January 23, 2017
From the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH
Your hosts are Corey Graves, Byron Saxton, and Michael Cole
We get a video package on Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho as they stood tall last week after their attack on Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins.
The live show starts off with Roman Reigns heading out to the ring, with the shark cage in the middle. He got booed quite a bit. Reigns talks about over 40,000 people going nuts at the Alamo Dome this Sunday while Jericho is locked in the shark cage and he is 1 vs. 1 against Owens, meaning he will be the Universal Champion. Owens & Jericho interrupt to cheers. Owens wonders if Reigns is confused or delusional but says he figured it out as he powerbombed Reigns through the announcers table and he is the only one to do so while Reigns tells him he is the one about to “get whipped” in front of this crowd. Jericho interrupts and calls Reigns a stupid idiot and makes some really awful jokes about being in the cage before threatening to march into the ring and teach Reigns a lesson. Reigns then asks Jericho if he just gave him a rematch as the crowd does the “yes” chant. Owens laughs then tells Reigns he has his title match tonight as Jericho looks upset. Owens then tells Jericho he will win and for Reigns to not plan a celebration as he has a psychic vision of Reigns being locked inside of the shark cage. Reigns says he has a vision and its to win the U.S. Championship in Cleveland and the Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble because he is something Owens will be never be and that is “the guy.”
I thought this was a terrible segment. The dialogue itself was truly wretched to be point it actively made you want to change the channel. Owens stumbled a lot here and had a poor performance too and Reigns keeps getting booed but like the company itself, pretends he does not and it made for a segment where the crowd pretty much booed everything. We also got another tease of a split here between Jericho & Owens as Jericho was not happy when Owens accepted Reigns’ challenge on his behalf. The feud between the three has been lackluster to say the least and it really needs to end ASAP.
Cesaro w/ Sheamus vs. Luke Gallows w/ Karl Anderson
These four men will face off at the Royal Rumble Kickoff show in a Tag Team Championship match. Gallows elbows Cesaro then beats on him for a bit. Cesaro fights back with an uppercut then deadlifts Gallows with a gutwrench suplex for two. They go back-and-forth for a bit until Gallows boots Cesaro in the face after Anderson provided a distraction on the apron right before the break. The match returns with Gallows working a chinlock as we saw that Anderson got chased backstage by Sheamus after clotheslining Cesaro on the floor. Cesaro blocks a suplex and hits one of his own as both men are down. Gallows is up first but Cesaro hits him several uppercuts then follows with a tornado DDT for two. Cesaro tries for the swing but Gallows is able to reach the ropes and roll outside. Sheamus also hits Gallows but the ref orders him away. Cesaro boots Gallows off of the apron then Sheamus boots down Gallows behind the referee’s back. They head inside as Cesaro slingshots in with a sunset flip and rolls through into a sharpshooter. Anderson runs back down and drills Sheamus then distracts Cesaro as that allows Gallows to hit a boot to the face before putting him away with a flapjack (8:42) *3/4.
Thoughts: Not much of a match. Cesaro did some cool stuff but Gallows was really clunky here. Gallows & Anderson needed a win heading into the Royal Rumble.
Backstage, Mick Foley is talking with Stephanie McMahon on speaker phone. Sami Zayn interrupts and asks to talk to Mick. Zayn then asks how he has to get into the Royal Rumble match but Stephanie says he will have to earn his way into the match by beating Seth Rollins. Mick then picks up the phone and says he does not agree with whatever Stephanie is asking him to do and that he will “tell Seth now” before hanging up as he looks off into the distance with a disappointed look on his face.
We are shown a sitdown interview with Corey Graves and Bayley. Graves asks her about the Royal Rumble as she talks about being a fan and how the best memories with her family involve watching the WWE. Graves then asks why Charlotte is using her “WWE fandom” against her as she talks about loving to giving fans a hug or a high-five as she used to be the fan behind the barricade. Bayley then says despite not having Charlotte’s pedigree or athleticism, she does have two victories against her and will walk out of her match at the PPV with the RAW Women’s Championship. Bayley is much better in a pretaped segment than in front of a live mic, that’s for sure. This was good.
Seth Rollins is backstage as Foley enters. Foley tells him how Stephanie made a match between Zayn and himself. He also tells her that Stephanie said if Zayn wins, he will get his spot in the Rumble match. Rollins then tells Foley he sees exactly what’s going on and he has to win tonight then win the Rumble so he can go to WrestleMania and throw it back in the face of her “coward husband.”
Seth Rollins vs. Sami Zayn
Rollins starts off by working the arm then Zayn escapes and they end in a stalemate. They go back-and-forth then start brawling. Rollins cuts off a dive attempt and ends up knocking Zayn into the barricade with a tope as we head to break. The match returns with Rollins working the arm. Zayn sidesteps a top rope attack then hits Rollins with a Blue Thunder Bomb for a nearfall. We get a mild dueling chant as Rollins rolls through a crossbody for a nearfall. Zayn comes back with a Michinoku Driver for two after that then heads back up top. Rollins cuts him off and ends up hitting a blockbuster for two after a reversal sequence. Rollins then gets two with a super kick. Falcon Arrow gets two. Zayn fights back as he can barely stand then stars firing away until Rollins cuts him off with a knee smash. Rollins then hits a sling blade and sets up for the Pedigree but Zayn escapes and hits a tornado DDT. Zayn tries for the Helluva Kick but Rollins moves away. Rollins tries for a Pedigree but Zayn backdrops him over the top rope. The crowd starts a “this is awesome” chant as Rollins cuts Zayn off the top rope then tries for a Pedigree off of the top but Zayn counters with a sunset bomb for two. They slowly get up as Rollins hits an enziguiri but Zayn catches him with an exploder in the corner. Rollins rolls out to the apron to avoid a Helluva kick so Zayn attempts it from the apron but runs into a super kick. Rollins hits Zayn with a Pedigree on the apron and goes back inside but Triple H’s music hits. Rollins is pissed and waits for Triple H to come out but he doesn’t and Zayn surprises Rollins with a cradle for the win (16:00) ***3/4.
Thoughts: Really good match and probably the best Rollins’ has looked since his return from injury. I liked the story of Stephanie pitting two guys against each other so she could screw over Rollins even more. These guys got the crowd into it as well. With Rollins vs. HHH pretty much a given at WrestleMania they can use this to enhance that feud.
We get a video package on Shawn Michaels winning the 1995 Royal Rumble match.
Back from break, Rollins is flipping out backstage. He runs into Foley and demands to know if he was in on this as Foley said he is just doing what was asked. Rollins leaves even more pissed off after that.
Tony Nese & Drew Gulak & Ariya Daivari vs. Mustafa Ali & TJ Perkins & Jack Gallagher
We got a video package on Ali before the match. Gulak and Gallagher start things off as Gallagher gains the advantage. Perkins hits a springboard crossbody off of a blind tag then puts Gulak in an Octopus hold. Gulak shoves Perkins down and tags Nese, who gets hit with a neckbreaker. Nese cuts Perkins off of the top rope and hits a fireman’s carry gutbuster before using a body scissors. Nese misses a double jump moonsault as Ali tags in and hits Gulak with a hurricarana. Ali gets two with a rolling cutter then the match breaks down as Ali puts Gulak away with an inverted 450 splash (3:50) *1/2.
Thoughts: They tried to put over Ali, who looked decent enough, but the crowd did not care one bit. I do like how they are going with a non-stereotypical gimmick with someone from Middle Eastern heritage.
The New Day head out to the ring. They talk about winning the Royal Rumble match so they can become the Universal Champion but Enzo Amore & Big Cass interrupt. Enzo & Cass go through their routine as Cass says he will be going “Stallone in 87” as he tosses 29 bodies “over the top” as he is in the Rumble match. Rusev & Jinder Mahal interrupt. Rusev wants to know why Cass has to put “Big” in front of his name as a “USA” chant breaks out. Rusev yells at the crowd about how his issue is not with USA but with Cass’s name as he says he should call himself “Handsome” and that he is now in the Royal Rumble match. Titus O’Neill comes out then Big E said how last week he promised to never annoy them again or promote a false brand as Titus says there is an eight man tag match tonight. New Day point out how there is just three of them and how Lana cannot wrestle as the crowd chants for Lana. We then get the final person on the team and that turns out to be Braun Strowman. A mess of a segment to lead to an eight-man tag match.
Big E & Kofi Kingston & Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Rusev w/ Lana & Jinder Mahal & Titus O’Neill & Braun Strowman
Kofi hits Rusev with a crossbody for two. The heels are now working over Kofi as they cut off the ring. Titus works a bearhug then deadlifts and slams him down hard. Titus gets dumped as Strowman rolls him inside then Kofi tags out as Cass runs wild on Mahal. Titus break up the pin after the Boom Shakalaka as the match breaks down. Enzo and Mahal are left in the ring then Strowman tags in and shoulder tackles Enzo. Strowman has Enzo up for a powerslam but Enzo fights off and tries to hit a jumping DDT but Strowman catches him and hits a powerslam for the win (4:34) 3/4*. After the match, the Big Show comes out to the ring and stares down Strowman but Strowman ends up leaving and says that he will get Show on his time.
Thoughts: The action wasn’t very good and this was really all about what took place after the match as they showed off Show’s new physique and teased conflict between Strowman and himself. Odd to see the New Day and Cass as afterthoughts here.
The announcers plug the WWE Network until Big Show & The New Day interrupt. Big Show says hi and acts friendly as the announcers put over his size.
WWE United States Championship Match: Chris Jericho (c) w/ Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns
Reigns knocks Jericho outside and slams him into the barricade. He hits the Drive By then stares down Owens as we head to break. The match returns with Jericho choking out Reigns against the ropes as Owens is now on commentary. He brags about putting Reigns through a table last week as Jericho works a chinlock. Jericho gets two off of a dropkick then yells at Owens if he saw that as Owens makes fun of Saxton. Reigns fights back then catches Jericho in midair with a punch. Reigns hits a few clotheslines then they mess up a spot something fierce and awkwardly fall into the ropes. Reigns hits Jericho with a Samoan drop for two but he gets cut off with a dropkick while attempting the Superman punch. Reigns blocks a Codebreaker then hits a sitout powerbomb for a nearfall. Owens gets pissed and heads down to the ring as Reigns connects with a Superman punch but Owens runs in and starts beating on Reigns for the DQ (9:42) **. After the match, Owens calls for the shark cage to be lowered and they put Reigns inside and Owens tries to lock the cage but Reigns fights back as Owens cannot lock the cage since Jericho has the key. Reigns then locks Owens inside and calls for it to be lifted up. Jericho hangs on the cage as Reigns takes him off with a Superman Punch. Owens screams from the cage as Reigns spears Jericho.
Thoughts: This was the worst Reigns vs. Jericho match I’ve seen. The post-match stuff was a little hokey but not terrible. However, fans do not want to cheer for Reigns and no matter how hard the WWE tries he is not going to be beloved by the fans in this role. Again, Owens comes off more like a guy doing midcard comedy than a credible champion.
After the break, Owens is out of the cage and starts yelling at Jericho. Charly Caruso also comes out to inform Owens that not only will Jericho be suspended above the ring in a cage but that his match will be a No Disqualification match. Owens flips out and says that its an unsafe working environment for Jericho and since he has already beaten Reigns the match should be cancelled.
Now, we get Graves’ sit down interview with Charlotte. She talks about her earliest childhood memory is of her dad winning the 1992 Royal Rumble and how her family dominates the Rumble while Bayley’s family watches it from the couch. Charlotte then talks about how the match will play out as all eyes will be on her then after the bell rings she will punish Bayley for even thinking she was in her league then after watching Bayley cry after the match, knowing her dad will be crying on his couch, she will still be the “queen of PPV.” Solid heel work by Charlotte here. I liked how they used the sit down promos for the final hype of the Women’s Championship match.
Nia Jax vs. Gray Lynn
Before the match we get a replay of Jax’s attack on Sasha before last week’s RAW. Jax avalanches Lynn in the corner then hits a sit down splash that gets the win (0:22). After the match, Jax grabs the mic from Caruso and tells her to go away as she dedicates her win to the recently deceased career of Sasha Banks, who went from champion to forgotten in just one month and that ESPN should do a “30 for 30” on her career while getting the “what” treatment from the fans but Sasha comes out on a crutch. Sasha hits Jax with the crutch and starts beating her down. Jax charges but Sasha pulls the ropes down then hit a meteora from the apron and walks away.
Thoughts: Sasha got her heat back after last week but the crowd barely cared, which is a testament of how poorly booked her feud was with Charlotte. Losing when it matters the most does not keep you over. Nia got the “what” treatment by the fans and came across wooden on the mic. Despite all of this, I thought the attack itself came off well.
Emmalina tells us her premiere will be worth the wait.
Rich Swann vs. Noam Dar w/ Alicia Fox
Swann gets the best of Dar to start. Dar uses Fox as a shield as Swann tried a dive but Swann ends up jumping on the apron and drills Dar with a super kick. Fox distracts Swann as Dar takes control then we head to break. We return with Swann fighting out of a chinlock. He clotheslines Dar then starts to run wild. Dar catches Swann with a boot but Swann takes him off the top with a hurricarana before putting him away with a roundhouse kick (5:55) *1/2. After the match, Swann calls out Neville and says he is a “jester” rather than a king. Swann keeps screaming for Neville, who comes out and teases heading inside but decides to leave. However, Swann takes Neville out with a tope then Neville retreats as Swann keeps screaming for Neville.
Thoughts: This match wasnt much at all. Swann’s “jester” line in his promo was brutal but he at least showed good fire, even if the screaming got repetitive towards the end. He tried but this late in a flat show the crowd was not responsive.
Cedric Alexander is being interviewed. His goal is to become the next Cruiserweight Champion but Fox interrupts and screams about how he will be nothing without her. Dar comes out and talks about being lucky to have Fox then asks Alexander if they are cool seeing that he is dating his ex-girlfriend. Alexander said they are cool about that but not for last week’s attack as he knocks Dar down while Fox screams. Just an embarrassing segment to watch. I’m also still struggling to figure out how Dar ended up on the main roster.
Goldberg heads out to the ring. He even ended up cutting his head while headbutting the door to his dressing room. He stumbles over his promo and stops to compose himself as he plays with the fans before talking about the Royal Rumble match. Goldberg said he will stop at nothing to win the match and will spear and jackhammer 29 guys if that is what it takes. He then is about to declare everyone as “next” but Paul Heyman interrupts. Heyman talks about all of the matchup possibilities that can take place in the Rumble match and lists off several of them. He then talks about how he could end up facing off against Brock Lesnar, who ends up coming out. Heyman holds Lesnar back as Goldberg is jumping around in the ring. Heyman rambles on about how Lesnar will eliminate him so Goldberg cuts him off and asks Lesnar if he is going to come down to the ring like a man or stand there like a “dumb ass.” Lesnar circles the ring then gets into the ring. They stare each other down but the lights go off and the gong plays as the lights return with the Undertaker in the ring. They all look at each other as the show ends.
Odd segment to start as Goldberg busted his head open then seemed lost at the beginning of his promo. However, the shock of the Undertaker was cool to see live but it ended as soon as it started. Heyman’s tired act was just that and with all of the teasing and staredowns the past few weeks this was an underwhelming ending to the show.
Final Thoughts: Well, I liked the Rollins vs. Zayn match and the sit down promos for Bayley vs. Charlotte but other than that this was a weak show. The company really needs to reconsider the dialogue they give their performers and realize that fans are not going to cheer for Reigns the way Vince McMahon desires. Reigns is just not that dynamic of a personality as the WWE remains clueless when it comes to creating babyface characters for the fans to get behind.
There is still a lot of intrigue as to who will win the Rumble match, which is always a must-see event, but after last week’s good show this really paled in comparison.