Talking Points From The 2016 Royal Rumble match

Like most WWE PPVs of late, the Royal Rumble had its ups and downs. Let’s talk about some of the biggest issues and incidents.

Royal Rumble 2016 talking points

Your winner…and new WWE Champion

Roman Reigns went in at number one, and not many thought he’d be capable of wrestling more than hour in order to retain his title. So when Vince McMahon sicced his League of Nations (minus King Barrett) on Reigns, and Rusev sent him crashing through a table, Reigns received the stretcher job treatment – meaning it was only a matter of time until he returned to win.

So as Reigns began his comeback out of nowhere against the incoming number 29 entrant, Sheamus, the fix appeared to be in. That is, until Triple H entered the Rumble at number 30 and duly took the title. Reigns was actually the second-to-last man to be eliminated from the match, leaving Triple H in the ring against an absolutely fantastic Dean Ambrose, who the crowd got behind fiercely.

The art of salesmanship

Speaking of fierce, the reaction to both Ambrose and Kevin Owens’ Rumble entrances following their absolutely fantastic Last Man Standing match was something to behold. Meanwhile, after taking a particularly intense beating himself, Reigns sprang as if out of nowhere to surprise Sheamus with a Superman Punch in the aisle, later in the very same match.

It reminded me very much of the events of the 1994 Royal Rumble, in which co-winners Bret Hart and Lex Luger were both subjected to some rough treatment. Earlier in the night, Bret was attacked by his brother Owen, who took his frustrations out on Bret’s leg. The image of Kevin Owens’ entry into the Rumble last night was almost identical – maybe even in homage – to Bret, as both men dragged a bad leg behind them on the way into the ring to equally big pops from the crowd.

bretrumble

Luger, like Reigns, was jumped and beaten by two assailants before he could enter the match – but as soon as his number came up, Luger hit the ring like a house on fire, with absolutely no regard for selling the condition he’d been put in. Reigns’ entrance and subsequent domination of those in the ring was equally far-fetched.

I get that last night was all about defying the odds, but Reigns’ sudden revitalisation as he re-entered the match came off as so clumsy.

Brock vs Bray

It’s looking likely that a match between Brock Lesnar and Bray Wyatt is set to happen at Wrestlemania 32. This after Lesnar’s impact in the ring was dampened by the members of the Wyatt Family, whose leader Bray oversaw Brock’s elimination by his loyal subjects. The Wyatt Family put on a great performance in the ring – well, Luke Harper did at least but that’s nothing new – and may be on their way to establishing themselves as the big deal fans always thought they could be.

It’s just a shame Lesnar will go over at Mania – and that their big green giant of a man, Braun Strowman, continues to receive any prominent focus.

Chris Jericho – iron man?

I always liked Chris Jericho – he’s had some fantastic wrestling matches in his time, and can always be relied upon to put in a great performance and help put over young talent.

Which is why it’s so baffling to me that Jericho went more than 50 minutes – only Reigns ‘went’ longer. All that and with only one elimination to his name, I found it kind of strange that Chris Jericho was portrayed in the Rumble run-up as one of the frontrunners to win the match. But with the depleted roster, and the resultant need for a big name, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that he’d been offered a big deal to be portrayed as a big deal in return.

Standouts and surprises

What with the match being for the World title rather than a shot at Wrestlemania, it made sense not to rely on the surprise guests and comedy spots – but that doesn’t mean we weren’t treated to some excellent Royal Rumble surprises.

AJ Styles WWE

Image by Zohyo

 

The worst-kept secret in professional wrestling was revealed, as the number three entrant turned out to be AJ Styles, fresh from NJPW and a bona fide wrestling star. His entrance was somewhat tainted as we couldn’t see the reveal of ‘The Phenomenal One’ on the Titantron – the TV cameras were trained on Reigns. And while it was too much to ask to have a debuting Styles go deep into the match, he still put on a great showing in his debut match.

The chain of events around this time were especially great. It was left to the other indie darling, Kevin Owens to eliminate Styles, who’d gone nearly half an hour in the match – only to be dumped out by his former friend and NXT Championship rival, Sami Zayn.

All in all I quite enjoyed the Rumble event – it certainly an improvement on the last two – but once again it’s been a case of making the best of what they had instead of planning ahead a little more. Assuming Roman Reigns is going to get his crowning moment at Wrestlemania once again – and assuming as well they don’t have an emergency ripcord to pull like they did last year – it could be an interesting few weeks ahead.

Five For Friday: Top 5 WWE PPV Matches of 2015

Five For Friday this week (yeah, yeah, it’s technically gone live on Saturday. Sue me) focuses on the best WWE PPV matches of 2015.

best wwe ppv matches 2015

I’m not really one to do these ‘year in review’ type posts, mainly because I don’t consume enough of the particularly new releases in order to rank them. I certainly haven’t read five books from 2015, and I’m not even sure I’ve watched five films released this year.

But as a many posts from the past year will tell you, I’ve watched a lot of WWE – enough in fact to struggle with choosing just five of the best pay-per-view matches from this year.

Let’s face it – 2015 has not been a good year creatively for the WWE. When they decided to pull themselves out of the hole by putting the World Heavyweight Championship on Seth Rollins, they immediately plunged into another by booking him rather badly. Months later and here we are with the man they were so sure of right from the start, Royal Rumble winner Roman Reigns, finally getting over with the crowd by punching a 70-year old man in the face on the way to his second World Title win.

Well, I enjoyed that.

So without further ado, in near-chronological order, here are five matches which have managed to stay in my brain during this difficult year.

Royal Rumble – Brock Lesnar vs John Cena vs Seth Rollins (WWE WHC)

An absolute stormer to kick off the year, as Lesnar put his title up against both John Cena and the Money in the Bank winner, Seth Rollins, who for some reason didn’t actually need to cash in his contract. I remember this match just for the bit where Cena and Rollins combined to put Lesnar through a table – the flying elbow from Rollins was glorious – only to see Lesnar return with a vengeance and get the pin on Rollins with an F-5. Beautiful stuff; Rollins was scintillating, Lesnar an absolute demon and even Cena putting in a fantastic shift.

Elimination Chamber – John Cena vs Kevin Owens

john cena kevin owens summerslam 2015

I can’t believe there are two John Cena matches in my top five of the year, but we’ve covered this before – the man is capable of a great match provided he’s got a quality opponent and isn’t booked comically. Here at Elimination Chamber against the NXT Champion Kevin Owens, in his main roster debut, Cena was far from comical as he fell to a Pop-Up Powerbomb from Owens for the clean victory. Absolutely nobody expected this result, which is what made it all the more special – and the match itself was pretty bloody special.

Money in the Bank – Seth Rollins vs Dean Ambrose (WWE WHC – ladder match)

The Architect of The Shield was having a bad time of it with his leaders in The Authority, but when Triple H gave him a stern pep talk I knew we were in for something special from the WWE Champion. That’s exactly what we got from Rollins and his former ally Dean Ambrose, in a series of increasingly hardcore spots involving the ladder. We were in for a dramatic finish too as both men came down from the ladder with the title belt, before Rollins made a late grab to secure the win. An awesome match for both guys; Rollins showing that a great performance will make up for shoddy booking (most of the time) and Ambrose showing off his own main event credentials for future reference.

Summerslam – Cesaro vs Kevin Owens

It’s only a shame that this went on second-to-last at Summerslam with relatively little build-up, as Kevin Owens bounced back from his subsequent losses to John Cena with a victory over the King of Swing, Cesaro.

I’m with Mick Foley on this – his two words for the future of WWE: ‘Push Cesaro’. The man is insanely talented, and has proved as much both in singles and tag team competition; paired with fellow ‘Creative has nothing for you’ victim, Tyson Kidd, the two made a spectacular duo and had some great title matches. And only 24 hours removed from losing his own title, the NXT Championship, Owens was still raring to go with 15 minutes of superb wrestling that was only lessened by the relative little pre-match background. As a one-off match in its own right though, this was definitely a wrestling fan’s dream come true.

Wrestlemania – Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns

seth rollins wrestlemania 31

If the rumours are to be believed, we can expect a rematch of this year’s fantastic World Title battle as the main event of Wrestlemania 32, with Brock Lesnar widely expected to win the Royal Rumble next month. Reigns’ victory at this year’s instalment of the 30-man match was not warmly received, not even with an assist from The Rock, and so Lesnar was given the actual hero’s welcome which WWE brass wanted to be solely reserved for Reigns.

After the same sort of beatdown dished out to John Cena in previous encounters, Reigns struck back suddenly and almost creditably. But from a sudden point of advantage Reigns began the classic babyface ‘power up’ routine, and the resulting comeback was duly booed out of the building…until Seth Rollins popped up with a briefcase, in what was definitely my favourite WWE moment of 2015.

So there we go. The overriding theme here is that relatively new superstars have done just as well in terms of having their moment as the old hands – and the signs are finally good that we’ll see a bit more progress towards building stars of the future rather than relying on the part-timers of old.

What was your favourite match of 2015? Where would mine rank with your own picks?

WWE’s rock-bottom ratings mean new stars are desperately needed

I’ve just finished watching last night’s WWE Hell in a Cell pay-per-view in something like reverse order; after I happened to be up late enough to see the main event of Brock Lesnar vs The Undertaker last night, I’ve ended with the pre-show six-man tag match which pitted Dolph Ziggler, Neville and Cesaro against King Barrett, Rusev and Sheamus.

In a show which also touted Kane competing for a WWE World Title shot against Seth Rollins, and The Dudley Boyz against The New Day for the Tag Titles, I’ve become confused as to what the year is.

undertaker brock lesnar summerslam 2015

In the year 2000, you’ll have found D-Von and Bubba Ray, Taker and Kane all floating about at the top of the card against guys like Edge and Christian, The Rock and Triple H.

Hang on, they’re all ringing a bell too. Could it be that, 15 years on from the time that WWE became the hottest commodity in all of pop culture, they’re still hanging on to the same old names appearing on their programming in an effort to pop buy rates and ratings?

Yes it could. And while (spoilers), none of those more established names were able to get the victory, in kayfabe terms it’s all well and good giving the younger guys some of ‘the rub’ by getting the wins, but realistically none of these performers should still be in the mix.

But while those guys are staking their claims on the championship titles, it’s keeping out some of the younger talents – the best six examples of which (if you really must count Sheamus…) are stuck in the curtain-jerker spot, warming up the crowd with what was honestly one of my favourite matches of the night.

Cesaro Section

While I’ll concede that Wade ‘King of Bad News’ Barrett isn’t exactly setting the world on fire with his character, he is a very good hand to have on your roster. But as for the rest of that line-up, I’ll single out Cesaro as the man who’s so deserving of a Prime Time (Players) spot on any given WWE card, that it feels criminal for him to be denied one by the likes of Kane, Taker and the damn Dudleys – again, all of whom I’m a fan of.

WWF Smackdown 2 Know Your Role

But the higher-ups’ reluctance to trust these talents with prestigious spots, or to have some patience when they did previously have the spotlight – Ziggler’s MITB briefcase win and two WHC reigns come to mind – is costing them dearly in fan reactions for two reasons.

Sure, you’ve got part-timers like Taker, Lesnar and even The Rock who are prepared to show up and do battle, alongside the likes of legends like Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels to turn up and talk the talk, but we’re getting to a generational gap where younger fans – let’s just call them Cena fans and be done with it – won’t physically be aware of the days where these guys made their original mark. They won’t even have been born!

And more egregiously, as the same older names do turn up for the occasional run – Taker’s now wrestled as many times in 2015 as he did from 2012 to 2014 – they’re costing men like the aforementioned Cesaro, Rusev and Barrett their own run near or at the top. It’s this lack of opportunity to gain the biggest of big match experience that was partly why one CM Punk left the company after the 2014 Royal Rumble; one of the hottest heels of the past five years was jobbed out left and right to part-timers like Taker and The Rock – the latter for his WWE World Title which The Rock duly dropped to Cena during their second consecutive Wrestlemania main event.

The feel-bad ratings hit of the autumn

While younger fans are content to cheer and boo the appropriate performers, and buy up as much merchandise as they can carry, where it all really counts is the weekly TV ratings for their three hours on Monday nights. And ratings are down – Cageside Seats puts them at their lowest since 1997, in fact. Even this particularly star-studded episode (Michaels, Taker, Lesnar and Flair all appeared – as did Stone Cold Steve Austin) is indicative of the slowest WWE period since they were getting their weekly ratings kicking from the nWo over on TNT.

But what’s worse than the slow decline is the absolute dragging of WWE’s heels in trying to buck the trend. When even an Austin appearance doesn’t manage to perk up the points, maybe it’s time to try something – someone – new. Anything. Anyone.

Especially Cesaro and Neville.

The Undertaker Returns At WWE Battleground

There were many reasons why I enjoyed being very tired at work today; normally if it’s just because I can’t sleep I’ll have a miserable day, but last night was the WWE Battleground pay-per-view so I didn’t mind the late bedtime.

I didn’t watch it all live, but thanks to the power of the WWE Network I was able to catch the last three matches tonight. And while it definitely had its positives – the Women’s Division is once again alive and well thanks to an NXT injection – there were a couple of things that felt off for me.

Lesnar vs Undertaker II at Summerslam 2015?

Firstly, the result of the main event. Brock Lesnar had manoeuvred his way into the WWE World Heavyweight Title match against Seth Rollins, and was once again looking like an absolute double-hard bastard who would slowly murder his opponent en route to another win. However, once Rollins had taken something like 13 suplexes and a couple of finishers, the three-count was rudely interrupted…by a gong and the lights going out.

Yes, The Undertaker has returned – but not to Wrestlemania.

undertaker brock lesnar summerslam 2015

When the lights came back up, there was no sign of Rollins – nor any further mention of him for the rest of the show in fact, as Taker sized up and double-Tombstoned The Beast Incarnate. The show ended with his ‘vintage’ (copyright, Michael ‘Broken Fucking Record’ Cole) pose on the stage, as Lesnar remained out cold in the ring.

So it looks like we’re heading for a rematch between the two big men; Taker wants to avenge his loss against the man who broke his Streak, while Lesnar will be quite happy for another opponent on which to continue his disciplined practice of chucking about in the ring.

First of all – do we really need this rematch? For a man who only wrestles once a year (unless they’re trying to get Network subscriptions up, lol), Lesnar has already decisively beaten Taker, to the tune of one Broken Streak. A rematch at Summerslam may not be the answer.

Secondly, was the return of The Phenom just a way to get Seth Rollins out of what was going to be a relatively simple…well, death…with the title around his waist? Having survived yet another match by the skin of his teeth – and again, with plenty of help – Rollins is starting to look less like the absolute dickhead heel he’s supposed to be. More than capable when forced but otherwise happy to cheat, Rollins is now starting to look very cowardly instead, and against lesser men than Lesnar (ie pretty much all other men) he’s in danger of repeating the feat. We’ll have to see who steps up to challenge him at Summerslam – my hope would be another match against Dean Ambrose but I can see him evening up the side against the Wyatts with Roman Reigns.

Can Kevin Owens recover from being Cena’d?

Just before that, and even more worryingly, another big Battleground casualty – Kevin Owens’ momentum. After beating John Cena in an absolutely fantastic match at Elimination Chamber, we all knew Cena was going to level the score at Money In The Bank. A third match, while necessary, was probably always going to go against Owens too, but the manner in which it happened was very disappointing.

john cena kevin owens summerslam 2015

Rather than a last-gasp victory from the jaws of defeat, or even from one of his random ‘nah, not selling any more mate’ decisions into the usual victory routine – culminating in hitting the Attitude Adjustment and getting the three – John Cena made Kevin Owens tap out to his STF submission hold.

It’s one thing to have three close-run matches, as Cena now has the 2-1 lead in the feud. But for the third to be concluded so emphatically is a huge blow to Owens. Of all the guys Cena has conquered in his admittedly fantastic US Title run so far, this one should’ve been portrayed a lot less convincingly if Owens is supposed to stay looking strong. Cena’s strongest critics have pointed to the bone-jarring halts in momentum suffered by Rusev and Bray Wyatt following big losses, and I have to agree with how depressing it’s been to see Rusev progress into some weird love triangle story with Lana and Dolph Ziggler.

John Cena is, without a doubt, one of the best WWE has. He’s a true professional and a very capable worker. But the fact remains that having a win over John Cena does nobody any good when he’s got two back over them – especially when one of them is so visibly, categorically decisive that it’ll take a hell of a lot to come back from. Can Owens do it?

 

Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar vs Booking Logic (WM31 Preview)

In which wrestling fans pray for logic at Wrestlemania 31.

Well, it’s been a while since I managed the first part of this Wrestlemania 31 preview, and since then the Powers That Be have seen fit to reduce the importance of the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal even further by shifting it into the pre-show. I know it’s still a big event to be happening on the night of Wrestlemania, but the ‘pre-show’ thing still makes me think of those awful Free For All matches you’d see during the WWF New Generation and be expected to order the PPV as a result.

Wrestlemania 31 card

So here’s the rest of the card in brief, aside from a Fatal Four Way for the tag titles that I can’t even be bothered to look up.

AJ Lee & Paige v The Bella Twins

I can’t stand the Bella Twins. Paige and AJ (I‘m really hoping they go with ‘Pai-J’) are two of the WWE’s most talented and popular women’s wrestlers. Too bad they’re not the stars of a completely separate reality TV show (every time I’ve switched that on, which sadly has been more than once ever, it’s one of the Bellas arguing with her boyfriend/husband) otherwise they might have a chance. Should be a good way to end…whatever this is though, as Wrestlemania can sometimes do. But who knows.

Undertaker v Bray Wyatt

I wanted to write a completely separate post to set this one up; as people are so keen on saying that Wyatt needs a good rub from winning this one, I’m not even convinced he’s going to. The Undertaker’s legacy is now, sadly, built on wrestling and winning once a year. If he loses two of those in a row then it does rather tarnish the whole thing. And as good as Wyatt is at promos, this whole thunder-lightning, Johnny Cash-quoting thing is starting to get a bit hokey again. If anything, I want The Undertaker to win just to prove how once-in-a-lifetime Brock Lesnar’s steak-ending victory was. The Streak can still count for something if the WWE can prove that losing it was simply unavoidable.

John Cena vs Rusev (United States Championship)

John Cena’s been acting like quite the prat lately. After having been refused a rematch for Rusev’s US Title after making Cena pass out to his Accolade hold, Cena clamped in his own submission on Rusev on Monday Night Raw during a surprise attack. When Rusev himself passed out, Cena revived him with a glass of water…and locked on his STF again until evil manager Lana gave in and agreed to the rematch. Rusev is the man who won a match fair and square(ish), and is well within his rights to refuse a rematch. That’s not being a bad guy, it’s just acknowledgement that he might not be so lucky next time. Meanwhile, Cena’s been insulting them left and right between surprise attacks and random patriotic outbursts. I’m fairly sure Cena isn’t supposed to be the bad guy here, but nothing he’s doing is convincing me otherwise, especially as Rusev isn’t being especially heelish. Sadly we can expect Cena to win this one, as his losing two in a row is unheard of.

Seth Rollins v Randy Orton

I really wish I cared about this; Seth Rollins is the Man. His performance in the WWE Championship triple threat match against Cena and Brock Lesnar has been the wrestling highlight of my year so far, and I really wanted his match against Randy Orton to be a more cut-and-dried affair. As it is, Orton’s return on Raw a few weeks back to attack nearly the entire Authority was completely undercut just days later as he tagged with its members. It completely stalled the momentum of a surprise return and massive kicking to Rollins; one which Orton has recently delivered on Mr Money in the Bank anyway, with a huge RKO through the announce table. It’s certainly going to be a fiery enough affair which, if Orton wins, ought to end the rivalry and allow Rollins to move on to bigger, beltier things…

Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar vs Booking Logic (for the WWE Championship)

…like cashing in on the winner of the main event which, up until Brock Lesnar signed a new contract was looking like a fairly foregone conclusion; Roman Reigns would get his moment in the sun.

You see, despite Reigns’ steady improvement in the past month or so, he’s still nowhere near toppling the man who has, through a steady string of sound booking and (uncharacteristic for the WWE) logic, become an absolute beast – incarnate.

I am so, SO psyched that Lesnar is staying because losing to Reigns without at least one rematch wouldn’t feel like the solid enough dose of credibility that Reigns desperately needs. No matter how this match turns out, knowing we haven’t seen the last of the part-time world champion is reason enough to stay hopeful that he’ll do it again.

Through either blind luck or a systematic build of such effectiveness that you wonder why it can’t be arranged for absolutely anybody else on the roster, Lesnar has become the very best example of an invulnerable threat in years. Having Reigns two-moves-of-doom his way to the gold against a man who broke Triple H’s arm, ended The Streak, and brutalised John Cena would just feel like a massive leap in logic.

Oh crap, I’ve jinxed it with this logic stuff haven’t I. If logic decides to take its leave, and Roman Reigns lifts that world title, all you can do is pray for Seth Rollins and his briefcase on Sunday night.

Who will win the 2015 Royal Rumble?

And who will headline Wrestlemania XXXI?

We’re only a couple of weeks away from this year’s instalment of the WWE Royal Rumble; a unique 30-man match whose winner is guaranteed a World Title match at Wrestlemania XXXI.

With the company’s continued anointing of former Shield member Roman Reigns as The Man, and Brock Lesnar expected to defeat John Cena in their rematch for the title at the Rumble, we should expect Reigns to take not only the WWE title but also the rub from ending the Streak-ender at Wrestlemania.

Roman Reigns WWE 2015 Royal Rumble

Image by Miguel Discart

However, with the addition of Seth Rollins to the Royal Rumble title match and the less-than-stellar response Reigns receives from WWE crowds, for once we’re not completely assured of anything.

It’s still pretty much nailed on that Roman Reigns will take the victory this year, but with the doubt surrounding world champ Brock Lesnar’s immediate future and which MMA company he’ll be returning to, there’s been just a tiny bit of doubt cast on him.

Having received the push towards main event level after The Shield broke up, Reigns worked on combining his toughness with a standard babyface moveset, developing something smarks refer to as the Five Moves of Doom. Reigns’ momentum was cut short before he could face Seth Rollins at September’s Night of Champions due to injury, but was barely off TV in the interim cutting some fairly average promos.

Nonetheless, Reigns has returned and looks likely to win the Royal Rumble match – barring any last-minute developments behind the scenes.

Personally I’d be okay with Reigns taking the win here, but he really needs some earned momentum to get to Wrestlemania and be a credible challenger for whomever he comes up against. A very very strong performance in the Rumble at the very least, followed up by a great match and/or promo every single week in the weeks to follow.

And while I’m disappointed that the likes of Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler and Rusev are going to miss out, hopefully they won’t be entirely out in the cold for the rest of 2015.

When will Daniel Bryan return to WWE action?

Will it be Yes or No for Daniel Bryan in 2014?

When Daniel Bryan won the WWE World Heavyweight Title at Wrestlemania XXX, fans and pundits alike called it one of the most memorable Wrestlemania moments for years.

He even managed to somewhat upstage the ending of The Streak, such was the passion felt by the fans who were ecstatic to see his final victory over the scheming Authority.

But when world champion Bryan announced just days later that he needed neck surgery, we faced a long wait to see when he would return.

With Bryan’s absence growing ever longer, can we expect to see him wrestle again in 2014?

Put bluntly, no. According to WrestlingInc.com Bryan is expected back at around the same time as fellow babyface Roman Reigns, who missed his scheduled bout at Night of Champions after undergoing surgery for a persistently painful hernia surgery the day before.

It seems that the current plan among WWE top brass is to have Reigns win the Royal Rumble 2015 and successfully challenge world champion Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 31. While it would be interesting to see Roman Reigns win the world title next spring, I must confess I’d rather see Bryan in that slot.

In the run up to Daniel Bryan defeating John Cena for the world title at Summerslam 2013, the man was over. He stayed over right the way up to Wrestlemania XXX – a very tough task to accomplish when the Authority plays out the meta-angle that he’s just not the man for the job.

The WWE has historically had a ‘type’ that the likes of Bryan and CM Punk just don’t fit into; huge, muscled guys like Batista, Lesnar and – yes – Roman Reigns.

Unlike Reigns, who is now the next pick for the world title by the creative team, Bryan earned his spot by sheer fan support, not to mention his phenomenal in-ring ability.

Reigns doesn’t have anywhere near the levels of fandom that Bryan enjoyed during his run to Wrestlemania glory, but perhaps he’ll get there somehow once he’s back in the New Year.

Until then, that top babyface spot is open, and there’s no question that Dean Ambrose is the man to step up. His feud with former teammate Seth Rollins is keeping the ratings up right now. It’s a shame that WWE seems to prefer Reigns to his fellow Shield guys, but I’m sure Rollins and Ambrose can help change opinion in the next few months before Reigns gets back.

As for Bryan, we can but hope that he’ll actually be in the 2015 Royal Rumble at the very least.

Wrestlemania 30: The Streak is Over

Wrestlemania 30 will always be remembered for the end of the Undertaker’s dominant streak.

An F5. A three-count. A twenty-one-year undefeated streak – gone.

The audience was stunned into silence. If I were to be picky about it, they were pretty bloody silent anyway – no way to end the career of an absolute icon of wrestling. Few have dominated the WWE like The Undertaker; a man who I struggle to count on two hands the amount of memorable, clean and meaningful defeats he has suffered.

But for me, three single moments will define Wrestlemania XXX and make it one of the most memorable of all time.

WWE-WrestleMania-30

Daniel Bryan

Of course, his finally overcoming The Authority to become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion is the culmination of an eight-month quest to regain his place at the top of the mountain. He overcame three men over the course of two brilliant (though admittedly a bit overbooked) matches to raise the belts in victory. You couldn’t see him for all the tickertape they were throwing down at one point, but Bryan saw nothing except that ultimate victory.

Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin and The Rock

This was an absolutely incredible way to kick off ‘Mania; when guest host Hulk Hogan fluffed two lines within thirty seconds in getting the name of the venue wrong and almost referring to the company as the WWF, I admit I smirked a bit at what else could have been in store for us tonight. But the moment we heard the glass shatter and saw The Rattlesnake make his way down the aisle, business certainly picked up. Austin got in a nice rib on Hogan for getting the venue’s name wrong, before confessing his own pride at being in the ring for such a momentous occasion. And just as we were getting ready for our first match, The Rock asked us that old familiar question and sent the fans into an absolute fit of joy – myself included. Seeing the three of them in the ring at the same time was such an amazing moment, and would’ve easily been the number 2 moment of the night for nostalgia’s sake, but for:

The End of the Streak

The match was, sadly, not the five-star classic we hoped for deep down. The build towards it was also somewhat half-arsed – god bless Paul Heyman for giving it his outstanding best as always. But two things are required for The Streak match to be pulled off convincingly: a great match and a real sense that the Streak was in jeopardy. I don’t really feel like either of these were satisfied, which perhaps explains my own deep sense of shock. It came out of nowhere, but in a bad way. When Daniel Bryan hit those sweet running knees on all three of his opponents last night, they literally came out of nowhere – ie, out of camera shot. What we got to turn ‘Taker’s 0 into a 1 last night was a sort of crumpled F5 into a half-arsed cover. Heyman sold it like a genius – that’s what he does – but it wasn’t a good shock to the system. Not like The Rock hitting the stage earlier in the night. Not even like Ron Simmons turning up for his annual curse.

Where do they go from here? For The Undertaker, whose old school tradition and love for the business keeps him grounded in the knowledge that you go out of this game with a loss, it could be time to bow out.

For Lesnar, as the Man who beat The Streak, surely the World Title picture beckons. But if Triple H refused to believe that Daniel Bryan was the Face of the WWE, then god help us if Lesnar’s face decides it fits the bill better.

Maybe The Streak should go out quietly. Adding the phrase “and one” to any future mentions would tarnish the fact that there’s an entire 21 before it. Don’t let it hang around anyone’s neck – Lesnar’s or The Undertaker’s. I don’t think Lesnar can be booked effectively enough to maximise its value given his part-time commitment to the company. And it certainly wouldn’t do to tarnish The Undertaker’s entire career with it. Don’t let 21-1 be an exclamation point. Let it be an appendix somewhere at the end of an extraordinary and unique document.

Who Will Face The Undertaker at Wrestlemania XXX?

Naming four potential Wrestlemania XXX opponents for The Undertaker.

Few WWE wrestlers have had such an impact on sports entertainment as The Undertaker; making his full debut at the 1990 Survivor Series, and accompanied for years by the late, great Paul Bearer, the man known in real life as Mark Calaway has carved out a tremendous 20-year career with his in-ring speed and intensity, and unique characterisation which has always struck fear into opponents. Among many other accomplishments he’s a seven-time WWE champion, but these days it’s The Streak which keeps fans coming back year on year. He has not lost a single one of his 21 matches at Wrestlemania, and the lure of defending The Streak forms a big part of the WWE’s Wrestlemania plans each year.

WWE Undertaker Wrestlemania XXX

The Undertaker at a previous ‘Mania. Image by Simon Q.

Two decades of destruction have taken their toll on the native Texan, who pretty much only wrestles at the biggest event on the WWE calendar. Despite some flops – the handicap match against the Big Show and A-Train anyone? – the booking surrounding The Streak is a huge priority to attract interest in what this year will be a massive landmark event; the match needs the right opponent for The Undertaker and the right circumstances to make it a killer rivalry. And so, just two months away from the thirtieth Wrestlemania – not to mention his 49th birthday – which Superstar will be chosen to take on the chance to end The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania Streak?

Daniel Bryan

Daniel Bryan Royal Rumble 2014

Daniel Bryan – image by Krystal Bogner

He shocked the world of wrestling when he finally, under intense psychological and physical pressure, joined the Wyatt Family on Raw last week. (We all knew it was coming though, why else would Daniel Bryan grow that epic beard?) Just a week later we saw some tension between Bryan and cult leader Bray Wyatt, but if the writers do as good a job of teasing a split as they with The Shield then we should be in for some great action between now and Wrestlemania XXX.

Of course, the main problem with Bryan as an opponent – unless Taker happens to capture the World Title before Wrestlemania! – is that we all want, nay, need to see Bryan winning the Royal Rumble later this month, which would put him in a World title match instead. Taker has apparently personally requested Bryan as his WMXXX opponent, which means that Bryan must remain heel until then in order to truly jeopardise The Streak. Perhaps the Wyatt Family will focus their attention on taking down Taker on the Road to Wrestlemania XXX?

Brock Lesnar

Brock Lesnar Wrestlemania XXX

Brock Lesnar. Image by Krystal Bogner

Former MMA fighter Brock Lesnar recently resurfaced in the WWE to announce his intention to pursue the WWE World Heavyweight Title; challenging John Cena and Randy Orton to face him for the belt somewhere down the line. If this comes off then we could expect to see him in title action at the Elimination Chamber – whether that would be among the competitors in the main match itself or elsewhere on the bill remains to be seen.

Assuming that Lesnar’s pretty much part-time schedule prevents him from an unsuccessful title bid, it’s quite possible that he’ll turn his attention to breaking The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania Streak instead. Since their real-life-or-was-it-face-off at a UFC event in 2010, the match has been greatly anticipated by fans; however, such a potentially brutal match – which it would have to be to really threaten the outcome – would do the near 50-year old Deadman no favours as he nears the end of his career. With pundits speculating that Taker only has three good matches left in him, this one would have to take place sooner rather than later.

Batista

Batista WWE Wrestlemania XXX

Batista – image by Krystal Bogner

Before even stepping back in the WWE ring, we’ve been promised that Dave Batista will be competing in the 2014 Royal Rumble. At 44 years of age, he too may have his work cut out for him if he is to make a real impact in the ring during 2014. However, he’s been busy making films and staying in shape, and – much like The Rock who impressed so much during his last run – he could really hit the headlines by challenging Undertaker to a match at Wrestlemania XXX.

The Animal is the longest-reigning World Heavyweight Champion in WWE history among his six world title reigns and, if pushed to produce the same fine form which won him Feud Of The Year against The Undertaker in 2007 – where he became another notch on the belt at Wrestlemania 23 – the two veterans could produce a few surprises this time around.

Dean Ambrose

Dean Ambrose The Shield Wrestlemania XXX

Dean Ambrose – image by Krystal Bogner

Who better to bring the story full circle than the man who, alongside his teammates in The Shield, was responsible for the fall of The Undertaker the very last time we saw him in action? It was the week after Wrestlemania 29 when, while attempting to pay his respects to dearly-departed friend Paul Bearer, Undertaker was attacked by the Hounds of Justice.

He was powerbombed through the announce table, and that was the last we’ve seen of the legendary Superstar – until later this year that is. With The Shield now in the process of splitting up, and their current target CM Punk apparently locked in for a match with Authority leader Triple H, this will nicely free up the leader of the stable for some vengeance served up Undie-style in the next few weeks.

With the Streak standing strong at 21-0, and Wrestlemania XXX providing a nice round number for a wrestler getting on in years, will this be the final time we see the Phenom? Who would you like to see attempt to break the one thing which has kept wrestling fans on tenterhooks for the past two decades?