By Matt Straub and Brad Carroll
The Royal Rumble is my favorite Pay-Per-View of the year. When the match is booked well, the format provides more than an hour for rivalries to be fleshed out or even started, interesting twists and turns, and the annual Kofi Kingston avoids elimination spot.
This year could be really good, with rumors of new faces coming in and the opportunity for many established stars to shine not only with their work in the match, but with so many current big names out of action. From John Cena to Seth Rollins to Randy Orton, WWE is suffering from a lack of stars at the top of the card, and the Royal Rumble is a perfect chance to make new ones.
With so much time to make things happen, the Rumble is when WWE’s bookers are most important. They can use the time and number of characters available to do great things, or they can waste an hour of our lives and frustrate the heck out of the fans. And if the WWE fans have decided in advance they don’t want someone to win, the event can go downhill quickly.
Fortunately this year, there shouldn’t be such a “hijack”. While Roman Reigns isn’t beloved by any means, a lot of the open hatred seems to have died down from the fans while he’s on. (I’m not saying people should like him, but I find it distracting when the crowd actually disrupts a show).
Of course, with Reigns being No. 1 in this year’s Rumble, the fans will have plenty of time to turn on him with renewed vigor, making this a big night in his development. If the fans boo him out of the building again, WWE might finally have to drop him down the card. But more on that in a bit.
I hope the Rumble is a good one tonight not just because I love the match, but because the rest of the card might be a dud. There’s two potentially good matches, one of which has a nice buildup, and the other is an old WCW-style “here’s two random guys” match. There’s also a kickoff match which shows what could have been with good booking.
So let’s break down a show which has lots to talk about and debate.
Kickoff Show Fatal 4-Way Tag Team Match
(Winners get into Royal Rumble)
Matt's Analysis and Pick: This is the Dudley Boys vs. Ascension vs. Mark Henry and Jack Swagger vs. Mizdow and Darren Young. Remember a couple months ago when the Dudleys were in a good, important feud with the New Day? Now a popular, still productive team is being used in this fashion, which is pathetic. I get why you’d throw the other guys in there to give them something to do, but the Dudleys deserve better than this. They should win and move on, but it doesn’t make this any less pointless.
The Dudleys win and make the Rumble while the others go back into being forgotten about.
Brad's Analysis and Pick: Yes, this is stupid and having a match like this is pointless, but at least it gets eight guys onto a pay-per-view card that typically wouldn't, which gives them exposure and the WWE a reason to keep paying them. Matt's wrong about the Dudley Boyz, though. It was fun seeing them return and take on the New Day, both to see the old school wrestlers from a time when wrestling was so much better than it is today, and to make the New Day clear heels, at a time when they were getting cheered more than booed. But as I said way back when the Dudleys first arrived again, it only works for a short time, anything more will expose them as old. The "what's up" thing was popular almost 20 years ago, and hardly anyone remembers or even knows why it's a thing. Mark Henry and Jack Swagger should be in the Rumble because they are the biggest names with some kind of future, so they win. Although if money was on the line, I'd say the Dudley Boyz will advance to the Rumble.
WWE Tag Team title match
The New Day vs. The Usos
Matt's Analysis and Pick: Hey, remember when the New Day had a great feud going with the Dudleys? Oh, wait, we covered that. Hey, remember the what feels like thousands of times we’ve seen the New Day fight the Usos? Here’s a great example of how WWE can misuse talent. The Usos probably have a place in WWE. The New Day has grown into one of the best parts of Raw for me. They made this angle somewhat interesting, which is no small feat. I just hope Kofi is still ready for his annual Rumble spot later in the night. All that said, I’d much rather see more of New Day vs. the Dudleys. In this match, New Day rocks.
Brad's Analysis and Pick: I can't really say why, but the Usos just bore the heck out of me, and when they are on, I just want to change the channel. Maybe it's their long, drawn-out, stupid, lame introduction. Maybe it's the dumb face paint. Whatever it is, having to watch them (or reach for the remote) is draining. The New Day is a great trio and it doesn't get much better when they come down the aisle. The New Day is the Attitude Era and that's why older fans tend to cheer them on. The trombone save by Xavier Woods to the ladder was an Attitude moment if there ever was one. But I can see the WWE giving the belts back to the Usos for reasons only they know about. But I'll still pick the New Day.
WWE Divas title match
Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch
Matt's Analysis and Pick: First, the good news: No one named Bella is in this match. Sadly, Sasha isn’t either. With Total Divas starting up again, all WWE’s focus during Diva’s matches is on the show again and away from the wrestling, which is sad. This is the exact way Charlotte should be used and her turn on Lynch makes sense, but that doesn’t make this match interesting. It should be fine for what it is, which is a small break from the Total Divas promotion and a decent, Bella-free, match. Charlotte wins with dad’s help.
Brad's Analysis and Pick: Charlotte is being booked perfectly in her new role as a heel in Ric Flair's image. It makes her someone to cheer or boo, as she'll do anything to win or, before that, avoid a fight. But Charlotte is still green in and out of the ring, and can't do much to sell a match. Becky Lynch can wrestle and she could be the best of the new bunch, so it will be good to see what she and Charlotte can do with what should be a pure wrestling match that could last 10 or so minutes. If they can impress, like Sasha Banks and Bayley did on NXT, where they put together a couple of tremendous matches, the future of women's wrestling will be in good hands. It is strange, though, that Sasha Banks, who was great in NXT is being misused in the WWE. That would be the Vince McMahon influence. On a side, Ric Flair needs to go away. He's old and frail and a shell of his former self to the point where watching him in the ring is painful. I hope the fame is worth it, Ric, cause you're making a fool out of yourself. Charlotte wins and a feud with Sasha will hopefully be next. Too bad for Becky, but that's what happens with a Revolution that adds a ton of new people to the mix. There's not enough spots to go around.
U.S. title match
Kalisto vs. Alberto Del Rio
Matt's Analysis and Pick: Many still don’t miss the U.S. open challenge, but this isn’t much of a replacement. Del Rio has been a new man since his return and looks impressive, but Kalisto is just a guy to me. This could be a good straight wrestling match with some cool spots, but there’s just no juice to it. Especially since I can’t see a title change. Del Rio wins what I think is the opener of the show (or second if they start with New Day to get a pop).
Brad's Analysis and Pick: The match makes sense, since they each traded title wins, but since Kalisto already has a title win, there doesn't seem to be any reason to give him the belt again. After all, just who would he feud with? So, Del Rio wins and maybe John Cena is the next big feud once he recovers.
Last man standing match for the Intercontinental title
Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens
Matt's Analysis and Pick: This is one of my favorite feuds in a while. Two guys with interesting personalities who can put on a good show in the ring. I know Brad is far from an Ambrose guy, but these two wrestlers have some chemistry and the angle just works, especially with Owens being angry and out of control lately. This will be a fun match with lots of weapons and violence. Owens needs the win more, but I think since he’s been doing most of the attacking, Ambrose gets his revenge. Ambrose wins a wild match.
Brad's Analysis and Pick: I understand what Matt is saying, but I have no interest in Ambrose and the build-up to this match with Kevin Owens, who is actually a real talent, has done nothing to get me excited for a match between the two. I still don't get why Ambrose is a lunatic? Is it cause he says he is? Is it because his hair is terrible and he wears jeans to the ring? What has he done to be deemed as such, though? Maybe he can do his springboard off the middle rope again and it'll convince me he's crazy. Of course, the move takes 20 minutes, so I'll have plenty of time to think. Pure lunacy! Anyway, I'll just hope Owens wins and Ambrose can be in a feud with someone I don't care about, so I can tune him and his lunacy out.
Royal Rumble Match
Winner is WWE champion
Matt's Analysis and Pick: This is the defining moment of Roman Reigns’ career. The booing has died down, but with him being No. 1 in the Rumble, there will be tons of chances for the crowd to go after him again. WWE’s plan for having him in for close to an hour (this year they are bringing people out every 90 seconds, so it will take less than 45 minutes to get everyone out to the ring this year, which is good for Roman) is to show he can wrestle for a long time and showcase him. It could backfire, however, as having him out there for so long gives him more chances to mess up and definitely gives the fans longer to organize their chants against him. Since he’s going to be in there for a long time, how he is handled by the bookers and the crowd will be the biggest storyline for the Rumble.
Even though Vince McMahon wants him to be a star, I just can’t see WWE booking him to go almost an hour and stay champion. This is especially true since he’s used best as someone being held down by the Authority and trying to chase the title.
They’ve been teasing a Brock Lesnar-Roman Reigns feud and Brock just got booked for more dates so I can easily see something like that coming in the months ahead, with Reigns chasing the title he was never pinned for.
Other things to watch for tonight: Lesnar’s dominance, which should be fun, how the new crop of wrestlers rumored to be in the fold now from TNA are used as well as some other NXT talent, Kofi’s escape, and the annual surprise return. Oh, and how WWE will misuse the Wyatt Family, which always makes for a fun guessing game.
Lesnar wins after Reigns gets screwed, setting up their match at WrestleMania. (It’s not my idea, don’t kill the messenger).
Brad's Analysis and Pick: First, if Matt's pick for the Rumble and main event at WrestleMainia isn't his idea, who exactly is writing this stuff and who am I corresponding with? Maybe it is Roman Reigns, as only Matt in this space has professed undying love and continues to say that Reigns is becoming a fan favorite, even though he's the only one that appears to see it that way. That's some crazy propaganda. So, yes, it does make complete sense that Roman Reigns, and not Matt Straub, is actually corresponding for us here at gamedayishere.com. That's pretty cool.
But, alas, even though I appreciate Mr. Reigns writing for us, I just don't buy any of the propaganda. Reigns isn't being booed anymore, he's just being completely ignored, which is the worst thing that can happen to a professional wrestler. His feud with Sheamus was a dud and his feud with Vince McMahon has been as bad as the Austin-McMahon feud was good. Yes, it's been that embarrassing. Did you watch the Vince getting arrested angle? Holy hell, it was painful to watch.
When Vince McMahon has to be brought in as a key character to get a guy over, you know it's not going to work. Reigns isn't working. We all know he can't talk. We all know he can't wrestle. We all know his entrance is stupid. We all know Reigns has no place at the top of the card. Except for Vince McMahon and Reigns. I thought there was always the third guy out there, Matt Straub, but now that Reigns has been exposed as Straub, it's down to just two.
Who can win this match and win the title? I'd put Reigns as the odds-on-favorite. He will be in the final four and probably the final two. Brock Lesnar will be a finalist, but he'll probably get screwed in some way. Chris Jericho, contrary to what he believes, has no chance. There's only 13 listed competitors, of which, besides Brock, Reigns and Jericho, which we've mentioned, only Bray Wyatt has the chance to win the title. I'd give him the belt and let him sink or swim. WWE won't do that, though. Daniel Bryan could return and win the title and everyone would go nuts. A.J. Styles could debut, but won't win the title. John Cena is always a threat to win the title, even though an injury might keep him out of this event. His return would excite the crowd, but another title run by Cena is something none of us want.
Want to blow the roof off the place? Bring back Kurt Angle and have him win the world title. That would be insane and the WWE could have so many feuds to begin they wouldn't know here to begin.
But in the end, the WWE loves Roman Reigns, even though the fans have rejected him time and time again. Reigns wins and the crowd does something nobody wants, they yawn and go home.