Monday, 25 January 2016

PPV REVIEW: WWE Royal Rumble 2016

24th January 2016 presented us with first WWE PPV of 2016, as Chex Mix presented WWE Royal Rumble - One vs. All from the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, USA. With Roman Reigns defending his WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the Royal Rumble against the likes of Chris Jericho, a debuting AJ Styles, a returning Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens and Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose, whilst the undercard was highlighted by a Last Man Standing match over the WWE Intercontinental Championship between Ambrose and Owens and a WWE Diva's Championship contest between Charlotte and Becky Lynch...but was it any good?

fast-forward...Mr. McMahon and Stephanie McMahon kicked off the show, giving a short interview to Jo-Jo as the exited their limo...It was then time for the regular opening hype package, this time focusing upon Roman Reigns' upcoming struggle in the main event and highlighting a number of potential new WWE World Heavyweight Champions...As Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens made their way to the ring, we were also introduced to our Spanish and French announce teams for the evening, Jurassic Park...

Dean Ambrose defending the WWE Intercontinental Championship against former Champion Kevin Owens opened up the action, as the two put on a splendid Last Man Standing encounter. Action-packed and full of big spots, Ambrose and Owens managed to build a match that kept things building throughout, with each slice of conflict upping the ante. Meanwhile, The Lunatic Fringe's work as the underdog, managing to get to his feet numerous times despite the damage Owens inflicted, gave the pair a solid base to create mayhem, with Owens also putting in some fine character work. The onslaught from Owens included opening up with Cannonball through the barricade and finishing up with the Prizefighter hitting a Swinging Fisherman's suplex through a table, with the later producing a quality near "fall". 

The finish of the bout saw Kevin Owens look to be planning a moonsault onto Dean Ambrose, with the WWE Intercontinental Champion prone on a number of chairs (see pic above), only for the Lunatic Fringe to send the former ROH World Champion crashing through a stack of tables at ringside. I'm on the fence about the finish here, that's because whilst it was spectacular and arguably topped anything visually from the rest of the bout, it didn't top the potential spot that was being teased from Owens. If the roles had been reversed and Ambrose had been the heel denying the audience the more impressive spot, I don't think I would have been bothered, in fact I think I would have praised the creativity of the whole thing. This is, of course, silly nitpicking, on what was a rare gem, a satisfying WWE Last Man Standing match, with a conclusive feud ending finish. 

fast-forward...Dean Ambrose celebrated with his WWE Intercontinental Championship belt, which has certainly risen in stature since it was around the waist of Bad News Barrett this time last year...The now expected promo of upcoming WWE Network shows aired with Ride Along, Stone Cold Podcast (no new guests announced), Camp WWE, Edge & Christian Show That Totally Reeks of Awesomeness, Fastlane (26th Feb.) & WrestleMania 32 (3rd Apr.) all being hyped...

I've felt that WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day have been a bit off the boil this year, having to cut a promo before every match must be bloody challenge. But this was a cracking effort from the three lads, as Francesca the trombone rose from the dead like Rory the Roman, with Xavier Woods revealing the he'd been having some kind of inappropriate relations with the brass instrument, which will surely lead to hundreds of questionable fan fictions across the world. The boys put on an entertaining show on the mic, with them listing various gold things in the ring, being reminiscent of Tom and Donna's "Treat Yo Self" from Parks and Rec, which is always going to make me a happy chappy. In response to the New Day's vitriol, The Usos replied with a little angry dance, as seen above. 

Despite a couple of awkward moments (Big E's weird elbow thing to an Uso, another (or possibly the same Uso) hitting a "Definitely Not Superfly" Splash and then shuffling himself to the other side of Kofi Kingston to allow for the WWE Tag Team Champion to put his foot on the ropes) this was another fun tag bout between The New Day (Kofi Kingston & Big E, if you hadn't worked that out) and The Usos (Uso #1 and Uso #2). With lots of "things are happening" moments as all four men took dives, with Big E pulling out his wicked spear through the ropes spot for the occasion, this was easy to watch, even if it lacked a little substance. It was a shame that the Orlando crowd only seemed interested in the action when the New Day were in control, with a portion booing the Usos inevitable hot tag, despite also chanting "New Day Sucks" throughout the match. It took the wind out of things just a little, for me as a home viewer, and seeing as both men worked their arses off throughout the bout I felt a little unjustified. With Big E retaining the titles hitting an Uso with the Big Ending in an impressive closing sequence, the team are now on 8 televised defenses in their second title reign and having gone over The Lucha Dragons (3x), The Dudley Boyz (3x), The Usos (2x), The Prime Time Players (2x) and Los Matadores, I'm not sure if the trio have anyone left to defend against on the current roster.

fast-forward...Few pleasure in life are as pure as watching 5ft 11, 285 lb Big E girating in celebration...A promo for the episode of WWE 24 that followed directly following the PPV aired, fair play...For the banter they showed a recap vid of the Highlight Reel from last week's RAW with Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns taking out The League of Nations and The Wyatt Family taking out Lesnar and Reigns, whilst Chris Jericho did fuck all...Bray Wyatt cut a pretty sweet promo about slaughtering people or something, whilst his buddies looked at him...Lilian Garcia announced Kalisto in Spanish and Alberto Del Rio in English for reasons unknown...

After passing the WWE United States Championship back and forth in solid bouts on Monday Night RAW and Thursday Night Smackdown over the past couple of weeks, I was hoping that Champion Alberto Del Rio and challenger Kalisto would be able to top those two matches and create a special contest that would elevate both men, and especially the challenger, in his biggest singles showcase to date. Therefore, I was disappointing when the two put on a sloppy and disjointed bout, that despite being given a significant portion of time failed to deliver on it's promise. What was that thing that Kalisto tried to do in the middle of the match? He jumped on Del Rio's back, slipped a bit, then scrambled to a roll up. I'm sure if it had paid off it would have been spectacular and we'd all have been talking about that Kalisto chap with his flippy move that was awesome sauce, but unfortunately we are not. After a few more awkward moments, Kalisto picked up a surprising victory hitting Salida del Sol to capture his 2nd United States Championship to close a seemingly ambitious, but ultimately poor bout. The Lucha Dragon is going to have to work his arse off over the new few weeks to prove he deserves the slot he's been handed thanks to the collective injuries of partner Sin Cara and John Cena. 

fast-forward...The crowd seemed pretty happy though joining in with the Lucha Lucha Lucha thing, top banana...The Kick-Off panel of Renee Young, Booker T, Jerry Lawler and Corey Graves chatted about earlier goings on and reminded us that Roman Reigns would defend the WWE World Heavyweight Championship later on, just in case we were planning on tuning out of a product we'd paid for...Highlights from the Fatal-Four way tag team bout from the Kick-Off show that saw Jack Swagger and Mark Henry earn a thirty second slot in the Royal Rumble match, defeating The Dudley Boyz, Damien Sandow & Darren Young and The Ascension in the process...Paul Heyman chatted with Stephanie McMahon somewhere backstage to fill a bit more time...A full promo for Edge and Christian Show That Totally Reeks of Awesomeness aired, with the show look much more promising that I had previously anticipated...The hype package for Charlotte and Becky Lynch's  WWE Diva's Championship match was next...Obviously Becky Lynch and Charlotte made it out to the ring next, with Ric Flair living the dream also...

The crowd being completely behind Becky Lynch throughout made this match for me. That isn't to say that the two girls didn't wrestle a good bout, because they did, but it was so pleasing to hear a WWE PPV crowd completely invested in a Women's match. Chanting "Let's Go Becky" with Charlotte in control of the WWE Diva's Championship match, made things so much more enjoyable as a home viewer and made it easier to buy into her struggle against the underhanded tactics of the Flair's. It was a shame that elements of Ric Flair's involvement were questionable, not as in heel unquestionable tactics, as in forcing a smooch on Becky (to Wooo's from the crowd) and then chucking his jacket into the challengers face whilst she had the Disarmer locked on. I'm behind the Father/Daughter partnership, especially with the pair positioned as antagonists, but I can't get my head around why either incident wouldn't get Charlotte disqualified and why Ric isn't facing (in kayfabe) some-kind of charges for his forced kiss. There were cleverer ways to have Flair help out Charlotte than what they produced here, that would have lead to a much more satisfying conclusion, as Charlotte completed her seventh successful TV title defense. 

Ohhhh, but the misgivings of the Flair's were quickly forgotten when as Charlotte was laying into Becky Lynch post match, Sasha Bloody Banks music hit and the crowd popped their little socks off. Sasha looked incredible, both aesthetically and in her attack on Charlotte, as after originally seeming to be siding with the Champion, she looked on the Banks Statement. With The Bo$$ finally getting the platform to show us what she can do on the main roster, there's some real potential in a feud between her and Daddy's Little Nature Girl over the upcoming months. Part of me is hoping that WWE manages to keep them apart until WrestleMania and gives them enough time to put on a real show. There's even the potential to get Sasha's cousin Snoop Dogg involved to add the razzle and the dazzle. 

fast-forward...The same WWE Network hype package that aired earlier aired again for reasons...Chex Mix did a thing at the Performance Centre, I don't know what Chex Mix is...ROYAL RUMBLE BY THE FUCKING NUMBERS PROMO...Roman Reigns and Rusev made their entrances to kick off the Royal Rumble match, nicely mirroring the duo being the final two in last years event...

Gonna try something a little different here and split the Royal Rumble match into ten minute (or so) intervals to hopefully give a solid picture of the entire match. The first ten minutes might have been my favourite of the bout, setting the bar high with a big surprise and some fun early eliminations. Okay, the big surprise wasn't much of a surprise after the months of speculation over AJ Styles finally jumping from NJPW to WWE, but it was still pretty fucking cool to see him mixing it up with the likes Roman Reigns, Chris Jericho and Kane early doors. Thumbs up for all the Social Outcast's bumping off the apron as well, as Curtis Axel failed to remain in the Royal Rumble for another year. Rusev & Tyler Breeze also got eliminated before the ten minute mark as the babyfaces reigned supreme 

With Orlando seemingly behind AJ Styles, I was a little confused when they lost their shit with "Feed Me More" chants when Ryback creaked his way to the ring. What do these people even want? To be fair, the two combined to produce one of the coolest back body drops I've seen in quite some time. Despite being low on star entrances, this next ten minute stretch had a good couple of spots that kept me entertained throughout. R-Truth coming out and thinking it was a Money in the Bank Ladder match was a great use of someone who clearly isn't going to win, whilst Kofi Kingston landing on Big E's shoulders and dancing around ringside was a cool heel twist on the self proclaimed "Mr Royal Rumble"'s traditional survival spot. By this point we knew Goldust (intriguingly sent out by his brother's rival, Titus O'Neil) and the aforementioned R-Truth (sent over the top by Kane) wouldn't be WWE World Heavyweight Champion...which we kinda knew heading into the show.

The third portion of the bout brought us to the half way point and introduced the two major plot points of the bout. We saw Roman Reigns pulled under the bottom rope by The League of Nations' Sheamus, Rusev and Alberto Del Rio in perhaps one of the stupidest heel moves of all time. Yes, with Mr. McMahon egging them on they destroyed Reigns, finishing up with Rusev gaining some revenge for his elimination by splashing the WWE World Heavyweight Champion through the announce table, but they didn't fucking eliminate him or throw him back in the ring for someone to eliminate him. I get that it was for the advancement of the storyline, but it made all three Nations members and especially the supposed "mastermind" McMahon look like complete idiots. They basically allowed Reigns to leave the match for half an hour, get fixed up backstage and return. We also got the rise of The Wyatt Family as Braun Strowman joined Luke Harper in the match and dominated chucking out both The Big Show and Kane. Kofi Kingston, Titus O'Neil and Ryback also kissed goodbye to their World Heavyweight Championship hopes as Chris Jericho, Big Show and Big Show again sent them packing.

The next portion of the bout had an awful lot going on, as we headed into the business end of the contest and things started to get serious. The first big elimination saw Kevin Owens eliminate fan favourite AJ Styles, and gain extra brownie points for shouting "Welcome to WWE" as he sent the former 2 time IWGP Heavyweight Champion crashing to the outside to a loud chorus of boos. Owens was the perfect candidate to send Styles packing, he's a heel who is popular amongst the most vocal section of the WWE fanbase and therefore benefited from eliminating Styles getting some good heat, but didn't send them into a paddy and cause them to ruin the rest of the bout. Not that they'd have had chance to as Sami Zayn made his return to the main roster for first time since May, taking out Owens and sending the crowd into a frenzy in the process. With Erick Rowan joining The Wyatt Family party and the trio sending Stardust, Neville, Mark Henry and Zayn out, before Brock Lesnar went Wyatt hunting, Wyatt hunting in Suplex Fucking City. Yeah, I typed that and you read it. I hope you're still reading.

This section was ALL about Brock Lesnar. Also, a little about The Miz, but fuck The Miz. Lesnar continued his fine work, putting on an entertaining display taking out the three members of The Wyatt Family with lots of suplexes and such. This was a lot of fun to watch, and paced perfectly as Bray Wyatt headed out just after Lesnar had eliminated all Bray's pals (and Jack Swagger for the bantz). A feud between Lesnar and the Wyatt's could present some interesting scenarios and the idea of Wyatt dueling verbally with Paul Heyman is mouth watering, so when Wyatt ordered his bros to get back in and take Lesnar out of the match, I have to admit to being more than a little excited. However, it did mean than one of the favourites to win the bout was eliminated before the final stretch had begun. The Beast spent just over 8 minutes in the contest. 

So, the final portion of the bout left us with Roman Reigns, Chris Jericho, Dean Ambrose, The Miz, Alberto Del Rio, Bray Wyatt, Dolph Ziggler, Sheamus and Triple H doing battle to win (or retain in Reigns' case) the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. We got Reigns' return to the match, with the Champion now being booed (but not particularly loudly) as took out Sheamus on the entrance ramp and sent The Miz and Alberto Del Rio packing. It was then all about Reigns and the returning Triple H (in his first match since WrestleMania and first Rumble match since 2010) as the pair played a game of one-upsmanship, with Trips pedigreeing Ziggler and Reigns spearing Wyatt. Seeing Triple H work fine sequences with both Dolph Ziggler and Bray Wyatt was pretty cool and it was clear that both Ziggler and Wyatt were enjoying getting to grapple with The Game. With both Wyatt and Ziggler falling to Trips (and Sheamus in Wyatts case), Dean Ambrose taking out Chris Jericho and Reigns throwing Sheamus over the top, we were left with an intriguing final three. But that was taken away almost instantly as the Authority leader tossed Reigns over, seconds after The Juggernaut had sent Sheamus out. Yeah, it meant we got the cool moment of knowing we were getting a new World Heavyweight Champion, and the Lunatic Fringe and the Cerebral Assassin provided some cool action in the ring, but I could only see Triple H walking out with the Gold. Keeping Reigns in there a bit longer could have offered something a bit more interesting with the former Shield buddies opposite The Authority once again, having Ambrose drop the IC title earlier in the night could also have produced a more interesting finish. 

fast-forward...Triple H is our new WWE World Heavyweight Champion for the ninth time and seems on a collision course with Roman Reigns at WrestleMania, and he ended the show celebrating with wife Stephanie McMahon and father-in-law, Mr. McMahon.


atpw scale rating - 6.41 (good)

This was a quality PPV with a Royal Rumble main event that was paced pretty much perfectly, telling various stories throughout, with plenty of twists and turns and a handful of surprises that went further than the token nostalgia pop. Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens put on world class performances, creating a strong physical Last Man Standing opener, whilst Ambrose also went just shy of half an hour in the Rumble. Here's hoping Ambrose will be repayed with marquee WWE Intercontinental Championship defense in ten weeks time at WrestleMania. Kalisto and Alberto Del Rio's WWE United States Championship match was a low point, but even that had it's moments despite the botches. The rest of the undercard managed to remain entertaining throughout, with the Diva's taking the opportunity to perform under the spotlight with an appreciative crowd, even if they had to work around some questionable booking. 

Here's hoping WWE's WrestleMania season keeps getting better from here, because the Royal Rumble built the foundations, against all the odds, and over the next ten weeks, it's time to build a motherfucking sky scraper on that bitch. I got excited. My bad. Continue with your day. Bye. xoxo

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