Due to a genetic abnormality, Judge Ike Oden administers the thirty-two knuckle shuffle. Don't ask.
The road to WrestleMania 27 begins with the biggest Royal Rumble in history.
WWE: Royal Rumble 2011 has come and gone, arriving on DVD for collectors and anyone who might have missed it on Pay-Per-View. I, for one, couldn't be happier. Royal Rumble has long been my favorite WWE event of each year, packing in 40 major, minor, and classic wrestlers into one match, deploying them into the ring in ninety-second intervals. They wail on each other and, if tossed over the top rope to have feet hit floor, they're eliminated. Some come and go with the speed of a revolving door, while headliners show grit and withstand grueling chaos for the majority of the epic event. Only one can come away with a shot at WrestleMania. Keep in mind, all this is after some high stakes opening matches:
• World Heavyweight Championship: Edge Vs. Dolph Ziggler (with Vicky Guerrero)
This match comes with a handicap stipulating that if Edge uses his Spear on Ziggler, he automatically loses the title. This means that Ziggler has the upper hand on Edge throughout the bulk of the match. Following an energetic false start, Edge gets his, well, edge back toward the end, when outside circumstances intervene on his behalf and he's able to use his signature move despite the handicap. It's an interesting move that would be unsatisfying with any other performer, but matches well with the Rated R Superstar's persona. I'm not huge on Ziggler, and Vicky Guerrero's screeching makes me queasy, but all parties bring their A game to this match. It lacks any real innovation, but Edge is so much fun to watch here I have no substantial complaints.
• WWE Championship Match: The Miz (with Alex Riley) Vs. Randy Orton
As a fan of The Miz and Orton, I came away from this one a bit disappointed. As a performer, Orton is hard to beat in terms of energy, physicality, and overall unpredictability. Miz is a pitch perfect heel, combining excellent skills in the ring with a scenery-chewing frat boy persona. So how does this not hit?
Well, it does, up until the expected outside interference sort of brings the match's arc to a gratingly gimmicky halt. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but the outcome just feels like a bit of a cheat (and not in a good way). That said, both Orton and Miz perform amicably, and the event sets in motion a great deal of story potential between the two. I probably shouldn't be complaining.
• Fatal Four Way for Divas Championship: Eve Torres Vs. Natalya Vs. Layla Vs. Michelle McCool
It's no secret that I have a great deal of animosity toward the WWE's wishy-washy approach to their Divas matches, but this one was a lot of fun. The match's last minute switch to a Fatal Four Way ups the stakes enormously, and the tension between team LayCool during the match is palatable. If I have any complaint it's that, like all Divas matches, the event is way too brief. It speaks to the WWE's regular half-assing, but I'm so desperate I'll take a decent Divas match however I can get it.
• Royal Rumble 2011
As much as I feel WWE shouldn't mess with perfection, Royal Rumble 2011 spectacularly subverts the event's typical tropes, making for a memorable entry in the PPV's long history.
The headlining match plays out in a series of arcs for each big-name wrestler. C.M. Punk opens the match and withstands a solid block of wrestlers before relying on his New Nexus to swoop in and defend him. This first arc especially benefits from he fancy parcquor work of John Morrison, who makes a stronger impression in one spectacular save than C.M. Punk and his goons do in the entire match. He gets thrown out officially, of course, but like most of Morrison's matches, cements the potential for superstardom on the horizon.
The second arc has Punk's New Nexus ganging up on whatever hapless second-stringers happen to enter the ring. This throws a monkey wrench into the Rumble's typical quick pace and deflates any chance for C.M. Punk to take the title on stamina alone. Even though you see New Nexus' arc play out from a mile away, WWE closes it out in a very fun way. In a very fanboyish move, WWE stirs the pot by sending some old favorite free agents along the lines of Booker T and Diesel into the ring. With the combined help of a few added superstars, New Nexus's ranks are thinned permanently. The gimmick to pay off fan frustration with a huge dose of nostalgia is a cheap one, but I can't argue with its effectiveness.
From there, the match enters its final act, squaring off superstar against superstar. This is when the traditional Royal Rumble playbook kicks back in, as names like John Cena, Sheamus, Randy Orton, Kane, Big Show, and many, many more are thrown into the mix, with a few comic relief ringers (Hornswoggle, Santino Marella) filling in gaps between action effectively. The match is classic Royal Rumble, right down to a surprise upset winner. It is sure to alienate a share of fans, but this is WWE, not UFC, and surprise upsets only make it more interesting.
Overall, WWE: Royal Rumble 2011 stands with the best in the series. The sound and picture are great as per expected of WWE releases. Bonus features are a tad slim, with only a follow-up interview with Divas winner Eve and a SmackDown segment following up the outcome of Royal Rumble 2011 with The Miz, Edge, and Alberto Del Rio all up in each other's grills. Fun stuff, on both counts.
These feet do not hit floor. Not guilty.
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