Royal Rumble recap & reactions: The chair that changed everything


“This is beneath you. You don’t need to do this!”

With those words, my heart sank. I knew what was coming and I knew why. Sami Zayn sealed his fate and watching it unfold was the only option. Sami watched his former best friend and his Tribal Chief battle to a standstill until the referee took a fall. With the ref out of commission, Roman beckoned Sami for a chair. Sami hesitated and even talked back, replying that Roman told him not to do anything but watch. Roman shouted at him again to get the chair, losing his temper at one point and sound scary in a way that only Roman can. By the time Roman got his hands on the chair, Kevin Owens came to, the ref magically popped up, and the Universal champ found himself on the terribly wrong end of a Stunner.

Fifty-thousand people almost lost their minds because for an instant, even if it was fleeting, it looked like KO might finally slay the kingpin. But Roman lived to fight a few more seconds. Actually, a lot more seconds. KO took another spear, and rolled outside of the ring where Sami, who looked conflicted the whole match, begged him to stay down. Sami wanted this thing over before it started, so the sooner the better for him.

But Kevin refused because he’s stubborn and, of course, never says die. In a really touching moment, Kevin reached out to Sami and grabbed his leg for support. But Sami never reached back. While all that time passed, Roman got himself together and ambushed KO with a spear through the barricade. That truly was the start of KO’s ending.

Roman took his brutality to another level, one that clearly repulsed Sami. Roman slammed the back of Owens’ head into the steel step stairs not once but twice. And both times, Sami winced while Paul Heyman cackled. Roman rolled Owens back into the ring, and pretty much toyed with his opponent for a few minutes like a lion playing with his food. One more spear did it and finally ended the match.

But wait, there’s more. A lot more.

This is where everything got great and truly elevated this match, this story, and everyone involved. Very few moments in wrestling get me emotionally involved on this level. There was horror movie level tension in the ring when the Bloodline joined the celebration. Jey Uso tried anointing Sami with a lei, but Roman said nah. Not yet. They weren’t finished with Owens, not by a long shot. Sami watched as the Usos brutalized Owens like rabid dogs. They pounded him into a pulp while Roman yelled for Solo.

The Usos dropped Owens with a 1D and propped Owens in a corner for a ritual sacrifice. The dread intensified because we all knew the ending. Jimmy & Jey draped a chair around Owens’ neck, then Solo delivered the final body blow as he slammed into the chair at full speed.

Again, we knew the outcome. The final blow was always coming from Sami’s hands. But would he? After watching all this brutality, Sami watched as the rest of the Bloodline handcuffed KO to the ropes. He paced as Jey and Jimmy issued Superkick after Superkick after Superkick. And then he stepped forward as Roman approached KO’s limp body with a chair in hand while talking his trash.

Sami is his family, not Kevin’s. You mess with his family, then you mess with him. He’s improving Sami’s life and career while Kevin holds him back. Maybe that was the moment it all flipped for Sami. Maybe that was the cherry on top of the very ugly sundae he watched his oldest friend get decimated for what felt like 30 minutes.

So Sami stepped in front of Roman’s chair shot. He begged Roman to cool out because this was beneath him. Roman agreed and handed the chair to Sami. These two had the entire crowd eating out of their hands. They begged Sami to intervene on KO’s behalf. They asked him to hit Roman with the chair and after so much pacing and deliberation, he did. The crowd erupted because it was so many months of pent up emotion. But they immediately went silent and feared for him because they, like all of us watching at home, knew what I wrote at the top of this page: Sami sealed his fate.

Jey Uso instantly became the most interesting piece of the puzzle. Jey’s seen this story before. He saw his brother stand up to Roman and get beat down because of it. He became Roman’s right hand man out of fear, not just loyalty. And even without all of that, he truly loves Sami Zayn. Jey defending Sami at Raw XXX and expressing his love for the Honorary Uce truly represented a turning point in this story.

Even when Sami hit Roman with the chairshot heard round the Alamo, he apologized to Jey profusely. Jimmy, Roman, and Paul destroyed Sami as Jey watched on from the corner, clearly unhappy. And when given the chance to join in on the reindeer games and put boots to Sami, Jey walked away with tears in his eyes. It was the best. Even everything I’m saying about it doesn’t do it justice.

The Bloodline left KO barely conscious and Sami laying in a makeshift bed of roses, while stewing about what’s left of their family and Roman seething as his empire crumbles.

Look, I’ve said before that the Bloodline is the best story in wrestling but after tonight, this saga is one of the best stories in wrestling’s long history. The emotion, the way the dots connect, the character development, the catharsis, and the humanity. There are complex human emotions displayed here, which makes every other story in wrestling look pedestrian by comparison. Cody Rhodes has his date at Mania and its well deserved.

But whew, Sami vs. Roman is truly where it’s at. And what of Jey? Is he permanently leaving the Bloodline or is this just something for the night while he gets his head together? There’s just so much here and all of it tantalizing in its own way.

I love it. I want more of it. This is why we watch pro wrestling and why we, when working at its apex, there’s truly nothing like it.

Dreams and Nightmares

First off, before we get to the winner and a couple other points from this very entertaining and well-booked Royal Rumble, let’s give GUNTHER several gold stars. The Intercontinental champ entered at numero uno and lasted right until the end. If I heard Michale Cole correctly, GUNTHER’s Rumble reign lasted a little more than an hour and 10 minutes. That’s an incredible performance from a man who, in the words of Tony D’Angelo, is now a made guy. The fact he got stronger in the final minutes and looked just as strong at minute 60 that he did at minute one says everything about GUNTHERi’s skills and promise. So, yeah, if you’re in Texas and see GUNTHER, salute him, dap him up, or just buy him a pint on principle.

Okay, with that out of the way…Cody Rhodes. Some years, it’s easy predicting a Rumble winner. This was definitely one of those years. But predictable isn’t always a negative. The journey does matter as much the destination in wrestling, and Cody went on a hell of a ride. I initially clutched my pearls at him entering as number 30. The babyface winning from the 30 spot never feels right for me since it usually means no struggle on their part.

A heel winning at 30? Sure. Heels like doing things the easy way at all times. But the faces are supposed to earn that W after enduring their personal crucible. But then it got down to Cody vs. GUNTHER and yeah, safe to say Cody earned every inch of this victory.

GUNTHER punished Cody’s surgically repaired pectoral with devastating chops. dropkicks, punches, and clotheslines. The Ring General weakened Rhodes with everything in his arsenal since Cody walked into the ring with a giant bullseye literally on his chest.

But Cody fought back. He fought through a Sleeper, he nailed GUNTHER with Cody Cutter out of desperation, and, more importantly, he never gave up. Like a goonie, Cody never said die. Even after almost eliminating GUNTHER one found particular moment, he wasn’t phased when GUNTHER turned his body sideways to stop Cody’s leverage and save himself from elimination.

Nothing got in Cody’s way and he pulled out all the stops, even paying homage to his big brother with Shattered Dreams, which popped me, the crowd, and everyone else in the Cageside offices.

Through all that punishment, Cody found an opening for Cross Rhodes, and eliminated a staggered GUNTHER over the top rope.

Hell of a story and an incredible finish. Now? A two month story worthy of Cody, the Universal champ, Dusty Rhodes, and this particular Rumble performance.

And now for some quick one hitters: Edge returned and eliminated Finn Balor & Damian Priest. Priest & Balor got their revenge and helped Dom eliminate Edge (still something I hate about Rumbles), only for Edge to go after both men as they left ringside. Rhea Ripley attacked Edge out of nowhere, providing Beth Phoenix the perfect opening for a surprise return. Phoenix stared a hole through Rhea and nailed her with a spear.

Let’s. Do. It. Beth vs. Rhea not now but right now.

Booker T and Logan Paul were the other two surprise entrants. Booker didn’t last long but we did get a spinerooni. Paul though? Paul was one of the final four, and even eliminated Seth Rollins. The irony here is the competitors forgot about Paul. Actually, even the commentators did, which definitely has a meta subtext.

One thing hard to forget was Ricochet and Logan’s Dragon Ball Z moment where both men collided in mid air after launching themselves at each other with springboards. But Paul eliminating Seth when Seth told Cody, and the world, that this was his moment? Me smells a WrestleMania match between Rollins and Paul.

Bobby Lashley eliminated Brock Lesnar and the latter went agro on everything and everyone ringside. Lashley found himself on the short end of the stick shortly thereafter thanks to Rollins. With both men on a collision course to each other, this is fine. Lashley in particular needs to stack Ls because it’s the only way we get to the Hurt Business being back in business. Getting Lashley to his lowest point probably pushes him in MVP’s direction and makes him a more willing listener.

Those points, along with the third act story, makes this one of the finer Rumbles in recent history. And it was a hell of a way to start the night and get me, along with San Antonio, hype.

Oh, and as an aside, we got 29 men, not 30. Why 29? Because Rey Mysterio never showed when his music hit, and the assumption is Dom did his dad dirty since ex-con Dom hit the ring wearing his father’s mask. One more curious thing: No Bloodline representation in this Rumble. Given Roman’s penchant for stacking the deck in his favor, that’s an interesting narrative omission. Didn’t take away from the match at all, but certainly worth noting.

Speaking of Nightmares…

Rhea Ripley seemed destined for this spot. Beth Phoenix’s earlier intervention put her Rumble win, and dominance, in question. Ripley ate Beth’s spear and then entered the match at number one! Would she survive? Well, yes, she did, and she did so in spectacular fashion.

But let’s start at the point where the match truly gained steam: Asuka’s return. Not only did the Empress of Tomorrow comeback with new music, but she debuted her Murder Clown look for the WWE faithful. She changed the match’s temperature, and business certainly did the thing it does in wrestling. And that symbolizes the Women’s Rumble: big moments, everyone showing out, and sowing seeds for more discontent down the line.

We got PIPER NIVEN returning, along with a bunch of awful “dew/do” “drop” puns, and some downright awful Keenan and Kel references that will haunt me for the rest of my days. Chelsea Green made her debut, while also broke a record for the quickest elimination ever at…five seconds. Michelle McCool, who the camera showed earlier in the match, entered the Rumble straight out of the front row while her daughters looked on with awe. McCool took off her hoodie and wrestled in Uggs. Look, wrestling in Uggs is an incredible feet, so give her all the props worth giving because c’mon. She wrestled in Uggs! For several minutes!

And of course, we got a surprise at number 30: Nia Jax. Everyone left in the ring teamed up against her. It looked moot for a while there because Nia is a powerhouse. Raquel Rodriguez tried but failed, and even Rhea looked mortal against Jax. But eventually, it was just too much firepower against one person. Once Nia made her unceremonious exit, the match hit yet another gear as we whittled down to our final three. Why am I singling out three and not four? Because Nikki Cross didn’t really make much of a dent as one of the four people.

The finish might be one of my favorite Rumble matches ever. Asuka went after both women, not worried about making an alliance or sitting back waiting for an attack. But all three women eventually went over the top rope and battled on the apron. Things got precarious with everyone in jeopardy, but Rhea proved the smartest. Asuka aimed her blue mist at Rhea, but the Nightmare ducked and the mist hit Liv and blinded her. Rhea eliminated Asuka and then took care of Liv.

Mami goes to Mania after defying the odds from the number one spot in an excellent Rumble. The finish instituted the perfect amount of suspense, action, and fun.


Howdy Do

Well, the Bray Wyatt vs. LA Knight corporate sponsored match was definitely a thing. Have you ever been to a rave and wished a wrestling match broke out? Well, you got your wish this fine January weekend. Wyatt dominated this surprisingly short match. In fact, while I wondered why it was so short, the Uncle Howdy shenanigans percolated and I got my answer. Bray attacked LA after the match with a win already in hand, and beat him like he stole his lunch money all the way up the aisle. Knight fought back with a kendo stick, but, yeah, it was all in vain. As soon as they got to the production area at the entrance, guess who showed up. If you said Shawn Michaels, then you’re stuck in 1997. I wish I were you. Anyway, the correct answer is Uncle Howdy.

Howdy showed up atop the very high scaffolding, locked eyes with Bray, and then dove onto LA Knight’s lifeless body. Well, actually he clearly missed and hit the pillows. And then we got fireworks, which I assume means Howdy blew up. Right? It was too silly for me and a terrible payoff, if you want to call it that. The problem with Bray’s stories is how they go on for way too long. Everything just goes a tad further than it needs. The fact we still don’t have a resolution to this thing between Howdy & Bray after months of tease is asinine. I like Bray a lot but the minute everything gets spooky with him, it goes off the rails for me. This one is on a different set of tracks entirely and I want off the train.

Howdy Don’t

Something about Alexa Bliss vs. Bianca Belair didn’t connect with me. It felt cut for time, and came to a very abrupt ending courtesy of Bianca’s KOD. And then we got to the end and I realized at least one reason it went short: more Uncle Howdy. Howdy showed up on the big screen, along with visions of playgrounds and the old Alexa Bliss, accompanied by a voice asking if she still feels in control.

Didn’t like the match and just getting tired of the mystery here because we seem no closer to a resolution than we did several weeks ago.

Well that was a show. Triple H’s first Royal Rumble is a memorable one. Even with the couple misses for me, the Rumble matches and the brilliance in the main event made this an excellent show. They did a lot right and very little wrong.

Grade: A

That’s my grade and I’m sticking to it. Your turn.

Laisser un commentaire

Votre adresse e-mail ne sera pas publiée. Les champs obligatoires sont indiqués avec *