– If you want to watch the show and haven’t canceled your WWE Network subscription, you can watch it here.
– If you’d like to read previous Best and Worst of Royal Rumble reports, you can do that on the tag page.
– Pre-show notes Best:
All the love in the world to Ryan Petzar for rocking a Something Related To Me sign in the Rumble crowd. New goal for 2015: as many signs in the crowd as possible. If you take a sign to a show and get it on TV I will send you something, or I’ll buy you food somewhere if we’re in the same place at the same time. Something. I’ll keep escalating the prizes until I’m giving out free cars because I’m stupid.
– Shares, likes, comments and other social media things are appreciated.
Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Royal Rumble 2015. Believe that.
Best: The Billy Phanatic
Not sure who decided WWE should start the second biggest pay-per-view of the year with two sassy grandpas who are most famous for instructive dick-sucking wearing novelty baseball mascot hats, but kudos, I guess. No amount of hating the Outlaws will make me shit-talk the Phillie Phanatic. I’m not even a Phillies fan and I love that bird more than I love most members of my family.
It’s interesting that the Outlaws of all teams think they have to suck up to local sports teams to get support. Monday it was Dallas Cowboys shirts, and here it’s mascot scalps. Aren’t they gonna get the same reaction no matter what? If they say “ladies and gentlemen boys and girls children of all ages” in front of a wrestling crowd it doesn’t matter if they’re in Phillies jerseys or gorilla suits. Save the Local Sports Pandering for heels that aren’t going to get a reaction unless they say Ben Revere blows.
Worst: My Ass Better Call Somebody
The Ascension versus Road Dogg and Billy Gunn has got to be one of the weirdest decisions for an opening match in a long time. Did Billy have to catch a plane or something?
First of all, you’ve got The Ascension. These guys aren’t great or exciting workhorses to begin with, and the crowd’s most recent memory of them is getting beaten up by an announcer and four retired guys in a 7-on-2 attack. The best case scenario for them is a quick squash, but it’s gonna be one of those NXT Local Talent squashes. Nothing but shoulderblocks and forgettable clotheslines. Not exactly The Shield dismantling people at WrestleMania.
Second of all, you’ve got Billy Gunn. Billy Gunn was an off-brand Lex Luger in his prime, and now (despite JBL’s constant insistence that he’s a formless immortal) all he’s got in the tank is an armbar. He just comes in, puts on an armbar and waits for the finish. Road Dogg’s still at the top of his game, which has been “cool dad hip-hopping between the worst punches of all time” since like 1997.
The good news is that the Ascension wins without much of an effort. Maybe they’ll get a match against X-Pac and Hardcore Holly at Fast Lane.
Best: Mizdow’s Rise To ??? Continues
Here’s the thing about the first hour of the show: it’s not bad. It’s just the same scoop of gruel we’ve been eating for months. A tag match with no build and no consequences, the Usos beating somebody, a Divas match. A ton of promos and commercials. It could’ve been an okay second hour of literally any Raw.
Miz and Mizdow vs. The Usos was fun while it lasted, but it’s nothing. The blowoff to the feud was that weird “WE WON WITH MIND GAMES” Jimmy Uso speech. They haven’t had a story since then but the matches keep happening. It’s like an echo. They’ll tease a little Mizdow team dissension, but he’s been on that track since August. They aren’t pulling the trigger on anything, and there aren’t other teams to wrestle. It’s the definition of that “wrestling for the sake of wrestling” thing Vince McMahon says he wants to avoid, but I guess you can only fill so much time with podcast commercials.
Worst: When I Say “Uce,” Y’all Say “Stop Diving At The Miz”
It’s like trying to powerbomb Kidman, but in real life.
Best: Joey Mercury
I learned three things from watching Joey Mercury play WWE Immortals:
1. WWE Immortals isn’t a video game, it’s a bad Mortal Kombat Twitch video that plays in the background while you tap one spot on an iPad screen like you’re Hector Salamanca.
2. Joey Mercury saying “the new mobile game where superstars take it beyond the ring and battle it out in a supernatural universe” like the guy listening to him’s an asshole is the best WWE moment of 2015.
3. Two white guys playing video games and staring at their phones until Seth Rollins shows up is accidentally a super-accurate representation of how watching WWE works.
Worst: It’s Fine
We’re still ending matches with Nikki Bella forearms. Big Show’s knockout punch has that dumb “why can’t you just start every match by punching them and winning” thing that makes most people not choose to use basic-ass strikes as finishes, without the whole “the guy punching’s 500 pounds and 7-feet tall” thing. A regular-sized lady is hitting you with her regular-sized forearms and you’re DYING. Can we at least get a NIKKI WAS IN AN ACCIDENT AND GOT METAL FOREARMS story?
In a related story, BRIE MOOOOOODE~
To give you some context, Paige and Natalya teamed up because “Total Divas” to face the team of Nikki and Brie Bella, who if you’ll recall forgot they were feuding and became pals again for the same reason. It’s a little sloppy but not notably bad. There’s a little to like — mostly pre-existing good will towards Paige and Nikki — but nothing notably great. It’s just fine, and happening. The same complaint I had for the rest of the hour.
I hate that complaint. That’s the worst thing a wrestling show can be. It makes me sound like a shitty recapper because I can’t spin some kind of wacky comedy gold out of the Bellas ignoring the crowd and going through the motions like always. This is the kind of match I want to at least surprise me, you know? Give me something I didn’t expect. It doesn’t have to give a classic, I just want to end the match watching more wrestling than I had when I began it.
Best: Why I’m Gonna Win The Rumble Interviews
One of the best parts of any Royal Rumble show is the collage of people who have no chance to win saying why they’ll win. This year’s best — assuming we don’t become overrun with ironic love for Roman’s “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing” promo — is Stardust not even TRYING to hide how hard he’s aping 1966 Frank Gorshin. He shouldn’t remind you of The Riddler anymore, he’s doing The Riddler. It’s GREAT. Also, new Goldust paint variant!
Other highlights include Mizdow using undercutting phrasing, Daniel Bryan trying to do convincing “yes” chants without his arms going off-camera and worn out Teddy Ruxpin with a Spanish 1 tape in the back saying Fandango will win.
Best: WWE’s Match Of The Year (So Far) (And Maybe For The Rest Of The Year)
As apathetic as hour one could be and as frustrating as the Rumble match itself would become, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship triplet threat delivered on every level and in every definition of deliver. That shit brought SNAIL MAIL to your HOUSE.
The best part about it (besides Brock winning, which is by default the best part of anything) is that it was so atypical for a big WWE match. It was almost like a Lucha Underground match. They didn’t have a “feeling out process” or wander around making agonized faces for ten minutes to “tell a story,” they just got in the ring and threw bombs and beat the shit out of each other. It was AMAZING. Brock knows German suplexes are Cena’s weakness, so he opens with them. It’s an effective gameplan. Rollins isn’t as incapacitated by them but he’s easier to throw. He keeps turning when he takes them and landing on his shoulder, and at first you think it’s an awkward throw but then you’re like wait a minute, he’s trying to control how he lands to take less damage.
Cena’s offense is 100% special moves. He’s constantly going for the STF and throw Proto Bombs and trying to tell people They Can’t See Him when he should just be dropping elbows and going for covers. It’s the trademark John Cena arrogance. His gameplan is “be John Cena.” Rollins has the one-two punch of jerky outside interference in a no-DQ environment and CRAZY JUMPING, which he uses to put Lesnar through a table and get caught with an F-5 in equally great moments from different ends of the effectiveness spectrum.
In the end, the story is that Brock is not human. We knew that already, but Healthy Brock Lesnar is the most wonderfully overpowered wrestler ever, and the one guy you can buy taking two briefcase shots to the face and shrugging it off. He never seems like he’s mindlessly no-selling stuff to get in his shit … you buy him as a legitimate, nigh-unstoppable beast. You have to throw him in a volcano to beat him. Brock sells it, too. He looks like he’s going to throw up everywhere as he’s walking to the back.
I loved this, and it’s worth checking out the show for. Just jump to an hour in and stop watching when it’s done. Absolutely aces stuff, and I could watch Seth Rollins wrestle Brock Lesnar all day. I want that match at Fast Lane. One-on-one, no-DQ, Brock Lesnar against Seth Rollins and the entire Authority. All of them. I want Stephanie in a mech suit, getting her arms ripped off. I want Jamie Noble getting thrown in the air so high he accidentally drifts off into outer space.
Best: Joey Mercury Again
The Actual Royal Rumble
Worst: Not Every Black Guy Is D-Von Dudley
“We know who THAT is, Taz! What’s BUBBA RAY DUDLEY doing in the WWE Zone??”
Okay, so R-Truth is #2 in the Royal Rumble and spends way, way too long rapping. He’s also trying to get over “whoomp, there it is” as a recurring catchphrase now and should be given shock therapy. If you’re wondering why Truth would get a showcase spot like that, it’s because Bubba Ray Dudley returned by D-Von didn’t, and Bubba doesn’t work without a black friend following his instructions.
How weird is it to have ONE Dudley Boy return and do all their spots? It’s like Queen touring with Adam Lambert. It’s not even a good nostalgia spot if you’ve been following TNA for the past what, 10 years? I can’t see Bubba Ray Dudley now without assuming Garrett Bischoff and Wes Brisco are around the corner in leather vests.
Best: Bray Wyatt Being Awesome As Shit For The First Time In A Long Time
Bray Wyatt was ON at the Rumble. It felt like NXT Bray Wyatt had just finished his dumb feud with Kane and jumped into a cool thing, and like it was okay to ignore all the stuff in-between.
He was a physical threat. He got to be weird, interacting with The Boogeyman in one of those moments that would’ve been truly great if it hadn’t been so blocked and on the nose. He lasted a long time. He got a lot of eliminations. He even got to grab the microphone and land a few short, effective lines about how he’s going to win. Him challenging the locker room to just empty out and fight him was intense. I want him to be this all the time. I don’t want smokey room gaspy promos anymore. I don’t want the same imagery he’s been beating to death since he got called up. I want a guy who kicks ass, takes names, and isn’t afraid to use a little Bayou magic to get it done.
Best: It’s He, It’s He, It’s DDP
In a surprise guest moment I can actually get behind, 58-year old Diamond Dallas Page shows up in a yoga tank with his entire body the color of Hank Hill’s ass and drops everybody with Diamond Cutters. INFINITE SPECIALS!
In all seriousness, DDP needs to be one of this year’s WWE Hall of Fame inductees. The guy was one of the biggest stars in wrestling during the 90s boom they’re obsessed with, he’s a multiple-time world champion, he had a couple of garbage runs in WWE and he’s done saint-worthy work saving the lives of other Hall of Famers like Jake The Snake and Scott Hall. He shouldn’t be WWE’s Buck O’Neil, working tirelessly to get his friends right. He should be celebrated for his own contributions, even if they were mostly in WCW, and even if they were mostly in jeans.
In less seriousness, I have two complaints:
1. He didn’t show up with his ribs taped.
2. The next entrant wasn’t Johnny B. Badd, accompanied by The Diamond Doll.
Worst: Infinite Boos Forever
The first nine entries in the Rumble are just ramping up for Daniel Bryan’s appearance. Bray Wyatt’s been snatching peoples’ wigs and tossing them out the entire match, so someone needs to enter and stop him. Things pick up and get exciting for a few entrants, and then Wyatt knocks Daniel Bryan off the apron, eliminating him.
If we learned nothing else from last year’s match, Daniel Bryan causes a lot of heated reactions in Royal Rumbles whether he’s in them or not. It might’ve just been a good idea to have Bryan win this so we’d shut up about it. Instead, he gets eliminated early, assumedly so we wouldn’t be cheering him over Reigns, which turned out to be funny because EVERYBODY was getting cheered over Reigns. The crowd boos. They keep booing. Then they start chanting “Daniel Bryan.” The vibe’s ruined for the remainder of the Rumble, and even guys like Ambrose and Ziggler don’t really get the reactions they should’ve. The damn ROCK shows up and everybody cheers him, but they get it in quick so they can get back to booing.
Daniel Bryan’s such a tough wrestler to book because he was created through this systematic expectation of failure, and he and CM Punk were the first wrestlers to really catch on in the post-John Cena, publicly-traded WWE. It’s a place where superstars are created in a lab. Bobby Lashley, for example. Roman Reigns for another. You’re told to like people and then your mild acceptance of it’s fine. The people who don’t like it become at odds with people who think you should shut up and enjoy mother’s milk or whatever, and they keep the working class (so to speak) at each others’ throats. Then they get everybody’s money, because wrestling’s a business that leverages the hope and faith and heated conversations of sports against the numb acceptance of entertainment.
Bryan and Punk caused/cause problems because they hooked people in that weird old way of having admirable traits and skills. They were cool, fun, someone you’d want to look up to, someone you’d want to be. They were great on the mic or great in the ring. They’re “our” guys. Our guys aren’t the guys they want, but they want “our” eyeballs and “our” money, so they run with it. When they think we’ve had enough to keep us watching, they shuffle it away and replace it with one of theirs. The Summer of Punk turns into Kevin Nash and Triple H feuding. World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan turns into World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus.
Philadelphia sorta lives and dies by “our” guys. They’re the place where most of our guys came up or got big. It runs deep, man. People associate Philly with Chikara and old Ring of Honor and CZW, and that’s Bryan and Punk and Seth Rollins and Cesaro and Dean Ambrose and Luke Harper and and and. Notice a trend in those guys? WWE often warps the narrative to make it seem like they’re loved by “the Internet,” when they’re actually loved by “people who watch wrestling outside of WWE.” That’s the rub. That’s the enemy. “The Internet” is a lot easier to hate than “people who actually watch what we do.”
Bryan gets eliminated and the bed-shitting begins. I don’t know why we thought Bryan would win. We’re lucky he was even in it this year. We’re lucky he’s still wrestling at all. He’s only had a few matches since he got back, and there are things to be shuffled.
Best/Worst: Are We Finally Getting Goldust Vs. Stardust Or What
Dustin and Cody have a longstanding thing at Royal Rumbles where they f*ck each other over, and it always gets me excited that somebody at WWE remembered they employ TWO Rhodes boys and should probably do something with them. It also almost exclusively leads nowhere.
If you didn’t watch, Stardust tries to eliminate Goldust and does this hilarious perma-curtsey in celebration. Goldust gets back in, taps him on the shoulder and slaps him in the face about it. AND THEN THEY FEUD WITH EACH OTHER AND GOLDUST GETS ONE LAST COOL WRESTLEMANIA MATCH WHERE HE WRESTLES HIS BROTHER AND IT MATTERS AND CODY RHDOES GETS TO BE AN IMPORTANT GUY AND GOLDUST CAN GO TO ORLANDO AND TEACH DUDES HOW TO PUNCH.
Rhodes brothers storylines make me do the 500 Days Of Summer expectation vs. reality windows in my brain. I just want them to have matches and do things. Why is that such a stressful thought?
Worst: This Year’s Kofi Kingston Elimination Spot Is A Lemon
Every year we expect Kofi Kingston to do something goofy to avoid elimination, whether it’s pogo’ing on an office chair or getting carried over to the barrier by Rusev and having to jump back into the ring. This year he gets thrown into a pile of Rosebuds, gets crowd-surfed around to the other side of the ring and is almost immediately eliminated anyway.
The problems are like, tenfold. Here are a few, including:
– The Rosebuds aren’t over, which is the only way that spot would’ve gotten a reaction
– Adam Rose was only in the Rumble so the Rosebuds would be there, as you can tell by the fact that he basically steps into the ring and melodramatically throws himself out
– Kofi has done a lot cooler stuff than this, and it reeks of everyone running out of ideas. The Rosebuds thing might’ve been cool if it’d been one of a FEW elimination spots, or if it’d mattered and Kofi hadn’t just been dispatched once he’d outlived his one spot of usefulness.
– Constant booing because you did the funny Kofi spot so soon after eliminating one of the like four guys in the Rumble people like me actively root for and want to see succeed.
– Nothing in the Rumble is allowed to settle. We don’t have time to accept or anticipate anything because wrestlers all have one purpose, and arrive and leave accordingly. Mizdow is just like Rose and Kingston. They want to tease him becoming his own man again, so they do a pretty fun thing where Miz gets eliminated early and comes back out to take Mizdow’s spot, but Mizdow wants it. Mizdow weighs his options and finally sprints into the ring to a big crowd reaction, hitting a bunch of cool stuff in a row and KIPPING UP. You’re like YEAH MIZDOW and finally have someone to cheer after Bryan’s elimination, but the Miz thing’s all he’s there for so he’s IMMEDIATELY eliminated. They don’t let you savor anything. You don’t have time to enjoy it. They’ve done their thing and now it’s time for them to leave. It sucks. It’s a machine. It’s a wrestling show existing independently of its own audience. It’s like we’re watching the f*cking Royal Rumble through a peep show window.
Worst: WWE’s Fingerpoke Of Doom
Watching Kane and Big Show nonchalantly eliminate Dolph Ziggler, Bray Wyatt and Dean Ambrose — three of the most important characters in the match, all with great motivations — was the most obvious, heavy-handed f*ck you I think I’ve ever seen. It was the past calmly and defiantly shit-canning the future, because they can do it.
They’re eliminated with ZERO fanfare. Bryan’s elimination was similar, but at least he looked like he put up a fight. Ziggler enters at #30, and before he’s been in long enough for anyone to care he jumps off the top rope into a knockout punch. Kane and Big Show pick him up by the shorts and dump him to the outside like he’s Heath Slater. While we’re seeing a replay of that, Bray Wyatt gets knocked out and tossed. Bray Wyatt, the character who dominated the early portion of the Rumble and eliminated the most popular guy in the match. Tossed like he’s nobody by BAD GUYS. Dean Ambrose makes a stand, but when Roman’s down he gets beaten up and tossed just the same. So not only do you have WWE’s chosen guy winning the match against the very-easy-to-observe will of the people, you’re making sure to tell those people their favorites don’t matter. There’s no struggle. No drama. Just two old guys from 20 years ago saying “this is how it is.”
That bothered me so much more than Roman winning. I think we all kinda figured Roman would win. He’s Roman Reigns. He delivers promos like someone snuck up behind him and hit him in the back of the head with a hammer, but he’s the guy. He’s related to the Rock, he’s handsome, he can work a little. He’s in great shape. He’s tall enough. It’s what they want. If they’d created some kind of exciting fight or moment of back-and-forth that put Roman over without so profusely pointing out how over he’s supposed to be, it would’ve been okay, I think.
Instead, comma comma comma …
Worst: One Tough Semolian
After getting Daniel Bryan out of the way and literally tossing Ziggler, Wyatt and Ambrose like garbage, Roman Reigns battles THREE GIANT TOUGH GUYS (Show, Kane and Santino Marella in the role of Rusev) and eliminates them all himself. Then when they try to beat him up, his famous relative who’s never on the show shows up to back him up, and they beat everyone up AGAIN. Then The Authority shows up, and Roman and his famous cousin stand against them DEFIANTLY~.
Like I said, the way they did it bothered me a lot more than what they did. I love making fun of Roman Reigns for his goober promos and winky-face emoticons with his actual face, but I don’t have anything against the guy. There are ways to make that WrestleMania main event pop. I just hate the environment WWE’s created where watching wrestling isn’t about cheering your favorites and booing the guys you hate, or living vicariously through larger-than-life superheroes or any of the cool shit you say to people when they ask you why you watch wrestling. It’s about how you judge a series of confusing decisions. That’s pro wrestling. Being on some weird co-op board. They’ve obliterated the middle ground, so you’ve either gotta be smart enough to see how it works or dumb enough to love what doesn’t.
I don’t want to pick a side. I want to watch wrestling and feel like watching it added something to my day. Made me feel something. Made me think something. I don’t want to feel like I’m filling out some shitty Buzzfeed quiz to find out what kind of wrestling fan I am.
There’s a lot of ways to make this work, you know? Here’s two off the top of my head:
1. Roman’s got the guaranteed shot at WrestleMania, but Brock doesn’t. The last time Brock was about to leave the company he dropped the belt to Eddie Guerrero at a February pay-per-view. WWE could embrace Roman’s negative reactions and have him play them up for the next two months, doing what The Rock did when Rocky Maivia got death chants. Be the entitled asshole people assume you are. Be the “chosen one.” Imagine him doing that. Now, imagine Lesnar dropping the title to Daniel Bryan at Fast Lane and entitled-ass Roman swooping in to take the belt from the little nobody we love. The guy who (lol) had to work to get where he is.
2. Want to get Roman Reigns a face reaction for beating Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania? Make Reigns vs. Lesnar a No-DQ match, which it’ll probably be. We know Reigns and Ambrose are “brothers.” Now we’ve given Seth Rollins a reason to hate Brock. Imagine Reigns and Ambrose trying their best to turn the tide against The Beast and having Rollins show up for a FULL SHIELD REUNION ATTACK and triple powerbomb that puts Lesnar down. Imagine the confetti as Roman celebrates.
Then imagine Rollins bashing Ambrose in the face with the briefcase and cashing-in on Roman in the confetti.
We’ve got a long way to go before WrestleMania. Keep your head up. If it gets hard, remember the face The Rock made the moment he realized nobody liked his weird cousin.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
“Be careful with those monitors, Brock!” – Dean Ambrose
“Next up, the Royal Rumble! In which 30 superstars eliminate themselves in quick succession so they don’t have to face Brock Lesnar!”
I’ve been reading a lot of vintage best/worst, and the answer is obvious guys.
Hogan wins the rumble with Sting help. Questions Sting after.
Eat, Sleep, Diamond Cutter, Repeat.
Five weeks from now:
Vince: “Can you save my WrestleMania Main Event?”
Bryan: “Alright, but its the last time!”
Deus ex Rockina
“Well the Authority’s just going to have to live with it.”
Wait, when did we become the Authority?
This is the most anoai-ing Rumble in history.
You know how this Rumble was a failure?
We had a five star, MOTY candidate in which Cena doesn’t win and we saw a GODDAMNED PHOENIX SPLASH and no one remembers it.
F*ck the WWE. I will never watch it again. See you all tomorrow night.
By The Way:
(Curtis Axel WAS eliminated. If you don’t make it into the ring before the next guy comes out, you’re unofficially eliminated. It’s why Spike Dudley isn’t recognized as a former Rumble winner. Sorry. I want Curtis Axel to be the secret winner more than anybody, I promise.)