Straight away I have to speak on Kevin Owens vs. Dean Ambrose in a Last Man Standing match for the Intercontinental Championship. Wow. This might have been the defining moment for both guys. I know Owens beat Cena on his first match on the main roster. But for two guys who are still relatively new in terms of singles accomplishments, this was a solidifying performance. The match was downright brutal at times. During spots in the match, I almost felt like I was watching a PWG Guerrilla Warfare match. It was the perfect tone setter for the show and both guys came out of it looking better than ever. Ambrose gets the win, but both win in my book.
I'll run through the other matches on the card really quick. I liked the Tag Team Championship match also. The crowd was hugely behind The New Day, but the Usos performed wonderfully, which made the match fully legitimate. New Day retained, as well they should at this point. Their ironically cool heel run just keeps getting better and better.
Kalisto and Alberto Del Rio's match was probably the lowest-profile bout last night, but they put on a good show and worked through some miscues. Kalisto formally won the US Title and is poised to be a breakout young star for WWE.
Becky Lynch really impressed me last night. She became somewhat of an afterthought once the match ended, but she really did her part and performed last night against Charlotte. Charlotte as a heel was needed in the Divas division and Ric Flair's involvement just adds to any angles going forward. The match was average, but had its place on the card. Sasha Banks stole the spotlight by walking out after the match to attack both Lynch and Charlotte. Huge pop for Sasha upon her entrance as well. Charlotte vs. Banks is marquee and will certainly build a huge amount of momentum for the Divas division going forward.
Ok, let's get to this. The Royal Rumble match. Billed as Reigns vs. everybody, the match did not disappoint. Right now, I want to hit something Cole said as Reigns was heading to the ring as the first entrant. Cole said, "A very mixed reaction for Roman Reigns as he comes into the Amway Center here tonight in Orlando, Florida. Not unexpected." Cole continued, "WWE fans in many ways like change and in the Rumble match they like to see different people win this event each and every year." I'm going to disregard that statement as something he just said to say. It sounded like a line that Cole either had planned on saying or was told to over the headset. This could be a major sign that WWE is aware that things need to change. If the Rumble was any indication, they've already begun making renovations.
The third entrant in the Rumble may reflect Cole's quote. The shock on Reigns' face as he and everyone else witnessed AJ Styles entered the Rumble was unforgettable. I need to take some time to talk about Styles.
Now I'm not sure if WWE knew what kind of reaction Styles would get from the fans and neither did I to be completely honest. The reaction AJ got, and I'm not messing around when I say this, was as loud, if not louder, than any reaction I've ever heard anyone get in WWE. It was deafening, to steal a line from Cole. To see AJ in a WWE ring is an image no one that pays attention to professional wrestling will ever forget. For a guy that has been everywhere, that had to be a surreal moment to live through. You could see the awe in his face as he looked around the arena. Things are getting real in WWE, and they need it. Makes you wonder what the plan is for Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, as the reaction for AJ was top-guy caliber. What's the plan for AJ going forward? I guess we'll have to keep watching and that exactly what I wanted from this show.
There were some subplots in the Rumble that I really enjoyed. Zayn and Owens really jumps out to me. Zayn entered and Owens stood in the middle of the ring waiting for him. If you read my post about the two, you'll understand how happy I was to see the two go at it on such a huge stage. They brawled and beat the hell out of each other, culminating in Zayn eliminating Owens. This feud may have just been reignited in a grand way.
Brock Lesnar, probably most people's pick to win the Royal Rumble, was eliminated by the Wyatt Family in a gang beat down scenario. When Brock was thrown out, myself and others thought it might have been a mistake. It was shocking and another dramatic moment of the night. WWE seems to be setting up Wyatt vs. Lesnar, which could be a Wrestlemania matchup and an interesting one at that. Heyman vs. Wyatt on the microphone will be worth the price of admission alone.
Let's talk about the finish. Triple H enters at number 30. If you had asked me a year ago how I'd react to HHH winning the Rumble, I probably would've said, "That would be absolutely awful, lame, and incredibly stupid." I have to say, I was 100% into this storyline playing out in the Rumble match. HHH eliminated Reigns second to last, which was perfect. The story continues. Ambrose and HHH faced off as the last two competitors in the match and put on a show that made everyone watching very anxious. I was at the edge of my seat. HHH eventually eliminated Ambrose and won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Great spot for Ambrose, as he was positioned as a clear future champion and a guy that can hang with pretty much anyone in the company.
Triple H with the belt will be interesting. You have to look at this as the first part of a longer story which is the "Road to Wrestlemania." Will Reigns get his revenge? Probably. But that's the fun of it. I saw things last night that I didn't think I'd see. AJ, Lesnar getting eliminated, Zayn vs. Owens, and Triple H winning the belt. They've put me in a position in which I really don't know what could happen along the way to 'Mania. I have to give WWE the nod on this one. We wanted more exciting content with strong story and we got it. Raw tonight will be critical to what we're going to see moving forward. It's a great time to be a fan of professional wrestling. Stay tuned people.