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January 25, 2016

2016 WWE Royal Rumble: Triple H returns for revenge on Roman Reigns

Wrestling WWE
12516_royalrumble_WWE WWE/Twitter

The COO of WWE gained revenge on Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble, winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship for the 14th time.

The Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., hosted the 29th annual Royal Rumble on Sunday night. The event would be highlighted by the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Roman Reigns, defending his championship in the 30-man Royal Rumble match, only the second time the title has ever been on the line in the Rumble match itself.

As always, there were some surprises in store during the Rumble match, but two stood above everything else. One happened early during the match, and one happened right at the very end.

Let’s get down to what exactly happened.

Kickoff Preshow: Fatal 4-Way Tag Team Match to Qualify for the Royal Rumble Match

Dudley Boyz vs. The Ascension vs. Mark Henry and Jack Swagger vs. Darren Young and Damien Sandow

Hey, this was actually the best city for The Ascension to receive a good reaction. They’re over big in NXT, and Orlando is close enough to Full Sail University that a lot of the people in attendance are probably the same people who cheered the tag team in NXT.

Damien Sandow received a huge reaction when he came out, and the chants for him continued throughout the duration of the match. Unfortunately, the most over guys in the match weren’t on the receiving end of the win.

There was a pretty bad sequence at the end of the match where the Dudleys hit Viktor with the 3D, then Konnor, instead of breaking up the pin, ran into D-Von. Swagger locked on the Patriot Lock to Bubba Ray, who went for the pin on Viktor, then Henry splashed him and then pinned Viktor for the victory.

Your winners: Mark Henry and Jack Swagger

Can’t wait to see these guys in the Rumble. Pfft.

Predictions: 0/1

Last Man Standing Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship

Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Kevin Owens

I wasn’t too sure these guys were gonna be in the Rumble match, but the match placement of this being the first on the pay-per-view pretty much cemented that both guys would be in the Rumble.

Early in the match, Ambrose hit a suicide dive onto Owens, who flipped over the announce table and pushed Michael Cole over. The camera would capture Owens having a little fun with Cole and kept pushing his face with his hand while Ambrose was holding his cell phone. It was probably a lot more entertaining to me than others, but I actually laughed out loud during that.

The match featured a lot of big spots, which is the norm in matches like these, but each of the competitors kept getting up before the 10 count. I’m not even sure how Ambrose got up from this, but he did.

Ambrose would hit Dirty Deeds twice, once on the canvas and then once on a steel chair. Owens rolled to the edge of the ring and eventually got his feet on the ground to break the count since he was in a standing position. I actually called them doing a spot similar to that on The Straight Shooters podcast last Friday.

Ambrose would finally push Owens off the top rope through two tables, and he was unable to answer the 10 count.

Your winner and STILL WWE Intercontinental Champion: Dean Ambrose

Predictions: 1/2

WWE World Tag Team Championship

New Day (c) vs. The Usos

New Day debuted a new friend after having a moment of silence for an old one.

Xavier Woods had an amazing reference to “The Outsiders,” telling Kofi Kingston, “Stay golden, Ponyboy!” And now we’re getting… golden unicorns?

When The Usos’ music interrupted the promo, the crowd actually booed them. No surprise here. Everyone loves them some New Day, and with very good reason.

These two teams have very good chemistry, so the match was about as good as can be expected. The ending was a little weird, as it looked like Woods missed a spot to grab Kofi’s foot to put it under or on the rope.

Big E intercepts a splash attempt and hits the Big Ending for the win.

Your winners and STILL WWE World Tag Team Champions: The New Day

Predictions: 2/3

WWE United States Championship

Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. Kalisto

Sometimes, I just don’t understand WWE. I really try my best to, but it often ends with some headache medicine. I don’t know why they had Kalisto win the United States title in the first place a couple weeks ago on Raw, only to lose it the very next night at the SmackDown taping back to Del Rio. And now we have another rematch… why?

I’m not saying I hate these matches – they’ve actually been very good and this match was no different. But they really haven’t done anything to make us get behind Kalisto other than having Del Rio say some nasty words about him and paint his loss to him as a fluke. That’s not exactly doing Kalisto any favors.

This match had a few cool spots, and the ending was pretty well done. Del Rio took off one of the turnbuckle pads, but that would come back to haunt him. A few moments later, Kalisto swung Del Rio’s head into the metal buckle and hit the Salida del Sol to recapture the United States Championship.

Your winner and NEW WWE United States Champion: Kalisto

Predictions: 2/4

WWE Divas Championship

Charlotte (c) vs. Becky Lynch

This feud has been one of the best women’s feuds in WWE in a while, and probably the best since the new Divas Revolution took place last summer. We have a feud here that has made sense over the last couple months, and it was built with a feeling like Lynch would be walking away with the title on Sunday night.

Not so fast. Charlotte still had the Dirtiest Player in the Game in her corner, and Ric Flair definitely made his presence known by planting a grossly big wet one on Becky outside of the ring.

That didn’t sit well with Becky, who slapped the taste right out of Flair’s mouth.

Becky looked to have the title won when she locked the Disarmer on Charlotte, but Flair made his presence felt again and threw his jacket on the face of Becky and got her to break the hold.

Charlotte capitalized on the distraction by poking Becky in the eye and hitting her with the spear for the win.

Your winner and STILL WWE Divas Champion: Charlotte

After the match, Sasha Banks’ music hit as she made her return to television after being away due to an injury. Banks walked down to the ring, walked past Charlotte and attacked Becky and threw her out of the ring. Banks then slapped hands with Charlotte, but attacked her as she was leaving the ring, making it clear she was after the Divas Championship.

Could we see a Triple Threat match at February’s Fastlane pay-per-view? It sure seems like tonight would’ve been Becky’s night.

Predictions: 3/5

Royal Rumble Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship

The WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Roman Reigns, was already set to enter the match first, and the runner up from last year’s Rumble match in Philly, Rusev, came out second. Reigns quickly disposed of Rusev, leading to the arrival of the third entrant and the biggest surprise of the night.

A.J. Styles made his long-awaited re-debut in WWE, but this time he’s a well-known wrestling commodity around the world and not some random jobber. The crowd was electric and the loud reaction for Styles was unmatched the rest of the night.

Unfortunately, Styles would be eliminated by Owens, so that could be a program we may see in the near future. And it would be awesome. Styles had a couple words for the WWE Universe before his big surprise debut.

It’s pretty surreal to see Styles finally in WWE, but it should be a fun ride.

Another surprise entrant was Sami Zayn returning to action after suffering an injury in the United States Championship Open Challenge last year against John Cena on Monday Night Raw. Zayn went right after Owens, who he had a blood feud with in NXT before Owens got called up to the main roster. Now that Zayn is healthy, it’ll be interesting to see if he stays on the main roster.

R-Truth had a pretty great cameo in the Rumble as the 12th entrant, grabbing a ladder from under the ring and setting it up in the middle of the ring, climbing it to realize it wasn’t a ladder match. I gotta tell you, I love this character for R-Truth and he pulls it off so well. I’d like to eventually see him as a serious contender as a face or heel, because he’s damn good in the ring, too. 2011 was probably the last year he was utilized well when he teamed up with The Miz and created a rather fearsome team after being “fired” by Triple H.

It really feels like we’re going to see a Brock Lesnar-Wyatt Family feud now based on what we saw Sunday night. When Lesnar arrived in the Rumble match, he went right after Braun Strowman, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan and wound up eliminating all of them. However, they stayed around ringside and once Bray Wyatt entered the Rumble, they all attacked Lesnar and eliminated him together.

One thing I’ll say I hate about the Rumble match – the ability for everyone who has been eliminated to pretty much stay in the match and eliminate whoever they want. It’s happened way too often for my liking and exposes booking. Lesnar was eliminated and then doesn’t retaliate? He’s a monster that’s shown he’s psycho, why not go into the ring and eliminate Wyatt then?

I don’t get it. Lesnar didn’t come out looking very good, and if this leads to Lesnar-Wyatt at WrestleMania, we can probably chalk that up as three straight WrestleMania losses for Wyatt. Way to build new stars, WWE.

Early in the match, Vince McMahon brought down members of the League of Nations to attack Reigns, and they succeeded in doing so. Reigns was put on a stretcher and was wheeled up the aisle toward the backstage area, but wound up getting up on his feet and walking backstage on his own power.

I really thought this was weak. Especially considering both Owens and Ambrose, selling their injuries from their earlier Last Man Standing match, entered the Rumble. Reigns should’ve headed toward the ring when getting up from the stretcher and should have had at least a dozen guys pushing him backstage to “get him checked out.” It made him look weak and trying to get out of the match just to return later, which he did.

Reigns would return right after Sheamus’ entrance as No. 29, hitting him with the Superman punch and then hitting the ring. He would then be followed by another surprise entrant at No. 30, and the man I picked to win the Rumble match, Triple H.

Of course, this was the surprise I was hoping for and expecting. The COO of WWE came in strong and eliminated Dolph Ziggler and Wyatt before eliminating the champion Reigns, leaving just himself and Ambrose as the final two. After a tease of Ambrose winning, Triple H would lift him over the top rope and backdrop him onto the floor, winning the match and winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship for the 14th time.

Predictions: 4/6

Let’s get to why I think this is ultimately a good move. Reigns was really over with the fans last month at the TLC pay-per-view when he destroyed Triple H after he lost to Sheamus, which just so happened to be the last time we saw Triple H before he appeared as the 30th entrant in the Rumble match. The next night in Philly, I watched live along with 20,000 other wrestling fans as Reigns pinned Sheamus to win his first ever WWE World Heavyweight Championship. The crowd popped loudly for that and we all seemed firmly behind Reigns at that point.

But things changed after that. What WWE’s creative team did for Reigns in that two night span was erase a year’s worth of crowds turning on him and booing him simply because they weren’t behind him. Now, we were behind him. Almost all of us were, actually. And then they had him not wrestle for weeks after that, stuck him in promos that he didn’t really look comfortable in delivering his lines, and the crowd went right back to hating him. And I can’t blame him.

A lot of it isn’t Reigns’ fault. We see he can work as the new face of WWE. The fans do want to like him, but the way he’s booked makes it so hard for wrestling fans in 2016 to really get behind him. Instead of being the badass who takes care of business like he did in that two day period in December, he’s back to the smiling, happy-go-lucky babyface that wrestling fans hate today. He can’t be booked that way. He can’t be micromanaged to study a script and say exactly what that script says. He needs to have some freedom. He needs to be able to show that personality that got the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock over their entire career.

If WWE doesn’t give Reigns that freedom and opportunity, they’re neutering what could be their future. It’s not too late, but it’s getting there.

Here’s the order of the entrants, order of elimination and who eliminated them.

Roman Reigns Rusev Roman Reigns 
 RusevTyler BreezeAJ Styles/Reigns 
 AJ StylesCurtis Axel AJ Styles 
 Tyler BreezeGoldust Titus O'Neil 
 Curtis AxelR-Truth Kane 
Chris Jericho Kofi Kingston Chris Jericho 
Kane Titus O'Neil  Big Show
 GoldustRyback Big Show 
Ryback Kane Braun Strowman 
Kofi Kingston Big Show Braun Strowman 
Titus O'Neil AJ Styles Kevin Owens 
R-Truth Kevin Owens Sami Zayn 
Luke Harper Neville Luke Harper 
Stardust Stardust Luke Harper 
Big Show Mark Henry Harper/Erick Rowan/Strowman 
 NevilleSami Zayn Braun Strowman 
 Braun StrowmanErick Rowan Brock Lesnar 
Kevin Owens Jack Swagger Brock Lesnar 
Dean Ambrose Luke Harper Brock Lesnar 
Sami Zayn Braun Strowman Brock Lesnar 
 Erick RowanBrock Lesnar Harper/Rowan/Strowman 
Mark Henry The Miz Roman Reigns 
 Brock LesnarAlberto Del Rio Roman Reigns 
Jack Swagger Dolph Ziggler Triple H 
The Miz Bray Wyatt Triple H/Sheamus 
Alberto Del Rio Chris Jericho Dean Ambrose 
 Bray WyattSheamus Roman Reigns 
Dolph Ziggler Roman Reigns Triple H 
Sheamus Dean Ambrose Triple H 
Triple H   

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