We began the Road to WrestleMania last night, and while some in attendance may have went into business for itself, so did the WWE.
For those who missed the TLC review, the criteria for these reviews is simple: “Did I get my money’s worth?” in terms of the individual matches and the PPV as a whole, using the tried and true “what was this trying to do, and how well did it succeed” test of “quality”.
Each match is rated plus or minus on a sliding scale between 1 and -1, with matches worth multiple rewatches being +1, a just-quite-PPV quality match +/- 0, and things that make me reevaluate being a fan earning up to a -1 score. The scale is arbitrary, of course, but it’s based around the idea that a match will be fundamentally good, and give me things I wouldn’t see for free: major heel turns, definitive conclusions (which are different from clean finishes) and moves that don’t make their way to Raw.
The more of that in a match/show, the better Bang For Your Buck on the PPV. We’ll (eventually) keep a running tally for each PPV, and a handy list of PPVs we review to give you (and us) a better idea of what we thought was worth the time to check out in terms of matches and PPVs. As for the scale, it’s not particularly complicated but here are the basic levels (on a per-match basis):
As always, we’re going to be using what I said during the What’s the Worst That Could Happen preview to see how close I was to “predicting” what unfolded, how that stacked up to my beliefs of what they were “trying” to do and whether or not I got what I wanted out of the show. Enjoy!
The sad fact of it is that Bryan hasn’t boosted ratings or moved PPV buys while on top. Booking hasn’t helped him, of course, but that’s it.
— Cageside Seats (@cagesideseats) January 27, 2014
Kickoff Match for the WWE Tag Team Championship
THE BROTHERHOOD vs. THE NEW AGE OUTLAWS
Worst Case Scenario: The New Age Outlaws win this match, through any means other than “impossibly dirty” or the Best Case Scenario.
What Nick Wants to Happen: Anything that allows Cody or Goldust to work against each other at some point down the road in a way that makes sense.
As always, since this match was part of the free preshow, it doesn’t count in the Bang for Your Buck total, but it definitely seemed to fit the pattern of the night: the WWE choosing to stick to what they think is best for business (with numbers which, while debatable, seem to back them up.)
For instance, it’s easy for fans to say “just don’t have them lose”, but the truth is, Cody and Goldust were going to have to lose sooner rather than later. Having it happen on the pre-show of the third biggest and second most important show seems like an odd choice and while there was probably no good way to have the Boys lose, it’s easy to argue that having them lose clean wasn’t the best idea. HAVING SAID THAT, like much of the night, this planted the seeds for a story line that will come to fruition some time in the next two months. It could be tomorrow, it could be next month at the Elimination chamber, but it will happen, and when it does, no matter how they got there, it will be a match worth watching.
Now, if we could just get the belts off The New Age Outlaws as quick as is humanly possible — preferably to a team like the Real Americans, the Wyatts or, this reviewer’s personal preference, the Usos — that would be wonderful. Though whether or not it happens won’t change how wonderful the run that Cody and Goldust had, how great it is to see guys like Goldust and Billy Gunn still be able to do the work that they were doing 15 years ago, or how much fun the crowd has every time the New Age Outlaws come out and do their little shtick.
DANIEL BRYAN vs. BRAY WYATT
Best Case Scenario: Bray finally has a chance to “explore the studio space”, doesn’t screw up the inverted crabwalk, match has an ending which makes sense within the context of itself.
May have missed it if Bray screwed up on the inverted crabwalk — but this was definitely a match that gave the viewer Bang for their Buck. Bray finally was given the opportunity to work a full match against a top worker in Daniel Bryan, and both delivered. Bryan continues to be the most over worker with the live crowds, and while that hasn’t translated to PPV buys or ratings, it definitely adds a significant amount of atmosphere to any match.
And although this match had a lot of great spots — including the fantastic end sequence, when Bray completely dead’d Bryan with the Sister Abigail against the guardrail — it was the atmosphere that made the match feel so much bigger than the curtain jerker it was. The booking decision seems suspect to some, but, the Royal Rumble is always the start of story lines leading to WrestleMania (this is something that will be reiterated several times, be prepared). The significant number of possibilities this brings forth over the definitive end that a Bryan win would have given us makes this the best possible booking decision given the options.
BIG SHOW vs. BROCK LESNAR
Best Case Scenario: Brock Lesnar goes totally sick house on Big Show, throwing him around like he has done to Brock the past few weeks.
What Nick Wants to Happen: Brock Lesnar beats Show so bad, Show’s hair grows back.
Brock Lesnar is one of the best mat wrestlers in the history of the WWE, if not from a performance on the show standpoint, DEFINITELY from a “highly decorated legitimate champion” perspective. But anyone looking for a classic wrestling clinic, or even a real match, was barking up the wrong tree in this bout. This was never going to be anything other than Brock OBLITERATING Show, to prove his dominance and presumably make whomever he’s facing next want to, well, not have to face him.
While the match and post match beatdown were, according to reports, audibles after Show broke his hand at a house show it just added to the overarching story of Lesnar being a vicious destroyer. Just by itself, him reshaping the chair to continue to beat Show was a moment that underlined why someone like Lesnar can come in and stake a claim to the No. 1 Contendership without much of an issue either from the crowd or (in kayfabe) the boys in the back .
The little moments of “business” like Heyman throwing Brock a chair after he destroyed one helped stop the beating from becoming over kill with a moment or two of levity. Now, it’s entirely understandable why someone might see this “match” as boring, or pointless, but for this reviewer, this — like the booking in first match — seemed like the best direction given the options (and the injury to Show). And watching Brock F-5 someone as Big as Show is ALWAYS worth some of my money.
Match .6 | PPV 1.6
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match
JOHN CENA vs. RANDY ORTON (C)
Best Case Scenario: Randy Orton wins, faces Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania.
What Nick Wants to Happen: A good match, with at least a little tomfoolery to build towards any number of story lines ON THE ROAD TO WRESTLEMANIA™
What Will Happen: Randy Orton wins, via shenanigans.
Rather obviously, the results of this match were pleasing to this reviewer on many different levels. As Orton won via Wyatt-related (and completely unexpected if still totally sensical, at least from this reviewer’s perspective) shenanigans after a good match — no matter what the idiots in the crowd were doing — while building towards any number of story lines, there’s nothing more that could have been asked for.
More importantly, however, from a narrative and “overall enjoyment perspective” was how very good Randy Orton is at his job. Cena, is the oldest of old pros when it comes to crowd reactions, smirking away the heat he gets from the audience as he continues to sell out building after building and WrestleMania after WrestleMania. But Randall takes it to another, beautiful level (something that will be addressed in the Viper’s Better Know a Wrestler that’ll be posted later this afternoon.)
This match was troll bait at its finest, in addition to being a very well-worked match. Randy Orton willed not just a sizeable portion of the fans there, most of the non-idiots on Twitter and nearly everyone your reviewer was watching with to, at the very least, care about what was happening INSIDE OF THE RING. Instead of forgetting his lines, or getting flustered, Orton pulled out every trick in his heel book, forcing the crowd to focus its attention back on the matter at hand.
It’s easy to argue — and it’ll be even easier after we finish #OrtonWeek — that we are in the bag for Randy (and also, John) around here, so the rating that’s about to come up may sound ludicrous to most. But, as objectively as possible, the work both put into this match, the ability of the performers to bring the crowd at least somewhat back to them after it got hijacked by the #YesMovement, coupled with an ending that made sense AND made the crowd realize that there may have been a plan for this all along makes that, at least in this reviewer’s eyes, every bit as good (or at least fun to watch) as the Daniel Bryan-Bray Wyatt match.
Match .8 | PPV 2.4
The Royal Rumble Match
Best Case Scenario: A compelling narrative, lead by some sort of transcendent performance(s) by CM Punk, Roman Reigns, Big E. Langston, Albert del Rio and/or Antonio Cesaro that also allows for the likely winner (Batista) to shine in the match without having it (unintentionally) look the match fell into his lap.
What Nick Wants to Happen: Roman Reigns to Level Up, CM Punk took give us our money’s worth and Batista to be less winded from walking down the aisle than he was Monday Night.
While the ending — or, more accurately, the lack of Daniel Bryan involved in it — left many fans unhappy. Those fans, for the most part, are crying over split milk. That’s not to say that they don’t have a right to be upset, or they are being childish — although they definitely were during the WWE WHC match — the idea that Bryan should have been in the Rumble AFTER facing Bray Watt is ludicrous, at best.
There’s no reason for him to win, as putting him in the main event of WrestleMania with Randy Orton by having him win the Royal Rumble — ESPECIALLY as the 30th entrant — wouldn’t speak to the larger issues at play over why he hasn’t been made the champion. Winning from the same spot as The Undertaker and John Cena puts them on the same level as them.
And he isn’t.
That’s not to say they are better performers than him, and it doesn’t have anything to do with how over he is relative to their peaks. But he isn’t a super man or a supernatural being, and he shouldn’t be treated or booked as such. He’s the ultimate underdog, which while an effective archetype, does not benefit from things being handed to him, like a Rumble win after coming in as the 30th man.
With this in mind, while the complaints over the lack of Bryan — both in the crowd and in certain corners of Twitter — overshadowed the end of the match, the build up to it was as good it has ever been in the Rumble match. There was a record breaking performance from Roman Reigns, great storyline development with the Rhodes Brothers, The Shield, and CM Punk’s feud with The Authority. Kofi Kingston and Alexander Rusev both look like they will be getting some kind of pushes following this, hopefully in a feud against each other.
While some may quarrel with the finish, the (unfortunate) truth is that Batista and Orton is probably the best option in terms of a story line for the WWE WHC, and leaves Bryan being free to face whichever gigantic star (or relatively big star, like Sheamus [or up-and-coming stars like the Wyatt family) they have planned from him at WrestleMania. Finally, if nothing else, Roman Reigns will have a serious say in what comes over the next few years of wrestling. And you can believe in that.
This managed to be, not surprising considering the card, the highest rated PPV so far on a per-match basis. While your mileage may vary on the Rumble (although outside of the ending [which didn’t bother this review AT ALL] it would be hard to argue with the quality of the match itself) and almost definitely will for the Cena/Orton match, this was a highly enjoyable PPV for this member of the WWE Universe.
This review will not jibe with what a large portion of the #InternetWrestlingWriting community and vehemently go against what the “IWC” is saying and that’s because, well, it’s really hard to agree with most people when they seem to be missing the point: the WWE have plans different from the ones that a certain (incredibly vocal) segment of fans want to see. Accepting that makes reviewing and critiquing what happens much easier in terms of the enjoyment of the moment, which is an important step in realizing that wrestling is what you make of it, not what you want it to be. Picking and choosing what you do and don’t like as a way to review things is perhaps the worst possible way to try to review or be critical of anything. For fans, it’s fine, but as a reviewer, being TRYING to be objective about what they were attempting to achieve and judging it based on that is the main goal.
There’s nothing wrong with what that segment of the fans wanted to see. But it’s probably not the majority — even though it seems like it, because the crazy reaction that some performers get from the crowds — and definitely not what everyone (this reviewer included) needs to see feel like they got their money’s worth. And if you disagree with me, I have TWO WORDS FOR YA: That’s fair.
Overall PPV 3.075 | Match Avg .76875 (.77 if you’re nasty)