Royal Rumble 2016

Royal Rumble Match
WWE World Heavyweight Championship
#1 is Roman Reigns (c). He’s not well liked and is heavily booed. He first faces off, and eliminates Rusev, before the shocking arrival at #3 of AJ Styles, making his WWE debut. Sort of. You see when he was in the Indies way back in 2002 he did a few job matches for WWE and one of them, against The Hurricane, was televised on Jakked. He’s come a long way since then. We thought he might be in here somewhere but arriving at number three sees him one on one with the incumbent WWE champion in his first time in a WWE ring. The crowd know who he is and recognise the Styles Clash, thus rubbishing certain ‘no one knows who he is’ nonsense from inside WWE’s bubble. Styles gets popped hard and continues to be supported throughout his time in the match. Not only that he’s a complete showstealer, hitting Pele Kicks, springboard elbows and wicked strike combos at every opportunity. Not only that he takes sensational bumps to get everyone else over. It’s a dream debut, which makes it almost a pity that he’s stuck in the first half of the match where he can shine but isn’t as important as the big guns later on. A few jobbers are ousted before Chris Jericho arrives at #6. This teases AJ vs. Jericho, which I’m sure we’ll see at some point. There are now a fair few dream matches available to WWE based on Styles being in the promotion. Other early entries include Rumble favourites Kane and Kofi Kingston. Kofi doesn’t get to do a big spot like usual, although he avoids elimination by falling onto Big E’s shoulders and being paraded around ringside in a unicorn stampede to compensate for it.

The second third of the match sees a switch in focus with the Wyatt Family beginning to enter. First Luke Harper at #13 followed by Braun Strowman at #17 before Erik Rowan arrives at #21. Another big Rumble guy, The Big Show, also enters in this phase and gets ejected by Strowman. As does Kane, putting Strowman over as the companies new monster. The match isn’t totally joyless in this middle phase with AJ still involved, R-Truth accidentally thinking it’s a Money in the Bank match and climbing a ladder and also the arrivals of Neville and Kevin Owens. WWE also find a way around the problem of Roman Reigns having to wrestle for an hour by having the League of Nations take him out of the match around the mid point so he can rest out the back for a bit. It’s poor form. If you want to be the top guy in a company then you can work for an hour, sir. Owens is the one who takes over the entire match. He first battles AJ Styles in a phenomenal strike sequence before throwing AJ out of the match (“welcome to the WWE” he crows as AJ flies over the top). Then he gets to do the Steve AustinBret Hart Rumble reaction spot for the arrival of Dean Ambrose and then do it again, a mere 90 seconds later, for Sami Zayn! How can one man have two reaction spots that great that close together? Sami even throws Owens out to score a little retribution for the way his former best friend treated him in NXT.

The final third has heavy Wyatt presence until #23 Brock Lesnar arrives to sort them out. Lesnar manages to throw out all three Wyatt Family members only for Bray Wyatt to arrive at #27 and encourage his troops to gang up and throw Lesnar from the match. Not a popular decision with the crowd. While Owens tossing AJ and Zayn throwing Owens out were acceptable conclusions to those storylines, this one doesn’t sit well with the crowd at all. Especially as only Bray was legal when the four on one mugging took place. Lesnar’s destruction of everyone during his time in the Rumble was entertaining but all too brief. I’m a little upset he’s not involved in the conclusion. Speaking of the conclusion a lot of smaller wrestlers get to be involved with the likes of Alberto Del Rio, The Miz, Stardust and Dolph Ziggler filling late positions. As #29 Sheamus makes his way to the ring it’s time for the return of Roman Reigns. It goes about as well as you’d expect, given the crowd’s displeasure for his presence throughout the night. They wanted something new and WWE are giving them the same old, same old. There is somewhat of a shock as Triple H arrives at #30, unless you’d noticed the bookies odds over the past few weeks, which had Hunter as a favourite to win. Everyone bar Roman and Hunter get treated as an afterthought as the match heads towards its inevitable conclusion. Jericho, who was certainly in longest as Roman’s split participation doesn’t count, gets lobbed out late on for spending too long celebrating a Codebreaker on the Game.

FINAL FOUR: Roman Reigns, Triple H, Sheamus and Dean Ambrose. The last two champions, the champion’s best mate and the COO of the company. Hardly the revolutionary surprise finish I was hoping the company would have the guts to go for. Reigns puts Sheamus out but Hunter dumps Reigns. Roman’s second title run is over. Big pop for that. Anyone but you, Roman. Quite why WWE decided to leave it so late into the match is anyone’s guess but the pop justifies the decision. The crowd gets animated as Ambrose fires up. They want someone new and Ambrose qualifies. They tease Ambrose winning until Hunter backdrops him out. First half of the match was really solid and I liked Lesnar’s run but I wasn’t keen on the last few minutes, bar Ambrose being teased as a left field winner.
Final Rating: ***1/2

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