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Royal Rumble Thoughts- Who Spewed More Venom- The Viper, Or The Bookers?

This marks the beginning of a new era in my blog writing- one where I'm trying to balance full time work with my beloved hobbies of writing and watching pro wrestling. As such, it's likely that these blogs will be shorter in length. Then again, sometimes I can't just help myself, and I get carried away. This blog comes you a day late, after watching the Rumble in fragments over the past 24 hours when I've had the spare time to watch a match, and I started to watch Raw to be totally up to speed, but I figured I should get this done first. I didn't want whatever occurs on Raw to affect my analysis of the Royal Rumble.

-Full disclosure, didn't watch the Rumble pre-show. It may be a weekend job if I get time. Most notably, I see The Club beat Cesaro and Sheamus to win the Raw tag titles. Weird in itself that a title change happened on a pre-show. I'm not against it, quite the opposite, I'm a big proponent of occasional title changes in different environments to the expected big stages, such as weekly TV or house shows. But it was certainly different. One weird element about that match result- unless I missed it due to my fragmented viewing (entirely possible), I don't think the title change was acknowledged on the Rumble PPV.

-Nia Jax squashed Sasha Banks- odd, but I'm guessing the knee injury was a factor. On the Smackdown side, faces beat heels- I thought Mickie James should have gotten a win in her first main roster match back, but 3 matches in and I want some of what the bookers are smoking- some good, some bad, some in the middle of the road, but all in all some weird shit going down.

-Main card! Charlotte beats Bayley- no surprise really, she's the Queen of PPV and all, and you'd think when that streak does come to an end, it'd likely be at Wrestlemania or Summerslam. As much as long time wrestling fans are familiar with the big 4 PPVs- Rumble, Mania, Summerslam and Survivor Series- the Series has lost some prestige in recent years, while the Rumble is still important, but there's heavy emphasis on it being part of the Road to Wrestlemania and less of its own entity. That's a slightly long-winded way of saying I'm fine with a Charlotte win. However, I was surprised at the clean nature of it. I thought Charlotte would win in some cheap way to set up Bayley's big babyface chase to Mania, but with this one match, she's almost a non-factor. Charlotte basically said she was a nobody, and beat her with relative ease to prove that true in a way, which is an issue I'll touch more on later. One positive I'll say is that the Natural Selection on the apron looked like it hurt, something that the regular version of the move usually fails to achieve. It was a pretty well wrestled match, good PPV opener, but for the 4th match in a row, I'm wondering what the hell the bookers are thinking.

-Universal title time! Surprised this is on before the cruisers- I expected the WWE title and Rumble match to get higher billing than this match. Makes sense to use the cruisers as a buffer between the big matches, and to give Jericho more time between being in the shark cage and entering the Rumble match- I've been a bit worried about Jericho being susceptible to injury- standing on one spot up in the cage for 20+ minutes can't be good for a guy needing to wrestle later in the night. Anyhoo, tangents. Gotta love them. Always thought Reigns and Owens had very good chemistry. Really like the use of chairs, between the sick Samoan Drop then Owens' fall into the stack. Thought he did a really good Stunner too- although Stone Cold himself disagreed on Twitter. Was pleasantly surprised by Braun Strowman helping KO keep the belt- is this setting up Braun vs. Roman for Mania? Or for Fastlane? Time will tell.

-Cruiser time! Which means we're graced by the best commentary team in WWE to call Neville vs. Rich Swann- that being Corey Graves, Mauro Ranallo and Austin Aries. The cruisers got about double the time I was expecting them to get and they made the most of it. Much better than the women's title match, and removing all the gimmicks involved in the Universal title match, about on par. Was really impressed. Neville spent a lot of time in control, true to his character and push, but Swann got plenty of offense himself. A few little sequences truly wowed me with their athleticism. Unfortunately, the crowd didn't give it much love, which is symptomatic of WWE not really building Swann as a face as well as they've built Neville as a heel, because Neville has gotten good heat in this run. I'd be interested to see how crowds responded to Jack Gallagher vs. Neville- Gentlemen Jack is the best face on 205 Live, and the crowd responded accordingly. Neville winning was the right call, he's the one with momentum, and doing it clean gives it credibility, but my one issue- I don't like faces tapping out often, and if they do, it should be after the body part has been worked on a lot. You never see top guys like Cena, Reigns, even Ambrose etc losing by submission.

I know I've been picking on this show, and I don't want to seem overly negative. The matches are entertaining, I just question some of the decision-making processes.

-WWE Title match, Cena vs. Styles. Huge atmosphere, and really good match. I disagree with some reports putting it close to 5 stars- it was high quality but not that much. I couldn't stand Otunga's cheerleading of Cena- Styles had a clear, clean advantage and Mr. Harvard comes out with "just wait, John Cena will start countering". Just a really weird example of showing bias. On the other end, rare credit to JBL. They went through the sequence of pulling out different moves from the repertoire- pages from Cena's 2015 US title run. While Otunga, in his infinite idiocy says, "I've never seen that before!" when Cena delivers the Code Red, JBL responded to Mauro asking him if he had seen Cena do his lifting cutter with a "yes". It's good when commentators don't act like fools. I expected Cena to win, I don't know what's in store for Mania, and I guess strange booking decisions do a nice job creating an air of mystery about it all. PPV quality main event and good for Cena tying Flair's record as the 16 time champ (had to expect the ultimate WWE guy to break a WCW record). One thing I don't like, and it goes back to Cena's promo shitting on Styles with, "you're just a guy/you're like all the rest". Given Cena just won clean, and he's not the type to put over his opponent after beating them, it sends the message, "well, Cena was right, AJ is just another guy." It's an old philosophy in pro wrestling, Mick Foley talks about it in his books- never trash your opponent in a promo in that manner. If you call your opponent a piece of shit (obviously not in those words), there's no winning in that. On one hand, if you lose, you lost to a piece of shit, so what does that make you? Or you win, it's not as impressive because you've already talked him down, and he's damaged goods because your harsh words are proven right. So, both AJ Styles, and Bayley from earlier, have uphill battles in trying to re-establish themselves.

-Time for the Royal Rumble match! Cool move to open with Big Cass, just to get the crowd hyped with Enzo mic work. Jericho out at #2 for another Ironman effort. Before I go any further, I just want to acknowledge the negative reaction this match got online. Taken on face value, I think this year's Rumble was pretty good. Fans have just conditioned themselves to expect massive surprises, and I admit I was expecting a couple- Joe, Balor... but some people even thought Kurt Angle would draw a number, or HBK, being in San Antonio. I think they did well in the entrants department. Jack Gallagher was a fantastic addition, with William the Umbrella, furthering my opinion that he is awesome, and WWE appear to share that opinion. Smarks got their bone with Dillinger getting the #10 spot, and Ellsworth got a nice bit of comedy before his brutal bump elimination.

Strowman, Corbin, Lesnar and Goldberg all got their time to look like monsters, which was cool. And I was left utterly confused as the match progressed about what feuds are building for Mania. It seemed like they were continuing the Lesnar vs. Goldberg thing, but then they hinted at Lesnar vs. Strowman, Goldberg vs. Taker, then Reigns vs. Taker, but Reigns has the thing with Strowman to worry about too.

-Undertaker looked terrible. Not just with his big belly, but the way he moved and bumped, so slow and awkward. Looked every bit of 50.

-Nice bit of self awareness by WWE, using Reigns at #30 to get nuclear heat, to make the idea of Orton winning seem like a big positive. But that finish raises more questions. Cena just won the title, surely we're not getting Cena vs. Orton at Mania? They've tried to make it this generation's Austin and Rock, but they've just never had the chemistry together. Orton's current storyline suggests he'd be facing Bray Wyatt at Mania, but that doesn't feel like a WWE Title match at Mania, more like a middle of the card grudge match. Even if Bray won the belt at Elimination Chamber, it'd be a hard sell for me. Now, if AJ wins the belt back in the Chamber, I could get on board with AJ vs. Orton, maybe still aligned with Bray. That'd be a big time main event, and one of the most truly exciting match ups Randy Orton could be aligned with. But there's so many moving parts, so much uncertainty regarding Wrestlemania.

Some of the Royal Rumble (both the match and overall PPV) I really enjoyed, some of it I really didn't agree with the decisions involved, but as the show ended, I can definitely say I'm confused as fuck.

Until next time, take care


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Image of Mick Robson, founder of The Arena Media

Mick Robson is a freelance writer from Australia. A lifelong fan of pro wrestling and MMA, he endeavours to bring that passion through his coverage in news, reviews and opinion pieces.

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