WWE’s 2011 Royal Rumble

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I know it’s silly, but I’m a long time pro wrestling fan. I’ve been losing interest lately, but last night’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view may have turned all that around. It was a fun show that really showcased the Rumble itself, which is usually the most exciting match of the year. There was a new twist on the Rumble match, a couple of very surprising old favorites returning, but it was the current roster and what they did in the ring that made the show great.

The Royal Rumble match has been a January staple for over twenty years and always serves to lay the groundwork for that year’s WrestleMania. The gimmick match is a 30-man over the top rope battle royal that starts with two men and adds another at regular intervals until all 30 have entered and ends when only one remains. The only significant changes the match has seen in its long history have been the length of the intervals (ranging from 1 to 2 minutes) and the stakes for the winner (ranging from a title match to winning the championship itself). Last night had the typical WrestleMania title shot on the line, 90 second intervals, but with the twist being a jump from 30 participants to 40.

Usually I’m a purist with these things, but this was a good change and it worked with the booking for the match. It was exciting throughout and there was never a point that it dragged. It was almost as if they had two Rumbles in one night. The first half was dominated by C.M. Punk and his new Nexus (though I don’t know why the aren’t called “The Core” instead of Wade Barrett’s group when Punk has the straightedge hardcore gimmick). The later half of the match gave a lot of top names a chance to shine and had a number of great surprises. The finish was great and it was nice to see my pick, Alberto del Rio, win the match.

The good

C.M. Punk had another brilliant Rumble showing after last year where he worked the mic between eliminating entrants one by one as they came in. He began the match with Daniel Bryan and while the announce team pointed out that “the internet” probably loved what they were seeing (the two are long time favorites from their independent wrestling days), the crowd in Boston clearly loved it too. The two worked well with the early entrants until C.M. Punk’s new Nexus group cleared house and held control until John Cena broke things up. I don’t normally cheer for Cena but this was awesome, and that’s coming from a big C.M. Punk fan.

Thankfully Smackdown’s new faction, The Corre (the extra “R” is awful) didn’t dominate in the same way. The expanded roster allowed for one faction to dominate for a bit, but it would not have accommodated seeing it happen twice. It was fun not having a clear sense of who would win right up until the final moments, but del Rio makes a lot of sense and I’m happy with the outcome.

The bad

I don’t really have many negative things to say about last night’s show. There was really no need to have Dolph Ziggler and Randy Orton work double duty in their title matches earlier in the night and the Rumble. I’m sure there were some substitutions that could have been made to avoid this, but they didn’t really impact things negatively.

It was a relatively weak showing from Kane, who I normally look forward to seeing in this match. He’s not really in the main event spotlight right now, so I suppose it’s to be expected. His run was short entering at #40, but it would have been nice to see more of him.

One final thing that really irked me was the camera cutting away from the ring to the commentators during that match while people were being eliminated. There’s never a reason to show the Miz or anyone else doing commentary during the Rumble or any other PPV match.

The surprises

There were two really big surprises last night and they were fantastic. Late in the match fans got to see the returning Booker T and Kevin Nash (as Diesel!) enter the Rumble. Booker T may be back for another WWE run, but I really doubt that will be the case for Nash given his age and what he’s capable of in the ring at this point. Nash going back to the Diesel character and dyed hair was weird. He almost looked more badass with the grey hair and beard. Their appearance makes me wonder just what is happening at TNA. I haven’t watched for months now and they were a big part of the show last time I did.

The biggest surprise of the night was Hornswaggle. His entertainment value was at an all time high and in the most unexpected of matches. Putting him in the Rumble could have been a terrible decision, but his antics imitating his opponents in the ring and past Rumble moments (like checking his invisible watch a la Steve Austin) were priceless. Cena really helped sell this bit and looked to be enjoying it himself.

The end result

This was all around a great pay-per-view event. The Rumble match was a the focus with only three other title matches on the card: Edge v. Dolph Ziggler, The Miz v. Randy Orton, and a Divas match. There have been years where the gimmick match gets lower billing, but showcasing it is always what I prefer.

Cena’s elimination at the hands of the The Miz sets up their match at WrestleMania. Cena didn’t need to win the Rumble again and it’s better booking to have him wronged at the hands of the champion. I don’t know where this leaves Orton, but hopefully we won’t see a triple threat match at WrestleMania. The Elimination Chamber next month could shake some things up and further set up for the biggest event of the year.

Alberto del Rio winning the Rumble is great. I’m a big fan and this helps solidify him as as main eventer. I would have liked to see Punk go a little longer, but like Cena, he doesn’t need the win. As with Orton, I’m not sure where this leaves him and his ongoing feud with Cena. It seems Punk and the new Nexus are headed for a feud with The Corre, but a lot can change in a short amount of time.

If you’re interested in seeing the Royal Rumble, WWE now has their pay-per-view events available on iTunes. You can even download individual matches if you only want to see the Rumble itself. Individual matches for other events are $2.99, but the Rumble may come with a higher price tag given its 60+ minute length. All photos available at WWE.com.

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