By Haydn Gleed, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@haydngleed)
-Because there’s so much to get to this week from the world of wrestling, I don’t think you need an update on Cardiff City. It has nothing at all to do with the fact that we were taught a soccer lesson by one of the best teams in the world last weekend, honest.
-Ronda Rousey is now part of WWE. I’ll admit something now, I actually went to bed the moment Asuka knocked Nikki Bella out of the Rumble and missed watching the post match shenanigans as they happened. Hey, you can judge me as much as you want, but it was past 4 a.m. local time and I’m an old man! You can imagine my dismay when I woke up the next morning and my email and Twitter timeline was filled with Ronda Rousey comments. In hindsight, the clues were there to suggest something like this would happen. However, my brain doesn’t function well in the middle of the night (less so than normal believe it or not!).
-Anyway, I’m a lot higher on Rousey coming in than some of my peers are based on the analysis this week. Although I completely agree that Shayna Baszler is a far more exciting prospect from an in-ring and general pro wrestling ability point of view, I think the attraction of Rousey is being overlooked. The impact she has on a women’s division could be substantial. This is the same division that often feels like an afterthought with the amount of time it’s given on television and at most pay-per-views. She is a star that transcends not just professional wrestling but movies and other sports. It will have two major benefits in my eyes. It will force WWE to dedicate more time to the women’s division when you have the main storyline for Rousey as well as other feuds on the card, and it will also attract female fans who perhaps have either felt disassociated with wrestling or have felt (rightly) that it was a male dominated business. Women who identified with Rousey and followed her career in UFC and her ascension to the top will be more likely to check out wrestling, perhaps for the first time. That means you draw these people in with the attraction of Rousey and that then allows Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Asuka, etc. to impress them with their in-ring ability. I’m looking forward to seeing if WWE can capitalize on the opportunity they have in front of them.
-I thought WWE did a stellar job of not only the booking of both Royal Rumble matches but also being aware that both matches had to look and feel different from one another. From a drama standpoint, I felt the men’s match was better with the crowd pleasing moment of Shinsuke Nakamura getting the win. Although I do agree with the opinion that WWE officials were smart in the way they booked the ending in terms of making the fans think that Roman Reigns was going to win to allow the reaction of the eventual winner to be bigger, I hope it’s a wake up call to WWE that the fact they had to take this route with potentially one half of their WrestleMania main event is a crazy situation to be in. For long periods of time there was complete silence in the arena when the fans thought that it was inevitable that Reigns would win, and not just when it came down to the last two, but also when it was down to the last four and six. No matter how well WWE used that reaction, it’s still concerning that the fans felt the need to react like that for Reigns. WWE often tries to rewrite the narrative of Reigns to be that “as long as people react one way or another that’s all that matters.” The silence for him when fans thought he was winning the Rumble spoke volumes.
-The women’s Royal Rumble match was a lot of fun for current and long-time fans of the product. Watching some of the great and not so great in-ring female talent from over the years was highly enjoyable, though if I don’t see Torrie Wilson or Kelly Kelly wrestle again I will be perfectly happy. Trish Stratus still has that “It” factor that was so obvious to anyone who saw her original run in WWE when the company was either unwilling or unable to fully take advantage of it back in the day. Today’s stars also shone in the match with Asuka being the obvious example. One moment that showed why Sasha Banks has to have a full heel run was when she dumped her character’s best friend Bayley over the top rope. Instead of showing an “it’s every woman for herself” face, she was jawing at Bayley on the floor and for a moment it took me back to NXT when these two women for me trailblazed what is now dubbed the “women’s revolution”. I’m hopeful that WWE officials are not patting themselves too hard on the back after the Rumble, because there’s still a lot of work to be done to make the women’s division feel on par with the men’s division. The Rumble was a giant step in that direction, but it shouldn’t be used as a smokescreen to cover the issues that existed beforehand and the hard work that is still ahead.
-Despite there being two different Royal Rumble matches and 60 wrestlers in total, there wasn’t one person from the UK involved in either match. It’s great that WWE was comfortable enough to allow two Japanese talents to win their respective Rumble matches, but for me it’s mind boggling that they couldn’t fit at least one or two talents from their second or third biggest market in the match. Remember, they have a whole UK division that at the start of 2017 was supposed to be a big part of their future. They even pulled the UK champion Pete Dunne from a British independent show the week before the Rumble, and all he ended up doing all weekend on camera was a throwaway discussion segment on the NXT Kickoff show. My conspiratorial mind has come up with theories as to what this all means for their original intentions of the UK Tournament. Putting that saide, it was a hugely disappointing aspect of the Rumble for me that not only did they not want a UK division talent in the Rumble but what this could mean going forward to the seemingly forgotten plans for the UK division.
-To end the Rumble weekend chat on a positive note, how good was NXT Takeover: Philadelphia? They continue to raise the bar on a continuous basis. When I attended NXT Takeover: London two years ago, it was one of the best wrestling shows I’ve ever attended and still is to this day. Yet looking back retrospectively over all the other Takeover shows, the London event probably ranks as one of the worst. It’s been great seeing Aleister Black continue with his impressive first year in NXT with a great extreme rules match with Adam Cole. Having seen him wrestle as Tommy End around the UK independent scene for years, he’s certainly living up to the potential that he showed back in those days. Velveteen Dream continues to impress as well and is one or two tweaks to his character away from being a main roster star. Of course, the whole show was topped off by one of the best matches in NXT, if not one of the best matches seen in North America for many many years, in Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Johnny Gargano. This match has rightly been praised and analyzed many times over the last week so I won’t add to this, but I will say that if you haven’t seen this match yet then you are missing out. Go do it now! As a wrestling fan you owe it to yourself.
I will be by tomorrow with a special bonus blog. As always, feel free to get in touch with me, either through twitter @haydngleed or through email email@example.com