WWE – Royal Rumble 2016 (Cert 12)
1 Disc Blu-ray / DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 173 minutes approx.
Over the past few years the Royal Rumble has become a thorn in the side of Vince McMahon. This event is supposed to be the first stop on the “Road To Wrestlemania”, the WWE’s biggest show of the year, where the winner of the Rumble match goes to the main event at Wrestlemania. Unfortunately for Vince, what he thinks is a good idea for this annual spectacular is a quantum leap away from what the fans want, and they have vocally rebelled against Vince and his planned direction.
In 2014 Vince expected the returning Batista to be accepted as the challenger to then WWE Champ Randy Orton at WM 30, while the fans wanted nothing to do with this rehash of a feud from yesteryear. So, they rejected Batista and forced Vince to insert their favourite wrestler Daniel Bryan into the match instead, much to Vince’s chagrin.
A year later Roman Reigns would be deigned heir apparent to John Cena as the good guy franchise player of the WWE – ignoring the fact that Cena had been booed by fans for over a decade too. Once again, the crowd rejected Reigns wining the Rumble and at WM 31 against Brock Lesnar – you guessed it – they turned on Vince’s anointed one AGAIN.
Surely this wouldn’t happen for a third year straight? Vince couldn’t really be that out of touch with the WWE fanbase, could he? To ensure Reigns would be the hero of the hour, he was to make history by being the first man ever to defend the WWE Title in the Royal Rumble match, and would start in the No 1 spot, meaning he would literally have to outlast 29 other men to remain champion.
What could possibly go wrong this time?
This show took place on January 24th 2016 at the Amway Centre in Orlando, Florida before 12,000 fans (announced as 15,710 because wrestling). We also have a different commentary team for this PPV, consisting of the RAW announcing line-up of Michael Cole, JBL and Byron Saxton.
Onto the matches and as always no results spoilers but plenty of opinion.
WWE IC Title Last Man Standing Match – Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Kevin Owens
This gimmick is usually used to blow off a feud although these two have been going at it on and off since Survivor Series. As the basic concept is really a No Holds Barred match with the ten cont replacing the pinfall or submission decision, this suits those who are more akin to brawling. Because of this, these two were able to get creative with their spots without going needlessly overboard which made the psychology much stronger for a match that usually lacks it. A brutal and rip-roaring way to kick off the main show.
WWE Tag Title Match – The New Day (c) vs. The Usos
It honestly feels like these two teams have been feuding forever but the reality is that it has only been recent due to the Usos reuniting as a team prior to Survivor Series. A fun, quick paced match hampered by the familiarity of both teams move sets and routines, creating a sense of déjà vu despite the relative freshness of this combination. One can also feel the swing of support in favour of the New Day here even though they are the heels.
US Title Match – Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. Kalisto
In the space of a week the US title has been treated like a hot potato with Kalisto and Del Rio trading wins, the former winning on RAW and the latter regaining it on Smackdown a few days later. With Sin Cara on the injured list Kalisto gets the solo push in the hopes of catching on as the next Rey Mysterio – which he potentially could be – but winning then losing the belt so quickly isn’t going to achieve that. Del Rio has similarly been dead in the water since his return and even defeating John Cena hasn’t boosted his profile. Good match which went a bit longer than it should, diluting the impact and response to the finish which should have been bigger.
WWE Divas Title Match – Charlotte (c) vs. Becky Lynch
After the confusing turn of events with her feud with Paige, the lines are clearer in Charlotte’s run against the other former PCB member and my future ex-wife Becky Lynch. Very well worked match and the most appreciated woman’s match on the main roster for quite some time, with Lynch receiving firm vocal support. The finish was a bit lame but everything prior to this was on the money. The infamous Ric Flair kiss has been left in here (it was edited from the WWE Network replays) but the big story is the post match occurrence.
30 Man Royal Rumble Match For The WWE World Heavyweight Title
Much like the TLC 2015 DVD cover, the result of this match has again been spoiled in case anyone hasn’t seen the show yet, not to mention the small matter of the winner being a “surprise” entrant. Then again if you have been watching the show carefully it was easy to predict that this was going to happen anyway since it was a logical move.
That doesn’t mean it was the right move though as the audience reactions once again sent a clear message to Vince McMahon that they don’t see Roman Reigns as the future of the WWE, at least not yet. The match itself has some interesting moments and while I usually avoid spoilers the DVD cover notes again gave this one away too so I will allow myself this one off dispensation.
AJ FRICKIN’ STYLES makes his WWE debut (or return as he was a no name jobber on WWE Heat in 2002) after an awesome two year run with New Japan Pro Wrestling and immediately feel liked he belonged in a WWE ring, getting the biggest ovation of the night. Unfortunately WWE TV director and Vince crony Kevin Dunn kept the camera on a confused Reigns when Styles made his entrance ruining the moment, which I am surprised wasn’t fixed here.
Elsewhere Brock Lesnar entered his first Rumble match since 2003 and set the scene for a feud with the Wyatt Family. An NXT star put in an appearance whilst the rest of the undercard were treated like ballast as usual (Tyler Breeze was the first to be screwed in this manner). The audio seems to be a bit quiet to hide the boos Reigns received yet there was no way they could disguise the ovation the bad guy winner got.
The 2016 Royal Rumble marks a hat trick in favour of the audience in the ongoing “Fans vs. Vince McMahon” feud. Vince did all he could to make sure his chosen one Roman Reigns would be cheered but the lack of logic and shoddy execution meant it backfired so when the trump card was played, the fans embraced it and once again, refused to play by Vince’s rules.
It must be frustrating for someone who is used to getting his own way to be so openly defied like this but Vince has forgotten the most important singular rule of wrestling – it’s not what YOU want but what your audience wants. The days of the Pavlovian response are over and the fans will cheer whom THEY want to cheer. As soon as old man Vince gets this the better because his antiquated tunnel vision style booking is holding back the talent that could (and should) be making money for him while creatively resulting in a stultifying product.
Overall the show was an enjoyable effort with a solid undercard featuring the less appreciated members of the roster, all of whom worked hard and delivered the goods. It was especially nice to see the Women’s match get the traditional “title match” spot and the ladies didn’t let us down.
Now the first half of the Wrestlemania main event is set, the big question is does Vince stick with his plans and risk having his biggest show hijacked by a rebellious stadium crowd or will he get the message and shake things up a bit?
Best match – Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Ambrose
Royal Rumble Kickoff Match – Winners Advance To The Rumble – Dudley Boyz vs. The Ascension vs. Darren Young & Damien Sandow vs. Mark Henry & Jack Swagger
Smackdown – 7th January 2016 – WWE Divas Title Match – Charlotte (c) vs. Becky Lynch
Monday Night RAW – 11th January 2016 – Roman Reigns vs. All
Monday Night RAW – 18th January 2016 – The Royal Rumble Comes Early On The Highlight Reel
Smackdown – 21st January 2016 – Dean Ambrose & Kevin Owens Invade Miz TV
Rating – ***
Man In Black