WWE started off 2017 with a surprise, swerving left and right at their first major event in the Royal Rumble. Instead of going into a specific recap of each match, this will be more of a look at the entire night, so don’t expect every match to get highlighted. That said, a bunch of these matches are linked, so a good chunk will be discussed.
I made two big predictions on Friday about the title matches and, hilariously, I was off the mark on both. With Owens beating Reigns earlier in the night, it seemed destined that Cena would pick up the win over AJ, which he did. Both matches ended up very strong, and the Owens v. Reigns match may have been Reigns’ best match to date. With Strowman intervening and attacking Reigns, effectively giving Owens the win, the future for Reigns looked set and strong. While the Reigns v. Strowman Wrestlemania feud has been floated out there, the fact that it doesn’t involve the belt gives Reigns a slight possibility of crowd backing. In terms of Cena and AJ, the expectation for their match to steal the show was there, so it came as no surprise that they put on a barnburner. Also, with Owens’ win, it gave the logical belief that Cena could win the match, therefore, adding an angle of tenseness to the match. My biggest reservation about Cena’s win was the lack of acknowledgment about the history he made in tying Ric Flair’s World Championship record. Thankfully, Cena remedied this in two ways. Firstly, in locking in a random figure-four leglock, the move made famous by Flair, Cena gave the nod to all those paying close attention to that record. Also, Cena was given a lot of time after the match to really take in the moment of holding that belt for a record setting time. In standing on the top of the ramp, giving the moment room to breathe, Cena and the WWE made that moment history. That said, it threw the rumble expectations in total disarray.
Ashley highlighted the winner of the rumble in her piece, but there is also a lot of story happening around this match outside of that. For me, this match accomplished a lot in making people look strong in guys like Strowman and Baron Corbin, but it also gave some room for guys like a debuting Tye Dillinger and Sami Zayn to get some exposure. In addition, storylines progressed to their necessary end, as Goldberg and Lesnar, entering late in the match, played out as expected in essentially being eliminated in quick succession. The real issue of this match came in Roman Reigns entering at number 30. I’ll look past the logical booking problems this causes for the sake of brevity, but this was an absolute killer for expectations. First, I’m unsure why the wait for Samoa Joe is happening, but this was the opportunity for him to be introduced. And this point goes beyond the other nonsense rumors about guys like Kenny Omega or Nakamura showing up, who you could rule out by thinking through the contract and booking logistics with their current states. Joe has no more ties to NXT, and he’s more than proved himself ready for the main roster, and that’s putting his 10+ years of previous indie and TNA credit aside. For all I know, he’ll debut tonight on Raw, but it was a huge missed opportunity here.
Reigns’ insertion into the match also caused some weird moments, namely his elimination of The Undertaker. After the Strowman situation earlier in the night, Reigns already had solid future story going into the next couple of months. In eliminating The Undertaker from the match, it teased a possible future angle for Taker and Reigns, which would be nothing short of effectively turning Roman Reigns heel. I understand that this moment could have just been a momentary staredown, but, without a clear opponent for Wrestlemania, this could be a possibility. It’s a weird state for The Undertaker to be in this close to Wrestlemania; but a forced Roman Reigns feud, and a strong possibility of Roman Reigns going over at Mania, would be nuclear heat with the audience.
The Royal Rumble is one of my favorite events of the year, and while I’m not upset about the night, I’m left with a lot to think about. With Orton’s win, I’m hoping for an angle at Wrestlemania with him and Bray, who could possibly win the belt at Elimination Chamber. That said, a retread of Orton and Cena would be a huge mistake. With so many big names still in the air regarding the biggest wrestling event of the year, it should be an exciting few months in the gear up for Wrestlemania.