#CancelWWENetwork Trends After Fastlane 2016 – Thoughts and Reactions

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NOTE: The following post was written before the Monday Night RAW after Fastlane.
How’s it going everybody? Thomas Robinson here with an initial post-Fastlane reaction to #CancelWWENetwork trending on Twitter following the main event of the show. For those of you that want to know what happened, Roman Reigns won the triple threat match to earn a WWE World title shot at Wrestlemania 32 against Triple H. This caused major upset among the WWE universe as the #CancelWWENetwork hashtag trended.
This is not the first time that the hashtag has trended on Twitter. If you’ll recall, last year’s Royal Rumble ended with Roman Reigns going over and the hashtag causing the subscription cancellation page for the network to crash. I don’t think the hashtag will cause a backlash of that degree in this case. It did cause WWE to change plans for the finish of Wrestlemania 31 before, but I don’t think it’ll make a bit of difference this year. As it turned out, the amount of people that actually went through with unsubscribing to the network was very small. On Twitter, people have been posting pictures of themselves actually cancelling their subscriptions. However, I don’t think the amount will actually make a lot of difference to WWE as the subscription numbers will rise for Wrestlemania anyway.
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I’ll admit that I haven’t watched Fastlane yet and I probably won’t until later on in the week. The thing about Fastlane was that it’s gotten very mixed reviews. On Twitter, I’ve seen a lot of negativity about the pay-per-view. However, I’ve spoken to a lot of fans that have said the pay-per-view was actually “solid” and that the main event was actually great until the finish.
Again, I haven’t seen the pay-per-view yet. The thing is if the pay-per-view was bad and then they went with the finish they did with Roman going over, I could understand the frustrations of the fans. They want to see a good product and if they don’t get it, they’re not going to let their frustrations build inside of them. I remember being furious at WWE for the 2015 Royal Rumble, mostly because of how it was booked. That’s one of those moments where I truly believe that the backlash received was justified because of how bad the show was. For Fastlane though, it seems that the backlash is mostly because of Roman going over and the finish which I think is a bit extreme.
If the main event was good, AJ vs Jericho was good and the rest of the pay-per-view was fine, to call the pay-per-view bad because of who won the main event seems a bit much. It seems a bit much because what exactly did you think was going to happen at Fastlane? Did anyone honestly think that Brock Lesnar was going to win last night? No. Brock Lesnar vs Triple H for the title at Mania was just not going to happen. There’s a lot of people who were probably thinking that Dean might win the match, but I didn’t think so. Brock Lesnar laid him out over and over again on RAW and SmackDown! and Dean dropped the Intercontinental title on RAW. Dean was nowhere near booked well enough for a Wrestlemania main-event push. The expectation was that Dean was going to be the one that got pinned or submitted to protect Roman and Brock, and that’s exactly what happened. Did anyone really think that the finish of the Fastlane main event WASN’T going to be Roman Reigns pinning Dean Ambrose to win the match?
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WWE being predictable is not my cup of tea. However, the company also has a clear vision of what they want the main event of Wrestlemania to look like. It was always going to be Roman Reigns vs Triple H. If they have a plan, it’s better that they stick with it and promote that match to the best of their ability rather than come up with a new plan at the last minute. If they put Dean in there with little personal animosity with Triple H beforehand, it wouldn’t make any sense when taking every other storyline in the last year into account. If you start it off with Roman Reigns, you might as well end it with Roman Reigns.
The issue last year with Roman is that the guy wasn’t over to the level of his push. This year, he is nearly over to that level. He is not in Stone Cold Steve Austin territory or anything crazy like that. However, he’s at least making a lot more progress than last year. That tells you something. It has not been that great for Roman since this year’s Royal Rumble but that’s the problem with booking Roman against two of the most popular wrestlers on the roster for a title match at Wrestlemania.
I’ve written about this for SLTD Wrestling a few times now. I was disapproving of the main event of Fastlane because of the reason mentioned earlier. I was disapproving of the main event of Triple H vs Roman Reigns for Wrestlemania because I didn’t think it should have been for the WWE World title. However, I at least admire WWE’s attempts of having a plan and sticking to it. It was better than throwing Dean Ambrose into the mix all of a sudden or throwing Brock Lesnar into the mix. I wish they had went a different way for a main event of Wrestlemania. For what they’re doing though, they’re not doing a too terrible job at promoting up the match.
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I just don’t see what the fans were expecting from Fastlane. They gave you a seemingly good show but it’s still deemed a failure over how the main event played out?
It’s an interesting situation. I don’t see any plans for Wrestlemania changing because of this but it is bad news for Roman in terms of how he’s perceived by the fans. It’ll be interesting to see how WWE will try to turn this around.
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AJ Styles Vs Chris Jericho II On SmackDown!

 

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AJ Styles was a phenomenal signing for WWE. He was so phenomenal that WWE decided to put AJ on the main roster as soon as he arrived. Think of all the stars that have wrestled on NXT before appearing on the main roster. Kevin Owens, Hideo Itami, Sami Zayn, Samoa Joe and even Jushin Thunder Liger have all appeared on NXT instead of first debuting on the main roster. Imagine that you’ve got a star like AJ in your ranks.

You’ve got a man that was a major part of the development of TNA, which had been the second top wrestling promotion in the world for years. You’ve got a man that was the IWGP Champion just before he left. It’s the same title held by the likes of Brock Lesnar, who is considered a very special attraction for WWE. You’ve got a man with phenomenal skills in the ring and could give you a new legitimate star in your ranks. Less than a month into his career, AJ’s promising career in WWE has already been ruined in the exact same way that so many new stars could have been created. 50/50 booking.

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In case you missed SmackDown!, AJ Styles lost his first WWE match and he did it clean. He lost his big rematch against Chris Jericho to a simple codebreaker. How does this do either man ANY favours? How does it do Chris Jericho any favours? He’s not exactly going to have a big part in the future of WWE. He’s coming towards the end of his career. He should not be beating guys like AJ Styles so cleanly. Wouldn’t it make more sense for Jericho to lose to AJ again and have him keep losing until the end of the feud? Each time Jericho loses, he gets more and more annoyed with himself. It’s a simple feud which will elevate AJ whether he loses the final match or not. It doesn’t do too much damage to Jericho as he still would likely win the final match.

I really don’t understand the logic of having Jericho suddenly being booked as one of the best wrestlers in the company again. Jericho is 45 years old and has not won a championship since 2010. The idea that he is on par with the top stars in the company in 2016 is just absurd. He even lasted 50 minutes in the Royal Rumble match. How bad does that make the rest of the wrestlers look when Jericho is leaving them in the dust?

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I get that Chris Jericho has historically been a top star in WWE but you can’t be booking him so great right now. My idea earlier about having Jericho getting more and more angry at himself for not being able to put AJ away would actually be a great bit of character development for Jericho, as it would be Jericho questioning whether he could still hang with the best any more. You can’t go from having Jericho putting over guys like Fandango to beating AJ Styles in an instant as it just seems unbelievable. You’ve had Jericho putting over younger stars for years, so it’s going to be hard to convince the casual viewer that Jericho is as good as everyone else after not accomplishing a great deal in the last five years.

WWE’s sudden insistence on putting Jericho over as a top star in 2016 is just infuriating to me. It was like the Highlight Reel segment a month ago, when Jericho said that he, Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar were the three favourites to win the Royal Rumble. Again, it makes everyone else look bad.

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I’ve been talking about Jericho for a while but the one that will likely ne most effected by this match is AJ. Now AJ Styles is in the same position as everyone else on the roster. He is beatable after just a few weeks. I’ve seen everyone get beaten eventually. There’s never been a professional wrestler that has never lost a match. That’s just how wrestling works. They beat Goldberg. They beat Brock Lesnar. They even beat the Undertaker at Wrestlemania. However, a new star should always be protected when he/she enters your company. AJ Styles, in particular, should be promoted as one of the best you have to offer. He should be one of the wrestlers that you should be protecting as he’s just arrived in an emphatic way. Now though, he’s been subjected to the same detrimental booking as everyone else on the roster.

WWE’s idea of “50/50 booking”, to make sure that they don’t upset any particular fan bases, is just going to kill any attempts at creating new stars. That will result in the fans only showing a great deal of interest in the likes of Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns and John Cena. Therefore, the fans will only be invested in those characters.

In a time where stars need to be made, there has to be a lot more wrestlers exempt from this booking and AJ Styles is someone that should have been spared this. This was a poor decision by WWE to have him lose to Jericho and to have him lose this early into his WWE career.

Comparing The Kayfabe Of WWE And Lucha Underground

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Kayfabe is a very interesting concept, especially in 2016 where the fans are more knowledgeable of the scripted side of professional wrestling. In the age of social media, there’s not going to be a great deal wrestling promotions can do to convince everyone that the things you see on their television shows are 100% legitimate. Therefore, it would surely be OK to suggest that kayfabe is dead in professional wrestling right? Well, not exactly.

Whenever someone asks me why I enjoy wrestling, I usually respond by stating that I enjoy wrestling for the same reason that someone would enjoy Game of Thrones or Walking Dead. For whatever reason, it’s entertaining. Calling out wrestling fans for liking a product that’s “fake” is the equivalent to calling out Game of Thrones for liking a show that’s unrealistic. We are wrestling fans not for the realistic nature of the content but for the story-telling and in-ring action. We don’t care about how ridiculous of a concept the “Canadian Destroyer” move is. Whenever Petey Williams hits it, it will cause a reaction every time.

However, what does interest me was one article I came across which hyped up the second season of Lucha Underground. It came from Cageside Seats and it made this point:

“The WWE doesn’t expect you to buy into the reality any more, but it sort of does. It is clear why they don’t seem to know who is getting cheers or boos or have any way of influencing it. They are strangely aware of their predicament but powerless to stop it.”

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This line got me thinking about the kayfabe of both WWE and Lucha Underground. Lucha Underground obviously has a less intense schedule than WWE. They only have to put out one show per week which lasts about an hour. WWE have to put out content for RAW, SmackDown!, NXT, Main Event and even content for the WWE Network. Lucha’s advantage is that, with a much more relaxed schedule, they can better prepare in advance. The fact is WWE has a much harder time with writing its product than Lucha Underground. Let’s just be honest.

So in some ways, you can forgive WWE’s method of booking and writing. The one thing which it needs to be pulled up on is the consistency of their kayfabe. For the reasons stated above, Lucha has been pretty consistent with establishing that their content is scripted with the action in the ring being real. WWE is not as consistent.

It’s a very strange dynamic where, as mentioned earlier on in the Cageside Seats article, WWE goes back and forth on how they treat kayfabe. WWE doesn’t really expect its fans to accept their storylines as but if anyone in the company gets in the way of that, you are the enemy.

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For example, the WWE insisted on continuing a failed love rectangle angle with Rusev, Lana, Dolph Ziggler and Summer Rae. However, TMZ reported that Rusev and Lana had just become engaged. The WWE got so mad at this news coming out that Rusev and Lana were both punished for “breaking kayfabe.”

In a strange way, WWE understand that the fans know better but still insist on maintaining aspects of the storylines which the fans know for a fact is not true. Dolph did try to suggest to fans on Instagram that he was legitimately with Lana but not a lot of fans were buying it. I believe WWE’s issue with Rusev and Lana is that they made WWE look like liars, which the WWE doesn’t want. They understand that the fans can tell fiction from reality but they hate being accused of lying to the general public, despite promoting a product which is based around fiction.

I actually don’t think a lot of people outside of WWE had an issue with the Rusev and Lana engagement, as it actually got the mainstream attention from TMZ. It’s also not like they couldn’t have worked this in the angle as Rusev and Lana were both part of the storyline. If it emerged that Lana was cheating on Rusev with John Cena for example, I would totally understand why that would cause a stir as John Cena is portrayed as a hero. I can also totally understand why WWE were so upset in 2005 at Matt Hardy for revealing Edge and Lita’s affair on the internet. Edge and Lita were the ones that were having the affair in that situation but Matt was the one that got fired because he got in the way of the Kane and Lita angle, which they had been building for around a year. To get mad at Rusev and Lana for something like this just doesn’t seem right.

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The difference between WWE and Lucha Underground though is that Lucha doesn’t go out of its way to convince you that their product is real. The product is promoted and presented as fiction. That’s how Lucha Underground establishes itself as a television program rather than just a pure wrestling program. On the other hand, WWE presents itself as a three hour long television program with huge attention paid to being socially relevant. Therefore, WWE cannot properly present itself as fiction. This was made especially clear on Monday Night RAW a few weeks ago when The Rock decided to “go off script.”

It’s a very complex relationship between WWE and kayfabe. To be fair to WWE, there have been more bizarre uses of kayfabe in the world of wrestling! Remember when WCW decided to do a scripted angle on Goldberg refusing to follow the script? We can throw around several definitions of what we think kayfabe is but in the end, I don’t think EVEN Vince McMahon will ever have a definitive definition for kayfabe. The fact is, he probably doesn’t need to come up with one. For WWE, kayfabe is interchangeable. Kayfabe is whatever the company wants it to be, which is not exactly a bad thing. People will argue that inconsistent kayfabe is detrimental but tell that to those in charge of the finances of the company.

2016 Royal Rumble Match Review

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How’s it going everybody? Hope you all are having a great day.

In this post, I will be reviewing last week’s Royal Rumble match. I’m not going to review the entire pay-per-view, even though it was all actually really good. The Last Man Standing match was really good. Alberto Del Rio vs Kalisto was good. The Tag Team title match had a really good finish, with Big E catching one of the Usos with the Big Ending. Charlotte and Becky Lynch was good but was mostly ruined by the finish. I also hated how Becky Lynch really got buried at the end of it, despite having built up this program for the last few months. After Sasha Banks came out to confront Charlotte, Becky was literally just thrown to one side.

However, the biggest aspect of the pay-per-view is the Royal Rumble match. If the Rumble didn’t perform, it doesn’t really matter how great those matches were. It didn’t matter that Seth Rollins, Brock Lesnar and John Cena had one of the best matches of the year, at last year’s Royal Rumble event. Every other aspect of the pay-per-view disappointed, including the Rumble. The pressure was on in 2016 and WWE really had to deliver.

Without further ado, let’s get to it….

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Roman Reigns was obviously the number one entrant. He got thunderous boos as soon as he entered the match. This crowd did not want Roman to go the distance and it was a hard night for Roman, in terms of getting a good reaction from the crowd. Rusev was number two, meaning that the final two of last year’s Rumble would start off the 2016 Royal Rumble. Sadly, it wasn’t until Rusev’s entrance was about to finish when one of the commentators actually mentioned this fact to the viewer.

I’ll actually talk about the commentators slightly. I’m usually very down on Byron Saxton as a commentator on RAW. I never really believed he added a lot to the commentary and he was really not impressive on that show. However, Byron was the MVP of the Rumble in terms of announcing. He certainly was a lot better than Michael Cole and JBL was. Michael Cole was slipping up a number of times during the show, with Byron Saxton being the one to correct him or pick up some things that Cole forgot to mention. Things like the Roman/Rusev fact should be things that Cole should be going on about as soon as Rusev’s music hits. It’s a sense of continuity, which the WWE was really trying to keep up during the Rumble. The fact that Byron Saxton had to be the one to cover for Cole in that department is pretty sad, as Cole is the journalist that should know these facts. It should be Cole, who’s the play-by-play commentator.

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So Roman and Rusev brawled for about a minute. Rusev was eliminated right away by Roman, which would suggest that Rusev is still not in good favour with WWE at the moment! Then again, he was the one that laid out Roman Reigns later, which we’ll get onto. There were reports by Dave Meltzer and even Konnan that Lana had caused a scene in an airport, where she was yelling at Rusev in front of some people. Lana apparently got a lot of heat backstage for obvious reasons, but apparently Rusev got heat too for not defending himself. It seems odd to punish Rusev for something that Lana supposedly did, but both Rusev and Lana have been getting heat for a while since their engagement was reported by TMZ. Taking away the heat and taking into account how badly Rusev’s been booked in comparison to the rest of the League of Nations (minus Wade Barrett, who’s been on and off television), it still would make sense that Rusev would be the worst booked out of the stable in this match. Sucks to be Rusev at the moment in WWE.

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However, it doesn’t suck if you’re a fan of AJ Styles. Number three was AJ, who came to a thunderous pop. I actually don’t think there’s ever been a surprise entrant pop that was as great as this one. The place went nuts for AJ. Obviously, there is AJ’s connections with Orlando and TNA to take into account. However, AJ was just the most over man of the night. Even after AJ got eliminated, people were still going crazy and chanting his name. The entrance music was really cool and is now available on iTunes. I immediately got the song as soon as it was released! It just fit AJ’s look and style.

Bryan Alvarez actually mentioned on the Bryan and Vinny show that a lot of the WWE production crew were snowed in that Sunday, and couldn’t attend the Royal Rumble event. That would make a lot of sense, as the production crew were having a nightmare with this show! When AJ was coming out, they decided that filming AJ’s titantron was not important. It was more important to get a huge close-up of Roman Reigns. This would be fine, if it were not for the titantron saying the words “I am Phenomenal.”

A major part of AJ’s WWE debut was missed by the WWE production crew! It was not the only thing they missed tonight, which we’ll get to later. AJ seemed to fit right in during this match. His style is obviously a lot more quicker than everybody in that match (except Neville maybe) but he looked fine. They did a good job to build up AJ as he lasted a long time and eliminated a number of wrestlers. They could have done a great job in building him up, as obviously AJ could have lasted longer. However, I thought the time they gave him was just fine for AJ to get a feel of how the WWE worked. It’s still wrestling but a WWE environment is like no other. This was a good taster session of AJ.

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Tyler Breeze came out at number four but was eliminated by AJ and Roman after a minute. Tyler did actually look good in the minute that he was in the match. Apparently there’s heat on him backstage too, which would explain the early elimination. However, it would have probably been cool to see him last a little bit longer.

Curtis Axel was the number five entrant. I actually had an idea for Curtis Axel before I started watching this Royal Rumble. You know how Kofi Kingston’s Royal Rumble survival spot has become an annual Royal Rumble thing? Everyone goes into the Rumble thinking “What’s Kofi going to do this year?” and it becomes like the Undertaker’s streak. I thought about Curtis Axel not getting eliminated last year and getting really over because of it. It got me thinking. Why not do an annual spot where Curtis Axel is eliminated but never ACTUALLY eliminated from the Royal Rumble match?

Think about it. Erick Rowan attacked him last year. This year, the Social Outcasts could have dragged Curtis out from under the bottom rope and he would never be seen again in the match. Next year, it could have been Curtis being pulled under the bottom rope and attacked. One year, he would flee and then come back out again! WWE trying to come up with way fors Curtis to lose but avoid actually being eliminated would actually be entertaining. Also, Curtis would never lose any of these matches! You’re actually elevating him as a character as he becomes the guy that never gets eliminated. I would have loved it if they did this…

Sadly, he was eliminated by AJ Styles. I love AJ, but this made me mad. Axelmania is well and truly dead…

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Moving on. Number six was Chris Jericho. I was doubtful that Jericho was going to be in there for long. To me, Jericho didn’t really look to be in that great of shape to be able to pull it off. I don’t want to call out Jericho for being fat or anything, but you’d expect someone like AJ or another rising star to also be putting in a very long shift in the Rumble. I was surprised that he was in there for as long as he was, which was about 50 minutes. It got me wondering because why would they push Jericho that strongly in the Rumble? Was this just something Jericho wanted or is there a big match in place for him at Wrestlemania? I’ll guess we’ll see.

Number seven was Kane. Looking back in hindsight, it’s amazing to think that Kane was in a WWE World Heavyweight Championship feud in October 2015. He was main-eventing RAWs and now he’s just another guy in the Rumble. He eliminated R-Truth later but he wasn’t really there as a dominant figure or anything. Goldust was number eight and ran wild. It’s amazing to see how well Goldust can go in the ring at the age of 46. He didn’t do a lot in the Rumble but he really did hold is own in a match filled with so much talent.

Number nine was Ryback, who was heavily booed. Ryback came in to deliver running knees in the corner to everyone. Everyone noted that CM Punk did the exact same thing as a signature move. However, Ryback looked so much wilder and cooler when he was doing it! It’s kind of like when Brock Lesnar would do high jumping attacks at people during the match. His size adds to the move as it actually makes Ryback look like a guy that will do crazy moves to win matches, including hurling himself at guys in the corner.

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Number ten was Kofi Kingston. His spot this year was when he was knocked to the outside and Big E caught him on his shoulders. Big E galloped around the ring and then Kofi decided to grab a drink of coke while he was on Big E’s shoulders! It was very creative and it was really a move that put over Big E in a weird way. It’s Kofi’s spot but Big E was the one doing the heavy lifting.

I mentioned the WWE production crew earlier missing big moments in the match. They missed another big one with Kofi’s elimination. It didn’t help that the elimination happened while the League of Nations attacked the WWE Champion. However for a few minutes, all the cameras did was focus on the League of Nations attacking Roman Reigns. They made brief shots to Luke Harper and Stardust coming into the match, but no footage of the match itself was actually shown during this period. Stardust and Titus O’Neil fighting during the match is something you’d believe would have some value to WWE storylines as they’ve been feuding. Instead, it was more important to see the Leauge of Nations slowly beat up Roman Reigns. It also didn’t help matters when all the commentators could talk about was Roman Reigns as well! I understand that he was the WWE Champion but the match itself is very important!

Titus O’Neil was number eleven and eliminated Goldust. I was kind of annoyed that the commentators couldn’t help but talk about all the charity work that Titus was doing. That’s all well and good but what does that have to do with Titus entering the Royal Rumble match? He’s entering a competitive environment and it’s not good for Titus when he is being portrayed as the charity man of WWE. It’s almost as if that’s becoming his new gimmick which doesn’t help Titus. Titus is a big strong guy but it’s portrayed as if charity is much more important to Titus than wrestling. That’s a huge problem for him.

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R-Truth came out at number twelve. R-Truth had a very funny spot where he got a ladder from underneath the ring, which just happened to be there. R-Truth set up the ladder, climbed it and went to grab a WWE Championship which wasn’t there. This gimmick where R-Truth is constantly getting confused is pretty darn awesome. If there’s anyone on the main roster that could pull this off, it would be R-Truth! Kane pulled R-Truth off the ladder, threw him out, took down the ladder and threw it to the outside. This monster eliminated R-Truth in the safest way possible and managed to miss R-Truth when throwing out the ladder. That made me laugh more than anything from this segment. The amount of care Kane took to eliminate R-Truth despite being a monster!

Stardust and Luke Harper both came out as mentioned earlier. Also, as mentioned earlier, the League of Nations came out to beat up Roman Reigns. Mr McMahon’s plan was for the League of Nations to pull Roman UNDER the bottom rope, beat him up and then put him through the announce table. This would hurt Roman so much that he wouldn’t be able to continue the match.

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Here’s the thing. Mr McMahon did not want Roman Reigns to win the WWE World title. If that was the case, why didn’t he just have the League of Nations throw Roman OVER the top rope? Mr McMahon is well aware that this match is no disqualification (as he created the match) so why didn’t he just take advantage of the rules and have them dump out Roman? McMahon also knows from experience that wrestlers that are beaten up in the Royal Rumble match can come back out later when they are fresher. Why’s that? Because in the 1999 Royal Rumble match (which Mr McMahon won), he tried the exact same plan with Stone Cold Steve Austin. What happened? Austin came back out and ALMOST thwarted his plans!

As this was going on, Jericho eliminated Kofi when he dropkicked him off Big E’s shoulders. That was another spot that the production crew missed. Number fifteen was the Big Show, who was booed quite a bit. Big Show eliminated Titus and Ryback. Last year, I complained that Big Show was eliminating all the younger talent. In this match, he did it again! To be fair, this was actually rectified when a younger man actually eliminated Big Show from the Rumble. However, it’s just funny how Ryback and Titus were both just quickly eliminated. Especially Ryback, who had been kicking Big Show’s arse throughout the summer of last year!

Number sixteen was Neville. He didn’t really do a lot but it was very hard to considering all the guys he was in there with at the time. Braun Strowman was number seventeen. WWE were really trying so hard to put Braun over during this Rumble with the Wyatt Family. They were mostly just trying to get over Braun, but the group actually eliminated a lot of men in this Rumble match. Braun eliminated Kane and Big Show which I was OK with as the younger man actually eliminated the old veterans. This was fine as this would put Braun over as the new top giant in the company. I was OK with this.

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Number eighteen was Kevin Owens, who was wobbling down to the ring after being in the Last Man Standing match earlier. He came in and eliminated AJ Styles. This caused huge uproar from the crowd! To be fair, it would have been much worse if someone like Braun Strowman eliminated AJ. At least Kevin Owens is someone the fans respect enough to accept as being the one to eliminated AJ.

There’s reports that AJ is actually expected to work a program with Kevin Owens, with this being the reason why Kevin eliminated AJ. I think this would be a good program but check out my own idea for what to do with AJ going into Wrestlemania at this link. I have a different idea for AJ which actually relates to the next entrant…

Dean Ambrose was number nineteen. He targeted Kevin right away. He was selling a lot less than Kevin Owens was. Number twenty was Sami Zayn, which got a big reaction. I guess Sami did make a lot of sense as the NXT star to go into the Royal Rumble. He’s someone that the main roster audience are familiar with (as he’s been on RAW before) and it actually tied into the angle they did on a house show, where Sami attacked Kevin. Sami eliminated Kevin, which was his payback for Kevin taking him out in May 2015. Erick Rowan was number 21. This was the moment where the Wyatt Family just took over. They dumped out Neville, Sami Zayn and Stardust. Neville actually took a really hard bump on the apron, when Luke Harper clotheslined him out of the match. It was similar to the Snitsky/Paul London spot from the 2005 Royal Rumble and there were reports that Vince was very upset with London for taking that bump. Whether Neville will get heat remains to be seen. He was in the United States Championship match against Kalisto on SmackDown!, so I guess nothing was fought of it.

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Mark Henry was number 22 and he eliminated right away by the Wyatt Family. Number 23 was Brock Lesnar, who DOMINATED the match. He suplexed everyone in the ring except Braun Strowman I think. He eliminated the 24th entrant Jack Swagger. For the record, the combined time in the match for Swagger and Henry was 45 seconds. These were also the men that won the kick-off show match to earn a spot in the Rumble. If you’re going to do a match like this, you should at least try to make it seem that the qualifying match was important. I believe these two were the only men in the match that had to win a qualifying match to get into the Rumble. At least give them some credit by having them last at least a few minutes each. Why did they get eliminated right way?

Brock was dominating as mentioned earlier. He eliminated Rowan from the Wyatt Family first. There was a spot with Brock and Braun where Brock clotheslined Braun, but Braun didn’t go down. The whole gimmick on television is for Braun to never get knocked down so I guess Braun just tried to keep that gimmick up. Apparently, nobody told Brock Lesnar! After Braun didn’t go down for the first clothesline, Brock clobbered Braun with a second one and Braun went crashing down to the mat. Brock battered this poor guy.

Maybe this was actually the plan and WWE’s idea was for Braun to take a big beating from Lesnar in order to help him sell moves in the future. Braun’s selling is not that great and he’ll eventually lose his invincibility when he loses clean for the first time. When that happens, Braun’s got to know how to sell. The idea is that if you actually get beat up in the ring, that’ll help you understand how a certain spot should be sold. For example, some wrestlers are legitimately kicked in the gut or punched during their early days of wrestling school to get a feel of how to sell it. This might have been why Brock gave Braun such a beating… or Brock just did what he wanted anyway and just beat up Braun!

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Number 25 was the Miz, who simply went over to the announce table and did commentary. Miz’s plan was to wait for the right moment so he could go in and eliminate someone. Number 26 was Alberto Del Rio, who didn’t really accomplish much. It was kind of odd that Kalisto was not involved in the Royal Rumble match yet the loser of the earlier US Championship match was! There was actually reports that Del Rio injured his back during the Royal Rumble event, which means that more wrestlers are on WWE’s injury list. The thing that bothers me is that WWE have all of these wrestlers injured and yet they still continue to double book wrestlers during television shows, further increasing the risk of injuries. Alberto Del Rio was never going to win the Royal Rumble so wouldn’t it have made sense to put someone in there that HADN’T competed earlier on in the night?

Brock eliminated Braun and Luke Harper when Bray Wyatt came out at number 27. On SLTD Wrestling, I predicted that Brock would be eliminated by the man that would face him at Wrestlemania. It was clear that his Wrestlemania was set up by his elimination but the thing is, Bray didn’t even eliminate Lesnar! What happened was that Bray set the Wyatt Family on Brock but Brock fought them off. Bray took advantage and hit Sister Abigail. He then told the Wyatt Family members to eliminate Lesnar for him! How on earth could anyone take Wyatt seriously when he wasn’t even the one that eliminated Brock? He was just stood there directing traffic. Unless the Wyatt Family ends up being a big part of the build for Bray vs Brock, I don’t see why Bray couldn’t have just thrown Lesnar out himself.

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I actually want to quickly talk about Braun Strowman again. Braun ended being eliminated by Brock during the Royal Rumble. As mentioned earlier though, Brock had BATTERED Braun during the match. The idea that Braun is supposed to go from being decimated by Brock to fighting THE UNDERTAKER at Wrestlemania (as reported by some wrestling websites) is just laughable. This’ll be an easy match for Undertaker to wrestle but how could Braun seem like a legitimate threat to Undertaker after this performance?

Dolph Ziggler came out at number 28. This was a horrible night in the Royal Rumble for Dolph Ziggler. There were three moments during this matches where Ziggler was buried to an incredible degree. The first one was when The Miz’s plan was finally put into motion. As Ziggler came in, Miz took advantage and successfully hit Ziggler with the Skull Crushing Finale. Usually, the heel’s sneaky attack should backfire on him as it would be what he’d get for breaking the rules. Not here! Miz got away with his crime and was successful in taking out Dolph Ziggler!

Number 29 was Sheamus. This was where Roman Reigns came back out to clear house. He eliminated Miz and Del Rio. He ran wild for a bit until number thirty came out. Number thirty was revealed to be Triple H.

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Against my better judgement, I convinced myself that WWE weren’t planning to have Triple H to come out as the 30th entrant in the Royal Rumble match. I told myself that the WWE couldn’t possibly be going with this, as it would have been WAY too obvious. In the end, that’s what they did. The funny thing about it is the fact that the Orlando crowd didn’t seem to care.

They were ecstatic to see Triple H. A big part of that was to do with it meaning that Roman Reigns was probably not going to win. Another part though was the fact that NXT is based in Orlando. Of course, NXT is Triple H’s big project. Therefore, it made so much sense that Triple H would be cheered as heavily as he was. It was an ingenious way for WWE to put Triple H over! Even though the storyline didn’t make sense and that we’d see Triple H win the title at 46 years old, this crowd didn’t care.

Triple H and Roman Reigns did this huge stare down. Remember, Roman Reigns beat up Triple H at TLC. This was another good use of continuity by the writers. It did annoy me that Byron was the only that considered the possibility of a conspiracy by the Authority, which is a huge plot-point to overlook. It was not like the commentators were in disgust over the Authority’s abuse of power. Michael Cole and JBL were just hyping up this big return from Triple H. I understand that the commentators were excited for Triple H coming out but think about the storyline just a little.

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This was the second time during the Rumble match where Ziggler was buried. Triple H and Roman did this face-off and during the face-off, Ziggler tried to jump Triple H. Triple H just simply pedigreed Ziggler and continued to stare down Roman! This was the funniest moment of the entire match! I felt bad for Ziggler but I just laughed so hard at how Triple H laid out Ziggler with such ease and just continued to do this intense showdown with Roman.

The third and final moment where Ziggler was buried was when he was trying to eliminate Triple H. Ziggler hit the super kick, which has started to become a finisher for Ziggler. This was also the same super kick that won Triple H’s best friend Shawn Michaels so many big matches. Ziggler hit the super kick and Triple H wobbled on the apron. Ziggler tried again and Triple H just threw Ziggler out of the match. Triple H no-sold Ziggler’s finisher and just threw him over the top rope! The announcers were talking about all the great last man standing matches in the Royal Rumble earlier on in the show. Keep in mind that the first last man standing match was between Triple H and Shawn Michaels in 2004, and the finish to that match was Shawn Michaels super-kicking Hunter which lead to neither man answering the count of ten. However, Triple H just flat out no-sold this super kick from Ziggler!

There was a moment with Triple H and Bray Wyatt, where it seemed like an alliance would be formed. Wyatt instead just attacked Triple H. This would prove to be Wyatt’s undoing as HE was eventually eliminated by an alliance between Triple H and Sheamus. Dean Ambrose eliminated Chris Jericho in ANOTHER strange use of continuity. At Night Of Champions, there was a moment where Jericho and Dean had an argument following their six man tag team match. Jericho nudged Dean out of the way and this was Dean’s revenge.

 

The final four was Sheamus, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Triple H. Roman Reigns eliminated Sheamus but was then eliminated by Triple H to a HUGE reaction. This lead to a final two between Triple H and Dean Ambrose. It was a good call to have Dean Ambrose in the final two instead of Roman. If Roman was eliminated last by Triple H, the fans would have ended the night by emphatically cheering the heel authority figure. With this finish, they can still have the heel heat on Triple H as he was going up against Dean Ambrose. That night, everyone really wanted Dean to win. This got Dean over as a top babyface and Triple H was booed at the end. It got the right reaction, although there were cheers for Triple H at the end of the night too.

There was one report from Inquisitr that suggested that the WWE changed their mind on the finish in the middle of the match. The winner had already been decided but it’s suggested that Roman Reigns was attacked by the League of Nations so Vince, Roman and the rest of the powers-that-be would discuss a new finish to the match. I don’t believe that they would change the finish off the match DURING the match itself. It seems like a bit of a stretch. I thought Roman being taken out earlier on in the match was just to rest him for the finish. I don’t think it was because WWE changed their minds.

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Triple H eliminated Dean to win the Royal Rumble and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. In the weeks leading up to this event, I was hugely against Triple H winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Coming out of the event, I still believe it was the wrong decision.

Let me just ask you guys a few questions:

  • Out of Brock Lesnar and Triple H, who is the better worker?
  • Out of Brock Lesnar and Triple H, who is the bigger star in mainstream media?
  • Out of Brock Lesnar and Triple H, who is the bigger draw in terms of pay-per-view buys?
  • Out of Brock Lesnar and Triple H, who has been the most over act in the last twelve months?

The answer to all of these answers is Brock Lesnar. So why was Triple H chosen to win the Royal Rumble over Brock Lesnar? Vince McMahon.

This is NOT an accusation of nepotism. However, Vince has it in his head that they needed to put Roman over by having him beat Triple H at Wrestlemania. That’s fine. I don’t mind the “passing of the torch” booking EXCEPT when the WWE World Heavyweight Championship is on the line.

When Hulk Hogan lost the WWF Championship to the Ultimate Warrior, Hogan was on top of the world. When he lost the belt to Warrior, Warrior came off looking as the new legitimate top star of the company because he had beaten the very best.

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When Roman Reigns inevitably wins the WWE World Heavyweight Championship from Triple H, he’ll have beaten a 46 year old Authority figure to do it. There might have been plans for Roman Reigns to beat John Cena at Wrestlemania but there’s a huge difference between John Cena and Triple H. John Cena has been on top of the WWE for a decade as an active wrestler. Triple H had not been champion since 2009 until right now. He is NOT in the prime of his life as a wrestler. So even when he’s NOT in the prime of his life, he’s still winning Rumbles in 2016. That’s the bottom line. How bad does that make everyone else on the roster look?

I laughed about Triple H defeating Dolph Ziggler so easily earlier. The main reason why I laughed is because Triple H should not be defeating Dolph Ziggler so easily. He eliminated Ziggler, Wyatt, Reigns and Ambrose who are among WWE’s elite stars in 2016. Again, these guys all looked so insignificant compared to Triple H.

HOWEVER, despite what I thought about the finish… the show was great. WWE had a plan and they stuck with it. I admire them for that, despite the leaks of what was going to happen. They stuck to their guns and the crowd loved it in the end. That alone should tell you just how good a Rumble this was. WWE gave it their all with this event as a whole. This match was just put together so well that it did feel like a very special Rumble. This was not the greatest Rumble of all time but this was a pretty great Rumble as a whole. WWE really did give the fans a great show and they should be proud of the show they put on.