split crowd which is par for the course for him. Cena’s like “A lot people are booing…but a lot of them aren’t too!” to himself before he sprints down to the ring.

The match gets underway with Styles and Cena circling one another. Styles kicks Cena in the leg to which Cena replies with a clothesline. He whips Styles into the corner and lays into him with some fists. Styles fights out and levels Cena. He goes for a knee drop, but Cena rolls out of the way and gets Styles with a back body drop.

LET THE SPAMMING OF FINISHERS COMMENCE!

Cena goes for the first Attitude Adjustment of the night but Styles lands on his feet and hits an enzuigiri that levels Cena. Cena recovers quick and takes down Styles with a running shoulder tackle. Styles takes Cena down gets a two count. Cena is back on his feet and powerbombs Styles. Cena goes for the Five Knuckle Shuffle, but Styles is on his feet and takes out Cena with a German suplex.

More back and forth. Five Knuckle Shuffle. Superplex. Argentine backbreaker rack. Powerbomb. Styles goes for the Phenomenal Forearm, but Cena ducks out of the and gets Styles with Attitude Adjustment #2. He makes a cover and scores a two count.

Cena hits a running lariat and goes for a second but Styles ducks and hits a Pele kick. Cena back body drops Styles onto the apron (“THE HARDEST PART OF THE RING!”) but Styles springboards into a Phenomenal Forearm for a two count. Styles goes for a kick to the head, but Cena counters into a sit-out facebuster.

STRONG STYLE FISTICUFFS CENTER RING!

Styles catches Cena in the Calf Crusher but Cena counters and locks on the STF. Styles inches his way towards the ropes but Cena pulls him back to the center of the ring. Styles weasels his way out of the hold and rolls Cena into a jackknife cover and locks Cena in his own hold, the STF!

TIME FOR A VOLLEY OF COUNTERS!

Cena is able to get out of the STF and tries to counter into the Attitude Adjustment (attempt #3), but Styles tries to counter into a hurricanrana, but Cena counters into a Figure Four leg lock, but Styles counters into a cross arm breaker. Cena Hulks up and destroys Styles with a sit-out powerbomb to break the hold.

He then goes up time. He’s going for a diving leg drop, but Styles counters with a mid-air powerbomb and then hits the Styles Clash. Styles goes for the cover. ONE! TWO! NO!!!! CENA KICKS OUT AT TWO!

Styles is all like, “WHAT THE FUCK?!” and goes out to the apron and starts a springboard 450° splash, but while he’s in the air, Cena gets his knees up, effectively ruining Styles’ shit.

A FLURRY OF PINFALL ATTEMPTS! ONE! TWO! NO! ONE! TWO! NO!

Cena’s had enough. He takes Styles up top and hits an Attitude Adjustment (#4) from the top rope! Cena goes for the pin. ONE! TWO! NO! STYLES KICKS OUT! Cena’s face is all like, “Aw man you gotta be shittin’ me! He kicked out of that?!”

Cena goes for Attitude Adjustment attempt #5 but Styles counters into the Styles Clash. Styles goes up to the top. He’s going for the Phenomenal Forearm! Cena pulls him off the top rope and hits Styles with the Attitude Adjustment (#6). Instead of going the pin, Cena rolls over Styles and hoists him up and nails him with Attitude Adjustment #7 and finally gets the ONE! TWO! THREE!

Winner: John Cena

This was a a pretty great match, but much like the earlier Charlotte vs. Bayley match, I’ve seen better encounters between these two. There were a few too many FINISHER! ONE! TWO! NO! kick outs in this one for my liking.

Anyway Cena’s the champ now and is tied with Ric Flair for most championship reigns ever at 16 a piece. The announcers were surprisingly subdued about this fact after it happened. I thought they’d have made a bigger deal out of it than they did. I guess they’re saving the fireworks for when Cena inevitably hits Championship Reign #17.

Match 5: The Royal Rumble

Jerry Lawler is out for commentary on this one. Boo!

I’m not going to attempt to summarize this blow for blow since in my opinion there’s no need to really do so. The match can pretty much be broken down into three different segments.

The first part of the match was basically the Braun Strowman Show. You had Braun and a bunch of big older dudes (Big Show, Mark Henry, et. al.) plus your early match comedy stuff (Jack Gallagher using his umbrella as a parachute, James Ellsworth not wanting to go into a ring cleared by Braun Strowman). We got the one surprise entrant in the Rumble here with the WWE giving the fans exactly what we wanted by having Tye Dillinger come in at #10.

Baron Corbin hit the ring and dumped Strowman almost instantly and then the ring filled up with midcarders. A bunch of tag team guys ended up in the ring during this part (New Day, Cesaro & Sheamus, The Wyatt Family) and with the exception of the New Day they all had dissension in their ranks. Cesaro did the Big Swing on everyone including Sheamus and they did the trying to throw each other over the top while the other guy wasn’t looking spot (“IT’S EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF!” opines Michael Cole). The Wyatts had Luke Harper sock Bray Wyatt in the mouth and then go for Sister Abigail only for Randy Orton to make the save. TAG TEAMS IMPLODING ALL OVER THE PLACE!

The final part of the match was the main event/part-timers portion of the Rumble. Lesnar showed up and cleared house and then the clock started counting down and the buzzer buzzed everyone assumed Goldberg was coming out, but WWE trolled everyone and Enzo Amore came out and got killed.

Goldberg then came out and speared Lesnar and then clotheslined him out of the ring. GOLDBERG HAS LESNAR’S NUMBER!!! The Undertaker, however, had Goldberg’s number and dumped him out of the ring shortly thereafter.

The WWE wasn’t done trolling people because the final countdown began and the buzzer buzzed and Roman Reigns’ music hit to a chorus of boos. He quickly eliminated the Taker and the two had words. It wasn’t long until we were down to the final four: Jericho, Orton, Wyatt, and Reigns.

“Fuck, they’ve learned nothing!” I think to myself, knowing for certain that Reigns is going to eliminate the three heels and stand tall. Jericho goes out, followed by Wyatt.

“There’s no way Randy Orton can win this,” I say as Reigns goes for a spear…RKO OUTTA NOWHERE!!!!!

Orton clotheslines Reigns sending him crashing to the floor and stands triumphant. He points at the WrestleMania sign, because that’s what you do.

Winner: Randy Orton

All in all it was a pretty boss Rumble. They told a couple different stories during the match so they have  stuff for undercard guys to do going forward, which is something the Rumble used to do, but hasn’t really done for a few years now.

I kind of wish there’d been a couple more surprise guys since those are always good to break up the monotony in the middle of the match. I mean you know that a Tommy Dreamer or Greg “The Hammer” Valentine isn’t going to win the Rumble in 2017 but it’s fun to see them jostle with dudes you would have never expected to see them jostle with. I suppose this year the surprise spots were more or less taken by pre-announced part-time dudes so it is what it is.

Anyway, here’s all the entrants and their eliminations and stuff, if you care about that sort of thing.

rr2017Rapper, Mega Ran, wrote a song that summarizes the events that transpired far better than I could have. I have included it below.

 

Final Thoughts

This was really a fun PPV/Monthly Special/Whatever. The undercard was all good to great and the Rumble was also pretty well done. The ending was, for the first time in a long time, completely unexpected.

As part of the Road to WrestleMania I think it did a good job of creating a decent number of plot hooks to explore going further. Will Reigns feud with Strowman or Taker? Which championship will Orton go after? What’s going to happen with Luke Harper? I’m excited to find out.

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