JANUARY 26, 2020

Watch: WWE Network

Meet our reviewers: 

Kelly Harrass: Having only watched Lesnar vs. Rey Mysterio since he hung up his WWE Review Jersey, Kelly returns to the game tonight at the Royal Rumble. The Fiend still sucks, but the Rumble is always fun. Find Kelly over on Twitter at @comicgeekelly and make sure to check out the 500th episode of the Panels on Pages PoP!-Cast later this week. 

Garrett Kidney: Kelly decided to return for the Rumble so out of solidarity the dream team rides again. Garrett also likes Rumbles a lot. Follow him on Twitter @garrettkidney

Joel Abraham: Joel is only reviewing this because he is off work until February 17th due to the Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak and is extremely bored. Follow him on Twitter @joeljabraham for photos of his lovely cats.


Kelly: Somehow, listening to Michael Cole say Shorty G over and over might be more absurd than anything else in this company. Since this was a preshow match, I’ll give this an appropriate amount of effort. This felt very long and wasn’t very good. ** 

Garrett: Cast your minds back to the King of the Ring last year. Chad Gable was allowed to be himself, have great matches and he got over. The fine folks of Knoxville, Tennessee – Mayor Kane country – took to Gable that night. They believed in him. Gable lost that night. Then he lost to Corbin a bunch more. Then he became Shorty G and here we are. On the Royal Rumble pre-show in Houston, Texas, nobody cared about Shorty G. Nobody believed in him. He was a clown. A cartoon character not to be taken seriously. This was a long boring match, a complete disappointment given the competitors. The small man lost to the big man after getting his ass kicked for the entire match. This company is bad. Chad Gable deserves better. **1/4

Joel: I think I accidentally tuned into an episode of The Simpsons because all I saw was Groundskeeper Willie beating up Bart Simpson for an extended period of time. **


Garrett: Much of this left me feeling a little cold. It doesn’t help that it played to a largely indifferent audience still filing into the building and that Andrade hasn’t been completely rehabbed from the stop/start nature of his main roster booking (not to mention Carrillo still hasn’t really connected). The work was solid and there was some really good action but the end felt more merciful than the climax of a great match. ***1/4

Joel: The similar hairstyles and wrestling styles makes it looks like Carrillo is wrestling an evil bearded tanned version of himself. This was pretty good with some nice, crisp work, but never really got out of third gear. I was waiting for a hot closing stretch that never came and the absence of which did a disservice to what was an otherwise decent match because it just fizzled out towards the end. The dead crowd didn’t help either. The prevailing feeling when I watch WWE is that I’m seeing talented workers who have much better matches in them, but like caged birds, are not allowed to fly. Now I feel sad. ***¼


Kelly: It feels like these two have been feuding for years and this was a fitting match to close that saga. I enjoyed bits of this here and there, but it was primarily an overly long walk and brawl. You expect that with a match like this, but I would argue that Roman and Corbin went for an especially long amount of time. I’d wager the size of the playground here played a factor in that. I’d like to get a step count for how far these two walked from bell to bell. There was a solid match in there, but you need to edit out all the transition walking segments to get there. Ultimately, this was a boring match with the Usos as the MVP’s. **¼ 

Garrett: A very long, boring, uninspired walk and brawl only slightly improved by the finish being a cool visual. I’d say I hope these two never wrestle again but who am I kidding, a good portion of the Rumble is probably going to be built around them. **1/2

Joel: When I saw this match announced, I hoped it’d be absolutely terrible so I could laugh at it. And it did not disappoint! A tedious walk-and-brawl that inexplicably turned into a tag-team contest with four people not even involved in the match, the fans chanting ‘USA!’ as various international announce tables were destroyed, and a Porta Potty spot where the announcers refused to use the word toilet. Towards the end, and once I had switched off the discerning part of my brain and accepted this for the absolute nonsense that it is, I had a big smile on my face and was laughing out loud. Surely that counts for something – I was entertained! **


Kelly: It’s Rumble review time, so you all know what that means; I ramble throughout the course of the match giving my thoughts as it goes. To be honest, Bianca Belair got a better reaction than I expected. Mighty Molly was not a name I’ve thought of in probably a decade, I forgot she ever did that character. Bliss and Cross need to work on their Best Friends hug spot. Molly probably shouldn’t wrestle anymore, her offense always looks like it’s going to hurt someone. Lana instantly became the top heel in the company for me when she had them cut off her tremendous music. Good for Mercedes Martinez getting this spot and getting a good dominant entrance offense stretch. Lana gets eliminated first by Liv Morgan, who then gets eliminated by Lana. They’re still doing this story, huh? I’m not normally a fan of Otis antics, but his elimination save for Mandy Rose was legitimately hilarious. Now it looks like he wandering around ringside totally nude and it’s rather upsetting. It’s really sad how much of a nonfactor Candice LeRae was in this match, getting eliminated after pretty much doing nothing. Poor Kairi Sane only did a slight bit more before meeting the same fate. Here comes Tamina continuing to coast on her “sorry we covered up a murder your dad did” tour. Luckily she was eliminated quickly. It’s wild that Chelsea Green was accompanied by Tony Khan. Never would have thought we’d see an AEW rep on this show. Bianca Belair had a solid closing stretch that wasn’t really the closing stretch, but was more of a reset for Charlotte to get a big entrance. Tonk Storm’s entrance made me realize that I don’t think I’ve recognized the entrance music for any of the women from NXT. We live in a pretty bad era for WWE entrance music right now. Bianca Belair gets eliminated after 33 minutes, easily having the most impressive run in the match. It’s clear that the company sees a bright future for her. Kelly Kelly makes her entrance and the dance level of the match instantly rises. Thankfully, she’s eliminated rather quickly before she can hurt someone. At some point Beth Phoenix got the back of her head busted open. It’s hard to tell how bad it was, but the back of her hair was mostly red. Naomi does the “I fell out and landed somewhere that wasn’t the floor” spot and it feels like she’s been making her way back to the ring for days. Shayna enters the match and starts to body anyone wishing arm’s reach, racking up four eliminations in seconds. Naomi makes her way back in and quickly becomes Baszler’s seventh elimination. The closing stretch between Phoenix, Charlotte, and Shayna was pretty solid, but I was slightly disappointed to see Charlotte throw out Baszler and win the match. Baszler carries herself like 05/06 Samoa Joe and I would have loved to see a Mania build between her and Becky. While not an all-time great Rumble, this was a pretty good one. It flowed extremely well, which might actually be the most important thing about a match like this. ***¾ 

Garrett: This was a really enjoyable Rumble. Not among the best Rumbles ever but a really simple easy to watch match. Rarely lulling, the ring never became overstuffed, the action kept ticking over and there were some fun surprises like Molly Holly, Mercedes Martinez, Beth Phoenix (who carried a large portion of the match despite gushing blood for a long time) and even a harmlessly fun Santina Marella cameo (made more worthwhile for being able to hear the Billy and Chuck theme again). Bianca Belair had a tremendous showing, not just being “given” a good showing either by breaking the women’s elimination record – she was the standout performer in the match. This did drive home how bad most of the theme songs are in the women’s division – the crowd only recognized who was entering when their name appeared on the tron, not when their bland music played. Charlotte is a very boring winner (especially when Shayna was right there at the end) but this was tonnes of fun. ***3/4

Joel: Having noted women’s wrestling aficionado Jerry Lawler on commentary for this one is a choice. That said, this was a very good Rumble. A huge improvement on last year’s offering. The first half was particularly strong, with Bianca Belair excelling when handed a strong push and making herself into a main roster commodity. The second half was the story of Charlotte overcoming the odds, including the surprise addition of Shayna Baszler. The Charlotte win is a decision that is a bit disappointing and was greeted by mostly indifference and some booing from the crowd. I wish they’d have gone with Shayna but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this was a quality Royal Rumble, well-worked and mostly well-booked. ****


Kelly: Hey, this was really bad. Evans is a terrible wrestler with a couple solid-looking spots up her sleeve. Her kid didn’t even have the decency to take a bump.  

Garrett: They had the unenviable task of following a Rumble. They failed. **

Joel: The commentary team was working overtime to try to establish Lacey Evans, an inherently dislikable person, as the babyface. The match was okay, the work was mostly fine, but the crowd was absolutely dead. Being put on the spot after a Rumble is always a tough one, so they needed a sense of urgency to compensate for that but did not bring it. Lacey Evans just isn’t a good wrestler. On the plus side, the match was mercifully short. **¼


Kelly: It’s legitimately depressing to see one of the greatest wrestlers to ever live be stuck in this goofy bullshit. I’ll be positive for a moment on this and say that Daniel Bryan managed to drag a halfway decent match out of the Fiend, the second good singles match of Bray Wyatt’s career. Take this match out of the context of anything else around it and it was solid underdog vs. monster match. Now with that out of the way, this was an immensely stupid match. Bryan took an actual whipping for this. But remember, WWE is the safe company. This company is the best place for him to be for his health. This is the kind of horseshit that made me stop watching this company. They don’t care about their product and they certainly don’t care about their wrestlers. Bray Wyatt is a terrible wrestler with a stupid gimmick. He’s perfect for this company. **½ 

Garrett: Bray Wyatt sucks. He’s a bad wrestler with bad ideas who we have had to suffer in a prominent position for half a decade now passing off his student film bullshit for high art. Daniel Bryan is one of the greatest pro wrestlers of all time. He did his best. The wrong man won. **3/4

Joel: The Daniel Bryan Dream Match Series™ continues! This is the second Rumble in a row where Bryan has been involved in a boring, shitty title match. At some point, one has to stop making excuses and acknowledge that Bryan is somewhat complicit in these crimes against professional wrestling. If you like people slowly hitting each other with a strap then you will enjoy this match a lot. I found it a tedious and repetitive substitute for actual wrestling that somehow made “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt look even slower and lethargic than usual. There was some drama in Bryan’s comeback spots but as soon as it seemed like the match might begin to turn, it finished. **


Kelly: Something about this match felt off to me. Maybe it was the crowd not being super into it or maybe Becky and Asuka had signals crossed before things really got going. Either way, this was pretty good, but it didn’t come close to their match the previous year for me. They did ramp up and I enjoyed the second half quite a bit. The mist spot worked for me and the victory felt earned for Becky. This was the best singles match of the night by far. ***½ 

Garrett: The Royal Rumble has always had a central problem: the crowd is there for the Rumble and they wait impatiently through the undercard until it comes. That problem is doubly exasperated having two Rumbles. The crowd was not there for Asuka vs. Becky. While not as good as their match last year, they did slowly but surely inch by inch win over the crowd with a strong effort. I’m not sure how you fix that double Rumble problem (maybe run them back to back at the end of the show) but it definitely hurt this match. ***½ 

Joel: This was good. Both wrestlers worked hard to win over a tired crowd and took some big bumps and stiff shots. In a different spot, this would’ve got a much better reaction, but that’s not the fault of the match or the wrestlers here. Bonus points for Asuka looking like Blanka from Street Fighter II at the end of the match. ***½


Kelly: If WWE ever does animal-themed toys, they need to do Croc Lesnar. Brock quickly eliminated Rowan, which was a disappointment because those two could have slapped some beef. Well at least I get to see Bobby Roode get murdered next. Yes, this was satisfying. Actually no, this isn’t satisfying at all. I don’t watch the Rumble for it to be a gauntlet match. Things are starting to look up now with Brock’s past foes, Kofi and Rey, fighting him at the same time. The pop for Kofi was great, but the room was deflated once Brock started to crush him. Then Big E came out and the three of them got a great stretch off offense in on Brock, but he tossed them all out. Look, I hate this, but I popped for the bit with Shelton. Some time passes and now Brock, Keith Lee, and Braun are all in the ring. THE BEEF FACTORY IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS! Brock eliminated them both in one fell swoop and closed up the beef factory. Holy shit, I did not expect Drew THE CHOSEN ONE McIntyre to be the one to knock Lesnar out of the match. The crowd pop was great, but I wouldn’t say that it was worth sacrificing the first half of the match. Drew tossed out Ricochet and Miz too. Oh no, are we doing the Brock thing with McIntyre now? AJ Styles is starting to look his age and that bums me out. He was ageless for so long. I was about to say this was boring, but now Edge is actually going to wrestle and that’s wild. I never ever thought I’d see this guy get in the ring again. Good for him. On the downside of things, it looks like AJ got hurt in Edge’s spear spree. Hopefully, he’s okay. Then things get worse as Matt Riddle just gets treated like a geek and almost instantly gets tossed out by Corbin. The reunion between Edge and Orton was great. Much like the Brock/Shelton bit, it’s awesome when WWE actually lets their wrestlers act like human beings and have friends. From that point on, the match is really good. You’ve got a good flow and mix of talent. Dickhead Rollins and his goons was the perfect choice for number 30. His elimination was a fantastic reset going into the final four of the match. Man, I’m shocked at how much I turned around on this match in the second half. I absolutely loved everything after we got down to the final four. This felt like two totally different matches with the Brock half and the Drew half. I’ve even turned around on the first half now that it looks like we’ll actually get a pay off to Drew tossing out Brock, something that wasn’t certain with the way the booking goes in this company. Sacrificing the first half of the match to Brock was a gutsy choice, that I still don’t think was entirely worth it, but, as you’ve been reading here, I’ve come around on it. My god, this might be the most invested in something this company has done in a long time. The Fed did it, they got me with this one. ****½ (thank you for reading my overly long stream of consciousness Rumble reviews) 

Garrett: This was a Royal Rumble Match with a singular focus, an admirable focus – make Drew McIntyre and set up his WrestleMania match with Brock Lesnar. The first half of this match succeeded thoroughly in that aim – they set up Brock so Drew could knock him down. They still fed more to Brock than they ever needed to (and the long term trend of sacrificing everybody to the one true star Brock Lesnar sucks) but tonight it was in service of something. Drew got an enormous reaction taking out Brock and even better, the period where he wouldn’t break eye contact with Brock was fantastic. They did a superb job laying the groundwork for their WrestleMania match. The second half of the match was a little less compelling, transitioning to a more traditional Royal Rumble match it lost momentum at times but Edge saved things. Sitting with my brother, who’s favorite wrestler has always been Edge, as Edge returned for the first time in nine years was a wonderful moment. Edge gave the rest of the match forward momentum and unlike the women’s Rumble the boring choice didn’t win. Drew dumped out Reigns in the end. This match had one goal – make Drew the biggest badass in the world ahead of a showdown with Brock Lesnar. The Chosen One is finally the chosen one. Mission accomplished. ***3/4 

Joel: This was a very good Royal Rumble match. Much like the women’s match, it was a game of two halves. The first half was Brock Lesnar dominance, a smart way to clear out some of the jobbers, whilst also offering some doubt and drama when confronted with the Kofi, Rey and Big E. trio. The other highlights were the Minnesota Wrecking Crew reunion with Shelton, and the defeat of two former IWGP Intercontinental champions in MVP and Nakamura. There was an interesting hoss battle section with Keith Lee and Strowman, before all the heat built from Lesnar’s dominance was (in theory) transferred to Drew McIntyre. Thus began the McIntyre half of the Rumble. I did question the choice of having McIntyre being the man to eliminate Brock, and doubted whether WWE would fully capitalise on this by actually having Drew win the match, but they stuck the course and the right man won. There was some reasonable doubt, with the surprise return of Edge, heavy favourite Roman Reigns and #30 entrant Seth Rollins with his goon squad all in with a solid shout at victory. But I was pleasantly surprised to see McIntyre take the win and set up a fresh feud, presumably against Lesnar, for Wrestlemania. One of the better Royal Rumble matches in recent history. ****¼