Monday, January 26, 2015

Royal Rumble 2015: Roman's Rise & Fall

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Last year I was bummed that the WWE Network wouldn't launch before the Royal Rumble.  The Rumble was one of the few PPVs I ever bought back in the day aside from SummerSlam.  WrestleMania has been a must-buy since Stone Cold's first title win at WrestleMania XIV in Boston.  I was genuinely excited for the show last night and I thought it was pretty good actually.  As #CancelWWENetwork shows that puts me in the minority.

I'm going to do something a bit unusual here and comment on all of the matches in reverse order.  Typically I just hit the highlights or what really mattered to me when I look at a show.  Since the Rumble ate up so much time and talent last time I figured I might as well take a look at everything.
  • The Rock Returns--It was blatantly obvious what WWE was looking to accomplish here.  Run the Rock out there to endorse his "cousin" and to give the Philly crowd something to like once the Rumble was over and they turned on Reigns.  I was glad to see the Rock.  He did what he was asked to very well.  Unfortunately and unsurprisingly the ploy did not work.  I hate that for him and I hate that for Roman, but WWE should have known better. 
  • Royal Rumble--The Rumble itself was good I thought.  I liked the nostalgia acts aside from the Boogeyman who did nothing for me at all.  Seeing DDP was nice.  Bubba Ray Dudley returning to a WWE ring in Philadelphia of all places was really nice.  R-Truth playing D-Von was fun and funny.  Bray Wyatt's push as the guy who stayed in the longest worked for me.  The deal with Mizdow and Miz worked, but having Mizdow tossed so quickly was a huge letdown.  The crowd last seemed excited to see Ambrose enter.  I thought Ziggler would pop them at 30, but that didn't appear to be the case.  Curtis Axel getting to be the guy who didn't ever enter so he technically never got eliminated was funny as were all the takes on Twitter about it.

    The biggest problem was the inclusion of Daniel Bryan.  That crowd and wrestling fans on Twitter very much had a "Daniel Bryan or bust" mentality to that match.  WWE should have known that and they should have done more to mitigate that which I will talk about below.  They were smart to keep him clear of Reigns, but even that didn't work ultimately.
  • WWE World Title Match--This match was great IMHO.  The elbow to the announce table from Rollins to Lesnar wasn't groundbreaking, but it was well-done.  I knew that Lesnar wasn't hurt and would be back, but I actually started to question that to some degree at points.  Brock Lesnar looked the beast he is.  Seth Rollins was given an opportunity to shine and I believe he did.  John Cena was present and didn't win so I'll take that.  Some have said that parts of the match were boring.  I don't recall ever being bored with it.  Like many WWE big matches it relied a bit too heavily on near falls and kicking out of finishers, but I've kind of just grown to accept that.  It's a minor complaint.  I thought this match absolutely delivered.
  • Divas Tag Match--Heard some negativity towards this match, but I thought it was solid.  Paige's pin attempt on Brie Bella was entertaining and if you saw it you know exactly which one I mean.  I think Natalya would benefit greatly from a change in attire.  Something like the gear Beth Phoenix used to wear would be a huge step in the right direction.  I still enjoy the Bellas' theme far more than a 30-something year old man should have, but what are you going to do?
  • WWE Tag Team Championship--Nothing special, but solid.  The Philly crowd really helped this match and Mizdow remains incredibly over.  I don't agree with the idea that Miz looks better because he does all the work and Sandow clowns around which I have seen out there.  To me, it's more about Miz not wanting his stunt double to get any of the glory or opportunity.  They've got a real opportunity to make a star out of Sandow, but for obvious reasons I'm concerned they will botch that.  It still amazes me that WWE despite all their failings have been able to salvage The Usos.  I liked them when they first arrived, but I thought they were done as done could be.  That obviously hasn't been the case and WWE deserves some credit for that.
  • New Age Outlaws vs The Ascension--The payoff on RAW Reunion was nice. I had little desire to see the Outlaws to be perfectly honest.  It was a short match which helped.  The NAO at least knows how to rile the crowd up some which is good.  The Ascension seems to be in trouble already and I'm not sure that's going to be able to be saved, but you had to give them the win here if you want to have any chance to push them further.  Unless you were planning on releasing them this match served its purpose.
  • Kickoff Match--Honestly, I had a function I had to attend and missed this.  I'm not going to lie to you folks and claim I'm going to track this down.  In general I often preach patience, but New Day seems to be DOA.  I hoped that gimmick would help those three, but I don't see it happening unless something drastic is done.  It's a shame because I like all three guys.  On the other side of this I like Cesaro, Kidd, and Rose.  Hopefully they get some traction.
I said I would address this later so what could WWE have done to mitigate that crowd's reaction to the Roman Reigns win?  There's a couple of things.  The obvious one is that you had Daniel Bryan sitting home all that time.  There was no need to rush him back and they had to know that the WWE Universe would latch on to him.  They had to know that a Royal Rumble crowd in Philadelphia was going to want to see Daniel Freaking Bryan win that thing over Vince's hand-picked golden boy Roman Reigns.  They tried to help themselves by getting him in and out before Roman Reigns even arrived. The thought being that the crowd would be hot about it, but over it before Roman's time to shine came.  They were dead wrong on that.  The other thing they could have done was simply reverse the match order.  Do everything just as you did, but after the Rock comes out to endorse Roman you still have a WWE World Heavyweight Championship match there to satisfy the crowd especially since Brock Lesnar was going to leave with the title.  Lastly, I thought that this scenario would have worked better as well.  Have Reigns win by tossing Big Show and Kane.  The two of them go on the attack and here comes a returning Daniel Bryan to make the save.  DB would overshadow Reigns in that scenario, but at the very least the crowd would be excited to see him instead of focusing their hate on him.  This situation is an even better option if the Rock wasn't available.  I know they still turned the heat on for Roman even with the Rock's endorsement.  I don't think they would have done the same with Daniel Bryan standing there in the ring with Roman Reigns.  I could be wrong, but I think it would have been a viable option.

The show was solid in my opinion.  It helps that I wasn't married to the idea that Daniel Bryan had to win the Rumble and go on to wrestle Lesnar at Mania.  It also helps that I'm a big Roman Reigns fan despite some of his shortcomings.  The danger of the Royal Rumble show is that it really becomes a one or two big match affair.  When you don't give the fans what they want in both matches you run the risk of what happened last night.  The Road to WrestleMania got a lot more interesting in a bad way.  I will be fascinated to see how other WWE towns respond as we get closer to Mania.  If Philly is any indication it's going to be a very rock road.  I hope that isn't the case.  I love Mania season.

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