WWE – Royal Rumble 2021 (Cert 12)
1 Disc Blu-ray /2 discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 228 minutes approx.
After 2020 proved a difficult year for everyone, we look to 2021 to be an improvement. The wrestling business is one that has everyone reason to be among the most hopeful that they can start performing in front of a live audience again. In fact, this year’s Wrestlemania is currently set for its first live fan attendance since last February, albeit on a limited scale.
One of the two PPVs in 2020 that occurred before lockdown was the Royal Rumble, and whilst all shows work best with a live crowd, the Rumble is one where their reactions are vital, so this year’s event is the first to be held under in the Thunderdome with the crowd noises pumped in replicate the atmosphere, something I am sure Vince McMahon will miss as he won’t be able to control fan responses like he can here.
Just an FYI whilst Asuka is all over the artwork, she didn’t appear on the main show, only the pre-show where she and Charlotte defended the Women’s Tag Titles against Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler. This was on the pre-show to give the other three women some time to refresh themselves ahead of the women’s Rumble match later on.
Held on January 31st 2021 at the WWE Thunderdome located inside the Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida in front of virtual crowd seen via a bank of video screens, with added piped in crowd noises to create the impression of a hot crowd. Commentary is provided by Michael Cole and Corey Graves for SD and Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton and Samoa Joe for RAW.
Onto the matches and as always no results spoilers since the DVD/Blu-ray back cover artwork has that bit covered but plenty of opinion.
WWE Title Match – Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Goldberg
Yep, old Bill is back, and no that isn’t meant to be derogatory either. He’s 54 now and it is starting to show more than ever, though the signs were present when he dropped the Universal Title to Braun Strowman at Wrestlemania 36 in a real stinker of a match. Sad to say, Goldberg didn’t look too good here either, claiming he didn’t have time to get into shape, though I still wouldn’t argue with him.
The build for this match was rushed and badly botched as a result. After defeating Keith Lee on RAW in front of the WWE legends (and Alicia Fox), Drew was supposed to get a snarky promo on the old guys which Goldberg would respond to, but the show was running long. Drew didn’t actually get to speak, Goldberg just came out and admonished Drew for what he said and his lack of respect (the perils of scripted promos folks), so the segment made little sense.
Best thing to say about the match? It was short.
SD Women’s Title Match – Sasha Banks (c) vs. Carmella
With no other contenders built up, and Carmella already losing to Sasha at TLC, this rematch was inevitable on two levels – that it occurred and the outcome. To add a little spice to the feud, they had Carmella’s sommelier Reginald be a presence around Sasha and act as a proxy mouthpiece for her, This led to Sasha granting Carmella the rematch on the proviso she faces Reginald in a match.
So, the first one-one-one inter-gender match on WWE TV since 2017 happened with Sasha picking up the win and Carmella gets this rematch. Like the first match, it was fast paced and well worked, aside from a dive by Carmella where she overshot Sasha and landed face first on the floor. Reginald was rejected from the ringside early to keep this even, and we ended up with a decent bout, maybe not as good as the first one but still a strong effort from both.
Next there is a musical interlude. I say “musical” – a rapper called Bad Bunny whom I had never heard of before this show (and it seems I wasn’t alone) pranced about whilst Booker T dressed in his old G.I. Bro outfit just stood still. If you like music, the skip button is your friend.
30 Woman Royal Rumble Match
The night before this show, a match aired on TV to determine who would enter at No 30 (included in the Blu-ray extras). The usual additions to fill out the 30 places from NXT and “legendary” names saw a few interesting choices, plus the return on a main roster favourite. Meanwhile, a change was incurred when Mia Yim (reckoning from Retribution) caught COVID and was pulled from the match (as was her fiancé Keith Lee from the men’s Rumble).
Mostly solid action overall, apart from a silly interruption via R-Truth and the 24/7 belt nonsense that really didn’t need to happen, but it amuses Vince in the same way a baby is amused by its own toes. The one thing this match did do was set the way for a new star to emerge and not stick with the same old faces like in the past.
A couple ore fast forward worthy distractions next – first, that Bad Bunny chap from earlier had an encounter with The Miz and John Morrison to forewarn us that an angle is about to take place during the Rumble match, then some bloke who is part of the panel on the Kick Off shows that nobody watches beat R-Truth for the 24/7 title.
WWE Universal Title Last Man Standing Match – Roman Reigns (c) vs. Kevin Owens
At the 2017 Royal Rumble, Owens and Reigns faced off in a No DQ match – doesn’t time fly when you’re recycling feuds? This time of course, not only has the face/heel dynamic has switched but Owens was also the Universal champ back then. But whereas Owen’s friend Chris Jericho was suspended above the ring in a shark cage so he couldn’t interfere, Roman’s associates Paul Heyman and Jey Uso had no such restrictions.
During the build up, at one point it seemed as if de facto WWE authority figure Adam Pearce was going to be Roman’s opponent but he swerved the Tribal Chief and picked Owen’s as his replacement. Not the most compelling match they’ve ever had, with lots of falling off things and being slammed into the LED boards in the Thunderdome.
The only notable moments were the blatant stealing of the golf cart spot from AEW, and the Botchamania worthy segment where Owens handcuffed Roman to the bottom of a metal tower so he couldn’t stand up, and the ref had to stop counting because Heyman couldn’t unlock the handcuffs in time, meaning reigns had in fact failed to get up by a 100 count let alone a 10 count! Others probably enjoyed the brutality and spectacle of this brawl but it didn’t work for me.
30 Man Royal Rumble Match
The night before this show, they announced the number 1 and number 2 entrants on TV, then for some reason swapped them around on the night – not that it makes much difference as they both start at the same time, but it did potentially telegraph the winner. This is significant as, for the first time in many years, there wasn’t a predictable winner.
Usually it is well known months in advanced how the chosen one is, but this year, there were quite a few viable contenders for both title shots, making it a bit more exciting for once. As mentioned earlier, Keith Lee was pulled from this match when he was supposed to be a big part of it given how he was booked on TV heading into this show. Jey Uso was initially advertised for it too then quietly pulled; and Otis was listed, then pulled in favour of Angel Garza, then reinstated again on the night.
Along with an NXT alumnus debut, a couple of the now obligatory old timers appeared – one was long thought retired but got a medical clearance and in the ultimate slap in the face, has just signed with AEW! Ouch! Another current roster returned sadly not with a refreshed gimmick, so expect him to die another death on TV in the future. As for the winner, it will polarise opinion – some will want a new face in the spot, others will buy into the story being told.
Match was okay, with an interesting selection talent used as curious as those not being used, and yes, Bad Bunny did end up getting involved in it too, laying the foundation for a dreaded celebrity cross over match at Wrestlemania. Eek!
The results of the two Rumble matches kinds of sums up the WWE at the moment – it has one eye on the future but still can’t let go of the past. There are times where the status quo makes sense, but it is not always the case and sometimes taking the bold step to trying something new will work if you believe in it enough and commit to making it work.
Long referred to as the first step on the Road to Wrestlemania, it is not hard to harbour feelings of concern or antipathy towards how the card for Wrestlemania will look; worse still, is how it will be booked and we have seen how Vince likes to protect his favourites on the night, not to mention the injection of part timers he thinks will move the needle instead of the current hard working roster who end up stuffed into meaningless battle royales or left off the show altogether.
Admittedly, the absence of the live did hamper the feel of this show, leaving it to the TV ratings to act as the metric by which the success of the booking is measured. And with two more PPVs to come before Wrestlemania, is it too early to start getting worried?
Best match – Women’s Royal Rumble by default
Royal Rumble Kickoff Show Match – WWE Women’s Tag Title Match – Asuka & Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax
WWE Backstage 30th January 2021 – Winner Enters Women’s Rumble at No 30 – Natalya vs. Tamina
Monday Night RAW – January 4th 2021 – WWE Title Match – Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Keith Lee
Smackdown Live – January 15th 2021 – Roman Reigns and Adam Pearce Contract Signing
Rating – ***
Man In Black