A great Royal Rumble Show with a very entertaining Rumble match ended with a sight we received a lot as fans in the 2000s: Triple H standing tall with the WWE title.
Yes, Triple H, who hasn't held the belt since 2009, entered at No. 30 and ended up winning the title for the 14th time. At the end, it came down to him, Sheamus, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose. Reigns took out Sheamus, and when he did, Triple H quickly dispatched him. H and Ambrose had a showdown, and there were a few moments that fans even thought Ambrose would have a chance, but Triple H prevailed at the end, winning surprisingly cleanly other than the fact that he entered last.
While some people understandably were unhappy with the ending, it also makes perfect sense as far as where the story can go. Triple H obviously has a problem with Roman Reigns, as Reigns attacked him at TLC, and even before, the two were at odds with one another. Triple H had tried to beat Reigns with proxies, like Sheamus and the League of Nations, and at this point, just decided he had to take care of things himself. While it's not overly ideal to have a part-timer be champion, there is certainly storyline reasons why this should have happened. They started the storyline in-match with the League of Nations attacking Reigns, and forcing him to the back (though he did return later), and then Triple H was there to get things done.
That was a controversial capper to a Royal Rumble that was booked excellently. There were very few lulls in it, and while there weren't any surprise returns like in Rumbles past, there were certainly enough memorable moments to go around. The biggest moment, outside of Triple H winning the title, was certainly the debut of AJ Styles. Styles, the longtime veteran of TNA, ROH and New Japan, had been rumored to make his debut for weeks, and he did at the Rumble, coming out at No. 3. He even got a good run, lasting around 20 minutes before eventually being thrown out by Kevin Owens. He received a huge reaction and had the spotlight on him for a lot of the time he was in the ring.
The biggest thing though was the layering of the match. There are some Rumbles that get bogged down with too many non-consequential wrestlers coming out, or it works too slowly. That really didn't happen in this match. AJ Styles and Roman Reigns carried the early part of the match. R-Truth and The New Day provided some comedy spots as they moved toward the middle. Then, a sequence of Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose and Sami Zayn really got the crowd hot, culminating in Zayn tossing Kevin Owens. Finally, the Wyatt Family and Brock Lesnar moved the Rumble toward the end game. While there was a slight lull after the Wyatt Family eliminated Lesnar, after Lesnar had already eliminated them, the ending picked up quickly.
After two very disappointing Rumble matches, this was excellent work by the WWE. Whether you were a fan of the ending or not, several feuds were developed, and the match pointed at several potential Wrestlemania matches. Now the WWE just has to capitalize on that.
The Rest of the Royal Rumble:
-Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens tore the house down with their Last Man Standing match. They were able to avoid some of the traps that other Last Man Standing matches fall into, and didn't go toward the overused ending where a person is simply trapped under something, instead of fully being unable to answer the count. It had the right level of violence without getting completely out of control. The only thing that was worth nitpicking over was whether the two should have ended up in the Rumble match. Owens came out and limped his way down to the ring, but once he got to the ring the limp was gone. Ambrose barely showed any effects from a brutal match. However, that doesn't take anything away from the match itself, which was the match of the night.
-Charlotte retained her divas title over Becky after Ric Flair got involved. Early in the match, he distracted Becky by grabbing her and forcing a kiss on her (something that fans were quite split over, whether a line was crossed there). Then, as Becky had her armbar on Charlotte and seemed to be on the verge of winning, Ric tossed his jacket over her head, which forced her to break the hold, and allowed Charlotte to back up and hit a spear when Becky was distracted. While the match was very good, and Charlotte needed to cheat to win, it was rather silly that the ref didn't care about Ric getting involved as much as he did. That took a bit away from the match.
However, the big moment happened after the match. After Charlotte continued to attack Becky, Sasha Banks' music played, and she made her way to the ring. She stared at Charlotte, then attacked Becky, sending her out of the ring. She celebrated with Charlotte, even doing the old BFF snap from NXT. Then, as Charlotte went to leave, Sasha attacked her, hitting her with the Bank Statement. So it looks like these three will really start to dance around each other, possibly leading to a match at Wrestlemania.
-Kalisto won back the U.S. Title from Alberto Del Rio. This match was a little sloppier than their other encounters, but they made up for it with intensity. These two have a good thing going, and I don't expect the feud to end any time soon. If WWE is smart, they let Kalisto actually have a run here though. At least give him a few weeks with the belt.
-The New Day successfully defended their titles against The Usos. The finish, where Big E caught an Uso flying off the top rope and turned it into the Big Ending, was fantastic. Xavier Woods of course was a highlight on the outside, playing his new trombone “Francesca II” but also refusing to play as the crowd started chanting. It's the subtle things that keeps them solidly heels, while being extremely entertaining. And his Mortal Kombat references during the match were great.
Thoughts? Questions? Leave them in the comment section, email me or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster. You can also find my podcast, Jobbing Out, at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/jobbing-out/id998790026?mt=2