The Road to WrestleMania is officially under way, and the "Great White" Sheamus has earned the right to challenge for either the World or WWE championship on the grandest stage of them all, come April 1st. I find myself strangely conflicted on the decision to go with Sheamus as this year's Royal Rumble winner, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. FIRST, we've got a whole card to get through…
World Heavyweight Championship — Steel Cage Match
Daniel Bryan def. Mark Henry & Big Show (by escaping the cage)
This cage match could have been one for the ages, building up the feuds between these three Smackdown main event players. I can only assume that Mark Henry's injuries caused the bout to be cut short, and as a result we only got a ten minute battle with a lackluster finish. I'll admit that having Big Show actually scale the cage and hoist the champion back onto the steel was a great spot, but he should have thrown him back into the ring. Having Bryan drop to the ground that early left a bad taste in my mouth, as none of the competitors really looked banged up following one of wrestling's most brutal match types. What could have been a big win to finally legitimate Bryan's title reign was instead very lackluster – for a time I actually thought Show dropped him on accident… It was the first of many times during the night that I would think: "Wait…that's it?" I expected a little bit more from three guys who have been performing at such a high level as of late. Rating: C-
Considering who won the Rumble later on, I believe the smartest decision would have been to let Henry take his title back. Once again a minor injury seems to be taking its rather unfair toll on the World's Strongest Man. I guess we'll have to wait and see where they go with Smackdown's World title picture following the Elimination Chamber, but I've been saying since November that a Henry/Sheamus showdown at WrestleMania is the best option the "blue brand" has.
Beth Phoenix, Natalya, & The Bella Twins def. Eve, Kelly Kelly, Tamina, & Alicia Fox
Is it just me, or is the WWE getting a bit more risque with their women? I happened across the shoot they did with Eve recently on WWE.com, and it just feels like they are capitalizing on a sex appeal factor they haven't really cashed in on in recent years. I also would like to put out there that her recent work with Zack Ryder has made me mildly interested in Eve for the first time ever… ALL that aside, I actually didn't mind this filler of a divas match. It went way longer than the traditional minute-long roll-up match, had some fun spots, and all eight Divas got their chance for some offensive. Plus the banter between the announcer's was a lot of fun… Strong finish for the Champion Beth Phoenix (for once), and I was left a pretty happy camper! Rating: B
John Cena & Kane fought to a double count-out
I wasn't bothered by the finish of the "match" itself. In fact, when it happened I believe I expressed a bit of joy that we could finally progress to the "real business at hand". You had to know Cena/Kane ended in a brawl between the two, and this way WWE gets to protect their poster boy from a dreaded "L" in the record books, and get Kane over as a monster at the same time. What bothered me was that the match was everything we've seen from 90% of Cena's matches in the past few years. If this feud was supposed to bring "new intensity" to a stale John Cena, I didn't see it translated well into this match… I was actually happy that the match was over, just to proceed to the more entertaining brawl that would likely follow. That can't be good for business…
So Kane takes out Cena, steals Ryder from his "dressing room" (tell me you didn't see that coming…), and plants both of them with finishers in the middle of the ring. All while Eve looked on – with some rather convincing tears, might I add! So where do they go now? One would assume some sort of Last Man Standing match at Elimination Chamber, but do they dare continue this feud much further with the impending Rock arrival on the horizon? They don't want to go too far down the rabbit hole with Kane, just to have Cena go over in the end and move on to the Rock as if nothing happened. I fear that if Kane was to be the catalyst to a Cena heel turn, it would have happened tonight… Rating: C
Brodus Clay def. Drew McIntyre
Big pop for the make-shift Jurassic Park logo imprinted across that big green booty. Other than that…I really have to question why something like this gets thrown onto a PPV card with the importance of the Royal Rumble. Especially with something like Punk/Ziggler coming up shortly after. If the WWE wanted my money in the future, they should have given the extra five minutes it took to pull all of this off, and let the WWE Championship match have even more time. Rating: C-
Note: I watched the Royal Rumble a second time immediately after the live show, this time with about six of my friends that haven't the first clue about pro wrestling. All of them had the same reaction: I'm not sure what just happened, and I really want to hate it, but for whatever reason…it was awesome. I also noticed that because they didn't have any emotional attachment to any of the Superstars, the enjoyed the Rumble match a lot more than I did. They immediately flocked to guys like Kofi Kingston, Epico, Primo, and Justin Gabriel because of the high flying moves, and once they were all gone almost all of them were pulling for Sheamus to win. It was definitely interesting getting to see inside the mind of so many first-time viewers that could only base opinions off of what they've seen in one Rumble match.