The 2017 WWE Royal Rumble got off to a hot start as Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns put on a stellar match for the WWE Universal Championship to begin the show. Fans even received an unexpected, but very welcomed stunner by Owens to Reigns!
Owens and Reigns would be a hard act to follow, but Cruiserweights Neville and Rich Swann showed they were up to the task as the two put on an exceptional match for Swann's title right after the Owens and Reigns match.
Next, John Cena and AJ Styles went at it and the two followed suit and not only delivered a phenomenal match (see what I did there, AJ?), but a match that will likely be up for contention when match of the year is discussed.
The Royal Rumble was shaping up to be an extraordinary card and the Rumble hadn't even taken place. Unfortunately, the Rumble wasn't as impressive as the three matches that preceded it. Here, we take a look at ten things WWE got wrong in the Royal Rumble and five things they got right.
15 GOT WRONG: Seth Rollins Not Appearing In The Royal Rumble
It came as quite the shock when Seth Rollins came up short against Sami Zayn on Monday Night Raw on January 23rd, 2017. The loss stung especially hard considering the loser would not be earning a spot in the Royal Rumble. Rollins not only didn't enter the Rumble but he was left off the card, period. Considering that just six months earlier Rollins was drafted as the number one pick in the 2016 WWE Draft, it was quite surprising to see who WWE deemed its most valuable asset being excluded from one of its big four PPVs. With the 2017 Rumble being the most wide open in recent memory, the inclusion of Rollins would've added even more unpredictability to the match. Rollins would've been alongside names such as, but not limited to Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton and the Undertaker as having a legit shot at going on to headline WrestleMania. Not to mention, the Rumble lacked a full-time babyface at the top of the card (you don't exactly count, Roman).
14 GOT WRONG: The Undertaker Entering The Royal Rumble
At fifty-one years old fans and the WWE alike should accept that the Undertaker's best days in the ring are behind him. But, unlike Goldberg who is just one year younger than 'Taker, the "Phenom" didn't look like he was in any shape to compete at the Royal Rumble. Instead, 'Taker was sporting a noticeable gut along with looking extremely slow on his feet. The eliminations of the Miz and Sami Zayn were incredibly sloppy. To make matters worse, Zayn had been in the match for 46:55 before he was eliminated and could've been kept in the match much longer to play the role of a possible Cinderella. Instead, watching the former El Generico eliminated by this version of 'Taker was a sight that could only make watchers cringe.
13 GOT RIGHT: Baron Corbin Eliminating Braun Strowman
Both Baron Corbin and Braun Strowman are in the midst of receiving pushes on their respective brands. Strowman was even one of the favorites to win the Royal Rumble. Entering at the number seven position, Strowman disposed of competitors left and right as soon as he entered. He accumulated the most eliminations in the 2017 Rumble with seven as he took out the likes of Big Cass, the Big Show, Tye Dillinger and James Ellsworth. It looked like the only way Strowman was going to be taken out was by either Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns or the Undertaker, But, out of nowhere, Corbin connected with a running clothesline that sent Strowman over the top rope. This was Corbin's lone elimination of the match, but the stature of who he eliminated was significant. This keeps Corbin looking strong and does more to add to his momentum as opposed to derail it.
12 GOT WRONG: No Surprise Entrants
With the exception of NXT's Tye Dillinger, no surprise entrants appeared during the 2017 Royal Rumble. Normally, surprise entrants aren't a threat to win the Rumble, but there are exceptions such as John Cena returning early from injury in 2008 and inevitably winning the event. In 2016, fans witnessed one of, if not the greatest Royal Rumble debuts in WWE history when AJ Styles finally stepped foot in a WWE ring. Surprise entrants usually serve a nostalgic purpose for fans and in 2015 fans were pleased to see a returning Diamond Dallas Page, and a little less pleased to see the creppy Boogeyman return for a one-off appearance. In 2014, "Big Sexy" Kevin Nash and JBL both participated in the event. Surprise entrants have been a mainstay at the Rumble; but, that wasn't the case this year.
11 GOT WRONG: Randy Orton Winning The Royal Rumble
While Randy Orton wasn't the winner of the Royal Rumble in 2014, he was set to main event WrestleMania that year as he'd defend his WWE World Heavyweight Championship against that year's winner, Batista. The match was met with much scrutiny as fans wanted to see fan favorite Daniel Bryan in the main event as opposed to Batista and Orton. In fairness to Orton, the majority of the flack was for Batista who had come back the week of the Rumble and was immediately thrust into the title picture by way of winning the Rumble. However, if you're not a part of the solution, you're a part of the problem and Orton was a part of the problem. Bryan bailed both Batista and Orton out in 2014; the same guarantee cannot be made for 2017 yet. Orton didn't need to add another notch on his belt by way of a second Rumble victory; his victory takes away from WWE building a new superstar.
10 GOT RIGHT: Tye Dillinger Debuting At The 10 Spot
With a gimmick of the "Perfect 10" it was only fitting for Tye Dillinger to debut at the ten spot in the 2017 Royal Rumble. It didn't exactly come as a surprise to most either, as many believed WWE would capitalize on the raucous "ten" chants Dillinger receives on the NXT brand hoping it would translate over to the WWE main roster. Unfortunately, the ovation for Dillinger was nowhere near the applause he receives down at Full Sail University. Instead, it basically fell flat. The WWE had good intentions and made a good decision, but as acts such as the Ascension, Tyler Breeze and Bo Dallas can attest to, just because it works in NXT doesn't mean it will work on the WWE main roster.
9 GOT WRONG: Kane Being Excluded from the Royal Rumble
In 2001, Kane set a then record for eliminations in the Royal Rumble by eliminating a whopping eleven competitors. Kane's record stood for thirteen years before Roman Reigns surpassed it with twelve eliminations in 2014. Kane wasn't just a powerhouse in 2001 though; on the contrary, he's the powerhouse of powerhouses in the Rumble (despite never winning the over the top battle royal), as he has the event's most career eliminations with 43. To add insult to injury, this would've been Kane's twentieth appearance and possibly his last as retirement is likely on the horizon. Yet, in incomprehensible fashion, the WWE decided to keep Kane out of the 2017 event. Sure, Kane has lost a step. But, that didn't stop WWE from giving old timers the Big Show and Mark Henry a slot in the Royal Rumble.
8 GOT WRONG: Kofi Kingston Saving Himself In Lackluster Fashion
Kofi Kingston saving himself in the Royal Rumble just seems to go together like peanut butter and jelly. In 2011, Kingston reentered the ring by doing a handstand onto the steel steps which was nothing short of amazing. In 2013, Kingston rode the back of Tensai and then asked JBL for his announcer's chair. Thankfully, JBL obliged. We then saw Kingston use JBL's chair as a pogo stick so he could reenter the ring. In 2015, Kingston was thrown out of the ring by Rusev but was caught by Adam Rose's Rosebuds. The Rosebuds then helped Kingston get back inside the ring. This year, Kingston was knocked off the top turnbuckle by Baron Corbin and held on for dear life on the ring post. He pulled himself back up to reenter the ring. This may very well have been Kingston's least impressive Rumble save to date.
7 GOT RIGHT: The Possible Split Of Cesaro And Sheamus
Raw General Manager Mick Foley was adamant about making the partnership between Cesaro and Sheamus work. To the credit of the former Cactus Jack, a.k.a. Dude Love and b.k.a. Mankind, he was right in stating that the two could become WWE Raw Tag Team Champions. However, the WWE's plan to establish the two as a popular face tag team failed simply because the audience wasn't buying into Sheamus'. Moreover, the two lost their tag belts earlier in the evening on the Royal Rumble kick-off show as the "Hair Club for Men" (the New Day's words, not mine) finally dethroned the Celtic Warrior and the Swiss Superman for the doubles gold. Sheamus attempted to throw Cesaro out during the Rumble which means a split of the tag team is a possibility. Both Cesaro and Sheamus are better suited as singles competitors anyway.
6 GOT WRONG: The Miz Not Coming Out To Daniel Bryan's Music
The Miz has a case for being WWE's number one heel at the moment. The main reason for this is the real life tension that exists between the Miz and Daniel Bryan. This stems from their confrontation on an episode of "Talking Smack" where Bryan referred to Miz as a coward for his wrestling style. Miz absolutely went off on Bryan saying, "let me tell you about a coward. Let me tell you about a guy who tells his WWE fans, people that he loves that he will be back - he promises them - 'I promise you, I will be back in one year's time to claim this [Intercontinental] title.' But you didn't did you, Daniel? But I'm the coward". BURN! The talk of Bryan returning to the WWE ring has long been speculated despite it looking like a long shot. The WWE could've gotten Miz even more heat by having fans blow the roof off the Alamodome when Bryan's music hit only to reveal that it was actually Miz behind the curtain.
5 GOT WRONG: Samoa Joe Not Entering the Royal Rumble
Samoa Joe was not on the NXT TakeOver: San Antonio card; Samoa Joe has not been on NXT programming in seven weeks (sans his appearance in the crowd at the forenames TakeOver event). He is a former 2x NXT Champion (and first two-time NXT Champion) who has done and every thing there was for him to do in NXT. As a result, it was widely assumed that Joe would be debuting in the Rumble. How does that saying go again? "When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me". And that's exactly what happened when WWE didn't have Joe debut at the Rumble. Most thought Joe would debut at the thirtieth slot and would be welcomed with open arms by the WWE Universe. Moreover, he was also believed to be one of the event's favorites despite not having debuted on the main roster. Instead, Joe's debut on the main roster occurred the next night on Raw. Why not just include him in the Rumble?
4 GOT RIGHT: Luke Harper Going Against The Wyatt Family
Prior to the Royal Rumble commencing, turmoil was brewing inside the Wyatt Family, particularly between Wyatt Family original Luke Harper and the newest member of the family, Randy Orton. It hit its climax on January 24th, 2017 at the Smackdown show right before the Royal Rumble when the faction's leader Bray Wyatt showed his allegiance to Orton as he delivered his finisher, Sister Abigail, on Harper. Harper was the Royal Rumble's 25th entrant and immediately showed that he wasn't in a forgiving mood as he went to attack both Orton and Wyatt. In one of the Rumble's best moments, Harper was in position to deliver Wyatt's own finisher, Sister Abigail on him before Orton made the save. Harper now stands alone and will look to make a name for himself without having Orton and Wyatt by his side.
3 GOT WRONG: Roman Reigns Entering the Royal Rumble
The 2017 Royal Rumble featured three matches on its main card asides from the rumble match. These three matches were Roman Reigns versus Kevin Owens for the WWE Universal Title, Neville versus Rich Swann for the Cruiserweight Championship and John Cena versus AJ Styles for the WWE World Championship. What do all of these competitors have in common? Well, that none of them were in the Royal Rumble matchup. On second though, scratch that, Reigns inexplicably was. Unlike Styles, Reigns was competing for the WWE Universal Championship whereas Styles was defending his WWE World Championship. Styles would drop the belt to Cena in a thrilling and captivating match from start to finish. Having just lost his belt, he would've been a welcome addition to the Rumble as he'd be attempting to regain an opportunity at his prized possession that he just lost. Reigns competing in the rumble was nothing short of nonsensical.
2 GOT WRONG: Roman Reigns Being The Thirtieth Entry
The thirtieth and final entrant is usually a high profile player that catches fans off guard when his music hits. In 2016, Triple H received a raucous ovation because while he was widely expected to appear, it was not a surefire thing. In 2008, John Cena returned from injury months earlier then expected and was given a deafening applause by the fans. Not to mention, Madison Square Garden fans who are amongst the biggest Cena haters around. This year, the ovation was loud, and it was for a high profile player, but it wasn't a positive reaction. Fans were downright appalled when Reigns music hit when the thirtieth entrant was supposed to make his way to the ring. Reigns is consistently and constantly shoved down the throats of fans and WWE seems as reluctant as ever to stop pushing the former 3x WWE World Champion despite him being bombarded with an endless amount of boos night in and night out.
1 GOT RIGHT: Goldberg Disposing of Brock Lesnar With Ease
When Goldberg returned to the WWE in 2016, his first match was against the "Beast Incarnate", Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series. The major storyline surrounding the match was does Goldberg still have it after being away from the ring for over a decade. Well, not only did Goldberg still have it, but he defeated Lesnar with relative ease. Furthermore, it only took Goldberg a mere 96 seconds to slay Paul Heyman's beast. Lesnar had entered the Rumble two positions ahead of Goldberg at 26 and was obliterating the competition from the minute he stepped in the ring. "Suplex City" was open for business and Lesnar made sure he had plenty of suplexes to go around for everyone. But, when Goldberg stepped in the ring, he showcased his dominance over Lesnar once again as he hit the former UFC Heavyweight Champion with a spear and clothesline to eliminate him quickly and swiftly. This keeps the storyline open as to whether Lesnar can ever overcome Goldberg.