Tuesday, January 30, 2024

The History of WWE Royal Rumble (2022)

Ah WWE circa 2022, a company without highs or lows, where every PPV (ahem, premium live event, a phrase no real human being will ever use in actual conversation) is steeped in mediocrity and there's no reason to get invested in anything because the company will just screw it up anyway.

The 2022 Royal Rumble fits the above description to a tee.  A bunch of just-okay matches, in one ear, out the other, the details of which will all be forgotten by WrestleMania.  No one gets over except the one or two established stars the company wants to push, thus both Rumbles felt like everyone involved was just killing time.  Was it a reasonably entertaining way to spend four hours?  Sure.  Was anything here even close to being a great match or having any historical significance?  Nope.  Even the first-time WWE Title match with a big-fight feel was more of the same ol' shit with repetitious action and a bad finish.  WWE could fuck up a can of Pringles.

Speaking of bad finishes, the show started with Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins, in a very well-worked Universal Title bout where Seth, dressed in his old Shield gear and entering through the crowd to the group's classic theme, resided fully in Roman's head.  No matter how badly Roman beat him down, Seth kept smiling and asking for a fist bump.  Roman couldn't stay on his game and Seth dominated much of the bout.  They did the old spot from 2016 where Roman went for a spear and Seth countered into a Pedigree for a near fall.  This was a very good match.  And then the finish happened.  Roman locked in a guillotine choke, Seth struggled to get to the ropes but fell short and went limp.  The referee lifted Seth's arm for one, two, and on the third drop, Seth's hand fell on the bottom rope.  Yes, the referee inadvertently put Seth's hand on the rope, and then demanded Roman break the hold.  Ummm, what?  How can that be a rope break if the referee is the one who put his hand there?  Roman, the heel, rightly refused to break the choke and was disqualified.  So Seth got legitimately beaten and Roman did something stupid to cost himself a sure victory.  Who was this designed to get over?  This was yet another very good WWE match ruined by stupid WWE booking.  And sadly it was the best thing on the show.  

Next up was the worst women's Royal Rumble to date, as the depleted women's roster was supplemented by nostalgia acts from when WWE had a horrible women's division.  The Bellas, Michelle McCool (who to be fair looked good here), Melina, Kelly Kelly, Cameron, Summer Rae, and Alicia Fox.  None of them were in ring shape to work a Royal Rumble match, and none of them were credible participants with a chance of winning.  As we all suspected Ronda Rousey made her return here, also showing pretty major ring rust, and very disappointingly didn't lock up at all with her friend Shayna Baszler.  The final four was very worthy at least; Ronda, Charlotte, Rhea and Bianca closed out the bout, and as expected Ronda won the whole thing, last eliminating Charlotte.  Ronda would go on to challenge Charlotte at WrestleMania, in a losing effort, before finally dethroning her a month later.  This match was not good though.  I was never bored but the work here was mostly pretty bad and no one came off like a star aside from Ronda (who got a huge pop) and Charlotte.  Even Bianca didn't really get to shine, and Sasha who opened the match only stayed in for nine minutes.  Not good.  

Participants: Sasha Banks, Melina, Tamina, Kelly Kelly, Aliyah, Live Morgan, Queen Zelina, Bianca Belair, Dana Brooke, Michelle McCool, Sonya Deville, Natalya, Cameron, Naomi, Carmella, Rhea Ripley, Charlotte Flair, Ivory, Brie Bella, Mickie James, Alicia Fox, Nikki ASH, Summer Rae, Nikki Bella, Sarah Logan, Lita, Molly Holly, Ronda Rousey, Shotzi, Shayna Baszler
Final Four: Ronda Rousey, Charlotte Flair, Bianca Belair, Rhea Ripley
Long Man: Bianca Belair (47:30), third consecutive year

Given the unfortunate task of following a Rumble match was Becky Lynch vs. Doudrop, a match about which this crowd did not care one whit, given that Doudrop wasn't a credible challenger and Becky was a heel they don't want to boo.  These two worked hard to get a good match out of each other but it fell very flat and was forgettable as a result.  Becky retained the title with a Manhandle slam off the second rope.  Not much else to say.  This was a match.  

Maybe the most disappointing match of the night was the big first-time-ever fight between legit badasses Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley.  Given that both men have real collegiate wrestling and MMA experience you'd think they'd book this like more of a shoot, with grappling and striking and what-have-you, to make it memorable and physically intense.  But no, it was another German suplex-fest.  Both guys suplexed each other a bunch of times, and the first couple Brock suplexes looked like they legitimately hurt Lashley; with every subsequent suplex Lashley twisted in midair to land on his shoulder.  These looked bad and I'm pretty sure Bobby was legit banged up by the end.  They did the spear through the barricade spot yet again, except Brock dodged the movie and Lashley crashed through it by himself.  I dunno why WWE thinks this spot is still shocking when they've done it about a thousand times.  Finally Brock hit an F5 but knocked out the referee by accident, Roman Reigns ran down and asked Paul Heyman to hand him the belt, and Heyman obliged, turning on Brock.  Roman whacked Brock with the belt and Lashley pinned him, thus telegraphing the men's Royal Rumble match ending.  Anyone who didn't see Brock's surprise entry and win must not have ever watched a WWE show before this.  This match could've been something special but once again the company took the lazy, predictable route and wasted yet another opportunity.  All that build for ten minutes of unimaginative action.  

Another well-worked but forgettable match followed as Edge and Beth Phoenix faced The Miz and Maryse.  This was fine but once again I didn't care about any of it.  Miz just isn't a viable threat to anyone, and Beth Phoenix is so far above Maryse as a wrestler it's simply not believable for Maryse to do anything to her.  Late in the match Maryse hit Beth with her purse for a nearfall, but ultimately the good guys hit simultaneous Glam Slams to win the match.  This was another match.  

The men's Rumble was another case where no one came off like a star except the one participant the company cared about.  Numbers one and two were AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura, and I got excited for a bit, until they did nothing with Nakamura past the first 90 seconds.  He was feuding with Sami Zayn and they eliminated him before Zayn even got there.  Why?  Because they needed to have Zayn interact with Johnny Knoxville instead.  Yes, a go-nowhere movie tie-in is more important to this company than furthering a championship feud.  And this is another microcosm of why WWE sucks and why no one gets over, least of all the secondary champions.  At least Knoxville did his homework and took bumps well.  So this match wore on with a bunch of filler guys, even people like Sheamus and Drew and Big E (fully Kofied at this point - back to the midcard with you) and Randy Orton (in his hometown no less) were booked as "just guys."  Remember in the old days when the company had the attention span to book Rumbles with numerous story threads that set up numerous WrestleMania matches?  None of that happened here, just a bunch of stuff happened and then Brock Lesnar came out at number 30 and tossed everyone.  Shane McMahon made the final four, by the way.  Yup, 52-year-old non-wrestler Shane fucking McMahon.  Another weak entry in the Rumble's 35-year history.  

Participants: AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Austin Theory, Robert Roode, Ridge Holland, Montez Ford, Damian Priest, Sami Zayn, Johnny Knoxville, Angelo Dawkins, Omos, Ricochet, Chad Gable, Dominik Mysterio, Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, Sheamus, Rick Boogs, Madcap Moss, Matt Riddle, Drew McIntyre, Kevin Owens, Rey Mysterio, Kofi Kingston, Otis, Big E, Bad Bunny, Shane McMahon, Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar
Final Four: Brock Lesnar, Drew McIntyre, Shane McMahon, Matt Riddle
Long Man: AJ Styles (29:06)

So we got Brock vs. Roman as expected (it sucked), we got Ronda vs. Charlotte (it underwhelmed), and both Rumble winners here lost at WrestleMania, so who gives a shit?

Best Match: Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins, despite having one of the stupidest endings ever
Worst Match: Becky Lynch vs. Doudrop
What I'd Change: Maybe give several of the Rumble participants some kind of purpose in their respective matches, maybe book Brock vs. Lashley to be something special, pick a fuckin' winner in the Roman-Seth match, and for the love of fuck, stop booking people like Shane and Bad Bunny as more credible winners than the actual wrestlers.
Most Disappointing Match: Brock vs. Bobby
Most Pleasant Surprise: Ummmmm....
Overall Rating: 5/10

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