The SmarK Rant for WWE Royal Rumble 2017
(OK, so here’s my line of thinking: We’ve had the old ones posted a million times and talked about them to death, so instead let’s start with last year’s show and go BACKWARDS. Then we’ll do one a day until the show this year, or until I bored and quit, whichever comes first.)
Live from San Antonio, TX
Your hosts are Michael Cole and a host of others.
RAW Women’s title: Charlotte Flair v. Bayley
Charlotte apparently has a last name again, so congratulations to her, I guess. Charlotte dumps her to start, but Bayley necksnaps her on the apron and follows with a baseball slide, and a dive. Charlotte runs her head into the apron in an ouchy looking spot to take over, and that gets two. Suplex gets two. Charlotte cranks on a chinlock and chokes her down for two. Bayley comes back with a backslide, but Charlotte counters into a neckbreaker and follows with a big boot for two. Charlotte throws her around the ring with the headscissors, which gets two. Charlotte lays the smack talk on her, and Bayley gets fired up off that, but Charlotte chops her down again. Bayley makes the comeback with a cross body and a faceplant, and they mess up the positioning on a flying elbow and have to repeat the spot. That gets two for Bayley. Charlotte quickly takes her with the figure-four, but Bayley reverses as Charlotte has managed to bust her mouth open somehow. Charlotte reverses again to the figure-eight, but grabs the ropes and gets caught. She tries a moonsault and hits knee, which gets two for Bayley. They fight to the top and Bayley bumps to the floor off that, allowing Charlotte to hit the neckbreaker on the apron to finish at 13:00. Good opener with the requisite sloppiness, although the finish was kind of out of nowhere. *** This was the right result, since they need to build up Bayley as the one who can’t win the big one for a while before she beats the one who ALWAYS wins the big one at Wrestlemania. (And…then it didn’t happen that way at all, and Bayley was killed off basically for good, so…yeah…)
Their little plug for the WWE Champions mobile game, where they talk about how it was downloaded however many times “in the first 24 hours” is a bit disingenuous, given it’s been out for months everywhere in the world but the US. (Oh WWE Champions, why can’t I get you out of my life? The game never really gets much play on WWE TV, but it’s a giant moneymaker for developer Scopely that has sucked huge amounts of time out of my life for the past two years in a way that games like Candy Crush never did. If anyone ever wants to discuss the game and strategy and such, I’m a relatively high-level player and I hang out on the toxic subreddit about the game.)
Universal title: Kevin Owens v. Roman Reigns
Having it this early probably means no title change. Jericho of course has to be literally thrown into the cage kicking and screaming, as you’d expect. Reigns slugs Owens out of the ring and they brawl into the crowd immediately. Back to ringside, KO runs him into the stairs and grabs a bunch of chairs from under the ring and cannonballs him into the barricade. He proceeds to set up some kind of modern art sculpture made of chairs, and they fight on the apron to see who gets to fall onto it. Reigns comes back with clotheslines and grabs a table, but Owens hits him with a backstabber for two. He stops to mock Roman and walks into a powerbomb as a result, and that gets two for Reigns. Owens runs away from the superman punch, so Reigns hits him with the Drive-by. He sets up the table on the floor, but Owens puts him on it and follows with a frog splash through the table. Owens is a madman. More chairs get involved, but Reigns makes the comeback with more clotheslines until Owens superkicks him into a chair for two. Jericho, despite being locked in the cage, shows the power of true friendship and tosses a pair of brass knuckles to Reigns, and Owens uses them for two. Kind of surprised they used real ones here instead of the usual taped up gimmick you see in wrestling. Reigns comes back with a samoan drop through the chair for two as the obnoxious crowd reaction shots increase in frequency. Roman grabs another table and hits the superman punch for two, but Owens gives him a stunner for two. Another cannonball sets up a superplex, but Reigns blocks with a superman punch and Owens goes through Chekhov’s Chair Pile, because as noted, he’s a madman. Roman decides to also put him through a table because he’s such a babyface and hero to everyone, and so adds a powerbomb through the table. Back in, Braun Strowman decides to run in, chokeslams Roman and slams him through a table, and Owens retains the title at 23:27. Those who thought they couldn’t deliver a screwjob finish with Jericho locked in the cage just weren’t trying hard enough. On the flipside, maybe if Reigns would have just pinned Owens after the chairs instead of being a complete asshole about it, he might have won the title. Some good spots and a good brawl overall, but it was overly long and lost the point a few times. ***1/2 And the finish sucked. I did like it overall, though. (On the bright side, this was the first step into really putting Braun over the hump and making him awesome.)
Meanwhile, Enzo and Cass are really into chicken.
Meanwhile, Sami Zayn picks his number and Dean Ambrose is looking for churros so he can go have a nap.
Cruiserweight title: Rich Swann v. Neville
How can Neville be the “self proclaimed” King of the Cruiserweights when the ring announcer AND the TitanTron both say it? That seems be pretty much universally proclaimed from a variety of outside sources. Austin Aries and Corey Graves on commentary together are fantastic and should just call all the shows forever. (Now I’d like to hear Austin Aries and Nigel together.) Swann sends him out with a dropkick to start and follows with a dive, but Neville stomps him in the corner to take over. Missile dropkick gets two. Swann rolls him up for two, but Neville puts him down again with a forearm in the corner for two and goes to the chinlock. Swann chases him outside for a bit, but Neville sends him into the railing and heads back in for a missile dropkick, which is countered by a Swann superkick. Swann snaps off a rana to put Neville on the floor and follows with a spectacular Phoenix splash, and they head back in. Swann throws the high kicks, but that only gets two. Swann with a running frog splash for two, but he goes up and gets crotched after he takes too long. Swann fights back again, but walks into a superkick, only to recover with a rollup for two. Superkick gets two. He goes up and this time Neville brings him down with a superplex for two and follows with a crossface, and Swann taps at 13:31 to give Neville the title. Good match that actually kept the crowd engaged instead of being used in a death slot. ***1/4 And of course, Neville needed to get the title right away. (Well, that relationship sure didn’t work out well for either side by the end of the year.)
Smackdown World title: AJ Styles v. John Cena
AJ lays him out quickly with a clothesline and drops the knee, but Cena quickly comes back with a backdrop, but Styles escapes the FU and hits an enzuigiri, then counters a powerbomb into a rana and follows with a flying punch for two. German suplex into the faceplant gets two. Cena mows him down with a lariat, however, and drops the Five Knuckle Shuffle. They fight on the top rope and AJ brings him down a torture rack into a powerbomb for two. That’s really the kind of thing that should be a finisher. Speaking of which, Cena hits the FU for two out of nowhere. John gives us angry flexes while AJ recovers, and he follows that with a lariat for two. I feel like Vince was furiously jacking at it at the gorilla position while Cena was pumping himself up. “GODDAMMIT TELL HIM TO DO IT AGAIN SO I CAN FINISH!” (I feel like I disturb myself sometimes.) AJ comes back with the Pele Kick and the flying forearm for two. Cena ducks a kick and hits an electric chair drop in a nice counter, and they slug it out to the expected reaction. Cena reverses out of the Styles Clash, but Styles reverses into the Calf Crusher, and Cena reverses that into the STF. And then AJ reverses THAT into his own STF! Cena powers out and teases a Styles Clash, but then takes him down with a figure-four instead as the crowd is losing their minds. Cena goes to hit him in the face while holding the move, so AJ grabs the arm and reverses into an armbar, which Cena finally turns into a slam to escape and they’re both out. Cena goes up and lands on his ass, and the Styles Clash gets two. Springboard 450 hits knee and Cena follows with the Code Red for two. AJ hits him with the Tye Breaker for two, but Cena catapults him into the corner and takes him down with a Diamond Cutter out of a slam for two. To the top, and Cena hits the top rope FU for a VERY close two as everyone freaks out. Styles with another Clash and the foream, but Cena catches him with one last FU to win the 16th title at 24:00. And a nice moment as Lil’ Naitch is the one to count the pin and award him the belt. Surprised they didn’t tie the record at Wrestlemania, but it was an awesome match that blew away everything on Takeover. ****1/2 And then he celebrates with a Make-A-Wish kid at ringside, which is why he’s never turning heel. (But FUCK ME did this ever set off a sequence of title changes that made no fucking sense in retrospect. Like, why did they even need to take the title off AJ to begin with? If he’s losing to Bray at the Chamber as the final guy, why not have him be champion there? Why did we need to hot potato a belt that was already having trouble recovering from Dean Ambrose’s reign?)
The Royal Rumble
Big Cass draws #1, which gives Enzo plenty of time to do his whole routine. Thankfully it’s a four hour show. Cass also gets the first Point To Sign of the season. Chris Jericho is #2, hopefully recovered from his shark cage ordeal. Cass tosses him around to start, but not out. Kalisto is #3 and he runs wild on both guys before Cass boots him down again. Mojo Rawley is #4 and hopefully doesn’t blow up running down to the ring. So he runs wild for a bit before Cass cuts him off. Jack Gallagher is #5, and he uses the umbrella in most un-gentlemanly fashion, but gets nowhere. They’re really doing shortened times tonight for some reason as we’re 5 guys into the match at only 6:00 in. Mark Henry is #6 as the deadwood is already piling up. Henry tosses Gallagher and his umbrella at 8:29. Braun Strowman is #7 so he’s not winning, thankfully. (Man, my stance sure has changed within a year. I was actually DISAPPOINTED that he’s in the title match this year because that meant he’s not winning the Rumble!) This should clear the ring, at least. Jericho wisely leaves the ring while Braun wrecks some people. Mojo is no mo at 9:45. Cass is SAWFT at 10:00. Kalisto is lucha launched out at 10:18. Henry goes home to Texas at 10:53. Sami Zayn is #8, as we learned earlier in the night, and he gives it a good try against Braun but gets murdered for a while, until Big Show and his Instagram Abs are #9. Braun immediately wins a slugfest and lays him out, but Show responds with a chokeslam and Jericho immediately pops in to capitalize. And fails. Strowman recovers and pushes Show out at 15:40. And indeed, Tye Dillinger is #10 as everyone wanted and everyone goes nuts. (And then he became basically a nobody for the rest of the year.) And he gets to do his “10 10 10” stuff for the crowd as he and Zayn double-team Strowman. James Ellsworth is #11 with new valet Carmella, and he’s wisely worried about facing Braun. Ty and Sami almost get Strowman out thanks to Ellsworth’s distraction, but he hangs on and wipes them out again. Dean Ambrose is #12, fresh off his nap and churros. He pumps up Ellsworth and psyches him into running into the ring to go after Braun, then leaves him to die at 20:10 in a funny spot. The babyfaces all team up on Strowman again until Baron Corbin is #13. And everyone goes after Strowman again, but Tye is out at 22:00. Well, he got his shit in at least. Everyone else continues going after Braun, and Corbin clotheslines him out at 22:35. Kofi Kingston is #14 and people are trying to throw each other over with no luck. The Miz is #15 and he leaves Maryse in the back, so Corey doesn’t care what happens to him now. Miz does get to run wild, using Daniel Bryan’s stuff, but walks into the Deep Six from Corbin. Kofi goes up top and stands on the ringpost, then takes a terrifying bump facefirst onto it that I’m sure was safe but JESUS. Sheamus is #16, which is the first time they’ve even mentioned that the tag titles changed hands earlier in the night! He destroys some guys with Brogue Kicks, including poor Chris Jericho who has spent most of the match unconscious on the floor. Big E is #17 as the ring piles up again, so someone big has to be next. Rusev is #18, so I guess not. A sign that reads “Rusev is my favorite Total Diva” wins the internet. The ring is way overloaded with nothing going on. Cesaro is #19 so that won’t really help. Cesaro gets a bunch of Giant Swings, including one on Sheamus. Xavier Woods is #20 and they really need to get rid of a whole bunch of guys. The New Day triple-teams Sheamus and it’s been nearly 15 minutes since an elimination. Bray Wyatt is #21 and they actually let the crowd do the cell phone gimmick for a couple of minutes before turning the house lights up again. Nothing there, either. Speaking of nothing, Apollo Crews is #22 and he does some dropkicks before all three New Day get tossed at 39:33 by Cesaro and Sheamus. And then Jericho dumps THEM at 40:00. About damn time. Randy Orton is #23 as it’s increasingly doubtful that there’s going to be any surprises this year. It’s RKO for everyone, including Sami flying into one while trying a bodypress. Dolph Ziggler is #24, which I’m sure has everyone shaking. They put 5 guys out at once and there’s still WAY too many guys in there. He gets to run wild for a bit with a superkick party and Luke Harper is #25 as I guess they’re just gonna save up the Big Three for the end. Crews is out at 45:00, for those of you with him in your pool. Harper turns on the other Wyatts and gives Bray a Sister Abigail, but Orton saves with an RKO. Brock Lesnar is FINALLY in at #26. Time to wreck some shit. Dean is out at 47:18. Ziggler goes flying at 47:20. F5 for Miz, F5 for Orton, and everyone is dead. Enzo is #27 for your dumb gag spot, and he’s in and out at 49:29 as they waste a prime slot. Goldberg is #28 as everyone has been literally laying around selling for about 5:00 now, and Goldberg dumps Brock at 51:43 to end his night. Goldberg gets double-teamed by Orton & Wyatt, but lays them out and hits Sami with a jackhammer. Undertaker is #29 and he magically appears in the ring while everyone else just lays around and watches, but the heels break up that collision. Corbin and Rusev get tossed at 54:20. Harper is out at 54:40, and Undertaker dumps Goldberg at 54:49. Everyone left gets chokeslammed and Roman Reigns is #30. And then we get ANOTHER dramatic staredown while everyone else just watches in the corners. Reigns hits Taker with a pair of superman punches, but gets chokeslammed to end that rally. Taker clotheslines Miz out at 58:10 and Zayn at 58:20. And Reigns tosses Undertaker at 58:53. The crowd doesn’t like that one. So…
Final Four: Roman Reigns, Chris Jericho, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt
Reigns tosses Jericho at 60:12 to end his long night, leaving the Big Dog against the Wyatts. Orton with the draping DDT, but Reigns tosses Bray at 61:47. But then he walks into the RKO and Orton wins the Rumble at 62:08. Did they seriously just book Roman Reigns to almost win ANOTHER Royal Rumble? How tone deaf can Vince be? Anyway, the first part of the match with Strowman was really fun and well-paced, but it just DIED after 20:00 in and never recovered, with the ring clogged by midcarders for endless amounts of time. Then they spent another 20:00 building up to the big part-timer entrants, who all promptly got eliminated after about 1:00 of work each. And then Orton wins his second Rumble in a somewhat mystifying decision considering he’s been a tag team wrestler for the past few months. Not the worst one, but a hugely, hugely disappointing Rumble match that didn’t even have any surprise nostalgia guys to break up the monotony. **1/2 (Well at least that Orton win should pay off with some good matches against Bray Wyatt in a heated feud, right? RIGHT?!?)
Had the Rumble match been ANY better, this would have been an all-timer, but I think the undercard alone is enough for a strong thumbs up at the very least. Still, that Rumble match was a giant missed opportunity and felt like a waste, and still didn’t help to clarify the muddy situation going into Wrestlemania.