Written by: Scrooge McSuck
– Originally presented Live on January 24th, 2016 from the Amway Center in Orlando, FL. Michael Cole, John “Bradshaw” Layfield, and Byron Saxton are at ringside to call the action, unless otherwise noted. Somehow, I never got around to doing a proper recap of the show last year. I guess I was trying to find some direction to enjoy the weekly product, and was distracted by the live event held the day before at the Germain Arena in Ft. Myers (WWE has yet to return for a non-TV event. Sorry, I don’t feel like going to Orlando or Tampa for a boring episode of Raw… again, and Smackdown seems to be in Jacksonville or Miami, equally long trips, if not longer).
– Kickoff Show Note: Jack Swagger and Mark Henry won a Four-Corners Tag Team Match against the Dudley Boyz, The Ascension, and the unlikely team of Darren Young and Damian Sandow to earn two spots in the One vs. All Royal Rumble Match. Yep, they couldn’t even throw the crowd a bone by putting Sandow in the match, even if it were for 15-seconds.
WWE Intercontinental Championship; Last Man Standing Match:
Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Kevin Owens:
Both men took turns putting each other through tables for about a month to set up the Last Man Standing stipulations. To show you how quickly I forget things these days, I originally had KO listed as the reigning Champion, having forgot he dropped the belt to Ambrose at TLC the previous month. Remember when Ryback was IC Champ? Dark times, indeed. Slugfest to start. Whip to the corner, Ambrose with the forearm and running bulldog. Owens bails, so Ambrose hits him with tope suicida, taking out Michael Cole in the process (smarks say “yay” in unison). Ambrose looks for toys under the ring and pulls out the kendo stick. Ambrose whacks away until Owens knocks him into the security wall with a super-kick and comes charging with a super-sized cannonball. Owens gives Ambrose a receipt with the stick. Owens sets up some chairs in the ring. Ambrose rolls off his back and hits the Lunatic Lariat. Ambrose tries it again, but takes a boot to the midsection. Ambrose blocks a Powerbomb and back drops Owens across a pair of chairs. Owens catches Ambrose on the floor and repeatedly sends him into the steps. Tables are introduced, but go unused… for now. Owens stacks one on top of another, and we know this won’t end well. Ambrose blocks a super-plex and throws a chair at Owens’ face. Ambrose counters the Powerbomb with a hurricanrana and follows with Dirty Deeds. Ambrose with another Dirty Deeds onto a chair, but Owens keeps getting up. Ambrose lays Owens across a table and comes off the middle rope with the elbow drop. A 4th table is brought into the ring and Ambrose with chair shots. Brief exchange of words (“I hate you” and “I hate you”, with italics). Owens counters a Super-Plex with a Fisherman Buster through the table. Both get up at 9. Owens with the Pop-Up Powerbomb and Ambrose won’t stay down. Owens sets up some chairs and lays Ambrose across them. He climbs to the top for a moonsault, but Ambrose pushes him off, through the stack of tables outside the ring, and Owens is DEAD for the 10-count at 20:21. **** I remember liking it a bit better the first time around, but a great match without resorting to ridiculous spots or comedy for a weak finish.
WWE Tag Team Championship Match:
The New Day (c) vs. The Usos:
(Kofi Kingston & Big E vs. Jimmy & Jey Uso)
Jey Uso missed most of 2015 with a shoulder injury, and by the time he came back, the Usos lost a lot of their momentum, and suffered from their on-screen (and real-life) relationship with Roman Reigns. New Day were still heeling it up, but were gaining momentum. Xavier Woods introduces the world to Francesca 2 (the trombone). Got to love the “The Guy Behind Me Can’t See” sign that frequently pops up. Only Day #154 of the New Day’s reign. Jimmy and Kofi start. Crisscross and counters until Jimmy hits an uppercut to the throat. Jimmy with a back breaker and Jey comes off the middle rope with an elbow. Crowd doesn’t approve of the Usos. Big E sends Jey shoulder-first to the post. To the floor and Xavier hits Jey with a Tornado DDT. I really miss Woods being an annoying troll at ringside. Crowd chants for him to play Francesca. Kofi blocks a Super-Kick, takes him down, and Big E comes off the ropes with a splash for two. Jimmy with the “hot” tag and you’d think he suddenly transformed into Roman Reigns. Samoan drops to Big E and Kofi, followed by a running hip attack and corkscrew from the top rope. Jey gets tossed over the ringside barricade and Big E plants Jimmy with a belly-to-belly suplex for two. Jey comes out of nowhere with a dive onto Kofi while Big E hits his unsafe spear through the ropes on Jimmy. Midnight Hour backfires. Jimmy ducks Trouble in Paradise and hits a Super Kick. Jey with the Splash, but Xavier saves. Big E with the blind tag. He catches Jey in mid-air and the Big Ending finishes at 11:03. **1/2 The trombone was more over as a babyface than the Usos. Sad, but it’s not like the Usos were ever THAT interesting. This was standard formula action with little to get excited about.
WWE United States Championship Match:
Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. Kalisto:
I could’ve sworn this was 2 out of 3 Falls, but I guess that happened at Fast Lane. Kalisto won the belt a few weeks ago, and quickly lost it back, so this is our famous “rubber match” booking. This undercard is a list of failures, isn’t it? Usos as the top faces of the tag team division, a Kalisto solo push, Alberto Del Rio taking the US belt into the toilet, THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS… Kalisto fights out of the corner with strikes. Del Rio with mounted punches until Kalisto kicks him in the butt, knocking him to the floor. Kalisto follows with a head-first dive through the ropes. I guess we can call that the Lawn Dart. Del Rio with the running enzuigiri for two. Snap suplex for two. Double axe-handle for two. Kalisto out of nowhere with a hurricanrana on the floor. Del Rio counters a spinning head scissors with a stomach buster. Del Rio needlessly goes for the mask, but can’t quite take it off. Kalisto elbows him down from the top rope, but Del Rio counters the springboard corkscrew and hits a Super-Kick for two. Kalisto avoids the cross arm-breaker and running enzuigiri. Tornado DDT for a near fall. Head scissors face-buster for another two count. Del Rio with a Reverse Super-Plex, but the impact knocks Kalisto (mostly) out of the ring. Kalisto badly botches a Code Red, but he still rolls Del Rio up for a two count. Del Rio misses the top rope double stomp, and Kalisto hits the Solida del Sol for two. Del Rio catches Kalisto off the ropes with a dropkick to the knees for two. Kalisto sends Del Rio into the exposed turnbuckle with a head scissors and a second Solida del Sol finishes at 11:30. ***1/4 There was an awful botch near the end, but this was much better than I remember it being (again, probably thinking of the disappointing 2 out of 3 Falls Match).
WWE Divas Championship Match:
Charlotte (c) (w/ Ric Flair) vs. Becky Lynch:
I guess I’ll watch this one again, having sat through it for the True Story of the Royal Rumble DVD set. Thankfully they abandoned pushing Charlotte as a babyface. Another poor booking choice in a long list of them. I can see why I had trouble getting excite for the product. Lockup into the corner. Becky with a waist-lock, but Charlotte avoids the Disarm-Her. Becky bridges out of a cover, takes Charlotte over with arm drags and hooks the arm-bar. Charlotte with a drop toe hold and Becky avoids the Figure-Four. Becky springs off the ropes to dropkick Charlotte off the apron. Charlotte uses her father for a distraction, but it backfires. Flair goes for plan B, planting a kiss on Becky. Cole: “I don’t know how to describe it.” Sums it up perfectly. Charlotte with an overhead slam for two. Charlotte pounds the head of Becky into the canvas with a head scissors. Becky battles back to her feet and unloads with forearms. She connects with a pair of dropkicks and a jumping leg lariat. Diving forearm into the corner, but Charlotte blocks the Exploder. Charlotte with a neck breaker. Becky blocks a Figure-Four. Charlotte counters Becky’s attempt with a small package for two. Becky with the Exploder Suplex for two. Three leg drops and another Exploder for two. Charlotte counters the Disarm-Her with a roll-up and nails Becky with a Spear for two. Becky hooks a cross arm-breaker, but Charlotte muscles her off the canvas and slams her down to break the hold. Becky with the Disarm-Her, but Flair casually throws his jacket on her, and instead of a DQ, the referee just yells at him. Charlotte thumbs the eye and hits the Spear to retain at 11:43. *** Good match, but nothing that will stand the test of time. Still better than what the division had churned out for decades. Post-match, Sasha Banks returns from oblivion to kick-off a feud with Charlotte that lasted most of 2016.
WWE Championship; 30-Man Royal Rumble Match:
Desperate times means Vince McMahon becomes a television character again in 2016, trying to recreate the magic of Mr. McMahon against Roman Reigns, except it didn’t work. Only the second time the WWE Championship is awarded to the winner, and the first time a Champion is defending the belt (in 1992, the title was held up after a disputed finish to consecutive matches between Hogan and Undertaker). Via “random draw”, Roman Reigns is #1, and Rusev is #2. Only the second time where the last two men in the ring of a Rumble would be the first two the following year (Undertaker and Shawn in 2007-2008). They trade big blows from the start until Reigns hits the Spear and throws Rusev out at 1:30. #3 is A.J. Styles, making his WWE debut, and the crowd loses their minds. Even in post-production, they don’t fix the reveal to something a bit timelier. He hits Reigns with the Pele, but can’t get the Styles Clash. #4 is Tyler Breeze. He gets a bit of shine, hitting Styles with the Beauty Shot, but the might of Reigns and Styles eliminates him at 5:13. I’m just saying it once: Michael Cole (and others) gushing over participants Rumble stats the second their entrance music begins comes across as heavily scripted nonsense. #5 is Curtis Axel, accompanied by the rest of the Social Outcasts (Heath Slater, Bo Dallas, and Adam Rose), and is quickly disposed of at 7:03. #6 is Chris Jericho, pre-List of Jericho. Styles second attempt the Styles Clash is unsuccessful. #7 is Kane, making his 17th Rumble appearance (is that counting Yankem and “Diesel” years?). #8 is Goldust. His appearance seems less special when he’s a regular member of the roster. #9 is Ryback. With t-shirt designs like that, how is this man not around as a Main Eventer? His running knees into the corner look awful. I’m sure they’re a knock at CM Punk, because Ryback is that kind of guy. #10 is Kofi Kingston, accompanied by the rest of the New Day. Easy night to be Xavier Woods, huh? We haven’t had an elimination in 10-minutes.
#11 is Titus O’Neil to add star power. He (surprisingly) gets to eliminate someone, that someone being Goldust, at 17:15. Such a far cry from trying to break Santino’s record in 2015 and screwing up. #12 is R-Truth. He thinks it’s a Ladder Match, and after a genuinely funny spot, gets thrown out by Kane at 18:54. Kane clotheslines Kofi out, but Big E catches him on his shoulders and they have a Unicorn Parade at ringside. Jericho’s job seems to be teasing eliminations, and possibly directing traffic. #13 is Luke Harper. The League of Nations show up to lay a beat-down on Roman Reigns, and the crowd approves, especially after Rusev gives him a splash through a table (and takes a TV monitor as a trophy). Somewhere in the chaos, we miss the elimination of Kofi Kingston. #14 is Stardust. He may have hated the gimmick, but the man commits. Reigns gets stretchered out… oh no, wait, he just walks away under his own power. AND FANS DIDN’T CHEER THIS MAN’S GUTSY PERFORMANCE!? #15 is The Big Show. He throws out Titus O’Neil at 25:13, and the Knockout Punch to Ryback puts him out at 25:19. #16 is Neville, a.k.a. The Man That Gravity Forgot. We finally see what happened to Kofi, eliminated via Jericho’s springboard dropkick. #17 is Braun Strowman. He breaks free of Kane’s grip and throws him out at 28:19. We get the Big Show vs. Strowman face-off. Strowman locks in his modified sleeper and throws Show out at 29:10. #18 is Kevin Owens, still selling like death and being a better sympathetic babyface than Reigns. He nails Styles with a Super-Kick and tosses him out at 30:45 after welcoming him to the WWE (literally). #19 is Dean Ambrose, looking slightly less beat-up than KO. They pick up where they left off in the opener. #20 is Sami Zayn, a surprise entrant. He goes after Owens, the man given storyline credit for his injury in the Spring of 2015. Zayn gets the better of a slugfest and throws Owens out at 34:37. Zayn’s accomplished all he needed to in this match.
#21 is Erick Rowan, and nobody cares. The Wyatt Family control the ring. Neville gets tossed over the top rope and Harper’s discus clothesline eliminates him at 36:16. Stardust gets dumped to the apron and knocked off with a Super-Kick at 36:27. #22 is Mark Henry, and he’s quickly triple teamed by the Wyatt Family and eliminated at 38:00. Notice that Strowman is getting credit for throwing out the other large men and/or monsters. They focus on Zayn and casually throw him out at 38:36. At least the crowd is booing heels when he’s eliminated. #23 is Brock Lesnar to cause destruction. Suplex City comes to the Amway Center. Lesnar clotheslines Rowan out at 39:57. #24 is Jack Swagger. He walks into an F-5 and gets thrown out at 41:18, lasting 15-seconds for the shortest duration of the night. Brock with running knees to Strowman. #25 is The Miz and he decides to camp out on commentary. Brock finally eliminates Harper after countless suplexes at 44:18. #26 is Alberto Del Rio. Lesnar lays into Strowman and clotheslines him out at 45:45. #27 is Bray Wyatt, and he freely has the previous eliminated Family members interfere and attack Lesnar. It’s still Brock though, and he fights them off for a while. Brock goes for the F-5 on Wyatt, but Harper saves with a Super-Kick. Wyatt with Sister Abigail, and they manage to throw Lesnar out at 48:30. This is a long “equally timed interval.” #28 is Dolph Ziggler. He seems to either get the really crappy numbers or the really good ones. Miz finally enters the Rumble, trying to throw Dolph out, but has to settle for a Skull Crushing Finale. #29 is Sheamus, and Roman Reigns decides to wake up from his power nap and attacks him during his entrance. Reigns dumps the Miz at 51:26 and Alberto Del Rio at 51:35 to disapproval. #30 is Triple H, the worst kept Rumble secret of recent memory. Thank goodness they didn’t make it a “31 Man Rumble Match.”
We’re left with a field of Roman Reigns, Chris Jericho, Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, Sheamus, and Triple H. All but two are former (or the reigning) World Champions. Hunter immediately hits Ziggler with a Pedigree, because he’s a giant geek. The crowd doesn’t even care about Ziggler’s handling anymore. They do boo when Roman hits Wyatt with the Spear. Reigns avoids the Pedigree. Sheamus with the Brogue Kick to Ambrose. Wyatt with a Uranage to Sheamus. Jericho with the Lionsault to Wyatt. Ziggler with the Zig-Zag to Jericho. He goes after Triple H and misses a Super-Kick, but does hit the Famouser. Hunter side-steps a charge and throws Ziggler out at 56:28, selling the move for less than a second. Wyatt counters the Pedigree, and Sheamus interrupts Sister Abigail with a Brogue Kick. Sheamus and Hunter toss Wyatt at 57:41. Jericho with the Codebreaker to Hunter, and Ambrose tosses Jericho at 58:40. Reigns throws out Sheamus at 59:44, and Triple H sneaks up and tosses Reigns to a big pop at 59:48, and we’re guaranteed a NEW Champion. Ambrose bounces off the ropes with the Lunatic Lariat, called at the time the WACKY LINE. I couldn’t make this up if I tried. Cole over-selling Ambrose possibly winning is a clear sign he’s losing. Triple H meets him with a knee to the face and back drops him out from the apron at 61:43 to become a 14-time World Champion. **** The best Royal Rumble Match since 2010, with decent pacing, a good choice for surprise participants, and not letting the ring fill up too much. They put over Strowman for clearing out the ring of the old school of giants, Lesnar destroying everyone in his path, and the mini-matches with Roman/Rusev, Owens/Zayn, and others helped keep the action going. The crowd lost some of its mojo in the usual spot (the early-mid 20’s of entrants), but at least they didn’t completely dump on the match, regardless of quality.
Final Thoughts: A strong Royal Rumble Match, a great opener, and a decent undercard with zero bad matches makes it hard to say this was anything but a solid show. I’ve mentioned some of the creative decisions that failed and/or didn’t make much sense, but that doesn’t mean the quality of the in-ring performance has to suffer. After colossal failures in the last couple of years, they managed to put together a strong Rumble Match, even if the result was once again predictable. At least they didn’t try to force-feed a push for a “top babyface” and leave a sour taste in the viewers mouth when the live audience is crapping all over it. Not the greatest Rumble PPV of all-time, but it could arguably make a Top 5 consideration if I really wanted to exam all other Rumbles again.