I told ya. Didn’t I tell ya? Juan Bradshaw Layfield is going to WrestleMania!!!
I’ll get more into the rumble match in a minute, but first…..The Undercard
The night opened with the World Heavyweight Champion Edge defending against Dolph Ziggler. I liked this match. I thought the two of them worked really well together. Ziggler continues to impress me each time I see him in the ring. The dude has a very bright future. The end of the match was a little suspect. Kelly Kelly’s interference and subsequent attack on Vickie Guerrero was really out of place (did I miss a segment on Friday night? What is her beef with Vickie? Or is she simply the protector of all that is good and right on SmackDown!?). We all knew the Spear was coming, despite the stipulation, though I expected Edge to eek out a victory and then hit it post match. Either way, it worked out well. Edge won, keeping the title while Ziggler showed that he’s worthy of being in a main event. I’m sure both of these guys will be in an Elimination Chamber match next month. After that, I’m interested to see where Ziggler goes.
Winner: Edge successfully retained after hitting an Unprettier on Ziggler
Next up was Randy Orton challenging The Miz for the WWE Championship. Again, I thought this was a really good match, well executed, and a good showcase for both workers involved. The Miz looked comfortable in his first real major singles title defense. Orton, as usual, was great in his role, particularly in making The Miz look credible. It featured another sketchy ending, but really it was what needed to happen in order to protect both Miz and Orton going forward. It should be interesting to hear the explanation from the New Nexus as to why they interfered, costing Orton the match. The good news from that angle – the inevitable Punk/Orton match at WrestleMania should be awesome! The bad news – lack of follow up later in the night (more on that in a minute).
Winner: The Miz successfully retained after The New Nexus interfered, targeting Randy Orton
The obligatory cool down/bathroom break pre-main event Women’s Title Match was next. What was supposed to be a 2-on-1 Handicap match between LayCool and Natalya was changed at the last minute to a Fatal Four Way. Everyone was expecting to see the debut of the recently signed Awesome Kong. Instead we got…..Eve Torres? This made absolutely no sense in the current booking of the Divas Division. If you want to save Kong for later, fine. But where was Beth Phoenix? She’s been in the middle of this title picture for months. It would have made sense to put her in there and let her get the pinfall causing Natalya to lose the belt without losing the match. That could have led to a natural feud between the two best female workers in the company. But instead we got…..Eve Torres? The mind boggles.
Winner: Eve Torres becomes the new Divas Champion after pinning Layla
Now it’s time for the Royal Rumble Match. I will gladly take this time to gloat over how spot on my prediction was…..aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand thank you. You’re welcome. Anyway, this Rumble match was much, MUCH better than I had thought it would be. I was initially fearful of the 40-man concept, thinking that it would expose the weakness of the current roster. I’m man enough to admit that I was wrong (not about my pick for the winner though). I wasn’t worn out by the 10 extra participants. In fact, once we hit number 30, I was genuinely excited that there were still more to go. That’s not to say that I loved the whole thing. There was a stretch of time where I was truly hating what I was watching. I’ll break it down into bullet points. Wanna hear’em here they go:
- The Nexus/Corre brawl at the beginning scared me. I thought for a second that the Laptop GM would take that time to eliminate both groups all at once, thus “finding a way” to get around the could-be-too-much 40-man Rumble (hey, stranger things have happened in WWE). I was happy I was wrong.
- Daniel Bryan/CM Punk starting things officially starting things off was a great teaser of what could and should be a future main event feud.
- John Morrison is a superhero. His cling-to-the-guard-rail spot could have very easily gone horribly wrong, but he pulled it off beautifully and in the process made a Rumble moment that will be replayed for a very long time.
- I actually liked the New Nexus’ brief period of domination. Once they had a 4-man advantage, they used it to gang up and eliminate everyone else in the match, up until the Great Khali made his return. Mason Ryan then got his moment to shine by single-handedly eliminating the Punjabi Giant.
- For every good there is an “ugh.” Poor Booker T made his triumphant return to WWE next. He got a huge pop from the crowd. He came in and nailed all of his major spots on the New Nexus. Then, he got beat up and eliminated in less than a minute. It was great seeing him in there. He can still go with the best of them. I wish they had used someone else in that spot and given Booker more of a presence in the match. Should be interesting to see if this was a one-time deal or not. Oh and way to secure your “Return of the Main Event Mafia” angle, TNA.
- The next major player to come out was John Cena. And that’s when the match almost completely derailed for me. I don’t hate Cena. I respect the guy and think that he can put on good matches. But the way he dominated and individually eliminated the entire New Nexus made every participant who was in the match before him look weak and completely negated the first half of the Rumble. My other big gripe with this is that I think it should have been Randy Orton to clear out the Nexus. They cost him the title earlier. They wouldn’t have thought he’d be in the Rumble, then he shows up and eliminates them all. It would have made more sense than Cena.
- After the New Nexus was gone it became the Cena/Hornswoggle Comedy Show. This was brutal to sit through. My friends and I legitimately came close to turning the show off at this point. I know the kids love him but for the love of god, please, fire that fu&%ing midget.
- Another gripe about Hornswoggle (and Orton and Ziggler too). I didn’t like that they were in the Rumble. Swoggle for obvious reasons, but Orton and Ziggler had both wrestled earlier in the night. I just didn’t like it. Those 3 inclusions meant that 3 guys were pulled from the match – Darren Young, Primo, and DH Smith. Obviously, they’re not important enough to be missed, and they were 3 of the guys I griped about most in my last post. Still, they lost their spots to 2 guys who’d already worked and a joke. They could have been used to feed New Nexus/Mason Ryan some extra bodies, making that group look better and also potentially saving Booker T from being given his sacrificial spot. (Also, as low on the card as he is, I like DH Smith. His being pulled from the match doesn’t bode well for his future.)
- Kevin Nash made a return too. The most interesting part of this was that he went full Diesel. The announcers never once called him by his real name. Again, like Booker, he looked great, got a MASSIVE pop, but was barely utilized. I would have liked him to get more time in the ring. Also like Booker, I’m intrigued to see if this was a one-night appearance or the start of a final run in the big leagues.
- The final 4 were Orton, Cena, Barrett, and Del Rio. I was really scared that Cena was going to take it again this year. Thank goodness for The Miz, who eliminated Cena and cemented the previously-speculated Cena/Miz ‘Mania main event.
- Finally, Alberto Del Rio eliminated Wade Barrett to win the 2011 Royal Rumble!!! My pick was right! I was so happy that they used this year’s Rumble to push a new face to the top. This win shows that they have a lot of faith in Del Rio, and expect him to be a major player for a few years to come. But wait….
- Santino Marella came back in the ring after he’d been laying on the outside for the previous 10 or so minutes. He had rolled out under the bottom rope, thus not being officially eliminated. He hit Del Rio with the Cobra and my heart sank. I honestly thought that they were going to give the Royal Rumble to a comedy jobber (again, stranger things have happened). Thankfully they did the right thing and kept Del Rio as the winner.
All in all I’d say it was a successful show. I liked the additional 10 entrants and hope they keep it next year.
What did you think?