Friday, February 3, 2023

Royal Ramble 2023

So this took a little while longer than usual... because as it turns out, I had quite a bit to say.

First off, this show did huge numbers, so regardless of what I or anyone else has to say critically about the show itself, WWE is currently on a hot streak that I don't think it's had in a good long while. There's some good stuff going on there right now and there's actually a sense of hope that things will continue to get better despite the presence of some stuff that might hinder that a bit.

Now with that said, was the Rumble show any good? Well, let's dive in.

Cody Rhodes wins the 2023 Men's Royal Rumble, which featured a rather impressive showing from Gunther, who was the first entrant in the match and would end up being the last man eliminated. Honestly, this is a good showing of Gunther as he's running the distance and the fact that he made it all the way before Cody won it means there's something to this guy, who I thought was awesome during his NXT UK stint and I'm happy to see that he's getting a good run here. As for Cody winning the Rumble, it makes the most sense at the moment, as does his eventual meeting with Roman. I know people are high on Sami right now and I thought it was a smart move to start the show with the Rumble and get that out of the way rather than wait until later where you'd still have an albatross hanging over it.

Other highlights include Drew and Sheamus working together for the most part before getting eliminated by Gunther, suggesting a reheated rivalry that should always be fun. There was also a bit where Logan Paul (yes, the Youtube guy) and Ricochet (now firmly degeeked) both attempted springboard moves and collided with each other. It looked stupid and probably felt worse for both guys because that sounded like a hard smack, but I couldn't help but laugh at the spot, so I did get some morbid enjoyment out of that. Booker T and Edge made their returns; Booker looked fine for the short time he was in, although he might want to go for a trim because... let's be honest... that hair. Oh, and Rey Mysterio was #17, but didn't come out. However, Eddie's Kid Dominic came out with Rey's mask, implying a backstage assault that is going push towards the eventual Father Vs. Son battle that we're all supposedly waiting for. Will this needless Eddiesploitation ever cease?

All in all, I thought this was a pretty damn good Rumble; probably one of the best Rumbles that I've seen in years. There was never a dull moment, the dead weight was kept to a bare minimum, all the entrants were fairly big names or at least names with some weight to it, and there were a couple stories told that kept things going... and the winner made sense. If you've got time for only one match today, make it this Rumble match because it's all you need for your Rumble fix.

Bray Wyatt defeated LA Knight in a Pitch Black match... and then he goes after poor Eli until they're on a stage of sorts and Bray takes down Knight with the Mandible Claw... and then one of the funny Bray gimmicks (Uncle Howdy Doody or whatever) lands on Knight and there's an explosion... and my brain hurts writing this thing.

So this Pitch Black match between Bray Wyatt and LA Knight (a.k.a. the former Eli Drake) was continually pushed, but the rules were never elaborated on. As it turns out, it was a no-holds-barred, anything goes match that took place in the dark... well, except for the blue nightlights, and the ring ropes glowed in the dark... as did LA's trunks... and Bray also had some glow in the dark paint on his body... I'm sure Bray's fans are going to enjoy this stuff, but honestly, the whole thing comes across as stupid and not in a funny stupid like that Logan/Ricochet spot, but the bad kind of stupid that makes me hurt my brain.

For what it's worth, this had been under regular plain jane lighting and not the "spooky" shit they were doing, this would've been a so-so street fight. I do feel bad for LA Knight; he's finally at a point where he could be considered a big deal on the main roster and he's reverted to be this lean, mean machine who can't outrun a rotund goof in a halloween mask, so maybe I don't feel so bad because of that. At the end of the day, it's a Bray Wyatt match. There's some stupid gimmick attached to it. It sucked. But at the very least, this was a better promotional match than that match with the fucking zombies.

RAW Women's Champion Bianca Belair defeated Alexa Bliss to retain the title... and then they did more Uncle Howdy shit with a video showcasing Alexa's Mini-Fiend phase... you know, Bray Wyatt mentioned in an interview that the Fiend was dead... I'm hoping that the same could be said for Alexa's Fiend as well because all that shit was fucking horrible and needs to burn in a fire for the rest of eternity.

I probably should have mentioned this beforehand, but this Royal Rumble PPV is showing a whole bunch of video packages... almost as if they're needlessly padding out the show because they don't have anything else to show. You know, I tend to complain about AEW shows running long, but in their defense, you don't always feel the shows running long because more often than not, they always book their shows tightly and the pacing, more often than not, never drags. There are exceptions to the rule, of course, but more often than not, those shows fly by fairly quickly. With WWE PPVs, these shows are not only needlessly long, but they also FEEL long. The wait between matches is excrutiatingly long and it's particularly painful when the matches that follow the long-ass commercials and shit aren't worth the wait.

Case in point... RAW Women's Champion Bianca Belair defeated Alexa Bliss to retain the Women's title. Apparently, they had a match on RAW that was god awful. I didn't see that match, but I did see this match and... the Bellas had complained about the lack of women's representation on the recent RAW Is 30 show and there was some controversy over that show due to a canceled cage match and such... but honestly, that's a blessing in disguise. Because if you had a video package that showcased how far the women in WWE have gone... and then you follow it up with THIS match... and then a spooky video plays and we continue to tease Alexa's return to Mini-Fiend form, because that's what this #LOLWomensRevolution thing needs is another fucking Fiend revisit. Bleh.

Rhea Ripley won the 2023 Women's Royal Rumble, which featured a bunch of NXT names I'm not familiar, was a total sloth to sit through, and honestly, I feel asleep about half way through. They brought back Chelsea Green to do the Santino spot of coming in and getting eliminated almost immediately. They dropped the dou and gave Piper Niven her name back. They brought back Nia Jax and she apparently didn't break her hole... other than that... a huge, colossal "meh" Rumble.

Undisputed WWE Champion Roman Reigns defeated Kevin Owens to retain the title in a good match that was just padding for what was to follow. The story was all about Sami Zayn and whether he was Bloodline 4 Life. Zayn didn't get involved in the actual match, but after the match, the whole Bloodline shows up, beats up KO, Roman goes for a chair and that's when Sami pleads with him not to go through with it because it's beneath Roman. So Roman goes "Fine, you do it." And Sami hesitates, even Roman is goading him, taunting him about Jackass stuff and even piefacing him at one point. Finally, Sami commits... and hits Roman in the back to a massive (and I mean MASSIVE) pop. Then the Bloodline rails on Sami for a bit... except for Jey, who just walks off disgusted. Well, that was a development that plants a further seed, but on a whole, the match was nothing, but the stuff that happened was absolutely tremendous.

And look, I know people are clamoring for Sami vs. Roman at Mania... but the way I see it, Sami is not the guy to beat Roman for the title, no matter how popular he is and no matter how much I enjoy the dude's work. If you want to have that match, have it at the next PPV in three weeks with a hot hometown crowd. And then Cody could have the Mania match. Sami's time will come, but for now, that belongs to somebody else.

So yeah, the Men's Rumble was great. The main event and post-match stuff was great. Everything else in between is entirely skippable.

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