It was a night billed to be history in the making, one versus all, as Roman Reigns defended the WWE title against 29 other men in the 2016 Royal Rumble.
Now if you have been following the build up to this year’s event you will know the build has been pretty underwhelming. Vince McMahon doing all his power to screw the defending champ, but with the Roman Empire overcoming the odds at every turn, it seemed like the Rumble was going to be same old Vince, same old WWE.
But there was something different feel in the air in Orlando, and that was summed up by the Rumble’s third competitor.
The debuting AJ Styles instantly changed the complexion on WWE’s first Pay-Per-View of the year. With the Orlando crowed firmly behind the former leader of the Bullet Club you could just sense this was not going to be the night many WWE fans had anticipated.
Before we reached the main event, the Rumble offered up a pretty tasty under card, kicking-off with Dean Ambrose defending his Intercontinental belt against Kevin Owens in a last man standing match.
With these competitors known for not being exactly orthodox, this was always going to be explosive, and that is exactly what it was from the opening bell. This was arguably the perfect opening contest as both Ambrose and Owens went at it as a million miles an hour setting up the Lunatic Fringe performing a suicide dive to the outside, which sent KO sprawling over the announce table and breaking Michael Cole’s glasses.
After a cannon ball through the barricade, numerous chair shots, kendo stick exchanges each competitor was barely beating the ten count.
Both players have played their parts in the feud fantastically screaming ‘I hate you’ at one-another before Owens insane inverted neckbreaker through a table could only registered a nine-count to screams of ‘Stay Down’ from the Prize Fighter.
But the champion clearly wasn’t listening as Owens climbed to the top rope, Ambrose shoved him through two tables which the challenger had earlier set up outside the ring, unable to answer the count of ten.
With Xavier Woods still mourning the loss of Francesca, it appeared that the New Day would just be a pair of unicorns for tonight, until the crowed erupted to the beautiful tone of Francesca II.
For the match itself I don’t think anyone in the WWE universe wanted to see the Usos become three time WWE tag-team champs, especially with how gold (or in the worlds of Big E ‘All Gold Everything’) the New Day are right now.
The audible boo’s when Jey Uso hit the frog-splash from the top rope, only for the experienced Kofi Kingston to get his foot under the bottom rope.
The ending of the match was actually perfect as it looked like all the momentum was with the Uso brothers, only for Big E to grab Jey out of the air and deliver a devastating Big Ending to allow the Rooty, Tooty, Booty team of the New Day to retain the Tag-Team championship.
The United States Championship has become a bit of a ping-pong belt of late, with Kalisto and Alberto Del Rio swapping the belt with in the space of a couple of days, but with unpredictable masked Mexican in the ring anything is possible.
Kalisto’s fast pace offence is a spectacle to behold, but it can sometimes lead to mistakes, and there were some visible ones in this match, but credit to Del Rio doing his best with the situations that were put in front of him.
In a match which was a little bit sloppy in comparison to the two before it, it was Del Rio’s decision to expose the top turnbuckle which ultimately led to his downfall, as Kalisto pushed him against the exposed steal before connecting with the Salida Del Sol and becoming a two-time United States Champion, and in the process really showing himself as a singles competitor.
After the non-existent ‘Divas Revolution’ it has been enjoyable to actually see some form of a feud build in the women’s division, even if it has got old man Ric Flair grabbing at the coattails.
The match itself was a bit of an anti-climax as it seemed to be all roads pointing to Becky Lynch finally getting her first taste of gold in the WWE. But thanks to the literally kiss stealing Ric Flair’s sports jacket, Charlotte managed to retain the belt in a pretty underwhelming match, which was soon about to have the impact it lacked injected into it.
Enter the Boss, Sasha Banks, and in a way that only the Boss can, she made an emphatic statement by tossing Becky out of the ring before locking the Bank Statement on a helpless Charlotte, maybe setting up a women’s triple threat for Wrestlemania.
For the Rumble match itself, we knew that Roman Reigns would enter as number one, but it was the League of Nations Bulgarian Brute, Rusev, who entered as number two. After the WWE champ quickly dispatched of him the introduction of Styles quickly changed the complexion of the match, with the Orlando crowd firmly behind the new boy.
As bodies came and went there were some good spots, most of which came from Styles selling moves like a boss, but the real moment of hilarity when R-Truth rushed down to the ring, pulling out a ladder to climb and claim a non-existent briefcase before being swiftly dispatched by Kane.
As Luke Harper entered the fray, so did the League of Nations, pulling the champion under the bottom rope and commencing a beat down led by Mr McMahon, before the eliminated Rusev splashed Reigns through a table, which saw the number one entrant taken to the back – same old WWE.
It was time for the Wyatt’s to take centre stage as Harper was joined by Braun Strowman who cleaned house. The second surprise entrant was NXT favourite Sami Zayn who made a beeline for his former friend Kevin Owens – feud leading to mania? – and Styles was consistently teasing the Styles Clash.
It wasn’t long before Orlando was taken to Suplex City, with the Beast Brock Lesnar leaving everyone in a pile of bodies around his feet, then systematically eliminating each Wyatt member one-by-one before their leader Bray could even step between the ropes.
But that didn’t stop the Eat of Worlds using his influence to orchestrate a four-on-one beat down to toss the beast over the top rope, setting up yet another potential angles for Wrestlemania.
As the number neared number 30, the returning Reigns was greeted by boo’s as he blind-sided Sheamus before returning to the fold, proving the WWE were continuing to form, and this was even more apparent when the last competitor was non-other than the Game Triple H.
When it got down to the final four of Ambrose, Reigns, Sheamus and HHH, it seemed that the Roman Empire was going to overcome the odds.
It wasn’t a surprise to see Reigns eliminate Sheamus, but it was a genuine shock when Triple H took advantage of the distraction and sent Roman crashing to the outside.
At this point I don’t think the WWE universe was mad that it looked set of the Cerebral Assign to claim his 14th World Heavyweight Championship, they were just so ecstatic it was not Reigns.
With the King of Kings teetering Ambrose launched himself full-steam ahead at the Game, only for the veteran to use all his in-ring knowledge to bundle the Lunatic Fringe out and clinch his first world title since 2009.
Overall this was a thoroughly enjoyable PPV and it has set up several possibilities in the run in to Wrestlemania. It will be interesting to see what happens on Raw tonight. We all wait with bated breath.