Tuesday, January 31, 2017
They started this in the first hour of the pre-show, with the crowd still filing in. Bad decision. They should have made a bigger deal about Mickie’s first main roster match back. The teams did back and forth work, with each girl getting some shine. We got the big multi-person suplex spot that a lot of matches like this pull out. Lynch took some of the heat for her team, which is good since she’s easily the most sympathetic and likable on her team. Surprisingly, it was Naomi who got the hot tag and did her thing. She pinned Alexa after a split legged moonsault. I hate that the champions get booked so poorly. Naomi pinning Natalya would have been a fine way to give her momentum, though I would have had the heels win with Mickie getting the pin. The match itself was fine and the girls worked hard.
This had the two referees gimmick due to recent controversies. Cesaro ran wild in this match. He is one of the best tag team wrestlers I have ever seen. It just works for him in these matches. I rather enjoyed his interactions with Anderson. Cesaro took some heat and sold his bad shoulder. Sheamus’ hot tag was solid, though he isn’t the better guy at it in his team. There was a great close call where Cesaro locked in the sharpshooter. One of the refs ate a Brogue Kick, negating some of the gimmick. They teased another ref bump but Sheamus stopped himself. Anderson rolled up Cesaro with a handful of tights to win the titles. On one hand, I’m glad they finally got the titles, but doing a dirty finish in a match where you put two refs to prevent that sort of thing was dumb. Also, the rollup was weak. Other than that, it was solid tag team wrestling.
I think they booked this match well overall. Nia Jax has been a monster, only losing at Survivor Series to a Becky Lynch armbar. Sasha Banks is miscast as a babyface and though I like her, she isn’t very sympathetic. Nia dominated from start to finish. Sasha got in some horrible looking slaps in her desperate attempts to make a comeback. It took forever before Nia worked on Sasha’s bad knee. Nia won with a popup Samoan in what was mostly a squash. Like I said, the booking was right because Nia needed a credible win and dominating Sasha was wise. It just wasn’t very interesting and some things (Sasha using offense that hurt her already injured knee and Nia not going after it from the start) hurt it.
Man, they’re getting the women out of the way early huh? This started the main show. I find it hard to get into any Raw women’s matches. Bayley was way over though. They worked a technically sound match. Nothing came off as sloppy and the crowd was invested, but something was off for me. It might have been the fact that I didn’t believe Bayley was winning at any point. Some fans bought into her near falls but underdog Bayley wasn’t winning in her first shot, especially against the unbeatable Charlotte. My favorite spots saw Bayley hit a cross body to the outside and Charlotte have to resort to Natural Selection on the apron to win. It felt like she knew she had to do something extra to get past Bayley and I liked that. Originally, I had this ranked lower but bumped it up a bit.
Chris Jericho was suspended above the ring in a shark cage. The Owens/Reigns series has produced plenty of disappointing matches, like Owens/Rollins. However, it was Falls Count Anywhere and Hell in a Cell stipulations that finally turned the Seth series around. Here, Owens and Reigns had their best match. I loved that they used the No DQ stipulation to their advantage. The brawling around the arena, frog splash through the table and bump where Owens went through a stack of chairs were all great. They used the tired shark cage spot where Jericho dropped a weapon to Owens. He used the brass knuckles to mock Reigns’ superman punch in a great spot. They didn’t overdo the typical Reigns kickout or power up spots, which was good. Reigns got near victory when Braun Strowman ran in. He put Roman through the announce table and then through another table inside with a powerslam, giving Owens the win. I figured it would have a lot of smoke and mirrors and that’s fine in this kind of match. They kept me engaged and busted out some big spots.
I want to enjoy the cruiserweights more but it just hasn’t clicked. Neville has been a breath of fresh air and his heel persona has come off well. I like that he gets to use his power in the division and they played that against Swann’s quickness in the early goings. Neville came across like a beast at times. The main issue with this match was that the crowd was dead. They don’t care about the cruiserweights. The work done was mostly strong but the lack of care by the crowd hurt it. I’m waiting for the division to have a blow away match like some of what we got in the CWC. Neville won with the superplex followed by his butterfly submission. I liked that he didn’t kick out of Swann’s kick, instead getting his foot on the ropes and that he’s established new finishes to avoid the pop he got from the Red Arrow. Perkins, Kendrick and now Swann have all quickly lost the title and though this match was good, the division is still floundering.
There was a big fight feel to this one. The fans knew their first two matches were great and wanted the third to deliver as well. It did. In their past matches, Styles outwrestled Cena early, so the challenger adjusted his strategy this time around. He went for heavier shots early. That set the tone for a match filled with two guys throwing their biggest bombs at one another. The Styles Clash, Calf Crusher, STF, Attitude Adjustment and everything else in between. I usually don’t love matches that are filled with a lot of kickouts but I don’t think this relied on it. They played off past matches and it felt like two guys emptying the tank and trying everything in their arsenal to beat the other. Styles survived several AAs including the super AA, like he did at SummerSlam. AJ hit the Styles Clash and went for the Phenomenal Forearm but Cena stopped him. He hit the AA and, knowing how tough AJ is, held on and rolled into another AA to win his 16th World Title. An excellent match that was better than their MITB encounter but slightly below the SummerSlam one. AJ looked fantastic and it took everything Cena had to finally beat him. Their chemistry is top notch and Cena continued to be the best big match performer I can recall, while Styles reminded everyone why he’s the absolute best on this planet. The pacing was great, they played off past matches, kept the crowd invested and had many on the edge of their seats. Main roster MOTY so far.
I’m not going to recap each and every entrant. It was, interesting to say the least. Most of the early entrants did nothing of note until Braun Strowman arrived. He cleaned house and had some solid interactions with Sami Zayn, calling back to their feud. Baron Corbin eliminating him was a shock and the thing I popped for the most in the match. Tye Dillinger came in at #10, which was perfect. No clue if he’ll be on the main roster for good now, but he didn’t do much in this match. Luke Harper had another highlight by turning on the Wyatts and viciously hitting Bray with a discus lariat. He almost hit him with Sister Abigail too but Orton stopped him with the RKO. They saved Brock, Goldberg and Taker for the end. Brock cleaned house until Goldberg came out. He bitched out Brock with a spear and eliminated him instantly. I’m not looking forward to their eventual Mania match. Undertaker was #29 and people wanted a big surprise at #30, since Tye and Jack Gallagher (who was fun in a short stint) were the only surprises so far. Instead of someone cool like Samoa Joe of Finn Balor, we got Roman Reigns to massive heat. He had a staredown with Undertaker and eliminated him from behind like a cowardly heel. He eliminated Bray before Orton countered his spear into an RKO and dumped him out to win. Most guys who lasted long (Jericho, Corbin, Zayn) ultimately didn’t do much to impress. The only stories advanced were Brock/Goldberg and the Wyatts, while they teased Reign/Undertaker. It ultimately felt like a lackluster Rumble with only a few interesting moments. An Orton win means something goes down at Elimination Chamber because there’s no way they do Cena/Orton at Mania.
Overall: This show had some highs and lows. I found most of the pre-show stuff to be very average, with Sasha/Nia being the worst match on the show. Charlotte/Bayley was a good choice for the opener, but like a lot of Charlotte stuff, it didn’t wow me. Kudos to Owens and Reigns for having their best match together. Neville/Swann was solid but unspectacular, while the Royal Rumble itself lacked heavily. Styles/Cena was the easy MOTN and makes the show worth checking out on its own. Some of the booking was questionable too. I’m not against Orton winning the Rumble, but it does feel like the WWE is just sticking with one of their status quo guys.