Remember the Rumble was a far too fitting theme for Royal Rumble 2017. WWE’s continual love affair with its past remains the biggest impediment to the future. By the end of the night, there wasn’t a lot of hope that the WWE will ever come around to getting it … at least under the current regime. Let’s break down the show.
Charlotte Flair vs Bayley for
WWE RAW Women’s Championship
Similar to Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks, I’m stuck feeling like I’ve already seen this feud before — and done better. The Four Horsewomen matches remind me of Dean Malenko vs Eddie Guerrero. They had legendary matches in ECW that drew comparisons to the Ric Flair/Ricky Steamboat series. And while they would have matches in WCW, they never managed to reach that same level. Charlotte’s pay-per-view win streak is the goofiest, most specific record I can remember in wrestling.
Even if the result seems obvious, there needed to be some level of suspense and hope that Bayley could get the win. And they could never get the match to that level. Charlotte continues her silly streak and Bayley can get prepared to be highly underutilized. Maybe the easiest solution is to have Charlotte battle Asuka at Wrestlemania. At least then one of them has to lose on a pay-per-view.
Roman Reigns vs Kevin Owens
for WWE Universal Championship
I’ll rant more on Reigns later, but this match was a solid No DQ encounter. Owens took some insane bumps — that chair spot was incredibly dangerous and crazy. There was some good back and forth action and mostly entertaining thanks to Owens knowing how to work the crowd. The match lost me once Reigns kicked out of Owens’ brass knuckles-enhanced Superman Punch. Maybe Owens needed some tips from William Regal?
It says far too much that the fans cheered when Braun Strowman came out and cost Reigns the match. I hate how the guy who straight up went toe to toe with John Cena now needs an army, brass knuckles, tables and chairs to pin Reigns. At least we were spared one more force feeding of Reigns as Da Guy…for the moment.
I wasn’t able to watch the Rich Swann vs Neville match, but I’m sure Scott can offer his thoughts on it with his Best/Worst recap.
John Cena vs AJ Styles
for WWE Championship
It’s rare for a title match to upstage the Royal Rumble. The last I can recall was when Chris Benoit battled Kurt Angle in 2003. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it’s really special. David Otunga had a great line about Cena representing the dynasty from Boston taking on the upstart from Atlanta in a timely reference to the Super Bowl.
One big distinction between Cena and Reigns? Even Cena’s biggest haters respect his legacy, longevity and ability to bring it harder than 99% of the roster. Cena doesn’t tend to have bad nights, but he was super-on tonight crisply landing his moves and bringing real fire and intensity. Like Shawn Michaels, Styles actually lives up to his nickname of The Phenomenal One. This match was an oddity in that I would have been fine with either guy winning. But if Cena was going to tie Ric Flair’s 16-time world champion record, he couldn’t possibly have done it with a better match. This is the match to seek out from this show as it’s going to be a viable Match of the Year candidate.
Royal Rumble 2017
In hyping the Rumble, the crack WWE production staff showed iconic moments from the previous events. It set the stage for an unpredictable and memorable event. This year’s Rumble was neither. In most Rumbles, there’s maybe 10-13 guys who could win it with 5 having a legit shot at headlining Wrestlemania. This year underscored WWE’s complete failure to build new stars as no one from Sami Zayn, Baron Corbin, Big Cass or Strowman seemed even remotely viable.
For an event built on being unpredictable and full of surprises, there was hardly any shocking moments. No Samoa Joe as a surprise entrant. No Kurt Angle popping up outta nowhere to return to the WWE. Nope. The Rumble’s biggest stunner once again revolved around Goldberg and Brock Lesnar. I loved how that played out with Goldberg once again getting the quick spear to disorient and then eliminate Brock. Their Wrestlemania match is being booked smartly with Goldberg looking like the only force capable of taking Brock down for good.
Reigns coming in at No 30 felt like the WWE trying hard to troll the fans. Just imagine how crazy the scene would have been if say … Styles came out at No. 30. And won. This would be proclaimed as one of the best Rumbles ever. Instead, the final 3 were Bray Wyatt, Reigns and Randy Orton.
And for a consecutive year, the fans cheered on an Evolution alumni to win the Rumble over Reigns. That’s a terribly underwhelming result. The Age of Orton, when Orton was at his peak, was nine years ago. Is it really possible that in nearly a decade, the WWE hasn’t built up anyone else better suited to main event Wrestlemania to prevent the one billionth match between Cena and Orton?
Ironically, the past two Rumble winners have shown the WWE’s complete failure to evolve. It’s the same old, tired story at this point. Cena, Orton, Triple H, Jericho, Big Show, Lesnar and Undertaker can’t keep returning to save the day. Eventually WWE has to start setting up the next generation. Preferably with stars the fans actually want to see win.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Royal Rumble 2017 won’t be one that 15 years anyone is going to look back fondly on besides the phenomenal Cena/Styles match. WWE can’t continue to hold on to past glories without setting a foundation for a better future.
Photo Credit: WWE.com