Naomi, Becky Lynch and Nikki Bella def. SmackDown Women's Champion Alexa Bliss, Mickie James and Natalya (Kickoff Match)
I was initially disappointed this match was moved to the Kickoff show, but then again, it probably would have died a death because this wasn't anything special. At least it wasn't a case like at SummerSlam where the crowd was barely in the building by the time the match took place. That isn't to say it was a bad bout, though, because all six women tried hard and it was a decent little match on the whole. The babyface team winning with Naomi pinning Bliss didn't bother me if only because it sets up Naomi as Bliss' next challenger. I just hope this is leading to a women's Elimination Chamber match next month for the title.
The Club def. Cesaro and Sheamus to Win the Raw Tag Team Championship (Kickoff Match)
For as little momentum as The Club have had in recent months, they continue to contest entertaining matches with whoever they're in the ring with, and the chemistry Cesaro and Sheamus have as a tandem is a plus as well. They picked up the pace in the second half and thankfully the only time the two referees came into play was when the first one was inadvertently hit with a Brogue Kick. I honestly didn't expect The Club to capture the tag titles here, so I was pleasantly surprised that they did. Thankfully they pulled the triggered before it was too late and they were completely dead in the water.
Nia Jax def. Sasha Banks (Kickoff Match)
Although Jax is still pretty green in the ring, she definitely tends to thrive in matches where she is positioned as the dominant monster. And with the stark contrast in size, Banks was perfect as the underdog here, and she sold beautifully for Jax's offense. The finish seemed to come out of nowhere, but it was really well done with Banks landing on her "injured" knee before Jax followed it up with the Samoan Drop for the clean victory. That was the right result to keep the feud alive.
Shawn Michaels Addressed the Audience (Kickoff Show)
Well, this was a sweet surprise and a cool way to close out the Kickoff show. Michaels already appeared on the pre-show panel earlier in the hour, but I will never complain about hearing his iconic entrance music and the crowd losing their minds. This was a simple enough promo that hyped up the Royal Rumble match and was kept short and sweet. Thank the lord (no pun intended) this wasn't designed to plug his new movie.
Raw Women's Champion Chalrotte Flair def. Bayley
These two have history dating back to NXT, so I was expecting them to have an above-average match and they definitely delivered. Bayley arguably hasn't been the same since leaving NXT character-wise, but the crowd was hot for her throughout the bout and truly wanted to see her win. That said, I'm glad she didn't because the timing isn't right and that moment would be better saved for WrestleMania. This was an excellent opener to the show that continued the streak of strong women's matches on pay-per-view. What a difference a few years can make.
WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens def. Roman Reigns in a No Disqualification Match
Their Roadblock: End of the Line match bored me to tears, but the No Disqualification stipulation unquestionably added to my enjoyment of this matchup. They made awesome use of the extreme environment by battering each other with tables, chairs and steel steps and maintaining the steady pace from start to finish. The fans were engaged in everything they did and Reigns and Owens deserve credit for putting forth a hell of an effort. I was convinced Owens was dropping the title here, so Strowman getting involved was interesting. Will that be setting something up for Fastlane or at WrestleMania 33? Time will tell.
Neville def. Rich Swann to Win the WWE Cruiserweight Championship
It's a shame the fans sat on their hands for this match because the video package was well done and I thought it was one of the better Cruiserweight matches we have received on pay-per-view up to this point. What will it take for fans to get invested in the division? Well, Neville taking the title is certainly a step in the right direction. I actually liked this match quite a bit, and Neville winning in clean fashion was what needed to happen. Him vs. Austin Aries for the belt at WrestleMania 33 would far better than any sort of multi-man match they could do.
John Cena def. AJ Styles to Win the WWE Championship
Cena and Styles had two of the best bouts from the main roster in 2016 in my opinion (I was there for the second one). Thus, those expecting anything less than an instant classic here were foolish. I can't say just yet where this ranks among their previous matchups, but this was absolutely epic in every sense of the word. The nearfalls had me on the edge of my seat, the storytelling was spectacular, and the in-ring action was incredible. Just wow. I wouldn't have had Cena capture his 16th world title so soon (I would have waited until WrestleMania), but this was a monumental moment, nevertheless. And for the fans who are angry Styles dropped the strap to Cena, I get the feeling he'll win it back at Elimination Chamber, anyway.
Randy Orton Won the 30-Man Royal Rumble Match
Per usual with the Royal Rumble, there is a lot to discuss so I will attempt to analyze everything I thought was relevant. I was a bit underwhelmed early on by the surplus of "jobbers" in the Rumble, but it ultimately served a purpose with Strowman taking them each of them out, and I liked the interaction he had with James Ellsworth (virtually killing the guy on the outside via a chokeslam) and Sami Zayn. Chris Jericho shouldn't have been outside the ring for as long as he was, but he was a treat whenever he did pop up. Jack Gallagher wasn't exactly who I was hoping for when it came to the surprise entrants. In fact, other than Tye Dillinger entering at No. 10 (which was amazing), I was disappointed by the lack of returns or shocking moments. Yes, Reigns coming out at No. 30 was shocking, but not in a good way. More like shockingly dumb. Unless they turn him heel soon, this company is run by buffoons. How the hell they thought he would be cheered in any form or fashion is beyond me, especially after he eliminated The Undertaker. 'Taker, Goldberg, Brock Lesnar didn't last long at all, but they furthered their respective stories effectively. Enzo Amore's brief spot was a waste. And then we had Orton winning the Rumble. It had been rumored coming into event, but I didn't honestly think they would go that route. On the bright side, that must mean Bray Wyatt is winning the WWE Championship at Elimination Chamber, and Orton was a better choice than Reigns obviously, but it's almost sad that four of the last five Rumble winners have already won it once. And the only guy who didn't was booed out of the building here (Rumble). Welcome to the New Era, ladies and gentlemen! Or something like that.
Just because the Rumble match didn't come close to living up to my lofty expectations, that doesn't necessarily mean the event on the whole was a bust. The undercard was extremely exceptional, including the Kickoff matches, but then the show fell off a cliff with the Rumble match itself. There was a ton of potential there, but they dropped the ball... again. And I'm talking about for, like, the third time since 2014. That's pathetic. Although the 2014 and 2015 Rumbles were mediocre at best, WrestleMania both years was phenomenal, so we can only hope that this year will be no different.