Well, hello.

It’s the ROAD TO WRESTLEMANIA~~~!!! Yes folks, prepare for the season of sign pointing and non stop network shilling. The grandest stage of them all (according to Vince) is on the horizon and as usual, the heavy lifting starts at the Royal Rumble.

Now, besides the Rumble itself, there were 4 other matches on the show (not counting the snoozefest that was the pre show tag team fourway match; Swagger & Henry stayed awake the longest to earn themselves spots in the Rumble) so let’s start there.

Ambrose vs. Owens was everything I wanted and more. A genuine grudge match with a guy in Owens who knows and revels in playing an out and out heel, and Dean Ambrose, probably the most over singles face on the roster right now. These two have been waging war on each other for the past few weeks, so I had high expectations for a Last Man Standing match.

Boy, did they deliver. It was a good old fashioned brawl around the ring. Weapons, props, tables, chairs… you name it, they were implemented. And unlike, say, the TLC show, this match felt different and brutal because this was the only match on the card to utilise some hardware, bar the table spot in the Rumble.

Owens and Ambrose went to town, putting on a spectacular opening match that not only made them look like a million dollars, but elevated the legitimacy of the Intercontinental Championship – if those two guys were willing to go to those extremes to not just get each other, but get that belt, how important is it?

I think the US Championship could do with a similar image boost. Since Del Rio picked the pocket of John Cena, the title’s image has slipped slightly. I can’t say this match helped any. Kalisto and Del Rio have zero chemistry together, and this match hopefully sees the end of this mini rivalry.

Del Rio always strikes me as looking down his nose at people that he perceives to be lower on the totem pole than him; this match didn’t change my thinking any. Kalisto needs to go and do what Cena did with the belt; have consistent good matches on TV with it. Make it something to covet. Make himself a scalp that needs taking.

Which brings me to the Usos. They desperately need a direction. They can only be shiny, happy, bouncy guys for so long and for me, that time has expired. The crowd more or less pulled a double turn here; New Day are crazy over. The Usos are not. Not even Xavier Woods trying desperately to remain heel by denying the fans their fix of Francesca 2 could keep the New Day from being cheered.

The Usos either need a retooling or a heel turn – perhaps constantly falling just short of regaining the Tag Titles pushes them over the edge and they take their frustrations out on a poor unsuspecting face team? What is clear to me, is they are floundering, and the tag division suffers while we have to tread water with the constant rematches and singles contests.

The Divas Championship, by comparison, now has a direction. Charlotte has embraced her legacy and become a dirty, cheating Flair. With a clearly defined heel at the top of the division, it leaves some room for some actual stories to be written rather than the usual backstabbery that passes for feuds in the women’s division.

I really hope Becky doesn’t get lost in the Charlotte/Sasha mix, as her work has been incredible the past few weeks; there’s a case to be made that Becky has been the most credible face on the roster. A triple threat at WrestleMania with those three and at least 15 minutes could theoretically steal the show.

Which leaves the Rumble itself. Spoiler: HHHWINSLOL.

And I have no issue with him winning, believe it or not. The story the WWE have been telling on TV over the past few weeks culminates in HHH returning to give Roman his payback and take the title from him, it’s classic wrestling storytelling and I can’t fault them for being consistent.

The fault I have? In the whole scenario, Roman is the heel. Trips has come out as the defacto face, not just because the fanbase pretty much hates Roman. They had a brief window where Roman was over, and they botched it badly.

It looks like Roman/HHH is your ‘Mania main event by default now… and again, it makes sense. It’s solid storytelling and Roman coming back to get his moment in the sun at WrestleMania would be a great redemption story, if the fans were invested in Roman.

The Rumble usually sparks a few matches and angles that run in to WrestleMania, and HHH had a couple of them here – sadly, not with Roman. I popped more for HHH facing off with Wyatt and Ambrose than I did for the Roman angle…

Having said that, I popped more for Owens/Styles, Owens/Zayn, Styles/Jericho, Ambrose/Styles… any combination of the extremely talented midcard, in other words.

Let’s talk AJ Styles for a moment. What a debut! The crowd went INSANE for him. I dig his music and understated entrance, and he looked like he belonged. The Styles Clash tease went over well, and he came across as a total star.

Where they take Styles from here? I loved the match with Jericho on Raw; I’d love Jericho to play up his initial well documented battles with the WWE Old Guard and flip it – let him become the grizzled vet holding the new guy down. I want 25 minutes at WrestleMania ending in a Styles Clash in the middle of the ring.

I also need – not want, NEED – a blow off match (for the time being) to the Zayn vs. Owens story. What I’ve read today about Takeover: Dallas leads me to think it’s not going to happen, but I desperately want to be wrong. Zayn and Owens at WrestleMania would be the money match for me.

And Brock? Brock squaring off against Bray now looks to be set in stone. The one thing I didn’t like about the Rumble booking was Brock’s elimination. By all means have the Wyatts team up to remove him, but Brock walking away meekly after being eliminated didn’t ring true to me.

Since when has Brock cared about rules, to the extent that he wouldn’t go right back into the ring and demolish Wyatt, never mind eliminate him, just because he’s Brock, and that’s what Brock does? There should have been some consequences to Bray’s actions on the night, just to spike the interest here.

I’m not sure Brock vs. Bray is the way to go for me, but it seems to be a “best case scenario” at the moment for how they’ve used Brock in the past few weeks… but the Rumble is the right place to kickstart their feud.

The Rumble lends itself to fantasy matchmaking like this, and that’s why even an average Rumble is still a great spectacle. I thought this year’s edition was a lot better than last year’s effort in that respect. There were very few low points, a couple of surprises, some decent comedy (not Truth, Rusev leaving with the monitor!) and storylines were adavanced.

This may not be a popular opinion going by the string of complaints I’ve read on the Interwebs this week, but the Rumble told the story it needed to tell, if that’s the direction the WWE are going in. Bar a very hasty rethink in the next 6 or so weeks, HHH vs. Reigns is THE match that Vince wants, and thinks we want.

I’m not sold, but it’s what we have, so let’s at least try and be positive, and make the most of it. Or at least watch it before we decry it as the WORST THING EVER…

Until next time…

Have fun, go mad.