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Coming during a time where the company desperately needs new stars to generate a renewed interest in WWE, Royal Rumble as a hit and miss show that was saved by what will probably go down as one of the greatest Royal Rumble matches in the history of the promotion. While the women's match ended up being a disappointment when it came to giving new wrestlers a chance, the men's Rumble, through some careful booking that largely played off of mistakes WWE has made in years past, succeeded in hopefully adding a new jolt of energy into the product.
The ball is now in the court of WWE's Scottish Savior, Drew McIntyre who received probably the biggest push WWE has given to any male wrestler since Roman Reigns was announced as the new king of the promotion. McIntyre got the two biggest wins of his career tonight, one in eliminating Lesnar and the other in tossing out Reigns himself to lay claim to a world title match at WrestleMania. WWE likely did more for McIntyre's career during the five seconds in which he shared the ring with Lesnar, than they have in his previous three years with the company.
Men's Royal Rumble: ****½
This match was put together quite nicely, and it told two different stories. There was the story during the first half, with Brock conquering each opponent one by one, which may be controversial but it was different and entertaining in its own way. The second half was a very good Rumble match, with a lot of the big names saved till the end which allowed for very few filler names entering the match, and a final eight or so that all had a legitimate chance to win the Rumble.
*WWE finally goes all the way with Drew McIntyre, giving him the kind of push some fans have been talking about for years. Drew really hasn't done much over the past year on the main roster, but it was clear they were saving him for something big because he was always protected in the booking. Now, I don't think 18 months ago Vince McMahon had this master plan to push him to the moon during the 2020 Rumble, but it was always recognized that he had star potential. Now he has been given a chance to really break through and become a major star for the company.
*Brock gets a lot of deserved criticism for his sporadic appearances and title defenses. But there is no denying the guy has churned out some of the most memorable performances in the company over the last several years. His presence, star power, and ability to make talent look legitimate, were crucial for this match to work the way it did.
*Edge coming out was something that I personally did not see coming and had kind of dismissed the previous rumors. He got by far the biggest pop of the night and physically looked really good, and was in the ring for a long time after taking nearly a decade off.
*While it was enjoyable seeing Brock toss all those schmucks out of the ring, it does kind of reaffirm a negative image for the rest of the roster. A lot of casual fans who only watch WWE a few times each year tune if for the Rumble, and watching Brock dominate a bunch of the talent who appears weekly on RAW and SmackDown reminds people that they aren't exactly missing anything major when they skip the weekly shows.
*Keith Lee looked like a major star, even though he was eventually dumped by Lesnar, Lesnar merely by selling for him and putting him over as being someone close to an equal, helped him look like such a big star. Matt Riddle...less so.
Women's Royal Rumble Match: **
This wasn't very good. A problem with WWE is that they lack the kind of depth from a star power perspective to make this match feel worthwhile. With Becky Lynch, Asuka and Bayley already occupied in the title matches and Sasha Banks MIA, there really were not a lot of names left that fans felt genuinely excited about seeing. So the match was filled with a lot of filler, including a lot of women from NXT who the fans were not super familiar with.
Charlotte winning the Rumble feels unnecessary, especially because it coincided with Baszler's likely debut with the main roster. To me, you can still do Charlotte vs Lynch at WrestleMania without her winning the match. If Baszler wins the match, you immediately take a NXT woman and make her one of those few major names in the division who the fans value greatly. Instead she gained a few eliminations but in the end lost when it really mattered.
That kind of booking seemed pervasive throughout the match; Bianca Belair got a lot of shine, eliminating a bunch of women...but was then unceremoniously eliminated by Charlotte. Other women, like Mercedes Martinez, make their WWE debut with a few directionless minutes in a Rumble's match, just come and go without any notoriety. WWE has a lot of depth in the sense that they have a lot of women with potential, but they don't have a lot of true stars. They had a chance to make a new one tonight but they decided to go in another direction.
The Fiend vs Daniel Bryan: ***½
This was better than I expected. Bryan is such a great performer and babyface, the crowd really bought into him, even though The Fiend has been pretty popular as the monster champion. They told a nice story with Bryan, having asked for the strap match, being much more resourceful using the strap to his advantage and selling the idea that he could steal a win from The Fiend. It is worth noting that Bryan had two important things going for him in this match in that the red light wasn't there, and The Fiend sold more than in his previous matches, which helped the match greatly.
I'm still not sure how they are going to book The Fiend going forward. To this point he has been presented as so dominant that it feels like when he does eventually lose, it will be underwhelming because he has done so much no-selling in his previous matches. One day he will lose because somebody hit him with their finisher, and unless that finish is done to absolute
perfection it will come across as flat and anticlimactic.
Becky Lynch vs Asuka: ***
They had a pretty solid back and forth match; probably ending up right around everyone's expectations. I thought their match last year was a little bit better, but Lynch was probably hotter at this point last year, so that makes sense. Lynch hasn't really been in a lot of big, main event level singles matches in recent months, and this was her first televised title defense since Hell in a Cell.
Obviously it looks like they are going with Lynch vs Charlotte for WrestleMania, which isn't exactly a fresh matchup but they have been trying to keep them away from each other since last year's show, perhaps to the detriment of each of them since Lynch has needed quality opponents and Charlotte has been kind of lost for most of the past year. With a few months to build the match, it is possible they get both on track and deliver something close to what they did last year, even if they don't have Rousey to help them out.
Lacey Evans vs Bayley: ½*
This match had nothing going for it. While Evans has earned some praise for her real-life story and how that has been incorporated into her sudden babyface turn, the reality is that the crowd did not care about her, or this match at all. Bayley also has been a weak champion since her heel turn, and just felt bland and uninteresting in this match. On top of that, the work was sloppy as Evans is green and still probably a year or two away from really being able to deliver in a match like this.
Baron Corbin vs Roman Reigns: **½
This was an okay match to start the show. It felt like every single WWE walk-and-brawl, which the company does too many of. Being in a baseball stadium made it stand out a little bit, and the finish was pretty fun with Reigns running the length of the dugout ceiling to spear Corbin. No one taking out a trash can and banging on it while they were on top of it was a huge missed opportunity though. Both of these guys are pretty boring to me when it comes to their matches, but the crowd liked it by the end.
World's Collide Match Ratings
Mia Yim vs Kay Lee Ray: ***
Ilja Dragunov vs Finn Balor: ***¼
Jordan Devlin vs Isaiah Swerve Scott vs Angel Garva vs Travis Banks: ***¾
Team DIY vs Moustache Mountain: ****
Toni Storm vs Rhea Ripley: **¾
The Undisputed Era vs Imperium: ****¼