2016 WWE Royal Rumble HITS:
The Royal Rumble Match – One of the most entertaining Royal Rumble matches in recent memory. The entire match was used to tell a number of different stories, over-and-above the main 1-against-all Roman Reigns/Authority storyline. The main roster got their first taste of Sami Zayn/Kevin Owens, we had the long overdue WWE debut of AJ Styles (more on that below), the ongoing (and hilarious) R-Truth joke, not to mention the fact that it was a totally star-studded affair. We saw the beginnings of what may potentially turn into several WrestleMania matches, including what appears to be a guaranteed Brock Lesnar vs. Bray Wyatt affair. That sells me a ticket, for sure. Remember, it was this time last year that #CancelWWENetwork was the #1 worldwide trend on Twitter for 48 hours….12 months later, they showed they remember how to book an entertaining Royal Rumble Match.
AJ Styles debuts in the Royal Rumble match – For those of us who have followed AJ Styles through-out his career, we know what he’s capable of. What’s shocking is, he’s always been this capable, and WWE has always ignored him (largely rumoured to be based on his height). When the NJPW rumours hit their fever pitch 2 weeks ago, even then I was skeptical that WWE would pull the trigger. To debut at #3, and last for nearly 30 minutes in the Royal Rumble match is no small feat. AJ shared a WWE ring with Roman Reigns, Chris Jericho, Kane, Kevin Owens and many others, and looked like he belonged. He was given a hero’s welcome by the live crowd at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. For this guy, it was a long overdue debut, and a new beginning to what has already been a Hall of Fame worthy career. Styles was treated as a big deal by the announcers, as well, so I’ve got confidence that WWE will get behind Styles to create some pretty awesome magic over the next several years.
Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens – Last Man Standing matches are difficult to maintain excitement in. The temptation is to have several “near falls” in this type of match where you know the match isn’t going to end, but you have to sit through a count of 6 to 8 anyways. Ambrose and Owens bucked that trend, and had an early contender for Match of the Year (or on the Chinlock.com awards system, a late contender, as we measure our year from Extreme Rulz to WrestleMania). Each big spot meant something, and escalated to a bigger more meaningful spot, to the end of the match with Owens crashing through two tables stacked on the outside of the ring from the top rope. In WWE’s current environment, you’re not going to find a bump much bigger than that, and it was a fitting finish to an excellent, hard-hitting affair.
Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch – I was disappointed that Becky Lynch wasn’t awarded the WWE Diva’s Championship, but that was more on a personal level than it was on a “the wrong person won, here” level. And, frankly, I’m excited to see where they go from here with the post-match involvement of Sasha Banks. But, to focus on the match at hand, Becky and Charlotte showed why they should be the leaders of the new generation of women’s wrestling in WWE. This match carried and excellent pace, and told a simple-yet-effective story of Charlotte being influenced by her father’s dirty, underhanded tricks, despite likely being able to get the job done without resorting to them. Dear WWE. More of this, please. PLEASE?!
The New Day vs. The Usos – A minor hit. Well, a major hit for the antics of The New Day, but a minor hit overall. The New Day were favoured, considerably, by the live crowd, which took away from the heel/face dynamic of the match. But what reason has WWE given us to cheer for the Usos, especially when you compare them to the ridiculously over-the-top and entertaining New Day? Why not tell the story of Jey Uso’s injury, rehabilitation and eventual come-back? We haven’t gotten any depth to their characters since he returned. Regardless, this was still a good match, and Xavier Woods antics are worth the price of admission alone.
Triple H wins the Royal Rumble – Another minor hit, for staying true to their long-term storytelling plans of Roman Reigns eventually dismantling the authority. To that point, there was no other option but Triple H to win this year’s Royal Rumble. It was the next most logical step in the storytelling past. Sometimes, the bad guy has to win. And, quite frankly, the good guy they have chosen still hasn’t totally earned his stripes with the fans. They feel there is someone else more deserving than Reigns for that position, so WWE still has a lot of work to do, between now and WrestleMania. Lets not forget, this has been a 2 year process (and nearly 4 years overall). WWE is seriously hurting for main event talent at the moment, so lets not rush this storyline any faster than we absolutely have to.
2016 WWE Royal Rumble MISSES:
Kalisto vs. Alberto Del Rio – A minor miss. Kalisto’s first WWE United States Championship win would have felt like a much bigger deal at the Royal Rumble than it did as his second championship win, following the hot potato game they played with the championship over the past few weeks. This also must mean that Sin Cara will be out of action for at least the next few weeks, which is disappointing. I really like the Lucha Dragons. This match was fine for what it was, but it just didn’t have the luster on it that it might have had, had the championship switched to Kalisto in front of the Royal Rumble crowd.
Mark Henry and Jack Swagger in the Royal Rumble – Typically, my rule is not to mention the pre-show match in my HITS and MISSES column, but since the pre-show match directly influenced the Royal Rumble itself, I’m making an exception to my own rule. Having Mark Henry and Jack Swagger defeat Damien Sandow, Darren Young, The Ascension, and especially the Dudley Boyz, only for them to last less than 60 seconds combined in the Royal Rumble match was absolutely stupid. Why bother? I’m not asking for them to last for an eternity, either…but if you’re going to give me a qualifying match on the pre-show only to have the result of that match be so inconsequential on the main show, despite the push otherwise, it’s a total waste of time, and devalues not just the talent in the match, but the announcers who are made to hype how important the match result was to the Royal Rumble match itself. Just disappointing all around.