The journey on the road to Wrestlemania began in earnest this past weekend as World Wrestling Entertainment held their first big show of the year, the Royal Rumble, shown live on Sky Box Office in the early hours of this past Monday morning here in Britain.
The show began with the first title match of the evening as Mark Henry and the Big Show challenged Daniel Bryan for the World title in the confines of a steel cage.
I have to admit that I had my doubts about this one when it was first announced, but after seeing what happened it turned out to be pretty good.
All three men put in good performances as the big guys tried to beat the hell out of each other once again and used tossed Bryan around the ring and into the cage when they weren’t concentrating on each other.
Bryan seems to be really coming into his own as the champion and did well against two much larger opponents. Okay, he couldn’t use his full array of technical skills here but he still looked good.
I really enjoyed the ending to this one. Bryan climbed the cage trying to escape Show, but the big guy climbed onto the top turnbuckle to try and stop him. The champion looked like he was going to escape a few times until Show managed to drag him back in.
Then, when Bryan made one last attempt Show held him high above the floor with one just hand. However, his grip loosened, sending Bryan down to the arena floor, giving the champion the title retaining victory. Not bad.
Tag team action followed as Divas Champion Beth Phoenix, Natalya and the Bella Twins faced Kelly Kelly, Eve Torres, Alicia Fox and Tamina.
I thought that this would be nothing more than filler material, but give the girls their due here, this was quite good.
No botches and some good sequences from all involved saw the Divas putting together a very enjoyable encounter, with move of the match being Kelly taking out everyone else as they brawled on the floor with a dive from the top rope.
Beth took the win for her team here, giving one of the Bellas a stiff tag and ordering her out of “her ring” before taking Kelly out with the glam slam.
Then it was on to the big grudge match as John Cena went up against Kane.
This certainly had the feel of a grudge match. Wrestling holds were few and far between as these two tried to beat the snot out of each other, putting on an entertaining encounter in the process.
It’s great to see Kane back as the masked monster, and even though he’s more or less the warm up act for the Rock in a few weeks he proved here he’s more than capable of keeping Cena occupied.
No winner in this one. As the two combatants began to brawl up the aisle the referee counted them out. That didn’t stop them though as they continued backstage, with the monster eventually laying Cena out cold.
He then smashed down the door to Zack Ryder’s private dressing room, choke the wheelchair-bound star out before taking him into the arena, finishing the job he’d previously started with a tombstone piledriver, despite the pleas of Ryder’s girlfriend Eve Torres.
Then, like a knight in shining armour a recovered Cena came racing down to the ring, only to find himself on the receiving end of a choke slam. Content with his night’s work, Kane left the scene of devastation in the ring.
Scotland’s greatest export after whiskey and haggis, Drew McIntyre, was up next as he faced Brodus Clay, accompanied by Cameron and Naomi.
Not much to see here. McIntyre got in a few blows before the big guy took control. Suplex, avalanche in the corner and what the funk? It was all over. Not bad I suppose.
As for the dancing, well, he ain’t no John Travolta!
The penultimate match saw Dolph Ziggler, accompanied by Vickie Guerrero, challenging C.M. Punk for the WWE title, with Mr. John Laurinaitis, Executive Vice President of Talent Relations and Interim General Manager of Monday Night War as the special guest referee.
Well that was the idea. After making his entrance the former Mr. Ace announced that he was changing his role and becoming the outside the ring official, appointing another referee in the process.
That wasn’t the only thing. Just as the match was about to begin Laurinaitis got into the ring and threw Vickie out of the arena.
Now this was good. The early sequences between these two evenly matched guys were great, and as they exchanged holds and moves it was just a forerunner of what was about to come.
The tension was turned up a notch when the referee was accidentally clobbered and took a snooze at ringside. As Laurinaitis checked on his condition Punk beat Ziggler three times, with an anaconda vice, a roll-up and the GTS.
But as Punk made his three covers nobody made the count, and after big John pushed the ref back into the ring he began to argue with Punk, who proceeded to accidentally clobber the GM while going for another GTS.
Eventually the champion got the job done, finally taking Ziggler down with another GTS, and as the referee made his count Laurinaitis joined in, handing the title belt to Punk afterwards before applauding him from the stage.
Then it was on to the main event, the Royal Rumble match.
This certainly proved to be one of the most entertaining Rumbles in recent years. Beginning with the Miz and Alex Riley it was filled with great performances and memorable moments.
We had the legends, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Mick Foley and the Road Dogg, the surprise return of Kharma, as well as the surprise entrants from the announcer’s desk, first Jerry Lawler, then Booker T, then Michael Cole of all people.
Highlight of the night was the novel way in which Kofi Kingston saved himself from elimination. Having gone over the top rope and landed on the apron with his hands on the floor, and after the Miz shoved his legs off the apron Kingston proceeded to do a walking handstand to the ring steps, saving himself.
Longevity performance of the night went to the Miz, who entered at number one and lasted for just over 45 minutes until he was eliminated by number 30, the Big Show.
The last two men in the match were Sheamus, who entered at 23, and Chris Jericho, who entered at 29. After some great back and forth exchanges which saw Jericho on the brink and hanging onto the ropes, his feet almost touching the floor, he soon found himself in the same position having been thrown over the top rope.
But once again he managed to get back onto the apron, only for Sheamus to send him crashing to the floor with the brogue kick to secure the win and a main event slot at Wrestlemania.
In conclusion - having once again stayed away from any online reviews of this show, which was hard to do considering previous engagements stopped me from watching it, I found this to be a very enjoyable show.
The undercard matches certainly delivered what they set out to do, with the Punk/Ziggler encounter the best of that particular bunch, with Ziggler once again showing he can hang with the big boys, and Punk showing that he more than deserves the slot he’s holding at the moment.
Even though I enjoyed that encounter the Rumble match was the match of the night for me. It was great to see Sheamus win, and having followed his career from his early days on this side of the pond I’m looking forward to seeing him in the main event of the grand-daddy of them all.
So in all the 25th Royal Rumble gets the big thumbs up from me, so bring on the Elimination Chamber!