Shorty G v Sheamus: The first match of the night was surprisingly decent. It did everything a preshow match needs to do: Be entertaining, but allow me to finish up the Sunday chores. A match I don’t need to be overly invested in. Not every match is going to be an absolute banger and that’s what the preshow is for. I found myself having stopped washing dishes for large sections of the match.
Andrade vs. Humberto Carrillo: This match was a tad disappointing for me. Carrillo seems to have gotten a push as he debuted last year but has sort of fallen to the sidelines. There was no story behind this match, which may be OK for a preshow match, but it still feels like a bit of a letdown for Carrillo overall.
The match itself was short with a couple solid spots but was one of those that most people probably forgot about ten minutes after it ended. It was inoffensive yet bland. Which again, is rather frustrating because I would love to see these two have a proper match. Crossing my fingers for a rematch.
Reigns v Corbin: This match just felt directionless. The feud itself needed to end and this match just seemed to embody everything about the feud. It was a series of blows and hits that seemed to be trying to say “this is a big deal!” when in reality it was all subpar. The porta potty bit being the biggest example of this. I can just image Vince McMahon saying “what’s more embarrassing than dog food? A porta potty! Brilliant!” Roman could have at least speared it like Strowman or really done anything else more creative than simply tip it over. While the previous match was bland yet inoffensive, this one felt offensive for BEING so bland.
Women’s Royal Rumble: Rumbles are always fun. I’ve never hated an entire Rumble — there are always going to be spots in it that are exciting, and this one had a lot of great moments throughout. I absolutely loved it as Bianca racked up eliminations, slowly realizing how far deep she was going into the Rumble. I’m so happy to see Naomi back (with such awesome ring gear I gotta say).
I am a bit disappointed that Charlotte won, especially with Baszler still being hot. I think it would have better to push her and establish her as dominant. That being said, we’ll just have to wait and see what they do with Charlotte. There are still three months before WrestleMania, so something interesting could come together. Or it could just be Becky and Charlotte again…
Lacey Evans v Bayley: What’s there to say about this match? The feud was weak, Evans makes no sense as a face, and the match was just sort of there. I had to go back and re-watch it to make sure I didn’t miss anything or that I hadn’t properly appreciated it. It really felt like nothing more than a filler match on SmackDown.
Daniel Bryan v The Fiend: I’m in the minority here, but I liked the red light and while I understand people’s frustration with it, I think it did add needed atmosphere to The Fiend’s matches. The match itself was decent. Enjoyable, but perhaps a little disappointing. The match relied too much on the strap all the while doing very little with it. There was no creative use of it and after the 30th whipping I was reaching for my phone to check Twitter.
The back half of the match came alive when Bryan shook off a Sister Abigail and started putting up some offense. And there were some extremely interesting spots during that back half that really helped build up both men, for instance Bryan’s submission with the strap. The ending too was excellent. I loved the shot of Bryan willing himself up only for the camera to push back with Wyatt already on his feet.
Becky Lynch v Asuka: This was the best of the singles matches by far. It had that nice slow build with things speeding up in the last five minutes of the match with Becky’s attempted arm bar. Kairi Sane yelling at Asuka to get up throughout was a great touch and added so much urgency. Sure, it’s a trope used a lot in wrestling, but Kairi does it so well.
This was one of those matches that I started to doubt that Becky would win, which is a sign of a great match: when the ending seems obvious for plot reasons but the match itself makes you start to doubt that. My one critique is that I think they should have had Asuka attempt to land the mist before, or at least make moves to use it. I didn’t feel like the mist was that ever present of a threat so the ending, while still amazing, could have been more built up for me.
Men’s Royal Rumble: Alright, I swear I’m not being a contrarian here simply for the sake of it; but I liked the premise of Brock taking on everyone and in essence being a MMO raid boss of sorts. I even liked a lot of the spots with him playing that part. It was frustrating that it meant people like Morrison got literally ten seconds and I think they could have worked around that, but I actually really liked the premise overall.
My issue is that they didn’t lean into this enough. They could have very well had more moments like Kofi/Rey/Big E where a group of people took Brock on together. Groups of people trying to coordinate attacks together or infighting in the ‘raid group’ if you will, maybe a betrayal. I’m not saying the entire Rumble should have been just about Brock, but it should have been longer and embraced the premise more. It may have won more people over if it had.
All that being said, I still enjoyed the back half of the rumble. Edge was extremely exciting and the final four in the ring was a solid last five minutes or so to end things on. Over all it was extremely fun, and I think I enjoyed Lesnar more than most. But I do think if WWE had really explored the space they had with “Lesnar as raid boss” they could have won more people to their side.
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