By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Mark Henry and Jack Swagger def. The Dudley Boyz, Darren Young and Damien Sandow, and The Ascension in a Fatal 4-Way Tag Team Royal Rumble Qualifying Match
Needless to say, this was a nothing match, and you couldn't expect much else when it featured four teams (two of which you can't call regular "teams") the crowd couldn't have cared less about. The Orlando audience sat on their hands the whole time, but if nothing else, at least WWE bothered to advertise a match for the Kickoff show this month and there was enough at stake for it not to feel completely inconsequential (even if Henry and Swagger lasted no more than a minute in the Royal Rumble).
Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose def. Kevin Owens in a Last Man Standing Match
Damn! I've said since the moment this match was announced that I hadn't seen this hot of a feud over the Intercontinental Championship in years and it definitely deserved this stipulation. They more than made the most of it by putting forth an incredible effort and incorporating a handful of awesome spots. The use of tables by both men was excellent and the crowd was solidly behind them every step of the way. Sometimes, in a match featuring two wrestlers that the crowd loves, they don't know who to cheer for, but that was far from the case here. I really liked how Owens was protected in defeat as well. This was one of the best Last Man Standing matches I've seen in ages and Ambrose and Owens deserve a tremendous amount of credit.
WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day def. The Usos
I feel like we've seen this match a million times before yet in reality, it's only been done a few times. That's a testament to WWE's lack of fresh faces in the tag team division at the moment and I hope they start to build up new teams going forward. As for this match, it was pretty good for what it was and the audience ate up everything New Day did. I feared WWE might put the belts back on The Usos on this show and I'm very glad they didn't. Not only was it the wrong place to do the title change, they should keep the straps on The New Day until a hotter team comes along. Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady, anyone?
Kalisto def. Alberto Del Rio to Win the United States Championship
For whatever reason, I enjoyed the encounters between Kalisto and Del Rio on Raw and SmackDown more from the past few weeks than this matchup. It's not that it was bad per se, but it lacked the same excitement their other matches did. Perhaps it's the law of diminishing returns, but it marked the fourth time they've gone one-on-one in the last month. Hopefully this is the end of the line for the feud and Kalisto can move on to new challengers, though I'll excuse the obligatory title rematch on an upcoming episode of Raw or SmackDown. The match itself wasn't anything special, but I was happy with the outcome.
Divas Champion Charlotte def. Becky Lynch
I have to note that the pre-match package that aired for Lynch was absolutely fantastic. Lynch has managed to get herself over with exceptional mic work since the start of the year and it has evidently paid off. The crowd desperately wanted to see her win here, which is what made this match so good. Ric Flair was fine in his role and Charlotte is coming along nicely as a heel, and although I would have given the belt to Becky, I can see why they didn't. Obviously, they're building to Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks at WrestleMania 32 based what we saw afterward, which was really well done. A Triple Threat with Lynch would be nice, but they could always do that at Fastlane. I just want a standard singles match from the women at WrestleMania for the first time in decade (believe that!).
Triple H Won the 30-Man Royal Rumble Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
There is so much to say about this Rumble and I'll try to break down all I can, but most of it is positive. On a side note, I appreciated Roman Reigns and Rusev kicking it off considering they were the final two last year. AJ Styles, I mean, what more can be said?! What a phenomenal moment! The arena exploded with excitement when he came out and I only wish the camera showed us the Titantron saying "I Am Phenomenal" and not Reigns' reaction. He had a hell of a showing and I'm glad Kevin Owens was the one to eliminate him so he generated the right type of heel heat. I'd say we could see that match at WrestleMania, but Sami Zayn's return was also awesome and that might lead to something as well. It was such a simple yet effective storytelling tool for Zayn to eliminate his longtime rival. As for as the rest of the match, Brock Lesnar's involvement was slightly underwhelming, but it set up a possible program with The Wyatt Family at WrestleMania. I could have done without Reigns missing a majority of the match, but I understood why it was done: to protect him. Triple H entering at No. 30 could be seen coming from a mile away, but hey, it's better than Reigns, right? Look at the bright side. I know this means the outcome of their WrestleMania match is beyond predictable, but having Reigns retain and then facing HHH for the belt would have made less sense to me. I don't necessarily agree with HHH as champion, but I will praise the ending of the Rumble. You had to know the fans would have turned on it if it came down to Triple H and Reigns, so I was pleasantly surprised Reigns was tossed second to last and Ambrose had his time to shine instead.
The Royal Rumble match, albeit not perfect, was one of the best WWE has put on in several years. The same can be said for the show on the whole as it was a very entertaining night of great wrestling, fun surprises and solid storytelling. The Last Man Standing opener is well worth going out of your way to see and the Rumble match was a major treat, but the rest of the matches held up very well. This pay-per-view undoubtedly gets a thumbs up from me and I'd go so far as to say it was one of the best WWE events we've had in many months. Most of the puzzle pieces were put into place for WrestleMania 32 and I'm highly anticipating how the card will take form in the months to come.
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