There are two events in the WWE calendar which garner perhaps the most interest above all others, one is Wrestlemania which is arguably the biggest show of the year, and the other is Royal Rumble. Every January wrestling fans are at the height of speculation wondering whom they might see in the 30-man over the top rope battle royal with a twist. Legends, debuting competitors, and returning superstars are all possible options to hit the ring when the buzzer sounds every two minutes. Emanating from the Alamodome in San Antonio Texas, site of the 1997 Royal Rumble, this promised to be one of the biggest Royal Rumble events in the company's history, certainly financially if not necessarily creatively. However, for me this was a very good show overall.
Obviously there is no other place to start than with the main event itself. While it may not have had as many surprising or shocking entries as in previous years (no returning Finn Balor for example, and no debuting Kenny omega as rumoured after his stellar main event against Kazuchika Okada at NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 11 earlier in the month), but the match itself was a stellar affair with some intriguing and interesting spots, and crucially a match that did exactly what the Royal Rumble match is designed to do; put the pieces in place for the big feuds for Wrestlemania, as well as teasing possible bouts down the line as it did with The Undertaker and Goldberg for example. I enjoyed the match, especially the surprise winner and I was still enthralled on second viewing despite knowing who the victor would be. I liked the interactions between Goldberg and Brock Lesnar, a bit of a shine for Baron Corbin, and a number fo other moments which I felt helped this rumble plenty of interesting moments to keep you hooked. Perhaps not to everyone's taste, but this was a solid effort for me and a far better rumble match than the past couple have been.
The other major highlight form this show for me was AJ Styles vs John Cena for the WWE Championship. I liked the story they were telling going into this, with Cena having been unsuccessful in his previous attempts to beat Styles, and Styles finding a way to counter Cena's biggest weapons. This dynamic continued here, with both me pulling out moves that were less expected from them and the two put on an absolute masterclass here. If this is not one of the matches widely in contention for match of year in December I'll be stunned, because these two managed to deliver on a match that had been done several times already but still bringing something fresh to the table in a match that had a big fight feel. Steller work all round.
The rest of the undercard was all very entertaining. Charlotte vs Bayley was a decent opener, but fell a bit flat of expectations for me knowing what both are capable of in the ring. Kevin Owens vs Roman Reigns was a heated brawl which was yet another example of Roman Reigns delivering in the ring when needed. Both men were very good here, although Chris Jericho was arguably the star of the who in the shark cage above the ring. The nice thing about Jericho's hammy overacting here was that it added rather than detracted from the match. Even with the screwy finish this was enjoyable for me. Neville vs Rich Swann was a short but well worked affair (regular readers will have already seen my many pieces praising Neville since his return) which did plenty to help elevate the cruiserweight title, so that was a bonus.
Royal Rumble 2017 might not have been as well received as some of its predecessors, but I very much enjoyed this show. All the matches were at least passable, some were brilliant and the huge arena added a sense of gravitas and importance to proceedings that made this show feel like a really big deal.
EXTRAS: Given it was a big event we were treated to a suitably high-profile pre-show, with a cracking women's six-person tag featuring Becky Lynch, Nikki Bella, and Naomi taking on Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, and Natalya in a very fun little match. Cesaro & Sheamus faced off with Gallows & Anderson in a hard hitting match, while Nia Jax and Sasha Banks had a short but fairly entertaining bout. Jax still needs a lot of work to make it at this level, and Sasha is still prone to being very sloppy so I can certainly see why this ended up on the pre-show.