WWE Royal Rumble
January 25, 2015
Wells Fargo Center – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Oh boy… Before we begin, this roundtable has a few new contributors to the VOW universe (that’s a joke, don’t worry). Lets meet our official 2015 Royal Rumble reviewers:

Alex Wendland: I’m a writer and editor at a number of places including RIGHT HERE, at Voices of Wrestling. Find me on Twitter, @AlexWendland. (Original, right?)

Matthew Stewart: @_MatthewStewart on Twitter. I am a writer, sports bettor and graduate student with a focus on popular culture and American history. I hope some day to write and teach about many very, very cool pop culture things like how the 1989 Royal Rumble was really bad. Here at VoW I write wrestling opinion pieces, narratives, and other such high minded debauchery.

Warren Taylor: @TeddyNoir on Twitter. I handle the ROH TV review and write occasional columns about controversial issues in wrestling.

Damon McDonald: @McDonaldMichael on the Twitter. I do sports reporting on Philadelphia sports teams by day and watch lots of wrestling at night. Yes I have two names – its a long story. You can read my rants about NJPW and other pro graps here on VOW.

Taylor Mitchell: @MrTCMitchell on Twitter, I am the longest running WWE show reviewer at Voices of Wrestling as the Official Smackdown reviewer since Feb. 5th, 2014 (Both an accomplishment and a very sad, sad fact) as well as a regular WWE PPV Round Table Review panelist.

Six-Man Elimination Match
Tyson Kidd and Cesaro def. The New Day (Kofi Kingston and Big E)

Alex Wendland: I missed the pre-show grabbing pizza and tonic water. I’d like to apologize to my friends and family for the shame I’ve brought them and to Cesaro for having been put in this position. In steed of my review, check out my first column for Voices of Wrestling, “The Curious Case of Claudio Castagnoli.”

Matthew Stewart: I hate the New Day and I hate Vince McMahon’s horrible ideas. -* (Cesaro and Kidd were great)

Warren Taylor: Four of the WWE’s most underused superstars put on a back and forth affair that kept the fickle Philly crowd hot. *** ¼

Michael McDonald: Joe Lanza’s “cat girl Rosebud” is back ( along with most of the ROH ladies). I can hear Vince’s conversation : “Bring by that girl and tell her to bring the cat ears”! This was supposed to be a six man but, hey, no one pays attention to these things, right? And a commercial spot in the middle of the match? Sure! Cole, Lawler and JBL have spent most of the match pushing the Network. It is a shame because the match was a real good opener and – dare I say – some decent near falls. Even Big E hitting his dive thru the ropes. Wow! Not a bad way to open ( and tease ) the show. Tyson Kidd and Cesaro have added a nice little spark to the dry-as-toast tag team division ***

Taylor Mitchell: First off. I must compliment Adam Rose’s gear. “Brass Ring Club” Bullet Club parody shirt (Cesaro entered wearing same shirt) as he is spoofing Hollywood Hogan’s gear is BRILLIANT. If these three become a stable named the “Brass Ring Club” consider me a mark. This match was entertaining despite being an after thought to the commentators in favor of Network ads. These trios could really freshen up the tag division. “Brass Ring Club” was a top 10 trend on Twitter after this match. Yea…Cesaro “doesn’t connect with the audience.” Pfft. ***

The Ascension def. The New Age Outlaws 

Alex Wendland: Something to consider when watching tonight: Is this better than the NFL Pro Bowl? Thankfully for WWE, the base answer is “always,” but if this is as good as last year’s Royal Rumble we might have to have a conversation. Billy Gunn looks like he can still go, but if you’ve been watching him for the past 20 years, you know that isn’t the case.

This match was mercifully short, but still too long. The Ascension wins in a lengthy squash. Normally 1-star, but I’ll give it 1.5 because it was the first time WWE didn’t screw up The Ascension. We’re still better than the Pro Bowl.

Matthew Stewart: I guess it’s kind of hypocritical that I want them to be putting young guys over but would like to exclude the Ascension from that. How much I hate this team and the gimmick colors for me everything they do. This match was really about the pre-match presentation from the Outlaws, and allowing the hot crowd to get in some “you’ve still got it” chants. With a crowd like this they’re going to root either for the guys they think are being underutilized or that have earned it. The Ascension is neither. As far as the work rate went, it’s exactly what you’d expect, and who cares about that with The Ascension anyway? This is a job gauntlet they’re running through right now. *

Warren Taylor: Billy Gunn got a “You’ve still got it” chant for an abdominal stretch. Bad move Philly. You gave the teams in the ring the go ahead to unleash a plethora of rest holds. A dull and uninspired effort that should have been on the pre-show. *¼

Michael McDonald: As a Philly guy, the NAO got a pop in my house with the Phanatic hats. Then it was a stream of “Is that the Ass Man? He is still alive? Why are they wrestling? Why are they starting the show with this?” I had no real answers. Billy Gunn is bigger than The Ascension. Match was total garbage. I really am trying to find a silver lining in this match but , truth be told , aside from the standard NAO ring entrance and a nod to the 90’s, there wasn’t much to get excited about. *1/4

Taylor Mitchell: I’ve said it in my Smackdown reviews and I’ll say it here. I love the idea of a “Demolition/L.O.D.” throwback tag team, but I’d rather the WWE make a trade of these two guys to CHIKARA for the Devastation Corporation. Billy Gunn dwarfs these guys! If Billy Gunn makes you look small then you can’t be pushed as a “big man/power team”. The Fall of Man spot to end this match might have been the best I’ve seen them pull it off. Dylan Hales said it on the Shake Them Ropes Podcast, the WWE Tag division is a comedy division now. The Ascension should take Joe Lanza’s route and join the comedy troupe.

WWE Tag Team Championship
The Usos (c) def. The Miz and Damien Mizdow

Alex Wendland: They showed a promo for Triple H on the Stone Cold podcast ala Mr. McMahon’s appearance. The last one was great, but I hope Stone Cold has some NXT conversations lined up.

HUGE love for Mizdow. Plenty of cheers in the arena, too. Mizdow has taken a burial-worthy gimmick and made it not just work, but succeed wildly. As for the faces in this match? Despite fancy new shorts, silence for the Usos. We get our first poorly thought out “this is awesome” chant for Mizdow’s mimicry schtick and a botch-that-sort-of-worked as a Harlem Hangover to the outside.

The Usos get the win with a series of splashes. A fine match if it hadn’t been on RAW for the past 6 weeks. And we didn’t get the surprise return I so dearly wanted…maybe later tonight. **

Matthew Stewart: The Usos are inoffensive enough. A perfect old-school babyface team with a pretty decent work rate. Miz and Mizdow are of course the Mizdow show, which is perfect for this sort of crowd. The right amount of near  falls, big moves and a perfectly paced build in my opinion. Still, the outcome is no surprise. I am looking forward to the inevitable Miz/Mizdow break up, but still worry about Sandow being abandoned if/when he loses the stunt double gimmick. ** ½

Warren Taylor: Mizdow is good for a chuckle and the Usos have perfected the art of the slightly above average tag match. Combine the two and you get a watchable title contest that was short, sweet and to the point. ** ¾

Michael McDonald: I need to get this off of my chest. I hate both of these teams. The Miz and Mizdow gimmick is really one of those things that I just don’t get. The Usos entrance makes me want to eat a bullet. So, if this match has any positive I will walk away from it with a smile. There, I feel better.

It is not looking good. Miz gets crotched on the top rope so Mizdow does the same. Ball shot humor rulz!! LOLZ !!1!! Usos hit the big dives but Miz missed the catch on one that looked pretty bad for the Uso. Usos get the win with a splash from the top on Miz. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been,  but I went into the match hoping my heart would stop before the bell rang. **1/4

Taylor Mitchell: The antithesis to “X-Pac Heat” has got to be the “Zack Ryder Pop”. And the pops Mizdow receives are “Zack Ryder Pops”. This adulation from the WWE Universe is going to go no where. Post-Mizzes break up Sandow will be nothing. He was better of with the Lanny Poffo gimmick. This match was decent. The Uso’s did their usual shtick, but won the match with “More Uso’s For Your Buck” Super Kick, Avalanche Power Bomb, and Snuka Splash. **1/4

The Bella Twins def. Paige & Natalya 

Alex Wendland: Prior to this match we were treated to a cringe worthy sketch/advertisement for WWE Immortals featuring J&J Security. The Bellas have new green gear, but this match is really for the “Best Looking Tag Team Ever” championship. Prestigious stuff. Also, it should be a decent wrestling match.

A solidly wrestled match ends abruptly with, of all things, a forearm from Nikki to Natty. Weird ending, disjointed match. Still, congratulations are in order to The Bella Twins, reigning Best Looking Tag Team Ever champions. Not an NTX-level women’s match, but all four did well and the crowd didn’t chant for CM Punk. Progress. #LOLNIKKIWINZ

Matthew Stewart: Paige sure is pretty. I watched Rockin’ Robin vs. Judy Martin from the 1989 Rumble last night which included multiple failed small package attempts and at least two sequences in which both women fell down simultaneously without any contact between the two. All things relative, I have now watched that and then this and still kept my eye sight. Miracles. *

Warren Taylor: This match had a nice story. The Bellas used their experience as a team to isolate Nattie and get the win. A little long in spots but I appreciate the effort in constructing an effective in-ring narrative. ** ¼

Michael McDonald: I like watching the backstage stuff in Philly. I mean I work there most nights. The J&J stuff was in the visiting NBA locker room. The WWE won’t have access to the Flyers or Sixers locker room. They are usually locked with card access. Oh wait!! It is Divas time! It is Paige with subtle girl-on-girl action! It is the Bellas looking like stripper Green Lanterns. It is an “Ole” chant that JBL says is for Paige. Is there anyone who cares about this? I will give Rich and Joe $3 each if they can provide proof that a Diva related keyword search resulted in a unique visitor to this site. They have given this match about the same amount time as the tag-title match. Natalya is pinned after a forearm smash. I am not kidding*

Taylor Mitchell: This match was a battle of which WWE couple is going to bat 1.000 tonight. Kidd/Natalya, Nikki/Cena, (And)/or, Bryan/Brie? Now that the Bellas win, let’s hope its Bryan/Brie. This just shows you my interest level in this Diva’s match. It wasn’t bad. The Diva’s division could have used a solid Diva’s title match in this spot instead though.

WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Brock Lesnar © def. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins

Alex Wendland: An hour into the show and we’re already into the dueling main events, and OH MY do they hate John Cena (the character). Settle in for a couple of long ones. Rollins gets cheers after being the best heel since, well, Stephanie, so not that long ago. But still, rarified air.

The Undertaker, The Rock, Brock Lesnar – the only three entrances I get excited for. Lesnar has an aura about him. Star power. Somehow Lesnar is the face in this match. I didn’t think the end of RAW would be enough to fully turn him.

For a triple threat match, this was incredible. Match opens with Lesnar suplexing everyone everywhere. As usual with triple threats, the early going is a vehicle for the next novelty three-man highspot, but Seth actually shows a rarely demonstrated strategy – letting the other two beat each other down and then pick up the pieces.

These three beat the bajeezus out of each other, and the Rollins/Lesnar/Announce table spot was star-making stuff for Rollins. I came into this match unhappy it was a triple threat, but this has been truly exceptional – a title match worthy of Royal Rumble. The unpredictability of anything with Lesnar combined with a fresh face like Rollins has been a revelation. All three wrestlers went for the pinfall early and often. Brock Lesnar retains by being the monster we already know he is, but the Seth Rollins was the star of this match. We’re going to look back at this match as Rollins’ coming out party. Not only did Rollins do the top rope-to-announce table spot, he brought out the Phoenix Splash. Seth played his role to perfection, all three did. The stage is halfway set for the ideal WrestleMania XXXI main event – next we’ll see if the other half is well-considered. I wouldn’t normally be optimistic regarding WWE booking, but this triple threat was so good that I’m considering it. I could write about this match for hours. If you haven’t seen it before reading this, go watch it now. ****½

Matthew Stewart: Taking away nothing from the returning Daniel Bryan, in my opinion Seth Rollins is the best in-ring performer in the WWE right now. Combine that with Lesnar who is a heat-seeking missile, and Cena who, for all his shortcomings, generally can rise to a level of greatness when its presented to him, and there were lofty expectations for this match. It didn’t disappointment. While slightly overbooked here and there — and I can still go without the Noble/Mercury interference nonsense — this was about as well booked a Triple Threat match as you can put together. Rollins carried a lot of the match by really putting over all of Cena and Lesnar’s power moves, and also provided some extra “wow” factor with some cool counters, as you’d expect. They teased using the briefcase quite a bit, which is maybe some foreshadowing? In any event, Cena and Lesnar and now Rollins have carried a fantastic program through the last six months. It’s just about the only thing the WWE has had going on for it in that period. Tonight was a great continuation of that story, when I think many of us thought this was the end point. I can’t wait to see what they do with the title/Lesnar going forward…even if that means later tonight. Easily the best match of 2015 for the WWE. **** ¼

Warren Taylor: The early portion of the contest was a showcase for who all three combatants are. Brock, the monster, came to kick ass and suplex the world. Cena, the valiant hero, got a few shots in on the monster but nothing more. Seth Rollins, the weasley little shit, only got involved at opportune moments.

Two things from mid-match stuck out to me. First, Cena and Rollins brining out their finishers multiple times to kill Brock made sense. Kudos to them for finally making that spot work. Second, Seth Rollins had his star making moments with the dive to the outside on Lesnar and the Buckle Bomb to Cena.

Mr. Rollins was not done though. He survived everything John Cena threw at him. Everything. Right when Rollins finally had Cena down and after he broke out the PHOENIX SPLASH… the beast rose from the abyss. Lesnar survived two more briefcase shots before hitting an F-5 for the win.

Folks, this match del Seth Rollins looked and became a star tonight. Lesnar winning adds a ton of intrigue to the Rumble because no matter who wins the question remains—who can kill the monster and take the crown? **** ½

Michael McDonald: Wow…this turned into a super fun match. Lesnar starts off suplex-ing all the things laying everyone out including J&J. In fact that is exactly what the first 4 minutes were. Suplex after suplex from Brock. Lesnar took three AAs and a Curbstomp with not much build – just kinda took them and got saved – but was put in a position of the… heat-getting babyface? Lesnar took big move after big move including a massive elbow off the top thru a table by Rollins. This put him out ( for like 5 minutes ) selling “broken ribs”. Then…just when you figured this was a Rollins win ( after Rollins hits a Phoenix Splash ) Brock no-sells, blasts into the ring and destroys Rollins. I don’t think you could ask for much more from this match. Two four-star plus matches on two consecutive nights for Philadelphia  ( The Young Bucks & AJ Styles vs ACH & Matt Sydal & Cedric Alexander being the other) ****1/4

Taylor Mitchell: This was really, really good. Brock Lesnar killed everyone the majority of the match. Seth Rollins pulled out an absolute STAR MAKING performance. This guy HAS IT. If you had asked me when he was the Ring of Honor World Champion if I ever saw him as a top in the WWE I would laugh at you, but he is the only heel in WWE to generate true heat and he is one of the WWE’s top in-ring performers. Cena didn’t do too bad, but this match was really built on the phenomenal work of Rollins and Lesnar. Rollins pulling out the Corkscrew 450, harkening back to his Tyler Black days, was the cherry on top to this fantastic match. Rollins vs Brock would rule and Rollins vs Cena would rule. What will main event “Fast Lane”? (Unless Thurmond “Sparky” Plugg is making his big in-ring return!) ****¼

2015 Royal Rumble Match – Winner: Roman Reigns 

Alex Wendland: The prestigious No. 1 spot goes to the Miz, R-Truth is No. 2. Bold prediction: this won’t be relevant by the end of the match.

Feel good spots in the Rumble include DDP(Yoga) and Bubba Ray Dudley, but all is ruined when Daniel Bryan goes out far too early – far too early meaning he wasn’t the last one in the ring. Philadelphia responded with silence, boos and “Daniel Bryan” chants.

And with Daniel Bryan went my interest in this match – and so did the WWE Universe’s. It exemplifies everything wrong with the way WWE works. This match sucked and ruined all of the goodwill and optimism built up from an INCREDIBLE title match just before it. I almost wish I was watching the Pro Bowl.

Not even The Most Electrifying Man in Entertainment could save this trainwreck. The crowd booed The Rock. That’s how bad this was. This is a review, not a column, but know exactly what this was: DUD. 

Matthew Stewart: Ugh. Well. Look. WWE put themselves in this position. They knew that if they were going to continue to go with Reigns in spite of all the signs that he’s not ready — and especially in a smark town like Philadephia — that it wasn’t going to go over well. I don’t know if they foresaw this happening, but it is what it is. Here’s the problem they were faced with: How are we going to get Reigns over and get Bryan out of there without killing it? They basically had two options: Get Bryan out early and hope the crowd recovered by the end and didn’t crap on Reigns, or get Bryan out late and reduce the potential for the fans giving up on the match. They chose the former, I guess in order to protect Reigns. That was a mistake, and the crowd died on the match. Even the non-surprise, surprise of Rock showing up couldn’t save it.

The WWE has a long term problem with the way Vince McMahon insists on creating his stars which is starting to show short term cracks. Look, Vince: It’s not just that we don’t want John Cena anymore, it’s that we don’t want that John Cena type of babyface leading the company anymore. That’s what the older fanbase is (vocally) telling you. And until (if ever) Vince gets back to booking the top of his shows like he wants to entertain his fans instead of wanting his fans to be entertained by what he wants, we’re going to have this problem. It’s been around for a long, long time now and there is just no resolution other than getting the book out of his hands, and that’s not going to happen. That’s a sober reality.

There were some good surprises in this match. Bully (Bubba) Ray returned with a surprise appearance, surely making Dixie Carter’s heart rate jump. DDP also made an appearance. They gave Bray Wyatt a heck of a push and Rusev as well. They protected some of their guys. That stuff was all good. But it’s all going to be overshadowed by doing what they do at the top.

This very well could set back the career of Roman Reigns by several years. It’s not just a matter of what you do when the whole crowd is behind you, but what you can do when there is adversity. As someone mentioned on Twitter, last year Reigns was in the spot of being the guy the crowd hoped saved us from a stale outcome. This year he was the stale outcome. That’s because of how they insist upon forcing their shit on us in the face of obvious, better opportunities. And so now we see. Do they scramble to fix it by hotshotting a bunch of nonsense in order to get the “WresteMania” moment at the end like last year, by shoehorning Bryan or someone else back in? Or do they really think and want to gamble the near term future of this company on Roman Reigns? It’s going to be an interesting and potentially bizarre few months. For the deflating way this was booked and excepting the solid work from guys and good surprise appearances, I’m conflicted. But I just can’t excuse Vince constantly pulling this crap. * ½

Warren Taylor: The WWE alienated their audience for a second year in a row with the difference being that this year the main event will not be changed. Get ready for a joyless journey to Wrestlemania 31.

Michael McDonald: This match is an exact snapshot of everything that is wrong with this company. We are going in Vince’s direction. They don’t care if you like it. They don’t care if you don’t. They tell stories, dammit! They know what you want before you do. Boo all you want, Philadelphia. JBL is going to talk over it anyway. It doesn’t matter. Cheer all you want. It doesn’t matter. The Royal Rumble match itself usually isn’t great …but it is fun. This time it wasn’t fun…in fact it was anything but. The Rock …the FUCKING ROCK…couldn’t save it. Telling stories. This fucking company. A big fat obese DUD

Taylor Mitchell: I would have rather ate my right foot than watch this match. I said this after the TLC PPV and I’ll say it here. If I was stranded on an island with only this match to watch then I was drowned myself. This was the absolute worst Royal Rumble match I have ever seen in my life. And that is not sour grapes, because I’m a Daniel Bryan mark. This is my perspective as a fan of the WWE for over 25 years. To have Kane and Big Show finish it out with Reigns was a terrible decision. The crowd crapped all over Reigns this entire match. Then the WWE sends out the Rock to save his babyface heat and they STILL boo Reigns! HOW CAN YOU NOT SEE THIS?! VINCE McMAHON HAS LOST IT. I have never liked the Rock and never will, but even HE had to realize something was wrong here when he was holding Reigns arm up and the crowd is booing him louder than the “Die, Rocky, Die!” days. The WWE has officially lost it. I have zero faith in this company and I have lived a life of being a WWE apologist and an eternal optimist when it comes to this company. Not anymore. I could go on all night…….. I don’t even remember how Rich wanted us to rate this. -*****. 1/10. two thumbs down. Craptastic. Take your pick.