Tuesday, January 28, 2020

WWE Royal Rumble 2020: I'm Just Not Seeing It With Drew....

Soooo, that was a Royal Rumble. Nothing more, nothing less. It was alright. We got a couple decent Rumble matches, a couple very strong singles bouts, and a couple not-good matches. If part of the Royal Rumble’s purpose was to get people excited for WrestleMania, then this show was a bit of a failure for me. The three big matches set up so far don’t do much for me at all, and one match I do actually want to see doesn’t appear to be happening. Why the hell not I couldn’t say.

The show kicked off with an overlong bells & whistles brawl between Roman Reigns and Baron Corbin. This pairing has never done anything for me and this was no different. They fought in the ring for several minutes and then brawled all around the stadium; since it’s such a big venue this undoubtedly helped bloat the running time. Near the end of the match Roman locked Corbin in a porto-crapper and tipped it over. Uhhh, okay. Then both guys ended up on top of a dugout, where Reigns finished him with the punch/spear combo. At least the finish was fun. This didn’t need more than 15 minutes but it got 21. Shane vs. Miz at Mania 35 was more entertaining. **

The women’s Rumble was shockingly early in the lineup. This was definitely better than last year’s women’s Rumble but not a great one, and the wrong woman won. I cannot fathom how they justify Charlotte winning here when the moment was so clearly Shayna’s. On the plus side though, Shayna was booked like a monster for her four minutes, and Bianca Belair looked like a huge star in her 33-minute run. Each woman tossed out 8. Other than that we got a helluva run from Beth Phoenix, who withstood a bad cut on the back of her head and made it to the final three after tossing out her bestie Natalya (payback for 2018), a lot of overly quick eliminations of NXT stars, and for some reason no Sasha Banks. Is she hurt? It came down to Shayna vs. Charlotte, and rather than go the logical route set up at Survivor Series they had Charlotte head scissor Shayna over the ropes to win. Sooo, Charlotte vs. Becky for the thousandth time? Oh joy. Or worse, Charlotte vs. Bayley? Or does Bayley drop her title to Shayna and we get yet another triple threat? Can’t we just have the Becky-Shayna match we’ve been waiting for? This Rumble was fine but I didn’t like the result at all. ***1/2

The worst match of the night, though it wasn’t terrible, was Bayley vs. Lacey Evans. This was probably Lacey’s best match so far, though that’s saying very little. Bayley controlled the early parts and Lacey made a comeback and attempted a lot of impressive moves. I say attempted because while Lacey is very athletic she’s also very sloppy, and a couple times she came dangerously close to falling on her head. The finish came when Lacey did a moonsault off the ropes but Bayley got her knees up and cradled her, hooking the tights to retain. The announcers then called Lacey a future champion. Not with her current greenness, no. *3/4

The show peaked with the next two bouts, starting with Daniel Bryan dragging The Fiend’s best match out of him. This strap match was all about Bryan refusing to back down from the monster heel champion, and while no one going in thought he had much of a chance, he made them believe by the end. Bryan is one of those incredible talents who could be showing off his abilities so much more in NJPW or AEW instead of feuding with cartoon villains. Wyatt whipped the crap out of Bryan for a lot of the match, leaving a network of welts on his easily-marked skin. Bryan took everything and kept getting up, kicking out of Sister Abigail, hitting Wyatt with two running knees and at one point countering the Mandible Claw into a Yes Lock aided by the strap. But Wyatt powered out, no-selling a few strap shots and hitting a Mandible Claw slam for the win. The moratorium on the red spotlight helped this match visually, but it was Bryan’s storytelling that made this. Give this guy something good for Mania, for Chrissakes. Is Nakamura doing anything?? ***3/4

Equally good but in a different way was the long-awaited Becky-Asuka match. While not quite as good as last year’s, this was technically the match of the night. Both women worked really hard and put together an engaging contest. At one point Becky front-suplexed Asuka off the apron to the floor, which Asuka took perfectly. This looked brutal. Becky then hit an Exploder into the dasherboards. Asuka came back with kicks, a German suplex and an Asuka Lock which Becky escaped. Asuka kicked Becky in the head which seemed to knock her out. The ref stopped Asuka from following up so he could check on Becky (which makes no sense), and was about to stop the match when Becky grabbed his leg. Asuka was about to use the green mist but Becky cut her off with a kick and Asuka sprayed it into the air. Becky locked in the Disarmer for the tapout. Really good match as expected. ***3/4

Now for this men’s Rumble. This was well-executed for what they were going for, but I found myself not enjoying it all that much. I get what they were trying to do, but a) it was in service of yet another out-of-nowhere mega-push, b) they took Brock’s dominance way too far and c) they buried numerous valuable talents to that end. We ended up getting half of a real Rumble match, after nearly thirty minutes of watching someone play the video game on Easy Mode.Brock literally threw the first half of the field out all by himself, and it wasn’t until numbers 15 and 16 that the streak was broken. The first half of the match consisted of Brock easily tossing a guy and then waiting for the next one. John Morrison, Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura were made to look like total geeks when they could’ve put jobbers in those spots, or, God forbid, let them stay in and do something. Kofi Kingston, Big E and Rey Mysterio didn’t get much better treatment. Remember when Kofi was the hottest male babyface in the company? Good times. Drew McIntyre entered at #16 and finally put a stop to the madness after Ricochet low-blowed Brock and Drew hit the Claymore Kick to eliminate him. Now, the way this was built up made for a huge moment for Drew, and in that respect it was well-booked. But I’ll get into my issues with it in a bit. The rest of the match saw the ring fill up with bigger names, including a returning Edge, who got a magnificent pop after nine years on the shelf, and culminating with Seth getting #30 and having his friends help him take out Kevin Owens, Aleister Black and Samoa Joe. Then those three brawled to the back with Seth’s entourage while Roman, Drew, Edge and Orton ganged up on Seth to eliminate him. Edge then tossed Orton, Roman got rid of Edge, and Drew took out Roman to win the whole thing. As a Rumble match it was executed fine, but this wasn’t the Rumble for me. ***1/2

So here’s my issue. Drew is a fresh face at the top, no argument there. But in the two-plus years since he’s been back, the company hasn’t once presented him as even approaching a top guy. He’s been Ziggler’s muscle, Braun’s sidekick and fodder for Roman (Remember that two-Star classic they had at WM35?). Not once have I looked at his booking and said “Well they’re obviously grooming him for a big push.” Nor have the fans ever really responded to him like a future top guy. For that matter I’ve not ever looked at Drew himself and seen anything more than a kinda generic mid card big heel. Nothing about him makes me say “I can’t wait to see his match.” How many truly good matches has the guy ever had? So now having him suddenly be the one guy who could take out Brock and win the whole Rumble feels totally forced and manufactured. They do this all the time and it never works. Big Show in 2002, JBL in 2004, Wyatt and Jinder in 2017, even Kofi last year (which was at least an organic response to the fans); where is he now? You can’t have a payoff with no buildup, and that’s what Drew’s push feels like. Nor am I terribly excited by Brock vs. Drew as a main event for Mania. I’m even less excited about Roman vs. Wyatt or Edge vs. Orton. This Mania lineup is beginning to feel like WM31’s, where I had zero interest in the show going in. The Rumble is supposed to get me excited for this season, and this one didn’t.

Best Match: Becky vs. Asuka
Worst Match: Bayley vs. Lacey
What I’d Change: If Drew is the guy, he should’ve been groomed for this months ago. Also Brock’s streak should’ve ended after 12 guys at most. Roman-Corbin should’ve gone no more than 15 minutes. Also, fucking SHAYNA winning, helloooo?
Most Disappointing Match: Women’s Rumble because of the result
Most Pleasant Surprise: Wyatt vs. Bryan
Overall Rating: 7.5/10

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