Hits and Misses: WWE Royal Rumble 2015
Still fuming over what happened at this year's Royal Rumble?
Resident wrestling writers Joe "The gRappler" Marsalis and Nissi Icasiano have since calmed down though – or at least they tried – to share their thoughts on last Sunday's WWE pay-per-view.
Read on as they dissect the 30-man Royal Rumble Match then go through the rest of the matches on the card, including the incredible WWE World Heavyweight Championship Triple Threat Match.
Roman Reigns wins the Royal Rumble Match
Joe: 1) I was okay with Reigns upending a warring Kane and Big Show out of the ring. It didn’t make him look freakish and superhuman, which would already be overkill to a crowd that was outright rejecting him. 2) But while that wasn’t overkill, having the Rock come out and pretty much establish the fact that they’re still shoving Reigns in our faces was overkill.
Nissi: My opinion won’t change about Roman Reigns. He has the look and the physique to lead the way, but he's not ready. He lacks the ability to cut promos, and while his matches have improved, he is still missing the in-ring experience to be the top star right now. WWE did whatever it could to get Reigns over with the fans, including his double elimination of Kane and Big Show as well as taking out Rusev to make his victory official. The company even used his real-life cousin The Rock as his sparkplug, but of course, the wrestling pundits didn’t buy it.
Daniel Bryan’s early elimination
Joe: It’s a shame, but not because he didn’t win. I wanted Bryan to win, but I would’ve been fine with it if he didn’t (as we’ve already gotten that great moment at WrestleMania XXX; it’s time to elevate another deserving star so we can help grow the top tier). The way it was done, though, was so unceremonious and undramatic that it might just be why the crowd decided to turn on the entire thing. I think the crowd might still have forgiven the mere fact of Bryan’s elimination had it been built up as a tense, palpable tug-of-war between the floor and the apron.
Nissi: Taking out Daniel Bryan early made the conclusion more obvious, which is one of the reasons why boos were heard for the rest of the evening. If the intention was having Roman Reigns win, they should have made Bryan one of the Final Four.
Joe: You know the Rumble itself is pretty sad when you can only really point to Bray Wyatt, and maybe Rusev, as the only stellar performances. More on this later.
Nissi: I would give the MVP award to Bray Wyatt and Rusev. Wyatt eliminated a good portion of the competitors and lasted for a long time until he was eliminated by Kane and Big Show. On the other hand, Rusev is the runner-up of this year’s Rumble match. Most second-place finishers in previous Royal Rumble matches went on to have some of the most important matches on the WrestleMania card.
Surprise Rumble entrants
Joe: The Rumble is treated like a mini-Hall of Fame, in my opinion; I think too much value is placed on legendary surprise returns when in reality, legends are there for the pop and to put the young guys over. Bubba Ray finally returning to the company after almost ten years is a big deal, though, and the 3D – even if it’s not D-Von – went over huge. Ditto for DDP and the Diamond Cutter, even if he looked very much deflated. Hey, even Boogeyman got a warm reception. Wish there were more, though; some jobbers were interchangeable.
Nissi: Bubba Ray Dudley and Diamond Dallas Page saved this year’s Royal Rumble from being referred to as horrible. Nobody expected them to make a surprise appearance, especially Bubba Ray. It was fitting that he made his comeback in the home of ECW, where his career took off along with D-Von. Meanwhile, DDP gave us a feel of the old WCW days by hitting the Diamond Cutter on 3 Rumble competitors
Joe: I mentioned earlier that Bryan’s elimination was unceremonious; the biggest problem with that was it could also describe a lot of what transpired. Wyatt had major heat after that, but he was also dumped unceremoniously near the end. Ryback, too. Ambrose, too. Ziggler, too.
When you get right down to it, it’s no longer even a matter of the wrong person winning. (Although it was bizarre that they lost the crowd after Bryan was thrown out, then getting them back when Ziggler came out at #30, then losing them for a second time when Ziggler was dumped. That’s commitment to the boos, man.) I think it’s a matter of the audience rejecting the notion that they have to feel this way or that way about the things happening in front of them without being given a good enough reason to. They were asked for a reaction without being given the drama.
There was very little drama – not of the sort brought about by having so many men in the ring, and not even of the sort brought about by a one-on-one face-off. Other than those who wrestle with soul, like Bryan and Ziggler, few of it felt organic and pure. You could have tried to save Reigns the way the Rock did with the right formula, but by then the audience was completely out of it due to the treatment their heroes got. But it was technically possible with the right drama and a good enough performance.
Looking back at it as a whole, it felt like a Rumble that was going through the motions because it was already disheartening by the endgame.
Nissi: It is really hard to digest that WWE had another hated Rumble winner for the third straight year. It was supposed to be a celebration to kick off the road to WrestleMania, but it turned out to be a disappointment yet again.
Every fan watched the event in dismay as the WWE creative team gave a figurative middle finger to the audience by the mistreatment of Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose, and even Ryback. Roman Reigns may be WWE’s choice to guide the company into the future, but his rise does not have to be at the expense of Bryan, Ziggler, and the rest of the favorites.
With this kind of decision, the company is clearly shoving the second-generation star down our throats. Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio are cautionary tales of talented performers who suffered resentment as a result of being pushed too quickly. Reigns looks to be written to a similar story.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship - Triple Threat Match
Brock Lesnar def. John Cena and Seth Rollins to retain
Joe: I’ll be honest with you: I wasn’t expecting it at all! I’ve already written at length about how the month-long build to this match made all 3 men look like legitimate contenders to win the title (well okay, I’m really just talking about Rollins here, because the other two are former champions) and it delivered. You know you’ve done a good job when you can say you expected any of the 3 to take it home with no problems whatsoever (except Cena, probably). Everyone, not just Brock, went full-on Beast Mode for this one and it was all worth it. I mean, of course – why wouldn’t you give nothing but your best in a WWE title match?
Having had some time to think about it, I do believe that Brock retaining was the right decision. Knowing what we know now, he’s the biggest and best guy right now who could turn the floundering Rumble winner into a star. Not saying he will, but it’s possible if they do the match just right.
Speaking of stars, let’s go into Rollins for a bit here. It’s amazing that he didn’t need a WrestleMania main event to be a full-fledged star. If you still haven’t noticed yet, then I hope this title match made it damn clear for you: Seth Rollins is a top star, championship or not, briefcase or not. Welcome to the new age. (To the new age.)
Nissi: Definitely, this grueling battle is an early contender for Match of the Year award. The action was intense, non-stop, and most importantly, it made sense to give Brock Lesnar the right to retain the WWE world heavyweight title.
It was Lesnar’s performance that elevated the match to the level of greatness it achieved. For the first time since his WWE Championship defense against Eddie Guerrero back in 2004, he pulled off a spectacular feat that firmly established himself as the true alpha male. Lesnar executed suplex variations and F5’s to claim the victory, and withstood numerous finishers, a spot through the commentary table, and even being blasted in the head with the Money in the Bank briefcase twice.
For Seth Rollins, he undeniably cemented his status as one of the faces of WWE's future. Rollins had one of the biggest highlights of the entire event with his flip off the top rope and the corkscrew 450-degree splash.
Kickoff Match: Cesaro & Tyson Kidd defeated The New Day (Big E & Kofi Kingston)
Joe: Absolutely wonderful. It means nothing because it’s one of those tag team division feuds that just exist because two teams decided to run afoul of each other, but sometimes, despite the superiority of story-driven wrestling, wrestling for the sake of it is plain fun, especially when done right. I would like to see where these intriguing Xavier Woods promos are heading. (Still wishing for a heel New Day where they force everyone to smile and be positive, under the threat of pain.)
Nissi: It is not a match to remember, but it provided the kind of energy necessary to get a major show started right. We all know that Tyson Kidd and Cesaro have the wares to strut, but WWE chose to underutilize them. While still toiling at the bottom of the card, Cesaro and Kidd proved that they are capable of more things. Both have different styles, but they managed to pull it off and incorporate their attributes to produce great spots, including Cesaro's giant spin into a Kidd dropkick, and when the Swiss added leverage after a sunset flip by his Canadian partner.
The Ascension (Konnor & Viktor) def. The New Age Outlaws (Billy Gunn & The Road Dogg)
Joe: Much ado about nothing. I’m glad the Ascension went over the Outlaws, but if they weren’t going to make it even a halfway-competitive match, then this shouldn’t have started the show. I’d have had the tag title match go on first, then the Divas tag match, then this one to serve as the break before the big WWE Championship match.
Nissi: I have to agree with Joe. Everyone close to me knows how I love Billy Gunn and Road Dogg, but I am glad that The Ascension took home the victory despite being surprisingly manhandled on the go-home edition of Monday Night Raw prior to Sunday. The New Age Outlaws are unquestionably one of the greatest duos in WWE history, while Konnor and Viktor are a team that the company is presumably trying to build up. As 5-time WWE Tag Team champs, the Outlaws were a great choice to face a pair that is still new to the roster. By putting them over, The Ascension gained credibility that may very well help them to become a successful part of WWE's tag team division.
WWE Tag Team Championship
The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso) def. The Miz & Damien Sandow to retain
Joe: It’s still a match I don’t really care about, as I don’t know why they’re still feuding, other than to give Miz and Mizdow an avenue to continue their breakup tease. If that were the case, then it worked; they’ve now shifted to second gear on the breakup transmission.
Nissi: Finally, WWE creative team has decided to pull the proverbial trigger and plant the seeds for the duo’s break-up that will allow Damien Sandow to rebuild his singles career. A rivalry between Sandow and The Miz could generate an entertaining storyline, which definitely has not been the case when they kept feuding with Jimmy and Jey Uso. However, I would give credit to this match’s strong finish. The Usos executed three moves to get the win: superkick, top-rope powerbomb, and flying splash.
The Bella Twins (Brie & Nikki Bella) def. Paige & Natalya
Joe: The right ladies won. That’s all that matters, after the back-and-forth they’ve been getting. Now can we have a huge title match at WrestleMania?
Nissi: Nikki Bella pinning Natalya after hitting a running forearm presented a new flavor to the Divas division. It is impressive to see The Bella Twins doing well in this match, especially it is rare for WWE to book a one-sided affair that would make sense to do so. – Rappler.com