Friday, 17 March 2017

DVD Review: Royal Rumble 2017

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 211 Minutes
Certificate: 12
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: March 20 2017

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

The marketing slogan "Remember The Rumble" was used to promote the 30th annual Royal Rumble, which would arguably be the biggest in history as the show returned to the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas with a star-studded line-up across the board. Ultimately, the Rumble will be remembered for reasons good and bad, more positive than negative, as this DVD reaffirms.

Kicking off with Charlotte vs. Bayley for the Raw Women's Championship, the opener is a good one and it marks a refreshing change from the Charlotte-Sasha Banks battles on Raw (this is the first televised match for said title which doesn't involve Sasha since Extreme Rules way back in May, believe it or not). The result is logical, despite Bayley's popularity, although events since the Rumble suggest that the outcome was a bit pointless, since the title change that many assumed was being saved for WrestleMania, and ultimately was not, could have made for a big moment here at the Rumble.

Next up, Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns put on a powerful brawl for the Universal Championship, with Chris Jericho trapped above the ring in a shark cage. It's another reminder that Reigns is a strong worker despite the negativity surrounding him (more on that later), and on a personal note, since the WWE Network feed continuously entered buffering mode during the original live presentation (one such instance included the most significant spot of the entire match), the second viewing here is far more enjoyable. Rich Swann defends the Cruiserweight Championship against Neville in the following bout, which is a pretty good, hard-hitting Cruiser battle, although it still doesn't quite match expectations that fans have held for the division, which is largely down to the decision-makers rather than the combatants. Fortunately, some sterling Cruiser bouts in recent weeks suggest that things may be on the up for the purple-roped grapplers.

Before the main event, AJ Styles and John Cena rekindle their already-famous rivalry in a superb WWE Championship match. I'm not sure if this is superior to their previous SummerSlam classic or not, but the high stakes and the dome setting, combined with tremendous heat and outstanding performances make for one of the best WWE Championship encounters in years. With AJ seeking a fourth major win over Cena and the challenger looking to win his 16th World Title to (supposedly) tie Ric Flair's long-standing record, this is one hell of a match which, in any other yeay, may have been saved for WrestleMania. As it is, it makes for a more-than-worthy bout on this stage, and as an early contender for Match Of The Year in WWE (to prevent people making comparisons with clashes from NJPW Wrestle Kingdom XI, a debate that I don't have enough time to enter into), it's a must-see match. It's further evidence of how good AJ is, as well as demonstrating once and for all that Cena can damn sure wrestle, especially in big-match situations.

And so we come to the Rumble match. On the whole, it's a good Rumble match, the best since 2010 in my opinion. With quite a few big-name entrants as well as some other cool spots, surprising eliminations and first-time appearances, along with some minor surprises, all within the Alamodome environment, it's one of the more memorable Rumble bouts, and it also does a fine job of setting up several key matches for WrestleMania 33. The inevitable Brock Lesnar-Goldberg interaction (following on from their short yet unforgettable Survivor Series showdown) is effective, and enough notable spots are dotted throughout to keep one's interest. Where the Rumble faltered was in its final moments.

Now, I don't like to give spoilers but, considering how big the Rumble is, there's a good chance that you already know what I'm about to say so it isn't spilling the beans really. Even on second viewing, WWE tossing in Roman Reigns as #30 was an awful decision. It made no storyline sense (why would the anti-Authority babyface - or supposed babyface - be given a chance to enter the Rumble having lost his big title match, but AJ Styles was not?), it deflated the crowd both in San Antonio and watching at home (fans are leaving on camera, in droves, shortly after Reigns arrives but before the match ends), and it was a waste of the coveted #30 spot (fans were expecting some sort of big surprise since every announced entrant had already come in). I realise it was partially designed to set up his Mania match with The Undertaker but, if that was WWE's intention, Roman should have come in at #29, and Taker could have been an unannounced entry at #30 (announcing his participation beforehand didn't make a big difference, and it would have provided nice symmetry since Taker was #30 in the previous two San Antonio Rumbles in 1997 and 2007, the latter of which he won). The other explanation (trolling the WWE audience to make them believe another Roman win was coming, and/or to generate the "right" reaction for what was ultimately the real outcome) is essentially an acknowledgement from WWE that Roman as a babyface does not work, which begs the question: why not turn the man heel? Unless WWE plans to make Roman a villain in his WM feud with Taker, it makes for a real head-scratcher. At least the fans weren't chanting for Daniel Bryan this time.

The other complaint about the Rumble at the time, which is less apllicable upon second viewing, is the lack of major surprises. There are some unexpected entrants which I won't spoil here (Reigns aside), but fans were hoping for someone of true consequence to make a stunning debut or return. Even when you understand why those names didn't appear (Kurt Angle isn't returning until the Hall Of Fame and may not wrestle again in WWE; Finn Balor was still injured; Samoa Joe was being saved for Raw the next night; Kenny Omega wasn't contractually able to appear even if he was planning to leave New Japan Pro Wrestling for real, which he isn't), WWE could have still given us a nostalgic appearance by, say, X-Pac or Ken Shamrock or even Hillbilly Jim, rather than negating one of the Rumble's key elements. Of course, Reigns being a late surprise is like having your birthday party turn into a surprise dentist's appointment, given how much the crowd loathe his character. As stated earlier, Reigns is very good in the ring, but his character is a mess, so him appearing was always going to dampen the end of this contest. (On a personal note, I would have enjoyed the Rumble result far more had Dave Meltzer not given away the outcome days earlier which spread on social media like wildfire; that's not a criticism of this DVD, since it's a second viewing, nor of the match as a whole, since it wasn't WWE that gave away the result, but it's a reminder that those who wish to avoid spoilers may have to sidestep social media altogether next year if they want to watch the Rumble without having the winner revealed in advance.)

It's a shame that the ending to the Rumble match left such a negative feeling in one's mouth because, despite the downsides taking up more line space than the upsides, this was a really enjoyable Rumble match on the whole, and capped off one of the better all-round Rumble events in history. In fact, if the final moments of the Rumble - or more specifically, the final entrant - had been more satisfying, this probably would have been considered the greatest Rumble event of all-time. As it is, the rug is pulled out in the final minutes, but it still doesn't take away from the fact that this was a fun Pay-Per-View event to watch, boasting a classic match, several very good bouts and a Rumble main event that was undoubtedly memorable.

With the exception of the Rumble match's closing minutes, this is a great WWE supershow to own, and it marks a strong start to the year on Pay-Per-View for WWE. It remains to be seen how all of the intertwining storylines will culminate at WrestleMania 33 in Orlando, Florida on Sunday April 2 but, in the meantime, Royal Rumble 2017 is a fine way to help set the stage for WM, and makes for a very entertaining wrestling DVD.

Overall Rating: 8/10 - Very Good

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