By Austin Grinnell @WolfmanAustin13
The Cruiserweights started out the pre-show with a six man tag team match that I found very reminiscent of the WCW Cruiserweight bouts that I used to love as a kid. The Lucha trio of Kalisto, Gran Metalik & Lince Dorado picked up the win over Drew Gulak, TJP & Jack Gallagher in a fun little match to open the show in front of a small audience during the pre-show.
All six men got to show their stuff, whether it was a phenomenal spot in the ring or just some nice character work. Gulak continues to be a highlight of the division with his “No Fly Zone” gimmick, and interacted well with Jack Gallagher for a few comedic moments. It’s been a long time coming, but the luchadors are starting to get some more ring-time and are making the most of it.
Lince Dorado has been putting out solid efforts for 205 Live since the show launched, and Gran Metalik has been noticeably absent for the most part. With Enzo Amore having been released by the company and the Cruiserweight Championship vacated, it’s great to see them using this as a potential launching pad for a new era of the 205 Live show and the Cruiserweight Division.
The following edition of 205 Live would see the introduction of their first General Manager, in the debuting Drake Maverick (Rockstar Spud, formerly of Impact Wrestling), as well as the announcement of a 16 man tournament to crown the new WWE Cruiserweight Champion, coming to a close with the finals taking place at WrestleMania.
If week one of the new era was any indication, it would appear that the WWE is using this soft relaunch as a way to drop some of their bad habits with 205 Live and accentuate what makes it different from watching RAW or SmackDown Live.
The US Open
John Cena once did a United States Championship open challenge series. Naturally, we need to keep doing that instead of just trying to logically tell stories that lead to matches that make sense.
The one cool thing that you can do with an open challenge series like this though, is to provide matches featuring challengers that otherwise may not get title shots, guys who haven’t interacted much with the champion previously, surprise returns or debuts.
I really enjoyed the Royal Rumble, but Bobby Roode defending his WWE United States Championship in an open challenge against… Mojo Rawley (who he defeated in the semi-finals of the tournament where he won the title)… to say the least, I was NOT hyped. I couldn’t stay hyped because I never got hyped.
Mojo is a serviceable talent, and can carve himself a nice little niche as a mid-card character. That is, unfortunately for him, his ceiling. There is nothing wrong with that though, as guys like Roode will need guys like Mojo to work with. However, this was the Royal Rumble, where returns and debuts aren’t uncommon. The Hurricane returned for a surprise Rumble appearance. Why not switch he and Mojo on the card and give us something unique for the US Title open challenge?
This match was indicative of the WWE’s major issue with their mid-card booking, in that it’s been done recently and really served no purpose other than to get the glorious Bobby Roode on the show.
The Uso Penitentiary
Jimmy & Jey Uso have been absolutely on fire since turning heel last year. They’re back on the good side of the fans, but still tearing it up with excellent matches in SmackDown’s Tag Team division.
They should have lost the SmackDown Tag Team Championships at the Rumble.
This isn’t because of anything to do with their ring work, their storylines or anything else like that. My belief that they should have lost the belts comes strictly from setting an example. Enzo Amore was released for failing to disclose the details of a personal legal matter to the company, putting the WWE in a very awkward position when details leaked to the public and they found out with the rest of us. Rich Swann was suspended for possible spousal abuse, and though the case was dismissed, the former Cruiserweight Champion still has not been re-instated by the company.
Jey Uso was arrested for Driving Under the Influence prior to the Royal Rumble event, faced no suspension and even walked away from the Rumble with a win and the Tag Team Championship around his waist.
This isn’t me saying that Jey Uso’s situation is the same as domestic violence or rape allegations, but a DUI is no joke either. People die every day because of drivers who get behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. As a fan, I am very happy to see that Jey Uso did not hurt himself or anyone else because of the incident. As a human being, it pains me to see the WWE not take some kind of punitive action in regards to this reckless behavior.
I went two-for-two with my Royal Rumble winner predictions, successfully calling both Shinsuke Nakamura and Asuka as the winners of their respective battle royal matches. I feel like both winners were the smart decisions to make, but even if they were expected by many, that doesn’t mean that they were bad choices.
Nakamura going up against AJ Styles for the WWE World Championship at WrestleMania is going to be huge. With Brock Lesnar Vs Roman Reigns rumored for the RAW side of things, it only makes sense to provide the hardcore fans with a match that will keep us happy. If you haven’t seen their classic bout from Wrestle Kingdom 10, I would highly recommend hunting down the Nakamura Vs Styles match that served as their send-off from New Japan Pro-Wrestling. That will give you a taste of what you can expect when the two tussle at WrestleMania.
Asuka was the only logical choice to win the first ever women’s Royal Rumble match. She is still undefeated in singles competition and is probably the most talented in-ring performer of the female persuasion within the company. It’s going to be easy to remember this Rumble as the debut of “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey, former UFC Champion… but the important thing to remember here is that the WWE seems to be playing to both sides of the coin in regards to their fan-base.
Like her fellow Japanese star, Asuka’s winning of the Royal Rumble sets up another attraction for the die-hard’s like myself. Whether she stays on RAW and challenges the wonderfully talented Alexa Bliss, or makes the move over to SmackDown Live to challenge Charlotte Flair, whatever match Asuka takes part in at WrestleMania will be a draw for those of us who have been pushing for change within the WWE.
On the opposite side of that coin, Ronda Rousey represents the typical WWE mindset of having special attractions. I am excited to see what Rousey can do inside the confines of the squared circle, but I feel like her debut was poorly done and know full well that her first WrestleMania is less about whether or not she can go inside of the ring, and will be more about creating a spectacle.
Whether Rousey ends up challenging one of the Champions, or as rumored, winds up as part of a tag team special attraction, the intent is to get eyes on the product first and foremost, with the quality of the in-ring action being secondary.
Typically, I would leave this column with some negative thoughts about how much I hate the WWE’s focus on special attractions, but I won’t be doing that today. Today, I finally get to commend the company on returning to an understanding that they cannot rely on those special attractions and fabricated “WrestleMania Moments”. The name on the marquee is WRESTLING, and if this year’s very good Royal Rumble show was any indication, they’re beginning to understand that again.
Wrestling is a spectacle and should have something for everybody, but at the end of the day, you can’t forget what brought you to the dance, and that is a great in-ring product. It’s looking like this year’s WrestleMania card might actually be something to be excited about, with a good mix of potential in-ring classics, and the monumental moments that they have spent the better part of two decades trying to artificially create, with minimal success.
One final thought before I leave you here… AJ Styles is defending the WWE World Championship against Shinsuke Nakamura at WrestleMania 34, twenty-six months removed from their classic encounter at Wrestle Kingdom 10.
Photo Credit: WWE
It’s a good time to be a fan.