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No Punches Pulled: WWE Royal Rumble 2016 Review

January 25, 2016 | Posted by Eric Presti
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No Punches Pulled: WWE Royal Rumble 2016 Review  

No Punches Pulled is a hard-hitting, no B.S., call-it-right-down-the-middle, review column dedicated to delivering unbiased thoughts and criticisms from the world of WWE to readers everywhere. Just because professional wrestlers pull their punches, doesn’t mean we have to pull ours.

WWE Royal Rumble takes place from The Amway Center in New Orleans, LA, in front of a crowd of 15,170.

Pre-Show: The Dudley Boyz vs The Ascension vs Mark Henry & Jack Swagger vs Darren Young & Damien Sandow

Background: Not much background here to share. This was a match for a spot in the Royal Rumble in the main event.

Pacing: Match got off to a pretty slow start, being mostly The Ascension and Swagger/Henry. The Crowd got pretty hype for Sandow being back with his old I > U gimmick. Things picked up a bit as the Dudley Boyz got involved. Each team got a fair amount of ring time other than Young & Sandow. The Crowd wanted him in, but he got very little ring time. Toward the end, the action got pretty messy as Henry picked up the 3 count without being the legal man.

Finish: Mark Henry hit Bubba Ray with a splash and pinned Viktor who got hit with a 3D. Winners, and advancing to the Royal Rumble Match, Mark Henry & Jack Swagger.

PJ: This was about as thrown together as it gets, and wasn’t very linear or easy to follow but I’ll highlight some likes and dislikes. I liked seeing Damien Sandow back in the gimmick that affords him the most opportunity for success. I’m not sure if he’s here to stay but it was nice to see him, and the crowd in Orlando seemed to agree. I also liked that the two former heavyweight champions won, because that does end more kayfabe credibility to the rumble. I disliked the seemingly WWE 2K16 generated tag teams, as it shows how thin WWE is even in the Tag division. I also disliked the ending where I believe Henry’s tag was off camera, then he seems to forget he can just pin Viktor until much after the fact. These pre-show bouts are always a mixed bag but this was on the worse side, I’d wager.

Eric: I’m not sure where they found some of these teams, but holy moly. Why Swagger and Henry? Why Young and Sandow? I get you wanted to debut Sandow in his new/old gimmick, but why not give him any ring time or put him in the rumble? Also, why couldn’t Titus team with Young for this match? I thought they weren’t together because Young was hurt, but that’s apparently not the case. I’m with PJ on this in that I hated the ending. It was chaotic and messy. I’m 95% sure Henry was not the legal man. I rewatched a couple times and even read some play-by-plays on some other sites and still haven’t seen anyone site the tag was made. On some ECW level of sloppy. Also, not a big fan of Henry hitting what clearly was supposed to be the finisher, and tried to roll him over, but gave up and just pinned Viktor. The psychology was an all-time low.

Most Entertaining: Seeing Damien Sandow back with his I > U gimmick is a relief after some HORRIBLE creative decisions for him. Mizdow was great while it lasted, but built up to nothing, and we’re not even going to talk about Macho Mandow. Anyway, having Sandow back with this gimmick is refreshing and honestly, if the WWE expects him to go anywhere, they need to keep him as the educator of the masses.

Something we would Change: Why have Henry and Swagger win? The two obvious choices to win were either (a) The Dudley Boyz because people like them or (b) Young and Sandow because Titus is already in the match, so you have a potential interesting alliance, and because you want to actually try to get Sandow over with his “new” gimmick. Having these two win makes no sense and it honestly didn’t add anything to the match seeing as Swagger got eliminated in 15 seconds.

Rating: 1 Star

Dean Ambrose (c) vs Kevin Owens in a Last Man Standing match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship

Background: This feud stems from the concluding matches of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament during Survivor Series two months ago. Ambrose won their match, subsequently earning himself an Intercontinental title shot. Ambrose capitalized on that shot and won his first IC title at this past PPV, TLC. Since that night, Kevin Owens has been on a mission to reclaim what he refers to as “his Intercontinental Title”. Many ruthless attacks ensued on Ambrose including Owens Power bombing Ambrose through the announce table. Ambrose got his licks in as well, putting Owens through an announce table, himself, really heating this feud up and setting the stage for Ambrose’s challenge.

Pacing: Before the bell, Ambrose and Owens were in each other’s faces with the title lying on the ground adding some real hype to the match. Once the bell hit, we were off to a quick start with the two throwing bombs at one another. The action moved outside the ring pretty quick and into a great spot with Ambrose throwing Owens over the announce table, taking out Michael Cole (probably better that way). Now the weapons get involved as Owens hits Ambrose with an iPad. Ambrose, not as tech savvy, grabs a kendo stick and beats Owens down. Some more back and forth as Owens hits his signature bowling ball through the barricade. This match goes on to have some great psychology as well as creative use of weapons (Owens snapping the kendo stick in half and shoving Ambrose with the splintered end and Owens laying Ambrose in a bed of chairs, not to mention the iPad). There were some good high spots as well, most notably Owens’ suplex through the table and, finally, Ambrose pushing Owens out of the ring through the stack of tables.

Finish: As Kevin Owens was about to hit what looked like it would have been a moonsault onto a bed of chairs; Dean Ambrose pushed him over the turnbuckle and through a stack of tables. Owens couldn’t answer the 10 count. Winner and STILL WWE Intercontinental Champion, Dean Ambrose.

PJ: Hell of a match. Hopefully this is how they end their blood-feud because this was pretty god damn entertaining. An early Match of The Year Nominee. Lots of insane high-risk stuff in this match-which this PPV needed. The elbow through the table, the cannonball through the barricade, the superplex through the table and the ending sequence, all came with a high degree of difficulty but the guys made it look easy. Kevin Owens flat out dominated a good portion of this match so even though he leaves without his prize, he looked really good, and they made it so that Dean Ambrose obviously had to take advantage of an opportunity to win. Both guys sold well. Love when they both shout “I hate you!”, at each other. These are truly two of the more unique guys in the biz and it’s been a pleasure to watch their feud unfold and I think FINALLY we had a few matches that lend some credibility to the intercontinental title.

Eric: Honestly, this feud has been amazing and I’m kind of sad that it’s most likely over. But what a way to end it, huh? I felt this match was very reliant on weapons at some points, but this feud has gained enough character and has gotten personal enough to where it makes sense for the early and heavy use of weapons. Owens in-ring heelwork was awesome, per usual. Especially when he sat in the ring with his feet up while the ref counted Ambrose and the small bit when he said “I hate you” and Ambrose responded with “I hate YOU”. Not to mention his little verbal additions during his moves really add to his overall psychology. Ambrose looked great as usual hitting some clean moves. I have to be honest though; I really hate his rebound clothesline. Nine times out of ten the opponent is watching Ambrose do it, goes for a counter, and then gets hit by it. Doesn’t make much sense. All in all it was a very good, very decisive was to end the feud and leave Ambrose with the IC Title. I am definitely convinced (not that I wasn’t before) that Ambrose deserves the title. Going forward I’m hoping to see Owens and Styles mix it up and possibly see a triple threat for the IC title (Owens, Styles, and Ambrose).

Most Entertaining: A nice decisive victory for Dean Ambrose to retain the title. There was no “oh well maybe…” or “well if Owens was…” no. This was as decisive as it gets and it leaves no room for question who the IC Champ should be. We are not at all left with something to desire in this feud, which is nice considering so many feuds end with cheap shots and interferences, only to have that other person ripped off in a different direction. Owens heelwork also deserves an honorable mention

Something we would Change: Nothing. This match was awesome for what it was and had a perfect ending to the feud should they choose to end it.

Rating: 4 Stars

The New Day (c) vs The Usos for the WWE World Tag Team Championship

Background: These two teams have been feuding in some way, shape, or form, for considerable time now, so we’ll focus on recent installments for brevity’s sake. The feud picked up again after the Usos promo was called out by Jericho, and Jericho saw himself in the corner of the Usos as they took on The New Day on Raw and ended up with a win after Jericho provided the distraction by breaking precious Francesca the trombone. The New Day answered back, as their powerhouse Big E, got a decisive singles win over Jey Uso, on the most recent installment of Monday Night Raw, evening the odds as we set our sights on the Royal Rumble

Pacing: Xavier debuts Francesca 2.0 to all of us, which should make things a little more interesting. The pace these four sit isn’t blistering by any means; you could even argue that it is very formulaic. What you can’t argue is how clean some of these sequences are. Thrusts, and superkicks being tossed out like hot cakes from the Usos then comes a cool sequence where he Samoan Drops Big E, then catches Kofi off the top rope, he gets a Samoan Drop too. The crowd is hot for this, and begs Xavier to play Francesca, and to his heel credit, he instead drops the trombone. Another big sequence follows where everyone dives to the outside, culminating with Big E hitting his apron spear on Jimmy, and everyone is out. Action picks up fast and furious with The Usos picking up momentum, highlighted by a superkick from Jey that looks like it takes Kofi’s head clean off. However when Jey heads up to the top rope to finish Kofi with the Superfly Splash, Big E deadweight catches him in mid-air to a great crowd reaction, drops him with the Big Ending for the win.

Finish: Big E catches Jey Uso, mid air, and hits the Big Ending to retain. Winners and STILL WWE Tag Team Champions, New Day

PJ: I enjoyed this match. This is the type of mid-card match that can elevate an entire card by virtue of its simplicity. It was rock solid, they didn’t go out there trying to steal the show, and in the process of doing that, put on a match that will stand the test of time. The Usos are a great foil for The New Day but I have to wonder where both teams go from here. If you do add a partner for The Usos you can maybe give the feud enough gas to culminate at Mania, but that’s pushing it. I’m starting to become a big mark for Big E. He’s hilarious on the mic, we all know this, but he’s quietly become super solid in the ring. He hit some great suplexes, the Big Ending at the end was impressive, and the apron spear he does is one of the few moves that never gets old because it looks like both opponents are dead in the aftermath. Xavier’s heelwork was once again great although I feel like that barely needs mentioning anymore. He interfered a few times leading up to the climax of the bout, but by and large this was a mostly clean win here for the champs, which I like leading into mania. Their stock is pretty high and with all the injuries taking place, it might be time to insert one or more of them into something fairly high profile for “the show of shows”.

Eric: Great match. The Usos are often a part of great tag team matches and they are very fun to watch. Their feud with the Wyatts was great and they had an awesome run as the champs. Watching them with the New Day is no different. The New Day is honestly one of the most entertaining parts of Raw and their segments are absolutely hilarious, Big E especially. This match was full of great, clean sequences that made this match so much fun to watch. Ultimately, the moves in this match were crisp and the ending was perfect. It provided a decisive victory for the New Day that further solidified them as the top tag team. Teams with more than two members often get a bad rap when they start gaining momentum because people get annoyed with the interferences, ala Bray with the Wyatts before the initial breakup. They New Day are moving away from this, as XW is acting more as a typical manager and providing some extra entertainment. He does get involved from time to time, but it’s having less and less of an impact on the match outcome as time goes by.

Most Entertaining: The chemistry these two teams have was on display in full effect here. It’s one of the benefits to letting a feud stretch out even if this one has arguably lost its legs. There were few if any, missteps, and it was fun to watch as a result. A close second goes to New Day getting a mostly clean win.

Something we would Change: We probably wouldn’t have included Jericho in the build-up to the feud. Unless he becomes involved leading up to WrestleMania, it just seemed confusing. It was a nice way to attempt to breathe some life into the feud, but it just took the focus away from the people actually competing and that’s never a good thing.

Rating: 3.25 Stars

Alberto Del Rio (c) vs Kalisto for the WWE United States Championship

Background: After Sin Cara went on the shelf with a dislocated shoulder, they through Kalisto into some singles action to try and capitalize off the slammy hype. These two wrestled three singles matches leading up to this Pay Per View, including two title matches, and a tag team match on the most recent edition of Raw. They traded the title back and forth on Raw and Smackdown respectively last week, and battled in a tag team match with Del Rio flanked by Owens and Ambrose partnering up with the diminutive Luchador. Kalisto first upset Del Rio, on the inaugural USA edition of Smackdown, earning him a title shot on the following Raw, which he won clean with Salida del Sol. Del Rio regained his title 3 days later with help from Bad News Barrett. The feud gained steam when the League of Nations destroyed Kaliso backstage, upon hearing news that he had another rematch.

Pacing: This was spotty with little to no psychology. There was lots of innovative, high-risk offense from both men. Crowd was unfortunately dead for the first time tonight, as Del Rio works over Kalisto, but gains no real momentum. Some old school stuff as Del Rio tries to get a hold of Kalisto’s mask on the turnbuckle. Del Rio, is stiff per usual as you can hear him hitting some great kicks, not to mention the reverse superplex he hit was bananas. Kalisto stole a few pages from the Mysterio playbook including hitting a West Coast Pop, a flying senton, and doing that sliding bump out of the ring. Not going to do him any favors when people compare the two, inevitably. Del Rio, again, goes for the mask but this time it proves to be his undoing as Kalisto counters with a jawbreaker that, after some back and forth, leads to the Salida del Sol.

Finish: Kalisto hits Salida del Sol to pick up the victory. Winner and NEW WWE United States Champion, Kalisto.

PJ: Thoughts: I wasn’t a fan of this match. Seemed like a spot fest that would’ve fit in on WCW Saturday Night, or a particularly bad ECW Pay-Per-View if you added pointless chair shots. Some of the stuff they pulled off was worth it and, as evidenced by the botched flipping sun set flip attempt, some of it wasn’t. When you don’t have psychology in your match, you are bound to rely on ideas that even some of the best athletes in the world are going to screw up. In concept, and in execution, that was a bad spot. A major hit to this match’s armor was the crowd too. People don’t seem to give a rat’s ass about Del Rio, and I think after Kalisto lost the title for the first time, people assumed that was the end of his push and that this match was a formality. I also don’t like that John Cena gets pinned with the kick, yet Kalisto kicks out heartily half way through the match. Bad booking. Dug the stuff with the mask, dug some of the moves hit, and I’m not totally against a Kalisto singles run, I just wish it had been properly built up. I’m not sure what this means for Sin Cara. I liked their team and as I mentioned in my pre show summary, the WWE isn’t exactly setting the world on fire with its tag team depth. But if they had no plans for the Dragons, then there’s no harm done in pushing the kid. I just hope they have something in mind to set him apart from a certain Luchador whose area code was 619.

Eric: I’m totally OK with a Kalisto push. My biggest issue though, is the image of the US Title. Rusev was a monster and a number of impressive singles victories under his belt before he won the US Title (he was undefeated). He went on to beat John Cena before losing it to him when they fought again at WrestleMania 31. John Cena was a 14 time World Champion when he won it from Rusev. He defended it almost every night on Raw and had great matches. He lost it to Rollins, who at the time was arguably the most over guy in the company and the WWE World Champion. He then lost it back to Cena. Cena lost it to Del Rio who was a 4 time World Champion. You see where I’m going here? These were all accomplished guys who worked hard to elevate the title. Put in work in the ring and in their storylines to get that title to the heights it’s currently at. In these cases it was the men who were building that title up, not the title building them up. Putting the belt on Kalisto, hot-shotting it back to Del Rio (on Smackdown of all places) and then giving in back to Kalisto again not only slightly diminishes the title, but now its on a guy who is completely unproven in WWE singles competition. It’s a big risk in my opinion. I think they should have, at the very least, had Kalisto get screwed in both matches against Del Rio and then win it here. Then you at least played to the underdog in him. In reality, they should have dragged this out longer or put him in other feuds to build him up first.

Most Entertaining: The most entertaining part of this match was seeing Del Rio be able to manhandle Kalisto into some pretty cool offense. A lot of people don’t like seeing someone of Kalisto’s size wrestle (and beat) bigger wrestles, but we don’t mind for the sheer notion of being afforded the opportunity to be able to see something like that reverse superplex. To a bigger opponent it would not have been possible or at least not looked as good.

Something we would Change: Tempted to go with the lack of psychology, but we will go with the build up. The fact that Kalisto already score not one but 2 underdog victories leading up to this match made people either A) convinced his push was over, or B) not care. Either way the match was met with straight apathy. The product in the ring was admittedly average at best, but these guys were hamstrung well before the bell was rung.

Rating: 2.25 Stars

Charlotte (c) vs Becky Lynch for the WWE Diva’s Championship

Background: If you look at it without any bias, this match had a great build up. They took a page out of the recent NXT feud with Owens and Zayn and built up how much of friends these two were, coming up in the formative years in developmental. The opening montage with all the selfies and behind the scenes pictures added to this. The story being told is that Charlotte let fame, and success get to her head since she’s become champion and she is only enabled by here hall of fame father turned manager. Becky wants to right two wrongs. The first is she wants to restore glory to the Diva’s title, as Charlotte is cheating to retain and sullying the good name of the title. The second is that she wants to teach her former friend a lesson. This was all pretty good stuff. We only wish Charlotte was a better actor and could pull a more wide emotional range off.

Pacing: These two came out of the gate hot with some nice action. Ric Flair gets involved early and plants a kiss (wtf) on Becky. Wooooooooo. A few stumbles along the way include a botched neck breaker and small package. Crowd is much hotter for this match than they were for the US Title match (See what a good build up can do for you?). Firmly behind Becky, she hits a nice rolling armbar from the top rope trying to lock Charlotte in the Disarmher, only to be deadlifted out of it by Charlotte. Looking like Reigns there. She sends Becky reeling before baseball sliding into her own father. Off the distraction Becky finally successfully locks in the Disarmher before Ric Flair throws his jacket onto Becky, providing yet another distraction and Charlotte lays Becky out with a spear.

Finish: Charlotte hits Becky with a Spear for the 3 count. Winner and STILL Diva’s Champion, Charlotte.

PJ: I’m torn on this match, dear readers. I liked a few of the sequences and I was a huge fan of the build up. The crowd was even alive for it. A few major things knock this match down for me, and no, the botches didn’t do too much to bother me. First is that Becky seemed to be wrestling two matches. One against Charlotte, and one against her own ring attire. Do they not give these costumes the once over in the ring before bandying them about for a live audience? I know it wasn’t her fault necessarily but her constantly picking at her boot cover and her corset spitting was incredibly distracting. Same as when Mysterio adjusted his mask every 11 seconds at Mania 21 against Eddie. Good match but it undeniably took away from it. The second major thing I didn’t like about this match is how overbooked it was with the Ric Flair interferences. Now Ric Flair is a legend that is pretty much incomparable to other legends. I get that. But he has no business in the so-called “Diva’s revolution”. These two ladies spun a tale that was interesting even without him. But even so, if you are hell bent on him being Charlotte’s manager then fine. But does he have to get involved by doing ridiculous things like kissing her opponent? I mean it’s almost embarrassing. Xavier doesn’t take away from the New Day when he interferes, plus it’s part of their gimmick. Flair legitimately overshadows his daughter when he gets involved, plus she’s supposed to be genetically superior. Why does she need help from daddy? At it’s best, this match was psychological, hard hitting, and fluent. At it’s worst it was reliant on outside interference, sloppy and distracting. I felt like I was watching two different matches at some points.

Eric: PJ pretty much covered everything I needed to say, but I do want to touch on a few things. What constitutes for a DQ in the WWE now a days? Ric Flair put his hands on Becky Lynch and kissed her for one, and then later threw his jacket over her while she had Charlotte in submission. Does that not constitute as a weapon and it being used on Becky? Anyway, the botches did bother me a bit. Not because they were botches (hey, we all make mistakes), but because it was Becky Lynch. She was notorious in NXT for botching moves and that trend seems to have somewhat continued into WWE (She even botched bad enough to change the finish of a match in the NXT following Takeover: Brooklyn). For someone who performs these moves daily, you’d think she would get it right. Especially since she’s been performing since she was a kid, as she likes to point out in every promo. Now I don’t hate Becky (I know it sounds like I do), but I don’t. She’s interesting, she is better in the ring than 90% of the Divas (despite her botches), and her mic skills are decent for someone with as thick of an accent as hers. I think she’s over enough with the fans to invest in moving her forward, but it unfortunately looks like they only used her in this feud to bide time for Sasha to return.

Most Entertaining: The build up, then the logical way these girls fought giving the build up credibility. This feud was slow burned, but not drawn out, and Becky Lynch should be given credit for being a very solid character actor.

Something we would Change: Naitch. We wouldn’t necessarily remove him from Charlotte’s corner, because it does give her something to stand out from as a heel, and there is a lack of managers, but they need to think of better ways to get him involved. The kiss was inane, and the throw of the jacket should have been a DQ, so back to the drawing board for Naitch as manager.

Rating: 2.5 Stars

Royal Rumble Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship

Background: The latest installation of this feud began at TLC. The two fought in a TLC match for the title, which Sheamus won with the help of his newly formed group, League of Nations. Triple H came out to diffuse the situation between Sheamus and Reigns, but this ended up in Reigns beating Triple H down with a chair and hitting multiple spears, putting him out of actions for the weeks to come. The following Night on Raw, Reigns won the title from Sheamus in a match set up by Vince McMahon to punish Reigns. Three weeks later, Reigns defeated Sheamus to retain in a match with Vince as the referee. This prompted McMahon to make the Royal Rumble Match FOR the WWE World Heavyweight Champion and select Reigns as entrant #1.

Order of Eliminations:
Tyler Breeze eliminated by AJ Styles
Curtis Axel eliminated by AJ Styles
Goldust eliminated by Titus O’Neil
R Truth eliminated by Kane
Kofi eliminated by Chris Jericho
Titus O’Neil eliminated by Big Show
Ryback eliminated by Big Show
Kane eliminated by Braun Strowman
Big Show eliminated by Braun Strowman
AJ Styles eliminated by Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens eliminated by Sami Zayn
Neville eliminated by Luke Harper
Stardust eliminated by Luke Harper
Mark Henry eliminated by Braun Strowman, Luke Harper & Erick Rowan
Sami Zayn eliminated by Braun Strowman
Erick Rowan eliminated by Brock Lesnar
Jack Swagger eliminated by Brock Lesnar
Luke Harper eliminated by Brock Lesnar
Braun Strowman eliminated by Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar eliminated by Braun Strowman, Luke Harper & Erick Rowan
Miz eliminated by Roman Reigns
Alberto Del rio eliminated by Roman Reigns
Dolph Ziggler eliminated by Triple H
Bray Wyatt eliminated by Triple H & Sheamus
Chris Jericho eliminated by Dean Ambrose
Sheamus eliminated by Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns eliminated by Triple H
Dean Ambrose eliminated by Triple H

Longest Time: Roman Reigns (59:50)
*Jericho gets an honorable mention here as he was actually IN the match for 50:50
Shortest Time: Jack Swagger (0:15)
Most Eliminations: Braun Strowman (5)

Finish: Winner and NEW WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Triple H.

PJ: Putting a Royal Rumble into historical context, and giving it a “grade” is one of the most difficult things we as WWE reviewers do. I liked this rumble for the most part, especially when you consider the last couple years. I LOVED LOVED LOVED AJ Styles’ debut. The announcers for once had their head out of their ass and built him up huge. Comparing him to Brock Lesnar due to both having IWGP lineage, saying he’s the most sought after free agent, innovator of offense, 18 year pro. All awesome stuff without ever having to mention he was in TNA. Not a huge fan of rap music either, but I loved his theme. Leading up to Sunday I wasn’t sure if AJ debuting in the rumble was a good idea. I didn’t know if the casual fan would know who he was, and I wasn’t sure if he would look right in a WWE ring. Well your fearless scribe was wrong. The crowd went banana pancake for him, and seeing him in a WWE ring was like seeing a modern day Sting. The one who got away. Only this time he’s still young enough to right that wrong. Very cool stuff. I also think they picked the right guy to eliminate him in Owens because if those two go at it at Mania, sign me up. I liked Zayn being in the match. Cool to acknowledge the developmental. And I’m a huge fan of Reigns not going the distance and winning the whole thing. Though it’s been done before I liked the beat down of Reigns to get him out of the ring. I’d rather him be out of sight out of mind than to be dominating the entire match. Love Reigns, but having him win here would’ve been a mistake. I have a few big problems with the booking, but take them with a grain of salt. Booking a rumble is an imperfect science but here it goes: Not getting to see the Wyatt Family at full strength in the match was a bummer. Lesnar’s showing was weak at best, although I’m excited about him feuding with the Wyatt’s. I’m a Jericho mark but they could’ve let a younger wrestler get the shine of being in the match that long, someone who will be around longer than May, maybe. I dislike that the beat down of Reigns took the camera off the match long enough that we missed an elimination (Kofi). But most of all fans, I’m torn about Triple H winning it. I don’t think HHH is “burying” Reigns like the Internet loves to say, but at the same time, I just don’t know if he needs the belt. I think when considering the depth of Wrestlemania 32, the card is better suited to an HHH/Reigns blood feud, and less so a title match. Wyatt vs Lesnar would be even better suited to have the title. The inclusion of AJ Styles will help but I’m starting to fear for mania. If Brock and HHH are locked up in matches where does the Rock fit in? Is he the ref for the Reigns HHH match? The Undertaker looks like a man without a cause so far. This Rumble began to answer some questions but still left even more. It was a better Rumble than last year, and 2014 for sure. Just because the person you want to win doesn’t, does not make the rumble bad. But even still, I’m not sure this one delivered as much as it could have.

Eric: Very enjoyable, albeit predictable, Royal Rumble. AJ Styles debuting was cooler than I expected it to be. I was in the same boat as my partner in crime in thinking that not a lot of the fans would know him. WWE has a lot of casual fans and A TON of really young fans who wouldn’t know who he was. I guess one reason could be that the rumors of him being there caused a lot of people who are fans of his to buy tickets. But either way its not important, I’m happy Styles is here and even happier he got an amazing pop. I really would have liked to see him debuted differently though. For example, have him interfere in the Ambrose Owens match, cost Owens the title, and have them feud. Then have it culminate in a triple threat at Mania for the IC Title. It would have left more of an impact, in my opinion, than a Royal Rumble spot where you know he’s not going to win. It appears they might go with Styles Owens anyway, so maybe my scenario will come true. Moving on, my pick to win the Rumble was Wyatt. I thought the four of them would eliminate everyone and then the three of them get out of the ring leaving Wyatt on his knees laughing. Could have even had the three get eliminated by Lesnar like they did, but have them come back to eliminate everyone for Wyatt and built the title around Wyatt and Lesnar, leaving Reigns vs Triple H as a stand alone singles since it doesn’t need the title. Having Triple H enter at 30 and win it for the Authority was definitely predictable, but I don’t think it will be as bad as everyone thinks. It just depends how they go about it. I actually came up with a pretty elaborate storyline that involved Triple H coming back and winning, so who knows. I won’t post it in this, but comment below if you want to hear it.

Most Entertaining: Is there any other option than the AJ Styles debut? No, there isn’t.

Something we would Change: Can we please stop having R-Truth do dumb stuff like mixing up match types. It was funny that one time, then he wins a Slammy Award, they have him do a very similar spot later that same night, and now this. The guy seriously brought a ladder in the Royal Rumble acting like he thought it was a Ladder match. We all know that as WWE fans we need to suspend our disbelief at times, but things like this just rub it in our faces.

Rating: N/A

The final score: review Good
The 411
Pretty good start to the year. An absolute barnburner of an Intercontinental Title match followed by a pretty riveting tag-team bout. The other two title matches hit just as much as they missed, and we were treated to a Sasha Banks return. The Royal Rumble match, highlighted by a Reigns loss and the debut of AJ Styles, has all things geared toward Mania now. For the first time all year we feel excitement about where the year is heading, but there are still a lot of stoned left unturned. Overall a good show that merits re-watching, but isn’t going to be considered a classic installment by any means. It certainly could have used the likes of Cena, Orton, Bryan, or Rollins, but they made it work.