Greg DeMarco is here to review your 2021 Royal Rumble! Bianca Belair and Edge prevail, what did Greg think???
It’s time for the wrestling’s third biggest show of the year, the Royal Rumble! (For those wondering, the other two are WrestleMania and WrestleKingdom. It’s my column, not yours.)
- Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler beat WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions Charlotte Flair & (Raw Women’s Champion) Asuka when Jax pinned Flair after shenanigans and a really bad legdrop – TITLE CHANGE – ***1/2
- WWE Champion Drew McIntyre pinned Goldberg following a Claymore to retain – ***
- SmackDown Women’s Champion Sasha Banks beat Carmella with the Banks Statement to retain – ***
- Women’s Royal Rumble Match – Bianca Belair last eliminates Rhea Ripley to win – ***3/4
- Universal Champion Roman Reigns defeated Kevin Owens in a Last Man Standing Match to retain – ****1/2
- Men’s Royal Rumble Match – Edge last eliminates Randy Orton to win – ****
WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship – Charlotte Flair & WWE Raw Women’s Champion Asuka (c) vs. Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler
Usually WWE gives us a treat on the Kickoff, and other times we get crap. This time, fans were treated to a high quality match with a shit finish. All four did what they do best (which for Nia is “nothing”), and Charlotte was really motivated. I would love to see Shayna Baszler vs. either Asuka or Charlotte Flair down the road, even if we are headed towards Charlotte Flair vs. Alexa Bliss at WrestleMania in my opinion.
But don’t get it twisted (not yet, anyway), this match was really really good before the finish. They had me invested, and I wanted to see how this would end. That was the only let down–Ric Flair and Lacey Evans interjecting themselves into the match, and ultimately impacting the finish.
And man, that legdrop is horrible.
WWE Championship – Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Goldberg
Say what you want about him, call him Grandpa, complain that Goldberg is taking a spot from a full time talent. That’s all fine and well, but the dude is in phenomenal shape for ANY age, and looks more legit than many wrestlers half his age.
And he draws better than them, too.
“Epic” staredown before we officially start the match, plus a headbut and dueling spears. Goldberg, by the way, borrowed Brock Lesnar’s gear. (Yes, that makes more sense of the “Goldberg Tribal Tattoo Logo” doesn’t appear on Bill’s trunks.)
“Ring the Damn Bell.” Of course Goldberg kicks out of the Claymore.
So as you know, Drew wins. And honestly, this match was exactly what it needed to be. A heavyweight slugfest that ended in a knockout. And Goldberg gave him the love and respect after. And then Drew made fun of Goldie for being blown up, just for funsies.
SmackDown Women’s Championship – Sasha Banks (c) vs. Carmella
Carmella has improved so much since coming to the main roster, and the only thing I’d change now is the stupid Silhouette version of herself that a) doesn’t even look good, and b) looks like crap compared to actual Carmella. Sasha Banks being added to this card is no surprise to me, she’s the third biggest star in the company. Don’t believe me, look up the current Disney+ subscriber rate.
Great work by everyone involved, including Reginald. I am so glad WWE hasn’t changed Sasha Banks despite her alignment. This match is a perfect example of Heel Villain (Carmella) vs. Heel Hero (Sasha).
I’ve been watching wrestling for far too long, and the surprise small package still makes me smile. As expected, the Banks Statement ended this match (and feud), and it seems like Sasha can move onto what’s next. Bayley or Bianca? Bayley is my pick for ‘Mania.
Give Carmella a ton of credit here, this was in no way a match carried by Sasha Banks. They were equal dance partners in this one.
Bad Bunny Performance
Fans who don’t “get” Bad Bunny, or who drop “Who” bombs on him are dumb. The performance was good, and Booker T looks like he can still go today. I hope he’s a surprise Royal Rumble entrant.
Women’s Royal Rumble Match
So this is going to be more “Stream of Consciousness” style, so enjoy!
- Bayley being #1 in the Rumble sure doesn’t help my pick of her winning. I know it’s not impossible, but it damn sure ain’t probable. Bianca Belair coming in at #3 and winning wouldn’t shock me one bit. And Naomi being back is definitely a good thing. Can we get her involved in the Roman Empire?
- Billie Kay should just sit at ringside until the end of the match, then get eliminated. Or win. I’d be fine either way, and she needs the resume builder. I’m sure Rhea Ripley or someone like her will throw her in.
- I really wanted to see Billie Kay try to drive the tank, but Shayna Baszler punching her 8×10 made up for it. And Billie Kay approaching every entrant is a trend I’d like to see for the next 30 minutes. And unfortunately it took Jillian Hall to get Billie Kay in the ring, and unfortunately Jillian Hall is in what had been a stacked Women’s Royal Rumble up until that point.
- Love Victoria being in the match, and Santana Garret makes me wonder who had to pull out to give her a spot. Victoria hitting the Widow’s Peak on Peyton Royce is great, too. Also love Jerry Lawler being shocked about Rhea Ripley being in the Rumble.
- Could Shayna Baszler break her own record. The lack of attention being paid to Bayley and Bianca Belair makes me wonder if they’ll be two of the first three, and the final two. And then we have Torrie Wilson in at #17, because Trish Stratus couldn’t travel. Charlotte Flair with double gear tonight, too. Top notch.
- Poor, poor Dana Brooke. But Lacey Evans wearing Charlotte Flair’s robe is brilliant. And there goes Bayley. So much for that pick! Nikki Cross could be an amazing winner, if we had fans. ALICIA FOX WINS THE 24/7 CHAMPIONSHIP IN THE WOMEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE!
- And then she lost it.
- I really hope Raquel Gonzalez joins Dakota Kai in this Rumble.
- HOLY SHIT that Dakota Kai bump!
- WWE should be ashamed of themselves for their treatment of Mandy Rose tonight 🙂
- Bianca Belair and Naomi repeating the spot they went to too early.
- Not letting Alexa Bliss transform is really smart booking.
- Lana’s here. TABLE TIME!
- One of the most believable wrestlers on the roster, Shayna Baszler, just engaged in one of the least believable exchanges ever with Nia Jax. I blame Nia.
- Lana eliminating Nia Jax makes PERFECT sense.
- Can we have Nia and Shayna eliminate everyone, and we have to enact the “no winner” rules?
- Charlotte Flair, Bianca Belair, and Rhea Ripley being the final three is a fantastic choice, and I would love to see it come down to Belair and Ripley–the future is now.
- Really liked the psychology of Bianca and Rhea fighting near, and trying to avoid the ropes. Good shit.
Overall this was a good Royal Rumble, it dragged on at points, not as good as either of the last two, but it’s hard to make that comparison in front of no crowd. Doesn’t take away from Bianca Belair’s accomplishment. No Ronda Rousey, no Becky Lynch, and a great moment for Bianca Belair–true emotion at the end. The match wasn’t at that level, but that promo was *****.
— THE PALDOME (@Hamanicart617) February 1, 2021
Bad Bunny promo with The Miz and John Morrison
I just put it here for the simple fact that John Morrison stole the entire segment with one line. “He said it.”
Last Man Standing Match for the Universal Championship – Roman Reigns (c) vs. Kevin Owens
Seeing the introductions for this match puts something into perspective for me. We had the WWE Championship, SmackDown Women’s Championship, and Universal Championship all defended in our only non-Rumble matches tonight. I know we needed Asuka for the Women’s Tag Team Championship match on the Kickoff, and she wasn’t pinned, but had she defended during the main show, it would have done wonders for the perception of both women’s championships.
Now, I know Roman Reigns hit Kevin Owens with a golf cart, and Matt Hardy did it to Sammy Guevara. But keep this in mind: Roman and Kevin did it better, and Matt Hardy just stole the spot from WrestleMania 17.
Kevin Owens hitting the Swanton off of the forklift, and it (legit) looked really safe. I also loved Owens rolling off of the staging to his feet to break the count. Roman Reigns taking out the official because he was handcuffed and couldn’t physically stand was outstanding. Of course Reigns standing while Heyman was taking his Jack Swagger sweet time to unlock the handcuffs kinda ruined it.
Guillotine Choke and it’s all over, #LOLROMANWINS. But that was a DAMN GOOD MATCH.
I’ve seen criticism that it was long and the finish ruined it, but I loved it.
As I predicted going in, even if it's a foregone conclusion they're still having a damn fun match. Not sure why some of y'all are making it a company war hot take fest though. #RoyalRumble
— Steve Cook (@stevecook84) February 1, 2021
Men’s Royal Rumble Match
Stream of consciousness time again!
- While Edge and Randy Orton fighting right away takes away from the ring introductions, I was find with it. LFG!
- Edge vs. Orton could be a great story that is intertwined in the entire Rumble, with them being the final two. Unless The Fiend gets involved.
- Mustafa Ali and Sami Zayn actually have a lot in common right now.
- Dolph Ziggler enters his 14th Royal Rumble, eh? Love the Bayley pontyail, too.
- Randy Orton being taken out via injury would be a great story to make the eventual winner have to defend against him.
- Carlito looks fantastic–I know he probably doesn’t want it, but he could have another run.
- Sadly, Tye Dillinger didn’t enter at #10, yet again.
- Interesting that Damian Priest was introduced as “from NXT!”
- The Bad Bunny spot makes total sense, especially with Damian Priest. Well done, WWE. Well done.
- BAH GAWD, IT’S KANE!
- And he looks really old.
- Damian Priest eliminating Kane was bad ass. He’s having a great showing. Imagine if he won?
- On Twitter I got #22, and I’d love it if Bobby Lashley won.
- I didn’t win.
- Great seeing Christian in this match, and Edge sold it brilliantly.
- AJ in at #25, and I would love to see him get this win. He won’t, but I’d love it. Omos could get involved, too.
- Michael Cole doing a hell of a job getting that mid-match beer promo in!
- So long Big E! He wasn’t going to win, and had a good showing.
- Messiah Seth Rollins is back!
- John Cena at #30? Nevermind, we still need Braun.
- And there goes Daniel Bryan, so much for that prediction!
- Nice callback to how Rollins eliminated Braun in 2019.
- Was waiting for Randy to come back, but the fake-out finish was still well done. Edge wins.
- DO EDGE VS. ROMAN YOU COWARDS!
A highly entertaining Rumble, with some good surprises (Carlito, Kane, Christian) and some not so good (Hurricane). Love that Seth Rollins is back, and hopefully Damian Priest can make a main roster impact if indeed he’s headed there.
But I mean it. Edge vs. Roman Reigns is the WrestleMania main event you need to run with! Then you can do Randy Orton vs. The Fiend, and Drew McIntyre can defend in a multi man with Sheamus, Keith Lee, and AJ Styles. POOF–WrestleMania!
— WWE on FOX (@WWEonFOX) February 1, 2021
Steve Cook’s Fave Five: April 2021
It’s a little more than halfway through April! You know what that means…
It’s a little more than halfway through April! You know what that means.
It’s time to talk about my current five favorite wrestlers like I’m Booker T. Let’s break down the Fave Five!
5. Samoa Joe
A gentle reminder that Samoa Joe is one of the greatest talkers in the game pic.twitter.com/p4TZeZIAV7
— Kenny Majid – A Kenny For Your Thoughts Podcast (@akfytwrestling) April 15, 2021
I figure what happened between Samoa Joe & WWE was the following: WWE offered Joe an announcing contract since either they didn’t want to use him in the ring or their doctors wouldn’t clear him to wrestle. Joe looked at the contract, noticed the financial discrepancy, realized he could probably get NJPW to let him train young boys in California for that kind of money and said “thanks but no thanks”. Nothing else really makes sense to me.
Unfortunately, those who thought that WWE wouldn’t utilize Joe to their fullest potential were right. It wasn’t all WWE’s fault though. Joe had a lot of miles on his tires when he got there. Injuries are always more of a concern with larger wrestlers the older they get. And when Joe was healthy, he did get to do some good stuff and show people a glimpse of the Samoa Joe that people like me raved about back in the mid to late 2000s.
In any event, Joe got his WWE run. It was a thing that happened. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t wind up in AEW because he seems like the kind of guy Tony Khan would throw all the money at. Should be fun!
4. Kris Statlander
— All Elite Wrestling on TNT (@AEWonTNT) April 15, 2021
AEW does have a pretty insane number of factions right now. It risks the possibility of all of the groups blending together, with none of them really capturing the attention of fans. However, there are positive things about AEW’s faction warfare that shouldn’t be overlooked. It makes booking fresh matches to fill cards pretty easy. You can have groups facing off each week, but in different combinations that keep it fresh.
Another good thing: It can help us decide how we feel about characters that we might be on the fence about. Kris Statlander’s character was a topic of discussion from the moment she entered AEW. A lot of people weren’t sure how to take her. Wrestling aliens, or wrestlers who think they’re aliens, aren’t exactly common. Its the kind of thing that gets over in the indies, because those feds attract fans that are more willing to buy into unique concepts. Mainstream is a tougher sell.
Aligning Kris with the Best Friends makes sense to those in the know, since she came up working shows with them. It also helps people that don’t know about her figure out more. The Best Friends are a happy go lucky group that are the whitest of white meat babyfaces you’ll find in AEW, and that’s a good thing. They’re welcoming to people with unique personalities, as Orange Cassidy’s presence establishes. A friendly alien couldn’t ask for a better group to surround herself with, and from their appearances so far she seems like a perfect fit.
Add in the fact that the time on the shelf helped her get into better shape and refine her look & presence, and the sky’s the limit for Statlander. As long as she can stay in the ring, I’m expecting big things from her in 2021.
3. Tay Conti
Sometimes, all one needs is a change of scenery to approach their true potential. Tay spent a few years at the WWE Performance Center learning how to be a professional wrestler. During her time there, Tay never showed much in the way of potential. Even though she had a combat sports background and had the type of physical appearance that gets attention, Conti’s TV time was very limited and uneventful. She seemed like one of those wrestlers that was bound to stay in developmental until WWE gave up on them, then drop off the face of the earth without most wrestling fans noticing.
Tay’s story took a different route. She ended up being one of the cuts that AEW took an interest in, and was brought in for the Deadly Draw Women’s Tag Team Tournament. Her teaming with Anna Jay worked well on & off-camera, and she pretty much fit right in with the group immediately. She started training with Dustin Rhodes, and pretty much immediately started looking better in the ring & figuring out what worked for her. Now, she’s one of the people helping AEW’s women’s division go to a higher level.
This isn’t meant to denigrate WWE’s Performance Center or its methods. There just isn’t a wrestling training center out there that’s going to work for everybody. Tay had to find what worked for her. The people that recently got cut will have to do the same. Hopefully, the people that recently got signed by WWE will thrive in that environment.
2. Bianca Belair
We’ve recently seen three new Women’s Champions under the WWE umbrella, all of whom are great in their own way. I’ve talked about Rhea Ripley before, she’s got unlimited potential and so far she’s done very well on the main roster. Raquel Gonzalez is doing very well on NXT and her push to the championship made perfect sense & got over. I do think the best of the title changes was Bianca’s defeat of Sasha Banks in the main event of WrestleMania Saturday. It was a special moment for Bianca, a very fun match to watch, and a great performance from both Bianca & Sasha Banks, who did everything she could to make Bianca in that match.
You see the video of the NXT segment up above, with the three current Women’s Champions under the WWE umbrella celebrating together. Apparently there was a picture taken in 2019, and there were pictures taken after this week’s NXT, with Triple H making sure to get in there as he likes to do with all new champions. I’ve never really been a fan of that sort of thing, even the “Horsewomen” celebrations on previous NXT shows didn’t do much for me.
Besides the usual complaints people have about things like that, the thing that I didn’t like was how Rhea & Raquel came off. They were all smiling & happy like they were Big Daddy Cool Diesel after beating Mr. Bob Backlund in 1994. Completely against what Raquel has been up to this point, and what Rhea has been when she’s been at her best. Hopefully this is just a one-time thing for Rhea for the portion of the NXT audience that likes their lady wrestlers crying & happy after their performances, and hopefully it’s leading to Raquel getting dismembered by Dakota Kai, who can’t be happy about her heater winning the championship and then turning into Smilin’ Diesel.
Fortunately for Bianca, it does nothing to affect her character or our opinion of her. That’s why I think her title run will go best. I’m also putting her here because I’m pretty well convinced there isn’t a wrestling move or spot she can’t do well. Insanely talented, and the more experience she gets the better she’ll be.
1. Darby Allin
Sometimes you just want to watch something that’s stupid fun. Something that doesn’t need too much thought in order to enjoy it. Just people doing crazy things to entertain an audience. Darby Allin matches are just what you need when you’re looking for something like this. There isn’t anybody crazier in pro wrestling today than Darby, which is probably for the best. I’m convinced this kid has a death wish.
The one thing that kinda gets me about Darby sometimes is how he kicks out of everything. Poor Matt Hardy wasn’t going to beat that kid unless he shot him with a gun, and apparently there’s a metal detector at Daily’s Place. (Shoutout to Matt by the way, hell of an effort in that match.) But then I remember that Darby Allin is a daredevil and constantly posting videos online where he’s jumping off high places and doing crazy things. Obviously, it’s going to take a little more to beat a daredevil than your average pro wrestler.
What’s it going to take to beat Darby Allin? That’s a good reason to keep watching.
NXT Minus 6: About that Cole-O’Reilly match…
It was the Takeover match that held the most promise. Where did it go wrong?
It was the Takeover match that held the most promise. Where did it go wrong?
6. I was jacked to 11 for Adam Cole versus Kyle O’Reilly. I was ready to give it a Tokyo Dome 6 stars. MOTY before the bell rang. A masterwork of storytelling. I correctly predicted it would be an unsanctioned match. Then the action started, and it quickly became “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.”
5. After the first few acts of violence, it was apparent that the problem with the match would be the stipulation. The last NXT unsanctioned match was Johnny Gargano versus Tommaso Ciampa in 2018. That was 3 short years ago, but things move quickly in today’s world. There is very little chance an unsanctioned match can deliver the level of violence it promises as long as NXT is on the PG-13 Peacock.
4. Fans are losing their minds over all the content Peacock is leaving on the cutting floor. A lot of it was offensive and would never work today, but that’s not the point. The fact is there’s only so much violence Peacock’s parent company NBC will tolerate from wrestling. Take the chain, for example. Other than the clothesline, it was practically useless. O’Reilly tried to make it work, but it fell flat. In an unsanctioned match, 20 feet of heavy duty chain should be all you need to decimate another human being.
3. Maybe I’m a victim of my own wrestling memory. An unsanctioned match in Memphis in the 80’s would have been a bloodbath. Someone would have been hung over the top rope with the chain around his neck. Whipped across the back. Hog tied. Someone would have wrapped it around their fist for a few stiff shots to their opponent’s forehead. But that goes back to my original point. None of that would fly today even if NXT was only on the WWE network.
2. I’ll go so far as to say the only violent-promising stipulation that interests me is Falls Count Anywhere. There is zero drama in wrestlers pulling chairs from under the ring. The chance to use the naturally occurring environment as a weapon still holds a world of suspense. Someone is going through windows, walls, off the stage, over the guardrail, stuffed in a locker. Honestly, I’m tired of people getting hit in the stomach with folding chairs. Of all the ways to hit someone with a folding chair, that’s the least practical.
1. I’m sorry to say Kyle O’Reilly versus Adam Cole didn’t deliver what I expected. Maybe I’m in the minority. Maybe I don’t need over-the-top violence to entertain me. Maybe I don’t need wrestling to keep pushing the envelope. Five of my top 6 matches of 2021 are straight up wrestling matches. Maybe all I need is two (or three or four) strong characters and a good story. Damn, I sound old.
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