Last night was the 2015 Royal Rumble, which answered two age old questions: How can one man subsist on German suplexes alone? And, how many adult Philadelphians acting like children who’ve had their favorite toy away does it take to nearly derail a professional wrestling show?
Your Monthly Reminder: While the name of these reviews is “Bang for Your Buck”, because of the Network it’s now less of “getting your money’s worth”, and more “how much does having access to something like this make me want to renew my subscription” or, more succinctly, “how ‘special’ was this event/match, really?”. Which means that instead of just taking into account things like: major character shifts, definitive conclusions (which are different from clean finishes) and moves that don’t make their way to Raw, it’ll focus more on “how many times would I rewatch this”, “would I show this to non-fans as a reason why wrestling is worth watching” and “how different was this historically?”
Each match is rated on a sliding scale between -1 and -1: Matches worth multiple rewatches are +1, a match you may watch or skip 0, and things that make you 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 watchable, repeatedly so.
As for the scale, it’s not particularly complicated but here are the basic levels (on a per-match basis):
As usual, I’ll be using what I said from the What’s the Worst That Could Happen preview to see how close I was to predicting what would happen and whether or not it lived up to my pre-established expectations. You know, like an adult.
The New Day (Kofi Kingston & Big E.) vs. Tyson Kidd & Cesaro
Best Case Scenario: New Team Rocket (Tyson Kidd, Cesaro and Natalya) come out of this match looking as good as they do during matches on Main Event (R.I.P.), while the new Shield (THAT’S RIGHT, I SAID! IT HAD TO BE SAID AND I SAID IT) gets a chance to start working in the multi-man moves that they’ve been trying over the past few weeks.
Among those of us watching in — or skyping into — the Palace of Wisdom for last night’s show, The New Day was 3 for 3 in terms of fans. Obviously, a small sample size, but considering how handsome the people in the poll were, it seems like a pretty accurate representation of overall sentiment. But, honestly, while other writers bring up the very valid point that they are not totally clicking with the crowd, the expectation that they should be doing so right away seems unfair.
They aren’t hated by the crowd — or, at the very least, they don’t desperately want them to go away — and if they can be given a long enough amount of time to explore what they are trying to do, it feels like it will succeed. A lot of that has to do with the fact that they make sense together, and not because they are talented, well-educated young men of similar ethnicities: they have all been seen as also-rans in a world — meaning professional wrestling — where there’s no real middle ground and no nuance from the audience, where performers either have to be main eventers or they are considered jobbers. Because they have purpose — meaning it makes sense that they exist — this can go one of two ways and still be highly successful if they find a purpose, like a specific goal (tag team titles) or plan (like the Shield’s “fight against injustice”.) When that happens, they can either be the Usos, whose over-the-top entrance fell flat until, one day, it didn’t, and they started to get over OR, it can allow them to involve into a stable that spits in the face of the expectations made for them by the crowd.
As for Cesaro and Kidd, they have managed to slide right into the “talented guys that work well together” type of tag team that you so often find on the independent circuit and are both spectacular enough performers to actually have it work in a way that it usually doesn’t in the WWE because of the importance of individual branding. They seem like a perfect tag team to go toe-to-toe with the Usos before the Ascension become the Roman Reigns of the tag team division. And for now, a strong win against a strong team is all the credibility they needed to put them in the title picture.
So, while this isn’t a match that would cause you to watch this PPV over and over again even if it were on it and not on the pre-show, it’s definitely the type that is perfect for a pre-show: getting as many eyeballs on talented teams as possible and allow them to forward from it in a way that leaves people with a clear place to follow.