Written by: Scrooge McSuck
– Presented LIVE on the WWE Network on January 29th, 2017 from the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX.
– I ended up working Sunday night, intending to watch the show after the replay began. Why? Last year, the live stream died on me to the point I couldn’t watch the show without wanting to shoot someone. So, I come home and… the Network has crashed and I’m seeing warnings that the content isn’t available until it’s broadcast on a Hindi television station, so my stream isn’t fixed until around 1:30 in the morning, so I watched the Rumble match first, and now we get the cobbled together recap where I watch everything completely out of order (Kick-Off Matches, Rumble Match, Rumble PPV undercard).
Nikki Bella, Becky Lynch, and Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, and Natalya:
Kick-Off Match #1 with the entire Smackdown crew at ringside to call the action. Nikki/Natalya and Becky/Mickie (by way of Becky/Bliss) are the current programs moving forward, and they recently established Alexa Bliss punk out Naomi for being a nobody, so we can expect that to fill out the women’s ranks. That is a LONG ramp. Nikki and Natalya start, with Nattie taunting her with the “You Can’t See Me” gesture. Nikki catches Bliss with her head down and drives her face-first into the knee for two. All the women get in the ring for a triple suplex that sends the team of heels out of the ring. Nikki and Becky with baseball slides and Naomi wipes them out with a pescado. We return from a short break, with Becky running wild on Natalya. Mickie intercepts Becky on the floor and tosses her into the security barricade. Natalya adds a snap suplex on the floor, making Becky our face-in-peril. They take turns stomping Becky in the corner. Natalya with a lariat for two. She calls for suplex city, but Becky blocks. Nikki gets pulled off the apron to prevent the hot tag. Becky cradles Bliss for two. Naomi with the hot tag. All these years, and her work is still sloppy and loose when trying to blend it with her showboating. The women all take turns taking each other out, leaving Naomi and Alexa. Naomi with a roundhouse kick from the apron, and a split-leg moonsault finishes at 8:18 (shown). Well, that certainly puts Naomi in prime position for a shot at the title. **1/2 Nothing spectacular, but this was fine filler with a clean finish.
WWE (Raw) Tag Team Championship Match:
Cesaro & Sheamus (c) vs. The Club:
Kick-Off Match #2, with the Raw crew (Cole, Saxton, and Graves) calling the action. We’ve got TWO referees for the match, making Gorilla Monsoon smile up in Heaven. Anderson and Gallows seemed to have the titles won two weeks ago, but a cheap DQ negated that result. I love how Cesaro involves himself with Sheamus’ entrance. Cesaro hits a dropkick at the bell for two. Gut-wrench suplex for two. Champions with some double-team spots on Anderson. Cesaro with a springboard uppercut to Gallows for two. Double suplex and Sheamus with a running knee drop for two. Cesaro fights out of the Club’s corner, but is caught by surprise by a kick to the back of the head from Gallows. We return from a short break with Cesaro fighting out of a chin-lock and muscling Gallows over with a suplex. Sheamus with the tag and running axe-handles. He hits the Savio Vega running leg lariat in the corner, followed by the clubbing forearms across the chest. Flying clothesline gets two. Champs hit a combo White Noise but only gets two. Sharpshooter is blocked and Anderson takes out Sheamus. He rolls up Cesaro, but the second referee sees the feet on the ropes. Body press uppercut to Anderson gets two. Cesaro with the slow-motion 619 and flying body press for two. Anderson counters the Swing with a back slide for two. Spine-buster gets two. Sheamus interrupts the Magic Killer and accidentally kills the referee with a Brogue Kick. Cesaro with the Swing on Anderson, transitioned into the Sharpshooter. Gallows saves with a Super-Kick and Anderson covers for two. Sheamus with ground-and-pound to both Club members. Gallows nails him with a boot, followed by the Magic Killer. Cesaro clotheslines Gallows out, but Anderson sneaks up with a roll-up and handful of tights to win the Tag Titles at 9:21 (shown). ***1/4 Good match with the predictable outcome. Cesaro and Sheamus took a bit too much offense leading up to the big finish, telegraphing the loss.
Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax:
Kick-Off Match #3, also from Monday Night Raw. Nia Jax further injured Sasha Banks the night after Roadblock, and continued to be make a statement at the expense of “The Boss.” If this leads to Sasha turning, that leaves only Bayley as a babyface on Raw, and the (eventual) return of Emma(lina) doesn’t seem to balance that issue, either. Banks makes a quick move, but Jax uses her obvious strength advantage to swat her away like a fly. Sasha with some bad looking strikes. Jax blocks something off the ropes (looked like the rope-walk into a head-scissors, but botched) and runs over Banks as we take a quick break. Jax fights out of a cross-face attempt and swipes at the knee. Jax with the stretch muffler, but Banks makes it to the ropes. Jax counters a sunset flip, but meets the post on a charge to the corner. Sasha with double knees from the top for two. Banks with strikes, but Jax catches her with the Pop-Up Samoan Drop to finish at 3:47 (shown). * They tried the David vs. Goliath formula, but it was too sloppy and short to mean anything.
WWE (Raw) Women’s Championship Match:
Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Bayley:
They gave Bayley several non-title victories over the span of a couple of months, and even detoured her with a poor program with Dana Brooke. Charlotte is 15-0 at PPV/Network Specials, by the way. Have they officially renamed the “Tube-Men” “Bayley Buddies”? Vince can suck the fun out of anything. Bayley has tights like what Randy Savage wore at the ’93 Rumble. Charlotte takes Bayley to the ground early and tosses her out. Shoving match and they mistime a spot with Charlotte thrown out. Bayley hangs her up across the middle rope and follows with a sloppy wrecking ball into a flying head-scissors. Bayley with a body press from the second rope, to the floor, for two. Back outside, Charlotte rams Bayley’s neck into the side of the ring. Charlotte with a pair of near falls. Charlotte drops a knee across the chest for two. Bayley counters a slam with a roll-up for two. Back slide is blocked and countered with a neck breaker. Charlotte with a big boot for two. She throws Bayley around with a head scissors. Charlotte taunts and slaps Bayley around, firing her up before a double clothesline puts both down. Charlotte gets the better of a chop exchange. Bayley with an arm drag and takedown, followed by a unique springboard body press. Bayley with a face-buster. She climbs the ropes and hits the Bayley version of the Macho Man Elbow for two. Charlotte kicks the leg to avoid the Baley-to-Belly and slaps on the Figure-Four. Bayley rolls it over to reverse the pressure, but Charlotte turns it back and uses the ropes for leverage. Charlotte has a busted lip. She goes to the top and the moonsault meets knees. Bayley takes a fall off the ropes, to the floor. Charlotte hits the Natural Selection on the apron, rolls Bayley back in, and retains at 13:03. *** They had a few awkward moments, but a good match that was a bit too short, with a hot crowd.
WWE Universal Championship; No DQ Match:
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Roman Reigns:
Chris Jericho is suspended above the ring in a shark cage to sell some toys. I feel like these two have been fighting forever, thanks to a poor example of changing things up on Raw where Roman has literally fought KO and Jericho every week for several months. Jericho won’t go in the cage, so Roman helps him out. Owens attacks while Reigns is busy enjoying the site of Jericho being lifted. They make their way into the crowd. Table hoods are used as weapons, you know this is a fight. Owens whips out a bunch of chairs and sets them up for a big spot later. KO with the cannonball against the barricade. Reigns blocks a Powerbomb from the apron, and Owens blocks the suplex through the Throne of Chairs. Reigns with clotheslines and sends Owens into the post. Owens surprises Reigns with a Back Stabber while setting up a table. Reigns counters a cannonball with a boot, followed by a sit-out Powerbomb for two. Owens rolls out of the ring to avoid a Superman Punch, so Reigns hits a Drive-By, instead. Owens with a pair of Super-Kicks. He sets Reigns across the table and comes off the ropes with a Frog Splash. Too bad this isn’t Falls Count Anywhere, because Owens must roll Reigns into the ring to cover, and it only gets two.
Owens brings out more chairs to punish Reigns with. He wedges a chair between the ropes. Reigns lights him up with 10 clothesline blows in the corner. They trade blows until Owens hits another Super-Kick and rams Reigns face-first into the chair for two. Huh, I would’ve expected the other, more obvious, outcome for the spot. Jericho drops a pair of brass knuckles to Owens. He hits Reigns with the Brass-Knuckle Superman Punch, but it only gets two!? Well, that kills the brass knuckles spot for the rest of time. Reigns comes back with a Samoan Drop across an unfolded chair for two. Reigns brings another table in the ring. Superman Punch gets two. Owens counters a Spear and hits a so-so Stone Cold Stunner for two (better than Cena’s). Owens stomps a mudhole and hits the Cannonball. Owens climbs the ropes for a Super-Plex, but Reigns knocks him off, BACKWARDS, THROUGH THE STACK OF CHAIRS. Kevin Owens is DEAD… but Roman isn’t done, and thus deserves to lose. He undresses the announcers table and puts Owens through with a Powerbomb. Here’s BRAUN STROWMAN to a hero’s welcome, and Choke-Slams Reigns across another table. Back in the ring, and Strowman with a running Power-Slam through a table! Owens rises from the dead and puts an arm across Reigns for three to retain at 24:27. **** I don’t understand the logic of making this no DQ, negating the “Jericho drops a gimmick into the ring” spot, and the whole idea of the shark cage, in general. Despite that issue with the match, well-paced with hard work, some great spots, and a jacked crowd.
– Sami Zayn and Dean Ambrose draw their numbers. Everyone reacts to Zayn like he’s a giant spaz. Ambrose also reveals that Sami has drawn #8 (“Oh wait, it’s upside down… you’re number 8.”). All because he tweeted out someone in the UK Tournament used the Blue Thunder Bomb.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match:
Rich Swann (c) vs. Neville:
It’s the “Outlandish One” vs. “The King of the Cruiserweights.” Neville turned heel after months back from injury, working Superstars, and the Cruiserweight Division is already floundering. The 205 Live group is calling this one (Ranallo, Graves, and Aries). Lockup and a clean break. Crisscross sequence and Neville swipes away a dropkick. Swann hits a second dropkick and follows Neville to the floor with a pescado. Back inside, Neville takes control with a methodical pace. Missile dropkick gets two. Swann with a rolling crucifix, but Neville counters. Neville with elbows across the head and grabs a chin-lock. Swann fights free with elbows. Whip to the ropes and Neville bails. Swann follows and gets tossed into the barricade like a geek. Neville climbs the ropes and is met in the air with a Super-Kick. Neville with a standing hurricanrana to take Neville off the top, and follows him to the floor with a Phoenix Splash. Neville makes angry faces that are meme material. He sweeps the legs for some ground-and-pound. Roundhouse kick gets two. Swann with a running lariat and jumping frog splash for two. Neville cradles Swann across the top rope. Swann with a back kick to the midsection. Neville comes back with his own kick. Swann counters a German Suplex with a roll-up for two. Neville with a Super-Plex for two. He hooks the Crucifix Crossface and Swann taps out at 13:30, making Neville the 4th (New Era) Cruiserweight Champion. **3/4 The Cruiserweights are having the worst match on the PPV. What is this, 2004? Swann turned it into a Cruiserweight style match towards the end with some unique offense and high spots.
WWE Championship Match:
A.J. Styles (c) vs. John Cena:
These two already had a pair of 4-star, MOTY candidates in 2016. This match seems randomly thrown together, but with the same plot. Styles thinks Cena is a has-been, Cena is still trying to get that 16th Championship to tie the “record” set by Ric Flair. The graphic says Styles is the “WWE World Champion” but the belt is the “WWE Championship.” Huh. Styles takes the first shot, kicking the leg, so Cena responds with a big forearm and a hard whip to the corner. Styles gets the elbow up on a charge and comes off the ropes with a knee drop. Styles taunts and pays for it. Cena with a towering back body drop. Cena goes for an AA, but Styles lands on his feet and nails him with an enzuigiri. Cena does the big comeback with shoulder tackles, but Styles interrupts with a flying head scissors and a diving forearm for two. Cena drops Styles face-first to avoid the Styles Clash. He takes Styles down with his back suplex. Styles avoids the Five Knuckle Shuffle, hits a German Suplex and Wheel-Barrow Face-Buster for two. Styles with strikes and Cena explodes out of the corner with a lariat. Cena with the Five-Knuckle Shuffle. Styles hooks the ropes to avoid the AA for a second time. Styles slips out of a Super-Plex and hits Cena with an Argentine Back Breaker into spin-out Powerbomb for two.
Styles sets up for the Phenomenal Forearm, but Cena counters with the AA for two. Styles clings to the ankle, but Cena kicks him away with disdain. Cena does some flexing before blasting Styles with another lariat for two. Cena whiffs on a third and Styles hits the Pele. Styles charges and gets sent to the apron. He backs off Cena with a strike and the Phenomenal Forearm gets two. Styles with kicks to the chest. Cena side-steps another and plants Styles with an Electric Chair Drop. They trade rights until Styles kicks the leg. He goes for the Styles Clash, Cena counters attempting the AA, and Styles counters that with the Calf Crusher. Cena rolls through and turns it into the STF. Styles nears the ropes, so Cena pulls him back and reapplies. Styles counters into a jackknife cover and slaps on an STF of his own. Cena powers to his feet, with Styles across his back, and lifts him to his shoulders. Styles counters and goes for a hurricanrana, but Cena blocks and counters with the Figure-Four!
Styles physically rips Cena’s leg away and counters into a cross arm-breaker. Cena lifts Styles up over his head and slams him down to break the hold. Cena makes the slow climb to the top rope. Styles counters the leg drop with a Powerbomb, and the Styles Clash connects for two. Styles with the springboard 450 splash, but Cena brings the knees up. Cena with the Code Red for two! Styles with the Ushigoroshi for two. Cena sweeps the legs to counter the Styles Clash, catapults him into the turnbuckle, and hits the Big Ending for two! Cena with the Super-Sized AA, but Styles kicks out again. Styles counters another AA with a second Styles Clash, but he can’t make the cover. He pulls himself to the apron. Cena catches him going for the Phenomenal Forearm with an AA, rolling lifts him off the canvas, hits ANOTHER AA, and THAT finally gets the three count at 24:02, giving Cena his 16th World Championship. Charles Robinson being the referee to hand Cena the belt is kind of cool, and the crowd treats the finish with respect. Cena, of course, celebrates in the crowd with a Make-a-Wish kid. ****3/4 And you’ve likely already got WWE’s MOTY. This wasn’t trading finishers for 25-minutes, this was an outstanding example of precise execution, big falls, and milking the crowd for every ounce of energy they could get out of them. Anyone that didn’t think this was a great match must’ve entered with unbelievable expectations.
30-Man Royal Rumble Match:
You know the deal. Winner gets to “Main Event” WrestleMania via Universal or WWE Championship opportunity. Announced intervals are 2-minutes, but we’ll see that fluctuate like crazy, with times as short as 90-seconds, and some nearly 3-minutes, between entrants. Coming into the show, only 22 names were announced ahead of time. #1 is Big Cass, and along with Enzo Amore, eats up about 4-minutes with a pre-match promo. #2 is Chris Jericho for the 3rd time in his career (2003, 2013). They have a decent, if nondescript, back-and-forth. #3 is Kalisto, sporting his Big 4 Alternate Attire, as if this were a video game or something. We get the big man vs. little man match (Cass probably 6’8″ and Kalisto 5’4″). #4 is Mojo Rawley and you can sense a great geek purge coming up soon. Seeing guys run the length of that ramp is sometimes comical. Jericho has surpassed Triple H for the longest accumulated time in Rumble history (a tad over 4-hours). #5 is Jack Gallagher, with his Umbrella, William III in hand for some comedy, including a low-blow to Jericho and a reminder that obvious Cruiserweight Kalisto is NOT on the Raw Roster. #6 is Mark Henry for the home state pop (and our first official “driven to the ring on a cart” entrant). Gallagher tries to dive off the top rope, with the open Umbrella, and Henry tosses him like he’s Mary Poppins at 8:29. #7 is Braun Strowman, and it’s time to see bodies fly! Mojo is gone at 9:45. Big Cass is tossed at 10:00. Kalisto gets dumped onto them both at 10:18, and out goes the World’s Strongest Man at 10:53. During the melee, Jericho decided to hide on the floor. #8 is Sami Zayn for another decent one-on-one, with Braun mostly dominating. #9 is the New and Improved Big Show. He KO punches Jericho to give him a nap on the floor. Show and Strowman go at it for what feels like forever, teasing slams, until Strowman throws Show out at 15:40. #10 is NXT’s Tye Dillinger, much to the delight of the crowd. Yeah, it’s goofy that “The Perfect 10” would draw #10, but dammit, I enjoyed it. Dillinger and Zayn double-team Strowman, but get taken over with a double suplex.
#11 is James Ellsworth, accompanied by Carmella (wearing leggings covered in Ellsworth’s doofus face), but he’s too chicken sh*t to enter the ring with the Monster Among Men. #12 is Dean Ambrose, and he hypes up Ellsworth before feeding him to the monster (revenge for a storyline a few months back) and Strowman throws Ellsworth out for a brutal bump on his hip at 20:10. #13 is Baron Corbin as the field of competitors continue to work on Strowman like he’s Andre the Giant. Dillinger is dumped at 22:00. Zayn, Ambrose, and Corbin with big blows until Corbin sends Strowman over and out with a lariat at 22:34. #14 is Kofi Kingston to provide his annual “tease an elimination” spot. #15 is the Miz, but Corey Graves doesn’t care for him knowing that Maryse won’t be at ringside. Kofi’s big spot is climbing the ropes, moving onto the over-sized post to avoid Corbin, and as Corbin swipes at his feet, falls sternum first onto the post and dangles from it before pulling himself to safety. Not his best spot, but damn that looked painful. #16 is Sheamus, huffing and puffing his way down the 60-yard ramp. Jericho finally wakes up and eats a Brogue Kick to take another power nap. #17 is Big E, with big New Day intro, and he too gets to ride the cart that drove down Henry, Strowman, and Big Show. He’s not FAT. He goes for Miz and gives him the booty-slap abdominal stretch. #18 is Handsome Rusev, sporting a face-guard due to suffering a broken nose on Raw. Seems like the Miz is everyone’s first target. Too many people in there and no eliminations. #19 is Cesaro, and he does his annual swing the crap out of every one spot. He almost does it to Sheamus, but it’s interrupted. #20 is Xavier Woods. We’ve got all three New Day members and the most recent, former, Tag Team Champions, and NO ONE IS ELIMINATED via obvious double or triple teaming.
#21 is Bray Wyatt and we desperately need to clean the ring out. Woods and Wyatt rekindle their rivalry from last Summer in a cool spot. #22 is Apollo Crews. Cesaro and Sheamus double clothesline all three New Day members out at 39:33. Sheamus and Cesaro have a spat and Jericho wakes up dump them both at 40:01. #23 is Randy Orton… did you know the #23 spot has won it three times? He hits RKO’s, including catching Zayn diving off the top rope. #24 is Dolph Ziggler, not acting like a heel at all. #25 is Luke Harper. He throws out Crews at 45:00. Bray Wyatt tries to ease the tension between Harper and Orton, so Harper lays Wyatt out with a discus Lariat and nails Orton with a boot. He tries giving Wyatt Sister Abigail, but Orton recovers and hits an RKO out of nowhere. #26 is Brock Lesnar. He throws out Dean Ambrose at 47:18 and Ziggler at 47:21. German Suplexes and F-5’s for everyone! Jericho tweaked his ankle on a suplex during this sequence, and he sells death again. #27 is Enzo Amore. Corey Graves’ taking great delight in what will happen to him is great television, and sure enough, Brock kills him and tosses him out in about 15-seconds, at 39:29. #28 is Goldberg for the highly-anticipated confrontation with Brock… and guess what? He lays Brock out instantly and throws him out at 51:43. Huh. #29 is The Undertaker. I get my stopwatch to time his entrance, but he does the “lights go out and shows up in the ring” trick to spoil my fun. He does the big face-off with Goldberg. Have I mentioned that for most of the last 6-7 minutes, people have mostly just laid around, playing dead? Rusev and Corbin interrupt them and get thrown out on opposite sides of the ring, with Goldberg tossing Rusev at 54:21 and Taker tossing Corbin at 54:26. Goldberg with the Spear to Undertaker, who took it very gingerly. Goldberg tosses Harper at 54:40, and Undertaker wakes up and tosses Goldberg at 54:46. #30 is… Roman Reigns, and dammit, I give Vince McMahon credit for that amazing troll job. Did people REALLY expect Samoa Joe or Finn Balor in this spot? I honestly didn’t expect Reigns, but I wasn’t expecting some big debut at #30, either.
Our final field of competitors: Chris Jericho (#2), Sami Zayn (#8), The Miz (#15), Bray Wyatt (#21), Randy Orton (#23), The Undertaker (#29), and Roman Reigns (#30, of course). Taker pulls the straps down for the showdown with Reigns, and that’s not the best idea, considering he looks out of shape and isn’t moving around well. If I hear “Big Dog” and “yard” one more time, I’m smashing my laptop screen. Reigns counters the Choke-Slam and hits a Superman Punch. Undertaker blocks a second and hits the Choke-Slam on attempt #2. Undertaker clotheslines Miz out at 58:12, then Sami Zayn at 58:15. Roman hangs on and throws Undertaker out at 58:51, royally pissing the crowd off, and leaving us with the Final Four of Reigns, Jericho, Wyatt, and Orton. Reigns tosses Jericho over and hits him with the Superman Punch for the elimination at 60:13. Anyone else remember it came down to Orton/Wyatt vs. Reigns at Survivor Series? Reigns avoids the double-team to hit a pair of Superman Punches and toss Wyatt at 61:47. He sets up for the Spear, but Orton counters with an RKO, and a clothesline eliminates Reigns at 62:07 to win his 2nd Royal Rumble Match. ***1/2 Not a great rumble, not a bad rumble. Just one of those in-betweens with some good stuff, but too much downtime, especially for the 25+ minutes waiting for one of the big names to show up after the elimination of Strowman. The first 20 minutes and last 15 minutes made for some quality entertainment, and there was enough fun to make up for the that long lull.
Final Thoughts: On a 5 hour show, the only bad match was a 5-minute quasi-squash on the Kick-Off Show. The Rumble Match itself wasn’t the best, but it was strong enough to not hamper the show like in recent years. The big takeaway from the show is the two top Championship Matches underneath. Cena/Styles is a borderline classic match, but don’t forget the effort and performance from Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns. Even further down the card, you can tell everyone was giving as much effort as they could, and in some cases, a little too much (noticeable sloppiness and awkwardness in the two Women’s singles matches). This wasn’t an all-time great PPV, but it’s one of the best I’ve seen over the last few years, and is easily top 5 Royal Rumble PPV’s of all time.