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WWE Royal Rumble 2014 PPV Review

January 30, 2014


Oh, my.  WWE had big plans in place for the Royal Rumble 2014 PPV.  Problem was, those plans were in no way, shape or form aligned with what their audience wanted to see – and the audience was more than willing to express their dissatisfaction, turning the Rumble into a glorious farce…

wwe royal rumble cody rhodes goldust new age outlaws

The New Age Outlaws beat Cody Rhodes & Goldust in 6:37 to win the WWE Tag Team Championship (Billy Gunn pinned Cody Rhodes with the Fame-asser)


Despite all evidence to the contrary, I really did not want to believe that WWE would go ahead and switch the belts here.

This was the first time the Outlaws have been champions since they lost the old titles to the Dudley Boys on Raw on the 8th November 1999.  In theory, the story of a beat-up old team coming back to reclaim the championship fifteen years later is a classic.  However, it should be something that has more than a two week build to their victory.  Also, that victory should come against the odds over a dominant heel team, something that Cody Rhodes & Goldust most certainly are not.

For all intents and purposes, WWE already did that story with the former champions just three months ago when Goldust made his comeback to help his younger brother overcome The Shield.  That storyline made the Rhodes into one of the most over acts in the company for a period, although they had cooled off in recent weeks given a lack of credible heel challengers.  With the Wyatt Family destined for different things, the Rhodes had no contenders.  There had been brief talk of repackaging Brodus Clay and Tensai as a monster heel team under Corporate Kane’s tutelage but evidently that went nowhere, which is precisely where Brodus has gone to since his heel turn.

It now seems very likely that the Rhodes are heading for a split.  There’s a reason that Goldust accidentally eliminated Cody from the Rumble match, after all.  Both men have been gunning for this as a WrestleMania match for years and at one point it would have made sense.  However, that was before Goldust blew away everyone’s expectations as to what he could do in the ring in 2014.  He has solidified himself as a tremendous babyface that people do not want to see lose.  Furthermore, without the Rhodes Brothers gimmick behind him, Cody has nothing of any significance to offer.  If they do feud for WrestleMania then afterwards Goldust will be gone into an off-screen trainer role and Cody will tread the murky mid-card waters with Wade Barrett and Fandango and other such geeks.

So far as the Outlaws go, where this reign leads to is anybody’s guess.  It would seem that their heel turn on C.M. Punk is now to be ignored.  Perhaps they will simply hold the belts until the Wyatts destroy them.  Certainly, unlike Goldust, they can’t offer much as a nostalgia act beyond their entrance.  They did an acceptable job here but it is hard to shake the feeling that this was just the first of many instances of Triple H indulging his mates on this card.

Predictions – 0-1

wwe royal rumble daniel bryan bray wyatt

Bray Wyatt pinned Daniel Bryan in 21:29 with Sister Abigail 

This is where things started to get interesting.

First of all, congratulations to Bray Wyatt.  This was far and away the best match he has been involved with since his WWE debut.  Granted, it would have required serious effort to not have a good match given that his opponent was Daniel Bryan.  However, this was a great match and that reflects well on both men.  WWE has a major WrestleMania match lined up for Bray, which may have been in jeopardy had he under-delivered here.

Of course, this match and this entire show wound up being all about Bryan.  It is important to note that by putting this match on the PPV first and by having Bryan lose, WWE was setting the expectation in the minds of the audience that Bryan would return later that night in the Rumble match and very probably win.  The fans are all too aware of wrestling booking tropes nowadays and the gimmick of the babyface being beaten early but coming back later to get a bigger win is nothing new, not even to the Royal Rumble (see Bret Hart in 1994).

The match was excellent.  Luke Harper and Erick Rowan were ejected from ringside early on, allowing for Bray to show what he could offer as a singles act for the first time.   The rest of the bout was built around Bryan’s recent concussion, with Bray smashing Bryan’s head into the ringpost and then beating him with ground-and-pound elbow smashes.  Bryan, a babyface-in-peril act like none other, worked the crowd into multiple frenzies during his comebacks.  To say that he was the most over person on the show is an understatement.  In many ways, he was the only over person on the show.

The finish was spectacular.  Bryan made one final comeback attempt and went for a tope onto Bray on the floor outside, just as he had done to Harper and Rowan at the start of the match.  This time, Bray caught him and quickly hit him with the Sister Abigail move – driving Bryan’s head into the ringside barricades.  After hitting Bryan with one more inside the ring, Bray got the clean pinfall victory.

At this point, Bryan’s 2014 win-loss record should be noted.  Including only televised events, he has…

  • lost a six-man tag with the Usos on Old School Raw when teaming with Harper & Rowan;
  • lost to the Usos when teaming with Bray on the following week’s Raw – twice, in fact;
  • lost cleanly to Bray here at the Royal Rumble; and
  • lost a six man tag with John Cena and Sheamus against the Shield on the post-Rumble Raw

Despite all of this, he remains far and away the most over wrestler in front of live crowds.  There is a bit of a chicken-and-the-egg argument to be made in terms of whether or not that translates into quantifiable factors such as TV ratings, ticket sales and merchandise sales.  Maybe it would if he was pushed as The Guy.  Maybe those other factors have to happen for a sustained period in order for him to be made The Guy.  At the moment, WWE seems to favour the latter argument while a very big and very vocal portion of their audience feels the opposite way.  That’s a problem.

Predictions – 1-1

wwe royal rumble big show brock lesnar

Brock Lesnar pinned Big Show in 2:01 after an F5

The actual match lasted just a couple of minutes, although the entire segment was longer.  Lesnar attacked Show before the bell rang, taking him down, punching the crap out of him and then giving him multiple chair shots.  Show somehow got up and fought back, for he is the Big Show and this is what he for some reason must do even in 2014, hitting Lesnar with the knock-out punch.

That bought enough time for the referee to ring the bell and start the match.  If this is supposed to be real, the referee would be fired for such wreckless officiating.  Lesnar then quickly hit a very impressive F5 for the victory.  He then reverted to hitting Show with many more chair shots.  19, if you were keeping count.  Much like a Family Guy joke, the idea is that if you keep doing the same thing for long enough people will get bored of it… and then you keep doing it for even longer and people get into it even more than they did in the first place.  They didn’t quite reach that stage here.  Worse, they showed that Big Show got up and walked to the back, which really should have happened off-camera to keep the impact of the destruction fresh.

Still, putting Lesnar over strong and avoiding having these two go back-and-forth in a competitive match was just what was needed.  The story now appears to be that Lesnar will continue to demand a title shot and not receive it.  He will keep turning up at random points to destroy geeks, just like Cody and Goldust on the post-Rumble Raw, as a means of protest.  At some point, likely after Elimination Chamber, Undertaker will turn up as WWE’s internal auditor in order to stop Lesnar.  Using this year’s Streak match on Lesnar still seems like a bit of a waste, but this is a fine way to build to it.

Predictions – 2-1


wwe royal rumble john cena randy orton

Randy Orton pinned John Cena in 20:55 to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship (Orton hit Cena with the RKO after Wyatt Family interference)

This match was hilarious.

Although the crowd was not quite as vociferous as the infamous Lesnar/Goldberg match from 2004, they very much did not want to see this match or either participant.  There were “Boring” chants from the very first hold.  There were chants of “Randy Savage” to try and get under Randy Orton’s skin, which they did.  There were a myriad of random chants as the crowd tried to amuse themselves, including “Y2J”, “Undertaker”, “We Want Divas”, “We Want Refunds”, “This Is Awful”, “End This Match” and “You Both Suck”.  Most obvious of all were the lengthy “Yes” chants and the repeated chants for “Daniel Bryan”.

Lance Storm summed it up during his preview of this event when he noted that this is a match with no outcome that people wanted to see.  Nobody really cares about Randy Orton as a heel champion, since he is a heat-less avatar for Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, who in turn are heels that are portrayed as smart babyfaces and never receive any comeuppance.  Nobody really cares about John Cena being champion again, largely because people are still waiting for the pay-off to everything that happened to Daniel Bryan since last August.  The only logical pay-off is for Bryan to get a legitimate title reign.  The fans knew at this point that was not on the cards and so this title match became a target for their venom.

The match was not bad.  It was simply just another Cena/Orton match, the same as we’ve seen a dozen times before on PPV.  Perhaps inspired by being in Pittsburgh, they entered Kurt Angle Mode and turned the match into getting out of one another’s finishers.  It should be noted that Orton’s version of the STF is far and away superior to the sloppy Cena version.  They threw in a ref bump, a visual victory for Cena and a belt shot from Orton but still the crowd did not care.

At the finish, Cena again got Orton in the STF, this time right in the middle of the ring.  The lights went out and the Wyatts got in the ring to make the distraction, allowing Orton to hit the RKO and get the pin.  The crowd popped pretty big for the Wyatts turning up.  It seemed to mainly be because they knew this meant the match was ending.  During their post-match beatdown of Cena the crowd was deathly quiet.

The Wyatts again attacked Cena on Raw the following night.  There has yet to be any explanation as to why the Wyatts would target Cena now, although the Bella twin link to their enemy Bryan is ready and waiting.  For his part, Cena reacted to being beaten and cheated out of the championship by calmly getting up and walking out of the ring.  He then wound up getting another title shot the next night anyway, so why should he care?  And if he doesn’t, why should the viewers?

Predictions – 3-1


Batista won the 2014 Royal Rumble Match in 55:06

Most eliminations – Roman Reigns (12)

Iron Man – C.M. Punk (49:11)

Let’s run down the positives about this match first.

Roman Reigns was again put over huge – and it worked, even with this hostile crowd.  He broke Kane’s long-standing record for most eliminations in one Rumble match by getting rid of 12 guys.  He even made it all the way to the final two, with the crowd bursting into a very loud “Roman Reigns” chant, proving they were interested in having him break through as a new top guy.

In fact, all three of the Shield fared very well in this match.  Although Punk was the iron man, Seth Rollins accomplished far more by entering at #2 and lasting just 40 seconds less than Punk did from the #1 spot.  Dean Ambrose was also given a lot of eliminations during this match.  Reigns wound up eliminating both of them and Antonio Cesaro all at once, only after Ambrose infuriated him by trying to eliminate Reigns from behind.  Rollins made the save for Reigns at that point.  It was simple but effective, establishing Ambrose as the truly devious one, Reigns as the champion-in-waiting and Rollins as having some sense of decency.

Cesaro was also given time to shine.  He got in a couple of brief attempts at the Giant Swing on Punk and The Miz, before busting out a spectacular 28-rep version of it on his old ROH compadre, Rollins.  The funny part was, by the end of it, the crowd was confused if they were to count upwards along with the swing or count downwards along with the entrance clock.  In any case, Cesaro is now one of the Elimination Chamber participants.  This indicates that WWE thinks very highly of Cesaro and quite rightly so.  Hopefully 2014 turns into a banner year for him.

As has now become an annual tradition, Kofi Kingston got in a spectacular recovery spot.  After being thrown over the top by his supposed babyface friend, Punk, Kingston was caught by Alexander Rusev and beaten up by him on the ringside barricade.  Kofi then recovered, stood up on the barricade, took a running start and successfully leapt all the way to the ring apron.  That’s at least a ten foot leap with only a very brief run-up.  It was far and away the most impressive athletic feat on this show.  Had he failed to make it, Kofi would have been a laughing stock so good on him for having the balls to try it, let alone to succeed at it.

The aforementioned Rusev made his WWE debut here, sporting a slightly different look than he has done on NXT.  Here he was in MMA-style gear, which is not as suited to his gimmick as the caveman-style look of old.  His manager, stern businesswoman Lana, was not with him here but will no doubt be added to the package whenever he becomes a TV regular.  For whatever reason, Rusev was not on Raw or Smackdown this week.  He got in a lot of offence during the Rumble, although he didn’t actually get to eliminate anybody.  Still, this was far better than when they tried to bring up Bo Dallas from NXT in last year’s Rumble.

That about does it for the good stuff, so let’s get onto the nonsense.

The surprise participants were a let-down this year.  Not so much Sheamus making his return, which was widely expected.  El Torito getting a brief spot was fine, since a comedic entrant, be they midget, woman, announcer, manager or celebrity, has become something of a Rumble tradition.  Wasting a spot on JBL added nothing to the show, however.  Once they did the gimmick a few years back of all three announcers entering the match, going back to the same idea here seemed pointless.

More disappointing was the big veteran spot again going to Kevin Nash.  Full credit to him, he looked great given his age and physical condition.  But the story here should have been Jake Roberts getting to enter, giving Ambrose or Rollins a DDT and then being eliminated by the rest of the Shield.  Maybe Roberts could not pass the WWE physical and so was not cleared to compete, even for a brief spot.  If that was the case, fine.  Otherwise, it is a crying shame that WWE felt it necessary to throw a bone to another of Triple H’s mates rather than delivering what would have been a genuine feel-good moment.

Somebody who does not feel good is C.M. Punk.  Despite being the iron man of the match, he spent his 49 minutes barely doing anything until Kane returned to eliminate him and chokeslam him through the Spanish announce table.  As you are all no doubt aware, Punk walked out on WWE without giving notice after this show.  There’ll be another post on that to come but let’s just say this should come as no surprise.  The man is hurting, all banged up, uninterested in what WWE has to offer him nowadays and far from happy with their product.  This has been steadily becoming more and more evident in his work since the Paul Heyman feud last year and was blatantly obvious during this match.

Of course, Punk was one name on a very short list of people that the crowd would have accepted as a winner here.  Batista was not on that list.  He was booed when he made his entrance, as people realised he was the likely winner.  The only winner that they wanted to see was Daniel Bryan.  When #30 turned out to be Rey Mysterio, meaning Bryan was in fact not going to be in the match, the crowd turned on the match completely.  Mysterio became symbolic of the booking, so people did pop when he was thrown out by Rollins.

From that point onwards, however, the crowd was basically dead.  For most of the remainder of the match they could not be bothered to react at all.  They just let the wrestlers go throw the motions until their worst fears were confirmed, at which point they unleashed their boos onto Batista.  It is fair to say that Batista was not expecting this to be the reaction to his big return.  He did himself no favours by blowing up after just 12 minutes in a Rumble match that required him to do only a handful of moves.  Life moves at a different pace for bodybuilders in their mid-forties.

The funny thing is, had WWE been capable of keeping Batista’s return a secret and had him enter as a surprise entrant here, the crowd would have gone for it.  Only a major surprise return would have trumped Bryan’s popularity here.  In the end, however, the finale of the 2014 Royal Rumble match was played out in front of a bored, disappointed crowd.  The triumph of Triple H’s mate making his big return as a conquering hero saw him turned into a figure of hate, a representative of everything that stands in the way of the WWE fans getting to see what they want to see.

In fact, WWE’s refusal to have Daniel Bryan win the Royal Rumble match – and the crowd’s reaction to this – even made this BBC news report.  Mick Foley went onto Facebook to rant about how “disgusted” he was with this turn of events, which a major British newspaper reported on.  Of course, Mick being Mick, this was turned into shameless self-promotion as he went on Youtube to smash his TV set in protest against watching WWE.  And, of course, Punk wound up walking out altogether.

There is a chance this may lead to change.

WWE would love to have the image of 70,000 people doing the Yes Chant in the Superdome at WrestleMania.  They would hate to have the media reporting on how 70,000 people turned against a Batista/Orton title match, or whatever the main event of the show might be, especially while they are trying to promote the WWE Network.

The post-Rumble Raw was re-written multiple times the day of the show in order to incorporate a Daniel Bryan promo and stare-down against Triple H.  Rumours have been going around that the Batista/Orton match may be changed into a triple threat with Bryan included.  Other rumours have Bryan taking Punk’s spot as an opponent for Triple H at WrestleMania, since Hunter apparently needs his Mania pay day to make ends meet.

Whatever happens from here on out is going to be very interesting indeed…

Predictions – 6-1 (86%)

Predictions to Date – 58-12 (83%)


From → Wrestling, WWE

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