As late as ten minutes before the 2017 Royal Rumble match, I was undecided on whether to do a write-up or even take notes. But it has been a while since my last post as I have been experimenting with various podcast formats, none of which will do.
I had high hopes for this year’s Rumble match since 2016 was a return to the kind of booking seen in the past, and with this match loaded with (part time) star power. It’s just a shame I saw betting odds beforehand, which kind of ruined it for me.
A quick comment on earlier matches: I was rather bored by much of it and actually fell asleep during Owens vs Reigns. It’s okay, because Reigns went to the back for a nap in the 2016 match so one good turn deserves another. Cena vs Styles was awesome as usual, but because it didn’t take place in the Tokyo Dome or even the Sumo Japanese Steakhouse in San Antonio, it can’t possibly be as good as any New Japan match according to some. With Cena and Owens as champions, it meant either a face or heel could win. Or maybe even a guy who is both. Just don’t let betting odds spoil it.
Out at #1 is Big Cass, who would be a peculiar choice if it wasn’t for the fantastic introduction with Enzo doing much of the heavy lifting, riffing on the state of Texas. The beauty of Enzo and Cass is that they are given the time to do their thing, which is the only way you can create talkers people want to see. Speaking of talkers, Chris Jericho is #2 and warms my heart because I know he will be in for a while to serve as the savvy Ring General. Jericho slaps Cass before the self-proclaimed 7 footer gets in his big man offense. Crowd starts a “stupid idiot!” chant, just another in an endless list of things that Jericho has gotten over. Corey Graves is on commentary instead of JBL (PRAISE GOD) and points out that big guys tend to be targets in these matches, making it harder for them to win. Thank you Corey, you have just alluded to Rumble Game Theory. And that’s not a theory of HHH going over.
Kalisto is #3 and I haven’t seen much of him lately, though I stopped watching mostly weekly TV so I don’t see much of anyone these days. Dropkick on Cass, which is sold very awkwardly reminding why Cass is best as a tag guy for now. It’s rather fun seeing these two, before Kalisto runs into a big boot.
Mojo Rawley is #4 and immediately does a criss-cross spot in an oblique tribute to Warrior vs Hogan, but instead of dropping down just runs into Kalisto. He then joins up with Jericho to try and get rid of Cass and I start to wonder when we will see this clear out.
Jack Gallagher is #5 and he’s rather funny looking and carrying an umbrella. He’s primarily been on 205 Live, a show that I have no motivation to watch since they decided to exclude Andrade Cien Almas from the Cruiserweight Classic and decided to let him flounder in NXT against TNA rejects. Gallagher has the umbrella prop and sneaks up behind Jericho and hits him in the nuts, then does the Jerry Seinfeld twirl between Y2J’s legs, almost making it seem like they are censoring Jericho’s bathing suit area. Cass sends Kalisto flying, but not out of the ring.
Why is Mark Henry #6? Oh right, this is Texas or something even if we’re 300 miles from Silsbee. Everyone is down as he enters….and apparently there was some kind of cart to move things along too. Gallagher ends up going through the ropes, so still in it. After a bunch of head butts by Henry, Gallagher comes off the top holding the umbrella a la Mary Poppins but gets caught and tossed by former Olympian.
In the not-for-cash Royal Rumble pool, I drew #7 and realized I wasn’t going to win. The last two years it was The Boogeyman and Jack Swagger. But here comes Braun Strowman, who by all accounts has been built up beautifully as a monster on RAW during my time of not watching. And it’s time to take out the trash. Mojo is first and Big Cass follows. Kalisto gets frickin’ airmailed to the outside and Braun almost overshoots the two guys who were supposed to catch him. A quick duel with Henry doesn’t end well for the Texan. Meanwhile, Jericho is hiding outside the ring so keep that in mind.
We learned earlier in the show that Strowman antagonist Sami Zayn was going to be #8 so this is good booking. Sami puts up a valiant fight and stays in the match despite facing the big monster straight on.
The Big Show is #9 and another intriguing showdown for Strowman, who eliminated Big Show last year. I must say I am a big fan of Strowman’s psycho eyes, which is why I never want to see his Instagram account. So put me down on Team Wade Keller on that one. Braun is caught in a chokeslam and is then picked up for a slam, but Strowman slips out and picks up Big Show, bringing back memories of Cesaro lifting Big Show over and out at the WrestleMania 30 battle royal. Show is slowly dumped over as Strowman uses the magic of leverage to his advantage.
I can’t believe they actually did this given years of trolling the audience, but here is Tye Dillinger at #10 in honor of his Perfect 10 gimmick. Of course now I am worried that the crowd will hijack the rest of this with overboard 10 chants, but luckily they behaved. Dillinger has a fun gimmick, but he’ll never be confused with Daniel Bryan or anything. He and Zayn work on Strowman, no doubt because they are pissed that Brawny didn’t have to work NXT and those two guys have combined to be there for about six years at this point. They attempt to suplex Strowman, but he reverses it and vertical suplexes both of them! I’m not even sure how they could work from a physical perspective, but it looked good.
James Ellsworth is #11 and he’s got Carmella there, presumably to mute any reaction he might get. She tries pushing her newfound love interest in, but he won’t budge. Zayn and Dillinger sneak up on Braun to try and get him out but they get run over for their trouble.
Dean Ambrose joins his old Smackdown pal Ellsworth at ringside and they make a pact to run in together, but Dean holds up so Ellsworth is alone with Strowman, the first guy he ever faced in WWE back in July on RAW. Ellsworth is there to be rag dolled and he earns his money by taking an all-time top 5 Rumble elimination bump.
Fitting that lucky #13 is the Lone Wolf Baron Corbin, who gets better every time I see him. That time he couldn’t even do a bump over the top rope on a NXT show seems so far away. He really has deceptive quickness for a guy of his size. It’s now a 4 on 1 against Brawny the Strowman but he fights out and eliminates Tye, disappointing the crowd somewhat. Strowman eats a Heluva kick from Zayn….then is eliminated by Corbin. Not bad, but it didn’t seem to be set up right with proper attention and Corbin eats a Dirty Deeds DDT from Ambrose. In any event Strowman is the first elimination by a Smackdown guy and we have definitely entered Act II.
Here comes Kofi Kingston at #14 and we wait for the Kofi Spot. I am distracted now because I haven’t noticed Jericho at all. I don’t need him in there a la Martel in 91 or Flair in 92, but he’s been out of the ring way too long.
The Miz is #15 and sadly he doesn’t troll the crowd by using Daniel Bryan’s music. That would have been an awesome way to get some heat. Miz is such a team player and will be doing playing the Doug Gilbert role from the 1996 Rumble coming up. Quick aside: of all my Rumble recaps, the all time most read one according to the page view metrics is the 1996 match, which really strikes me as weird. Miz hits the Skull Crushing Finale on Zayn, and does the Bryan kicks to get Yes chants before Corbin hits him with Deep Six, the first of many big moves Miz takes. Gilbert in 1996 seemed very out of place, but he was there to just eat big moves when guys hit the ring.
Meanwhile Kofi is up on the top rope, then the ringpost and he jumps to avoid getting grabbed and he hangs onto the post from the outside. It looked good, but these aren’t getting any better by year.
Sheamus is #16 fresh off losing the tag titles and just does his usual. Oh look, Jericho is back! About time. Big E is #17 and he gets Miz in an abdominal stretch so he can slap his ass and do some comedy. At some point, they need to try again to push him as a single because he clearly has personality and has the size that Vince likes. Now that the tag run is over, they should do it soon. I suggest giving him the Money in the Bank briefcase this summer, since New Day could have some fun with that.
Handsome Rusev is #18 and is wearing a Rip Hamilton mask to protect against a broken nose. Even he goes after Miz first and they aren’t even on the same show. Jericho has gone missing again so please consult the milk carton.
Cesaro is #19 and guess who he swings first. As if it would be anyone but Miz, who has to be the victim of the most Cesaro Swings in history. In a cool show of strength, Cesaro does it to just about everyone: Zayn, Ambrose, Kofi, Big E, Corbin, then his erstwhile tag partner Sheamus is teased but that’s broken up. I love the swing move, but I now worry more about the possible wear and tear on Cesaro’s shoulder. Xavier Woods is #20 and we desparately need a ring cleanser right now. Miz is triple teamed by the New Day and keeps working his ass off. But it’s time to get some of the part time guys in because we know who is getting these eliminations.
Bray Wyatt gets his full entrance at #21, complete with the lights out which is a cool effect but (kayfabe) what if a guy is eliminated but no one sees it in the dark? Bray and Xavier have a staredown in a nice recall to the “Xavier is scared of Bray” storyline from around last WrestleMania.
Apollo Crews is in at #22 and what a disappointment he is. Graves says that all the tools which while true just makes me wonder what is lacking with him. He got promoted to the main roster too soon and has never connected with audiences despite a good look and a cool moveset. I wonder if he’s a guy that just needs to hit the indy scene again to rejuvenate and make people forget this run. Hey, it worked well for Chris Hero. Crews hits the standing moonsault on… The Miz, of course. Cesaro and Sheamus eliminate all three of New Day with a double clothesline, but here is Jericho back in somehow and he eliminates the two Europeans. Alright Chris, hang in the match now. We need you.
Randy Orton (#23) was the betting favorite, with odds of -$2000 before the show to win the Rumble. That means you must bet $2000 to win $100. Why do sites accept bets on pro wrestling? Miz takes the Orton power slam, but Corbin and Rusev get the RKO. I can’t kill Orton for being selfish since he ate pins by Chad Gable twice.
I cease to give a shit with Dolph Ziggler at #24, and he’s definitely a guy who needs to just go away for a while and come back about a year from now. He should have just lost that career match against Miz in October because long term it would have been better for him. He’s apparently in some feud with Lawler now after an incident at a Memphis Smackdown.
Luke Harper is #25 and while he won’t win at least it adds intrigue with Orton and Bray in there. After eliminating Crews, there is a faceoff with Orton but Bray intervenes. Harper doesn’t take kindly to that and nails Bray with a lariat. He lines up Bray for Sister Abigail to a neat crowd reaction, but Orton saves Bray with an RKO.
Finally the housecleaning is coming, with Brock Lesnar at #26. Why not use him a little earlier and give it a bit of time? This all seems too backloaded. Ambrose is dumped more like a geek rather than a former world champion. Ziggler goes too, so that evens it out. Rusev, Zayn, and Corbin visit Suplex City, but Miz gets an F-5 because he is willing. So is Orton, apparently, since it’s a hell of a lot better than being intentionally concussed.
With all the carnage, Brock waits for #27 Enzo Amore. As the song “Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty plays in my head, Enzo gets in and almost immediately is chucked out. So much for that.
Lesnar now gets to wait on his nemesis, #28 Goldberg. I seem to have underestimated how over and just generally beloved Goldberg is. The guy didn’t save WCW, but he sure as hell kept it going longer than it would have otherwise. Without him, the decline definitely is accelerated. Goldberg manages to eliminate Lesnar even faster than it took to beat him at Survivor Series, so what is the point of a WrestleMania match? The babyface has clearly prevailed. There is going to be some beatdown angle on RAW, I guess. Goldberg clotheslines his old pal Jericho, then a Jackhammer to Sami Zayn in a rare “Jewish vs Muslim guy” faceoff in a pro wrestling ring. The Wyatts gang up to neutralize Goldberg.
A lot of people wondered how long Undertaker would handle the long entrance ramp upon entry at #29. Turns out he just was in the ring when the house lights came up. Corbin is eliminated to not much fanfare by Undertaker, who actually look like they could be father and son. Undertaker is wearing way too much eyeliner. Harper is dispatched by Goldberg, but Taker takes out Goldberg and that potential matchup is teased.
Speaking of teases: I had hoped for Samoa Joe to debut in this match. Instead, we got a guy of Samoan descent who is actually named Joe. Roman Reigns is here to piss you off, everyone! It seems the hipster thing is to talk about how Reigns isn’t actually all that bad and is good in the ring and that people only boo him to feel cool. That’s nonsense. I don’t like him because if you objectively look at his character, he’s an asshole. And not in the badass kind of way, more like a “what the hell is wrong with him?” way. For their part, the Alamodome crowd starts a “This is bullshit” chant, though there are a bunch of guys left.
Miz is eliminated with not much fanfare, since there aren’t too many more big moves to take. Sami Zayn is sent out next and while he lasted a long time, he didn’t do a whole lot after his first 10 minutes or so. Jericho takes a chokeslam from Undertaker, who is then eliminated from behind by Reigns. So forget about Goldberg-Undertaker, we’re heading for Reigns-Taker which is fine if it sets Roman as a heel finally.
The Final Four is Jericho, Wyatt, Orton, and Reigns. So four heels, objectively speaking. Superman punch by Roman on Jericho and Y2J is out after over an hour, sort of. It’s okay for heels to hide outside the ring, but they never really stressed the point so it came off poorly. Orton and Bray triangulate to take on Reigns, but of course he gets out of Sister Abigail and tosses Wyatt to set up a one on one. Cool spot as Roman goes for a spear and Orton hits the RKO (OUTTA NOWHERE!) on a diving Roman. Crowd is crazy as Roman is eliminated and Orton wins the Rumble for the 2nd time.
This crowd reaction is very funny when you consider that as of right now, it sets up John Cena vs Randy Orton, a match that was booed out of the building at this same PPV in 2014. I am pretty certain that will be changing in the next 8 weeks, though. While I don’t truly understand Orton’s appeal, he’s not the worst guy to win this. Onto the awards!
1st star: Braun Strowman – He was the focal point the entire time he was in there and carried things for all of his 13:11. This is how you build a guy up as a monster.
2nd star: The Miz – You may have noticed I have great admiration for him because he works hard, is pretty giving in the ring, and generates heat as a heel should. He doesn’t have to try and be cool.
3rd star: James Ellsworth – I debated this for a long while. I could have chosen Jericho, but I was down on his being out of the ring. Could have been Goldberg, or maybe Rusev working with the nose injury, or even Orton. But I’ll go with the guy who took the sick bump.
John Morrison Award (for longest time in the match with 0 eliminations): This isn’t a perjorative award, because Miz was in 32 minutes and didn’t take anyone out. But Sami Zayn was in for 46:55 and that has to be a record and I may have to rename this the Generico Award, which might make more sense.
Summary: I don’t see this as an all-time Rumble match (i.e. top 5), though it was enjoyable. Strowman was awesome and right up there with the best big man performances. But there was something wrong with the pacing. It felt forever between Strowman’s exit and the arrival of the part time guys in the late 20s, because that was the biggest star power in the match with Styles not participating. Recommended, but use the fast forward button liberally after Brawny the Strowman hits the showers.