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The 2015 Royal Rumble Match
The Miz vs. R-Truth vs. Bubba Ray Dudley vs. Luke Harper vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Curtis Axel vs. The Boogeyman vs. Sin Cara vs. Zack Ryder vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Fandango vs. Tyson Kidd vs. Stardust vs. Diamond Dallas Page vs. Rusev vs. Goldust vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Adam Rose vs. Roman Reigns vs. Big E vs. Damien Mizdow vs. Jack Swagger vs. Ryback vs. Kane vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Titus O'Neil vs. Bad News Barrett vs. Cesaro vs. Big Show vs. Dolph Ziggler
Of this years Royal Rumble competitors, only seven have recieved broadcasted one on one World title matches over the last three years. Of those seven, only six occured on pay-per-view, and only three of those have main evented a pay-per-view with the title on the line. The point I'm getting at here is the *severe* lack of star power in this Rumble. The more stars you have in a match like this, the bigger the moment for the winner, surely? Now obviously come the day of the match, there wasn't much WWE could have done about this, but it does flag up the problem that many have been seeing for years, WWE has been over reliant on the old guard and returning or part-time performances, meaning this match was chock-full of mid carders, jobbers and those with no hope of winning at all.
The match was structured rather bizarelly as well with a number of moments that had me shaking my head. Building the crowd into a frenzy for Devon to save Bubba Ray Dudley from Luke Harper and Bray Wyatt only for Dudley to simply get thrown over the top rope, Wyatt's speech calling out the next entrant only for it to be Zack Ryder when Daniel Bryan was the bloke after Ryder, Kofi Kingston's rather disapointing way of avoiding elimination, Dolph Ziggler entering at Number 30, long periods where nothing of note happened at all! But, of course, the most notable of all was Daniel Bryan's early elimination. Now, I'm not entirely against Bryan going out of this stage (although it took a lot out of the crowd and made it obvious who was winning fairly early on) but it didn't really seem like a big deal when he was eliminated by Wyatt, neither did WWE attempt to win the crowd around by sending out a big name next, as Goldust, Kofi Kingston and Adam Rose were next, followed by Roman Reigns! Surely sending out Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler or even Damien Mizdow at this point would have been a better option?
The odd structure aside there were a few moments that stood out. Obviously the surprise returns of Bubba Ray Dudley and Diamond Dallas Page were cool, and I got a kick out of The Boogeyman coming out and getting battered by Bray Wyatt. Daniel Bryan's ten minutes in the Rumble were enjoyable, he clearly wanted to help those he was in the ring with, taking a number of signature moves, and seemed to pick out Tyson Kidd for a little bit of a showcase, with the two putting together an entertaining sequence. Bray Wyatt and Rusev both put a shift in, playing the roles they were given nicely, with Wyatt confrontations with Bryan and Rusev's with Big E and Ryback standing out in particular. Damien Mizdow and The Miz' segment was done well, although it probably wasn't the best idea that the two could've been given, especially seeing as Mizdow lasted only 18 seconds!
Finally, let's get onto the winner...Roman Reigns. I know a lot of the "Internet" don't seem to like Reigns, and certainly the Philly crowd wasn't happy with the result, but I'm really not sure what else could have been done. I'm not sure I'd want to see Daniel Bryan go against Brock Lesnar so soon after neck surgery, and having Lesnar drop the title to accomodate this would have been throwing away what was built when Lesnar defeated the Streak. WWE clearly recognised that Reigns was going to get a negative reaction and attempted to change this by sending out The Rock to help out his cousin when he was attacked by Big Show and Kane. It worked, perhaps for a second, when The Rock received a big pop, before the fans realised Reigns had still won. Is Reigns ready to main event WrestleMania? Only time will tell, but I do hope, that the crowd that day, at least, gives him a chance to prove himself on that stage, instead of simply taking away anyone else's chance to enjoy it.
World Heavyweight Championship Triple Threat Match
John Cena vs. Seth Rollins vs. Brock Lesnar (C)
As triple threats in WWE go, this match is up there with the likes of Edge vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Triple H from Armageddon 2008, Kurt Angle vs. The Rock vs. The Undertaker from Vengeance 2002 and even Chris Benoit vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H from WrestleMania XX, it was that damn good. A true spectacle to watch, that you wouldn't see anywhere other than WWE.
The bout was extremely well structure to get the best out of the three men in match. Brock Lesnar dominated early on, before suffering an onslaught of offence from both challengers, allowing Seth Rollins and John Cena to battle it out, before Lesnar made his own version of a Superman comeback to pick up the victory and retain the title following an F5 to Rollins. This continued to build Lesnar into an undestructable force, allowed Rollins out a career-making performance, whilst Cena held the match together, even chucking in a couple of new moves because he was feeling generous.
Everything in the match seemed to be building towards the finish, as the drama was heightened by a series of near falls, as well as making it look like Lesnar may have to leave the match on a stretcher following a diving elbow from Rollins through the announce table. This moment was played incredibly well by Lesnar, whilst his manager Paul Heyman and Michael Cole on commentary both put shifts in to allow for the suspension of disbelief, which was needed to make Lesnar's comeback even more special a moment.
Whilst everyone involved did their bit well, the undoubted MVP of the match was Seth Rollins who didn't look a step out of place against the two bonafide stars in the shape of Lesnar and Cena. His performance throughout the bout was spot on, especially after the bout when his selling was very good indeed, having to be picked up by J&J Security, and getting a lot of screen time after the match, really got over that Rollins' had been through a war. I was a little disapointed not to see Rollins' attempt to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase, although that doesn't take anything away from the match itself or Rollins' performance. Rollins will be more than ready to cash-in that briefcase following WrestleMania, which perhaps couldn't have been said when he initially won it.
Tag Team Championship Match
The Miz & Damien Mizdow vs. The Usos (C)
This match was all about the crowd reactions. Everyone loved Damien Mizdow, hated The Miz and were almost completely indifferent towards The Usos. Luckily, Mizdow's stunt double act was kept to a minimum, with Mizdow crotching himself on the top rope the only notable spot, instead the match focused more the relationship between Miz' reluctance to tag in his stunt double, which played nicely off the crowd reaction.
Beyond that however, this was a rather dull tag team encounter, which came nowhere near to being pay-per-view quality. A lack of structure and no real sense of drama or build, let everything feeling rather throughout. An Usos comeback could have had potential but Jey simply ran through the regular Usos combination of strikes, samoan drop and running arse attack. There was no real hunger of adventure or excitement that the pair had bought to their matches in 2014 and Jimmy and Jey looked fairly content to just run through the motions, with WrestleMania around the corner is that really something these boys can afford?
It wasn't the Usos who looked lazy, as whilst The Miz did a good job playing with the crowd and used his character nicely, not being in the correct place for Jey's Tope Conhilo is extremely poor for someone who's been around as long as Miz has! When WWE decide not to show a replay of a dive over the top rope, you know you've fucked up and the Philly crowd made sure that everyone knew about it as well. Miz, you big ol' colostomy bag, you used to be WWE Champion, now you can't even catch one of Rikishi's kids?
The closing stages did go some way to aiding some storyline progression for Miz and Mizdow with both men hitting Skull Crushing Finales and Miz unable to get the win on both occasions, whilst Mizdow continued to save his arse when The Usos seemed to have the win. The finish was also rather nice, with Jimmy hitting a Superkick from the apron, allowing Jey to smash Miz with a powerbomb, before Jimmy got the pin following a Superfly Splash. Still not enough to make me think this match should have been anywhere near a pay-per-view.
Tag Team Match
The Bella Twins vs. Paige & Natalya
Out of the three tag matches on the show, this was actually the one I was looking forward to the most, mainly down to an interest in what these women could do when given a little bit more time than they would for this sort of match on Raw or Smackdown. Whilst there were a smattering of nice double team moves, and Paige and The Bella Twins, at least, tried to get the crowd involved in the match, the off kilter pacing and structure and two big mistakes really hurt this one for me. The finish, especially, that saw lengthy build towards hot tag from Natalya to Paige, only for Brie to pull Paige off the apron and Nikki hit a forearm shot to pick up the victory, felt rather strange and took a bit of the energy out of the crowd that was beginning to warm towards the bout.
The two mistakes in the match that really harmed the match saw Paige and Natalya unaware of who was supposed to be legal in the match, followed up quickly by a nasty looking bodyslam reversal by Brie on Natalya. Not knowing who was legal showed a real lack of focus on the performance, I'm not sure who is to blame but neither of these performers should be making that mistake the length of time they've been wrestling for. As for the botch, slips and trips happen, but it definitely harmed the quality of the match and my interest in the bout fell from that point on.
Tag Team Match
The New Age Outlaws vs. The Ascension
An unremarkable and basic tag team match, The Ascension picked up the victory in just over five minutes, following a decent closing sequence that saw Viktor dodge Billy Gunn's Fameasser, before Ascension were able to hit Fall of Man.The Philly crowd were pretty indifferent throughout, with a "You Still Got It" chant and Korma pop for the "hot" tag being pretty much their only contribution throughout the whole match. Not sure why Konnar felt the need to slap on a lengthy headlock when the crowd clearly didn't care and the match was only going five minutes!
Credit to The New Age Outlaws for coming back again and putting over younger talent, however, at this point I'm not really sure if beating 45 and 51 year old blokes is actually that impressive, especially considering we haven't seen Outlaws on television since they got their arse handed to them by The Shield at WrestleMania XXX. I'm still not sold on Konnor and Viktor (especially under the tweaked gimmick), but it's clear WWE has plans for them heading into WrestleMania season.
Aside from the World Heavyweight Championship three way, everything else on this card was entirely misable. Whilst The Rumble had it's moments, it was poorly structured and didn't seem entirely thought through, and the plethora of tag team matches ranged from the bog average to duller than a bag of hammers. Certainly not a classic.