Even more than CM Punk the wrestler, I love the IDEA of CM Punk. He is well known for carrying himself as an iconoclast with a set of firmly held beliefs which I respect. He didn’t care about offending his bosses and spoke his mind. A lot of people think he’s a complete prick who carried a chip on his shoulder against imagined enemies. Looking back at various points in my own life, I can project some of Punk’s personality traits onto myself but really we are all a little bit of CM Punk, the guy fighting the machine but never quite getting what he really wants. Sadly, the 2014 Royal Rumble match would be his last as an active wrestler (for now).
I missed pretty much all of Punk’s career. I stopped watching on a regular basis in 2002 when WWE lost their name to the World Wildlife Fund. Very rarely did I ever feel like watching again even with guys like Benoit and Guerrero rising to the top during that time. Unfortunately, those guys also passed away in the mid-2000s. I wondered why would I go back to watch when it’s just John Cena winning all the time and wrestling is a de facto monopoly on the national level. Two things dragged me back: the first is the introduction of the WWE Network which made PPVs very accessible and affordable. The other will be delved into later.
This show happened during the period after the Network was announced, but before the launch. Earlier in the night, Daniel Bryan was defeated by Bray Wyatt is a bit of an upset but that was okay because fans expected Bryan to re-emerge in the Rumble. The Pittsburgh crowd also turned on the John Cena-Randy Orton match since it had been seen so many time before. But the Royal Rumble: now that’s something hard to screw up. That will be good, right? Well, not if you book the entire thing with very little thought. Speaking of people with little original thought, our hosts are Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and JBL, aka the Tiresome Trio.
CM Punk is #1 per the orders of Corporate Kane because the Authority storyline from 1998 will not die. A personal note: “Cult of Personality” by Living Colour is one of my favorite songs ever and is a sort of libertarian anthem because citizens must be skeptical of even the most charismatic public figures. Like Stone Cold said: DTA, Don’t Trust Anybody. The #2 entrant is Seth Rollins of the Shield so we get my two favoite modern wrestling themes out there right away. Punk vs Rollins is something that could have main evented Wrestlemania 31 or 32 and it’s funny how Punk never got that show but if he came back now he would be escorted directly to the main event given the injury situation in WWE. But lawsuits have a way of preventing that. Punk was in a feud with the Shield and faced them all down at TLC the prior month. Rollins and Punk fight evenly here, each getting kicks in and it’s refreshing to hear a “CM Punk” chant with the subject of the chant in the ring.
Damien Sandow is #3 still in his Genius type gimmick. What’s happened to him since Mizdow and Macho Mandow? Just house shows I guess. Punk is so good at engaging the crowd, which seems to be something of a lost art. Cody Rhodes is #4 and he has an issue with Sandow relating to the breakup of the Rhodes Scholars, hitting Cross Rhodes early. Sandow charges Punk by the ropes and gets backdropped out in a callback to a trope from early Rumbles that bothered me because of how dumb it makes a guy look.
Corporate Kane is #5 and the guy isn’t cool anymore by skipping ahead 12 years on this journey. Punk fights off a choke quickly and sends Kane over the top. Wow, that was quick.
There’s some thought that an NXT callup may appear in 2016 but here is Alexander Rusev at #6, still allowed to keep a first name. In his famous podcast appearance with Colt Cabana in late 2014, Punk talked about Rusev saying he was scared to death of the veterans and that Punk told him to be more assertive and land big moves that people will remember. That move was a huge fall back slam. Would love to see a Rusev-Punk match because the big Bulgarian came a very long way in a short time. When he started, I wrote him off as a short-time foreign heel who would flame out. I was very wrong about him, and he can even talk a little too. I am glad they moved off the Russian nationalism thing to allow him a better path to the main event picture. Just hope he can avoid injuries going forward.
Rusev’s future rival Jack Swagger is #7 and he hits a couple of Swagger Bombs early before facing off with the Bulgarian Brute. Rollins hits Rusev’s leg from behind to cut that off.
Kofi Kingston is #8 as Michael Cole says Punk hit Swagger. Uh Maggle, that’s Cody Rhodes, not Punk. Rollins is literally doing a headstand on the ropes by Rusev and avoids going out. I can’t wait for more Rollins in future Rumbles because that guy can do all the things Shawn Michaels did in the 1990s and do it without being such a douche backstage. Jimmy Uso is #9 and even he gets shine in early on a couple of guys and goes at it with Kofi in the corner in a forerunner of the Uso-New Day feud of today that is going nowhere. Cody is near elimination by Jimmy as the match is settling down, but without any real story being told.
Rumble veteran Goldust is #10 and he gets in early offense because that’s apparently the freaking template here. Every new guy gets offense on everyone with no rhyme or reason before they settle in. Rusev put a stop to it, but he gets eliminated by the oddball group of Rollins, Punk, Cody and Kofi. This sets up the Kofi Kingston Spot where he is tossed out but Rusev catches him and puts him on the ringside barricade. Kofi needs to make a solid long jump to get back to the apron and he does to a nice pop. Those spots are some harmless fun but it has run its course by now in 2016.
Dean Ambrose is #11 and I interrupt this review for an announcement. JBL is so friggin’ annoying on commentary, just the worst. He adds nothing at all, gets no one over, only regurgitates Rumble facts like a robot parroting stuff said into his ear. Meanwhile in the ring, they can’t seem to interconnect feuds or further storylines; it’s just guys with stuff to do. Yeah, 2/3 of the Shield is there but for what? What’s the story here?
Dolph Ziggler is #12 and scores with a top rope missile dropkick on Ambrose right off the bat. “Let’s go Ziggler” chant starts, but they always miss the moment with him. First it was the concussion in 2013 then the bizarre 2014 Survivor Series angle where he gets a heroic win that is overshadowed almost immediately. Punk is hanging in, doesn’t appear to be concussed yet which would happen on a spin kick from Kofi Kingston. Lucky #13 is R-Truth and he doesn’t get any offense with the two Shield guys sending him out awfully Kwik, Jimmy Uso repeats the one Rick Martel mistake of 1991 by being up top and getting pushed off. Kofi hangs by his feet off the apron in another close call.
Our first “surprise” is #14: Kevin Nash aka Diesel but he’s being called Nash here. He dispatches Swagger right away before going at it with Ambrose and Rollins. Just keep him the hell away from Punk, we don’t need a reprise of that debacle of a feud.
I am shocked by one thing with Roman Reigns at #15: he comes from backstage and not the crowd! He still comes from the crowd to this day because Roman got the Shield gear and the entrance in the groups divorce. Big spear on Cody Rhodes to start. Kofi gets literally caught trying Trouble in Paradise and is dumped out for keeps. Ziggler gets speared all the way back to the Spirit Squad. Nash misses a charge at Reigns awkwardly, and goes out. The Rhodes brothers try their best with Reigns but can’t get him out.
Why they keep going back to Great Khali, who is #16, I have no idea. The poor guy can barely move and doesn’t have the same cachet as Andre the Giant had back in the day. The Shield show mercy and gently send him on his way. In a mild surprise, Goldust eliminates his brother Cody so the score there is now 2-1 Cody in Rumble lore. Reigns swoops in to take out Goldust and we are left with Punk vs Shield again briefly.
Sheamus makes a big return at #17, having not been seen for over six months because of a torn labrum. I hate this version of Sheamus, who is just all the things people hate about Cena presented in an Irish package with less mic skills. He gets ten beats of the bowery on Ambrose but the Shield shows strength in numbers to regain control. Annoying as all hell babyface Miz is #18 and almost eliminates Ambrose. Punk is down in the corner and you can see that he is clearly hurting. Fandango is #19 and goes with Miz in an all time “who gives a crap” moment. Crowd gets into Fandangoing at this point, but it was all over for him by this point.
Let’s take a break for some comedy with El Torito entering at #20. Seth Rollins ably sells a hurricanrana from a guy 1/3 his size. Punk is back to his feet and appears confused by this development and trying to figure out if its the head injury that causing him to see this. He takes a ‘Rana as well. JBL with his one good line of the night saying of El Torito “I heard Mantaur is his Grandfather!” Fandango is eliminated by Torito, who then makes the mistake of flying at Roman who lifts him way up high and chucks him over onto Fandango. Decent comedy there.
Back to serious business with Cesaro at #21, the man who brought me back to watching wrestling. If the Network was reason 1 for me coming back, Cesaro is reason 2. His match with John Cena on the Denver RAW in Feb. 2014 and the Sami Zayn match at Takeover (of which I saw a YouTube bootleg) opened my eyes. I’m a guy who pops for unique movesets; it’s why I liked Benoit back in the day. Cesaro does things in the ring that very few guys in history can do. Miz takes the Giant Swing, a move that Cesaro brought back from the old days when it was done by Don Leo Jonathan. Punk gets a dropkick on Miz on the last revolution, a move that would be used to great effect a year later by Tyson Kidd. Rollins takes the Swing for 30 full seconds and the crowd is digging this.
Luke Harper is #22 and the Wyatts had a good night between Bray’s win over Bryan and costing Cena the world title. Remember when those guys would win in big spots? That was a good idea. Jey Uso is #23. Harper has Punk over on the ropes and probably should eliminate him to show mercy. But the show must go on. Harper ends up in the middle for a European uppercut duel with Cesaro.
Ding ding ding! I hate JBL, but I do enjoy his entrance music, which is basically a ripoff of the theme from the 1980s TV show Dallas. The #24 entrant steps into the ring with his coat on and asks Cole to come over and grab his jacket for him, but Reigns comes over and dumps him from behind. Harmless fun there, and a callback to Lawler in 1997.
Another Wyatt Family member Erick Rowan is #25 and Miz is game to go with him for a bit, but eats a huge lariat on the apron from Harper so he will not be main eventing Wrestlemania this time. Harper boots Jey Uso out so a good few minutes for the dude with the crazy eyes.
Ryback is #26 but my attention is on Sheamus and Cesaro in the center of the ring. They would have a very underrated “Hoss fight” kind of match at 2014 Night of Champions, in an era when not much is remembered for long after it happens. Alberto Del Rio is #27 and he lands a kick on Ryback. Did you know that was the kick that won him a championship? Because JBL will tell you that like a good little programmed robot. ADR never seems to have an edge to him and is just a smooth worker with not much in the way of soul. Maybe his Lucha Underground stuff was better, I don’t know.
And now it’s time for Batista at #28, or Boo-tista. He gets a pop at first but when he hits the ring the boos start. He eliminates Rowan first before a faceoff with Ryback, who charges into the corner and Batista lists him up and out. Kick by Del Rio (the kick that won him a championship, you know) but Batista lifts him up out of nowhere and sends him packing. Crowd is ambivalent about the future Drax.
Big E is #29 and very oiled up. Belly to belly right away on Batista into a series of backbreakers on Sheamus. I started to wonder if the crowd noise was being edited down, but because one guy is left they held out hope for Daniel Bryan. On cue, there is a “YES!” chant. So either it’s going to be Bryan or some heel to take advantage of the heat that person will get, right?
No. It’s longtime babyface Rey Mysterio who is never booed but he gets it here. What a shame for Rey, who almost eliminates Rollins and goes at it with Punk. There’s barely a mention of #1 and #2 being in there still, because screw trying to tell a story. This is just “stuff to do”. Crowd has turned on this and has definitely not been edited down in volume. Big E is eliminated by Sheamus. The work in the ring looks very sloppy and I bet that psychologically the crowd is having an impact on the performances of the guys in the ring. Even a 619 can’t pop the crowd and Rollins eliminates Mysterio and gets a pop for it. Hey, it’s not his fault! That was just an all-time no win situation.
Crowd continues to chant for Bryan even as Reigns eliminates Luke Harper. Dean Ambrose takes advantage and tries to sneak up on his Shield brother but can’t make it work. Dissension bubbles to the surface but that’s not bringing the Steel City denizens back into this match. Rollins and Ambrose head over to work on Cesaro and Reigns pushes all three of them out. Seems almost like they are rushing to a finish, and gee I wonder why.
The Final Four: Punk, Sheamus, Reigns, and Boo-tista. Brogue kick by Sheamus on Batista, who is friggin’ GASSED already so this allows him a rest. Punk with a GTS on Sheamus. Out of nowhere, here’s Kane to unceremoniously pull Punk out. I hate the “eliminate a guy from the outside with no help from anyone in the ring” thing. At least Flair helped with Sid in 1992. This is just stupid, and ill-timed. They needed to do this spot sooner. Because Punk isn’t hurt enough, he’s chokeslammed through the Spanish announce table and left for dead. And that is the last we see of CM Punk in WWE to this day.
Now the crowd is as pissed as fans of 29 NHL teams when Pittsburgh won the Sidney Crosby lottery. Would silence be more effective? I think it might, but this did get Bryan to the main event. The problem is they won’t let that work again. “No!” chants break out and Sheamus points to the Wrestlemania sign. Ugh, bad time for that nonsense. Brogue Kick misses and and Batista Bomb try ends with Sheamus on the apron, where he is bumped off by Reigns so he sets the elimination record for a single Rumble.
Roman is sent to the corner but he comes out with a huge clothesline as the crowd is actually behind him. A spear by Reigns is countered by a, uh, spear from Boo-tista. Okay then. Roman gets a spear of his own as this can’t be much because one guy is blown up and it’s not the guy with the SWAT gear on. They can’t do a spot where Batista goes to the apron because there’s no guarantee he could hang on. So they just do a reversal of a throw, and Reigns is hurled out to end this shitshow of a match. Commentary tries to salvage this but they truly sucked in this match too. Aye carumba, let’s go to the awards:
1st Star: Roman Reigns – I love when big guys get a lot of shine in Rumbles and he did not disappoint. The crowd was really into him and because of that it would lead to his later push. The flower that grew out of a mass of dirt that is this match
2nd Star: Seth Rollins – This was a mere taste of what he could do. Breaks my heart he won’t be in the 2016 Rumble barring a miracle return.
3rd Star: Cesaro – Purely because of my own bias. Probably should be Dean Ambrose but the Shield is well represented here.
Dick Murdoch Award (for achievement by a legend): CM Punk – Have to fit him in somewhere, the poor guy suffered through much of this match with a serious head injury.
Morrison Award: Cesaro at 16:57 though it’s not like he just sat around out there, he actually was very noticable on the eve of his grand push of spring 2014….that got short circuited like everything else.
WWE Hall of Famers (1): Kevin Nash
Projected future Hall of Famers, which is very tough (10): CM Punk, Seth Rollins, Kane, Goldust, Roman Reigns, the Miz, Sheamus, JBL, Batista, Rey Mysterio. Yes, I put Roman in the HOF. Miz is getting in under the “good company man” statutes.
Summary: Whoever booked this needs a good talking to about the concepts of the Rumble. Where art thou Pat Patterson? It was not paced well, it was disjointed and only the comedy spots were even at par. Not recommended unless you like train wrecks. Gee, I hope the 2015 match learns a lesson from this one. Oh right.