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    Monday, January 25, 2016

    The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: Royal Rumble 2016

    This year’s Royal Rumble Match was really good, so good that I daresay it was phenomenal.

    It’s easily one of the best Royal Rumbles over the last decade; and it didn’t lack big moments, shocking surprises, and mark-out moments. But it wasn’t perfect, and a lot of its shortcomings surrounded the way they handled the now-former WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns.

    I’ll be doing my Pay-Per-Review different, just for today, due to the events of the Royal Rumble PPV, so I’ll start with my thoughts on the main event and move downward on the show’s card from there. Let’s do this!

    Triple H wins the 2016 Royal Rumble match to become the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion

    Okay, let’s start with Roman Reigns and how terribly they booked him in this match. From the moment Vince McMahon stacked the deck against Roman, it was clear that the theme of the match was “One (Roman) vs. All”. That wasn’t the case because the only ones who really ganged up on Roman were the League of Nations and Triple H. In fact, as a result of the League of Nations (sans King Barrett) beating Roman to a pulp at ringside, the Big Dog had to spend most of the Rumble being tended to by medical. He only resurfaced in the match when there were only a handful of competitors left.

    Good Lord, WWE. That was the absolute worst way to write Roman’s Rumble arc! We’ve said previously on the RAW Reviews and on the SGP Podcast that win or lose, Roman is supposed to come out looking strong provided that there aren’t any shenanigans that make him look weak in the process. And that’s exactly what we got. Hell, Chris Jericho finished with this year’s Iron Man time—sorry, but Roman’s time shouldn’t really count because he spent most of the match being a jabroni—and he’s got a dadbod from drinking too much Grey Goose! Given that Jericho lasted all the way until the final five, the match was more “Jericho vs. All”.

    I have no problems with Triple H winning the Rumble and the title, even if the Trips-Roman feud doesn’t really need the championship to be a main event attraction at WrestleMania Star. Unlike Sheamus, he’ll actually get the right heat as a heel champion because he knows how to play the part so damn well. I’m also cool with how Dean Ambrose was the final elimination, instead of Roman. That made Ambrose look like such a credible main event threat, especially when you consider that he won a fucking Last Man Standing match just hours ago. It also spared the WWE of having to put up with the trolls who would have booed Roman and cheered Trips in the final two.

    Now, let’s talk about AJ Styles. AJ fucking Styles.

    WWE Royal Rumble: AJ Styles enters the Royal Rumble Match
    Entrant No. 3 in the #RoyalRumble Match is simply PHENOMENAL! AJ Styles has arrived in WWE! Watch WWE Royal Rumble LIVE NOW on WWE Network: WWENetwork.com
    Posted by WWE on Sunday, January 24, 2016

    We all knew it was going to happen, and at the same time, we didn’t know until it actually happened. For the second straight year, a former TNA World Heavyweight Champion appeared at #3 in the Royal Rumble match, and AJ Styles’ WWE debut was enough to give the IWC a collective orgasm. Styles had a great showing and his elimination left the door open for a potential feud with Kevin Owens, which is enough to please all of the Phenomenal One’s fans. The only downer from his time in the Rumble was that you could feel the IWC’s collective concern for his well-being every time Ryback got his hands on him. Just kidding, Beezy. No, seriously, don’t fuck AJ up, man.

    One last note on AJ Styles: at some point, he, Chris Jericho, Kane, Roman Reigns and Goldust were all in the ring at the same time. It took a while to sink in that we live in a world where Chris Jericho and AJ Styles were in the same WWE ring. Goosebumps.

    Here's a video that my friend Billy Añonuevo of Play FM took as we lost our shit at Skinny Mike's:

    Here are my thoughts on the other relevant moments from the Royal Rumble match:

    • Having Big E catch Kofi and hoist him up on his shoulders, only to have Kofi eventually get eliminated thanks to a springboard dropkick from Jericho made for great comedy. The New Day was an absolute joy to watch in the Rumble match, though I wish that at least Big E would have been in the match, too.

    • Speaking of teams, out of all the teams on the main roster, I understand why they only had one representative from the Social Outcasts, New Day, and Prime Time Players—which might not even be a team anymore. There are only 30 spots in the Royal Rumble match, and having all four Social Outcasts or even all three members of the New Day would have taken away from a character who could have advanced a more important storyline. Good choice to have Curtis Axel represent the Social Outcasts because of the continuity from last year’s Rumble.

    • Another great moment was Bray Wyatt staring Triple H down. You’d think that just because Bray’s a heel, he’d do Trips’ bidding, but they played that hand well by having Bray go against HHH’s wishes. After all, Bray Wyatt is an alpha male himself, and he wouldn’t take kindly to other alphas telling him what to do. Wyatt was booked pretty well in the match, to the point that for a split second, I actually thought he would walk away as the champion.

    • Yes, we’re getting Brock Lesnar vs. Bray Wyatt. The way the Wyatts took Brock Lesnar should make that perfectly clear. Braun Strowman is obviously being groomed to be the next big monster after Big Show and Kane retire. Hell, Strowman eliminated both those behemoths.

    • Our PWR/Lucha Underground reviewer Anthony Cuello also pointed out that the match itself was paced well, particularly with Styles’ elimination coming just right before Sami Zayn made his Royal Rumble debut. You had Styles, who people really wanted to see, and then Kevin Owens eliminated him, so people needed someone to root for again and enter Zayn. Letting Zayn eliminate Owens was a nice touch, and I’m looking forward to Sami and KO continuing their long feud on the main roster. We already got a taste of it in the Rumble, Vince. The WWE Universe is ready.

    • There weren’t a whole lot of useless entrants this year, which is a relief. At least on that end, Creative understood that the gravity of this year’s Rumble meant that we couldn’t afford to waste a spot on the Godfather or Sgt. Slaughter. While it was obvious the Miz wasn’t going to win, he played his part very well by going straight to the announcers’ table to do commentary and waiting for an opportune time to enter the Royal Rumble match. That was grade-A booking for a smarmy, egotistical, entitled heel like the Miz.

    • Even guys like Jack Swagger served a purpose—which was to show just how pissed and strong Lesnar was as a Rumble threat. While I still don’t get how or why Swagger and Mark Henry became a tag team, I get why they won their kickoff tag match. This year’s Rumble match is most likely Mark Henry’s last. And lest I forget, R-Truth mistaking the Rumble for the Money in the Bank Ladder Match was funny as hell. Thank you, Truth and Mizark.

    Charlotte defeated Becky Lynch to retain the WWE Divas Championship

    As our editor-in-chief Ro Moran correctly predicted, it wasn’t Becky Lynch’s time to win the Divas Championship. Despite this, she put up a gutsy performance that only endeared her more to the WWE Universe and to your humble scribe.

    It was neither woman’s best match, but they still manage to captivate us with every near-fall, culminating in the crescendo when Ric Flair’s presence at ringside paid dividends yet again. Corey Graves hit the nail on the head on the pre-show when he bluntly stated why the WWE Universe can’t get behind Charlotte. The champ is not relatable because she’s simply genetically superior and gets the job done. Graves also deserves a lot of credit for carrying his disdain for Becky Lynch over to the main roster from NXT, saying that Becky’s relatability may win the fans over but that it may not be enough to win the title. And that’s exactly what this story has been so far.

    The mark-out moment came at the end of Charlotte’s post-match beatdown of Becky Lynch, when Sasha Banks made her presence felt. On her own, the Boss slowly made her way towards the ring, stared Charlotte down, and proceeded to kick Becky out of the ring.

    I thought we were going to see a reunion of the BFFs, Charlotte and Sasha’s tag team in NXT.

    Instead, Sasha attacked Charlotte once the latter had turned her back on the Boss and the champ found herself on the receiving end of a Bank Statement.

    I know I’m not the only one who’s excited and pumped for a Charlotte-Becky-Sasha storyline. These three were the catalysts of the Divas Revolution on the main roster, and whether it was circumstantial or by design, we finally have a story starring all three of them. Putting Sasha in the tweener role is a good way to take advantage of her popularity, while not fully committing to turning her face since Sasha’s got a better mastery of her character as a heel.

    Kalisto defeated Alberto Del Rio to win the WWE United States Championship

    Much like Becky-Charlotte, the Kalisto-ADR saga was actually well-written, with the only difference being that Kalisto’s rivalry with ADR took less time to set up. Nonetheless, this story was easy to digest and grew organically such that we were able to get behind Kalisto without much effort.

    The match itself was fun, and you could see an extra pep in Kalisto’s step, most likely because he knew he was winning the title tonight. He pulled off a star-making performance, one in which he just brought his A-game and his energy. For his part, Alberto Del Rio played the overconfident heel about as well as he could play it. As much as I enjoy and like Del Rio’s work, he’s one of the few modern performers who can take advantage of his knowledge of ring psychology to make even his fans hate him.

    Giving Kalisto the moment of winning the U.S. Championship on a huge stage such as the Royal Rumble event should set Kalisto up for a solid run as the champion. I want to see him fend off a challenger or two, but I wouldn’t want him to go on a long run because smaller wrestlers like Kalisto are much more fun to watch when they’re chasing after the gold. At some point, seeing the face champion overcome all the challengers will get boring. As for Del Rio, I wouldn’t mind seeing him go after Dean Ambrose and the Intercontinental Championship during the Road to WrestleMania.

    The New Day (Big E & Kofi Kingston) w/ Xavier Woods defeated The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso) to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship

    This match and feud got old really quickly because we’ve already seen this before. In fact, there wasn’t anything new to this feud aside from the New Day’s Francesca-related antics. Unfortunately, the demise of Francesca wasn’t even related to the Usos’ hunt for the Tag Team Championships since it was Chris Jericho who broke the trombone. You have to hand it to the New Day, though. They really try their best to make sure their act doesn’t go stale, and introducing Francesca II was proof that New Day, indeed, rocks.

    Don’t get me wrong. The New Day didn’t have a bad match against the Usos. It just wasn’t something I could get invested in because the New Day has already beaten the Usos before. Plus, all the Usos did to earn this title shot was to defeat the New Day in a non-title match. Moving forward, they have to start shaking things up for the New Day by having them defend against other teams. If it requires the champs to turn face or tweener, then Creative shouldn’t be afraid of doing it. The New Day is one of the most over acts on the roster, and they have more heel teams on the roster anyway.

    The highlight of the match, though, was Big E catching Jey Uso in midair for a Big Ending. Damn, that was awesome.

    Dean Ambrose defeated Kevin Owens in a Last Man Standing match to retain the WWE Intercontinental Championship

    After the events of the Royal Rumble match and their Last Man Standing match, Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose have pretty much wrapped up their rivalry.

    I’m satisfied that they wrapped it up with Ambrose getting a definitive win over Owens at a pay-per-view over the Intercontinental Championship. The biggest problem with Ambrose’s booking since the Shield went their separate ways was that he could never win big matches when they couldn’t. That changed when he began facing Kevin Owens for the IC title. It was a good move on Creative’s part to book Ambrose to win after a gutsy performance and to dig deep later on during the Royal Rumble match itself. That made Ambrose look more like a credible main event threat than Roman Reigns by the end of the night.

    Ambrose’s match with Owens was no classic, and it overloaded on the big moments more than it wowed me with the pacing and psychology. The setups were pretty obvious to call as a viewer, making the trained eye assume that because weapon X was set up here, then Y will happen after Z. Nonetheless, it wasn’t hard to mark out and appreciate what Ambrose and Owens brought to what looks like the final chapter of their feud. Moments like Owens hitting the Cannonball on Ambrose through the barricades, Ambrose backdropping Owens through the steel chairs, and of course, the finish—where Ambrose pushed Owens from the top turnbuckle onto a couple of chairs stacked on top of one another for the 10-count and win—sent the message that this was a blood feud on its last legs loud and clear.

    Kickoff: Mark Henry & Jack Swagger defeated The Dudley Boyz, The Ascension, and Damien Sandow & Darren Young to advance to the Royal Rumble match

    I do not understand why Sandow and Young are tagging together.

    I also don’t get why D-Von Dudley has never been in a Royal Rumble match.

    This should have been the Dudley Boyz’ match to win, but it wasn’t meant to be for one reason or another.

    The only meaningful takeaway I have from this match is that it was a parting gift for Mark Henry, who’s most likely retiring this year. Thank you for one last Royal Rumble memory, Mizark.


    Despite all my complaints, this year’s Royal Rumble event was one hell of a show. It was made even better by the fact that we got to fill up Skinny Mike’s Sports Bar in BGC! On behalf of the Smark Henry team, PWR, and our friends from FOX, thank you for joining us on a Monday morning to catch what was an amazing and enjoyable show!

    This is one instance in which the big moments were more than enough to make up for whatever the rest of the show wasn’t able to accomplish or provide. This year’s Royal Rumble event and Royal Rumble match will surely be talked about for the next several months, and was a great way to cap off what has been the best month for the wrestling business in a long time. It’ll take a lot to surpass what the industry has accomplished in January alone, so let’s manage our expectations so that we don’t get disappointed, okay?

    But, man. AJ Styles started 2016 on New Japan’s roster and competed at Wrestle Kingdom 10 on January 4. January 25 is about to end and he just competed in his first ever Royal Rumble match. Damn. What a world we live in.

    Oh, and the 2016 Royal Rumble event gets an A in my book.

    Photos from WWE.


    Stan Sy (@_StanSyis the Editor at Large of Smark Henry, and is also a radio DJ, an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He enjoys watching WWE, NXT, Lucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. Every now and then, he dresses up in fancy suits to book matches as PWR's longest-tenured General Manager to date.
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: Royal Rumble 2016 Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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