Bayley vs Charlotte WWE Raw Women's Championship
Charlotte's first NXT match was against Bayley. This starts to fall apart almost immediately, with Bayley having back to back to back awkward as fuck spots and Charlotte trying to cover them up. When Charlotte is in control, this is pretty good. When Bayley goes on the offense, everything falls apart. It was clear to everyone that Bayley was the least talented of the Four Horsewomen, but with proper booking and the right angle, she could be in great matches with true emotional investment. This is not one of those matches or angles. Didn't seem to be much focus from either in terms of stragety, but Charlotte's crowd work is better than basically anyone on the roster. She won with the Natural Selection on the apron, which looked like it hurt her much more than Bayley, and also was a very limp finish since it wasn't like Charlotte needed a super finisher at this point in the story, and the crowd was definitely expecting a kick out. Title retained. Charlotte now has 16 straight PPV victories.
Kevin Owens vs Roman Reigns WWE Universal Championship
In addation to no DQ, Chris Jericho is in a shark cage above the ring. Jericho attacks Roman before he's put in the cage. No surprise there. Some aimless brawling to start out, going into the crowd and finding their way to all the announce tables. KO then builds a pyramid of chairs which looks like a set up for a bump that there is no possible way to take safely. They tease it a few times, but then move to a table, which obviously trumps all bumps besides thumbtacks in wrestling logic. KO puts Roman through it with a frog splash to the floor. There seems to be a story of Roman's injured ribs, but this strikes me as something that's going to be about ridiculous bumps instead of story or selling. There seems to be a pretty clear formula to this match: Tease a weapon/spot, fake out to use a different weapon/spot, then do a big bump on the original weapon/spot. They've done it 5 times in a row. Jericho drops some brass knuckles to KO, because when has there ever been a manager in the cage match that didn't have something like that? KO superman punches Roman with them for a 2 count. Your superman punch needs work, Kevin. KO hits a comedic looking stunner for a 2 count, which I think is terrible. Hitting a stunner in a match since 2003 has always been a comedy spot, and KO doing a version that looks like a video game animation for a 2 count in the middle of the match is so dumb. Like, a lot of people doing the Macho Man elbow, but that isn't a particularly specific move. The stunner in WWE has a very, very specific history and connotation, and you can't just throw it out in the middle of a match after 15 years of anyone who isn't Austin doing the stunner being treated like a comedy spot. KO finally takes the bump through the chair pyramid, but it was the worst kind of big bump: Doesn't look impactful, but likely hurt like a motherfucker. I'm amazed they actually paid that bump off, though. Roman follows that with a powerbomb through an announce table. Then, OUTTA NOWHERE, Braun Strowman shows up and assaults Roman. Chokeslam on the announce table. Powerslam through a table in the ring. KO wins! Title retained.
This might be a weird complaint, but this was TOO structured. Every spot was built to, but in exactly the same way: Set up a bump aparatus or get a weapon out, go to something else for a few mintues, go back to the aparatus or weapon. Every single time. It just didn't feel like the match was flowing to me because of it. The bones were too visible for me.
Enzo and Cass do an EXTENDED ad for KFC.
TO THE BACK. Shane and Stephanie McMahon, Mick Foley, and Daniel Bryan are in the back as Sami Zayn and Dean Ambrose draw their numbers in the Rumble.
Neville vs Rich Swann WWE Cruiserweight Championship
So much fucking down time just to get the ropes covered in purple for this match. Neville returned after an injury as a heel, feeling like WWE made him an afterthought and didn't even consider putting him in the cruiserweight division. So Neville has decided to take it over on his own. Heel Neville is really something. If he wasn't so short, he could be a top heel in the company. A truly proper bastard heel who isn't trying to get any cheers, while also having a gigantic chip on his shoulder with a great mean streak. The problem is, despite being jacked to the tits, he's like 5'5". This feels much closer to his real personality than generic smiling baby face. The only issue is that his new character kind of necessitates slower and more methodical cruiserweight matches, which is absolutely the last thing the division needs since it's been DOA due to matches being too slow and not exciting enough. Neville controls most of the match with wear down holds and kicks, so this isn't super interesting. Swann's fire up was decent enough, but he ends up tapping out to the Rings of Saturn. New champion. Again, I really think Neville's heel character and work is excellent, but it's not great for a cruiserweight division already known for having not particularly exciting matches to set it apart from anything else in the company. I think that's part of the reason why Spanky as champ didn't work nearly as well as Spanky in the CWC. Neville is clearly the the right choice to head the division, though.
New Day do an ad for VUDU. Remember when WWE didn't do full on commercials on PPV?
AJ Styles vs John Cena WWE Championship
This feud dates all the wya back to May of 2016. AJ and Cena had their first interaction on Raw, and then AJ turned heel on Cena. Since then, AJ has gone on to defeat Cena 3 times, with AJ assuming control of Smackdown in Cena's time away from the ring. But now Cena is back and eager to prove that he's still got a lot left in the tank, he's not a part timer, and this is still his company.
Crowd is molten. Compare their reactions in this to KO/Roman, which is a similar indie/smark favorite vs WWE machine star. Not even a comparison. Very even opening moments, and then countering of signatures to show familiarity. Pretty similar to the Summerslam match in that way. The greatest hits, as it were. Cena trying to win with the figure four to win his 16th title is amazing heel work to the audience that still hates him. Lots of finisher kick outs here. Not surprising, but the big spot fest stuff they did at Summerslam made more sense in context than it does here. AJ kicks out of the avalanche FU. Cena is LEGIT SHOOK. He follows it with another FU, then rolls through to hit another to put AJ away. New champion. Cena has now tied Ric Flair's world title record.
Curious booking choice to me. Considering who the winner of the Rumble will be, it's clear that's not going to be the WM match, so I think it would have been better to have AJ drop the title in 2 weeks in the Elimination Chamber and not have him have a decisive loss to the guy that they've spent 9 months telling you he was better than in every confrontation.
Big Cass and Chris Jericho are the first two entrances. Fuck. You just know Jericho is going to be in for 40 minutes. Kalisto! MOJO. Fuck. What a bad start to this Rumble. Jack Gallagher!!! He has his parasol! Very fun, very playful. Lmao at him trying to go after Mark Henry. Couldn't be more polar opposites. BRAUUUUUUUUUUUUUN. He goes on an elimination spree, setting up for Sami Zayn to enter at 8. Big Show is in at 9, looking about 80 pounds lighter than at last year's Rumble. Braun puts him out anyway. Fucking TYE DILLINGER is in at 10. GET IT?!?! Because he's the perfect 10. But James Ellsworth is the perfect 11. The universe seems intent on making sure he gets destroyed by Braun every few months. Elimination of the match. Baron Corbin enters and eliminates Strowman. Big surprise elimiation there. Miz is 15, so we're half way through this thing.
The ring is really filling up with guys who definitely have no chance of winning. Stage is set for a big monster to come out and eliminate everyone. I'd like to think Bray is that guy, but he's not. I think there are 12 guys in the ring at this point. Then Apollo Crews enters at 22 and lol. What a weak entry. Cesaro and Sheamus eliminate all of New Day at once, then Jericho (who had been outside of the ring for a half hour) eliminates Cesaro and Sheamus as they were trying to eliminate each other. Orton hits the ring and hits a bunch of Kanyon Cutters. Ziggler comes in and does the same thing with superkicks. Luke Harper comes in, looking in fantastic shape. Bray gets between him and Orton, so Luke lays Bray out. SWERVE!
Finally, Brock Lesnar is in at 26. Here's the rampage I've been waiting for. The next guy in is obviously Goldberg, right? NOPE, IT'S ENZO! LMAOOOOOOO. Enzo gonna die. Die he does. Goldberg enters at 28. GOLDBERG, DAWG! He immediately spears and eliminates Brock. Loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooool. 29. The lights go out. IT'S DA UNDERTAKER! AND HE'S TELEPORTED INTO THE RING! Lol. Amazing way to get around Taker having to walk that gigantic aisle. Sadly, Taker looks like shit. Clearly out of shape and in pain. So when Goldberg spears Taker, it looks like shit, because Tkaer looks like he can't even really bump right now. Taker eliminates Goldberg, so MMA Math says Taker just got his win back from Brock. God, Taker is SAD. Reminding of the last few years of Andre. Everyone is expecting a big debut or return at 30. Instead, they get ROMAN REIGNS! LMAOOOOOOOOOO. Oh my god that's fucking hilarious. The most blatant trolling WWE has done in ages. Roman eliminates Taker. Why, that seems like a Wrestlemania match! The final four are Roman, Jericho, Orton, and Bray. Jericho, who spent the whole match either on the floor or in the corner, gets eliminated going to the top rope for no reason. Roman eliminates Bray, and Orton coutners a spear with a RKO before elimiating Roman to win the Rumble. Him?
Reasonably good show. All the singles matches felt too long, and the Rumble itself had a lot of down time waiting for the big stars to show up. Orton winning seems like a terrible idea. No one is interested in seeing Randy Orton headline WM in 2017. Hopefully Taker retires after WM this year. Any time in the prior 5 years was a good time for him to go. Now it looks like he's waited too long. He looked terrible in this.