In-Person Thoughts On The WWE Royal Rumble & A Very Odd Start To 2015

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It’s a damn shame really.

If it was only a year earlier, Roman Reigns winning the Royal Rumble would’ve been a big deal. Forget Batista winning the 2014 Royal Rumble, the audience was willing to accept Reigns as the winner since Daniel Bryan wasn’t even in the 30-man match. Fast-forward 12 months and the complete opposite is true.

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Philly is a rough wrestling city. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t frequent it much. That and the fact that I’m in Connecticut native and a diehard Mets fan. But Philadelphia was in rare form at the Rumble. What came across on television as a largely “smart” audience, were mostly mid-20s males that really wanted Daniel Bryan to win the Rumble. Now don’t get me wrong, Bryan would’ve been a great choice and they already had the groundwork for WrestleMania made but let’s look at Roman Reigns. Only a year ago we were willing to name him the “next big thing” and now we’re just dumping on him. There’s nothing wrong with Reigns but there’s something wrong with the wizard pulling the strings. Vince McMahon still sees this as an era of the superhero and can you blame him? John Cena has been on top of the WWE for over a decade but even he wasn’t franchise made when he started his ascent to the top. This was a guy who tried to push the limits of SmackDown censors with his freestyle rapping tearing down his opponents before they got to the ring. It wasn’t until John Cena got drafted to Monday Night Raw that the “Super-Cena” era began.

But Vince doesn’t have time for that this time around. Roman Reigns is the guy – plain and simple.

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Now don’t get me wrong, I like Reigns. I think he should be the top of the food chain. And I think a match with Brock Lesnar would be fantastic. But I’m not part of the vocal minority whose voices are taking over WWE TV. The Royal Rumble was a great show… if you were there live. And if you sat back and enjoyed the spectacle instead of putting all of your emotions into Daniel Bryan winning. Daniel Bryan is already a main event superstar, he doesn’t need a Rumble win in order to get to the World Championship. Sure adding The Rock to Roman’s victory was a little sad & you have to remember that Roman got over just fine up until this point without any extra help… and that includes Vince McMahon. Either way I enjoyed the 2015 Royal Rumble. It was the first Rumble I was able to attend live and it definitely lived up to the hype. Unfortunately most of the audience didn’t see it the same way I did.

Well anyway, we might as well start from the beginning.

 

The New Day vs The Brass Ring Club

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The New Day are not over. Whatever direction they had for the group is long gone. And now people just want to see them get out of the ring instead of perform in it. Tyson Kidd & Cesaro are exactly what the audience is looking for. You have a high-flying, technical wrestler and the strongman on the apron to clean things up. It’s the best dynamic for a tag team and so far it seems to be working. The addition of Adam Rose is somewhat strange, I won’t lie, as I’m sure there are plenty of other men in the back who would’ve filled that role. But so far I’m okay with it just as long as they get rid of the Rosebuds soon. The match itself was one of the highlights of the night. Cesaro and Kidd could do no wrong. Definitely a good choice giving them the win and hopefully they’ll move up to face the Usos soon.

The New Age Outlaws vs The Ascension

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Putting these guys on after the previous tag match might have been the second worst decision of the night. The Outlaws garnered barely any reaction (except for a cheap pop) and the Ascension drew crickets. It’s been too soon since we had a New Age Outlaws nostalgia run and the fans just aren’t that excited. The Ascension had it all worked out in NXT but the gimmick isn’t translating at all on the main-event roster. And surprisingly I wish it would work because a large tag team division is good for everyone. I don’t know where they go from here but I’m sure there’s going to be a few more rough patches.

The Usos vs The Miz & Damien Mizdow

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Sure why not follow two tag team matches up with another tag team match. Now I firmly believe the Usos are one of the best tag teams the WWE has had in a long time. But putting them up against the same opponents every single week is going to get tiring for everyone. Not to mention the fact that Damien Mizdow is at the end of his rope when it comes to this gimmick. There’s not much else he can do to entertain the fans and pretty soon people are going to start to turn on him like they do every comedy act. The match itself was good but when aren’t their matches good? These two teams have worked together enough to know what works and what doesn’t but that doesn’t mean they have to be put on every single show. I truly hope they have something new set up for the Usos as I enjoy seeing their matches and for Damien Mizdow’s sake I hope they have a split from the Miz ready for him soon.

The Bella Twins vs Paige and Natalya

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Once again another tag match although this one included a bathroom break. The really sad part was, when walking around the concourse of the Wells Fargo Center, I couldn’t tell you how many “Brie Mode” T-shirts I saw on 20-something girls. And all of these girls were walking around looking for food or alcohol while “their” Diva Brie Bella was actually in the ring. It goes to show how popular Total Divas truly is with female fans if they’ll come to the Royal Rumble and not even bother to watch the Divas match.

Brock Lesnar vs John Cena vs Seth Rollins

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From the beginning bell, this match captivated the Philadelphia crowd and held our attention until the final pinfall. Brock Lesnar was easily the fan favorite in Philly. Now if that was because he was a legit UFC champion or if it was just his association with Paul Heyman, Lesnar fans comprised most of the audience. But yet, it was Seth Rollins that left the crowd chattering after the match was over. The pacing and storytelling of the triple threat World Championship match was exactly what you’d expect to see out of the main-event at a PPV. Seth Rollins being able to step into the spotlight and command the crowd’s attention for the entire length of the match is truly telling of his ability to captivate an audience. This was a man who was barely on top of Ring of Honor as their champion before deciding to leave the company and head to Florida to train with the WWE. There were a lot of questions when it was Rollins who turned on The Shield. A lot of people didn’t know how well he’d be able to carry a program as a heel. But so far he’s doing a damn good job. And this crowd-pleasing performance at the Royal Rumble should wash away any doubts you may have of seeing him as a baby face. Yes there were a lot of finishers in there and there were a lot of finisher kick-outs but the fans in Philly didn’t care. They hung on every to count, on every high spot, on every finisher until the final F5 & pinfall by Brock Lesnar. This is easily one of the better matches I’ve been privileged to see live.

Royal Rumble Match

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I don’t think there’s much I could say that hasn’t been said before. Sure it was predictable and sure the Big Show & Kane buried superstars in the process but what were you expecting? This is the same company that last year had to change their WrestleMania main events in order to incorporate their most popular star. And even that took some time before management threw up their hands in surrender. Sure this isn’t the era of “Bootista” and the returning superstar automatically getting the Rumble win but obviously this match didn’t play into the fan’s favor. Look at it this way though… Bray Wyatt had a great showing, Bubba Ray Dudley made his return to the WWE and a homegrown WWE kid was made into a superstar. You might not like the fact that Roman Reigns won the Royal Rumble but how could you really question it? Last year the WWE didn’t even put Daniel Bryan into the Rumble… that should tell you how much the WWE listens to the live audience before booking a match. And again, I don’t think they are wrong with their choice. Roman Reigns is going to be a huge star for them. It just sucks that the backlash from this event is going to last for a long (LONG) time.

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