Monday, January 25, 2016

The Royal Rumble in review

WWE knew from the get go that this year was built around the main event even more than previous years. With nearly an hour and fifteen minutes devoted to the Royal Rumble itself, the other matches were treated more like lead up than anything else. Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose put on a compelling Last Man Standing match while Kalisto shocked Alberto Del Rio yet again to become a two time United States champion. The New Day pulled out a win over the Usos while Ric Flair's interference yet again allowed Charlotte to beat Becky Lynch. In fact, the only really interesting thing to happen on the undercard was the return of Sasha Banks to absolutely brutalize Charlotte post-match.

This was a beautiful thing to see after the Divas match.
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But the story of the night was really all about the Rumble. With Roman Reigns in at number one and defending his WWE World Heavyweight title in the process, he had everything to lose against 29 other men. But after eliminating the #2 entrant Rusev, Reigns got his first big surprise of the night in the form of a man rumored to make his WWE debut for weeks now: AJ Styles.

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Styles wasn't the only surprise of the night however. While he was eliminated a bit earlier than one might expect, by none other than Kevin Owens (who awesomely mocked Styles' pose after the throw out), Owens had his own run ins after already taking a beating in the Last Man Standing match that kicked off the show. First Dean Ambrose followed immediately after his entry, then Sami Zayn made his return to the WWE roster to eliminate his rival from a shot at the WWE title.

The League of Nations attacked Roman Reigns mid-match in perhaps the dumbest mugging in the history of professional wrestling. They brutalized him three on one and put him through a table, but they didn't roll him back in the ring to be eliminated. Instead they let him walk to the back where he could rest up and recoup for the end of the event.

The combined Wyatt Family were not as foolish though. After Braun Strowman single handedly eliminated both Big Show and Kane, he ran head long into a Beast Incarnate. Brock Lesnar eliminated Strowman, Erick Rowan and Luke Harper before Bray Wyatt could even reach the ring, but he couldn't stop them from returning for a four on one beatdown. Even Lesnar couldn't take down the entire unit, who eliminated him en masse. Conveniently, his elimination also allowed both him and Reigns to never share the ring for even a second, sparing a future main event match.

To no one's surprise, the final surprise entrant was #30: Triple H. He followed #29 Sheamus, a man that was jumped by Roman Reigns on his return to the match. After Triple H entered, Dolph Ziggler was quickly thrown from the ring. With Sheamus still out, he tried to form an alliance with Wyatt, but the cult leader turned on the face of The Authority. Wyatt and Jericho wouldn't last much longer, but after Reigns dumps a returning Sheamus, Triple H grabs him from behind to dump him from the ring and eliminate Reigns' chance to retain his title.

It was down to two men: Dean Ambrose and Triple H. And if anyone has ever watched WWE, only one option for victory remained. Triple H eliminated Ambrose to become a fourteen time WWE World Heavyweight champion.

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While the end wasn't a surprise, the Rumble did accomplish a few things: it gave us a reason to root for Reigns come Wrestlemania as he challenges Triple H. It creates a compelling story to give us reason to watch Wyatt versus Lesnar. The situation between Owens and Zayn also sets up a potential match. Overall, this wasn't the best Royal Rumble ever, but it was far far from the worst. Fans didn't go away with the hatred and disappointment they were left with in 2014 and 2015, plus they were given reason to be intrigued by the road to Wrestlemania.

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