WWE Royal Rumble 2017 marks Day Two of “Five Days of Wrestling – January 2017”. I was looking forward to this show going in since I traditionally love the Royal Rumble, or I should say the concept of the match itself. Lately, the Rumble matches have been nothing but predictable. How did this year’s show fare? Well, let’s check it out.
WWE Royal Rumble 2017 Recap – Kickoff Show
I’ll never understand WWE’s “more is better” philosophy. By the time I file my NXT recap late Wednesday afternoon, I’ll have watched an ungodly number of hours of professional wrestling this week. I skipped the NXT “Kickoff Show” on Saturday since it had zero matches, but all told, that’s 2 hours on Saturday, 6 (!) hours on Sunday, 3 hours on Monday, 3 hours on Tuesday (not counting Talking Smack, which I watch but don’t write about), and 1 hour on Wednesday. That’s a lot of wrestling. I’d argue too much wrestling and I love wrestling. But here we go, a 2 hour Kickoff Show for the Royal Rumble.
Our panel consists of Renee Young, Booker T, Jerry Lawler, and Shawn Michaels. They sub in Peter Rosenberg about halfway through the Kickoff Show because even HBK can’t handle 2 hours of talking about the “show we’re going to be watching later today”.
The Kickoff Show is your standard Kickoff Show. 3 matches, a few backstage vignettes, every video package you’d ever want to see, and Charly Caruso replacing Tom Phillips in the social media lounge for reasons. The main talking point that wasn’t directly tied to the Royal Rumble show itself was Seth Rollins hijacking NXT TakeOver last night to call out Triple H. We learn at one point by way of a Stephanie McMahon interview that Seth is “banned from the building” tonight and she’ll deal with him tomorrow night on Raw.
After about 30 minutes of PPV set up, it’s time for the first match. We open with the SmackDown Live six woman tag match. Face team enters first in the order of Naomi, Nikki Bella, and Becky Lynch. Heels enter next in the order of Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, and Natalya.
Match #1: Naomi, Nikki Bella, and Becky Lynch vs. Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, & Natalya
Actually not too bad for a six woman match. We get an awesome spot where the face team pulls off a triple suplex on the heels. Becky plays “face in peril” for most of the match as the heel team does a good job of isolating her and taking out Nikki & Naomi at opportunistic times. Naomi ends up getting the hot tag, goes on a run, hits her split legged moonsault off the ropes, and gets a clean pin on Alexa Bliss. Wow, I did not expect that.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – Nikki / Natalya didn’t really need this match, but we got enough of Becky / Mickie and Naomi / Alexa out of this to have justification for some matches in two weeks at Elimination Chamber. Points for using the finish as the justification that Naomi deserves a title shot instead of trying to cram that into this week’s SmackDown episode somehow.
Next, Charly (or is it?) is backstage with JeriKO. Jericho is worried about being “the guy in the sky” and Roman claims after tonight he’ll still be the guy with the Universal title. Jericho ends the segment by telling Charly that he wishes it was Charly interviewing them because he likes her better.
Time for the Raw tag team title match. Interestingly enough, the two refs that argued over the Club winning, but not really winning, the match on Raw are the two assigned refs tonight. Champs enter first because tradition doesn’t matter. Gallows and Anderson are out next.
Match #2: Cesaro & Sheamus (c) vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson (WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Match – Two Referee Stipulation)
It is the standard match these guys have been having. The second ref factors in early on to catch Anderson trying to use the ropes for leverage. Sheamus ends up Brogue Kicking one of the refs so we’re down to just one. Cesaro manages to get Anderson in the Sharpshooter, but Gallows breaks it up. Sheamus is in a bit later to break up a pin on Cesaro and eats a Magic Killer. Anderson is able to roll up Cesaro to get the win. New tag team champs and it’s about time they did something with Gallows & Anderson!
Verdict: Thumbs Up – The end of Sheasaro is nigh and Gallows & Anderson are the champs. I couldn’t have asked for much more here.
Around this time, Michaels has left the panel and Rosenberg joins. Aries also joins the panel to talk about the Cruiserweight match.
Up next, we get Charly and Dean for the social media lounge. Dean talks about dinosaurs and animals and WWE should give us a 20 minute show each week that is just Dean Ambrose rambling on about random things. Instead we get Camp WWE and Holy Foley.
Hey, it’s time for the final Kickoff Show match. Sasha Banks is out first. Nia Jax is out next.
Match #3: Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax
You know how the Nia Jax squash matches go on Raw? This is one of those but they let Sasha get a little bit of offense in. Sasha otherwise is completely decimated by Nia Jax to a degree I did not expect. If anything, this establishes Nia as a serious contender heading into WrestleMania which is what I assume they’ve been building towards. Not much of a match and it’s bizarre to use someone like Sasha Banks in this situation but here we are. Nia goes over clean with a Samoan Drop out of nowhere.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – Good for Nia Jax, but a weird choice to use Sasha Banks as the squash victim though.
Next, we get the brief interview with Stephanie McMahon where she tells us that Seth is banned from the Alamodome tonight and she’ll deal with him on Raw.
After that, HBK hits the ring to sells us one last time on the Royal Rumble. He gets the crowd to say “suck it” and now we’re just moments away from the actual show finally starting.
WWE Royal Rumble 2017 Recap
WWE. Then. Now. Forever. A dramatic Royal Rumble video packages, pyro hits, and we’re live from San Antonio.
Bayley’s music hits next so we’re doing the Raw Women’s Championship match first. Charlotte Flair enters next, alone, and hey at least the champ enters last in this match.
Match #4: Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Bayley (Raw Women’s Championship match)
Wow, another women’s match where someone gets hard way blood. Charlotte is bleeding pretty good from her mouth from about halfway through the match up through the end. I hope she didn’t bite through her tongue. Bayley hangs in there but this is just not her night. Charlotte takes control after stomping Bayley’s knee and then using the figure four to wear it down. Bayley manages to counter Charlotte’s moonsault, but before long Charlotte hits a sick looking apron Natural Selection to put away Bayley. Charlotte gets the three count and retains.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – About what I expected would happen. We’re still really early in this feud and if the real plan is a SummerSlam win for Bayley, we’ve got a long way to go. Charlotte is in top form, like always.
Next, the shark cage lowers to the theme usually reserved for a steel cage or Hell in a Cell. Guess that means it’s time for the Universal Championship match. Champ enters first because tradition doesn’t matter. Reigns is out next and Jericho stalls entering the cage so he and KO can double team Roman for a bit. Reigns ends up fighting back and ramming Jericho into the cage. Roman tosses Jericho into the shark cage and finally the match is able to start.
Match #5: Kevin Owens (c) vs. Roman Reigns (No DQ Match for the WWE Universal Championship – Chris Jericho Suspended Above the Ring in a Shark Cage )
The WWE Network froze about 2/3 of the way through this match. As I tried to regain the feed, my internet connection temporarily went down. Needless to say, by the time I got back on the WWE Network, this match was over and the next match was about to begin. So, I had to go back and watch the finish after the show ended. This match was actually pretty good. I’m burned out on the sameness of seeing some combination of Jericho / Reigns / Owens so often on Raw, but they pulled out all of the stops here thanks to the added No DQ stipulation. Jericho naturally smuggled in some brass knuckles that he tosses to KO at one point that still can’t put Reigns away. Chairs and tables get used. Owens goes through a pyramid of chairs he built and then Reigns powerbombs him through the announce table. It looks as thought Reigns has the Universal title on lock, when Strowman appears out of nowhere. Braun rams Roman into the ring post and then bounces him off the German announce table and gets the biggest babyface pop of his entire fledgling career. KO is able to capitalize off of this and retain the title.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – Interesting choice to keep the title on KO since it seemed like Roman was winning going into the show. The Strowman intervention didn’t make a ton of sense beyond the “Reigns and Goldberg speared Strowman” thing that Graves reminded us of, but I’ll take it.
I picked up the live feed in the middle of some bizarre Enzo & Big Cass chicken advertisement and I’m not upset I missed most of that.
Next, we have a “drawing the numbers” segment involving Stephanie McMahon, Mick Foley, Daniel Bryan, Shane McMahon, Sami Zayn, and Dean Ambrose. Sami draws his number and Dean reads it to him. We get a “oh, it’s upside down” joke with Dean since Sami’s number is 8. Dean doesn’t want to know what number he drew since he likes the suspense.
Cruiserweight time and at least the Cruiserweight division respects tradition as Neville enters first and the champ enters last.
Match #6: Rich Swann (c) vs. Neville (WWE Cruiserweight Championship match)
Neville is all over Swann for the majority of this match. Swann gets in some spots, mainly stiff kicks, and does give Neville more of a run than anyone else has so far. But, the inevitable happens and Neville defeats Swann to become the self-proclaimed “King of the Cruiserweights”. The finish was cool as Neville hits the superplex he’s been beating people with, but Swann kicks out. Neville fluidly moves from the kick out to lock on his Rings of Saturn finisher and Swann is forced to tap out.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – I like Swann, but Neville is on fire since returning and he absolutely needed the title win here to keep that momentum going.
Up next, we have the WWE Championship match. Styles enters first because we’re back to ignoring tradition. Cena enters last.
Match #7: AJ Styles (c) vs. John Cena (WWE Championship match)
I know it’s only January 29th, but this is a strong, strong Match of the Year candidate. I went into this doubting Cena and Styles would be able to top their epic SummerSlam 2016 match, but these guys found a way. AJ and Cena’s ring chemistry was on point during this match and even up to the very end I wasn’t entirely sure where WWE booking was going with for the finish. We have finishers teased, finishers hit and kicked out of, Styles slapping on a STF, Cena slapping on a Figure Four, Cena taking not one but two Styles Clashes. But, Big Match John was able to catch AJ mid “Phenomenal Forearm” and convert that into an AA followed up by a another AA for good measure. Cena gets the pin fall victory and ties Ric Flair for most World Championship reigns.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – Match of the Night and an immediate front-runner for Match of the Year. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Post-match, Cena goes out into the crowd to a take photos with a Make A Wish kid.
Finally, it’s time for the Royal Rumble match. Cole and Graves remind us that Rollins has been banned from the building and will have to deal with Stephanie tomorrow. Your commentary team for the Rumble match is Graves, Cole, and Lawler.
Number 1 is Big Cass and he and Enzo are out to introduce themselves and let you know about things that cannot be taught. Clever move for WWE to do this in order to allow them to get the Enzo / Cass spiel on the PPV. This continues until finally Number 2 is announced and it’s Chris Jericho.
Match #8: Royal Rumble Match
It’s a Royal Rumble Match so people enter and people get eliminated. I’ll briefly discuss the match and then drop in the stats. I did not like this match. I absolutely loved the first half of the match and absolutely hated the second half of the match. So overall it gets a just below “Thumbs In The Middle” from me. Orton ends up winning, which I partially expected going in, but the lack of surprise entrants and the way the final six or so went down just didn’t sit well with me. Out of the final five or six, I’d have most rather seen Wyatt or Taker win, but again, we don’t know the WrestleMania plans so both could have made zero sense. I’m okay with Orton winning under the condition that we don’t get the tired retread of Cena / Orton at WrestleMania. We shall see though. It will truly be shocking if Cena only has a two-week title reign and drops the belt at Elimination Chamber.
Notable things I did like about the match were WWE not being totally tone deaf to their fan base and debuting Tye Dillinger in the #10 spot. Also, I liked Ellsworth getting a Rumble spot and the Jack Gallagher comedy spots with William the umbrella were top-notch. Also of note, Orton entered to his normal theme music and Harper appeared to turn on the Wyatt Family and attempted to give Bray a Sister Abigail before Orton intervened. Rusev appears to have broken his nose and is wearing a “broken nose mask” now. The New Day were all eliminated together as were Sheamus and Cesaro. Sheasaro immediately began having words with one another and I hope and pray this doesn’t mean we’re getting a “Best of 15” between them now.
Now to the stuff I didn’t like. Taker, Lesnar, and Goldberg were hyped to the moon for this match and cumulatively spent hardly any time in it. Goldberg easily eliminated Lesnar and the entire booking of their story line right now makes absolutely no sense. Reigns getting the nod at number 30 was a terrible choice unless they’re turning him heel for a match with Undertaker – who he unceremoniously eliminated towards the end of the match. WWE gets a pass in retrospect if that was what they were doing there.
Strowman ended up getting the most eliminations this year with seven.
Here is the entrance order:
1: Big Cass
2: Chris Jericho
4: Mojo Rawley
5: Jack Gallagher
6: Mark Henry
7: Braun Strowman
8: Sami Zayn
9: Big Show
10: Tye Dillinger
11: James Ellsworth
12: Dean Ambrose
13: Baron Corbin
14: Kofi Kingston
15: The Miz
17: Big E
20: Xavier Woods
21: Bray Wyatt
22: Apollo Crews
23: Randy Orton
24: Dolph Ziggler
25: Luke Harper
26: Brock Lesnar
27: Enzo Amore
30: Roman Reigns
Verdict: Thumbs Down – This match turned a great show into a good show. Not enough surprises and Orton is really a “fine, whatever” winner. I’m not upset he won, but I’m not really excited at this point yet either. It almost felt like this should have gone on before the Styles / Cena match since that was a significantly better choice a show closing main event. But oh well, another year, another so-so Rumble match.
We go off the air with pyro hitting and Randy pointing at the WrestleMania sign.
All in all this was a good show that could have been a great one. Surprisingly, it was the lackluster Rumble match that pulled this match down from being “Thumbs Up” across the board as the title matches all delivered. Onward to Raw and Day Three of “Five Days of Wrestling: January 2017″…