The WWE was back in a big way kicking off 2017 with one of the big four pay-per views, the Royal Rumble, live from San Antonio Texas. As I mentioned in my preview article, this was one of the most unpredictable Rumbles in recent memory. The WWE has often been criticized for being fairly obvious in the direction their story lines are taking going into the Rumble, but this year there were a number of viable contenders for the “Headline Spot” at Wrestlemania and I think it|s fair to say that not too many people would have picked the Rumble winner correctly. As is the usual I’m not going to recap the pre-show matches in this article. If you’re interested Gallows and Anderson are your new Raw Tag Team champs (bit of a surprise), Nia Jax won (no surprise) and the “face” team won in the six woman tag. I’m not going to look at the Rumble match itself in this article. It deserves its own article.
Bayley vs. Charlotte Flair (Raw Women’s Championship)
Charlotte stays undefeated in singles matches on PPV. I don’t think this result really came as a surprise to many people as most assume that the title change is going to happen at Wrestlemania. Was this the best match on the card? No. but it was a nice way to get the night started. There were some missed spots, and the chemistry between Charlotte and Bayley isn’t as good as it is between Charlotte and Sasha Banks or Bayley and Sasha, but they put on an entertaining match that had enough high spots to keep the crowd both in the arena and me at home engaged. The finish felt a little rushed but was a nice variation of the Natural Selection on the ring apron, “The hardest part of the ring”. They’ve got time to build this feud now. Maybe with a triple-threat at the next Raw PPV with Nia Jax? We’re all just going to have to wait a bit longer until the “Hugster” takes home the gold.
Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns (WWE Universal Championship)
We got our second Raw match in a row. With K.O. Taking on Roman Reigns. The even money was that this one didn’t end with a clean finish. We were right, but this wasn’t how I thought it would go. We knew that this was a no-DQ match and that Chris Jericho was going to be locked in a shark cage above the ring. Jericho’s role in the match was a lot less than what I expected, he did drop a pair of brass knuckles to K.O. But the cage did really keep him out of the match. We got a couple of nice table spots. That frog splash!! And K.O. Falling through a pyramid of steel chairs that he set up earlier in the match. Then we got a swerve that I really didn’t see coming. Braun Strowman came out of nowhere to choke-slam Reigns on the announce table and then running powerslam him through a table in the ring. This was enough to keep the “Big Dog” down and let K.O. Hang on to the title for another day. Are we gonna get Strowman vs. Reigns at Mania? Do we need another match featuring big dudes? We already have Shaq vs. Big Show and Lesnar vs. Goldberg.
Neville vs. Rich Swann (WWE Crusierweight Championship)
I’ve heard rumors that 205 Live isn’t doing as well as the WWE had hoped, and I think the idea of putting the title on Neville was probably a good one. Let me just say the crowd was dead for this match until Neville and Swann started pulling out some of their more high-flying moves. Swann’s run as champion has been rather “lack luster” in my opinion, but I think a lot of that has to do with the storytelling that they are doing with 205 Live. Maybe now we’ll see new feuds start to develop and some of the “faces” can come after the “King of the Cruiserweights”. I’ve said it before, but there is no way Neville weights less than 205 pounds. If AJ Styles only weighs 215 Neville is at least that. Submission finisher from Neville was an interesting touch that made him look very much the heel they’re building him as. I really liked that he held on for a while after the ref called for the bell.
John Cena vs. AJ Styles (WWE World Championship)
Your winner and now 16 time world champion John Cena. This was the match of the night in my opinion. These two pulled out all the stops and we saw a more aggressive Cena in certain parts of the match. After K.O. Retaining the title earlier in the night, this seemed like a bit of a foregone conclusion as the match progressed. This was the best match these two have had so far. More than enough high-spots to get a relatively down crowd to finally get on their feet. Cena pulled out some moves that I don’t think I’ve ever seen him do before, Sunset flip powerbomb, a cutter, thank God he didn’t go for the spring board stunner. The nice thing was that they gave these guys plenty of time to work, over 24 minutes. There were a ton of false finishes, but they were able to keep building to bigger and bigger finishing moves. An “AA” wasn’t enough, let’s go for a “Super AA” or the Style’s Clash can’t put Cena away, how about a Style’s Clash followed by a Phenomenal Forearm. In the end it was back to back “AA”s from Cena that finally kept AJ down for the three count. Now we go into Elimination Chamber with Cena having to defend his title against 5 other men if he wants to headline Wrestlemania.
Okay, that’s gonna do it for this article. Overall, I thought the main card was very good. I was a bit surprised that they moved the Smackdown women’s tag match to the pre-show as it was originally announced for the main card. Pacing was good, everyone got at least 13 minutes to work, which is a lot more than the Crusierweights usually get. If anything, we thought that the results of the main card and would help to shed some light on what we could expect in the Rumble itself. Man were we wrong. But more on that in part 2.
What did you think? Were there any 5 star matches in your opinion? Let us know in the comments.
Image from www.wwe.com