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 411mania » Wrestling » Columns

411’s Instant Access 01.26.14: WWE Royal Rumble 2014
Posted by Scott Slimmer on 01.27.2014

Hey kids, I'm Scott, and this is 411's Instant Access: WWE Royal Rumble 2014. Instant Access is the companion piece to 411 Live Pay-Per-View Coverage and features immediate reaction to wrestling pay-per-views. The focus in Instant Access is on first thoughts and initial reactions instead of play-by-play with the goal of providing you with instant access to one two three FOUR writers' thoughts on the show. Here's the team for the Royal Rumble:

Scott Slimmer, author of Don't Think Twice.
Scott Rutherford, long-time 411 writer and all-around good guy.
Daniel Wilcox, author of Thoughts from the Top Rope and various Music Reviews.
Tony Acero, author of 411's WWE Raw Report and The Wrestling 5 & 1.

Okay kids, enough with the explanations. Let's get to the wrestling.

Kick-Off Show Match
WWE Tag Team Championship Match
Cody Rhodes & Goldust (Champions) vs. The New Age Outlaws
Cody Rhodes & Goldust vs. The New Age Outlaws photo Rhodes_Dynasty_vs_New_Age_Outlaws_Cropped_zps7e22b3a6.jpg

Match Result: Billy Gunn defeats Cody Rhodes with the Fameasser.
Match Length: 7:26
Match Analysis:
Slimmer: I've loved Cody Rhodes & Goldust as the WWE Tag Team Champions, and they had some truly remarkable matches in 2013. While I think the tag team division would have been better off with them continuing to hold the belts, I also understand that this is their last best shot to finally have the one-on-one match they've always wanted to have at WrestleMania. That has the potential to be a very emotional match (especially if Dusty is involved), so I'm ultimately okay with them dropping the belts tonight. The New Age Outlaws may seem like a strange choice to carry the belts, but as others have pointed out, their longevity and credibility will definitely help whatever team eventually beats them for the titles.
Rutherford: This match was OK. Actually, I thought it was surprisingly OK. Funnily enough I just watched the New Age Outlaws original title win last week and I would say this was a much better worked match than that. Did the Rhodes Brothers need to drop the titles? I'm going to say yes since they went with the wrongful elimination of Cody by Dustin during the Rumble match itself and it's obvious we are heading to a WrestleMania match between the two. Was there another team more worthy? Yeah, I suppose but does it really matter these days? The NAO are as good as anyone to have the titles on as, at the very least, the audience sees them as a legit tag team rather than a thrown together combo.
Wilcox: There's something quite bizarre about watching the New Age Outlaws and Goldust working on pay-per-view in 2014, especially considering how good Goldust is these days. This was a decent little match that felt like it was an abridged version of a really good, longer match. The heat sequence was too short to build up much suspense, and being bumped to the pre-show took away some of the lustre behind the title change. The title change I fully support by the way, because the Outlaws are perpetually over and it's time for the Usos to get their reign and as such this switch was a necessity. Whether Cody and Goldust split or continue to team, the timing was to do the switch as the champs had been treading water for too long.
Acero: What the hell was in Goldust's breakfast?! That guy was on fire...well, for the most part. The results here are a bit bothersome but I think it's because I really like Cody and Goldust and what they've been doing. It appears we'll be going the Rhodes vs Rhodes route now, and although that's going to have some feels involved, it's a shame we're going to lose them as a team. On the flip side, the New Age Outlaws do have credibility - even if it's based on nostalgia - so whoever takes the belts from them will certainly have a bit of a boost. A few posts claim that The Usos will be getting their shot and the titles, so that should be fun. Back to the match, I think it was a bit short for my liking, but like I started off with, Goldust had a hell of a first five minutes.
Match Rating:
Slimmer: **½
Rutherford: **
Wilcox: **½
Acero: **
Average Match Rating: **¼

Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt w/ Luke Harper and Erick Rowan
Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt photo Daniel_Bryan_vs_Bray_Wyatt_Cropped_zpsdb95ad80.jpg

Match Result: Bray Wyatt defeats Daniel Bryan with Sister Abigail.
Match Length: 22:11
Match Analysis:
Slimmer: I knew this would probably be a good match. I mean, that's usually a safe bet when Daniel Bryan is involved. What I didn't know is that this would be a great match. I didn't know Wyatt could work this well, and I had no idea he would have so much in-ring chemistry with Bryan. These two guys were all over the ring and all around the ring, and I give a ton of credit to WWE for actually giving them the time they needed to put on a great match. Unlike many, I don't have a problem with Daniel Bryan losing this match. A loss by Bryan further helps to establish Bray Wyatt's credibility, and Wyatt definitely earned that credibility tonight. I may have issues with how Bryan was (or, more accurately, wasn't) used later in the show, but I have no problem with the finish to this match.
Rutherford: I'm writing these comments after the PPV as a whole instead of as I go. Interesting how I would have written something completely different about this match if I reviewed on the spot. I actually thought two things going in…if Daniel Bryan wins this match then he's not in the Rumble. If he gets beaten he will come into the Rumble and have a better than even chance of actually winning. Was I wrong. I actually put down my hard earned today to see Daniel Bryan wrestle today and it's the first PPV I bought since Summerslam last year. I have yet to watch a full episode of RAW or Smackdown thanks to the de-push of Bryan and the re-push of the Orton/Cena main event. I though the WWE was going to make things right in light of recent weeks.

Silly me.

The match itself was good. The crowd was silent for the heat segments but it was more Japanese-crowd silent as they were waiting for Bryan to go on the offensive and every time they did they exploded. I loved the build to the end and thought the way Bryan lost was well booked with the twin Sister Abigail's doing him in. I was FINE for him to get beaten this way. It made sense given where they were going with Bray Wyatt. Having Daniel Bryan disappear and do nothing for the rest of the night means, unless something drastically changes in the next couple weeks, that this may very well be the last PPV I buy. Right now I am sick of paying money to something that goes out of its way to screw me out of the satisfaction I pay for. Judging by the crowd's reaction (admittedly a smarky crowd) I believe I'm not the only on.
Wilcox: This was a good way to kick off the Royal Rumble proper, and did you see that reaction when Bryan's music hit? This struck me as a bizarre match, as there were a few things that threw me off completely. First of all Bryan wrestled the early part of the match as the heel, beating on Wyatt for an extended period. Then there was the crowd that seemed to die mid-way through the match, only to be chanting "this is awesome" for no obvious reason seconds later. There was also a few really obnoxious fans in the front row, which kept distracting me. The match itself was really good, with both guys working incredibly stiffly. They played up Bryan's concussion and Wyatt targeted that to an extent. Wyatt is fantastic when on offence and I don't think the WWE Universe quite knows how to react to him. Little things like biting Bryan's hand to break the Yes Lock and smirking when he gets planted with a DDT on the floor just adds the extra element to his character that most others are lacking. The finish was fantastic as well as being completely clean, and Wyatt picked up the big win.
Acero: Does the quality of this match truly matter? The match was perfect for curtain jerking because it hyped the crowd up big time. Bryan is the most over man in the company, and there's truly no doubt that he is main event material. I still want to see him in the Rumble, but we'll get there when we have to. As for this match, Bryan kept the intensity high, and Bray served his role. I was surprised with how much time was given to the match, but I was happy they did. It got brutal as it went on, with Wyatt bleeding a bit, and Bryan doing some vicious damage on the outside, including a nice ass tornado DDT from the apron to the mat. Wyatt fires back with that sick ass clothesline, and then some! These guys really hit all gears, starting slow and building to something pretty damned awesome. The win was a hell of a shock, and it makes me wonder just what they plan on doing with Bray Wyatt. Are the Undertaker rumors true? Or did they give Wyatt the win because of a possible Bryan win in the future?
Match Rating:
Slimmer: ****
Rutherford: ***½
Wilcox: ***½
Acero: ***½
Average Match Rating: ***¾

The Big Show vs. Brock Lesnar
The Big Show vs. Brock Lesnar photo Big_Show_vs_Brock_Lesnar_Cropped_zpsd36aec9a.jpg

Match Result: Brock Lesnar defeats the Big Show with the F5.
Match Length: 1:54 (plus Lesnar's pre-match attack)
Match Analysis:
Slimmer: I've greatly enjoyed all of Brock Lesnar's matches over the course of the last two years, but this one fell a little flat for me. I wasn't looking for a twenty minute technical masterpiece, but I would have liked to have seen Show and Lesnar just beat the holy hell out of each other for five or seven minutes. These guys both have the skill to put on a great power match that isn't slow or plodding, but what we got tonight was really just an angle disguised as a very short match. I know the point was to make Lesnar look dominant and sadistic, and that goal was certainly achieved. But wouldn't the same goal have been met even more effectively by having Lesnar destroy Show with his skill and power rather than with a steel chair? There are many men who could beat Show with a steel chair. Having Lesnar dismantle the World's Largest Athlete with his bare hands would have been far more spectacular.
Rutherford: This was exactly what it was supposed to be. Lesnar destroyed Big Show and then turned him into hamburger after the match ended. If Brock had debuted like this two years ago when he came back it would have been epic $$$ for everyone. The only thing I expected was The Undertaker to show up as a set-up for ‘Mania but we still have a couple months to get there.
Wilcox: Big Show vs. Brock Lesnar on pay-per-view in 2014 is one of the most predictable outcomes you will see on any wrestling show all year, so I think you've got to give credit for all involved for presenting the match to us in a way that was somewhat unique. The buildup to this match has seen Show embarrass Lesnar, so Brock didn't want to take any chances and absolutely annihilated Show before the bell rang. The official match time was a couple of minutes at most, and we got a further beatdown post match. We all knew going in that the entire purpose of this brief feud was to make Lesnar look like a beast and I think it's safe to say this accomplished that goal and then some. My rating will reflect the entire segment as opposed to simply the match.
Acero: A little odd for the ring not to start simply because the ref hasn't rung the bell. He could have done so at any time, but I suppose they wanted to assure that Brock was the heel here. The F-5 was a hell of a sight, even 12 years later. Especially 12 years later. Hardly a match, but the point was made. Especially the aftermatch beatdown.
Match Rating:
Slimmer: **
Rutherford: ½*
Wilcox: ***
Acero: *
Average Match Rating:

WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match
Randy Orton (Champion) vs. John Cena
Randy Orton vs. John Cena photo Randy_Orton_vs_John_Cena_Cropped_zpsdf0a6a4a.jpg

Match Result: Randy Orton defeats John Cena with the RKO.
Match Length: 20:54
Match Analysis:
Slimmer: I kept getting a strange sense of déjà vu during this match, and then I finally realized what it was. I have seen this match before – Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock at WrestleMania XIX. Just like Austin and Rock, this was a match that we've seen before, and it was a match that we've seen better. Cena and Orton have had their time at the top, and they had some great matches during that time. Now Cena and Orton can counter each other's finishers and counter each other's counters and use each other's finishers. It's the natural progression of a feud that has stretched over the course of a decade, but I just couldn't shake the feeling that we've seen better versions of this match in the past. Heck, the Austin / Rock analogy even extends to the fact that Cena has now lost to Orton two months in a row. Austin and Cena were the tops guys in their respective eras, and they tended to get the best of Rock and Orton on the big stages. But as their time at the top came to a close, it seems like both Austin and Cena wanted to give something back to the guy that always seemed to be in the shadow of a superstar. Anyway, the end of the match seems to have set up a feud between Cena and the Wyatt family, and Orton's next opponent would be decided in the very next match.
Rutherford: I could only imagine what this crowd would have done if this went on after the Rumble match and they knew that no Daniel Bryan was coming. Even taking that into account, the crowd was brutal to this match, which was a pity because it was a good match that could have been made better with a less in-it-for-themselves crowd. But we got what we got and hopefully enough people in power realise that when we want something and are denied it, we will revolt. Will they listen? Doubtful but by booking Cena/Orton again and ignoring the fact a large portion of the fanbase want Daniel Bryan just blew-up in the WWE's faces on PPV. As for the match, I genuinely thought it was excellent and the last 10 minutes was something very good. Both Orton and Cena rolled with the crowd although you got the sense Orton was PISSED. Anyway, the ending with the Wyatt Family interference confirms the mail that Cena and Bray are probably going to ‘Mania this year. We'll see if that sticks.
Wilcox: Not even WWE's amazing production team can put together a video package that makes the build up to this match look interesting. The WWE Universe responded to the early stages of this match with the same level of interest as the rest of us had, chanting everything from "Daniel Bryan," "Y2J" and "We Want Angle!" I have to say both guys did a good job of handling the crowd; Orton especially, but it does present an issue that some of the company's top stars continue to get these kinds of reactions. This was another strangely-paced match as we went immediately from the opening few minutes to the high spots and the finisher exchange with very little in between, but then I don't think the audience had any intention of sitting through a series of restholds and sub-standard Randy Orton offence. I will say some of the things they pulled out were good spots, but when it got to the point of one guy hitting his finisher for a 2 count before the opponent popped up and nailed his, it got pretty bad. This is exactly the kind of thing that the paying customer is tired of seeing. It's apparent that rumours of Wyatt/Cena are true, and while I will praise it for being fresh, I can only see one outcome to that marquee WrestleMania match up.
Acero: The match was a little too slow and average for my liking. These guys are good, but there's been very little interest from the get-go and it feels like these two are in the main event by proxy moreso than yearning from their fanbase...then again, we're a part of the fanbase that doesn't represent the minority. They tried to make it one of the more epic matches with the kicking out of finishers, a ref bump, and all the other Main Event 101 moments. The crossface was brought in, stealing of finishers were done. It all seemed like the recipe for a solid match, but the investment of emotion just wasn't there....until the Wyatts came to the ring!! It appears they're extremely serious about Wyatt, and the proposed Cena vs Wyatt match may be more of a possibility now more than ever. This would explain the win over Bryan, and I'm very curious to see where it's going. The match was average, but afterwards was far more interesting.
Match Rating:
Slimmer: **¾
Rutherford: ****
Wilcox: **
Acero: **½
Average Match Rating: **¾

The Royal Rumble Match
The Royal Rumble Match photo Royal_Rumble_Match_Cropped_zps22b74531.jpg

Match Result: Batista wins the Royal Rumble, last eliminating Roman Reigns.
Match Length: 55:10
Match Analysis:
Slimmer: Okay, yes, it's disappointing that Daniel Bryan wasn't in the Royal Rumble. Hell, it's infuriating. I've tried to analyze the match for what it was and not for what it wasn't, but honestly I'm not sure I can do that. The match definitely had its high spots and entertaining moments, and Kofi Kingston once again had a highlight reel non-elimination. But once all 30 men had entered that match and it was clear that Daniel Bryan really wasn't going to be one of them, you could feel the energy drain from the match. The live crowd's negative reaction had a lot to do with that, but I think it's even more than that. It was a feeling that WWE really is out of touch with its fans. Or maybe it's just the fact that I had no interest in seeing Batista wrestle in 2014. Batista had an amazing look ten years ago, but his ability to maintain that physique has been hampered by age and the Wellness Policy that was instituted after he had been with the company for several years. He could work a pretty good power match, and he had a good run at the top of the card, but for me he left at the perfect time. I haven't been hoping that he would return some day like I did when Shawn Michaels was away from the company for four years. I know there are some people who are very excited about Batista's return and who ordered the show specifically to see him win the Rumble. I'm happy for those fans. I really am. This whole scenario just doesn't do anything for me. Much like Orton vs. Cena, I just can't shake the feeling that we've already seen better versions of Orton vs. Batista than we'll ever see this time around.
Rutherford: I really enjoyed the match this year. It didn't have as many clever story-in-stories booking but the pace was hectic, it had very little dead spots and 50 minutes just flew by. The big things I take out of this…the Roman Reigns push is for real. He looked great in this match and considering the crowd reaction I could have seen an audible called and have Roman win. Knowing that this was Batista's first match back I knew that wasn't going to happen but the crowd reaction would have been insane. His new total elimination record means he will be in the record books for a while now. The booking of NXTer Alexander Rusev was odd. He's a guy they have been high on for a while and would have thought they would have booked him to make a couple of quick eliminations. Instead he looked like a guy that couldn't get things done. C.M Punks elimination was anti-climactic although it fit, however if he was the last guy against Big Dave it would have created enough doubt in people's minds about the winner. The no Daniel Bryan thing was baffling and I'm sure Rey Mysterio is feeling like a million bucks right now. Man, I have never seen a guy booed so heavily for NOT being someone. I can also see why the crowd went south once you realized that we had no Daniel Bryan at #30 and the bookers wasted two spots on a midget and a ring announcer. You can throw Kevin Nash in there as well but at least he served a purpose…to put Reigns over. It will be interesting to see what happens on RAW tomorrow night and how the crowd reacts. Man, did you hear those boo's for Big Dave winning?
Wilcox: The Royal Rumble is one of the greatest concept matches in the history of professional wrestling. And that means it's pretty hard to screw it up. Everyone loves a Royal Rumble. Everyone. But by deciding to not put Daniel Bryan into the Royal Rumble WWE manages to screw this up. Maybe I was naïve thinking Bryan would pull double duty, and maybe those of us who thought Bryan actually had a shot of winning were fools. But it's common sense. Listen to your audience. Tonight, 15,000 fans booed both champion and challenger in WWE's marquee championship match from the get go. They wanted nothing to do with it. Instead they chanted "Daniel Bryan!" In the Royal Rumble match, you had one top tier Superstar who's been absent for six months make a surprise comeback and get booed out of the building. You had another top tier Superstar wrestling his first match in four years, he won the whole thing and he got booed out of the building, all while fans were either chanting "Daniel Bryan" or just a simple "No!" It was cringe worthy, and it was embarrassing. That major issue aside, the rest of the match was lack-lustre. Of the surprise entrants, Kane lasted no time at all but granted, his inclusion at least made sense. Kevin Nash would have been a decent surprise, if we hadn't seen the exact same thing three years ago. And he last two minutes. JBL was a nice addition but he didn't do a damn thing and the elimination spot was so telegraphed. Even Kofi Kingston's theatrical save was just too telegraphed. And now we've got CM Punk stuck in a feud with Kane that nobody wants to see, whether it's a stop-gap to a feud with Triple H or not. CM Punk, by the way, looked embarrassed to be out there and spent most of his near-hour spell lying face down on the mat. The only redeemable factor about this Royal Rumble was Roman Reigns, who was portrayed as an absolute beast throughout, and I think we're all interested in what happens next with Reigns and the Shield. All in all, this was a poor Royal Rumble and one that no one will look back on fondly and in hindsight, should never have gone down the way it did.
Acero: So much fun! Right from the beginning, Greg DeMarco's prediction of Sandow spending so little time in the ring was spot on. Kane coming back was great to see, even if he didn't last too long. We got a new debut in Alexander Rusev and Kofi came in with a bang and does what he do! We got the Rhodes dissension. We got Kevin Nash. Sheamus made his return! Zeb gets TWO sign of the night honorable mentions. EL TORITO makes his in-ring AND Royal Rumble debut! JBL makes his return to the ring....then went right back to the announce table. This gets a YOU STILL GOT IT chant. haha. The crowd definitely did NOT want Rey to be #30, as they booed him so badly, and cheered the shit out of his elimination. My prediction of Daniel Bryan coming back to win it was wrong, but it didn't stop the crowd from chanting for him. Looks like Sheamus may have some fun with Big E in coming weeks, and I can't say I'm not ok with that! Kane came back to make a statement and the breakup of The Shield is all but permanent. I LOVED Reigns showing Batista how to do a spear! Once Mysterio came out, the winner was apparent, and although it wasn't who I wanted, it's not the worst decision. In terms of quality of the entire match, it was slightly above average, even if only because it's the Royal Rumble, a staple of wrestling tradition and fandom. I had a good time.
Match Rating:
Slimmer: ***
Rutherford: ***¾
Wilcox: *
Average Match Rating: **½

Final Thoughts

Match of the Night:
Slimmer: Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt (****)
This match stole the show in the opener, and it really was the highlight of the card. You've got to love when two rising stars decide to show the company and the fans why they deserve a spot at the top, and I again give credit to WWE for giving them the time to do it.
Rutherford: Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt (***½)
Well worked and well booked. Even in light of the overall issue with Daniel Bryan, he did what was right for business in this match.
Wilcox: Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt (***½)
This is the easiest choice. There were only four matches, one of them was an angle, one of them was a title match nobody wanted to see and the other was a poorly booked Royal Rumble. This match stole the show, without doubt, and I think many fans in Pittsburgh wished they gone home straight after this one.
Acero: The Royal Rumble Match
Of course, this is a no-brainer, as it's the Rumble and there's possibly nothing else that could top it. Bryan's opening performance set the pace for the show, and it created a hell of an emotion that carried throughout the entire show, as he was being chanted for non-stop, regardless of who was in the ring. The winner wasn't all that in question once certain things were set in place, and it looks like Orton and Batista will be headlining Mania. At least we can be happy with a Cena-free main event for Mania XXX.

Trash of the Night:
Slimmer: Daniel Bryan Not Being in the Royal Rumble
I can't in good conscious give TotN to the actual Royal Rumble Match, because all 30 guys in the match did their best to put on a great match. The problem was the disconnect between WWE and its fans, and the effect that disconnect had on our perception of the match.
Rutherford: Randy Orton vs. John Cena (****)
Pity given that the match was well worked but the WWE has to realise the fanbase has moved on from this match and these wrestlers. Tonight the crowd let them know in no uncertain terms.
Wilcox: The Royal Rumble Match (*)
I'm not usually a negative person, nor am I one to get my hopes up when it comes to my favourite guys getting pushed, but it's shocking how much WWE is ignoring their audience in favour of pushing either the same guys, or guys former star they've had to bring back because they think it'll pop a buy rate or TV rating. Dull, uninspired Rumble with the worst possible outcome.
Acero: The Big Show vs. Brock Lesnar (*)
This isn't particularly because it was bad in execution. It didn't upset me by any means, but in terms of match quality and what we got, this match was definitely the trash of the night. The match was placed simply to keep Brock in mind and give him some more credibility before hitting WrestleMania.

Final Analysis:
Slimmer: This show had one of the best first hours in WWE PPV history… and then short-sighted (or possibly even stubborn) booking really began to hurt the show.
Rutherford: This was a good card on the surface. All the matches were good or had good angles coming out of it. The Rumble match itself was good but the booking of the main event is stuck in 2005. WM20 kick started a new way forward for the WWE and they had the chance to do this again for WM30. As it stands we have Orton vs Batista for the main event. This is no buys.
Wilcox: This show was just a massive turn off by the end of the night. It started off the right way but surely when he ate the clean loss, we were all thinking we'd see Daniel Bryan again by the end of the night. The live crowd certainly thought that and they voiced their opinions. The title match, hokey finish and all, didn't feel epic, or vital or even moderately important. This show massively hurt my interest in the Road to WrestleMania, which is exactly the opposite of what it was designed to do.

Slimmer: **
Rutherford: **½
Wilcox: *
Acero: ***
Average Match Rating: **¼


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