WWE – Royal Rumble 2017 (Cert 15)
1 Disc DVD/Blu-ray (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 211 minutes approx.
In 1997, when WWE’s business wasn’t at its most buoyant, the ambitious decision was made to hold the Royal Rumble at the cavernous Alamodome in Texas. The mindset was the appeal of hometown hero Shawn Michaels challenging for the WWF title would draw in the punters. The event attracted a healthy 60,525 fans, although only 48,014 were paying customers, the rest were comps.
So, twenty years later, and ironically with WWE’s TV ratings no better than they were in 1997, the Rumble comes back to Texas – sans HBK, but that’s okay because they have Roman Reigns!
As they say, everything is bigger in Texas, so in keeping with the remit of extending the other Big Four PPVs, this show was also a near four-hour event with a two-hour pre-show consisting of three matches built up on TV then treated like an afterthought. So strap yourself in, it’s going to be a long night!
Taking place on January 29, 2017, at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas before a reported 52,020 fans, the exhaustive list of commentators is: Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton representing RAW; Mauro Ranallo, JBL, David Otunga and Tom Phillips calling the Smackdown matches; along with Austin Aries joining in on the Cruiserweight match and Jerry “The King” Lawler calling the Rumble match with Graves and Cole.
As ever, while my match reviews won’t contain any results, expect plenty of opinion.
WWE RAW Women’s Title Match – Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Bayley
Bayley holds three non-title TV wins over Charlotte in a programme that was originally due to begin after Summerslam when Sasha Banks’ health was up in the air. Charlotte has a 15-0 win record in title matches on PPV, but this streak hasn’t been played up on TV as much as The Undertaker’s fabled Wrestlemania streak nor has it connected with the fans.
Good match as expected that saw Charlotte suffer a bloody mouth. Aside from one awkward moment in which Bayely went to the top rope but then aborted her move as Charlotte wasn’t in position, this was a hard fought match. Bayley was given a lot here which usually indicates which way the result will go but Charlotte gave as good as she got. Nice opener.
WWE Universal Title No DQ Match – Kevin Owens (c) vs. Roman Reigns
To give this match we’ve seen a hundred times before some added spice, Chris Jericho – who defeated Reigns for the US title prior to this show – was locked in a shark cage suspending above the ring. This gimmick got a good pop once the cage ascended to the dome roof but the challenger received his usual warm welcome from the fans.
Adding the No DQ stipulation at the last minute served to create more heat in the hope to cover the hatred the fans have for reigns. It included an area wide brawl (Check out Funaki’s reaction at the Japanese announce table), tables, brass knux and a sick, not to mention unwise and dangerous, bump by Owens through a pyramid of chairs from the top rope. Crazy, hard-hitting bout with a finish that should have meant more than it did on the night.
WWE Cruiserweight Title Match – Rich Swann (c) vs. Neville
Neville returned at Roadblock and turned heel by beating up the champ Rich Swann, earning a “Thank You Neville” chant from the fans! His reason for turning was being ignored when the cruiserweight division was set up (he was out with an injury), proclaiming himself the King of the Cruiserweights and everyone else a pretender.
Typical of the division, the work was solid but the crowd was mute, partly from having to follow such an insane match and because the diluted “McMahonised” version of the division isn’t what fans expect from the high flyers. Neville’s new heel persona means less flipping and flying but a new found intensity and reliance on submission moves.
WWE World Title Match – AJ Styles (c) vs. John Cena
Another one of those clumsy, ass-backwards feuds where the babyface is booked to be a complete tool and we’re supposed to cheer him. Cena was given this title match just for being John Cena (no change there) so Styles complained that as a part timer, Cena should go to the back of the queue. Cena then buries AJ with all sorts of derogatory comments, dismissing his career credentials while putting himself over as a paragon of virtue.
The other story is that a victory will make Cena a 16 time World Champion thus tying Ric Flair’s record (which is actually around 23 since the NWA in the 80’s refused to recognise some title changes). Well, you can guess the rest. Good match full of near falls, reversals, and Styles bumping his backside off for Cena’s lame offence, that was actually clean and gimmick free.
30 Man Royal Rumble Match
For the first time in many years, the winner of the Rumble match was not predictable. Usually, from the way the booking goes for the world title, it is obvious who will win but this year, with two world titles back in contention and a number of variables involved in each situation, the outcome was open to many possibilities.
There’s the participation of Brock Lesnar and Goldberg; newcomers like Baron Corbin and Braun Strowman being booked like monsters heading into this show; the possibility of Chris Jericho winning and challenging best friend Kevin Owens; The Undertaker was originally slated to face John Cena at WM 33, so if Cena were to beat Styles… Suffice to say the winner was unexpected but not in a good way, depending on your point of view, but did create some intrigue.
Unlike previous years, there was just one real surprise entry, but unless you don’t watch NXT, in which case you won’t know who Tye Dillinger is. He previously worked as Gavin Spears in the ECW reboot but was released, returning to NXT a few years later. He was going nowhere until he adopted a “Perfect 10” gimmick which caught on. So, if you are wondering why fans keep chanting “10” during a referee count, blame Dillinger!
One other thing you won’t have seen on this show is how the heavier wrestlers made it to the ring, since the ramp way in the Alamadome was rather long and would eat up the two minute intervals. Guys like Big Show, Mark Henry, Bray Wyatt etc. they were driven down to the ring on small carts after being shown on camera.
The past few years have seen Vince McSenile’s attempts to make Roman Reigns the next company ace via the Royal Rumble match but the fans weren’t having any of it. This year, it seems a different tact was employed to circumvent the fans’ rejection of Reigns but, one again it failed to work – well, partially. After three years of getting the wrong reaction to the climax of the Rumble match, this time they got it right, but at what expense?
But, once again we leave a WWE PPV with the status quo firmly intact and barely any room for negotiation in truly stirring things up and laying the foundation for a new and exciting future, which is what the fans want, but Vince doesn’t want to give them.
Having ended 2016 with the decidedly flat Roadblock, a hot start to 2017 with this staple PPV event was crucial. Aside from the usual pandering to the same old faces and the attendant questionable decisions regarding match results, this was one of the better efforts from the WWE in a while, delivering a batch of strong matches and ending on a surprise note for once.
It is easy to feel both excited and concerned about how the road to Wrestlemania 33 will pan out from here but this first step is a good start.
Best Match – AJ Styles vs. John Cena
Royal Rumble Kick Off Show Matches:
Becky Lynch, Nikki Bella & Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss, Mickie James & Natalya
RAW Tag Title Match – Cesaro & Sheamus (c) vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax
Monday Night RAW – January 23rd 2017 – An Iconic Showdown
Rating – ***
Man In Black