WWE Royal Rumble 2017 Review.
Raw Woman’s Title Match: Charlotte © vs. Bayley
The opening match for the proper PPV was for the Raw’s Woman’s Championship. Former friends Bayley and Charlotte have turned into bitter rivals. These two women are one-half of the Four Horsewomen of NXT. These four are the most important females in terms of Revolution that has taken over WWE and sports entertainment in general. The Champion Charlotte would be going for her sixteenth singles victory of PPV and Bayley would be going for her first championship on the Raw brand. Setting up the feud Charlotte would show old photos of Bayley as a fan meeting WWE Hall of Famers behind the scenes. Charlotte says that Bayley is not in her league because she is just a fan, just like all of the peasants in the crowd that need to bow down to the Queen of PPV. Bayley says that her fan past is not a weakness and it is her best asset and strength. She remembers how she felt when a superstar would acknowledge her in the crowd and that it would make her night. She does all she can to make that happen for the WWE Universe. Bayley says she might not have a father in the business who could get an opportunity with just a single call but she had a father who supporter her in every way and every day by just being there and taking her to WWE events. Nobody would ever consider Ric Flair “Father of the Year” ever. So, the comparisons were very interesting. It also reminded me of the 1989 feud of Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat. It was the flamboyance of the Nature Boy vs. the Family Unit uf Ricky Steamboat. It is already great to see connections between Ric and Charlotte and it might be something I am reading into this but it was a great facet of the match which added to my enjoyment.
It was a very hard fought match which showed Charlotte getting her mouth busted open. Charlotte looked very menacing over Bayley with her height and with the hint of the blood coming through her mouth and teeth. It was a great match with some stuff we haven’t seen before. In the end Charlotte would hit Natural Selection on Bayley on the ring-apron which is the hardest point in the ring. Charlotte got back into the ring and pinned Bayley for three count and her 16th singles win on PPV. We will be hearing about 16-times later on in the show so it was a good highlight of things to come. The Woman’s Title on Raw is being booked very strong right now and on the Road to WrestleMania. Sasha, Bayley, Nia Jax and Charlotte are all giving their best in leading roles. It was a mistake in my opinion to not have a Woman’s Royal Rumble match but they are still giving their all to make things happen.
WWE Universal Title Match-Kevin Owens © Vs. Roman Reigns:
The continued feud of Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns appeared to end at Royal Rumble. It was a No-DQ match in which Chris Jericho would be held above the ring in a Shark-Cage. The cage was used earlier on NXT TakeOver Toronto to keep Paul Ellering out of the finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. WWE really wanted to milk that gimmick to sell some toy sets. I think that these two have had way too many matches on television going into this match. It still delivered a solid match which is probably why it has been overused. Again WWE booked a match where Chris Jericho could not get involved but did so anyways. Jericho was locked up in the cage and was allowed to have his US Championship belt. Jericho could have thrown the title down for Owens use. He didn’t do this but did throw down Brass Knuckles which were used mockingly by Owens to his Reigns with a Superman Punch. It was successfully used but it only got a two-count. Brass Knuckles should only be used to end a match. It was used to book Reigns strong but it was way too silly for him to kick out of it. The problem is if that wasn’t booked as the finish than the Knuckles shouldn’t have been introduced or at least Owens shouldn’t have connected with a punch with them. The match was really not about Owens and Reigns though. So, Reigns would be taken out of the match by the interference of Braun Stroman. Stroman attacked Reigns with a large Power slam. Kevin Owens would pick the bones and get the three-count to win the match and the feud against the Big Dog. The Royal Rumble match could change the direction but it appears that the Road to WrestleMania will be leading into Braun Stroman and Roman Reigns. It might not happen as Stroman might have just been getting even with Reigns for his attacks on Raw the Monday before. With one Raw PPV left to go in early March it appears Kevin Owens might be heading into WrestleMania as the defending champion. We will see in the weeks to come to see how Raw’s hottest champion will be booked. He could still drop the title but I hope not. If he does WrestleMania will be a very different show and it could see the Explosion of the Chris and Owens show on the card. I hope not because Owens has been a great champion and he deserves to go into the show as a defending champion.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship Tiltle Match Rich Swann © Vs. Neville
The next match highlighted the great talent in the new WWE Cruiserweight division. The feud that was set up at the Raw PPV RoadBlock: End of the Line finally came to a head. The Champion Rich Swann would head into the Royal Rumble defending the title against the self-titled “King of the Cruiserweights” Neville. It was a great technical match which highlighted the new mat-style favored by many of the members of the cruiserweight division shown each week on Raw and 205Live on the WWE Network. The WWE seems pretty focused on making the division mat based and not as high-flying as cruiserweight wrestling has been in the past in WCW and elsewhere in Mexico and other places. It seems like they want people to think of it has just a weight class and not a lot of high spots and flips. These two wrestlers are very strong in both of those aspects. They did do some great flying spots but it the story was mostly told in the ring and on the mat. Neville’s story is that he is upset that he was not considered for the WWE Cruiserweight Classic on the WWE Network in the summer. This tournament launched the division and made big stars out people involved. Neville was ignored and was upset because he believes he would have defeated the field of 32 with his interaction with the main roster in WWE. He was defeating people like Mark Henry so he would have been the winner and champion by default. Neville would also bring this up on Day-Two of the UK Championship Tournament. He says he is the Man WWE Universe Forgot. Neville would make people pay for forgetting him as he would destroy their heroes. In the end of the match Neville would hit Rich Swann with an adapted version of the Rings of Saturn. Swann would be forced to tap out and the Neville would become the WWE Cruiserweight Champion and now the true King of the Cruiserweights. Not sure what the Road to WrestleMania will hold for the championship. It would be nice to have a Cruiserweight Open match like at WrestleMania 20. It would be cool to have everybody fight for the right to face Neville for the title. The division looks somewhat strong even though they haven’t given us everything cruiserweight wrestling can be. With more high-flyers waiting in the wings the division could look very different with Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik debuting. The submission wrestling has been used to make this feel like every other match. They need to diversify the brand to include all aspects of what cruiserweight wrestling can be.
WWE Championship Match- AJ Styles © Vs. John Cena.
The next match was a classic for the WWE’s biggest prize the WWE Championship. The belt had been re-named three times in the past year. It was the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, WWE World Championship and now once again it is called the WWE Championship. The names of the belt were changed for the new brand split between Raw and Smackdown Live. The WWE Championship is now exclusive to Smackdown and it has been held since October by the Phenomenal AJ Styles. Styles rose to prominence with two great matches with both Roman Reigns and then two big victories against John Cena. Cena and Styles had the match of the night at SummerSlam the event before Styles became champion in October defeating Dean Ambrose for the grandest prize in the business. Cena came back in January and demanded a championship match just because he is John Cena. It was a very heel-like statement from the man who says he is the Face that Runs the Place. AJ Styles has also used that phrase to describe himself along with the Champ that Runs the Camp. AJ Styles has dominated SmackDown and has had some of the greatest matches in recent memory. The Royal Rumble was no exception as they both brought everything to the table and then some. In the end of the match Cena would hit two consecutive Attitude Adjustments to pin the Phenomenal AJ Styles to become a 16-time World Champion in the WWE.
World Title changes are very rare at the Royal Rumble as it is seen as the first step in the Road to WrestleMania. It was a big surprise that the WWE finally pulled the trigger and gave John Cena his 16th title reign. On the same night Charlotte became a winner of 16 singles PPV matches. It was very fitting that Ric Flair’s daughter matched 16 on the same night John Cena did. Cena is now one championship defeat and victory away from being the greatest World Champion in sports entertainment history. The long wait and the surprise end made it all the better for the fans of John Cena. Having a great opponent like AJ Styles also made it all the more meaningful for moment. Styles had had John Cena’s number in two straight matches and came down to the ring with all the swagger a champion should have. In a strange move Styles came down to the ring first which is against tradition. It was a great match and had a decent length for a Rumble Title match. The supersized Royal Rumble event was well suited for this match. The Road to WrestleMania will be seen further in the Elimiation Chamber match for the WWE Title. Cena might have just won it at the Rumble to lose it at the Chamber to set up a WrestleMania match. If that is true it would be another title victory to just pad the numbers of Cena. It would be very disappointing if the 16th and iconic reign would be a one-and-done. Time will tell with the Elimination Chamber and the Royal Rumble match which would be next and the conclusion of the show.
The Royal Rumble Match:
As tradition dicates the Roayl Rumble event concluded with the 30 man Royal Rumble match. The opening of the Rumble was unlike any in recent memory as nobody was eliminated for the awhile into the match. The Rumble was filled up with talent before the first big name entered the fray. The Monster Among Men Braun Stroman entered the ring at number seven and dominated. There had only been one elimination before that which saw the Extrodinary Gentleman Jack Gallagher get tossed over the ropes by Mark Henry while Jack was trying to jump off the ropes holding an umbrella. A spoonful of sugar helped the Gentleman go down and over the top rope. Stroman entering the field saw him eliminate everybody in the ring except for Chris Jericho who entered at number two. The crowd would then give a good response to number eight in the ring Sami Zayn. Zayn began to take it to Stroman as they have been feuding for months. The highlight of the Royal Rumble was at the 10th enterance. The crowd went crazy for the debut of NXT Superstar and the Perfect 10 Tye Dillinger at the 10th spot in the Royal Rumble Match. Corey Graves played it up on commentary as the greatest thing in the history of wrestling and it was the highlight of the night for me.
The Rumble continued with Stroman getting attacked by many smaller talents. He was swarmed like he had hit a bee hive. It would later be a clothesline from a larger challenger in the form of Baron Corbin which would eliminate Stroman from the match. No involvement from Roman Reigns in the elimination by interference was very interesting. Maybe they will not be paired up against each other at WrestleMania. The Rumble started out quickly but it also slowed down considerably after Stroman’s elimination. It was very similar to the 1994 Royal Rumble which showed Diesel dominate the early stages and then when he was eliminate there was a huge space in the match where nothing really spectacular came about as the ring was now being reloaded. The big stars of the match wouldn’t come into very late. Goldberg, Brock and Undertaker would not be involved until the late stages and they were very disappointing quick eliminations of one another. The Undertaker had the biggest impact of the later rounds of the match after number 30 entered the fray and it was Roman Reigns. Reigns teased a heel turn when he cheap-shotted the Undertaker and threw him over the top rope. The camera’s audio caught Reigns saying “this is my yard now” to the 27-year WWE veteran. Corey Graves would pick up on that audio and tell the crowd what Reigns had said if they didn’t hear it. I’m pretty sure everybody heard it and the emphasis made me think Reigns/Taker could be in the very near future in the WWE.
In the final moments of the match it came down to three men. It was two members of the Wyatt Family (Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt) and the Big Dog Roman Reigns. Reigns would be double teamed but fight around it like only he can. Reigns would dump Bray over the top rope and then turn his attention to The Viper. Reigns went for a spear but was reversed into a vicious RKO out of nowhere by Orton. The 3rd generation Orton would toss another 3rd Generation superstar over the top rope to become a two-time and 2017 Royal Rumble winner. The Wyatt’s will have a spot on the main event of WrestleMania. It was strange though but Randy didn’t react act like he was a Wyatt during the match. He seemed to turn on the old Randy Orton as he came down to his old music too. Orton will now have the opportunity to challenge for the WWE Championship in the main event of WrestleMania. The Elimination Chamber will be for the championship so we will have to wait to see who The Viper will challenge for the grandest prize on the grandest stage of them all. It could very well be Bray Wyatt picking up his first singles title at the Chamber to set up a Wyatt Family Showdown in Orlando at WrestleMania. This is one way they can do but it would give a disservice to Bray to have a first title reign so short to just feed it to Randy Orton. We’ll see what happens at the Elimination Chamber and it should be very interesting with all of the players in the mix right now.
Royal Rumble was a very solid and strong way to start the Road to WrestleMania. We saw a pretty good Rumble match with two great first and third acts. The middle act of the Rumble could have been stronger had one of the premier talent like Goldberg or Brock Lesnar been entered to dominate the middle of the field. Neither Goldberg or Brock eliminated enough people to make it a good showing for themselves. Golberg had Brock’s number again and it appears that they will be facing each other one final time at WrestleMania. Brock will have his back against the wall after being humiliated by Goldberg in three straight PPV situations (WrestleMania XX, Survivor Series 2016 and Royal Rumble 2017.) We have never seen Brock in this time of dire straight. It will be very interesting to see how the Beast reacts. One of the shock moment of the Rumble was Undertaker getting dumped by a seemingly heel Roman Reigns. Corbin eliminating Stroman with no involvement from Reigns might show that there will be no Reigns/Stroman match. It could still go down like that if the Undertaker is unable to compete at WrestleMania. It seems like Reigns will have two strong opponent options if things go either way. At any rate the Royal Rumble is now a memory and the Road to WrestleMania is off to a fast start.