Cody Rhodes Wins 2023 Royal Rumble Match
There was a lot to digest here. First and foremost, what an outstanding performance by Gunther. You don’t usually see the Iron Men of Royal Rumble matches being big men, but he did the damn thing and took an ass whoopin while doing so. The ending sequence with Cody might also be one of the best final two sequences in a Rumble match I have ever seen. It’s right up there with Shawn Michaels and Undertaker from 2007. It was so well done and drama filled, and even though the winner was obvious, they did a good job playing up the drama.
What I would also say about the whole Cody thing is that him entering in as the last entrant obviously took the surprise out of certain things, but I understand it in a way. I was just kind of bummed that the surprises weren’t really all that much. Edge was pretty much a lock so he can continue his feud with Judgement Day. Booker T……kinda meh. I know many were expecting The Rock, but I just never saw it coming.
Overall, I thought it was a well worked Rumble match with ebbs and flows and mini-stories and potential building blocks to WrestleMania were sprinkled in. Can’t complain too much. Was more or less what I was expecting. That ending sequence with Cody and Gunther put it over the top though. ****1/4
Bray Wyatt def. LA Knight – Lights Out Match
I found it hilariously funny that during a supposed “Lights Out” match, we are seeing a big glowing Mountain Dew sign in the middle. I just happened to find that very funny. This was okay for what it was, and I suppose they got what they were going for here. But oftentimes, my issue with these supernatural Bray Wyatt storylines is what’s the end game. What is Uncle Howdy supposed to represent, and what other characters play a role? These stories often dissolve into nothingness within months’ time and Bray’s character becomes essentially irrelevant. I’ve seen this movie over and over. The feud was somewhat intriguing, but the match didn’t keep too engaged. Bray got a clean, dominant win, and I guess that’s what ultimately matters. But I really need this story in Bray’s return to take the next step. *1/2
Bianca Belair (C) def. Alexa Bliss – RAW Women’s Championship
Didn’t like this one. There was never a moment where I felt like Bianca was in any serious jeopardy, and there was some sloppiness and miscommunication sprinkled throughout as well. I never though these two had the greatest chemistry, but just in a practical sense, it’s a complete mismatch. Bianca looks like she was chiseled out of granite and looks like an Olympic athlete. Compare her to Alexa Bliss, and I cannot see any scenario where Alexa can pin Bianca cleanly without shenanigans. So we had a below average match that led to a predictable finish and an ambiguous post-match skit. Perhaps the stars are aligning for Bray and Alexa to reunite, but it’s not really doing much for me. *1/4
Rhea Ripley Wins Women’s Royal Rumble Match
The winner of this match wasn’t as obvious as Cody, but after about the halfway point of the match, it was quite clear that Mami was running the gauntlet. You guys also do not know how loud I laughed when Nia Jax’s entrance was botched. I did not see that coming and was not prepared. That being the big surprise of the Rumble was kind of disappointing, but this looked to be a Rumble that focused more on establishing some of the women on the NXT roster and giving them a chance to shine in a big spot, which I thought was cool.
Didn’t think much of the Rumble match itself. It’s probably a middle of the pack Rumble, with not many memorable moments sprinkled in. I liked Asuka’s return and her new persona and Rhea’s character work. But overall, the Rumble match itself was kinda meh. ***
Roman Reigns (C) vs. Kevin Owens – WWE Undipsuted Universal Championship
Result of the match was a foregone conclusion, but the quality of the match wasn’t nearly as important as the story they were going to try to convey. This was a lithmus test in regards to where Sami’s loyalties lie, and I thought WWE did a good job of the sheer brutality of what Kevin was going through. It’s kind of crazy because if you’ve watched KO’s matches with Roman, even going back as six years ago when KO was the champion, their matches are always closely contested.
This one was an extended beatdown, and just like the women’s title match, you never felt like there was a moment where Roman could actually be dethroned. I had that moment in some of Roman’s previous matches with the likes of Drew McIntyre, Edge, and others, but not here. Seeing Sami’s facial mannerisms as Roman would continue to dish out punishment was pitch perfect. And as soon as Roman was done finishing KO off, that’s when the real fun began.
I thought the post-match segment was perfectly done. Beat down a helpless KO within an inch of his life and make Sami deliver the final decisive blow. Sami gets in Roman’s way and Roman offers Sami to do it but he can’t bring himself to bring down his former fallen friend. Then, at the moment of truth, with chair in hand, a la Seth Rollins 2014, Sami hesitates at first, and then boldly strikes The Tribal Chief down and lets him know that enough is enough, at which point Sami’s loyalty is made clear. Roman is in the corner emotional and trash talking him. Solo and Jimmy strike Sami down.
Another great part of this was seeing Jey Uso’s role in all of this. He’s had a conflicted relationship with Sami ever since he was named an honorary Uce. From not trusting him outright, to acknowledging how often Sami would take bullets for The Bloodline, to even retaining the tag titles together. Now, he doesn’t know what to do. And merely walks away and doesn’t know what to think anymore. It’s all wonderful, and makes you think about the direction WrestleMania is going in.
A thought was raised to me over Twitter that the real WrestleMania match should be Roman vs. Sami because of the heavy emotional investment and the large amount of sympathy that Sami has gained for his role played in this storyline. Some have even compared this to Kofi’s improbable WrestleMania run in 2019.
Cody’s win does complicate things in a way because he doesn’t really have a place in the Bloodline’s storyline. And if it’s true that they are considering splitting Roman’s two titles to two distinct world titles once again, things can even become more muddied. WWE should be careful to not implement two many external elements to what is WWE’s best long-term storytelling effort in quite some time. The match was decent, but the real money is in the post-match beatdown, as the first major shoe to drop on the road to WrestleMania began. ***
The gimmick matches for this PPV delivered more or less, so I can say a thumbs up off the strength of that alone. But I would most definitely watch what the end of KO/Roman looked like because that’s where the real fun is.
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