Monday, February 1, 2021

WWE Royal Rumble 2021 - The Most Oldest Rumble of Old Guys Ever

After last night's Royal Rumble one thing has become clear - WWE's youth movement is in full swing.  For the second year in a row, Bianca Belair turned in a starmaking performance (as did Rhea Ripley), and is poised to become a women's division standout for years to come.  And on the men's side, a young up-and-comer from Canada gutted it out for nearly an hour to punch his ticket to the biggest stage of them all, at the tender age of 47.  Oh wait.....

Alright, so I broke down and watched a WWE PPV for the first time in ten months.  It's the Royal Rumble, after all, it's hard to pass up.  My son wanted to watch the show, I hadn't missed a live Rumble since 2008, I thought maybe Daniel Bryan would finally win it.  You know how it is.  Anywho, the show was.....fine.  Both Rumbles were entertaining.  One elevated two very deserving young stars and it felt like the company's priorities were in the right place.  The other didn't elevate anyone and boasted the oldest field in Rumble history, with the average age being 39 years old and OVER HALF the field being over 40.  We got a mostly very good Last Man Standing match with a hilariously botched ending, another psychology-free Goldberg match, and a passable women's singles bout.  So not a bad show, but not one that will stand out in the Royal Rumble annals either.

The show opened, mercifully, with the Goldberg match.  I was glad to see them get this one out of the way.  It was of course the usual two-minute finisher fest; I don't understand why Goldberg can't do anything but spear-jackhammer since he came back.  Remember in 2003 when he actually did five or six different moves?  It makes me laugh when WWE apologists claim AEW matches don't have ring psychology as they defend shit like this.  The two guys started before the bell, with Drew shoving Goldberg and hitting him with a spear.  Both guys rolled out of the ring and Goldberg returned the favor, spearing Drew through the ring barricade.  They teased Drew not being able to continue, but he demanded the match be started officially.  Goldberg went for a spear but Drew hit the Claymore and covered him.  Goldberg kicked out, becoming only the second guy to do so, after Brock.  Goldberg hit a spear and jackhammer, Drew kicked out.  Drew hit another Claymore and pinned him.  Goldberg was visibly winded after roughly three minutes of activity.  Goldberg shook Drew's hand and said he passed the test.  Oh, I'm sure Drew was overwhelmingly flattered that the two-move guy now respects him...  This was fine as a dumbass finisher match, but why does the company keep doing these?  Fucking pointless.  **

Next up was Sasha Banks carrying Carmella through a solid women's match for the second time.  I haven't seen their match from December but it was apparently superior to this one.  Still this wasn't bad.  Carmella has definitely improved over the last few years, and Sasha is one of the best workers in the women's division.  Carmella's valet Reginald interfered a few times, mostly to catch Carmella as she fell out of the ring.  Late in the match Carmella hit a tope and landed on her face, an absolutely brutal-looking landing that she was lucky didn't leave a mark.  She hit a pair of superkicks but immediately fell victim to the Bank Statement and tapped.  That ending was pretty sudden.  But this match was alright.  **1/2

The women's Rumble match was third, and was quite a mix of athletic spots, story continuations, youthful showcases, unnecessary cameos, 24/7 dumbassery, etc.  WWE vastly overrates the idea of surprise entrants.  Yes, the crowd will pop for surprises, but a) there's no actual crowd in the building so it doesn't work here and b) a field of great current talents is better than a field peppered with surprises from yesteryear, every single time.  Torrie Wilson does not need to be in a Royal Rumble, she wasn't even a proper wrestler back in the day.  She was a valet/personality/pillow fighter.  Jillian Hall does not need to be in a Royal Rumble, she also wasn't a wrestler, nor does anyone watching today even really remember her for more than the giant growth they used to put on her face.  Victoria was the one past cameo that worked; she still looks great in the ring.  Anyway, the two big stories coming out of this were Rhea Ripley, who entered at #14 and made it all the way to the end, eliminating 7 in the process, and of course Bianca Belair, who pulled a Ric Flair, entering at #3 and winning the whole thing.  Bianca and Ripley were my two picks and it was great to see them as the final two; they had a pretty great finishing stretch where it looked like either one of them could've won it.  Bianca gave a great babyface promo afterwards, reduced to tears of joy.  Not sure which champion she'll challenge at 'Mania but I think she'd match up beautifully against Sasha.  They'd better have a WrestleMania plan for Ripley too - I've been saying it for well over a year, she has IT.  Strap a rocket to her back and make her one of your next top stars.  She needs a WrestleMania win - hell, have her dethrone Asuka, that would be a great match.  The women's Rumble was overall my favorite match of the night I guess.  It wasn't the best worked, per se, but it was the most productive and had the best ending.  ***1/2

What by all rights should have been Match of the Night was the Roman Reigns-Kevin Owens LMS match.  I've made it very clear how much I hate the LMS gimmick, but they subverted it a bit in this match by having both guys hit signature moves in the opening moments and get counts going.  Plus the ref counted much faster in this match than they usually do, so the momentum wasn't halted quite so dramatically each time.  Reigns and Owens brawled around ringside, up the ramp, into the backstage area, and into the open stadium where various tables and structures were set up.  Reigns ran Owens down with a golf cart, which drew a belly laugh from me.  There were multiple table spots, the best of which involved Owens swantonning off a raised forklift through a bunch of tables on the floor.  I have to credit both guys; I actually thought Owens might pull off the upset a few times.  The action moved back to the entrance stage, where Roman speared Owens through the LED panel for a near-finish.  Up to this point these guys had delivered a **** match, but then unfortunately Owens handcuffed Reigns to the bottom of a lighting truss.  Reigns couldn't stand up, and when the ref got to a 9-count, Roman threw him face-first into part of the production rig, knocking him out.  He incapacitated Owens with a nut shot, and Paul Heyman then showed up with a key to get him free.  But unfortunately because of how the cuffs were positioned, Heyman couldn't get them open, so Owens had to just lay there interminably, and the substitute referee simply stopped counting at 5 when he realized Reigns wasn't gonna make it.  Holy shit, was this a train wreck.  Finally Reigns was freed, and he just slapped on a guillotine choke to take Owens out and win the match.  What an anticlimactic finish.  How about instead of the babyface attempting to get a cheap win by handcuffing the heel, the heel handcuffs the babyface to the bottom of the truss and gets the cheap win?  Then there's no need to worry about unlocking him during the match.  Such a bad ending to a really good match.  Like I said, this was **** until the last couple minutes.  On balance I'll give it ***1/2.

Now for the men's "Ok boomer" Royal Rumble.  As far as the work involved this was probably the best-executed match of the night.  There was a pretty good amount of star power sprinkled throughout, plus a bunch of good younger talents.  Matt Riddle looked like a million bucks and got a 31-minute run, nearly making the final four.  This was the best use of him since his call-up.  Shinsuke Nakamura is back to being the King of Strong Style, having shed the awful velvety body suit they had him in.  Seth Rollins is back from injury.  Ok now for the negatives.  So in the women's Rumble the winner lasted over 56 minutes to take the whole thing down.  But that accomplishment was eclipsed here by having the men's winner last the entire match, while the runner-up technically did the same before his elimination.  Edge drew #1 and won the whole thing, duplicating the same feat by Shawn Michaels, Chris Benoit, and really Rey Mysterio (who drew #2 in 2006 - 1 and 2 start together).  Randy Orton drew #2, got taken out after a chair shot to the leg, spent 3/4 of the match in the back, and returned at the very end to try to steal it.  So basically Orton is Vince McMahon in the 1999 Rumble.  That was stupid and predictable, the only swerve was that he failed to get the win.  Daniel Bryan, the odds-on favorite to win the Rumble, lasted 28 minutes but didn't even make the final four.  Did Edge really need a second Rumble win on his resume at 47?  Couldn't Bryan have gotten his first Rumble win instead, being that he's probably retiring soon and Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan at 'Mania would be a pretty big deal?  I know Bryan's not a spring chicken either but Bryan at least didn't make his WWE debut during the Attitude Era.  Hell, Bryan's WWE debut happened AFTER Edge's first Rumble win.  I keep saying this, but there's a reason young people don't watch WWE anymore.  The only two sub-30-year-olds in this match, Otis and Dominik Mysterio, got a combined 2:53 of ring time.  Ricochet got 11 minutes and was eliminated by the 56-year-old Kane.  The 47-year-old Christian made it to the final four.  Why aren't any young male stars being created?  The company all but ages the women out after they hit 35, but with the men they don't even take them seriously till that age.  It makes no sense at all.  Look, I get that Edge making a comeback after a decade on the shelf and getting one last WrestleMania main event is a feelgood story, but does anyone honestly see Roman Reigns vs. Edge, or Drew McIntyre vs. Edge, as a WrestleMania main event?  And if he actually wins the title, then what?  Who benefits?  How does this help the company's future?  Like I said, I liked this Rumble match, probably better than last year's, but the wrong guy won.  ***1/2

So yeah, it was an enjoyable Rumble card with two entertaining Rumbles, one of which was very productive.

Best Match: I gave the final three bouts the same star rating but since the women's Rumble told the best story I'll go with that.
Worst Match: Drew vs. Goldberg.  Stop trotting this guy out every six months to do the same shit.  He can't even deliver a two-minute match without gassing.
Most Disappointing Match: The men's Rumble, as I honestly thought this was Bryan's night.
What I'd Change: Give Bryan the hour-long Rumble win, stop letting old cameo guys eliminate your promising young guys, get rid of the Orton injury tease.
Overall Rating: 7/10

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