** PRE-SHOW **
I proudly slept until the start of the…
WWE WOMEN’S TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Charlotte Flair & Asuka(c) vs. Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler - 4.5/10
They did stuff, but from Charlotte’s pre-match promo, you knew nothing was going to happen until Lacey Evans & Ric Flair showed up, which hurt the match. They eventually did. Someone decided that Charlotte needed survive multiple rounds of distraction and interference and quickly get the advantage back on Shayna Baszler each time before having Ric hand Lacey a foreign object to punch Charlotte with to put her out. Why not just do the interference once so that Baszler doesn’t look like sh*t?
Also, who let Byron Saxton on TV dressed like that.
** MAIN SHOW **
NUMBERS VIDEO PACKAGE - Annoying, as always. This year they claimed that the likes of Kofi and Naomi have “defied the laws of physics” to survive elimination. F*ck off. Also, they found a way to show Titus tripping, even though there was no number of any sort connected to it.
WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Drew McIntyre(c) vs. Goldberg - DUD!
Drew headbutts Goldberg, and apparently that’s not enough to start a match. Goldberg speared Drew through the boards, but it’s all before the match. If you can’t fit that sort of spot into your match, just don’t do it.
Drew is, of course, willing to still go. We go the usual Brock/Goldberg barrage of finishers for three minutes. They showed each other respect afterwards. This did nothing for me. I didn’t like this sh*t with Brock, and I haven’t liked it with Goldberg, either.
CHARLY CARUSO INTERVIEWS SASHA BANKS - Bad. She cut what should have been a babyface promo about overcoming the odds in the most heelish-sounding way possible.
WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Sasha Banks(c) vs. Carmella (w/Reginald) - 5.25/10
This was fairly pedestrian early on, but started to get pretty darn good by the end. If anything, this felt like it ended too soon, as that pair if superkicks by Carmella for a nearfall felt like they were the beginning of the next step up in intensity rather than a false finish right before the actual finish.
BIG E., XAVIER WOODS, & SAMI ZAYN BACKSTAGE - Bad. Big E. cut one of those promos that made it seem like he didn’t understand that only one person can win the Royal Rumble. Sami showed up to be annoying and be humiliated by Kofi Kingston showing up and scaring him. Despite not being cleared to wrestle, he is wearing his wrestling gear, which has a picture of Brodie Lee on it.
SOMEONE NAMED BAD BUNNY SANG A SONG ABOUT OLD, RETIRED BOOKER T - I’d rather have Megadeath. At least something exciting happened at the end of that. I wonder if this was a rib on Booker to see if he could stand perfectly still for three minutes.
2021 WOMEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH - 7.5/10
Samoa Joe was replaced on commentary by Jerry Lawler, just to make sure the fans know that Vince hates them.
1 and 2 are Bayley and the returning Naomi. Putting Naomi’s full dancing entrance after first that song and then the long numbers video package was a bad idea. I’m ready for some f*cking action.
Even WWE’s piped-in count-down couldn’t keep in time with the actual numbers.
#3 is Bianca. She and Naomi did essentially a cartwheel version of the Tombstone Piledriver reversal stop, the first of which looked terrifying.
#4 was Billie Kay, who sat down to do commentary instead of actual wrestle. The camera kept cutting to her, so we missed a chunk of the intricate athletic spot that Naomi, Bianca and Bayley were trying to do.
She got up from commentary try to give her picture to #5, Shotzi Blackheart. Shotzi, being a total asshole, responded to Billie attempting to tall to her by shooting at her with the gun on her toy tank. Billie Kay went back to commentary, and they once again kept cutting to her, even when people were in danger of being eliminated.
#6 was Shayna Baszler. I hope she rips Shotzi’s arms off and feeds them to her. Billie Kay also tried to give Shayna her picture and got attacked. What is Billie Kay even doing here? They spent time on Raw establishing that the likes of Drew Gulak, R-Truth, and Ricochet had to earn their way in because they hadn’t done enough, but f*cking BILLIE KAY was allowed into the Rumble?
#7 was Toni Storm. She simply ignored Billie Kay. See, Shotzi? It’s not that hard to not physically assault someone who you don’t want to talk to.
Let the record show that the first woman eliminated from the match- and thus the biggest loser- is Shotzi Blackheart. I was happy to see Shayna merely eliminate her instead of the aforementioned dismembering and torturing.
Speaking of losers, Billie Kay finally found a friend in entrant #8, “nostalgia” (and I use that term loosely) act elimination fodder Jillian Hall. Next in was Ruby Riott, but Billie also tried to team with but was rejected. Victoria entered at #10. We’re one third of the way in, and two fifths of the entrants are people who no one can possibly think have a chance of winning because we know they won’t be on the main roster next week.
Peyton Royce came in at #11. She and Billie Kay worked together, but then Billie didn’t want to do the IIconics pose with her. You dodged a bullet there, Peyton. Getting hit with Victoria’s finisher is certainly preferable to hanging out with Billie Kay.
Santana Garrett was in at #12, so that’s more elimination fodder in the ring. Too much, if you ask me. The point of elimination fodder is to get eliminated.
Liv Morgan was in next. She teamed up with Ruby. Jillian Hall went after them but Billie Kay turned on Jillian because of this and eliminated her. Then Ruby and Liv eliminated Billie Kay, hopefully showing them that she’s not in their group once and for all.
#14 was Rhea Ripley, who ran wild as she should and dumped Toni Storm. Shayna Baszler eliminated Victoria,, and Rhea eliminated Santana Garrett, making Santana look stupid (well… stupider than she already looks on her own, anyway) in the process.
#15 is Charlotte, and no w that we’ve got a significant number of viable winners in the ring (Bayley, Bianca, Charlotte, Rhea), this feels like something that is actually worth watching, rather than a bunch of cheap pops, nostalgia, and gaga.
Bayley sliding under the bottom rope to eliminate Ruby Riott via powerbomb off the apron was a clever spot.
#16 is Dana Brook. #17 was Torrie Wilson, because we needed to see Torrie Wilson run wild on people for some reason. This was interrupted so that we could see Rhea and Dana some spots that were actually cool, resulting in Rhea eliminating Dana.
#18 was Lacey Evans, who had Ric Flair come out before her, complete with his music. She wore another of Ric’s robes, which got Charlotte all bent out of shape. Lacey got into the ring and started strutting in the middle of a battle royale like a complete idiot, including turning her back to Charlotte. Charlotte laid Lacey out, then beat her up on the outside. Charlotte also pulled Peyton off the apron and eliminated her as an afterthought.
Baszler eliminated Torrie. The sight of those two doing spots together was quite something. While that was happening, we missed Bianca Belair eliminated Bayely.
#19 was Mickie James, who might be a retired wrestler making a one-off return, or might not be. She faced off with Charlotte, which really made me want to see those two have a real match.
#20 was Nikki Cross, appearing on TV for what I think is the first time since they decided to have Alexa Bliss! turn on her, because if you’re not involved with a star, you don’t get to be on TV, no matter how over you’ve been.
#21 was Alicia Fox, who is another one for the Jillian Hall category of “WHY?!” Speaking of crazy African Americans, R-Truth ran into the ring. The 24/7 geeks followed him and he knocked them off the apron. Alicia Fox rolled Truth up and won the 24/7 Title. Seeing as how that title is always suspended when the champion has a match, you’d think it would be suspended for the rest of Alicia’s time in the match. It would have been nice for the announcers to tell us this, because that would show thar WE had actually thought about something like this. Instead, we just got the next entrant, Mandy Rose, eliminated Fox from the match, and then Truth pinning her to win the title back, keeping the status quo, because always going back to the status quo was definitely what made people like the 24/7 Rule for the Hardcore Title.
#23 was Dakota Kai. Meanwhile, Lacey Evans eliminated Mickie James. #24 was Carmella, who lost a title match already tonight, but of course she gets a second shot because we don’t have enough woman on the roster to do a Royal Rumble, but we need to do one because Women’s Evolution. Reginald immediately saved Carmella from elimination to check off that trope from WWE’s list. He caught Carmella a second time, but put her down before getting superkicked by #25, Tamina, so Carmella was eliminated as well.
Rhea Ripley eliminated first Dakota and then Mandy. Mandy did a wonderful job of controlling herself on the way down so that it looked scary was but was done very safely. Tamina got in and squared off with Rhea, which was cool.
Naomi was thrown over the top rope and onto the floor, but she landed on her back with her feet in the air, and thus wasn’t technically eliminated, despite being flat on her back on the floor. Word cannot express how f*cking dumb this is, and what is says about WWE’s lack of understanding that they think doing these spots every year make them seem clever instead of realizing that they just make a mockery of the proceedings.
We wound up with Naomi pulling Bianca down and they were both hanging by their feet and throwing punches (some of Bianca’s seem to be connecting legitimately with the back of Naomi’s head, so major props to both women if those were works),and they wound up agreeing to help each other get back in with some sort of wacky exercise motion.
#26 was Lana, who went right for Baszler and, shockingly, wasn’t immediately eliminated.
#27 was Alex Bliss! She mixed the old good, Alexa Bliss! spots with the dumb, Fiend-possessed skpping. The group all mobbed her and beat her up, but then the screens did magic and lighting changed and she made her angry face… and then Rhea just came up behind her and eliminated her. At least they didn’t ruin this Royal Rumble with dumb Fiend sh*t, but that just has me concerned for the men’s one.
#28 was Ember Moon. She ran wild on people. I think she legit got Naomi in the face with a dropkick. They set up a contrived spot for her to hit a double-facebreaker from the top on Tamina and Charlotte which Tamina and Charlotte sold in a goofy manner.
#29 was Nia Jax, and she and Baszler ran wild. Baszler eliminated Lacey, Nia eliminated Ember, and they teamed up to eliminate Naomi. Jax wanted to add Tamina to their team but Baszler wasn’t having it, so Tamina went along with it. They eliminated Tamina, then started brawling until Rhea got involved with Shayna. The announcers totally ignored the history between them. Jax eliminated Baszler, so you can look forward to more of them bickering on TV every week.
Lana got her big moment eliminated Nia low bridge. Nia and Shayna beat up #30 Nattie on the outside, then just back into the ring and beat everyone else up. They tossed Nattie into the ring, so your final five are Bianca, Charlotte Rhea, Nattie, and Lana. The latter of those two had a big hug, at which point Nattie immediately turned on Lana and eliminated her, which had me rolling with laughter. Poor pathetic Lana.
This was actually the start of Nattie running wild on people to point where she almost came off like a potential threat to win. Then they had her be an idiot and get Rhea on the apron, but then climb the ropes and stand over her instead of trying to kick her off, allowing Bianca Belair to come up behind her and eliminated her.
Rhea and Bianca teamed up on Charlotte to eliminate her, so we were down to two. They did a double version of the “perilously dangling” spot that actually really bad because their legs were too long. It looked like something they were doing on purpose for drama, as opposed to the logical thing to do, which would be just put one foot down to steady yourself, then pull yourself up. From that moment on, their final two segment was pretty good. Bianca won, which surprised me a bit. I like her as a match-up for Sasha better than Rhea, but if Rhea isn’t going to face Charlotte at Mania, it means WWE is going to need to come up with something big for her to do at Mania if they don’t want her to get lost in the shuffle and lose the rub she’s getting here.
In winning this match, Bianca becomes the first person of African descent to kayfabe legitimately win a Royal Rumble, as Rock’s win in 2000 was kayfabe bullsh*t, and Big Show should be listed as the official winner, which he had evidence of.
CHARLY CARUSO INTERVIEWS BIANCA BELAIR - AWESOME! This was all real emotion right here. It doesn’t matter that I could barely understand her because she was both exhausted and crying with happiness. All that needed to happen was the right emotions to be conveyed in a way that felt legitimate, and that’s exactly what happened.
MIZ AND MORRISON TRY TO BE FRIENDS WITH BAD BUNNY - This is my cue to go to the bathroom.
MORE DUMB R-TRUTH SH*T HAPPENED - Almost passable. The Women’s Tag Team Titles were buried when people stopped paying attention to an interview with new champs because R-Truth wandered in and started yapping. Peter Rosenberg tricked Truth by making him think that John Cena was in the building and “right over there,” then hit him in the nuts, turning babyface. Then he pinned Truth and won the 24/7 Title, which a little bit undid that, as anyone who wants that title is clearly a goof. Then again, maybe Rosenberg wants the title so that he can dissolve it in a vat of acid and save us from it, so I guess there are ways that he could still come out of this as a babyface.
LAST MAN STANDING MATCH FOR THE WWE UNIVERSAL TITLE:
Roman Reigns(c) vs. Kevin Owens - 7.25/10
They had a good brawl exploring the superstructure of the Thunderdome, setting up for Owens taking a huge bump off of it, through the equipment tables (a callback to earlier in the feud) for a false finish. Owens stumbled around backstage until Roman ran him down with a golfcart at high speed. The windshield caved in and looked like the full sheet of whatever type of plastic it was hit Roman right in the face but the dude didn’t even flinch. That’s a f*cking world champion right there.
They brawled around by the interview-set ring and into the par of the stadium where it actually still resembles a stadium, punching each other and using plunder all the way through. Owens did a senton bomb off the top of a forklift through a table to for a false finish.
They brawled and took more big bumps for false finishes and a perfect face. Owens eventually handcuffed Roman to something low to try to get a bullsh*t victory, but Roman smartly yanked the ref into the thing he was handcuffed to bump him and stop him from counting. Owens started to sell for a while so that Paul Heyman could come out and unlock Roman with the key. I get that handcuffs play into their cage match, but I absolutely hate it when handcuffs are used in situations like this, and this sort of thing is why. That would be a bullsh*t way for Owens to win, and it was ridiculous to me that he’d be down and selling for so long that he couldn’t stop Heyman from unlocking Roman.
Then Roman got up, caught Owens in a guillotine, and choked him out. That last segment brought down what would have otherwise been an awesome world title match, and it takes a lot for me to say that about a Last Man Standing match.
2021 MEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH - 8/10
Orton and Edge start at one and two in order to renew their rivalry. They brawled on the floor a lot, which is kind of silly for a Royal Rumble, even with the “they didn’t go over the top rope” exception. They got back into the ring in time for Sami Zayn to come out at #3 and help Orton beat Edge up. Mustafa Ali was #4, so he joined in the beating on Edge. Jeff Hardy came in at #5 to save Edge from being eliminated.
Randy eventually turned on his buddies with RKOs. He got speared by Edge and rolled to the floor, so Edge followed him out and they brawled on the outside again. Actually, this time it was less a brawl than just Edge beating on Randy. Randy fought back a little but once he got positioned on the announcer’s table, but was unable to stop himself from being hit with an Edge-acution onto. In what I’m sure was a coincidence, right after they were down with this big spot, the count-down before for entrant #6.
#6 was Dolph Ziggler who quickly eliminated Jeff Hardy. Edge hit Randy with a chair, and officials separated them and tended to Randy while Edge got back into the ring.
Nakamura was #7. #8 was Carlito Cool. Michael Cole and Samoa Joe managed to feign excitement about this. I know they do that on a regular basis, but being excited about Carlito is a gargantuan feat in my eyes.
Nakamura was unaware of Carlito’s apple gimmick and fell for it. Carlito ran wild. Meanwhile, Randy was helped to the back by referees. Shouldn’t they have medical personnel for this so that the referees can concentrate on doing their actual jobs?
Xavier Woods was #9 and paired off with Ali. Big E. was #10 and paired off with Sami. New Day stared winning those fights by working together. They managed to eliminated Sami but not Ali.
John Morrison was #11. We went back to New Day vs. Ali. Ali managed to eliminate Woods, but gloated too much and was eliminated by Big E.
Ricochet came in at #12 and dove onto everyone. #13 was Elias, who eliminated Carlito. #14 was Damian Priest, in what I assume will be the start of his run on the main roster. He ran wild on everyone and eliminated The Drifter.
#15 was Miz, who smashed up Bad Bunny’s equipment, which has apparently been left out here for well over an hour. That seemed kind of silly. Miz and Morrison began working together and running wild, but distracted themselves when Bad Bunny came out to tell at them. The referees kept him away from the ring, even though it’s a no DQs match. We missed Priest and eliminating Miz and Morrison while they idiotically had their backs turned. Then Priest himself was an idiot and turned his back to everyone to celebrate Bad Bunny diving onto Miz & JoMo. Fortunately for him, the script did not call for anyone to take advantage of this.
Matt Riddle was #16. #17 was Daniel Bryan. The announcers reminded us of how long Bryan last in the Greatest Royal Ruble, which might be the first time they’ve talked about that show since they stopped constantly replaying Titus’ trip.
#18 was KANE, who I guess wanted to make it harder for Ziggler to match his record for Royal Rumble appearance. Chokeslams all around, including one to Ricochet, over the top rope, onto the apron, and down to the floor. Kane also eliminated Ziggler. Bryan wanted to hug Kane but got chokeslammed instead. Kane and Priest had the big face-off of the monsters, and Priest got to be the guy to avoid the chokeslam, fight back and eliminated him. That’s a good start for Priest’s main roster career.
#19 was Baron Corbin, who ran wild and eliminated Nakamura. That was infuriating. You just had Nakamura do this big babyface turn and you have him eliminate no one and get eliminated by BARON CORBIN? REALLY?
#20 was Otis. He ran wild on everyone. To set up the Caterpillar he gave Priest a corner splash that Priest took the phoniest bump ever on to make sure he was in he right position. Corbin then came over and eliminated Otis.
Dominik Mysterio was #21. Instead of getting to run wild when he came in like everyone else, Dominik immediately got leveled by Corbin. He did get to counter a move and eliminate Corbin moments later, but it would have been a lot better to have him actually get some sustained offense in on Corbin before eliminating him.
#22 was Bobby Lashley. He eliminated Dominik and Priest before squaring off with Big E. for a great brawl. This was so great that I was disappointed when Riddle jumped in to help Lashley.
Speaking of things that disappointed me. Hurricane Helms came out at #23. This supposed babyface’s only offense on people was thumbs to the eye. Lashley and Big E. decided to work together to eliminate the pest before squaring off and fighting each other again. Lashley won (but didn’t eliminate Big E.) and started to go after the other babyfaces.
#24 was Christian, who I assume is going to get jumped by Randy Orton. Riddle and Edge seemed shocked by his presence. Lashley just wanted to fight him. All of the babyfaces (other than the still-downed Edge) worked together to eliminate Lashley.
Christian stated to run wild on people. He and Edge had a big hug. Matt Riddle wanted one, too, so they beat him up and did their moves.
#25 was AJ Styles. #26 was Rey Mysterio, whose entrance turned into Michael Cole plugging WWE’s and Rey’s new sponsor, the “proudly Mexican” Victoria Beer.
Omos eliminated Big E. by reaching over the ropes and yanking him over, down, and out. Omos then threw Big E. over the announcers’ table into the barricade. He would also later eliminate Rey Mysterio Jr.
Lucky #27 was Sheamus. He, too, got to run wild on everyone. #28 was Ceasro, who also ran wild. He and Sheamus formed an alliance, but Cesaro immediately turned on Sheamus and almost eliminated him.
The only real surprise entrant of any consequence tonight was Seth Rollins at #29, still using his heel music. He and Cesaro had an awesome back and forth that I REALLY hope is previewing a WrestleMania match.
#30 was Braun Strowman, who return was a surprise to me, but apparently he was on Smackdown on Thursday, so that one is down to my own ignorance. Strowman ran wild on people, eliminating Cesaro, Sheamus, and AJ (he actually got AJ twice but Omos saved AJ once). Then Edge and Christian put him down with a double spear.
Your final seven were Riddle, Rollins, Edge, Christian, Braun, Bryan, and Orton, but you’re not supposed to remember Orton.
We finally got Bryan and Riddle going after each other, but then Bryan went after Edge… and, now that I think about it, that would also be a really awesome match. Bryan ran wild on people for a while before having another faceoff with Riddle. They started rolling on the mat and I was SOOOOOOOOOOOOO happy. Then f*cking Seth Rollins had to ruin it and eliminate Bryan. F*ck you, Vince, for making us believe in Bryan again and then not giving us the win.
Riddle tried to avenge Rollins and got him on the apron, but then he decided to be an idiot and go to the outside to try to eliminate Rollins, so Braun punched him and knocked him off the apron. Rollins tried to buddy up to Braun, but was immediately turned on. Now it was Braun’s turn to run wild. Edge almost eliminated him on his own and then was going to do it with help from Christian but Rollins came in and eliminated both Braun and Christian. Edge eliminated Rollins soon afterwards and Cole gave us the whole “Edge has done it!” bit even though I’m willing to bet that every watching remembered that Randy Orton wasn’t eliminated. Randy gave Edge and RKO and picked him up and… Edge reversed it and eliminated Orton to win the Royal Rumble.
I will give them some credit for the booking here. When I saw that Edge was in at #1, I thought there was no way he could go the whole length of the match. I know you can hide in battle royales, but I still didn’t think he could do it, and I’ll bet I wasn’t alone in that thought. Me and anyone who thought like me were wrong.
I still don’t like the “wrestler goes to the back but then gets to come back out” thing, but doing it here with Edge and Orton where they had Edge first beat the sh*t out of Orton and then thwart him once again in the end did feel like an acceptable way to blow off their feud, and the extra detail of Edge going the whole way in the Rumble and thus proving the durability that Randy started this feud because he thought Edge lacked was a nice touch. And, obviously, doing a blow-off in the Rumble free them both up for Mania matches with Roman/Drew (probably Roman) and The Fiend respectively.
This was a fine show from WWE. Maybe it’s because I was dreading Fiend bullsh*t in both Rumble matches and didn’t get too much of it, but this was a show that was better than the sum of its parts. I don’t know how else to say it other than it was easy to sit through and didn’t make me angry. I acknowledge, intellectually, that that’s a really low bar, but it feels completely applicable. Despite some frustrating situations, the guy I really wanted to see win the Rumble not getting the nod, and a major misstep that killed an otherwise awesome world title match, I can’t be mad at this show.