The vast world of professional wrestling has already been altered just four weeks into the New Year. With events like New Japan’s WrestleKingdom 11 and WWE’s United Kingdom Championship Tournament, 2017 kicked off with a hot start.
Now more than ever, independent wrestling promotions are running shows throughout the world. In this renaissance of professional wrestling, it would be WWE who brought a weekend of great action to the proverbial “center stage” and began their “Road” to WrestleMania. On Sunday afternoon, Jan. 29, an enormous crowd rallied at San Antonio’s AlamoDome, but the exciting wrestling weekend also produced NXT TakeOver and top independent promotion Evolve (its 76th and 77th shows).
A new tradition in WWE, an NXT TakeOver special the night before one of the “big four” WWE pay-per-views has made for excellent revenue and provided fans great wrestling. I believe there is something for everyone in wrestling and sports entertainment. With so many shows occurring, there are plenty of new avenues no matter where you are or what you like.
There is a lot of good wrestling in many places, and there is always something good to find and enjoy on any given wrestling show. However, there is also going to be things that are not enjoyable or even watchable sometimes. With so many opinions, I think it’s safe to say that every wrestling show will have its good, its bad and its ugly.
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WWE is in a somewhat opposite position from where they were one year ago. Heading into WrestleMania 32, the roster was injury-plagued, and the card seemed almost dilapidated. It seemed like there were many holes in the plans of what could have been. This year, however, the WWE has a seemingly stacked roster of old school and new school superstars with more talent than there are spots. I would almost consider it to be a great blessing of sorts that WWE currently has a myriad of options. I think that it is “GOOD” that there are so many different routes it can go to have a standout card come the big event on April 2.
The addition of NXT TakeOver being the night before a big WWE pay-per-view paid dividends in heating up feuds, like between Seth Rollins and Triple H. Seth’s “takeover”, Seth’s “invasion”, Seth’s “crashing of the party” made for an absolutely exciting five minutes of television. Neither of those two men were even seen at the Royal Rumble thanks to the effectiveness of that segment.
As for the Royal Rumble event, the kickoff saw new RAW Tag Team Champions, and the main show had two titles changes. Charlotte retained her RAW Women’s Championship against Bayley after using her finisher on the apron in a hard fought contest. The door is wide open for this feud to continue into WrestleMania season as Charlotte continues to be unbeaten at pay-per- view events. This definitely brings intrigue to the future of the Women’s Championchip and the division as a whole.
Neville captured the cruiserweight championship by defeating Rich Swann and has made a major statement in the past month, since his return. I think Neville will bring many more eyes to the Cruiserweight division which is a major plus for everyone involved, and with a character like Neville holding the title, the bar will be raised for the coming months.
The world championship matches had great stories and great wrestling. Kevin Owens walked in and out of the Royal Rumble with the Universal Championship, as his “No Disqualification” match with Roman Reigns proved to be a hard-hitting affair that had some great hardcore spots including a giant stack of set-up chairs on the outside, and a Bull-Frog Splash through a table. Chris Jericho hanging in a shark cage above the ring was pure entertainment. Just has Owens and Jericho have done over the course of the last few months, they continue to be the most entertaining part of the Monday Night RAW roster. I do think they will split and have a match a WrestleMania for one or both of the championships they hold
As for John Cena vs. AJ Styles, this was an instant classic on a big stage. Two absolute professionals who know exactly what to do and when to do it to get the most out of each other and the audience. A great and captivating match led to John Cena’s 16th championship victory. There is no denying the history that was made as Cena is undoubtedly the biggest star of a generation. Cena may not be the one to walk into WrestleMania as the champion, but he managed to make the history that has been building for months. I think that John Cena loses the championship during the Elimination Chamber match in two weeks. AJ Styles has had a great first year in WWE, and coming up to his second WrestleMania, I believe he will have a very prominent roll on the big show.
I more than enjoyed the 30th annual Royal Rumble match. Just about everyone had their spots and be individually showcased during the match. I think thanks to this match a few guys who will have important rolls at WrestleMania are Enzo and Cass, Baron Corbin, Sami Zayn, and Braun Strowman. All of them left the Royal Rumble match with momentum. Of course, Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg will be one of the marquee matches with the full potential of their story coming to fruition on the biggest stage of the year. I also enjoyed seeing The Undertaker hold his own in the Royal Rumble with definite “seeds being planted” so to speak, for a Mania match against Roman Reigns. After Reigns eliminated the Undertaker, they engaged in an intense stare-down that I believe will lead to their paths crossing at WrestleMania.
As for the victor of the match, Randy Orton now has a championship match at WrestleMania. I read several complaints on the Internet, to no surprise, that Randy might not have been the best choice to win the Rumble match. Just days before the event, I predicted a first time winner, but I was wrong as Randy Orton managed to win the match for the second time. As I began to wonder why this was the outcome, I managed to breakdown the possible scenarios for Randy Orton’s journey to WrestleMania. I thoroughly enjoyed the interaction of Orton, Bray Wyatt, and Luke Harper during the match and last few months.
We are in the midst of the story being told by Orton and Wyatt that was been slowly building. It is great to see a story truly unfold and be pulled off properly and logically. I do see Bray Wyatt being the man who walks out of the Elimination Chamber match as the WWE Champion. This leads to the two “brothers” coming to a head at WrestleMania for the championship. Continuity, logic and story. Thanks to the Rumble match, I think we have a lot to look forward to during the next two months with the true culmination at WrestleMania 33 in Orlando.
During the No Disqualification match between Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman interfered leading to the finish. Strowman cost Reigns the match after an attack that saw a chokeslam on the announce table and a running powerslam through a table in the ring. Later in the night, Reigns entered the Royal Rumble match at No.30 and eliminated The Undertaker. This is where I have been left confused.
I understand WWE continues to heavily present Roman Reigns despite a large amount of fan backlash from adult male fans, but no matter where Roman goes, he always gets a response from the crowd. He is very much like John Cena in this aspect where no matter the case of half of the audience cheering (the targeted demographic) and the other half booing, he is getting major responses every single night. However, I feel like it is about to get tricky as Roman is essentially now involved in two feuds with two very different performers. While WWE was surly aware of the response that Roman Reigns would get when he came out at No.30 and then eliminating the Undertaker, it is conflicting that he also was screwed over by Strowman earlier in the night.
Many fans will spend the next few months possibly unsure of whether or not to cheer or boo him. The second that Roman Reigns enters the ring against the Undertaker he is surly to be disliked. The lack of logic makes this “BAD” for the coming months of WWE programming.
Another questionable decision would be that of Brock Lesnar. Brock came out swinging for the fences in the Rumble to only be quickly eliminated by Goldberg. It was, in essence, a repeat of Survivor Series. I feel this should have been the time to have Brock get one over on the man that embarrassed him. Instead, he was embarrassed even more. This now begs the question of the direction of Brock Lesnar. The same man who conquered the Undertaker’s streak, is now falling victim to a man who is not in good ring shape, despite his physique, I noticed Goldberg struggling to hit the ropes during the Rumble match. Survivor Series was very well executed, the Royal Rumble match seemed like the lazy option and did not progress the story of Brock Lesnar.
While I don’t believe a feud like Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt needs a championship, I think certain decisions were made to simply raise the intrigue of the possibilities for this year’s WrestleMania. The “UGLY” is simply what I would have done differently or what I would’ve liked to see instead of what was done. Having put the Universal Championship on Roman Reigns, I could have easily seen the winner of the Royal Rumble being Braun Strowman.
Strowman would’ve instantly been seen as more than just a destructive big man, but he would’ve gotten credit for winning a match that seemed tailor made for him. Having a young and fresh guy like Strowman winning would have greater helped the creation of a new star. Seeing as how the Reigns vs. Strowman match is inevitable, this would have given it grand purpose.
An alternative to a Royal Rumble match victory would have been the Undertaker who would go to WrrestleMania to challenge the new WWE Champion John Cena. I believe Undertaker vs. Cena is almost too logical to happen. The two biggest names currently in WWE would certainly have given true and utter star power to this year’s WrestleMania. A possible career vs. title match would certainly put this match on a new level that would set this WrestleMania apart from others.
While I do think a more logical alternative to Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg would have been Brock Lesnar mauling Goldberg and eliminating him from this year’s Rumble to have Goldberg feel like he and Lesnar are even -- only for Paul Heyman to explain that Brock still wants to defeat Goldberg which would set up their final encounter for WrestleMania.
Overall, after a stellar weekend of pro wrestling/sports entertainment, WWE started to shape the scene for April 2 at Camping World Stadium, formerly the Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando, for WrestleMania 33.
- About the columnist
Allen Galati, a longtime fan, is a young indie wrestler in training in South Florida.
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