WrestleWatch- WWE Royal Rumble 2022
By Mick Robson
So, I'll be honest. I haven't really enjoyed the WWE product for a long time. I thought they were really upping their game coming into 2020, but then the pandemic hit. WWE shows became extremely lifeless, understandable, but other companies, including AEW and Australia's own PWA managed to adapt. WWE continued to put out the stale old shit, even when they returned to having live crowds, they continued to go the safe, predictable route every time, and they continue to use Thunderdome canned noise even though they have actual live crowds that can give them noise. Only problem is, it might not be the noise they want. Better not risk it.
If I'm that negative on the current state of WWE, then why am I here writing this review? Well, there's a certain magic about the Royal Rumble. Even when I took a bit of a hiatus from wrestling fandom from 2008-2012, I still made time for the Rumble (and Wrestlemania). The 30 man battle royal format, with timed intervals and a slew of surprises and nostalgia, is a sure-fire recipe for success. No matter where the WWE product is at, they can't deliver a bad Rumble event. Right?
Let's do this.
I watched the whole pre-show, expecting a match of some sort on there, but all we got was video packages, Sonya Deville being bitchy on the interview set, and Booker T's "shucky ducky quack quack" moment. I was sure we were going to get Usos vs. Viking Raiders, given that they were hyping the feud on Smackdown, and outside of a COVID related reason. I'm not sure why it didn't happen here.
They touted this as the biggest crowd since before the pandemic, which made for a fantastic, lively atmosphere. The place looked great overall, with the stage/entrance way having a simple, yet somewhat unique look.
Match 1: Universal Championship- Seth Rollins def. Roman Reigns (c) via DQ (at 14:25)
Thoughts: This was a hell of a hot way to start the show! Seth Rollins continued the mind games that he had going on over the past few weeks, coming out to the old Shield music and wearing the Shield attire, which seemed to rattle Reigns. Rollins was on fire early with some babyface-esque offense, and even powerbombed the Tribal Chief through the announce table, just like the Hounds of Justice used to do. Rollins gets a great near fall after a bucklebomb/stomp combo, but Reigns survives and locks in the guillotine choke. Seth makes the ropes but an emotional Roman doesn't care, holding the choke and forcing the ref to call for a DQ. Finish felt a little cheap but the action and callbacks were top-notch, and there's clearly a lot of story at play here. Very enjoyable way to start the show. (****)
Post-match, an enraged Reigns grabbed a steel chair and beat the hell out of Rollins with it. Yep, the Architect is well and truly in Roman's head.
Match 2: Ronda Rousey wins the Women's Royal Rumble (at 59:40)
Thoughts: This was a mixed bag. On one hand, some great surprise entrants here. On the other hand, some deflating eliminations and spots where people could have been used better (cough cough Sasha Banks). On the other, other hand, some of the surprises were also ruined by social media. That's one of the reasons I don't like to report on unofficial rumours- you get it wrong, you look stupid, you get it right, you ruin the fun. So I knew Ronda Rousey was coming back- I still like it. I'm by no means a Ronda hater, she's a star and she did a great job in her first year in WWE. I will say her work looked very, very light, in particular her strikes. Hopefully, she gets that in check in time for Mania. Besides Ronda, I loved seeing Melina back, and glad they did right by Mickie James, with the Hardcore Country theme and letting her wear the Impact Knockouts Championship to the ring. Also thought Lita looked phenomenal, in every sense of the word. (***1/4)
Match 3: Raw Women's Championship- Becky Lynch (c) def. Doudrop (at 13:00)
Thoughts: Of every match on the card, this was the one I was looking forward to the least, so I have no issue with it being used as a buffer/comedown match. The work was fine, but the crowd wasn't really invested, as Ronda Rousey's celebration pyro caused the giant Wrestlemania sign to catch fire, which was understandably distracting. Becky uses some clever, outside the box tactics to overcome the size and power of Doudrop, including a Molly Go Round, but it was a Manhandle Slam from the second rope that saw a successful title defence by Big Time Becks. Decent work, but nothing to write home about, even allowing for the flaming sign distraction. (**1/2)
Match 4: WWE Championship- Bobby Lashley def. Brock Lesnar (c) (at 10:15)
Thoughts: This was a dream match for a lot of people, myself included. It was okay, but largely fell short of those expectations. I thought it'd be a lot faster and more explosive, but maybe it would have been better in that vein 10 or even 5 years earlier. They really seemed to labour through a series of trading suplexes, and once we had a ref bump, we had the very predictable run-in of Roman Reigns, and Paul Heyman turning on Brock, handing the Tribal Chief the WWE Championship belt to blast the Beast with. Lashley gets the tainted victory to pick up his second WWE Championship, but Brock won't take this lying down. If only there was another way to get into a championship match at Wrestlemania that Brock could find... (**3/4)
Match 5: Edge & Beth Phoenix def. The Miz & Maryse (at 12:30)
Thoughts: This was another pleasant surprise at the Rumble. Maryse has been in a couple of matches since returning to be alongside The Miz in 2016, but she did next to nothing in those matches. Here, she actually wrestled, and she looked great! And I'm not just talking about her attire. But also, I am talking about her attire. Miz is a lucky, lucky bastard! But on a serious note, both Miz and Maryse played their roles especially well as coward heels, then Maryse had a nice spell on offence, and finally a nice sequence of tandem moves ended this one in favour of the Grit Couple. Very fun. (***1/2)
Match 6: Brock Lesnar wins the Men's Royal Rumble (at 51:10)
Thoughts: Much like the women's match, lots of letdowns in the way people were used- US Champion Damian Priest was cannon fodder, AJ Styles got positioned as this year's HBK only to get dumped out without a lot of fanfare, and people like Big E and Randy Orton were really treated like afterthoughts. Unlike the Women's Rumble though, we didn't have the cool surprises. Drew's early return was telegraphed by the amount of focus on him on Smackdown, WWE's own social media spoiled Bad Bunny, and I wasn't overly excited to see 52 year old sweaty Shane in any capacity. As for Brock... look, I'm the biggest Brock Lesnar mark around. But even I was saying, "not Brock, not Brock" as the countdown to #30 started. Would have preferred Brock getting to Mania by going through the Elimination Chamber next month, y'know, something fresh. Also, Kofi Kingston finally botched his big near elimination spot moments into his entry in the match. A truly cursed Rumble. Was Danhausen under the ring? (**)
This show really peaked with the opening match. Other highlights include Maryse doing a top rope rana- was a little rough, but hey, SOMETHING new and fun. Plus Sasha Banks and Melina both did the splits. Good times. Definitely not an event befitting the second biggest show of the year. It was a mixed bag heading towards the main event, which really shit the bed. One of the worst Rumbles in recent memory. There were other better, creative ways to get Brock into the title match at Mania, my Chamber idea for one. But if we must go the Rumble route- they got rid of any other potential winner before Brock even made his entrance, and they barely bothered with any pretence of making McIntyre look like a credible runner up- this isn't 2020, and the last we saw of big Drew, he was messing around in the midcard with Madcap Moss and Happy Corbin. A big miss for one of WWE's signature events.
Overall Score: 4.5/10
Until next time, take care.