The Royal Rumble match itself is the primary focus of WWE’s Royal Rumble PPV build this year and Bret Hart will return next week on Raw.
DX spoke to each other and the crowd to start the show. HHH wanted to know where the leprechaun was. Shawn Michaels said he sent Hornswoggle home because this was serious business. Hooray! Michaels talked about how important winning the Royal Rumble is to him. HHH said it is important to him too. He knows Michaels wants Undertaker, but he wants a title shot. HHH said that it will come down to them and they will always be friends, but if HHH has to step on Shawn’s dream to get to his he will. Michaels said that he understood. This was a very strong segment. HHH in particular was really good.
DX beat Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase. Michaels was in control early but Legacy took over. The announcers said that this year’s Royal Rumble is the most star studded ever. They need to stop saying that every single year. It just makes them seem full of it.
Michaels kicked DiBiase in the gut and tagged HHH. HHH came in with a high knee and face buster for DiBiase and spine busters for both Legacy members. He went for the pedigree but Michaels tagged himself in. Michaels and HHH teased dissension but Michaels hit sweet chin music on DiBiase and HHH knocked Rhodes out of the ring. Michaels covered for the pin.
MVP cut a promo before his match. He said that Miz can’t keep running from him forever because he’s the number one contender and he will take the title. Miz came out and started talking about MVP’s incarceration again. MVP said Miz would be very popular in jail and there would be a bunch of friends fighting to be Miz’s exclusive friend. That was clever. I say if Raw becomes more like Oz, that’s a good thing.
Big Show beat MVP. They put over the idea that Miz and Big Show are now aligned, so Miz is apparently taking Chris Jericho’s spot. I think the dynamic between Show and the trash-talking, egotistical smaller heel works well, so it’s smart to keep it going. This match, on the other hand, was not what I would call smart booking. MVP hit a face buster and yakuza kick but then he was just caught with a choke slam for the clean pin in two minutes or so. After the match the announcers were still selling an MVP vs. Miz title match. This segment sure buried MVP, Miz and the title.
Backstage, Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase were bickering. Randy Orton suggested they get it together and said that he would take the title from Sheamus with or without them. Oddly, Randy Orton had very little presence on this show.
Vince McMahon came out and said that if Undertaker were there he would dare him to call Vince a coward. He then said there’s no reason to bring back Bret Hart because the people have forgotten about him. He went into the crowd asking fans why he should bring back Bret. Let’s just say these fans did not represent themselves well as sentient beings. Vince concluded there was no good reason to bring back Bret and went to leave.
John Cena interrupted. He didn’t like Vince’s comments about Bret Hart or his treatment of Roddy Piper. Cena noted they helped to build Vince’s empire and he treats these people like commodities. Cena said Vince is just about himself and is pathetic. Cena told Vince to do the right thing and invite Bret to Raw next week. So Vince did. And then he made Sheamus vs. Cena for later in the show.
I thought this was very good segment. I liked the way they set up Bret’s return and the basic thrust of the angle. The one negative is that Cena has done so many smarmy, cutesy promos that everything he says comes across as insincere to me now. It makes him less effective when doing serious promos, which I thought at one point he was excellent at.
Kofi Kingston beat the Miz. Miz worked over Kingston briefly. Kingston hit a frog splash off the top but Miz kicked out at two. MVP’s music played, Miz turned his back on Kingston like an idiot and of course Kingston then hit trouble in paradise for the pin. This was some continued great build for a US title program.
John Cena and Dule Hill did comedy backstage. James Roday was on speaker phone, I guess since they figured some people would miss him otherwise. Alicia Fox came in and was flirting with Hill. Hill said he would come to ringside as a good luck charm for her but she threatened him if she lost.
Sheamus beat John Cena via DQ. John Cena hit a suplex but Sheamus took over with a DDT and power slam. He threw Cena into the steps on the outside and they teased a count out. Cena got in and hit the Cena slam and five knuckle but Sheamus avoided the FU. Sheamus hit a back breaker but Cena countered a big boot attempt into the STF. Sheamus grabbed the bottom rope and hit the big boot on the floor. They teased a count out again but Randy Orton ran in and gave Sheamus the RKO. Cena then gave Orton the FU and stood over the two title participants to end the show.
This show reminded me a lot of last week’s show. The build towards the Royal Rumble gave each show more focus and they were better shows than other recent editions of Raw. Each show was also highlighted by an excellent opening segment. I thought the Vince McMahon segment this week was strong as well.
On the negative side, the treatment of championships on this show was so bad. The US champion and number one contender both lost relatively cleanly in just a few minutes, and there are no signs that either of the two winners will be moving into the title picture. So what exactly does the US title even signify?
Then in the main event of the go home show for the Royal Rumble, both wrestlers in the WWE title match were left laying as a third guy who isn’t even challenging for the title stands over them. Maybe I’m being rigid and close-minded here, but I’d never build a title match by having both champion and challenger lose and I’d never have the final image prior to a PPV title match be both champion and challenger laid out. These seem to me pretty basic propositions.
credit: Wrestling Observer