Roman Reigns (c) vs Rusev vs AJ Styles vs Tyler Breeze vs Curtis Axel vs Chris Jericho vs Kane vs Goldust vs Ryback vs Kofi Kingston vs Titus O’Neil vs R-Truth vs Luke Harper vs Stardust vs Big Show vs Neville vs Braun Strowman vs Kevin Owens vs Dean Ambrose vs Sami Zayn vs Erick Rowan vs Mark Henry vs Brock Lesnar vs Jack Swagger vs The Miz vs Alberto Del Rio vs Bray Wyatt vs Dolph Ziggler vs Sheamus vs Triple H
Royal Rumble Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Amway Center, Orlando, Florida, United States
(reviewed 01/07/2017) Against my better judgment, I’m watching and reviewing this. I don’t actually remember anything about this other than the obvious big moments, so maybe I’m forgetting some quality stuff in here, and I’m willing to revisit this match to find out. The early portion of the is all about Roman and AJ, and how they’re able to steamroll over lesser opponents (Tyler Breeze, Social Outcasts, Rusev 😦 ) and hang with more experienced upper midcarders (Kane, Chris Jericho). I wish they’d let the “lesser” guys stick around longer, especially Rusev, but c’est la vie. There’s some foreshadowing of future feuds (AJ vs Jericho, Lesnar vs Wyatts, and Miz vs Ziggler being the obvious ones, but also Roman vs Rusev and, hilariously, Lesnar vs Jericho), the latter of which doesn’t exactly feel intentional, but in retrospect it works well. The ring fills up as we work towards number 12, where R-Truth sprints in and retrieves a ladder from under the ring before setting it up in the ring and climbing it, going for a MITB or title of some kind, baffled when he finds nothing hanging in the air. Awesome comedy spot, maybe my favorite in the Rumble’s history. It’s immediately followed by Kofi’s token elimination avoidance spot, this time falling out onto Big E’s shoulders, and the New Day parade out on the floor before Kofi is eliminated off-camera, which is some bullshit. After Luke Harper makes an entrance, Vince and the League of Nations drag Roman out of the ring and beat him down a bunch, and eventually he’s stretchered to the back. Well, he gets stretchered halfway before fighting off the EMTs and walking to the back on his own accord, which is even more heavy-handed. AJ is eliminated by Kevin Owens a little while later, which is quite a nice moment that the crowd is pretty pissed about. He and Zayn have a punchy sequence that people pop for when Zayn makes his entrance, and the underdog eliminates his rival with some misdirection. When Strowman, Harper, and Rowan are all in the ring, the Wyatts dominate the match and everyone in it. It sort of gives us a weird dynamic where all the faces (outside of Ambrose) are eliminated, and the crowd is sort of bummed about all their guys being gone. Lesnar enters and changes that quick, thankfully, steamrolling over the big cultists. Miz comes out at number 25 and looks like he’s going to take on Lesnar in a pretty big moment, but instead he goes over to the commentary table and puts on a headset, instead choosing to wait it out. Great character moment here, easily the best of the stuff I forgot about. Soon, all four Wyatts gang up on Lesnar and eliminate him, which highlights Lesnar’s great bumping and big man selling that we rarely get to see. Sheamus enters at 29 and Roman immediately attacks him, making his return, and there’s actually a sort of hype moment where Ziggler almost eliminates Roman. Roman runs over everybody, though, until Triple H makes his obvious entrance at number 30. Roman continues to run over everyone who comes at him as a way to show HHH that he ain’t shit, which feels pretty pandering. There are just enough people in this match to give the both of them trouble, though, so we get some fast and furious action that is pretty enjoyable, as dudes like Ziggler and Wyatt get some good chances and solid offense in on the two focal points of the match. The final four comes down to Roman, HHH, Ambrose, and Sheamus. Ambrose goes to toss the Irishman over but Sheamus hangs on, only to be sent down to the floor by a Superman punch from Roman. HHH is immediately on him, though, tossing the champ to the floor to eliminate him in a spot that sort of rides the line between obvious and exciting. The crowd is very into Ambrose vs HHH, which helps to elevate what is already an interesting dynamic. The eventual elimination of Ambrose is sort of flat in the mechanical sense, just sort of a weak back body drop, but I’m not sure if anything would have felt better in this situation, and certainly not for this crowd. All in all, this Rumble is fine, or a little above that, as there’s very little of anything that’s outright bad here. A lot of it is quite exciting and occasionally interesting, sowing the seeds for mostly enjoyable matchups down the line while providing for an entertaining match here and now. Despite the regrettable, ham-fisted booking that surrounds him, Roman looks pretty great here, a machine of a man who dishes out big hits while taking a few himself. The problem is that so much of this match feels trite and obvious, which is a systemic problem that good in-ring wrestling can only do so much to fix. It’s hard to really lose myself in this match and buy into the big moments (which you can attribute either to me or the booking, and honestly, it’s probably a mix of both), but even without that, this is fairly amusing and moves quickly for a sixty minute match, and I don’t necessarily feel worse off for watching it again.