The Royal Rumble, WWE's
annual take on the Battle Royale match format, has reached it's thirtieth
anniversary. So San Antonio hosts a very significant event, with a potentially
great card. The titular match usually holds it's fair share of surprises, shock
returns and twists with the severity of hair-pin bends on the Road to
Wrestlemania. Four title matches on the under-card means that this DVD should
be quality from bell to bell.
With no 'Special Features'
to consider, the show-proper started with melange of moments of significance in
Rumble history, followed by a more up-to-date reel of of the significant feuds
coming into this PPV, particularly Bayley/Charlotte, AJ Styles/John Cena and
Brock Lesnar/Goldberg. A good little segment that segued to the first line-up
of the continually rotating commentary team, who fervently started to build the
importance of the Road to Wrestlemania, the significance of the 30th
anniversary and, of course, the Alamo Dome, San Antonio Texas.
WWE RAW Women's Champion Charlotte vs Bayley
Bayley looked the
epitome of her ebullient self as she entered, whilst Charlotte took the Flair
familial Ring-Robe gimmick into fantasy uber-villain territory with a look of supreme
arrogance on her face. It was effective, as smug always winds people up.
Opening the match, and
the card, Charlotte demonstrated her physical superiority over her smaller
opponent. This only fired Bayley up, which culminated in a diving enziguri from
the turnbuckle to Flair at the ring-side, followed up by a massive splash. She
couldn't maintain the offence however, and Charlotte resumed her grinding pace
and tactics. The champion became increasingly sadistic with frustration and
began trash talking, which matched the arrogance of her entrance to a tee. It
left room for some typical Bayley cheeky opportunism though, as always
explosively high-risk, and led to a Macho-man elbow-drop that gave Charlotte a
Despite a good showing
by the fan-favourite compulsive hugger Bayley, Charlotte cemented an imperious
victory to make it 16-0 on PPV, with a Natural Selection from the top
turnbuckle to her recovering adversary, right onto the ring apron. It was
merely a simple task to roll her in for a pin.
A strong mix of
psychology, exciting high-spots and grinding attritional power to open the
excellent opener, we saw the 'Shark Cage' being lowered to the ring before a
highlight reel of last month's Roadblock: End of the Line PPV which Kevin Owens
retain his title against Reigns thanks to 'Best Friend' Chris Jericho's
disqualifying interference. The frequency of similar occurrences is enough for
GM Mick Foley to stipulate the old-school cage as a means of insurance for this
WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens vs Roman Reigns (No DQ)
Y2J played the fear of
the cage to the hilt, then right at the last second jumped Reigns with Owens in
tow. Reigns sent KO to the ring-side and quickly pummelled Jericho in to the
cage to get the match started.
We were soon into some
quality through-the-arena brawling, and it was no surprise when they hit the
foreign announce tables. KO came out on top, so spent some time getting steel
chairs in a stack. Avoiding taking that big-hit, Roman worked his power moves
to eventually set up a table on the outside, only to take a massive Owens frog
splash through it. No three count for the Canadian, so he went back to using
the chairs to good effect before Jericho unstashed some brass knuckles and
dropped them from his high vantage point. Still no luck for him though, as
Reigns kept kicking out. A Samoan drop through a chair gave Roman a chance at a
pin, but 'no dice' for him either, so he put a table in the corner of the ring.
This gave KO chance to recover, try a stunner (another close pinfall) and climb
up top, only for a recovering Roman Reigns to Superman-punch Owens through the
pile of chairs that had been a tantalising tease all match. No pin attempt now
though, as, playing the long-game, Reigns followed up with a bomb through the
Just as it looked like
Reigns had the victory in sight, Braun Strowman surprised him (me, and probably
a fair few others too) with an ambush, slamming the challenger through his own
table set up. Owens had just enough wherewithal to roll his near-corpse over
the remains of Reigns to retain.
An incredibly well
constructed Tables and Chairs brawl, with plenty of TLC-style action and pin
attempts. That tall stack of chairs provided excellent anticipation before the
shocking finish too.
More Rumble 'moments'
followed, building effectively for the main event, and subsequent tombola draw
of Rumble entries which featured the RAW and Smackdown management teams with
Sami Zayn and Dean Ambrose picking their numbers. It seemed like a bit of a
throwaway comedy skit.
WWE Cruiserweight Champion Rich Swann vs Neville
A highlight package
covered the background to this match, primarily concerned with the resurgent
Neville's unapologetically single-minded quest to become 'King of the
Cruiserweights'. It provided a meaty angle to this title match of the rebooted
Swann took to Neville
with determination and athleticism to open the match, which demonstrated the
fire and skill that landed him the belt, but soon Neville slowed the pace down
and began his methodical grinding. Swann used the ropes well to break, given
the opportunity, whilst the Geordie lad sadistically made full of every referee
count. It wasn't all one-way traffic though, as Rich Swann managed a thunderous
superkick as Neville flew in from the top turnbuckle, to mount a valorous
comeback. He couldn't make good on it though, submitting when Neville twists
his arms in to the brutal Rings of Saturn.
I'm not normally the
greatest fan of villains, but this new no-nonsense Neville could be King of the
Cruiserweights for some time yet, given this showing against the
internationally experienced Swann.
WWE World Champion AJ Styles vs John Cena
Those of you who follow
my DVD reviews may already be aware that I firmly believe Cena and Styles put
on some of the best WWE matches of 2016, and this promised to be a gigantic
reprise with the added 'sauce' of the title. Victory for AJ would mean leaving
his First Anniversary show still as champion, but even more significantly for
John would be that elusive record-tying Sixteenth world championship reign. In
comparison to those epics, it did not disappoint: the stunning spiralling
sequences of signature moves, counters, trips to the turn-buckles for some
super-augmentation and knife-edge rallies of the previous bouts were all
present, but with a different twist. To use the old Spinal Tap idiom, they
'turned it up to eleven'.
John Cena looked to
have the match in the bag with a ring-shaking super-AA that slammed AJ to the
centre of the ring from many feet in the air, but Styles kicked out of the
following pin attempt. He responded by locking in his eponymous 'Clash', but
that couldn't keep Cena down either. It took a further two repetitions of an
Attitude Adjustment to finally finish off the reign of Styles, and claim the
sweetest of spots in the history book right alongside 'The Nature Boy' Ric
Flair. This match really did that significance justice.
Main Event: The 30th
Annual Royal Rumble match.
The last highlight
package of Royal Rumble statistics were run to lead in the match, before the
commentary team took us through the rules. Essentially, 30 competitors enter
with two minutes between each of them, elimination is by over-the-top-rope with
both feet hitting the floor, last man wins.
Big Cass, who had the
honour of the number-one draw, came out with partner Enzo Amore and delivered
one of their tremendously popular promos, Pre-Rumble. 'Y2J' Chris Jericho was
second, Kalisto third (who then had a good big man/little man moment with Cass)
and Mojo Rawley fourth. The next music to play led to some serious excitement
in my house, as Jack Gallaher entered, which meant the cruiserweights were
being included, and he was utilising an umbrella to great effect. It wasn't
just us British nutters who seemed to enjoy his surprise entry, the crowd in
Texas were going nuts too. It was to be no fairy-tale though, Jack was
eliminated first despite a Mary Poppins moment thanks to entrant six, Mark
Henry. Braun Strowman was right out to cheer me back up, chucking Rawley, Cass,
Kalisto and Henry over the top in short order. Sami Zayn arrived to continue
his enmity with Strowman, and took two minutes of pummelling 'til Big Show
entered the fray and provided a distraction. Good stare off, too. He slammed
Braun, but was immediately forced out in retaliation.
At number ten, it was
the perfect point for the 'Perfect Ten' Tye Dillinger to make his main roster
[re]début, which popped the crowd (and me), providing another top-notch
surprise. He and Zayn stuck it to Strowman as James Ellsworth made his way,
tentatively, to the ring. Ellsworth still hadn't made it in when Dean Ambrose
appeared, but was easily tricked into diving in and being fodder for the
elimination machine Strowman. Baron Corbin came out to make it a four-on-one on
Braun who responded by adding Dillinger to his list, before he received a
Helluva Kick from Zayn and a lariat from Corbin which sent him over-and-out.
Kofi Kingston and The Miz entered next. Kofi continued his Rumble tradition of
impressive escapes by almost impaling himself on a ring-post. Sheamus in,
followed by Big E then Rusev in a protective mask and Cesaro, which made it
quite a melée. Proper battle royale stuff. The commentary noted that Sheamus
and Cesaro lost their Tag Titles to Gallows and Anderson on the pre-show,
conspicuous by it's absence from this DVD. Xavier Woods entered to complete the
New Day too.
The Alamo Dome went
dark and the fireflies came out as Bray Wyatt made his usual grand entrance and
set to dealing some damage, although his explosiveness was one-upped by the
incoming Apollo Crews. The New Day were eliminated en-masse by Cesaro and
Sheamus before Jericho opportunistically tipped the squabbling pair over as well.
The newest Wyatt family member, Randy Orton, rampaged at 23, Ziggler at 24
going after his recent enemies Miz, Ambrose and Crews. Another Wyatt, Luke
Harper, was next, but reneged his family ties to unsuccessfully attack Bray and
Orton. Brock Lesnar stormed the ring taking out Ambrose and Ziggler, and left
the rest in a devastating wake of suplexes and F5's. Enzo Amore was the hapless
subsequent entrant, rag-dolled straight back out by the 'Beast Incarnate'.
Goldberg made his
trademark entrance as well at 28 (as if the pace hadn't increased enough),
stomped down to the ring and speared Lesnar allowing him to be cast out the
ring. Yet again the stadium darkened, this time for the supernatural presence
of The Undertaker. Goldberg took out Rusev and Harper, whilst the 'Deadman'
pitched Baron Corbin over the top before he made sure Brock's nemesis hit the
deck too. Last man out to the ring, Roman Reigns, got a chorus of booing from
the Texan crowd as he stared off with Undertaker. Not as much as when Roman
tossed him out a few moments later, after he had taken care of Miz and Zayn.
Reigns got some revenge for earlier by finally putting Jericho out, and the
crowd's ire increased as another unwanted Rumble victory for the despised
Samoan Superman loomed. The intense anger seemed to max-out seconds later as he
took out the charismatic cult-leader Wyatt, but the pay-off came as Orton
snapped off a trademark 'RKO outta nowhere' to stun Reigns enough to claim the
win and his Wrestlemania Main Event slot.
This really does live
up to my expectations of excellence from the start to finish, the under-card
oozing with it's title match prestige, each one exemplary of it's genre, and a
Royal Rumble that made up for a slight lack of genuine surprise entries with
coherent narrative. On that note, an NXT call up and a solitary unexpected
Cruiserweight competitor barely qualified as surprise, but they were timed so
well that it kept the early momentum of the epically long match flowing. If
moments of wrestling history that actually live up to their significance is
what you want from a PPV, then this ticks every box.