Reflections… WWE Royal Rumble 2010



ECW Championship Match
Christian vs Ezekiel Jackson

It was a little odd to see the entrance ramp coming from the right-hand side of the screen rather than the left, as tends to be the custom in WWE. A minor point, admittedly, and it was not as unsettling as the horrible voice of some unfamiliar female ring announcer. Angela Fong may well be a perfectly acceptable wrestler but, dear lord, her voice is at least 0.8 on the Tiffany scale of irritation. Still, I suppose management has all but given up on fine-tuning the minutiae of ECW. By this point we might as well change the meaning of the acronym from ‘Extreme’ to ‘European’ considering that this title means about as much as the one Shane McMahon once found in his gym bag and gave to a naked farmer. At least that belt looked somewhat credible as a championship, whereas the ECW title looks like an oversized cereal box prize. Anyway, this was a solid opening match. It could have done with a tad more naughtiness from William Regal, who was one well-trimmed beard away from looking like a Million Dollar Corporation-era Ted Dibiase here, but Christian did actually manage to get a competitive bout out of Ezekiel Jackson. Speaking of mid-nineties failures, Zeke looked like he could have walked away with first prize at an Ahmed Johnson Look-A-Like Contest, which rather negated Matt Striker’s claims that we have never seen anything quite like Zeke. Then again, as the rest of the night demonstrated, Striker has quickly shifted from ‘legitimate insight’ mode into ‘unconvincing gibberish’. Hell, even in this match he had the temerity to applaud Zeke for actually making pinfall attempts (gasp!) and then berated the price of coffee at Starbucks. I don’t disagree with him on the latter point (£1.60 for a small cup of regular black coffee? Really?!) but it does not do the combatants or the championship any favours to go off on such tangents at the expense of their quest for victory. Christian’s quest is also not helped at all by his finisher. I have never been a fan of the Killswitch, not even when it was the Unprettier. It takes too damn long to hook his opponent into position and it is just not believable that he would be able to apply it at all on a guy the size of Zeke, at least not without some substantial assistance from a chairshot or something equally as disorienting. I would have preferred to see Christian prove sneaky enough to get the pin with some other move in the end. Still, an adequate opener and bizarrely indicative of what an imaginary Dr Benton vs Dr Carter fight from vintage ER may have been like. [4/10]

WWE Backstage Skit Type A – zany comedy that results in a lot of people dancing to some shite tune. See: Tiffany, Teddy Long, Cryme Tyme, Great Gary, Runjin Singh and The Miz. By the way, since when did the Smackdown General Manager

WWE Backstage Skit Type B – heartfelt conversation between two half-naked men with blatant homoerotic subtext. See: Randy Orton and Cody Rhodes.

WWE United States Title Match:
The Miz vs MVP

I could make the same comments about the irreverent chatter by the announce team in this match as in the ECW one. I could point out how the wrestlers were busy fighting but overlooked in favour of laughing about how Jerry Lawler does not know the name of some woman from a daytime talk show. I could… but it’s MVP, so who cares? The man has fallen into the same heatless pit occupied by another could-have-been main-event talent, Shelton Benjamin, only he cannot even do as many spinny, flippy things for cheap pops. Hell, Miz did not even need to cheat to beat him. He just caught MVP coming through the ropes and pinned him in a small package. He didn’t grab the tights. He didn’t put his feet on the ropes. He just pinned him like the scrub that he has become. Then, for added comedic value, we had the supposed babyface get booed by the crowd after the surreal sight of him beating up the heel champion who beat him clean. At the very least Miz could have slapped him whilst on a victory high to justify MVP’s assault. Now he looks like a loser and a whiner. Great. The match itself was completely inconsequential and I have no idea why it was added to the card. Giving people a surprise bonus for ordering the PPV is fine, yet nobody could possibly have cared about this match and they had a far better surprise lined up for later in the show anyway. All that this did was cool down MVP even more and take precious time away from the Rumble itself. I’m also confused by the way the US title is presented. Striker did actually do a good job of portraying the title as a major part of MVP’s career, which is great except that MVP jobbed to the Big Show in a minute on Raw. Should Show now not want to claim a title shot for himself? Or how about Kofi Kingston, who did indeed pin the reigning champion last week? Both of those men have held the title in the past as well, so why do they now not care about it when MVP apparently does? The only rationale is that Show wants the tag titles back and Kofi is trying to get the WWE belt in the Elimination Chamber, yet if they feel those two championships are so much better than this one and they have beaten the two geeks left fighting over it, all this does is render the US title utterly pointless in every conceivable way. [3/10]

WWE Backstage Skit Type B – heartfelt conversation between two half-naked men with blatant homoerotic subtext. See: Randy Orton and Ted Dibiase.

WWE Backstage Skit Type C – a blend of WWE Backstage Skit Type A with WWE Backstage Skit Type B, as Chris Jericho and Big Show continue their unrequited platonic homosexual affair, with an added shot of zany courtesy of R-Truth.

WWE Championship Match
Sheamus vs Randy Orton

Continuing the streak of inanity from the announcers, Jerry Lawler managed to move from calling Sheamus the “centre of evil in the WWE Universe” to describing him as a sinister night manager at a low-rent motel. Yup, nothing screams ‘superstar’ like allegories of minimum-wage employment. Of course, it would also help the Sheamus cause if he was booked to look like a dominant champion. Thus far, the only person he has soundly defeated since winning the title has been Evan Bourne. He beat John Cena thanks to a random table bump and a count-out. He beat Orton thanks to the incompetence of Little Cody. He got laid out on Raw the next day by Edge. It’s reminiscent of the underwhelming beginning of Diesel’s reign, when he only retained against Bret Hart thanks to an infinite number of run-ins and saw his feud with Shawn Michaels overshadowed by Sid being stupid. At least Kevin Nash had a certain intangible charisma to him. Sheamus has a skin tone and a haircut. What exactly is his character? What motivates him that sets him apart from the multitude? Why should we care about him at all? To be fair, he does appear to have a decent grasp of the fundamentals. In time he could become a great main-event heel. At this stage in his career, however, he offers precious little to talk about at all. This match did at least offer a fresh, if strange, dynamic of two heels trying to play it straight and failing to gain any ground against one another. The sole constant highlight, of course, was the continued brilliance of Orton. Not to get too carried away but every movement of his is perfection. He is King Sell, if you will. His utter disgust at Sheamus daring to move and thus deny him the thrill of the punt, for example, was enthralling. The finish… well, at least it stopped Michael Cole from yelling “Lookit! Lookit!” as though he was an infant demanding a biscuit. I don’t know how anybody can possibly care about Legacy breaking up by this point, to be honest. If the original plan of turning Dibiase into a solo babyface back in October had gone ahead, things would probably have worked quite well. The memories of his father, and Cody’s father, having hosted Raw and succumbed to Orton were still fresh. The subtle glimpses of Dibiase being far more discerning in his dealings with Orton than Cody’s blind hero worship were working great. Legacy was even managing to look somewhat competitive against DX. And, yeah, there was some sort of movie coming out too. It could have been something special. And yet it was stalled as the random Orton/Kofi feud heated up, only for that one to crash and burn in near-record time. In the meanwhile, the established characterisations of Legacy had degenerated into generic lackey stereotypes from which it will be very hard to recover. They did manage to have them in different coloured tights from Orton and from one another, which is a step up from last year’s Rumble, but they need a lot more help than that. Perhaps they might be as well to just wait until the next draft, move one of them to Smackdown and give them a fresh start. That would leave Orton with precious little to do at WrestleMania, however, so we may well wind up with some sort of three-way battle for custody of Cody. Or, hey, maybe the winner can star in The Marine 3: Marining with a Vengeance. That’ll be nice. [4/10]

WWE Women’s Title Match
Michelle McCool vs Mickie James

This was what it ought to have been, although I am still somewhat surprised that The Undertaker’s girlfriend was so thoroughly jobbed out to John Cena’s ex. I’m almost shocked that McCool allowed herself to get so perilously close to eating cake. Any other result would have sent entirely the wrong message, however, so hopefully now all those emotional critics of the ‘Piggie James’ angle can calm down and admit that it was actually a great little program. Plus, WWE finds itself in a position where they can portray their Women’s Champion as a country music star with an everywoman appeal… in theory… [N/A]

World Heavyweight Title Match
The Undertaker vs Rey Mysterio

This was the one and only time out of five championship matches on the card that the challenger came out before the champion did. Another pet peeve of mine, that one. I’m also not to keen on cripple fights that don’t take place on South Park but at least this one included a couple of masters of the intangible, with definite heartfelt connections to two quite different groups of the audience. Striker evidently may have gotten himself into trouble when he started talking about how Taker’s blood demonstrated that he was “just a man” and could be beaten since he was “just a human”. There followed the awkward silence that is the trademark of Vince McMahon bitching out the announcers (and he must have been irked already by the sight of blood on this show, not to mention Punk getting a bloody mouth in the Rumble too), which was broken only by Lawler making a comment on Taker’s almost inhuman speed for his size. The match itself was fine and dandy. The problem is that, other than the referee, there was not one single healthy knee involved in it. Maybe I am just getting too sensitive in my old age but I find it hard to engage myself in the match when I am too concerned about Mysterio getting seriously hurt by landing awkwardly on the floor, or Taker in obvious pain while just walking around the ring. It’s the same principle that makes me think I might just skip Bret Hart’s seemingly inevitable match at WrestleMania. By all accounts none of these men are short of money. At what point do they place their well-being and quality of life above the fleeting thrill of performing and call it a day? As a great admirer of their careers, I would hope they do get to retire with as much dignity as possible in order to enjoy the rest of their lives. This match was good but even just a couple of years ago it would more than likely have been great. [5/10]

WWE Backstage Skit Type B – heartfelt conversation between two half-naked men with blatant homoerotic subtext. See: Shawn Michaels and Triple H. Well, at least this one had some hilariously awful advice from Kane at first. Perhaps now that WWE is moving into the sitcom business they could remake Frasier with Taker, Kane and Paul Bearer as Frasier, Niles and Martin. And re-introduce Santina Marella as Daphne. Or just have Kane put his parenting skills to use, that might work…

Royal Rumble 2010

Well, they certainly fixed the major problem from the 2009 version of this match. That show had far too much deadwood clogging up the ring, doing nothing and at great length. Hell, Rob Van Dam barely had enough room to get in his spots during his spotlight moment. This year had a more brisk space. Almost too brisk, in a sense, considering that the alleged ‘most star-studded Rumble of all time’ wound up being the second-shortest Rumble of all time, behind the limp 1995 version (or third-shortest if you include the 20-man, non-PPV 1988 version). The result was admirable in that they already had four viable winners in Cena, Batista, Hunter and Shawn, which is at least two more than they usually have, yet they were able to have a fifth viable option come away victorious. Apparently there were extra security measures put in place backstage to keep Edge’s return a secret, although it had been a strong rumour for the past few weeks as the initial diagnosis to his torn Achilles tendon last July turned out to be incorrect. Still, while Edge’s return was nowhere near as shocking as Cena’s was in 2008, it made for a great moment. Striker’s now-trademark bullshit proved effective for a change, as he claimed Edge was meant to be ought for 14 months and had returned at least 6 months too soon. Hopefully that does not turn out to be the case, although with Edge’s history of frequent injuries the idea of WWE changing their Road to WrestleMania plans to accommodate him does seem peculiar. Even just a few days before the Rumble the plan was for a Hunter win, setting up a title feud with Sheamus, leading to a Shawn/Batista match at Elimination Chamber to determine Taker’s opponent at Mania, with the loser getting Cena. The idea that Jericho’s recent brush-in with the law, no matter how minor, led to WWE scrapping his planned Mania program with Edge, in turn affecting the title scene and the Rumble booking, cannot be ruled out. Of course, it could just be that WWE decided to go ahead and do something unexpected here for the sake of doing something unexpected. That would be quite in line with their zany short-term booking policies over the past year or so, which would be quite the disappointment given the assurances in the news of late that they had been booking backwards from their chosen Mania card and were not to be moved from it. Regardless of all that, I would have preferred to have Edge return closer to Mania or even at the show itself. It clearly could not hurt to give him more time to heal and build up his fitness. Also, the jury remains out on how effective he can be as a main-event babyface. It has never worked before and the sympathy comeback pops are not going to last all that long, meaning that whatever he is doing at Mania may peak long before then. Look at the Hunter/Orton debacle from last year to see how those situations turn out. Still, the look on his face after eliminating the company’s main babyface to win was one of a true heel, so perhaps he will stay in the role best suited for him. Sure, he laid out the heel champion on Raw, but then the week before Sheamus was involved in a feud with another major heel. Besides, how on earth does the ‘Ultimate Opportunist’ tag work for anything other than a severely irritating heel character? We’ll see how it plays out, yet with his statement that he was not going to choose a Mania opponent until after the Elimination Chambers, I would not be at all surprised to see him lay out a babyface champion then and go with that program instead.

In other notes…

Rumour has it that Shawn Michaels is not too enamoured with the messianic elements of C.M. Punk’s current ‘personal saviour’ character. I’m not sure whether to file that one under ‘bullshit’ or ‘overly sensitive’ but the announced DX vs Punk & Gallows match for the tag titles was dropped from Smackdown last week, while Show & Miz could very well wind up with the tag belts on Raw next week, so who knows? In any case, Punk was great during the first third of the Rumble. I must admit that a tiny, naïve part of me half-expected Jeff Hardy to turn up at #8 to eliminate Punk. Instead, we got Hunter in his 8th Rumble appearance (and, later, Kane at #12 in his 12th).

Kudos too to WWE for kicking it all off with Dolph Ziggler and Evan Bourne. The tendency to go for the easy pop by having a major star enter at #1 or #2 has been indulged too often, in my view. It would have been a good idea to perhaps make one of those two look like a star by the time they got eliminated, mind. The only undercard guy who really benefited in any way was R-Truth, who dumped a whole load of fat in one big push, yet even he did not stick around for long and never even encountered Jericho at all despite their earlier backstage encounter.

The most unexpected entrant was indeed Beth Phoenix. I wouldn’t get too enthralled with the idea of sexual equality in WWE, however. Not with Punk holding her in a blowjob position while awaiting the next entrant as Striker said we should “never trust a woman.” Her elimination of the Great Gary was an innovative piece of booking, however. Speaking of Gary, his entrance at #5 was right after JTG at #4, so at least Cryme Tyme’s plan of giving his number to Shad made sense in retrospect.

Last year we also had the trend of people getting thrown over the top rope only to hold on and swing back into the ring. This year’s fashionable idea was evidently to pick one trademark move and do it to multiple people in a row. Numerous entrants did this. None managed to screw up their move or show as little interest in doing it as Carlito, though. Did he really deserve the payoff ahead of, say, Santino?

Jack Swagger continues to receive the most schizophrenic push in WWE today. He gets quickly tossed in pre-Rumble ‘rehearsal’ eliminations but comes into the Rumble and does okay for himself. He gets to hang with Cena and Hunter in decent singles matches but then gets nowhere when facing other guys in the midcard. Meanwhile, Sheamus and Drew McIntyre, sans personality, get pushed far ahead of him. It’s just odd. At least we all got to enjoy his manic gurning as he ran to the ring…

The finish was neat but in many ways indicative of a lot of WWE’s faults. All of the final four have not only headlined WrestleMania in the past but won world titles there to boot. Leaving Operation: Sheamus aside, is there anybody else on the rise with a hope of being in such a position next year? Massive props to Michaels for the manner of his elimination, which evidently led to many comments about whether it was accidental or not. Slightly confused boos to Batista for sticking around at ringside to watch the end of the match for no discernible reason. As noted, it was slightly peculiar to have Edge eliminate the big babyface star at the end. Had he won at Batista’s expense they could have played up the drama of Batista potentially getting the match with Taker at Shawn’s expense. They would also have had a valid reason for Batista helping out Vince McMahon on Raw, with Vince promising to get him that match in exchange for some protection. Still, the Rumble has to try really hard to not be entertaining and this one merits a solid, if unenthusiastic, thumbs-up. [7/10]


Conclusion:

All in all, this year’s Royal Rumble proved to be greater in the context of the Road to WrestleMania than as a great show in and of itself. There were no great matches and no classic moments, yet there was nothing terrible about it and plenty of memorable occurrences. More importantly, it continued to build towards Mania by leaving a number of options available for that card. It is really the strength of the build to that show which will determine how this Rumble is remembered in years to come. By now we have heard what the rumoured matches may be, as well as feasible alternatives to them, all of which sound promising, yet we still cannot be certain exactly how it will all play out. This is due not to the haphazard booking standards of last year’s Mania build but to the multiple exciting ways in which these matches could be obtained. Let’s just hope that they don’t let us, and themselves, down. [5/10]

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