January 26, 2015 by Joey Keogh
It’s the first PPV of the year, not to mention the first step on the road to Wrestlemania, and what better way to kick things off than with an experts panel that does not include Alex Riley for once! Tonight, our prayers have been answered because Renee is joined by Booker T (who isn’t calling the PPVs for some reason), Corey Graves (wearing a bow-tie like he’s en route to Senior Prom or something) and, er, Byron (happy to be here, I’m sure). Stretched to an hour the pre-show is, once again, absolutely loaded with filler but at least we get a sweet promo from the New Age Outlaws, midway through, who refer to poor ol’ Work Experience Tom as “Fred” and shout about how being old doesn’t matter when you’re up against the goddamn Legion Of Doom. Booker also has an exclusive, and terribly awkward, interview with HBK during which we learn absolutely nothing new. It’s scored by inspirational music, of course, but it doesn’t fool us.
The pre-show match, a tag pitching Kofi and Big E of The New Day against Tyson Kidd and Cesaro (and Adam Rose) is a good start, even if the crowd are chanting louder for a Mizdow promo than anything else. Kidd, Cesaro and Rose are all rocking rip-off Bullet Club tees emblazoned with “Brass Ring Club” and a cool cat head, that were apparently designed by a totally chuffed Twitter user. It’s a nice touch, even if Rose has chosen to accessorise his with a feather boa and a fishnet tight wrapped around his arm, like a scenester circa 2004. Thankfully, he doesn’t get a look in during the match and leaves it to the pros, who win easily in a matter of minutes (this could easily have been stretched to ten or fifteen). At least it softens the blow for the next twenty minutes of nonsensical bullshit, including yet another numbers promo for the Rumble, because we all know how riveting those are.
Tag Team Match: The New Age Outlaws -v- The Ascension
Speaking of matches that could’ve used a bit more time, we have the first proper bout of the night, which is, apparently, supposed to finally put the struggling Ascension over. It’s interesting to note, though, even in spite of wearing weird, fuzzy alien hats, the Outlaws still look way cooler than Adam Rose. Or indeed their opponents. Also, Billy Gunn cut his hair, allowing him entry into the club of older blonde gentlemen who used to have long hair but who have since cut it to look a bit cooler, which already includes Jericho, Edge, Christian and Trips. We’re in Philly tonight and the crowd are smarky as hell. They also have the best signs ever (one says “Adam Blose”, and there is, of course, a floating Colt Cabana head bobbing around). As a result, they aren’t buying this shit for a second, and they let the performers know. The Outlaws may be shaking their butts but they can still kick some ass, and for a while they just pummel the hell out of the young upstarts meaning that, when the action turns in their favour, it doesn’t really feel like a natural progression, it just feels like giving in. The story of the match is a bit muddled, as it seems that about halfway through Gunn and James simply accept their fate and allow The Ascension to gain dominance and win. It isn’t the worst match of the night, by a long shot, but another five minutes would’ve done it the world of good seeing as the intention was to put the NXT favourites over and, in spite of their victory, that still didn’t happen.
Winners: The Ascension
The Authority cut a promo backstage about how much they hate Sting and are hoping he doesn’t turn up tonight with his weird goatee thing that he refuses to paint over (I feel you guys, really I do). There’s a massive pop for Paul Heyman, who turns up unannounced as usual and offers his services because, as he sees it, if they want to get rid of Lesnar, Cena, Sting, or whoever else, he has the perfect solution: Brock Lesnar. Lesnar! The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems!
Tag Team Championship Match: The Usos -v- The Miz & Damien Mizdow
In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s mostly tag team matches on the card tonight, which is odd considering the absolute state the division is in right now. Anyway, we’ve seen this particular bout about ten thousand times before and, sadly, in spite of rumours to the contrary, Mizdow does not turn midway through and make things interesting, nor do The Ascension or indeed any other team show up to cause chaos and intervene. Instead, it’s the same ol’, same ol’ succession of Splashes, kicks and clotheslines. There’s a MASSIVE pop for Mizdow when he first enters the ring, with JBL later even comparing him to Daniel Day Lewis. Miz teases the hot tag for much of the match but, naturally, he never actually gives in and, even though his stunt double manages to make enough of an impact to deliver the SKF and almost win it for them, in the end The Usos are victorious and retain the titles with a rather dull Splash and a pin.
Winners: The Usos
Following the match, there’s a super cute, locker room promo involving Jamie Noble, Joey Mercury and Seth Rollins as they shill Immortals and he scolds them for playing games instead of being focused on his match. He also has a great line about being “right now” as opposed to “the future”. Even though we know it probably isn’t his time just yet, it’s good to feel like it might be coming soon.
Divas Tag Team Match: The Bella Twins -v- Paige & Natalya
Strange to have a Divas match so early in the show when, usually, we expect the ladies to fill the graveyard slot right before the Main Event. Considering this isn’t a title match, or even a proper women’s match, and is merely a two-minute advertisement for Total Divas, we know better than to expect cool spots, or indeed anything particularly noteworthy. Having said that, Paige is involved so it also shouldn’t be total garbage, either. She kicks things off by intimidating Brie, before the bell even rings, and takes on her sister immediately once it does. She and Nattie double team Nikki with a backdrop before Nattie is caught in a chokehold, during which Nikki shows off her considerable strength by simultaneously doing push-ups off the mat. Nattie manages to lift her all the way up and backdrop her, before going for the sharpshooter, which Nikki counters easily. Nattie goes for the hot tag to Paige (which they’ve literally been teasing since the moment she stepped out of the ring), only for Brie to yank her down off the apron, allowing Nikki to seize the moment with a forearm after which she pins Nattie to win.
Winners: The Bella Twins
Various Superstars cut promos about the rumble next, including Roman Reigns, who is the hot favourite to win even though he sucks on the mic and is dull as fuck in the ring. The highlight is Miz and Mizdow, as the latter confidently states he’s going to win the rumble only for his boss to swivel around and ask “Don’t you mean me?” Mizdow then plays it totally cool like “That’s what I said”. Could this be foreshadowing for later? We can only dream.
Triple Threat Match for the World Heavyweight Championship: John Cena -v- Seth Rollins -v- Brock Lesnar
The crowd are unanimously singing “John Cena sucks”, and even boo his home-town, before he enters but there’s a huge pop for his two opponents, which is nice considering they’re (technically) still both heels. There’s an angry, screaming Lesnar head in the crowd that seems to bob into view at the most inopportune moments throughout the match. Rollins immediately jumps out as the bell rings, with Noble and Mercury, quite literally, leaping to his defence only to get German Suplexed by Lesnar. Cena then suffers one too, because, as always he has to get himself involved in everything. However, he and Rollins soon get their own back as they team up to Suplex Lesnar and give him a taste of his own medicine. Cena then AAs him, and Rollins quickly chucks him out in an effort to steal the win for himself but Lesnar kicks on two. Outside, Heyman paces the ring nervously. Rollins leaps off the top to tackle Lesnar but suffers an F5 for his trouble, before Cena breaks them apart and falls victim to another German Suplex as a result. Rollins goes for the curbstomp, but Cena intervenes before chucking Lesnar into the steps as Heyman flees out of harm’s way. Next to him on the floor, Mercury and Noble are still selling the Suplexes from before like champs, bless their hearts. Lesnar is lined up on the announce table as Philly goes absolutely nuts for Rollins, daring him to make a move that’ll probably be one of the spots of the year. He lands a flying elbow from the top rope and Lesnar is left, apparently, out for the count. Back in the ring, Cena aims for a Superplex but Rollins reverses it, chucking him into the turnbuckle for another near fall. Cena goes for the STF but Rollins’ security team recover just in time to pummel the shit out of him. They suffer a double AA from Cena, as does Rollins, leading to yet another near fall as Lesnar is lined up to be stretchered off, much to Heyman’s disbelief. Rollins manages to land an ensigury, followed by a curbstomp and a gnarly corkscrew moonsault that may just be the spot of the match, if not the night. Unfortunately, just when it seems he’s won it, Lesnar awakens and German Suplexes him twice more out of nowhere. Rollins whacks him with the case a couple times, but it’s a bit too late as Lesnar lands the F5 yet again right when he’s trying for another curbstomp, leading him to win and retain the title.
Winner: Brock Lesnar
The ol’ numbers promo follows, during which we learn, once again, that Trips tends to do really well in these things while others, whose names we no longer remember or care about, do not. A rip-off Papa Roach-style song scores the whole thing and it’s a bit much, even for WWE.
30-Man Royal Rumble Match
The excitement and anticipation builds as the #1 entrant is revealed to be…The Miz! We wait with bated breath as everyone simultaneously hopes against all hope that Mizdow is #2 but alas he is not, as, er, R-Truth strolls out instead. A missed opportunity, for sure, and one that will sting much more come the end of this match. However, all is momentarily forgiven as #3 is Bubba Ray Dudley, a man who hasn’t graced us with his presence in a decade. He makes quick work of Miz, clotheslining him three times before knocking him out, followed by Truth. The #4 entrant is Luke Harper, and he and Dudley trade blows for a bit before #5 shows up, and it’s none other than his swamp brother Bray Wyatt, a man who manages to last for most of the match even though he has a precisely 0% chance of headlining Wrestlemania because he’s a freaky freak. He teams up with Harper to double team Dudley and knock him out. #6 is latest NXT recruit Curtis Axel, but he doesn’t even make it to the ramp as none other than Erick Rowan (who lost his chance to be a part of this madness, to Harper, on last week’s Smackdown), shows up to knock him out on the ramp. He then proceeds to the ring, where he and the other two beardos duke it out. Harper is eliminated soon after, and Wyatt ensures Rowan isn’t too far behind him. He then points at the sign for the first, but definitely not last, time tonight as he yells “This is my year!”. #7 is The Boogeyman, because he needs the money, and Wyatt does his backwards spider crawl thing to out-weird him so he only lasts about ten seconds. Sin Cara is #8 and Wyatt makes quick work of him, too. He then cuts a promo mid-match, during which he gets the crowd to sing his little song in time with him. A very tanned, very buff Zack Ryder is the #9 entrant, followed in quick succession by Daniel Bryan at #10 and for whom the crowd go, understandably, nuts as he hits a crazy springboard moonsault from the second rope. Fandango is #11, unloading on Bryan before enjoying a post-move hip swivel. Tyson Kidd is #12, he and Bryan duke it out for a bit before #13, Stardust, emerges as Bryan and Wyatt go through the second rope but not over the top, remaining in, much to our collective amusement. None other than DDP himself is #14 and Stardust kicks the shit out of him as he glides in, leading him to hit the Diamond Cutter as Fandango, who has positioned himself on the top rope, ends up hurting his balls after another hip swivel leads him to unbalance himself. Page delivers a second Diamond Cutter to Wyatt as Rusev strides out as the #15 entrant, quickly eliminating DDP and Fandango. Bryan takes turns kicking he and Wyatt in the centre of the ring as both are positioned on their knees, before the King Of The Swamp knocks him out, much to the crowd’s audible disappointment. #16 is Goldust, who keeps the action ticking along as he turns on his brother for attempting to knock him out of the ring, and Rusev and Wyatt take on both of them at the ropes. Kofi Kingston, a Rumble favourite thanks to his high-flying, stay-in-no-matter-what manoeuvres, enters at #17 to massive boos. He Splashes from the top to tackle the Dust brothers at once, right off the bat, as Adam Rose, who we literally just got rid of, is revealed as #18. He chucks Kofi out, only to have him caught by his own Rosebuds, who save his butt while later ignoring Rose, who gets knocked out as a result. Kofi soon follows, thanks to Rusev. Roman Reigns finally enters at #19, much to Philly’s disgust, as they all know what’s coming and they really aren’t happy about it. “Reigns + Mic
# Strong” reads one, rather well-timed sign. He immediately chucks Stardust and Goldust out before unloading on Wyatt, as Rusev takes aim from behind (oo-er). Big E is #20 but his entrance is overshadowed by Mizdow at #21 (who was eliminated first last year, shockingly), especially when Miz refuses to let him enter the ring and tells him he’s taking his spot instead. Naturally, those men still in with a fighting chance will not allow Miz entrance and Mizdow soon joins in the fun, after just a few moments of deliberation. He delivers a backbreaker-neckbreaker to E but is soon knocked out, only to writhe on the floor opposite a clearly unimpressed Miz. Jack Swagger is #22 and, naturally, he sets his sights on old foe Rusev because, unlike the rest of the earth’s population, he has yet to tire of their feud. #23 is Ryback, who would’ve been here sooner only he stopped at the buffet and ended up swapping with R-Truth as a result. He takes on Rusev as the crowd relentlessly chant “CM Punk” at him. Corporate Kane and his ill-fitting slacks stumble out at #24, followed by Dean Ambrose, finally, at #25. Ambrose unloads on Kane and Rusev, with the crowd totally behind him as they wish, beyond everything they know, that he might top Reigns and actually be in with a shot here. Titus O’Neill shows up momentarily as #26 but is quickly dispensed with by Reigns. #27 is Bad News Barrett, who disappointingly does not cut one of his typical promos about winning before entering the ring, but who does take a shot at each participant one by one once he makes it in, showing off his considerable strength in the process. Cesaro follows suit at #28, before focusing on eliminating Ambrose with a gnarly uppercut as Big Show strolls out at #29. He immediately gets rid of Swagger, who, let’s face it, we’d all forgotten about anyway. And finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, our final saving grace is…Dolph Ziggler at #30! There might be hope after all! He superkicks Kane, Show and Wyatt before eliminating Barrett. Cesaro Swings him, before clotheslining him over but not out as Ziggler manages to cling on to the apron by his feet. However, he then eats a KO Punch courtesy of Show, as he aims from the top. Show and Kane then team up to eliminate he and Wyatt, leaving Reigns and Ambrose to size up to them. Unfortunately, just as it’s about to get interesting, the two of them simply lift Ambrose up and dump him out of the ring, which is not only lazy, nonsensical storytelling but wholly unnecessary as a means of putting Reigns over as the deserved winner of this bout (pitching he against Ambrose as the final two would’ve been far more interesting). The three remaining participants (we’re supposed to have forgotten Rusev, who’s been wandering outside for quite some time at this stage) duke it out before Reigns knocks both out simultaneously and Cole prematurely announces him as the winner, in spite of the fact his music is not playing, which means it definitely is not over. Kane and Show return to the ring and beat the shit out of him, managing to hit a double team chokeslam too, as The Rock‘s music drops and he strolls out to stop the crowd from rioting. Of course, they immediately resume booing once he’s out of view again and when Rusev (who they’ve been chanting for, out of pure desperation) finally re-emerges, Reigns points at the sign and then swiftly eliminates him, rendering his absence and reappearance utterly pointless. The crowd switch to chanting “We want refunds” as Reigns, bloodied around the mouth so he looks as though he’s wearing an unflattering shade of rouge, does his best to celebrate in the ring with Rocky and Cole, giddy as a schoolgirl, confirms once more that he is the winner.
Winner: Roman Reigns
The backlash from Royal Rumble 2015 was, understandably, pretty intense last night. Not only did Twitter blow up immediately after it finished, with fans calling it the worst PPV in years, but the crowd gathered in Philly could be heard booing and demanding refunds even as poor Renee tried to chair the post-show panel. The ending was a massive disappointment for most of us, and the bout itself wasn’t as fun as it usually is, but at the same time, we can’t claim to have not seen it coming. This has been the plan for months, and it’s been widely reported as such, too. Sure, there was a big part of me that wanted Ambrose, Wyatt, even Ziggler to pick up the win but we all know that Reigns is being lined up to take over from Cena when he eventually leaves and, even though he still has a lot to learn, he’s the most logical candidate to take on The Beast at Wrestlemania 31, whether we like it or not.
Funnily enough, the triple threat match, somewhat shockingly, the match we were all dreading because its outcome seemed inevitable, was the highlight of the night – not least because, for once, The Authority were right in their estimation. Cena did not win, he did not overcome the odds as he was so sure he would and, although we know we’re going to have to listen to him justify it for the next hundred weeks, at least we can still take solace in his loss at the hands of two much more exciting prospects. 2014 was definitely Seth Rollins‘s year, as the formerly quiet member of The Shield stepped into the limelight to become his own man, proving he was a serious contender and changing everything in the process.
Daniel Bryan‘s victory at Wrestlemania 30 may have been the feelgood moment of the year, but nobody can deny how consistently hard Rollins has worked to establish himself, and we’re still seeing the results of that now, and will hopefully continue to do so for the foreseeable future. He may not have won tonight, but he’s absolutely correct in saying he’s the “right now”, as opposed to the future, of the WWE. If nothing else, as disjointed and often disappointing as the show was, and as many questions as it left unanswered (why so many goddamn tag matches? what’s going on with The Ascension?), at least the Rumble has solidified that fact and got us excited for what’s to come.
As for Reigns, well, it remains to be seen whether he can prove himself and win us over. But we should try to be hopeful, and believe that he’s been chosen for a reason.
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