Let the Road to WrestleMania officially begin my friends! Yes, Royal Rumble weekend is here and that kicks off the road to Tampa.
Last year, the road to Tampa was highjacked by the COVID-19 pandemic. So, instead of 60,000+ fans jamming Raymond James Stadium, we got an historic two-night event from the Performance Center in Orlando. Now, with the coronavirus still part of our everyday life almost one year later, WrestleMania 37 will take place at Raymond James Stadium April 10th and 11th where an expected crowd of about 20,000 fans should be in attendance. No official word yet from the WWE who is waiting to see how the Super Bowl in Tampa goes on February 7th with about 22,000 fans.
It will be nice to fans back live in that capacity after months of the WWE ThunderDome in Orlando and Tampa. There’s no substitute for live on-site interaction although I give the WWE kudos for doing the best of a bad situation. So, Sunday night, when we get a men’s and women’s winner in the 34th Royal Rumble, we’ll get our first two official matches for WrestleMania 37. Now, since we are still in the ThunderDome Era, there won’t be the huge gasp like last year’s crowd in Houston when Edge returned after a nine-year absence, but the Rated R Superstar is back from his torn triceps for his first appearance since the “Greatest Wrestling Match Ever” at Backlash. You have to wonder if there’s a Seth Rollins or Becky Lynch return as well. How about Braun Strowman or Brock Lesnar? Maybe John Cena will show up to set up a WrestleMania appearance. There’s always one, right? I would also expect plenty of NXT entrants as well. To me, Rhea Rhipley makes a ton of sense as does Kayden Carter & Kacy Catanzaro on the women’s side and Damian Priest for the men.
I would love to see the WWE throw a huge curveball into the mix as well. Have Roman Reigns wield his power as the head of the table and somehow force Adam Pearce to make him an entrant into the Rumble. Then, of course, he wins, setting up a monstrous unification title match for the final match of WrestleMania 37 against either Drew McIntyre or Goldberg or whomever holds the title at the time. He says he’s the face of the WWE and that would definitely be a way for Reigns to prove it! But, alas, we know that’s not going to happen. So, let’s get to our picks.
- WWE Championship Match: Drew McIntyre vs. Goldberg: Drew McIntyre retains title
- Universal Championship Last Man Standing Match: Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens: Roman Reigns retains title
- WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship Match: Charlotte Flair & Asuka vs. Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax: Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler win titles
- SmackDown Women’s Championship Match: Sasha Banks vs. Carmella: Sasha Banks retains title
- Men’s Royal Rumble Match: Edge
- Women’s Royal Rumble Match: Bianca Belair
- Charlotte Flair vs. Shayna Baszler ends in no-contest
- Shayna Baszler, Nia Jax & Lacey Evans defeated Charlotte Flair, Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke after restart
- Xavier Woods defeated SLAPJACK
- Sheamus defeated John Morrison
- 2-on-1 Handicap Match: The Miz & John Morrison defeated Sheamus
- Non-Title 24/7 Match: AJ Styles defeated R-Truth
- Gauntlet Match: Riddle defeated Shelton Benjamin, MVP and Cedric Alexander to earn US Championship Match
- RAW Women’s Championship Match: Asuka vs. Alexa Bliss ends in no-contest
To say that RAW was a hot mess this week is an understatement.
Sure, there were some bright spots with Edge declaring his spot in the Royal Rumble. Without a crowd, it makes sense to not make it a surprise like last year. Alexa Bliss vs. Asuka was another chilling story with Randy Orton returning to RKO Little Miss Bliss to end the RAW Women’s Championship Match. But, honestly, that’s where it ends.
First off, the night begins and ends in the ring with a couple of no-contests. First, Charlotte Flair vs. Shayna Baszler goes nowhere before Nia Jax interferes and we get a six-woman tag team match that has to be restarted by Adam Pearce due to a count-out that shouldn’t have been. Then, of course, the main event ends with no winner with Orton’s involvement. Shouldn’t Bliss be the winner by DQ at least for getting RKO’d?
I don’t know if it’s COVID-19 or just simple laziness, but again this week, we get the multiple matches for many talents. We’ve already talked about the 3 matches for the women. Then, Sheamus goes twice against John Morrison and The Miz. Finally, we get Riddle in a gauntlet match against Shelton Benjamin, MVP and Cedric Alexander that you knew would predictably end with Riddle winning a title match against United States Champion Bobby Lashley, only to have Lashley put him in the Full Nelson after the match.
One thing that did make sense, at least a little bit, was Mustafa Ali finally explaining why he’s going after Xavier Woods. Tying in the fact that Kingston took Ali’s spot in the Ladder Match that propelled Kofi to his World Title win at WrestleMania 35 was a nice touch, even though it wrapped around a Woods victory over RETRIBUTION, a faction that never wins! If you’re Ali, why do you need the rest of the gang?
AJ Styles vs. R-Truth was fine. Nothing wrong with as filler I guess, but was there really any chance that Truth could win?
Goldberg and Drew McIntyre’s face-off was of course interrupted by The Miz & John Morrison, which made no sense. Why tell both guys you’re going to cash in the money in the bank briefcase? One spear and one claymore later and they’re both on their backs. At least it was short and sweet.
Outside of Edge, was there really any importance put on this Sunday’s Royal Rumble Match?
Where was Ricochet?
- Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Quarterfinals: MSK defeated Drake Maverick & Killian Dain
- Dusty Rhodes Women’s Tag Team Classic First Round Match: Raquel Gonzalez & Dakota Kai defeated Aliyah & Jessi Kamea
- Tyler Rust defeated Dante Rios
- Dusty Rhodes Men’s Tag Team Classic Quarterfinals: Grizzled Young Veterans defeated KUSHIDA & Leon Ruff
- Bronson Reed defeated Isaiah “Swerve” Scott
- Non-Title NXT Tag Team Championship Match: Finn Balor & Kyle O’Reilly defeated Danny Burch & Oney Lorcan
How far can MSK go in the Dusty Rhodes Classic? I was hoping a match-up with KUSHIDA & Leon Ruff would be in the offing, but the Grizzled Young Veterans put that to bed. Alas, KUSHIDA now has bigger fish to fry with NXT North American Champion Johnny Gargano up next after Gargano & Austin Theory’s post-match attack. So, how will Dexter Lumis factor into the equation? And will he ever speak? As for Wes Lee and Nash Carter, it should be an entertaining semifinal up next against the winner of Lucha House Party and Legado del Fantasma.
As expected, Raquel Gonzalez & Dakota Kai easily got by the new Robert Stone Brand team of Aliyah & Jessi Kamea in the first round of the Dusty Rhodes Classic. You have to think Kai & Gonzalez are the odds-on favorites to win right? But it would be another tasty upset for Kayden Carter & Kacy Catanzaro to knock them off in round 2 to keep the dream alive.
Uh oh, Scarlett has another warning for NXT!
Tyler Rust vs. a jobber. Smart move by Malcolm Bivens to make that match. His new star needed a win in the worst way.
Are we headed for a triple threat match between Io Shirai, Toni Storm and Mercedes Martinez for the NXT Women’s Championship? I was excited for Shirai vs. Storm one-on-one, but it looks like Martinez is not going to let that happen. The triple threat match was confirmed Friday for NXT: TakeOver on February 14th.
Should Santos Escobar & Legado del Fantasma be worried about Tick Tock after their attack on Curt Stallion?
What does Alexander Wolfe have in store for IMPERIUM?
Bronson Reed and Isaiah “Swerve” Scott was much better than I thought it was going to be. I half expected Reed to squash him in about 3 minutes, but they gave them almost 10 minutes to put on a really good match. Reed’s on the way up while Scott seems to have leveled off lately.
Finn Balor & Kyle O’Reilly may have won the battle (and the match) over NXT Tag Team Champions Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch, but needless to say, they lost the short-term war. With an assist from Pete Dunne, they beat the snot out of Balor before Adam Cole and Roderick Strong made the save. Dunne wants that NXT Championship and with a snap of Balor’s fingers, he may have gotten his attention. As for the match, the ending seemed a bit strange as Burch comes off the top rope, hits O’Reilly in the jaw but O’Reilly gets a kneebar for a quick tap out. A bit rushed if you ask me.
- Bianca Belair defeated Bayley
- King Corbin defeated Dominik Mysterio
- Daniel Bryan defeated AJ Styles via DQ
- Big E, Daniel Bryan & Shinsuke Nakamura vs. AJ Styles, Sami Zayn & Cesaro ends in no-contest
- Big E, Daniel Bryan, Shinsuke Nakamura, Otis & Sheamus defeated AJ Styles, Sami Zayn, Cesaro, The Miz & John Morrison (Sheamus pins Zayn)
Thank you Daniel Bryan for putting some urgency and importance on the Royal Rumble match. In just a few short minutes opening SmackDown, Bryan did what RAW couldn’t do in three hours Monday night. Having RAW’s AJ Styles on was a nice touch to bring in the brand vs. brand unity of the Rumble match.
This could be a huge weekend for Bianca Belair! First, getting the victory over Bayley and then the Royal Rumble on Sunday in which I expect her to go all the way for the win as well. I liked having Kayla Braxton interview her right after the victory too, giving it an emotional, human touch for Belair.
Thank you Big E for beating up The Miz and John Morrison, also on loan from RAW. I thought the quarterly brand invitational was just one person per quarter? Of course, the rules don’t matter in the WWE.
Looks like Rey Mysterio is going to have to finish what Dominik Mysterio started. Dominik lost again for the second straight week to Corbin and when the King tried to put his hands on Rey, Mr. 619 got his revenge.
Looking good Sonya Deville! I like the upgrade over Adam Pearce.
Shinsuke Nakamura to Sami Zayn: Thank you, but go to hell. Well said Shinsuke!
You gotta love the sexual tension between Sasha Banks and Reginald!
The Final Showdown between Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens was a simple, verbal battle. Interesting shirt choice by KO with the EverRise Rules attire. You can just feel how personal and how communal it’s gotten between these two. Reigns clicked Owens off, but he can’t do that the next time they meet in person. It’s going to be one hell of a physical Last Man Standing Match Sunday night.
What can you say about Styles vs. Bryan? One-on-one, it’s two of the best on the planet inside the squared circle. But, really, did we need Sami Zayn and Big E to interrupt it? This is why we can’t have shiny, new toys. Of course, it leads to the predictable DQ ending brawl and restart as a six-man tag match with Styles, Zayn and Cesaro taking on Bryan, Big E and Shinsuke Nakamura. Yes, the WWE has broken up yet another tag team in Cesaro & Nakamura because that is the flavor of the month these days. YAWN. The six-man match turns into the annual Royal Rumble go-home show free-for-all otherwise known as a ten-man match as The Miz, John Morrison, Otis and Sheamus joined the fun. Not to be outdone, Braun Strowman makes his first appearance since being suspended after Survivor Series to clear the ring. I guess Big Braun is back and in the Rumble match!
So, the WWE Network is headed to Peacock! Starting in March, you’ll have to get all your WWE PPVs, original programming and old-school content on the new NBC Universal streaming service. It’s a deal worth over $1 billion (with a “B”) over five years for the WWE. So, it’ll cost you $4.99 if you want to be part of Peacock Premium with ads or $9.99 for Peacock Premium Plus. Right now, the WWE Network has roughly 1.6 million subscribers. Peacock has 33 million subscribers with a huge 9 million bump in subscribers since adding The Office. It’ll open the company to a whole new mainstream audience and gives them some dough to boot. Not a bad way to start 2021 if you’re the WWE. It’s also a built-in place for RAW, NXT and other WWE shows to be put if there’s a broadcast pre-emption now that USA Network will be adding a ton of sports LIVE programming with the end to NBCSN at the end of the year.
Coming up Saturday night at 8pm on FS1, we get the return of WWE Backstage with Renee Young (Paquette), Booker T and Paige. They’ll announce who the first two entrants in the men’s Royal Rumble will be. Plus, Natalya and Tamina get to face-off for the last spot, lucky #30 in the women’s Royal Rumble match. Why exactly do they get that easy route and not have to go through every one else?
Coming up next week:
Royal Rumble fallout
Dusty Rhodes Men’s Tag Team Classic Quarterfinals: Lucha House Party vs. Legado del Fantasma
Dusty Rhodes Men’s Tag Team Classic Quarterfinals: The Undisputed Era vs. Tommaso Ciampa & Timothy Thatcher
NXT Cruiserweight Championship Match: Santos Escobar vs. Curt Stallion
Dusty Rhodes Women’s Tag Team Semifinals: Raquel Gonzalez & Dakota Kai vs. Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter
Royal Rumble fallout
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