Well, it was better then last years.
The 2016 Royal Rumble was mostly a good event, with solid undercard and a decent Rumble match, marred by a few low notes that tempered my excitement levels. So much happened that it’s hard to keep it all straight, so I’m dividing this review or the Royal Rumble and the subsequent night’s Raw into “Good Stuff” and “Lame Stuff.”
Good Stuff: AJ Styles at the Royal Rumble
AJ’s debut was handled almost perfectly. He went toe to toe with Roman Reigns for the early parts of the Rumble, and didn’t look out of place at all. Commentary treated him like a big deal, which was nice to hear. “Is it… can it be… it is!” He got the biggest pop of the night when his Titantron video introduced him, easily, even if the stupid camera was focused on Roman Reigns’ face the entire time. He came off looking like a million bucks. Even his elimination was fine, as Kevin Owens was probably the only person who could have done it without the crowd turning on the match.
Lame Stuff: AJ Styles at Monday Night Raw
A lot of people enjoyed the match between Styles and Chris Jericho on Raw. To me, it started out very awkwardly, with neither guy on the same page. I don’t know if one of them was working too fast, or two slow, but it didn’t come off very well. AJ did more then enough with his selling to get through the rough parts, and the ending few minutes was pretty good. My main problem with this was the attitude the commenters and Jericho had towards Styles. The previous night, they treated Styles like a big deal. On Raw, there was the same old “Welcome to the big leagues” talk that takes the legs out from anyone new. AJ is not a NXT guy making his debut, he’s the biggest name WWE has signed in years. Treat him that way.
Good Stuff: Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose
Both guys did a great job, in their Last Man Standing match, the Rumble himself, and on Raw the next night, so I’m lumping them together. Both sold their injuries well, with Dean in particular looking more and more ragged throughout the Rumble. Owens took a huge bump through two tables, and I appreciated that the Last Man Standing match didn’t end with a finisher. All too often, it’s a finisher through a table or something like that which finishes these matches off. This made the sequence where Ambrose hit Dirty Deeds on the chair particularly effective, and I loved Owens rolling out of the ring to get to his feet. These two had a hell of a weekend. Also, Owens is probably the best heel in WWE right now, and does all the little things right. His taunting of AJ was great, as was his reaction when Ambrose and Sammi Zayn came out. Owens is going to have a lot of faces gunning for him this WrestleMania season.
Lame Stuff: Ric Flair and Becky Lynch
I’m not going to mince words here. This was a gross sexual assault that has zero business being in wrestling. The fact that a 70 year old man forced himself on a young woman with no repercussions left a sour taste in my mouth, and those of the people I was watching with. It took me completely out of the match, and everything that came after it, from Sasha Banks coming out to their interactions on Raw, was soiled. Don’t give me excuses that it’s okay because Ric was a heel either. A heel gets comeuppance. At the very least, the ref should have ejected him for interfering in the match. Ideally, Becky gets her own payback with more then a weak looking slap. Instead, Ric was allowed to interfere again. It was gross and unnecessary and spoiled a pretty good match. As long as stuff like this continues, the “Diva’s Revolution” will never be important.
Good Stuff: Everyone mattered in the Rumble
Outside of the main storyline involving Roman Reigns, the Rumble was filled with interesting bits. There was AJ of course. The R-Truth spot with a ladder was the funniest thing of the weekend, and that includes the Rock’s promo on Raw. Braun Strowman looked like a legit beast eliminating The Big Show, Kane, and Mark Henry. Lesnar took out the Wyatt Family only to fall once Bray got involved. There were plenty of things to like about the Rumble match itself, unfortunately it was overshadowed by…
Lame Stuff: Roman Reigns
Once again, the booking of Roman Reigns is baffling. Instead of making him look like a badass, he bails halfway through the match to hide in the back. He walked, under his own power, to the back. If he had gotten carted out, at least we could pretend he was too injured to continue. But no, he just left. Instead of being a heroic moment, it just made it look like they needed to give Reigns a break. If he couldn’t go the whole hour in the match, then he shouldn’t have been in a position to do so. Just another in a long line of bone-headed decisions about the WWE’s golden boy.
Good Stuff: A Raw filled with wrestling
Raw was filled with quality wrestling matches on Monday, which is a relief from the usual. Aside from an entertaining promo from The Rock, there weren’t really any segments that didn’t serve a purpose. Owens vs Dolph Ziggler, AJ vs Jericho, Bray Wyatt vs Kane, Kalisto vs The Miz, and the tag team main event were all important matches, with everyone trying to impress The Authority. I love these kind of shows that have storylines that go through the whole show, which is why it’s unfortunate that…
Lame Stuff: A Raw filled with meaningless wrestling
…in the end, none of it mattered. We’re told the entire show that people are fighting to impress the Authority and claim a spot in the main event of Fastlane. After a night filled with wrestling, the Authority just picked the two guys standing in front of them and someone who wasn’t even there. The problems with this are many, most notably, if HHH has all the power, why is he even offering Reigns and Ambrose a chance at his belt. He could have picked anyone, and several others won their matches. It makes no logical sense, and made the entire rest of the episode seem pointless.
What about HHH? Surely his winning the Royal Rumble rates somewhere, right? Oh, it does, but that’s going to be a whole column on it’s own. HHH is the most important person on the roster, and that deserves more then a footnote.