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    Sunday, December 11, 2016

    31 Days of Wrestling (12/11/16): One Versus All

    Welcome to the 31 Days of Wrestling, ladies and gentlemen. It's that time of year again when we take a look back at the past 11 months of pro wrestling (and as much as possible, the last month as well) and cherry-pick one match a day for each day of December from a list of bouts that defined the year in our beloved sport. Most matches will be good, while some may not be; what matters is that they helped build the perception and reputation of the kind of wrestling this calendar year produced for us.

    Today's entry is the annual tradition that sets the tone for the wrestling year, the WWE's 30-man take on "One Versus All," the 2016 Royal Rumble. 

    The year was 2016 and for sports-entertainment the year was simply phenomenal.

    The year started with gloom as then-champion Seth Rollins forfeited the WWE World Heavyweight Championship title due to injury in late 2015. In an expected, borderline-uninspired call the title was shuffled on to the company's handpicked golden boy, Roman Reigns.

    Things began to pick-up as the annual 30-man Royal Rumble event was nearing. Before that point it was Roman Reigns defeating everyone (but really, this meant the League of Nations). With Roman Reigns coming in as the defiant champion, Triple H changed the stipulation for the 2016 Royal Rumble match from the usual "winner gets to face the champion at WrestleMania" to making the annual Rumble the actual title match wherein the sole survivor would claim the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

    It was Roman Reigns who entered first, literally setting up the "One Versus All" scenario. After making quick work of Rusev, who entered second, Phenomenal finally happened. After bad camera work and Roman Reigns weird facial expressions, WWE fans finally saw the debut of "The Phenomenal One" AJ Styles. AJ didn’t win but it was an exciting almost-thirty-minute debut of the man who now calls himself the “champ that runs the camp.”

    Just to quickly recap the rest of the match, we had the following things happening during the Rumble:

    • Kevin Owens picking a fight with nearly everyone: Dean Ambrose, Sami Zayn, and he was the one who eliminated Styles. 
    • Brock Lesnar was there and the Wyatt Family had been bugging him prior but the Beast expectedly eliminated all of them, save Bray. 
    • The Rumble was complete with Kofi-Kingston-New Day antics, R-Truth being R-Truth, and opportunistic heels like The Miz who chose to sit-out and do commentary only to be eliminated when they later joined the match (Why can’t you just freaking commentate the entire time and wait until the last entrant? Wrestling logic fail). 
    • Jobbers got eliminated here and there, and the giants Big Show, Kane, Mark Henry, and Braun Strowman had their own little moments.

    It is important to note that earlier on in the match, because of some weird story-telling that WWE is just so good at, Sheamus, Rusev, Alberto del Rio (whom Roman Reigns had been beating for the past few months) decided to attack Roman Reigns in the middle of the match. Except they did the single dumbest thing we expected: they pulled Roman Reigns from the bottom rope. A powerbomb through a table and some rest and relaxation backstage, Reigns actually came back later on in the match to eliminate the three jabronis above.

    It was a great bit of story-telling however in the end. We had Dolph Ziggler, Bray Wyatt, Chris Jericho, Sheamus, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Triple H as the last eight participants, all of whom had a decent title run in them (except maybe for Sheamus). Ziggler was eliminated cause he like doesn’t ever win ever, Bray was eliminated because he had Brock to torment already, Chris Jericho didn’t win because he doesn’t need the title, and then there were four.

    It became a 2-on-2 match, Triple H and Sheamus against Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns, noting that Dean had an awesome match earlier that night against Kevin Owens. This is the part where we were all sitting at home thinking, damn, Roman will retain. Except they gave us what we wanted: Sheamus was eliminated by Reigns, who was eliminated by Triple H, who then dispatched Dean Ambrose. Hooray Triple H, but not so fast.

    It is important to take note of the importance of this match, it was truly a time wherein we didn’t know which direction the company was headed. The top stars such as John Cena and Randy Orton were on the shelf and talent seemed lacking. Call-ups from NXT occurred and with rising stars taking center stage, it was an opportunity for WWE to finally get something right.

    The beauty with the Royal Rumble is that it is the only event where WWE is given the opportunity to reinforce feuds, to revive old rivalries, and to establish new story lines with minimall build. With that said, some fans consider this particular Rumble to not only to have shared new instant stories, but to have truly shifted from the John Cena Era towards the New Era.

    Triple H winning signified actually the end of "his" era. We all knew that this could have been his last ride as his contract as a wrestler was ending. In a sense, this Rumble was truly a lead to when the old guard transferred the torch to the new guard. WrestleMania proved that the new breed, the Seth Rollins’, Kevin Owens’, and even Roman Reigns’ of WWE were ready to be the main eventers day in and day out. So far, they haven’t disappointed.

    The Rumble will always be the first stop to the road to WrestleMania but it was extra special for 2016 as it was the first stop on the road for the future.

    Watch the full match again here.


    31 Days of Wrestling is Smark Henry's way of celebrating the matches that helped define wrestling in 2016.

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