The Road to WrestleMania kicked off last night with the Royal Rumble, traditionally one of the more special WWE pay-per-views on the calendar. Unlike last year’s Rumble, where Randy Orton was clearly going to win the 30-man melee, this year’s winner wasn’t as obvious. There were four other title contests on the card and a few surprises. Let¹s go match-by-match and take a look.
ECW Championship Match: Ezekiel Jackson v. Christian (C)
The crowd was pretty hot for this one, not that it’s really surprising for Christian but Jackson got a lot better heat than I expected. Christian could have a good match with a mannequin so it was not surprise that this was a good showing. You have to give credit to Jackson, though, for stepping up on his first pay-per-view match and looking great. They had a few nice near-falls and one spot that I especially liked with Christian ducking under a back-elbow by Zeke, only to clobbered in the back of the head seconds later.
It probably would have been too early for Jackson to win the strap, so it made sense to build him up and have Christian come up on top. I think Jackson elevated himself a bit in defeat, showing that he can work a lot better than some of the other big men in the company.
The ending to this match was good as well. With Jackson in control, Christian slipped off his shoulders and hit the Killswitch for the pin.
US Championship Match: MVP v. The Miz (C)
This match came about after a mildly amusing backstage segment that involved Teddy Long, Tiffany, Cryme Tyme, The Miz and The Great Khali, as well as a rendition of “Pants on the Ground” (which is already incredibly played out) and “Who Let the Dogs Out?” Long ordered Miz to defend his title in an impromptu matchup with MVP.
I can’t say this was a great match but it also wasn’t terrible. I kept wondering, though, why they didn’t just announce this match last week on Raw and give us one more contest to look forward to. There had been some great Miz-MVP mic interaction the last few weeks and this looked like a heated feud already, so to not promote it was a silly booking decision on WWE’s part.
Nonetheless, this was one of those “beginning of something more” matches as The Miz won with a rollup out of nowhere after about seven minutes. After the match he taunted MVP, who retaliated with a playmaker. Later in the night, The Miz attacked MVP as he made his way to the ring for the Rumble match, and then MVP knocked himself out while eliminating Miz.
If this is the beginning of an MVP meanstreak that leads to a push, I think it’s a nice booking decision. He isn’t ready to take the strap from Miz yet but will be with some more buildup. When that happens, I’d also look for The Miz to get another push.
WWE Championship Match: Randy Orton v. Sheamus (C)
As always, Randy Orton delivered in this match. Even though his matches are usually slow and plodding, RKO finds a way to make it interesting. He sold the effects of Sheamus working over his arm throughout the match, had his usual classic facial expressions, and was being cheered by the crowd. That was to be expected when WWE decided to pit one of their most popular heels against a heel that no one really cares about.
I’m not going to jump on the “Bash Sheamus” bandwagon because, frankly, I don’t think he’s that bad. I think it was probably a little early to put the strap on him, when other young stars like Ted DiBiase and Kofi Kingston had already established themselves, but he’s slowly getting better. I think it was the right move to keep the title on Sheamus, although I thought Orton would win it before the match.
WWE’s Creative Team is doing a very nice slow burn Legacy breakup. It could go a number of different ways after last night, when Cody Rhodes cost Orton the match and then Orton beat up Rhodes and DiBiase. Either Rhodes and DiBiase can become faces, or Orton could. I doubt that WWE would want to take their top heel and make him face, though, especially with Edge seemingly a face now.
I thought it was a good enough match and told a good story, as well as furthering the Legacy angle.
Women’s Championship Match: Mickie James v. Michelle McCool (C)
Mercifully this was a short match. In fact, it was under 30 seconds. After McCool and Layla did their usually Piggy James routine, Mickie came out and quickly won the Women’s Title. Call me crazy but I just don’t see James as the athletic worker that everyone else does, so I was happy this was a non-match.
They did the right thing for the kiddies, having James win and then humiliate McCool and Layla. In doing so, they also found a way to get the babyface Divas on the show, which I was very happy with especially considering how great Kelly Kelly looked.
World Heavyweight Championship Match: Rey Mysterio v. The Undertaker (C)
This was a good match and a typical “Rey v. big guy” affair. There were a lot of spots with Rey getting thrown around until he finally used his quickness to get an advantage. After two consecutive 619’s, Rey went for the West Coast Pop when Undertaker caught him and delivered a hellacious Last Ride for the pin.
Undertaker had a bloody nose throughout the match but no one ran down to quickly stop the bleeding like during the Christian-Benjamin match from the TLC pay-per-view. Either WWE considers nosebleeds okay or they realized how stupid it looked when they attended to Christian during the ladder match.
This was likely the end of Rey and ‘Taker’s short feud, but I think Rey will be involved in the Elimination Chamber match at the next pay-per-view, as well as Batista.
30-Man Royal Rumble Match
I really liked the beginning of this one, with CM Punk tossing guys out and then delivering promos while in the empty ring waiting for the next entrant. During that, I thought maybe Punk was going to win the whole thing but, alas, it wasn¹t meant to be as Triple H soon entered and eventually Punk was gone.
There wasn’t much to rave about in this Rumble but there were a few nice spots. HBK kicking Trips over the top and eliminating him furthers the DX tension and sets up a possible HBK-HHH ‘Mania match if HBK can’t find
another route to Undertaker.
Obviously the biggest news of the night was Edge entering at number 29. You pretty much knew he was going to win it at that point, a la Cena in 2008. Edge went right after Chris Jericho, setting up a potential future bout between the two.
The final four saw Cena with Shawn Michaels, Edge and Batista. Batista eliminated HBK after he and Edge were tussling on the ring apron. Michaels snapped and superkicked one of the referees before eventually leaving. I like where this is going and it leaves open the door for a Batista-HBK feud.
The last two were Cena and Edge and thankfully Edge tossed Cena over the top. Now there are even more questions. One of the popular WrestleMania scenarios had a matchup of Edge and Chris Jericho. So will Y2J somehow win the strap and defend it against Edge at ‘Mania? Or will Edge go after ‘Taker again? An Edge-Sheamus matchup seems unlikely, so there could also be a possibility of Orton winning the gold before WrestleMania and defending it against Edge.
The sad part about the whole thing is that, while Edge has been gone for a while, he still isn’t really a fresh face in the main event scene. I’ll take it, though, since it¹s better than another Triple H-Orton main event.