By Will Pruett
I’ve seen about 20 “Last show before the Rumble” television episodes from WWE in my lifetime. This one falls into the most formulaic category with both a Battle Royal (“This is what it’ll be like on Sunday!”) and a massive full-roster brawl to end the show (“What will it be like on Sunday?!?”). Considering WWE’s proclivity towards formula on these episodes, I actually enjoyed this one more than most.
Let’s start with the actual stories WWE is telling for the Rumble. We have a newly evil and slow talking Dolph Ziggler, the continuing “will they or won’t they” drama of Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton, and Luke Harper, Baron Corbin’s first Rumble appearance, and whatever the heck Miz and Ambrose are doing. Smackdown has engaged its roster well in Rumble hype season. They’ve even added interest to full roster brawls, which often seem trite.
Looking forward to the Rumble, I don’t see a winner on the Smackdown side of things. With Raw exerting such dominant force over the Rumble’s headline competitors (Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, Goldberg, Roman Reigns, etc), Smackdown is looking less likely for the “WrestleMania Headline Opportunity” at stake in the Rumble. I’m okay with this, as I hope it means we continue getting some solid stories told.
Not since the 2010 Royal Rumble have there been so many stories ready to be told. This is a testament to WWE’s improving dramatic ability (especially on Smackdown) and to the roster split itself.
Looking at this year’s Rumble, I’m more excited than I’ve been in a long time. It doesn’t look like the show Daniel Bryan should have won at, the show WWE was determined to push Roman Reigns at, or the aimless wandering sadness of 2016’s Rumble. It looks like a genuinely compelling match that will contain some fascinating surprises.
And now for some random thoughts:
– AJ Styles rallying against against being “Some guy from Atlanta” was more great mic work from Styles. The promos he has delivered on Smackdown have carried the show through the Summer and Fall. I hope he isn’t forgotten as we get to WrestleMania season.
– While I do think Styles vs. Shane McMahon would be pretty fun, it is in no way the best use of Styles at WrestleMania. I’d really love it if WrestleMania didn’t feature 97% part time wrestlers in key roles.
– John Cena brought the Preacher Cena fire I am rather fond of. I’m more than okay with him winning championship number 16 on Sunday.
– I have to admit some disappointment at how the Smackdown Women are being used at the Royal Rumble. It is part of a troubling trend on the big two-roster shows. Raw gets a singles Women’s Championship match while Smackdown ends up in a big full-roster tag. Hopefully this trend ends after the Royal Rumble.
– Don’t get me wrong, I like the Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, and Natalya vs. Nikki Bella, Becky Lynch, and Naomi match, but it does feel like a force fit. I would rather see a major singles match between two of the top women on this show.
– Does everyone just attack Nikki Bella backstage now? Is this her entire bit?
– I know I’m supposed to be majorly intrigued by drama between Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt, and Luke Harper, but I’m not entirely fond of it. It seems to be taking an awfully long time for almost nothing to happen.
– Speaking of almost nothing happening, how about the amazing stalling Miz and Dean Ambrose feud?
– Daniel Bryan eating an apple was one of the weirdest TV things I’ve seen in a while. Did he pre-tape like 10 weeks of weird backstage match setups before going on vacation?
– Mojo Rawley will get so hyped in the Rumble, then so destroyed.
– Mickie James will probably have more comfortable moments on the mic. She seemed fine, but not quite in her groove. I’m excited for a Mickie vs. Becky Lynch feud.
Got thoughts on this show or my review of it? Hit me up with them! Check the Twitter @wilpruett, leave a comment, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.