WADE KELLER PODCAST - Royal Rumble preview with Sam Roberts
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So, I had planned to do 2014 or 2015, but I frankly didn’t know whether I was ready to go through them again. Instead, I’ll cover Royal Rumble 2013, the first Royal Rumble I attended after 23 years of waiting for it to be somewhere near where I lived at the time. I lived in a Phoenix suburb, so 2013 was the time.
Royal Rumble hype video. Not the stat one that everyone loves, but a simple exposition thing. More coverage is given to Rock vs. Punk for Punk’s title, which he had held for 434 days.
The pre-show match was Cesaro successfully defending the United States title against Miz, who was in the midst of a dead-on-arrival face run, and playing this irritating ugly American stereotype. He was the face, but Cesaro was cheered by a good portion of the audience, from what I remember.
Our opening match is a Last Man Standing match for the World Title, which Alberto Del Rio had won on SmackDown from The Big Show. Show was the heel, but Del Rio’s face run was pretty bad as well, as the guy is just a natural heel.
Del Rio, with Ricardo Rodriguez, runs into Bret Hart backstage. Bret says Del Rio is the Mexican Bret Hart; Del Rio counters that Bret is the Canadian Alberto Del Rio. I think the return to heeldom was already planned. Rodriguez gushes over Bret, who presents him with his glasses like he used to do to ringside kids.
Lillian Garcia introduces Ricardo, who introduces Alberto Del Rio in Spanish. Pretty weak pop for a babyface champion. He gives his scarf to a kid at ringside and sizes up Big Show, who’s already in the ring.
(1) Last Man Standing Match for the World Title: Alberto Del Rio (champion) vs. The Big Show
Big Show backs Del Rio into a corner and pummels him to start. Michael Cole mentions that this is the third LMS match at the Rumble, reminding us of the Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels match that ended in a crowd-pleasing draw.
Big Show continues to dominate until Del Rio counters a powerbomb into a huracanrana. Del Rio with a Thesz Press off the top rope, called a “senton” by Cole. Del Rio works Big Show’s left arm, but Show lifts him with the arm and slams him down. Referee Armstrong keeps Show away from Del Rio as he’s down, which draws boos. Del Rio heads out and Big Show follows, slaps the chest, and rolls him back in. I don’t know if Del Rio is working heel out of habit or in preparation for the turn.
Big Show enters with a chair (which is legal in a Last Man Standing match). Del Rio kicks low and takes the chair, and repeatedly hammers Show’s back with it. Del Rio goes to the top rope with it but Show recovers and hits the chokeslam. The crowd is at least 35% Big Show or more, which is impressive for a heel Big Show in a title match.
Del Rio rolls out again and Show stalks him. Show hits a bodyslam on the outside. Armstrong begins the count and Del Rio reaches his feet at seven while Show entreats him to stay down. Low blow by Del Rio draws more boos from a significant part of the audience. Superkick and Armstrong reaches nine. Del Rio walks into a big boot and Show tosses Del Rio into decorations at the entrance ramp. Del Rio is on jellylegs. Show rips a fluorescent light strip from the set decorations and breaks it over Del Rio, then sets up a table. Big Show climbs up on the set, dragging Del Rio with him, and tosses Del Rio down through the table. Big Show stands up on the set, looking like the hero, as Armstrong counts to nine.
Show beats Del Rio back to the ring. I know how this ends, but had forgotten how one-sided the match was to that point. Show rolls Del Rio in and steps over the top rope and teases the big fist. Del Rio slides out of the ring again and the boos are getting worse. Big Show goes out and carries the steel steps over to Del Rio. He tosses them at Del Rio, who slips out of the way. Rodriguez goes after Big Show, who no-sells and casually tosses him into the barricade. Del Rio uses the opening to spear Big Show into another barricade and Del Rio takes a chair to Show’s back. Del Rio drapes Show’s arm over the wedge in the ring steps and takes a chair to the arm. Fire extinguisher spot. Does that hurt? It looks so silly. “This is awesome” chant comes out of nowhere. Such weird timing.
Del Rio takes down Show with a cross armbreaker and Rodriguez duct tapes Show to the bottom rope. Boos rain down as Cole calls it “brilliant.” Show is down for the ten count as he fruitlessly tries to roll to his feet like Randy after he falls in the snow in A Christmas Story. Crowd is no better than 50-50 at this point. The match wasn’t that bad, but I’m convinced after a new viewing that they had to see the writing on the wall and were headed back to a heel push for Del Rio.
Matt Striker is backstage talking with Dolph Ziggler, AJ Lee and Big E. Langston. Suddenly 2013 seems like a really long time ago. Dolph chooses to enter the ring at #1. Striker cautions that only two people have won from #1, and AJ threatens Striker using Langston’s muscle. Langston uses his sports announcer voice to interview Dolph. They were trying to have their cake and eat it too with Big E, who would use his natural goofy humor in one breath and be hovering over a babyface like a badass in the next.
The announcers are Cole, Jerry Lawler and JBL, by the way. Cole throws it to some hype videos for guys in the Rumble. Cesaro says he’ll continue the streak of non-Americans winning. Prime Time Players offer basic “We’re good” fare. Randy Orton gives a few bland words. Cena says the champ is here. Wade Barrett says he’s already restored credibility to the Intercontinental Title and will restore it to the Rumble. Sheamus says he can win two Rumbles in a row because of the Brogue Kick. Ryback, near the height of his popularity, asks the Rumble to Feed [Him] More. Cole calls him out as the possible favorite.
Replays of Miz-Cesaro. I love the Neutralizer.
(2) WWE Tag Team Championship Match: Team Hell No (champions) vs. The Rhodes Scholars
Good pop for the champions. I suspected a possible title change here, as another loss here by the Scholars would probably move them out of the title picture. Bizarre that only the ancient Kane is still working as a wrestler in WWE.
Bryan and Rhodes start. “Cody’s mustache” chant. Bryan and Rhodes have a strong wrestling sequence leading to Bryan with the surfboard in his own corner. Bryan tags Kane without releasing the hold, and Kane hits a boot for two. Kane and Bryan graduated from anger management class the week before this, if you recall that storyline. Sandow tags in and Kane doesn’t miss a beat, hitting a bodyslam and elbow drop for two. Bryan is back in and Kane throws him into Sandow in the corner, where Bryan hits a dropkick.
Bryan with the “Yes” kicks to Sandow’s chest. Tag to Kane again. Kane boots Sandow to the outside, then tosses a charging Rhodes out as well. Bryan tags in and dropkicks them through the ropes. The announcers are naturally talking about what does or does not make a person a vegan. Rhodes Scholars take control on the outside and Cody tags in and hits a half-crab but gets rolled up for two. Cody clotheslines Bryan to cut off the tag and he tags Sandow in. For some reason, the crowd has gone pretty dead for the match, which is a perfectly reasonable tag match. Sandow hits the “Elbow of Disdain” for two. Scholars continue cutting off the ring and isolating Bryan. “Staching Cody Rhodes” sign in the crowd.
Bryan DDTs Rhodes. Sandow tags in but Bryan makes the hot tag and Kane hits a side slam on Sandow for two. Kane goes to the top rope, but Cody distracts him long enough for Sandow to hop up and attempt the superplex. Kane tosses Sandow and misses a flying kick. Sandow with a neckbreaker for two. Kane can’t hit the double-chokeslam but Bryan makes the blind tag and surprises Sandow with a missile dropkick. Kane clears Cody from the ring and Bryan gets Sandow to tap to the No Lock, or whatever they were calling at the time. Good pop after a quiet crowd throughout the match; it was Raw-quality but these four probably had a better match in them.
Ah, and here’s the great “Rumble by the Numbers” segment everyone loves. HBK! Kane! Rey! Austin! The Warlord! Santino! #27! Winners pointing at Wrestlemania signs! The Rumble’s running next so the WWE Title match doesn’t give away who’s winning the Rumble match, though it wasn’t in huge question at the time.
Backstage, Vicki Guerrero presents Team Hell No with their numbers for teh Rumble match. Bryan shows his to Kane, but Kane won’t reciprocate. Bryan cracks a tiny smile when he says “I show you mine, you show me yours!” Kane says he’d just feel inadequate.
Aerial shots of Phoenix in the dark. It was a pretty good weekend. The one downside is that a planned outdoor fan fest had to head inside for rain in Phoenix, of all things (this isn’t on the video, it’s just something I remember). There was an eight-man NXT tournament where the winner received a berth into the Rumble. Bo Dallas, a blandish babyface at the time, won. Q&A panel with The Kliq. Q&A panel with Bret and Shawn. Sign Guy is shown asking a question of The Kliq.
Justin Roberts tees up the Rumble match with his golden voice. That dude had so many years left in his career, but was cut for cost reasons.
(3) The Royal Rumble Match
#1 is Dolph Ziggler, carrying his Money in the Bank suitcase. AJ Lee and Big E are hanging around. Dolph and AJ have a fairly graphic makeout session as Big E is fairly comedic just by standing there trying not to watch too closely. Dolph grabs the stick and pumps himself up during his last big heel run before his recent turn. #2 is a returning surprise entrant, Chris Jericho. Huge sustained pop for this – one of the bigger pops in the twenty shows I’ve attended. Jericho seems to be smiling genuinely at the reaction.
The bell rings and the crowd is hot. Jericho points all over the crowd and Ziggler tells him to focus on him. Headlock by Jericho, bodyblock, and ZIggler tries to use a charging Jericho’s momentum against him to toss him over. Near-eliminations for both. “You Still Got It” chant, which I always found vaguely insulting. “I never lost it, baby!”
Jericho superplexes Ziggler as #3 is Cody Rhodes. He charges Jericho but gets chopped to hell before Ziggler teams with Rhodes to pound Jericho in the corner. Jericho hits the Walls on Rhodes but Ziggler breaks it up to heat. Ziggler chokes Jericho on the bottom rope. #4 is Kofi Kingston and it’s a bit like 1990 with the potential high-flyers all in there to rev up the crowd. Kofi misses Trouble in Paradise on Ziggler and he and Ziggler trade near-eliminations. Rhodes tries to eliminate Kofi but Jericho sneaks in to attempt to eliminate Cody. #5 is Santino Marella. “Don’t blink,” Cole says. Santino tosses all four guys over the top rope, but all four hang on. Santino cheers in the ring like he’s eliminated them all. Cobra for Kofi. He hesitates on Jericho and gets chopped. Rhodes eliminates Marella to boos. #6 is Drew McIntyre during the 3-Man Band days. Cole says that 3MB has a 10% chance of winning, which JBL states probably isn’t true despite the math. Drew works on Kofi but Jericho saves Kofi again by working on Drew. Ziggler tosses Jericho over and he hovers just over the floor. This one is big on the near-eliminations.
#7 is Titus O’Neil. He goes after everyone and knocks down Rhodes and Kofi with a double-clothesline. Jericho eliminates Drew by tossing him to the apron and hitting a dropkick from the turnbuckle. “Y2J” chant. #8 is Goldust to another huge pop, and one he’s mentioned in interviews. Cody isn’t pleased to see his brother, and the two go after each other to a big reaction. Ziggler tries to break up the party and the two toss him aside and continue their issue. Big “Goldust” chant. Action slows a bit as we get #9, David Otunga with a huge shiner on his right eye. Otunga goes after Goldust, then Jericho. The announcers have a pissing match talking about how long they lasted in past Royal Rumbles. Lawler sounds legitimately annoyed about the loss to Cole at Wrestlemania. Basic action until #10, Heath Slater. 3MB is down to a 6.7% chance of winning, of course. Heath goes after faces until Titus powers him down to the mat. Guys pair off in the corners as we wait for Rikishi or Diesel to come in and eliminate everyone. #11 is Sheamus. He was fairly hot at this time, and had a legitimate outside shot, I guess. He knocks everyone down, then eliminates Titus using Otunga, then Otunga with the Brogue Kick. There’s our Rikishi. Slater and Rhodes beat down Sheamus as Tensai is announced for #12. This return to the States after success in Japan didn’t work at all for him, so I’m glad he’s thriving in NXT. Near-eliminations for Slater and Ziggler keep the crowd engaged.
#13 is Brodus Clay, and once again, this show seems like it happened a long time ago. Brodus goes after Y2J and then Tensai. Goldust and Cody are still battling in the middle of the ring. Goldust pushes Cody to the apron, but both end up there. Goldust clotheslines Cody back in and fights off elimination for a moment until Cody slingshots him into the turnbuckle, and Goldust falls out to boos.
Rey Mysterio, now firmly in the lower midcard, enters at #14. He still gets a good reaction. 619 and flying bodyblock for Jericho. We’ve still got eight guys despite the recent flurry of eliminations. #15 is Darren Young. He helps a lot of other guys toss Brodus Clay. Kofi staves off elimination from Tensai and takes him out. Ziggler punches Kofi from the apron, where Kofi jumps to Tensai’s back to stay alive. Kofi stands on the Spanish announce table, and considers jumping to the ring as the audience chants his name. Kofi talks JBL out of his chair and JBL agrees because he wants to see what Kofi does.
#16 is Bo Dallas. Nobody knows who he is yet. Kofi sets up the chair and starts bouncing it toward the ring. As always, he pulls it off and makes it to the ring. He eliminates Darren Young when he gets there, but Cody Rhodes dropkicks him off the apron to eliminate him after all that. Cool sequence all around. Your next surprise entrant is The Godfather at #17. JBL completely loses it, as if this is a bigger deal than Jericho. He has just two ladies of the night with him, and they’re dressed…modestly in comparison to the past. Godfather steps in and is immediately gets dropkicked out by Ziggler, and shrugs and walks back with the ladies. Not a bad use of a legacy entrant.
#18 is Wade Barrett with driving metal entrance music that I’d completely forgotten. He enters and knocks around Heath, Rey and Jericho. Side slam for Sheamus. #19 is John Cena. It’s worth noting that this is one of the few years where there was no graphic in the building for who was entering at what number, and we had no idea how close we were to the end. Cena beats down everyone to the usual mixed reaction and eliminates Slater, then Cody after his typical long stretch in the ring. #20 is Damien Sandow. Just missed his partner, the poor guy. He kicks down Bo Dallas and tries to eliminated\ him. Rey attempts to take out Barrett like he did Triple H in 2006, but Barrett recovers and eliminates Rey after a very short run, for him. Jericho hits the Walls on Cena to loud cheers.
#21 is Daniel Bryan, saying “NO” as the crowd says “YES.” It was really starting at this point. “Yes” kicks to the chests of Sandow, then Ziggler, then Barrett. For a moment, only Bryan is standing. Bryan and Sheamus attempt to toss Jericho, but he hangs on. #22 is Antonio Cesaro, before he dropped his first name. Uppercuts for Bryan and Sheamus. Cole wonders what Cesaro thinks of Tina Turner becoming a U.S. Citizen, as I’m sure was the question on the lips of fans everywhere. #23 is The Great Khali. Walking to the ring looks like a chore for him on this night. He steps over the top rope and hits the head chops and headbutts on everyone. The boos are strangely strong here. I know Khali wasn’t much, but it feels excessive for someone who’s so far down the card at this point.
#24 is Kane and the announcers run down the usual Royal Rumble accolades. Kane and Bryan double-team Khali but he beats them both down. As energetic as this has been, we’ve reached the point where there are just too many in there. #25 is Zack Ryder. Kane and Bryan eliminate Khali, and Bryan blindsides and eliminates Kane. Cesaro tosses Bryan out and he lands in Kane’s arms. Bryan pleads to be put back in the ring, but Kane drops him on the ground. #26 is Randy Orton, who goes wild on Ziggler, Zack and Bo Dallas. DDTs from the ropes to Dallas and Ziggler. RKO to Zack and he tosses him. #27 is Jinder Mahal, so #27 may not be the winner spot again this year. Cesaro has Cena up and near the ropes, but Cena reverses and tosses Cesaro to boos. #28 is The Miz as JBL talks up Jericho’s run in the ring. Miz attacks Cesaro on the ramp as he enters and does this little “see ya” thing that shows why he’s a natural heel, miscast in the role. Sheamus tosses Jinder Mahal, so 3MB is down to a 0% chance of winning.
#29 is Sin Cara. It’s his return, but the audience is pretty tepid. He enters and quickly fades into the background. Wade Barrett has Bo Dallas over the ropes, but Bo yanks Barrett over and out. Barrett reaches up and pulls Dallas out of the ring, then hits the Bullhammer on the outside. #30 is Ryback. I didn’t realize at the time that all thirty had entered, and only figured it out as the ring thinned out. Ryback tosses Sandow. He press-slams Sin Cara out next, onto Sandow for fun. Miz tries to blindside Ryback but he’s tossed immediately. Jericho hits the Codebreaker on Ryback and the Lionsault on Cena. He nearly tosses Sheamus and recreates a near-elimination from the final two in the previous year. Jericho goes after Ziggler but gets tossed to the apron and superkicked out.
Orton gets some momentum and hits an RKO on Ziggler, then Cena, then Sheamus. DDT for Ryback. JBL said “What a performance” just like he JUST did about Jericho right before he went out, and on cue, Ryback reverses and clotheslines Orton out to boos. Ziggler, Sheamus, Ryback and Cena remain until Sheamus Brogue Kicks Ziggler out, leading to the biggest tantrum I’ve ever thrown at a live event, as Ryback/Cena/Sheamus was my nightmare final three at the time. Cena and Sheamus team up on Ryback. They contemplate the Wrestlemania sign. Cena dominates to boos. He goes for the Five Knuckle Shuffle until Ryback recovers and knocks him down. Sheamus reverses a Shell Shock by Ryback and hits White Noise. “FELLA!” Sheamus charges Ryback for the Brogue Kick but Ryback wakes up and tosses Sheamus out, leading to Cena and Ryback to finish. Ryback was red ot at the time, but I remember thinking this was as much of a foregone conclusion as we’ve ever seen in the final two. Spinebuster to Cena. Ryback charges but Cena hits the STF. Cena deadlifts Ryback to the top rope, but Ryback comes off with a Thesz Press, this time called correctly by Cole. Ryback lifts Cena up in a powerslam position and approaches the ropes, but Cena slips back out of his arms and uses Ryback’s momentum against him and tosses him to win the Royal Rumble. Cena is the fourth multi-time winner of the Royal Rumble, along with Hogan, Austin and HBK. Fun Fact: I almost typed “Goldberg” instead of “Ryback” three different times at the end there.
Cena heads out and yells “We’re goin’ to WrestleMania!” while forcing a handshake with a guy wearing a “We Hate Cena” shirt. This is the kind of stuff that could’ve helped Roman Reigns get through the roughest of times.
Up next is Punk and Rock. Punk has held the WWE Title for 434 days, which is the longest reign in years. Video package shows Punk slaughtering foe after foe as he and Paul Heyman talk him up. The Rock, though, has emerged to bring honor back to the title. The Shield are major players here as well, as they were attacking Rock regularly while Punk said there was no proof that they were affiliated. It’s a little strange that The Shield didn’t work a match here, but given their heavy involvement in the coming match, whatever.
Backstage, Todd Grisham tries to interview Rock, who naturally cuts him off. Too bad they couldn’t have gotten Kevin Kelly back for just one night to be abused by Rock for old time’s sake. Finally, The Rock is back in Phoenix. Rock gives a promo about overcoming adversity in all aspects of life, and never giving up. Tonight, we’re going to end 434 days of misery, he says. Great babyface promo, delivered well, although Rock checked the cue cards about five or six times.
(4) WWE Championship Match: The Rock vs. C.M. Punk (champion)
“Cult of Personality” brings out the champion first…sigh. Punk poses and taunts a little. Rock is introduced to a decent pop, but I’m not sure it was like Jericho’s (or Goldust’s). Of course, Rock has been shown on the big screen a few times already. Rock’s mom at ringside cheers politely, though at this point he’s a pretty big movie star so this isn’t such a huge accomplishment for him anymore at this point. Formal introductions by Justin Roberts. Punk throws the belt up in Rock’s face. “CM Punk” chants with some responsive boos. Pretty good energy here. Mike Chioda officiates, naturally.
The bell rings and punches and kicks fly. Cole mentions that Punk is probably in better ring shape than the Rock, which is very true. Rock gets the better of Punk and clotheslines him from the ring. Rock hammers Punk against the Spanish announce table. Marcelo and Hugo dutifully get out of the way, as I wonder how many times they’ve had to do this. The table is spared. “Let’s Go Rocky/CM Punk” dueling chants. Punk chants are probably louder at this point. The action stays outside and Heyman gets involved. Rock gets in his face and Punk clotheslines him from behind. Punk folds up Rock on the barricade. The two of them head back into the ring.
Knees and a snap mare from Punk. Triangle hold. Rock fights out of it and hits punches to boos. I had forgotten how short a time it took for the crowd to get over the initial spectacle of The Rock and start cheering Punk. Another submission hold from Punk that’s probably meant to lengthen the match but protect Rock’s endurance. Punk controls Rock in the center of the ring and this pacing is deliberate, to say the least. Punk pounds Rock’s chest and slingshots him off the top rope, then covers for two.
Punk continues the attack on Rock’s abdomen. Chioda backs Punk out of the corner and Heyman interferes for another shot on Rock to attempt to make Punk a heel again. Rock is tossed out and Punk goes to the top and hits an elbow to the head. Punk is selling the left knee, tweaked earlier in the match, which Cole calls out. The two head back inside and Rock attacks the injured knee to some light boos. We go back outside and Punk takes advantage, as heels do on the outside. Punk rolls Rock in and goes up but misses a clothesline. Rock lays into Punk with kicks and goes back to the injured knee. The crowd is kind of out of this. I don’t recall that, but I guess…we were recognizing the inevitable?
Rock goes for the Rock Bottom but Punk fights out and sets up the GTS, countered into a Sharpshooter by Rock, countered by Punk into an Anaconda Vice. Not a bad sequence. Rock forces Punk to his back for a two count, and Punk releases to kick out and gets hit with a DDT. Both are selling like this has been thirty minutes instead of ten. Rock goes for another Rock Bottom but Punk rolls into a crucifix, but Rock counters to another Sharpshooter. This one sticks, and Punk teases tapping before reaching the ropes.
We go outside, where Rock clotheslines Punk and clears off the Spanish announce table. He rolls Punk onto the table but Punk fights back with a kick to the head. Punk sets up Go To Sleep again, with Rock attempting to revers to a Rock Bottom, but the table collapses under them, breaking up whatever spot they had planned. Rock’s pain looks legit. Rock hits a Rock Bottom on the floor outside, so I assume that’s what was meant to happen on the table. Rock rolls Punk in and covers for two.
Rock picks up Punk but Punk hits a roundhouse kick to the head. Chioda counts both men down. Heyman amusingly tries to get Chioda to count faster. Both men get to their feet at eight, and trade punches. It’s 50-50 as far as the fans are concerned. They’re actually both getting booed. Rock hits a flying fist and a spinebuster, setting up the People’s Elbow. The lights go out as Rock is about to hit the move. The Shield triple-powerbombs Rock through the English announce table in the dark in the laziest twist you’ll see. They’re forbidden from interfering, so they turn out the lights? Really?
Punk plays up faux confusion in the ring, and leaves to bring Rock back into the ring. Punk covers for three and his music plays. There are a lot of cheers for this, but the cameras find crestfallen fans to focus on. I remember the hush in the crowd as we just didn’t fall for this finish. “No Chance in Hell” plays and Vince enters. Vince says Punk was warned that he would be stripped of the title if The Shield interfered, so he begins to strip Punk of the title, but Rock says we’re not ending the night like that. He wants to beat Punk in the ring. “You don’t take it from him. I am. Restart the match now.”
Vince plays along and the match starts anew. Punk kicks down Rock in the corner and hits the knee to the temple. Punk goes up and hits an elbow drop for a convincing near-fall. Punk does the Go To Sleep taunt for the third time, but Rock fights out, hits a spinebuster, and then ends the longest title reign in years with the People’s freaking Elbow. God, at least make it a Rock Bottom. Rock celebrates to a mixed reaction as Cole talks up the fact that it’s his eighth world title. Many were under a month, irritatingly. Rock never had that one long world title reign, but he was better as a babyface chasing the title anyway.
This all sets up the Rock vs. Cena rematch at Wrestlemania that was so non-secret that it kind of gave away both of the top two matches here.
Legacy of Royal Rumble 2013
Eight guys wrestled in the three title matches on this night, and just two – Kane and The Big Show – still wrestle in WWE. Rock was just around for a couple of months and Punk would work his last match in the Royal Rumble match in 2014, the Batista debacle that proved to be his tipping point where he walked away from the company, seemingly forever.
Daniel Bryan was on his way to becoming the WWE’s most popular wrestler, which the WWE wouldn’t capitalize on, which again is a story surrounding Royal Rumble 2014. He did have his amazing moment at Wrestlemania 30, before having to retire due to concussions. Damien Sandow was surprisingly turfed while proving to be one of the company’s more popular performers, no matter his placement on the card at the time. Cody Rhodes would leave due to his issues with the Stardust gimmick. There are a lot of malcontents to cover here, I guess.
Alberto Del Rio’s WWE story is a complicated one where neither side looks like much of a good guy. Some of the allegations have been pretty vague, so I won’t attempt to tackle them here. I’ll just say that Del Rio seemed overpushed in his initial run and then vastly underutilized later when his experience had really added a layer of great psychology to his ring work.
The Royal Rumble match…I don’t know, man. This one is an afterthought because 2014 and 2015 were such huge embarrassments for the company, but all the same, the Rumble has a unique ability to make a star, and this one instead told us what we already know about Cena. This show was entirely a setup for the Wrestlemania main event, where Rock would drop a title he shouldn’t have had to a guy who didn’t need the rub, and then “pass the torch” in a moment that rang hollow because Cena had been carrying the torch for just under a decade already. I love the Rumble more than life itself, but the gimmick of the winner receiving a title shot at Wrestlemania has really hurt the ability of the Rumble to surprise us. The Royal Rumble one of the few matches with the ability to create a superstar in a single night, but the WWE just can’t take chances when the Wrestlemania main event is on the line. Even when it’s obvious who should be pushed, sometimes the company STILL “plays it safe” with former main eventers.
Anyway, I have to admit I was going to do 2014 here, but I don’t know when I’ll be ready to weather that again. I actually don’t enjoy watching the company fail on such a huge level, and I remembered this show being at least decent, and “decent” fits. The Rumble match was a fairly fun one, the Last Man Standing match had some strong moments, the tag title match was a decent, quick distraction and Rock-Punk was okay given the circumstances of a lapsed wrestler winning the title. Of course, this would all be part of the CM Punk puzzle, as he felt that he had earned the right to main event Wrestlemania, which I certainly agree with. Instead, he settled for stealing the show with The Undertaker.
So, now we head into Royal Rumble 2017 with a surprisingly large number of potential winners. If Vince has his way we might be “treated” to Braun Strowman destroying the field leading to a title match with Roman Reigns that nobody’s asking for, but the door remains open for a lot of guys to step in and win, especially since there are two world titles again.
Final personal fact: Although I had been to at least twenty wrestling shows before this, the main event was the first time I’d ever witnessed a title change of any kind in person. So I guess that was cool.
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