Week of January 25, 2016
There is LOTS to talk about following last night’s Royal Rumble. I’ll try to limit my thoughts, though, to just the stuff that wrestling fans should be talking around the online water coolers today…
Last Man Standing for IC Title: This was the match I was most looking forward to (outside of the Rumble) and it didn't disappoint. Stairs, chairs, tables, kendo-sticks, Michael Cole, barricades…the weapons used were done so with originality and violence without resorting to blood for the “cheap pop”. And let’s face it…if there was EVER a question that Kevin Owens was a massive superstar deserving of a major push, those questions should’ve been answered last night. Personality, in-ring skill, charisma, selling…the man simply has it all (except for movie-star looks). He has earned a semi-main event spot at WrestleMania.
Tag Team Title Match: I don’t want to downplay this at all, but the tag match was a “normal” PPV tag team match. I really didn’t expect too much from this and I wasn’t disappointed. It was fine for what it was, but they just weren’t able to match the intensity of the previous match in any way. New Day were, as usual, SUPER entertaining and showed why there is no other team in the company worthy of taking their titles yet.
The Kickoff Show: The opening match presented us with three things: a hot crowd, a make-shift tag team that might actually get a run (for lack of anybody else in the division), and a career still out there for a forgotten midcarder. The Orlando crowd was super ready for the Rumble and was hot pretty much all night. They showed the opening match the respect it deserved (for the participants, not for the random match itself) and helped get people at home ready for a good night. The winning (yet seemingly random) team of Mark Henry and Jack Swagger not only made sense, but could be the start of a run towards WrestleMania for a tag title match because…let’s face it…there aren’t a lot of
other teams worthy right now. Finally, the pop for Damien Sandow is something that really shouldn’t be ignored by WWE Creative. I honestly believe that Sandow can be the “Intellectual Savior of the Masses” while remaining a babyface by insulting the intelligence of the heels. It wouldn’t be easy, but it can certainly be done. The WWE Universe WANTS to see Sandow get pushed.
Royal Rumble Match: Let me just say that it was awesome to have AJ Styles make his debut at the Rumble. Not only that, but because he was the third entrant and Rusev was already eliminated, he got the spotlight and the crowd responded in kind. The crowd chanting his name at various points during the match should have helped confirm to Vince McMahon and WWE Creative that Styles is an IMMEDIATE superstar and deserving of the attention he’s been getting lately.
What was up with Chris Jericho? Did anyone else think that not only did he look completely blown up only a minute or two into the match (he was breathing HARD), but he wasn’t very crisp with what he was doing (he made one “near elimination” look like it was Khali saving himself). He didn’t really look to be in great shape, either. I’m wondering if his partying on the road with Fozzy is coming back to hurt him. I know he was in the match for over 50 minutes, but jeez…he looked horrible from the get-go.
U.S Title Match: I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m wrong, and I was COMPLETELY wrong with my take on how WWE viewed Kalisto and on his chances of winning at the PPV. I wasn’t sure that they truly wanted to get behind him as a solo competitor, but his victory last night really showed that they will. I was absolutely flabbergasted to see Kalisto get a pinfall victory over Alberto Del Rio (so was the crowd based on their surprised reaction), but it went to prove that anything can happen and that Kalisto can pin anyone on any given day in any given match-up. This was a HUGE match for Kalisto and I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with him leading into Mania.
Divas Title Match: Can I just say how awesome the intro package was for this match? There was storyline, there was intensity, and there was reason to fight outside of just the belt. I really enjoyed it and was even more impressed that it was for the women because they’ve earned this attention. And I’ll also say that Becky Lynch is absolutely phenomenal in every single way. She’s the total package and her unique look and awesome music is going to make her a massive star over the next year. But having said that, to hear the pop from the crowd when “The Bo$$” Sasha Banks walked to the ring after the match was over gave me goosebumps. Fans have been wondering for weeks now where Banks was and why she wasn’t being used. Well…now we can sit back and prepare for what could potentially be the greatest women’s match in the history of WrestleMania. But having said that, I’ve got a lot more things to say about the Divas title match at WrestleMania. However, I think I’ll wait to see how things play out over the next couple of weeks first. I don’t know if we’re going to end up with a 1-on-1 match or a multiple-woman match.
It was nice to see The Wyatt Family booked so strong, even if they were all eventually decimated by Brock Lesnar. To have them re-enter the match and eliminate Lesnar helped to set up a FastLane match against the Wyatt Family and (hopefully) a WrestleMania match against Bray himself. As a side note, it’s quite easy to see that Braun Strowman is NOT the superstar that Vince and Triple H want him to be, though. He’s just another Giant Gonzales or Great Khali. He’ll be an afterthought in a few years. I truly believe on Bray and Luke Harper have long-term futures in the company and can live long after “The Wyatt Family” has ended as a faction.
I had listed a number of “surprise entrants” in my ZAH Predictions column on Sunday, and out of the ten I had listed, I was right on three: AJ Styles, Kane, and Triple H. Gotta say, these weren’t HUGE shocks, but they were still surprises, nonetheless. The biggest shock, for me, was seeing NXT star Sami Zayn make his Rumble debut. Because he went right after Kevin Owens to pick up their feud from NXT, it potentially sets up a WrestleMania match that could absolutely steal the show.