Pruett’s Pause: WWE Royal Rumble 2017 – When a great show has a bad ending, John Cena and Randy Orton re-establish the status quo, and more!

By Will Pruett

Before I get started with the wrestling analysis, I want to say a quick thank you. Today marks six years of me writing at and it has been a true privilege to do so. Thank you to everyone who has read, commented, interacted in some way, or listened to me over the last six years. Thank you to Jason Powell, who has given me an absurd amount of freedom to write about wrestling and anything else. Thank you to everyone else on staff (especially Jake Barnett) who make sure to produce high quality wrestling related content and keep me from ever having to do live coverage of a show. Alright, enough with the sappy sincerity, let’s get to the criticism.

Think about your favorite story for a moment. Whether it’s a wrestling match, a novel, a film, or some wonderful piece of theatre you’ve experienced, think about it. Whatever story you’re imagining (Let’s be real, it’s The Empire Strikes Back), I’m guessing the climax and denouement of it are key in your decision to make it a favorite. Good stories tend to have good endings that leave us hanging on until the final second/page. This is true of wrestling shows. I am flummoxed by the 2017 Royal Rumble as a full show because, up until the final 15 minutes, I believed it was truly great.

After John Cena and AJ Styles tore the rather large house down with their breathtaking match, I sat back and waited for the Royal Rumble match to begin. It started slow, but seemed to pick up some steam. The first act of the Rumble, built around Braun Strowman’s beastly dominance, was well-structured. The story of Braun and Sami Zayn was a fun thread to keep an eye on.

Things looked less promising as the Rumble went on and it became apparent that the ring was being stocked for the final five entrants. While I was excited about the possibilities of this Rumble, the idea of Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, and Undertaker getting standout spots 15 years after the youngest of them debuted disappointed me. This is where the show truly went downhill.

It really was the last 15 minutes of the overall Royal Rumble show that killed it for me. Much like when a TV series fails to nail the finale and you’re left wondering why you watched at all, I was left with a poor taste in my mouth. Should a show with matches as good as Styles vs. Cena, Bayley vs. Charlotte, Reigns vs. Owens, and Neville vs. Swann be seen as anything but great? What does an ending mean to an overall experience?

Right now, just over an hour after the end of the Rumble, I feel like the ending wasn’t satisfying and it caused some letdown. It’s not just being letdown by one night of wrestling, but feeling letdown by the direction of WWE over the next few months. Since the Royal Rumble is where WrestleMania matches begin coming together and where we see what will be dominating our televisions in video package form for the foreseeable future, the disappointment is likely to continue.

What are the exciting prospects in WWE right now? Randy Orton will main event (in some way) WrestleMania. Who will he face? Will it be John Cena, the man who just won the WWE Championship? We are far past the time when Orton vs. Cena should even main event a B pay-per-view or an episode of Smackdown. Since it isn’t 2007, I’ll vote no. What about Bray Wyatt, Orton’s current friend who may not be a friend but could possibly be a friend? This seems likely and means Wyatt will have to end Cena’s historic 16th title win quickly.

So, what about the non-Orton portion of the card? Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar looks set in stone. This match does little for me, but I’ll give them credit for the creative setup. Triple H vs. Seth Rollins will definitely occur. Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns seems like it could be a thing. I believe it could even be a good thing. This might be the most exciting match on my mental WrestleMania card.

WWE has, on their roster right now, the right mix of wrestlers to create something exciting and fun. Shinsuke Nakamura and Samoa Joe are there. Throw one of them on each brand and let the big matches make themselves. Finn Bálor should be back from injury in time for WrestleMania, so that’s another main player. WWE has some amazing talent hanging out waiting for big spots, but the bulk of their roster and time seem dedicated to Orton, Cena, Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, Goldberg, and the rest of the Attitude Era hangers on.

This Royal Rumble show was good, but the actual Rumble match exposed (again) WWE’s flawed approach they’ve built around for the last 15 years. This was a Royal Rumble match without surprise and thoroughly lacking in joy.

A good story needs a good ending. A good book isn’t worth picking up if it falls apart at the end. A fine musical with a poor act two and no real resolution won’t win any awards. People hate the way Lost and How I Met Your Mother wrapped up, because the endings didn’t deliver. I feel the same way about this show. WWE had greatness in their grasps, but they failed when it came to locking it in.

And now for some random thoughts:

– I guess the question I have to answer is “What would have made for a good ending?” WWE actually (and perhaps unintentionally) set up something that could have been magical. They had Sami Zayn come in as a major focus of the show. They allowed Sami to take a ridiculous amount of abuse, including one of those crazy diving RKO’s and a Jackhammer. What if Sami had lasted to the very end? What if Sami had actually won? Not only would it have shocked the world, but it would have set up a logical WrestleMania match between Zayn and Owens.

It’s not a perfect scenario, but it’s a way to make a new top star, have a major surprising moment, and do some major fan service. WWE ignored all of these things by having Orton, who has been a top star for the last 12 years, win.

– The humans who brought signs encouraging others to donate to the American Civil Liberties Union are magical. Let’s all go to and do what they recommend (or donate to your local ACLU chapter).

– AJ Styles and John Cena are gosh darn magic together. They did it again with their exciting and dynamic match for the WWE Championship. While the last couple weeks didn’t make me feel like John Cena was about to make history, the actual match where he accomplished this feat was remarkable. They played perfectly off of their past efforts and truly elevated each other. I could watch Styles and Cena wrestle forever.

– Speaking of AJ Styles, is the rumored Shane McMahon match his destiny after delighting us all at the Elimination Chamber? While I do love Shane McMahon more than a human should, I do question the wisdom of this matchup. It’s a big slot for Styles, who does get something from being in the ring with Shane. It’s also not the kind of role I’d like to see the best wrestler in the world in. Perhaps in modern WWE, this is the best they can do with a talent like Styles on a show that has to bow down at the feet of 1998 (WrestleMania).

– Bayley vs. Charlotte was a good first chapter of what will be Bayley’s chase for the Raw Women’s Championship (The most important championship on Raw). Bayley was able to show a ton of heart in defeat. Charlotte took the match to a great level, especially at the very end with the Natural Selection on the ring apron. I’m hopeful that we will see plenty more from these two.

– Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens for the Universal Championship surprised me. I knew it would be a quality match, but I expected a title change. I’m pleasantly surprised by not seeing one. I still expect Owens vs. Jericho at WrestleMania, but I now wonder if Owens will have the Universal Championship on his shoulder heading into it.

– One should never build a pyramid of steel chairs and not expect to crash through them. It’s Chekov’s Law of Steel Chairs.

– Braun Strowman interfering to help defeat Roman Reigns was a fine device. It fed into the stories told in the build up to the Rumble, but wasn’t completely obvious. Hopefully it leads to more than Strowman being fed to Reigns.

– I could have done without the super long video package about the Royal Rumble match in the middle of the show. Maybe the Smackdown Women’s tag match or Nia Jax vs. Sasha could have happened there.

– The Alamodome looked huge and quite full on TV. I was disappointed by the set for the Rumble, which could have been something special, but was just the Raw set in a larger setting. This is a regular disappointment for me with modern pay-per-views.

– Big Cass and Enzo getting slot number one to monologue for a while was lacking in novelty. These two have lost much of what made them great six months ago.

– Chris Jericho hiding out of the ring for half of the Rumble continued the trend of Jericho doing charming heel things that bore me.

– Up until Braun Strowman came out, this was looking like the jobberiest Rumble that ever jobbed.

– I did enjoy the elimination spree of Strowman, so the jobber quotient was a little necessary.

– I like Jack Gallagher, but other than the novelty of seeing an umbrella in the Rumble, there was little logic to his appearance. Why did he cross the lines of his established weight class to participate? Would he be eligible for a Universal or WWE Championship shot?

– Big Show looks to be in amazing shape, but he has done basically nothing in the ring since getting in said shape.

– I did love seeing Strowman treated like anything less than an unstoppable monster by Big Show. WWE has something special with Strowman and, even against another giant, he should be protected.

– Tye Dillinger as the number ten entrant in the Royal Rumble felt obvious. It also feels like the peak of Dillinger’s career. Where does he go from here? He lost at Takeover and (obviously) lost the Rumble. His only character development seems to be getting fans to enthusiastically chant a number. Who is Tye Dillinger aside from this? Whether he’s on the main roster or remaining in NXT, Tye needs more than a number to be a quality character.

– Carmella’s James Elsworth pants are amazing.

– Kofi Kingston’s near elimination moment was well executed and nowhere near as silly as some of his past spots. I liked it.

– It was around the middle point of the Rumble, with Braun out and with Undertaker, Lesnar, and Goldberg still set to enter, that the ring got way too full. Saving those giants in the match until the final five entrants caused the entertainment value of the match to take a hit.

– It’s truly disappointing when you have #22 in a Royal Rumble pool and think it could be Randy Orton entering just after Bray Wyatt. I knew about the Orton rumors and began to think I’d be $100 richer by the end of the match… Then Apollo Crews’ music hit and I realized I would never enjoy his matches again.


– Enzo Amore getting slot #27 was strange at best. Did this portion of the Rumble need comedy?

– The ramp was entirely too long for most wrestlers to make an entertaining entrance on. I’m an advocate for the Madison Square Garden entranceway from 2008. Keep it short and sweet.

– At least Undertaker didn’t have to walk down the aforementioned ramp. We’d still be watching the Rumble.

– Quick question: What was the point of Brock Lesnar leaving Randy Orton a bloody mess at SummerSlam?

– Goldberg and Undertaker’s stare down had a combined age of 101 years. Both men were prominent in wrestling in 1998. Sigh.

– WWE did an intelligent thing when they had Roman Reigns enter at #30 and look like he was about to win. They found a way to convince fans to cheer for Randy Orton’s eventual victory. WWE used the standard reaction to Reigns to their benefit for once. This is a stark contrast to the last two Royal Rumbles.

– While I’ll call using Reigns’ lack of babyface appeal smart during the Rumble, I do believe Reigns entering at #30 hurt the match. This was a Rumble match without a surprise. This was a Rumble match thoroughly lacking in joy. Roman Reigns made sure of this.

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


Readers Comments (2)

  1. So funny you said you had number 22 in a Rumble pool. I had number 22 and 28. When Apollo came out I was like well there goes that money, though I was hoping 28 and Goldberg would win.

  2. I hate to admit it, but actually Reigns entering at 30 was a big surprise. No one expected it, and everyone hated it.
    I do have one big beef with Reigns entering. If he got a spot after losing in a title match, along with Cesaro and Sheamus, shouldn’t AJ Styles have a shot in the Rumble as well?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.