The rise of the new stars seemed to continue last night as Alberto Del Rio, a Smackdown superstar for only around five months, won one of the most important matches of the year. I thought this was a good Rumble and an excellent PPV personally, and have been shocked to see a lot of negativity online about it. The same people who whinge when Cena wins, or someone predictably returns from injury to win, also whinge when a fresh but deserving wrestler gets top-billing. I guess there really is no pleasing some people.
Match 1) Edge def. Dolph Ziggler to Retain the World Heavyweight Championship
Though I didn’t predict it, I wasn’t surprised to see the World Title match go on first. The match was a very good opener to the event too, helped in no small part by the ‘no-Spear’ stipulation. It was an example of a very well paced match, starting out a bit more tenuously and building and building to a finish that has the fans on the edge of their seat. There were very few periods of overly-sustained dominance from either guy, and the match had a real feel of going back-and-forth, which is conducive to an unpredictable and dramatic match, as both competitors looked like they could win at more than one time. As the match came towards it’s fruition, the sequences only grew in intensity, starting with Edge’s amazing counter of Ziggler’s leg drop into a powerbomb for a near-fall. Following that, a great near-fall came after Ziggler hit his leg drop for a very close 2 count. Edge and Ziggler then shared finishers (Edge using his Edgecution), escaping each time. It was at this point that the referee got knocked down. It’s easy, but a good way to tell a story based on the unfair stipulation. With Vickie and the ref down, Edge felt free to hit his Spear, before hitting Ziggler with an Unprettier for the win, to take away from the aspect of his victory that was achieved by cheating and suggested that he needed the Spear to beat Ziggler, while also giving a conspicuous nod to Christian, only solidifying hopes and beliefs that when Christian returns, it will be to work with his former partner.
Match 2) The Miz def. Randy Orton to Retain the WWE Championship
Now, given that the WHC match was first up, I was very surprised to see the WWE title match follow it up. In fact, it made me mindful that a big surprise would occur before the Rumble as a main event angle or something. Alas not. I still don’t understand why it followed Edge-Ziggler in that case, because I think it kinda hurt the match. That it not to criticise it really; it was a good match, but in my mind, not quite as good as the WHC one. Had it followed the divas match, it probably would have been more over. Anyway, the match followed the familiar, but watchable rhythm of a Miz title defence: Orton dominated in the early going before Miz gained an intellectual upper-hand, using smarts and the advantage of Alex Riley. That is not, however, to say that Miz looked weak. He had his fair share of beating on The Viper, and came close to beating him close a few times. If the opening moments were dominated by Orton, Miz had a section of renewal in the middle with a beating of Orton outside and a slingshot to the ringpost. Coming back from such an onslaught really speaks to Miz’s resilience, which is still required at this point. Like the previous match, there was a sure progression to a boiling point that occurred, in this match, following a superplex from Orton to Miz. This culminated, in a way, with a sequence which began with Riley distracting Orton before he could hit a powerbomb on Miz, a situation Orton overcame to get Miz in an RKO-able position, at which point, Nexus came out; again, Orton resisted this, spectacularly throwing Riley over the top rope and on to most of the Nexus, before nailing his RKO on Miz. Orton couldn’t resist, however, CM Punk, who came from under the ring to hit a Go To Sleep on The Viper, before dragging an unconscious Miz on top of Orton for the retention. This was a good finish which, despite being dirty, was conclusive. The Nexus involvement may have slightly hurt what was a good, main-event feeling match, but it made sense for Orton to move on from feuding with Miz to potentially becoming the new target for the Nexus.
Match 3) Eve Torres def. Layla, Natalya & Michelle McCool to Win WWE Divas Championship
Right, this one was weird. I was down for a triple threat match once the GM started talking, and then when we heard it was going to be a fatal four way, I expected Melina, Beth Phoenix or, most tantalisingly, Awesome Kong; but instead, we got Eve. Don’t get me wrong, I think Eve has become a good wrestler, but it just seemed completely unsubstantiated! This match was given pretty decent time it seemed. The storytelling worked well too, with LayCool working together, and facing off in the ring when the faces had been taken out. This is the first time since the tables match at TLC that i’ve felt the divas have stepped up in terms of aggression and innovation like I predicted they would this year, and indeed, there were lots of big hits and bumps for everyone. The ending of the match was very intriguing, as Eve hit an beautiful moonsault on Layla and went for the pin just as Michelle McCool rolled up Natalya for three; the referee only seeing Eve’s pin and so awarding her the match and the title. I expect a triple threat at Elimniation Chamber to sort it out, but there is also currency for a Wrestlemania season split for LayCool. After all, Michelle did accidentally kick Layla in the face while it was Layla that got pinned as Michelle was poised for victory. We’ll wait and see on that. I just hope that Eve’s reign is legitimised in good storylines, otherwise it seems a bit arbitrary.
Match 4) THE ROYAL RUMBLE!
It’s difficult to speak that critically about the Royal Rumble; you can only really gauge it’s success based on how you feel afterwards. Well, the last quarter (roughly) of it, was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, so it seems like it was a success in that sense! My pick, CM Punk was first out, which actually made me think him a more likely winner. Corre and Nexus had an unscheduled face-off, as I thought they might, and it was quite well done, but not as intriguing as I’d have hoped … Thinking he might be assisted through a marathon by his Nexus, that definately seemed to be the plan, as Punk stayed in the match longer than anyone else, lasting until the after the 21st entrant had entered. Many fans, including me, loved that the initial face-off was between him and Daniel Bryan, and indeed, they wasted no time in getting going in to a fast-paced and exciting sequence. A future programme involving these two would be excellent! I liked Punk’s relationship with his group in the match, and they looked genuinely unstoppable, until Cena came in. Of course, in retrospect, I doubt WWE would have booked someone to win the Royal Rumble in such a systematic way. Cena followed his word, clearing the ring of all the remaining Nexus members. The Rumble performance seems to be another thing that Punk excels in, more than anyone else, being able to put together a unique Rumble sort of performance, so despite being eliminated, he was a success. The next thing of note is the awesome spot by John Morrison which saw him avoid elimination in spectacular fashion! Standing on the apron, it looked like he would be eliminated very quickly by William Regal, who charged him and knocked him to the barricade, but, somehow, and using incredible strength and agility, JoMo gripped the barricade without touching the floor, walked across it towards the ring steps, and leapt to them before re-entering the match. Morrison’s stay in the match was relatively short, but that spot in itself was one of the show-stealers, and is a genuinely spot for the highlight reels of wrestling history. Its that sort of thing that will help him ascend the ladder, simply because it’ll make him ‘must see’. Also of note was Hornswoggle’s involvement. This worked both ways: I hated him being in the match, but his working with Cena, imitating lots of wrestlers and hitting a mini AA on Tyson Kidd was very funny and light-hearted in a Rumble-appropriate way.
Next up, among the obvious chaos of the Rumble, is the surprise entrants. First off, we had Booker T, who got one of the biggest pops of the night. Now, I’ve never been that high on Booker, but I have to say, I marked out like a kid for him. He was in remarkable shape, and was really electrifying! He took it to the Nexus too, which was good for him. A little late, i’ve been converted! The good news is that it seems he has a bit more of a long-term deal, so we might get to see him school some of the young-uns. Secondly, was Kevin Nash (under his old name of Diesel). He also got a huge pop, and looked like he did a decade ago after simply dying his hair brown again. The reaction in the ring to the former WWE Champion was priceless, and he did some nice things in the ring. He is, however, a lot slower and more damaged than Booker seemingly is, and I don’t know how much WWE can do with him at this point. Still, a special moment, as is warranted at the Rumble.
Moving on to the finish, it really began when eventual winner, Alberto Del Rio made his entrance, and by the time Kane entered, we had a ring full of main eventers, all of whom could win with legitimacy. I expected, however, that Cena would win, so imagine my elation when the well thought through elimination of Cena took place, where Alex Riley distracted him so the Miz, on commentary, could enter the ring and eliminate Cena! It’s not that I don’t like Cena, as regular readers will know, but I didn’t want him to win, it would just be uncreative. Also, the way he was eliminated probably means that Miz will be defending the WWE title against Cena at Wrestlemania, in a match which has good build beyond the Rumble, months, maybe even over a year in the making. After that, I expected Orton to win, and that was just as bad as Cena, for the exact same reason, so when Del Rio took advantage of Orton being compromised while eliminating Barrett to eliminate the Viper and, seemingly, to win, I was really excited. Of course, when Santino re-entered the ring and hit the Cobra, I thought the worst, despite the obscenity of a Santino win, and was simply relieved when Del Rio reversed his elimination attempt for the win. I also loved Ricardo Rodriguez’s OTT announcement of the winner, it really added to the atmosphere of a Del Rio win. A great end to a very good Rumble! As for what this means for his Wrestlemania match – i’m sure he’ll be taking on Edge. I don’t see any reason to change that, partly because he also has history with Christian, who could involve himself somehow, which would also explain all the visual invoking of his character. I’m not sure, however, whether I want it to be a triple-threat. I’m a purist with this, and I want the Rumble winner to take on the champ one-on-one. As ever though, we’ll see. It’s all very interesting!