Roman Reigns vs. Rusev vs. AJ Styles vs. Tyler Breeze vs. Curtis Axel vs. Chris Jericho vs. Kane vs. Goldust vs. Ryback vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Titus O’Neil vs. R-Truth vs. Luke Harper vs. Stardust vs. The Big Show vs. Neville vs. Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Sami Zayn vs. Erick Rowan vs. Mark Henry vs. Brock Lesnar vs. Jack Swagger vs. The Miz vs. Alberto del Rio vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Sheamus vs. Triple H from WWE 2016

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This was a Royal Rumble match for Roman Reigns’ WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

This was a WEIRD Royal Rumble. It basically highlighted that there are a handful of acts that fans are either very behind or willing to get behind. AJ Styles made his WWE debut, came off like a huge star, looked great, and it seemed like the WWE had a new main eventer. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn got to renew their rivalry (that has legit been going on for over a decade) on the second biggest stage possible. Brock Lesnar worked  a rare televised match and came off like a huge star in his feud with The Wyatt Family. Unfortunately, those wrestlers and their eliminations were a part of the micro stories within the Rumble.

The macro story of this particular Royal Rumble was Roman Reigns vs. Triple HVince McMahon, and The League of Nations. Despite the fact that Roman Reigns made clear in 2015 that he is one of the best wrestlers in the company, he was not pushed effectively in terms of getting over like a main eventer. As a result, this match basically had a black cloud cast over it as far more over talents like AJ, Owens, Zayn, and Brock got dispatched.

Thankfully, the WWE had an ace up their sleeve and actually had the final two be Triple H and Dean Ambrose. That prevented the match from ending with a huge backlash like the last two years. It’s interesting that they chose Ambrose for that role. He’s just over enough that the crowd obviously rallied behind him, but he’s not pushed hard enough for WWE to actually use this as a springboard for something more. Obviously, Triple H eventually got the better of this exchange and became WWE Champion for the first time since 2009.

Overall, this was one of the easiest Rumbles to watch in a good while. The closing stretch and biggest story of the match though were very pedestrian at best. You can’t really say “Let it play out” because of WWE’s history and because the likely destination (Roman vs. HHH) is a tough sell. I’ll take the fun match though for what it was in the moment. (***1/2)

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