It’s easy to get bogged down in the negativity that exists online when it comes to the world of professional wrestling. Let’s put a pause on the bad stuff, all the complaints, criticisms, rants, and rundowns. Instead, let’s come up for a breath of fresh air, sift through the week that was, and accentuate the positives.
Here are your top positives from the week that was:
1. The 2016 Royal Rumble
This year’s Royal Rumble featured one of the best Rumble matches in recent memory. This positive is technically for the whole event, which started with the excellent Last Man Standing match between Ambrose and Owens and then never looked back, but I want to focus specifically on the Rumble match. The match gave us so many positives that it actually bleeds into my second topic. But, I don’t want to get ahead of myself, instead I’ll go from the beginning of the Rumble and work my way down.
The first thing we got which screamed positive is the WWE debut of AJ Styles. AJ’s debut was very well done by WWE, starting with the way it was shot for television. I liked the fact that we got a close up of Reigns reacting to the unfamiliar music, then we got the pop from the crowd, and then we finally got to see AJ walk out on the top of the ramp. As a viewer, I thought it was an excellent way to build the anticipation of seeing him walk down the aisle. I know his debut was talked about endlessly leading up to the Rumble, but I know many people didn’t fully believe it until they saw it and WWE let them see it in a masterful way. I liked the way he was booked throughout the match, and I’m hopeful his elimination by Kevin Owens is revisited somewhere down the line.
Next up we got Chris Jericho, who lasted 50 minutes and 50 seconds, the longest of anyone in this year’s Rumble who didn’t go backstage for a 24 minute break (note: that wasn’t me being negative, that was me being snarky. Roman Reigns proved to be a very brave boy coming back out to finish the Rumble after injuring his… whatever was injured on him). I thought Jericho’s ironman performance added a fun layer to the match, especially since he made it to the final five. Kofi Kingston is next up, and I was curious how his Rumble save would be done this year since he’s technically a heel (though anyone with any sense loves New Day). I loved how he was drinking soda and eating popcorn on Big E’s shoulders during the match. It was fun comedy done right, which leads me to R-Truth thinking that he was in the Money in the Bank ladder match. I was afraid that the confused R-Truth gimmick might get overdone, but if they bow out after that stunt, they’d be leaving on a definite high-note.
Braun Strowman was booked to look very strong, eliminating five men in the match, the most eliminations for a single competitor (along with Reigns). Anytime a Rumble match can be used to get someone over without them winning is great. This is the case for Kevin Owens, who looked like a gutsy heel (a rare breed in WWE) limping out to the Rumble despite going through hell in the Last Man Standing match earlier in the night. Dean Ambrose followed him, and looked just as gutsy as Owens coming out. Ambrose making it to final two didn’t just make him look strong, but it made the Intercontinental title look strong since he came up just short of winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. I’m surprised, given the consistent reaction from the crowd and match quality with Ambrose, that someone backstage hasn’t decided to switch Reigns and Ambrose in terms of being the top face in the company. The guy has mass appeal and is a complete character.
Sami Zayn coming out might have been the best NXT entrant of the three we’ve had thus far over the past four years. His elimination of Owens made sense and kept the flames stoked on their rivalry that I’m sure will be rekindled once Zayn moves to the main roster. Brock Lesnar was only out for eight minutes, but he maximised those minutes. I love the fact that WWE didn’t give us too much of Lesnar, but rather kept us wanting more, especially when it comes to seeing him and the Wyatts (more on that in a bit). I liked how dominant Lesnar was shown to be and the fact that his elimination didn’t hurt his character was good too (though I absolutely hate it when eliminated people eliminate other people… what happened to the 1996 Vader rule!?). Regardless, I like when the Rumble is used to advance stories outside of the who wins. Brock, Zayn/Owens, the Reigns League of Nations beatdown, etc. all did that within this Rumble match and it was all the more positive because of it.
This leads to the winner, and the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Triple H. I absolutely love the idea of the boss being the champ, when the boss is one of the greatest wrestlers in WWE history. Imagine what Austin/McMahon would’ve been like had Vince been an actual wrestler. Triple H is still one of the very best when it comes to laying out and executing a big match on a big stage and having him defend the title at WrestleMania is a genius idea. It adds a brand new wrinkle to the babyface vs. authority figure dynamic. Like I said, Vince wasn’t a wrestler, so if he had been champion at WrestleMania defending against Austin it probably wouldn’t have been a great idea (but heck, for all I know it could’ve been amazing; at least better than what we got at WrestleMania XV, but I digress), but Triple H is one of the best around so he can actually deliver a strong match as the payoff to the feud. My only curiosity is this: is it for sure Roman Reigns?
I know I’m probably reaching here, and I’m about 98% sure the main event of WrestleMania will be Reigns vs. Triple H with The Rock somehow involved, but what if it isn’t? Rumor has it that the finish of the Rumble match coming down to Triple H and Ambrose was an audible called during the match due to Reigns’ crowd reaction. Now, we have Ambrose in the number one contender’s match at Fast Lane. Maybe it won’t be Triple H vs. Dean Ambrose at WrestleMania, but is it possible that the main event becomes Triple H vs. Roman Reigns vs. Dean Ambrose for the title at WrestleMania 32? Kevin Owens dumped out AJ Styles in the Rumble match, maybe Owens recaptures the IC title and defends against Styles in an internet indy fan markout match? That would free up Ambrose to go after the gold and would open the door for a major heel turn from Reigns to win the title… or from Ambrose to win the title? I’m merely fantasy booking here, but the fact that the Rumble ended in such a way that allows me to go on and on like this, at least for me, is the biggest positive of all. It was truly an excellent Rumble!
2. Brock Lesnar/Wyatt Family Feud
So, if you’re still with me here I’ll try to keep this one a little more brief. I love the idea of Brock Lesnar being booked in a feud where he has to overcome the odds in order to be the conqueror. If Lesnar isn’t going to be in the title picture come Mania time, then this is the type of program he needs to be in, so that he maintains his beast persona and still looks like a guy who could walk in and take the title off of whoever is champ at anytime. The Wyatt’s for their part, will need to be booked stronger than ever for it to work, but with that being said it’s possible that both Bray and Brock come out of this feud better than they went into it.
If Bray and company run roughshod over everyone leading up to a Mania match with Lesnar then Lesnar will truly have a mountain of adversity to overcome. This would include the Wyatt Family getting the better of Lesnar at every turn leading to the big show due to Michael Cole’s favorite, “the numbers game.” This way, Bray looks like a force to be reckoned with while the one behind twenty-one and one looks to be in jeopardy of no longer being the face of domination… as Bray would go from being the New Face of Fear to the New Face of Conquering or something more catchy than that.
Now, as I said, both guys could come out of Mania looking strong, but it would lie in how the match was worked. If Brock goes “Brock smash” on Bray, then forget about it. But if the two have a 15 minute back and forth war, where Lesnar can’t keep Bray down until a last ditch F5, then both would benefit. Bray would look strong for going one on one with The Beast (his Family would have to be nowhere to be seen during the Mania match) and showing his guts and determination despite falling short while Brock would get to overcome his adversary with a definitive, clean win.
Time will tell whether or not the feud progresses in this way, but the fact that WWE and Lesnar are willing to put Bray in a big time program with their biggest talent on the biggest stage is definitely a positive. It will be fun to see Brock work a different style of feud, not only with him being outnumbered but with the psychological aspect of Wyatt’s character and the all around juxtaposition between the two personas playing a big part in the build towards the anticipated match. Plus, how much fun will Paul Heyman be if he has some back and forths with Wyatt and company? Yeah, that’s more positive goodness.
– I thoroughly enjoyed Matt Hardy’s debut as a heel on this week’s TNA Impact and I’m very much looking forward to seeing that character grow moving forward.
– Maybe I’m the only one (and if so, I’m fine with that) but I thought the Goldust / R-Truth segments this week were funny. I especially liked Goldust’s outfit from Smackdown.
– I watched the WWE Network debut of Ride Along this week and found it to be a pretty fun show.
– Dean, our fearless leader here at TWM, and Josh sat down with Beer Money heading into TNA’s current UK Tour. Check it out:
Well, that’s it for this week. Until next time, stay positive!