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Greatest Royal Rumble? Child Please.

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Triple H Saudi Arabia Greatest Royal Rumble

As somebody that regularly writes about WWE for multiple websites, people expect me to care about their major events. I typically do. WrestleMania is always easy to get up for, even if the card looks lackluster. SummerSlam is typically built well and takes place at a great time for big events: the end of summer. Survivor Series has cool elimination matches. Heck, Money in the Bank has fun ladder matches, even if the briefcase concept is beyond played out.

Another event I’m always excited about is the Royal Rumble. Growing up, it was the event I looked most forward to. Even more than WrestleMania. There was something about the Royal Rumble Match that appealed to me. Thirty men entering the ring individually in approximately two-minute intervals for a shot at the WWE Champion at WrestleMania was incredibly fun. Even if the winner was pretty darn predictable most years, I felt like it gave everybody a chance to become Champion. Even guys like Virgil & Repo Man had a shot at it in my eyes.

It’s the one “Big 4” WWE event I’ve attended. In 2012 I made the trip to St. Louis with some of my offtheteam.com friends to see the Royal Rumble event. It didn’t go down in history as one of the great Rumbles, but I had a tremendous time. I haven’t been to a WrestleMania and that doesn’t really bother me. Getting to a Rumble more than makes up for it.

With all that being established, you would think that I’m pretty interested in Friday afternoon’s Greatest Royal Rumble event, being aired live from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on WWE Network. It’s certainly a stacked show. Every male championship will be on the line. John Cena & Triple H will face off. The Undertaker will battle Rusev in a casket match that’s had the strangest build of any match in recent memory. The cherry on top? A 50-man Royal Rumble match! I have no idea how they’ll fill that many slots without taking volunteers from the crowd.

It’s certainly an interesting show on paper, and feels like something I should be excited about. Yet, I don’t feel excitement. Something just doesn’t feel right. This isn’t a Top 5 column, but let’s run down the reasons I’m not feeling the Greatest Royal Rumble hype.

That name…Greatest Royal Rumble.

I mean, “Greatest Royal Rumble” is just an awful name all around. It sounds like you’re trying way too hard to get people to pay attention. It puts down all the Royal Rumbles that took place before it, including the one back in January. Speaking of which…

We just had a Royal Rumble.

Why are we stepping all over the annual Royal Rumble event by holding another one a mere three months after? This reminds me of when Major League Baseball would hold two All-Star Games in a season. OK, I wasn’t alive when they did that, so I can’t really say it reminds me of it. But you get what I’m saying. You got one Royal Rumble a year. Why water it down? And as the year they had forty people enter it proved, more doesn’t always equal better.

Noon on a Friday

Maybe this aspect doesn’t matter as much in 2018 because we can watch the damn show anytime we want. But there’s still something about the live aspect of a show, with the live reactions on social media & everybody discussing what’s going on. Most of us will be working when this happens. And let’s be honest, it’s a Friday, so most of us aren’t going to interrupt our Friday night plans for it. WWE should have figured this out when they put SmackDown on Friday nights & nobody watched.

Saudi Arabia

OK. Here we go.

I realize that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has paid Vince McMahon & World Wrestling Entertainment a tremendous amount of money. WWE, therefore, should feel obligated to put on a hell of a show for the money they’re being given. As somebody that has various jobs based on customers paying me their hard-earned money, I totally understand.

As somebody that isn’t getting paid by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I don’t have to hold my nose & glorify their regime. Their deplorable human rights record is well-known. We all know that the United States & other nations turn a blind eye because of the oil reserves. They’re customers just like WWE is. They control the oil, so they can do whatever they want. It’s not an ideal situation, but we haven’t figured out a way around it yet.

The most obvious influence the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has had on this show? The complete lack of female Superstars. Which in this climate where WWE has been all about women making history for the past few years is pretty glaring.

The pro-Saudi crowd will point out that women were granted the right to vote in 2015. You know, only 96 years after the United States started letting them vote. That’s not too bad, right? They let them drive last year, which might be even crazier than letting them vote.

To be fair to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, things seem to be heading in a different direction. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been making waves recently. He especially seems interested in opening Saudi Arabia up to the entertainment industry. Along with this random WWE show, Saudi Arabia recently allowed a movie to be shown. A MOVIE!

I’m skeptical.

Listen, we’ve seen people try to enact reform in the Middle East. Yitzhak Rabin. Anwar Sadat. The Arab Spring uprisings. It never ends well. Somebody gets assassinated & things end up more repressive than before. I’m going to need to see a lot of things happen before I buy into the idea of WWE having a Rocky IV moment in Saudi Arabia, where if you can change & I can change, then everybody can change. Once WWE does a few of these events & they go off without a hitch, and progress is made to the point where they actually let the womenfolk on these shows, I’ll start buying into the hype.

I might not be from Missouri, but you still have to show me.


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News From Cook’s Corner 4.12.21: The E-S-T of the I-W-C

Cook taking the long week/weekend and assessing some fun aspects that came to the forefront! Check out the news!

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Hi, hello & welcome to News From Cook’s Corner! It’s been a bit of a weird week for me. While the rest of you are celebrating WrestleMania or the cornucopia of WM Weekend shows, I’m stuck working very long shifts at a job I’ve given notice at. So I’m a lame duck while wrestlers in Tampa are swimming in the rain like ducks. Kind of ironic, I suppose.

What that means for this column: Haven’t finished the show. Watched Night One through parts of Sunday, watched the Broken Skull Sessions with Chris Jericho since I didn’t get home in time to watch Night Two from the beginning. Kind of awkward since this is a news column getting posted the day after WrestleMania, but hell, I’ve written about stuff I haven’t been watching for decades now. Gotten really good at faking it, though my exes would disagree with that notion.

(What can I say? When you’re single for most of your life and getting older, sometimes you try to act like things are working in a relationship when they really aren’t. Fortunately I’m over all this now and am quite happy with life as a spiritual eunuch. I’m not really sure how any of this is relevant to the column, just riffing here to fill space and give you a little update on how things are going. Those who were around back in the day remember I was quite emo about the lack of female attention. Now I’ve kinda had my fill and am good with it, though my friends try to make me think I’m not. I think we’ve riffed enough now and can start with some wrestling news.)

Anywho, here’s the news!

New Announcers For Raw?

WWE likes to shake things up on multiple levels after WrestleMania most years. Sometimes that involves a change in the announce booth, and that seems to be on tap this year. WrestlingInc reported that former ESPN host Adnan Virk will be joining Raw’s announce team starting this Monday, replacing Tom Phillips on play by play. Andrew Zarian added that Corey Graves will also be moving over to Raw, replacing Samoa Joe. No word yet on if this means Graves will be working both shows, or if Joe will be moving to SmackDown, or if Joe will be moving back into the ring, or if Phillips will be moving to NXT UK, NXT India & whatever other NXT pops up in the next couple of years.

Many folks I know like to make a big deal of these things, as they feel announcers are crucial to the overall enjoyment of a show. I used to as well, but the more I watch these things the less I think that they’re that critically important to the sports or sports entertainment presentation. Sure, it’s nice to have a legend of the business, or a dynamic presence in their prime, on the microphone talking about the action. It can get the die-hards through some rough seasons, or some less than compelling in-ring action. Does it really affect viewership? I don’t think so. It’s not like Los Angeles Dodgers fans stopped following their team after Vin Scully retired. On the flip side, it’s not like the 50+ wrestling fan demographic has flocked to AEW Dynamite to listen to Jim Ross or Tony Schiavone.

It’s what the people are talking about that matters, not the people talking about it. Which a lot of us in the talking & the writing business could stand to remember from time to time.

Why did the Hurt Business break up?

It’s the question that was on everybody’s minds right after Shelton Benjamin & Cedric Alexander were sent packing by Bobby Lashley & MVP. Why split them up? It was a stable that was working pretty well together, seemingly getting over with the public in the right way, and added a lot of options to Bobby Lashley’s act as WWE Champion.

The answer seems to be the same answer behind every other decision WWE makes. Cause Vince McMahon said so. He decided that Alexander & Benjamin didn’t deserve a push, which is pretty consistent with how their runs with WWE have gone, and that was that. Really not that surprising when you think about it. Somebody talked Vince into giving them a chance, Vince didn’t see it working the way he wanted it to, and then you had King Corbin backing up Lashley for an episode of Raw.

It’s a shame for Alexander & Benjamin, but it’s not in the least bit surprising. We’ll see if somebody else can talk Vince into giving them a chance down the road. Until then, the checks will clear.

Damian Priest Barely Made It To WrestleMania

I remember finding it kind of odd when Miz vs. Bad Bunny was announced for WrestleMania. It’d been reported for months that Miz & Bad Bunny would compete in a tag team match at the show, with John Morrison & Damian Priest as their respective tag team partners. It eventually got made into that, but what was with the pause?

Turns out that Priest had a back injury and wasn’t cleared until the days leading into WrestleMania. Which is really lucky for him, as one of the points of this whole thing was to get him over. At least I think it was. Now we got everybody talking about how Bad Bunny was the best debut wrestler since Pat McAfee, which really wasn’t that long ago but now feels like it happened multiple years ago.

Don’t know what the odds are on Bunny & McAfee main eventing a future WrestleMania, but I rule nothing out these days.

Becky Lynch & Ronda Rousey Back Soon?

That’s the word according to WWE President Nick Khan, who told Colin Cowherd as such on his radio show last week. Quite the scoop for Cowherd, who was once detested by fans for making fun of Eddie Guerrero after he died & calling wrestling fans “booger-eaters”. Now, he’s got WWE executives appearing on his show. Makes me feel better about getting WWE executives on my non-existent show one of these days.

Becky teased a WrestleMania Night One return on her Twitter account, but as usual with her social media teases, nothing came of it. Dave Meltzer mentioned in the Observer that at one point there were plans to have her show up in a truck during a Bayley talk show segment, but obviously the plans for a big truck were shifted to Bad Bunny. Gotta say that it feels like a misfire not having Becky return at WrestleMania in front of the live crowd if she’s coming back anytime soon. If she’s not, no big deal, but if she’s a Night After WrestleMania surprise in the ThunderDome, it’s not the same as bringing her out in front of 25,000 people.

As for Ronda, she was rumored to be coming back for this year’s WrestleMania when it was taking place in Los Angeles. Dunno if that means she’ll be back for WrestleMania two years from now or not.

Dabba-Kato Returns

Surely you remember Dabba-Kato from his time on Raw Underground. The big fella hadn’t been seen after the end of those segments until Sunday night, where he re-debuted as Commander Azeez & helped Apollo Crews win the Intercontinental Championship. I would say this pretty much guarantees that he’ll be in line for a big push at the expense of Crews, but it’s not like the rest of Retribution has done anything since they dropped Mustafa Ali like a bad habit.

Here’s my question: The guy’s first name is Babatunde. Why don’t they just go with that? It just rolls off the tongue. No need to give him stuff like Dabba-Kato & Azeez when “Babatunde” is right there.

Mox vs. Gage?

The biggest news to develop from GCW’s Collective weekend involved Jon Moxley making a surprise appearance to confront Nick Gage after Gage re-gained GCW’s championship. Moxley had wrestled against Josh Barnett on another GCW show during the weekend, but this was the first time Moxley & Gage had crossed paths since their glory days in CZW. I don’t know if they consider their CZW days “glory days”, but it seemed like a good phrase to use there.

One expects that it’ll lead to a match between Mox & Gage for GCW, which would be a pretty big deal for them given Mox’s drawing power and the fact that Gage will be the subject of a Dark Side of the Ring episode this season, which starts next month. I also wouldn’t rule out a Nick Gage appearance in AEW, as Tony Khan is a huge fan of people from that era of CZW & AEW has seen nearly everybody else in the business not contracted by WWE make an appearance at some point this year.

That’s all I’ve got for you right now. Later this week we’ll do a Fave Five for April, maybe pick up the Top 5 Quarterbacks by Franchise gimmick where we left off, and whatever else I can think of for wherever else I can think of. Thanks for reading, and keep your stick on the ice.


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Greg DeMarco’s WWE WrestleMania Sunday Stream Of Consciousness

It’s WrestleMania Sunday and Greg DeMarco is back to see if WWE can follow-up a great Night One!

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WWE WrestleMania 37 Roman Reigns Edge Daniel Bryan

It’s WrestleMania Sunday and Greg DeMarco is back to see if WWE can follow-up a great Night One!

WWE WrestleMania is the Showcase Of Immortals, and it’s also when the WWE gets to showcase itself. After a tremendous Saturday, WrestleMania Sunday has a tough work to follow. Can it follow? Read on to see what Greg DeMarco thought in real time!

Randy Orton vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt w/Alexa Bliss

  • Honestly, this is a great choice to open. It might run long, and they can adjust where needed.
  • Nice to see the video ring posts and ring aprons back. I understand why we didn’t have them last night (cage match), but this also help separate both nights.
  • No more burnt #PizzaTheHut, who ruins my Bold Prediction on The #Miranda Show.
  • Dude, Alexa Bliss AND The Fiend are insanely O.V.E.R. Randy is, too.
  • A bit odd seeing The Fiend acknowledge the crowd.
  • Goddammit Alexa Bliss is amazing at this character. It’s even better in front of fans
  • “The Fiend has been restored!”
  • Amazing entrance sequence overall.
  • Bray Wyatt (the guy) keeps getting himself into better shape. Glad to see I’m not the only one who didn’t waste the quarantine.

  • In a rather odd ending, Alexa Bliss distracted The Fiend with fire and weird shit dripping from her head, allowing Orton to hit the RKO for the win. Obviously this is heading somewhere. Finn Balor?

Winner: Randy Orton

  • So that started out WHITE HOT and ended on a rather odd note. We’ll see where this goes in the future. I like the idea that Alexa is pulling some strings…but why tho?

Bayley’s Back!

  • “My fellow co-hosts,” and she’s a huge fan of his podcast! Love it.
  • Bayley is doing her best Billie Kay impersonation, and it’s working.
  • Hogan looks like a mascot for McDonald’s.
  • Titus being upset that he can’t hang out with Hogan is just wrong.

WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships: Natalya & Tamina vs. Champions Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax

  • I am actually surprised we didn’t get more Saturday ➡ Sunday carryover.
  • Sad that Shayna Baszler is the second fiddle in this tag team, at least from the entrances. She’s such a bad ass, but she only has so many years left.
  • Natalya with the ol’ babyface “C’mon you guys!” yell. That’s what you do when you’re not over.

  • At least the right team won. Hopefully we find better champs so Shayna Baszler can dispatch of Jax and move on to somethign better.

Winners and STILL WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions: Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax

Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens

  • A feud that has been going since 2009 gets the WrestleMania stage for the first (and probably not last) time. But Sami Zayn is doing his best work sans mask in pretty much ever.
  • Sami Zayn seems overcome with happiness about working in front of a stadium crowd, and heaving them sing his theme. I bet we see babyface hero Sami at some point in 2021.
  • Honestly we don’t need Logan Paul for this one, but his reach is undeniable.
  • But Logan’s gonna pull a Mike Tyson and cost Sami in the end.
  • “Expertly trained conspiracy theory expert” and “modern day Copernicus” are some of my favorite lines of the night so far.
  • Rare referee naming by Michael Cole, calling Jessika Carr by name.

  • Jessika Carr is back to being “the official,” btw.
  • Second time tonight a ref has had to pull their count before someone kicked out. Timing off, I am thinking it’s due to being in a stadium with fans for the first time in 1 year, 1 month, and 2 days.
  • Nice recover on the Blue Thunder Bomb reference… when Zayn actually hit the move.
  • STEENALIZER!
  • “You could hear that echo through Raymond James Stadium” … that’s because it’s two-thirds empty.
  • KO wins with the “You Did This” Stunner, and Logan Paul was worthless (so far).

Winner: Kevin Owens

  • Thoroughly enjoyed that one, and I have a feeling that’s not their last WrestleMania showdown.
  • Sami turns on Logan Paul and gets pushed over.
  • Kevin Owens hits the Stone Cold Steve Austin feel good Stunner on the guest, as expected.

United States Championship Match: Sheamus vs. Champion Matt Riddle

  • Hard hitting match to start, crowd is out of it a little. Not surprised after Owens-Zayn.
  • Top Rope Overhead Belly To Belly Suplex! That woke up the crowd, and they seem to be sticking with it now.
  • Brogue Knee might be more effective than Brogue Kick.
  • There were some botches in the match that definitely hurt it, but the finishing Brogue Kick was impressive, and “the right guy won.”

Winner and NEW United States Champion: Sheamus

Nigerian Drum Battle for the Intercontinental Championship: Champion Big E vs. Apollo Crews

  • This is basically a No DQ Match that happens to have Apollo Crews in it, but I like that they named the stipulation after him. It’s a nice touch.
  • PLUNDER! That adds to this match as well.
  • I was literally just watching and not typing lol.
  • Babatunde finally has a role, and Apollo has his championship win. Once again, the right person wins.

Winner and NEW Intercontinental Champion: Apollo Crews

Raw Women’s Championship Match: Rhea Ripley vs. Champion Asuka

  • After losing at WrestleMania 36 (in the best match of the entire event), Rhea Ripley kinda needs to win here.
  • Sometimes I really enjoy a live entrance theme. This is not one of those times. This rendition of Ripley’s Brutality theme sucked.
  • Asuka should be the baddest woman on the planet, but instead she…dances. Don’t blame her level of success on WWE booking, it’s how she plays her character.
  • You know, it’s weird. When the bell rang, Rhea Ripley seemed to lose steam.
  • I think that early kick really rocked her.
  • Rhea Ripley hits the Riptide, but I bet she’d love to have that one back. Right person, yet again, wins.

Winner and NEW Raw Women’s Champion: Rhea Ripley

  • I really think that early kick in the corner rocked Rhea, and it hurt the match a bit. Rhea pulls it out in the end.

Universal Championship: Daniel Bryan vs. Edge vs. Champion Roman Reigns (w/Paul Heyman)

  • Very surprised by the lack of a reaction for Roman Reigns. His entire turn took place with no fans, this is truly the first time he has fans for it.
  • Edge wearing the white WrestleMania gear, it’s basically him and Randy Orton.
  • Jey Uso immediately attacks Daniel Bryan… and it’s BRILLIANT.
  • Jey was the MVP of the early portion of the match, before being taken out.
  • WAY too much commentary talk about Roman losing his title without being pinned.
  • For the record, I picked Daniel Bryan to win, beating Edge.
  • We’ve settled into the typical triple threat match formula, and here’s the thing: IT’S WORKING.
  • Roman Reigns is honestly selling his ass off for Daniel Bryan.
  • So much happened in this match–so much. Hell of a way to close out one hell of a WrestleMania.

Winner and STILL Universal Champion: Roman Reigns

  • I know I picked Daniel Bryan–and I got it wrong–but this feels like the right call seeing it live. Everyone had their spots, Edge had some moments where it would seem like he was going to win, but Roman Reigns supreme.
  • Big E is freed up to feud with Roman, and Daniel Bryan and Edge can feud all summer. I think we are in for a fun ride through October’s WWE Draft over on Smackdown.

Overall Impressions

It’s too soon to call, I need to re-watch it. But this feels like an all-time great WrestleMania. So many things clicked, so many things seemed to go right. This was 7 hours of wrestling action, but it was spread over two nights. I hope this format is here to stay. Kudos to all involved, especially the crowd. Welcome back!


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