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Cook’s Royal Rumble 2017 Review

January 29, 2017 | Posted by Steve Cook

The 2017 Royal Rumble is expected to be the biggest-grossing non-WrestleMania event in WWE history. It’s been awhile since a non-WrestleMania event has visited a dome or stadium, and the Rumble is the perfect event for one. Frankly, I’m surprised WWE didn’t do this years earlier. Imagine how different the reaction to the 2014 Rumble would have been in a larger venue. Sure, there would have still been fans mad that Daniel Bryan wasn’t in it, but the percentage would have been lower & they wouldn’t have been as loud to us watching at home. The backlash to Roman Reigns the last two years might have been muted as well. Oh well, we don’t dwell in the past here at 411mania.

My name’s Steve Cook, and I don’t dwell in the past either. But if you’ve been a 411 reader for a lengthy period of time you might remember me from such columns as “News From Cook’s Corner”, “TNA Impact Insight”, “Ask 411 Wrestling” and a bunch of other stuff that I don’t remember doing. Alcohol is a hell of a drug. Nevertheless, I’m back just in time for the biggest non-WrestleMania event in WWE history and I don’t think my timing could have been any better. This was one of the least predictable Rumbles heading into the show in recent memory, as any number of big names, part-timers or even full-timers had a legitimate shot at winning the Royal Rumble Match and earning their spot in a Championship match at WrestleMania. Or maybe they’d earn a spot in a Championship match at one of the February PPVs, or the chance to defend their spot there, or any number of things. The Road to WrestleMania starts at the Royal Rumble, and the trip is usually a bumpy one with lots of twists & turns. I’m expecting nothing less this year.

Becky Lynch, Nikki Bella & Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss, Mickie James & Natalya

I love the SmackDown women’s division. They seemed to get the short hand of the stick in the original draft, but key additions like Nikki & Mickie along with good storytelling have put SD’s  women’s division on equal footing with Raw’s, at least in my eyes if not in the eyes of WWE brass due to their placement on this show in comparison to Raw’s ladies. Though I guess it can be debated whether or not the opening match of the Kickoff Show has taken the opening match of the main card’s spot as the second most important spot on the show. Becky, Nikki & Naomi started out hot but eventually it came to Becky taking abuse from Alexa & her friends, as things typically do these days. I enjoyed Naomi’s calvacade of kicks, as Mauro Rinallo called them. She ended up getting the win over Alexa Bliss, setting her up as the top contender for the SmackDown Women’s Title going forward. Since Becky & Nikki have personal issues going with Mickie & Natalya respectively, this makes sense. Much like most things on SmackDown. Everybody looked good, I have no complaints about the match or the booking. (***)

Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho promos always deserve a mention even if they’re on the kickoff show. Charly Caruso deserves mention as well, she’s pretty darn solid in the interviewing role. She needs some work in the host role, but there’s potential there. While I’m commenting on preshow hosts here’s my take on the various Kickoff Show presenters…

Renee Young: Best host WWE has had in a long time.

Booker T: I love Booker a lot more than most people do. He has a great personality for the analyst role and should still be on Raw or SmackDown.

Jerry Lawler & Shawn Michaels: Both served the same purpose on this show and were fine. Shawn was pretty good on color back in the mid-90s but I’m sure he doesn’t have time for it now.

Peter Rosenberg: Was better here in the roving reporter role than he has been as an analyst or host.

I would do the same for the announcers on the main show if there weren’t so many of them. Three is too much for my taste, fourteen is just nutty.

WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Match With Two Referees
Cesaro & Sheamus (c) vs. Gallows & Anderson

It seems like the Cesaro/Sheamus wacky tag team partners that hate each other act lost some steam once they became friendly. It doesn’t help that they’re feuding with Gallows & Anderson. Don’t get me wrong, I love The Club, but they’re colder than the weather outside right now. Wherever you are. I have to register a complaint with the first two Kickoff Show matches having commercials in the middle of them. Hopefully they don’t do one in the middle of the Rumble. Sheamus is actually getting a positive reaction during this match, I had forgotten what that was like. The second referee on the outside actually does something useful, which I wasn’t really expecting. My lack of Raw-watching lately is exposed as I had no idea Cesaro was doing a 619 now. It’s…something. Have we decided whether or not Karl is related to Arn, Ole, Gene & Lars? We lose a referee to a Brogue Kick & shenanigans are afoot Magic Killer to Sheamus, Cesaro knocks Gallows out of the ring…Anderson rolls Cesaro up & holds the tights to win the Championships! Well, I guess Cesaro & Sheamus have reason to hate each other again. Decent enough match with sensible booking, but nothing to set the world on fire. Hopefully the belts will help Gallows & Anderson & it isn’t too little, too late. (**3/4)

Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks

I think Nia has a lot of potential as an Awesome Kong-style worker, but she’s green as grass right now. Putting Sasha with her should help her out, as Sasha can work & she’s so small that everything Nia does looks devastating. The program doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon, as Nia pretty much squashed Sasha into oblivion. She has the excuse of a bum knee though, so it shouldn’t hurt her that much. I’ll dust off a classic…this is a match and it was there. (*)

Seth Rollins is banned from the building tonight. So he’ll be there. Shawn Michaels goes to the ring & cuts a promo to hype the crowd. I currently expect him to do nothing else.

WWE Raw Women’s Championship Match
Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Bayley

When did the Tube Men become Bayley Buddies? I hope this means they’re going to sell them. Bayley’s doing flying headscissors & cross-bodies to the floor early on, but Charlotte gets her bearings & goes on the offensive. Poor Bayley. Nah, I don’t feel sorry for Bayley, she’s in the perfect role for her. So is Charlotte. The matches haven’t been as good as Charlotte vs. Sasha, but the character work is much better because Bayley is a much more believable babyface than Sasha, who is the Legit Boss at heart. Don’t trade chops with a Flair, Bayley! Unless you’re any of Ric’s WCW opponents. I like how they play Bayley not being as athletically sound as Charlotte into their characters. Fans bought into the nearfall of Bayley’s knees kinda breaking up Charlotte’s moonsault. Natural Selection on the apron finishes it for Charlotte. I don’t like the “every single move being on the apron” trend that Pro Wrestling NOAH started and every indy promotion abused, but if it finishes a match I’ll allow it. Decent enough match here, nothing blowaway great like some of the previous Charlotte title matches. (***1/4)

WWE Universal Championship Match with No Disqualifications & Chris Jericho in a Shark Cage
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Roman Reigns

I don’t think I would be cool with being in a shark cage. Either up in the air or in water surrounded by sharks. I like how Byron Saxton talks about Owens’ credibility as champion being undermined by Jericho’s interference while the crowd cheers him. Reigns beats Jericho up before tossing him into the shark cage, which seems excessive. Owens & Reigns head into the crowd & pay a visit to the Japanese announce team. The fact that it’s Funaki & Yamaguchi-San still cracks me up. They should have Baron Von Raschke doing German commentary. Owens takes advantage of the whole No DQ thing by getting out a bunch of chairs like he’s back in CZW. Thinking of CZW reminds me that someday I have to go into detail about how DJ Hyde inspired Triple H’s run as an authority figure. Not today though, I’d rather watch Kevin Owens beat up Roman Reigns and construct a contraption of chairs. They tease people going through it before Roman goes on his offensive run. He gets the table but Owens backstabs him for a two count. Funny how the backstabber became the universally accepted name for that move. More offense from Reigns until he ends up on the table outside…frog splash from Owens off the top rope! Yikes. They talk about potential busted ribs for both guys on that one. A chairshot in honor of Jericho gets a nearfall. Back & forth offense leads to Reigns being sent head-first into some chairs for two. Jericho has some brass knuckles & decides to drop them down to Owens. Who could have seen such a thing coming? Owens lands the Superman punch with the knucks and only gets a two count! If William Regal had done it the match would be over. Learn to throw a punch, Kevin. Samoan Drop through a chair by Reigns gets two. MOAR TABLE. Owens kicks out of a Superman punch. Reigns kicks out of a Stone Cold Stunner, of all things. I’m rooting for a Rock Bottom next. The fans love the finisher fest with plunder, who would have guessed? It might be time to go through those chairs…and it’s Owens taking the plunge after a Superman punch! Reigns decides that’s not enough and it’s time to put Owens through the Raw announce table! Yeah, I’d say this is about over. No…it’s not because here comes BRAUN STROWMAN. He chokeslams Reigns on the Smackdown announce table, which doesn’t put it over at all! Ouch. Running powerslam through the table! Braun leaves, Owens rolls over for the cover and retains the title.

OK, that was all probably way too much. But sometimes you gotta have matches that are way too much, and this one was enjoyable. I’m gonna go (****). I liked it. Owens didn’t win on his own again, but he still had a heck of an effort. Reigns is indestructible and I’m not going to waste time complaining about it. It is what it is. And it wasn’t bad tonight.

Enzo Amore doing a KFC commercial…that was pretty bad. Please don’t soil the reputation of my state’s primary contribution to America like that.

Mick Foley’s suit…even worse. I like Dean Ambrose’s strategy for the number pull. Don’t even look at the number, just go out when your music hits. Then you don’t think about it too much.

WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match
Rich Swann (c) vs. Neville

I’ll be honest, I haven’t really kept up with 205 Live since the first couple of episodes. Mostly because the Nashville Predators seem to have games every Tuesday and the third period usually starts around 10 PM. At least they seem to be focusing around the guys that can fly now, and Swann does a bit of it early. Neville is impressing people on this heel run and it’s not hard to see why. The downside is that he has to slow down his offense to get the proper reaction, and it leads to less than entertaining results sometimes. I don’t remember WCW cruiserweights working restholds. The crowd knows Tye Dillinger with their 10 counts. Swann wakes the folks up with a superkick breaking up a Neville double axehandle. Now he flips around and things are picking up. Big ol’ CroCop kick gets 2 as does the good ol’ standing frog splash. WWE Sign Guy chose this match to take his bathroom break? To be fair, the AlamoDome is pretty big so maybe he left during the long time between matches and just got back now. That’s probably it. Neville gets his foot on the ropes to break a nearfall on a kick. Rich, dude, the kick’s not working as a finish here. Try something else. He goes up top but Neville meets him up there for a superplex that gets two. Neville locks in a Rings of Saturn with a crossface & Swann taps the title away. A little slow for my cruiserweight taste, to be honest. I like the potential of Neville as champion and hopefully this will send things in the right direction. When’s Tozawa debuting? (**)

WWE Championship Match
AJ Styles (c) vs. John Cena

Styles enters first and everybody on my Twitter loses their poop. The “champions shouldn’t enter first” thing feels like a battle that ended a long time ago and really isn’t worth fighting again. These guys are two of the best in the world and this match should be awesome. Cena’s veins are popping out of his body. I have no idea if that’s healthy or not, but I haven’t seen any of my veins since I was about ten years old. A little slow to start, but not too slow. Countering of moves because they’ve wrestled each other before. AJ pulling the wheelbarrow facebuster out of his hat. Cena clotheslining Styles’s head off. Styles with a Lex Luger style torture rack! You don’t see that enough anymore. A spinning powerbomb out of it gets 2. The first AA of the match gets a 2 count. The first AA is pretty much dead as a finish at this point, which I’m sure most don’t mind because it’s a standing fireman’s carry, but the move had been protected so many years it’s kind of a shame. Cena’s been working on those clotheslines. I’d almost bump them up to lariat level, but I think only Texans are allowed to throw lariats. Styles partially hits the Pele kick, then we get the first Phenomenal Forearm for two. I’m getting the feeling about twelve minutes or so in that this could be going awhile. Styles locks in the Calf Crusher, and I’d be more invested if I hadn’t already decided this was going on for awhile. But then Cena locks in the STF and maybe I’m wrong? No, I’m not wrong. AJ locks in the STF. Cena powers out…AA? Nah, let’s do a figure four leglock! That’d be a heck of a way to tie the Naitch. The announcers can’t decide whether or not Cena deadlifts Styles on a powerbomb type move. Cena misses the Rocker Dropper, and Styles hits the Styles Clash for a two count! He misses the springboard 450, and Cena hits the Code Red for a two count! Styles gets another nearfall using his knee, and that might play into things…maybe? Cena’s making up moves for two counts at this point. Super AA time? Yes it is! 2 count? Dang son. Another Styles Clash! Styles isn’t in place for a three count though…he opts to spring up top instead & springs into an AA! Cena does another for good measure! And we got a 16 time Champ!

What a match. Both guys on top of their game, it doesn’t matter which one holds the strap because they both deserve it. Cena’s around for now, so why not? Between this match & Federer & Nadal it was a heck of a Sunday for legends of the 2000s & 2010s. Cena makes a wish after the match because he’s John Cena and that’s what he does. Can we go five snowflakes? Yes, we can. (*****)

The 2017 Royal Rumble Match

Big Cass draws #1. I assume this was so Enzo could cut his promo. I’m kind of done with it at this point but the WWE Universe sure isn’t, so I can’t blame them for continuing. Apparently time isn’t an issue for tonight’s show because that went on for awhile. Chris Jericho draws #2 and we can assume the Rumble Curse of Jericho continues. Two minutes go by & Kalisto is #3. Not liking his chances since most of the guys in this match are a foot taller than him.He gets to do some fun flips & rolling around though. Mojo Rawley is #4 and he’s all HYPED. POOOOOOUUUUUNNNNCCCCCEEEEEEE! Man, what is Monty Brown up to these days? And what are our time intervals this year? Here comes Gentleman Jack Gallagher at #5 with his umbrella. Well, it is no disqualification, but not very gentlemanly. Jericho neuters himself with the umbrella. Mark Henry is #6 and I really don’t like his chances of lasting all the way. We must be counting the entrances as part of the two minutes, as it takes some time to walk down that runway. Henry tosses Gallagher & his umbrella like yesterday’s garbage. Bruan Strowman enters at #7 and gamblers that picked him are losing their minds now. See ya, Mojo. Big Cass goes flying out after missing a big boot & crotcheting himself. Strowman tosses Kalisto into the second row. Strowman & Mark Henry face off, and that’s it for Mizark. They’re all out except Strowman…and Jericho, who’s chillaxing outside because he’s intelligent.

Sami Zayn is #8 and he’s got a little bit of history with Mr. Strowman. The poor bastard. I don’t see him lasting long unless he gets to work an injury angle or Braun gets bored with him. Strowman beats him down for awhile. #9 is the Big Show. I don’t think the weight loss really helps with Rumble strategy…Show can last longer, but he’s easier to throw out now. He’s doing well now, and Jericho gets knocked out so he can sell for awhile. Braun eliminates Show for the second year in a row. I’m telling you, he should have kept the weight on. Here comes the Perfect 10, Tye Dillinger! Number 10! It’s perfect…except he’s running into Braun Strowman. Lots of 10 counts. Sami & Tye team up on Strowman for a little bit. He suplexes both of them, and #11 is none other than another Strowman foil, James Ellsworth! Carmella tells him to get into the ring but James has second thoughts. Sami & Tye take advantage of the distraction & nearly eliminate Braun…but that doesn’t last long. Dean Ambrose is #12, and James Ellsworth might be in some trouble now. Especially since Dean tricks him into running into the ring & Braun Strowman. Strowman tosses his sixth person out in pretty brutal fashion. Dean joins Sami & Tye against Braun, but that doesn’t go a whole lot better. Baron Corbin is unlucky #13, which sounds about right for him. He joins the others in going after Strowman, which seems out of character but I assume he’d rather get rid of the big guy first. There goes Tye thanks to Braun. Helluva Kick in the corner on Braun! Corbin eliminates Strowman with a clothesline! Dirty Deeds on Corbin by Ambrose! Kofi Kingston is #14 and now we wait to see how he hangs in the Rumble a little bit longer than he probably should. The Miz is #15, which is a far better draw than he’s accustomed to. Skull-Crushing Finale to Sami right away. Miz tries to eliminate Ambrose, then opts for the Bryan-style offense. Corbin Deep-Sixes Miz. Miz, Corbin, Kofi, Sami, Dean & Jericho are still in this at the moment. I’m not sure where Jericho is, but he’s still alive. Kofi hangs on by a ringpost and hits Trouble in Paradise on Corbin.

Sheamus draws #16 and he goes to town on everybody in sight. Here comes Jericho to get Brogue Kicked. Kofi gets some help now, as Big E is #17. When did Big E start spanking people during abdominal stretches? I’ve missed some stuff on Raw, apparently. Rusev drew #18 & he’s got a broken nose. Poor guy. Doesn’t stop him from splashing everything in sight. A spinning heel kick to Sheamus! He doesn’t seem terribly concerned with eliminating people though. Miz gets kneed into next week. Cesaro is #19, so Sheamus has an ally…at least for a few minutes anyway. He swings Miz, Zayn, Ambrose, Kofi, Big E (for a second), Corbin, and teases a Sheamus swing before Rusev breaks that up. Xavier Woods is #20 and now we’ve got all the New Day members here. I just noticed we haven’t had any Wyatt Family members yet, which is great for them. New Day isolates Sheamus, but Cesaro & Miz for some reason break that mess up. Speaking of the Wyatts, here comes Bray at #21. He goes after anybody dumb enough to run into him. We’ve got two New Day members on the ring apron & a ton of people in the ring right now. Apollo Crews is #22 and I don’t think he’ll do anything to clear the deadwood. First Goldberg chant of the match. Sheamus & Cesaro eliminate all three New Day members! Sheamus tries to eliminate Cesaro, they bicker, and Jericho eliminates both of them! They stare each other down outside, as #23 makes his way to the ring in the form of Randy Orton. He’s been one of the top picks by the wise guys…I’m not really sure why, but he does go crazy here early on. RKOs! Sami jumps into one for fun. Now Orton & Wyatt are ready. Jericho jumping in there might not have been wise. Dolph Ziggler is #24…great draw for him. SUPERKIIIIIIIICCCCCCKKKKKKKKS. Lawler asks if he can go over to grab Dolph’s feet when he’s on the verge of elimination. I think he’ll behave. Luke Harper is #25 and I wonder why he doesn’t get to use his own music. He eliminates Crews anyway. He teases an alliance with Orton, but clotheslines Wyatt! He teases giving Bray the Sister Abagail, but Orton hits an RKO to break it up. Talk about a dysfunctional family.

Speaking of dysfunctional, here comes Brock Lesnar at #26. There goes Ambrose & Ziggler. Suplexes for Rusev, Jericho & Corbin. F-5s to Miz & Orton. Lucky #27…it’s Enzo Amore! He got a much better draw than Cass, except for the part where he gets to run into Brock Lesnar. Lesnar clotheslines his head off. Bye, Enzo. How ya doin. So we got Undertaker & Goldberg still to enter, and probably somebody obvious that I’m forgetting right now. I can think of a couple of guys it could be (Reigns? Triple H? Somebody already announced that slipped my mind?)…but before we get to that it’s Goldberg at #28. Everybody else in the ring is dead, so Goldberg & Brock face off! Spear by Goldberg! Clothesline over the top! That was less time than it took him at Survivor Series! Corbin, Rusev & Jericho all take a shot. Sami Zayn takes a Jackhammer cause he’s crazy like that. The Wyatts take their turn, and Randy & Bray eat a spear for their efforts. It’s Undertaker time at #29. That might have been his quickest match entrance in ten years. Goldberg tosses Rusev, Undertaker eliminates Corbin. Spear by Goldberg on Taker. Luke Harper takes his leave thanks to Goldberg. Taker eliminates Goldberg! Undertaker chokeslams Zayn & Miz. Here comes #30…

ROMAN REIGNS! Of course it is. It’s Reigns, Undertaker, Orton, Wyatt, Zayn, Miz, Jericho. Reigns & Undertaker face off. Superman punch by Reigns! Another is blocked and he gets a chokeslam. Miz is out via Taker. Zayn is out via Taker. Jericho is sitting up top for some reason. Sure enough, it leads to a chokeslam. Reigns eliminates the Undertaker! Well, that’s a WrestleMania idea I guess.

Final 4: Reigns, Jericho, Wyatt & Orton. Hell, maybe the Curse of Jericho is over. And as soon as I say that, Reigns goes after him. Yup, Superman punch and there he goes. Orton & Wyatt doubleteam Reigns. Reigns fights back & tosses Wyatt! Orton’s actually going to do it. And sure enough, he RKOs Reigns, clotheslines him over the top & wins! Well, I didn’t exactly see that one coming going in. I did an article on the Royal Rumble betting odds last week where, among other things, I said it made no sense for Orton to win. Right after that went live, a ton of money came in on Orton. Obviously, I’ve still got my finger on the pulse of WWE.

This wasn’t one of the best Rumble matches ever, but I’d say it was a step up from recent ones. Less comedy and more people actually trying to win makes for a better main event match. MVP…Sami Zayn? Jericho was in for longer but did less. Zayn was pretty active most of the time, at least when he & everybody else working full-time weren’t playing dead for the part-timers. As far as stars go I’m guessing (***) on a Rumble match scale. It feels like it’d be right in the middle. Orton winning doesn’t really bother me, at least until I realize this might lead to another Cena vs. Orton match, which could be subtitled “One Thousandth in a Lifetime”.

Eh, we’ve still got a few bumps in the Road to WrestleMania to hit. Who knows what’ll actually happen. We’ll find out together. Good night everybody!

For more of Steve Cook’s thoughts on pro wrestling, along with his thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals, Cincinnati Reds, Nashville Predators, Tottenham Hotspur & University of Louisville sports teams, follow him on Twitter!

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Royal Rumble, Steve Cook