Kevin Owens def. Jack Swagger via pinfall
Hardly a banner Royal Rumble for either of these guys. Swagger, who according to his ring introduction is still very much “a real American”, suffered the ignominy of the shortest stay in this year’s Rumble match. Meanwhile, Kevin Owens incurred the double blow of losing to Dean Ambrose and getting tossed from the Rumble by arch-rival, Sami Zayn.
Very good TV match here, that hovered around the 15-minute mark (including commercials). The early exchanges are enlivened by a typically talkative Kevin Owens, who admonishes the referee for not letting him stay in the ropes indefinitely to escape Swagger’s ankle-based intentions: “I’m allowed to do that! What’s your problem!?”
The mid-match commercial break is also bookended by a “WE ARE IDIOTS!” chant from Owens and a rousing rendition of “Oh Canada!”, as Swagger struggles to escape Chinlock City.
Great workrate from both men in this one; Owens ate a running clothesline on the outside after taking a powder to avoid Swagger’s comeback, while Swagger took his face-first bump onto the ringsteps after being tossed over the top rope. Both men also nailed a German suplex apiece, with Swagger hitting his after a brilliant reversal of the Pop-Up Powerbomb into a Patriot Lock attempt.
Owen’s second failed attempt at his finish is also reversed into a roll-up for two, before he finally nails it seconds later when Swagger drives his own shoulder into the ringpost off a dodged corner charge.
Another excellent showing for Swagger, who has burnished his babyface credentials on this show of late; add this to his two very watchable 10+ minute outings against Stardust and The Miz in the last couple of months. Credit to Owens for giving him so much too.
The Dudley Boyz def. The Ascension via pinfall
I’m sure the Dudleys were delighted to see Konnor and Viktor’s names beside theirs on the format sheet; The Ascension were the last team that Bubba and D-Von defeated in a straight tag match on RAW - on November 16th of last year.
We get the usual five-minute second match here. Very early “hot” tag to Bubba signals an even quicker ending, only for Konnor to save Viktor from the Wassup headbutt by crotching D-Von on the top rope.
Quick heat segment (featuring Viktor’s awesome-looking STO), before the hot tag to D-Von, who runs through his usual offensive repertoire. Blind tag and a Reverse 3-D to Konnor follows, before a Bubba big boot heads off Konnor’s attempted interference. Viktor eats the regular 3-D to wrap it up for the Dudleys and compensate somewhat for last week’s unfortunate defeat at the hands of the Social Outcasts.
- Rusev and Be-A-STAR candidate, Lana, are backstage with Jojo, who wonders if the powerbomb Rusev suffered on RAW will affect his performance against Ryback tonight. Lana responds that “nothing affects the super-athlete”, with the Bulgarian Brute adding that he intends to destroy “The Ryback” tonight.
Rusev w/Lana def. Ryback by submission
This, of course, is the dumb feud they dropped after Lana’s social media activity made her persona non grata in the company. Lawler briefly references her punishment - Lana’s part in The Rock’s promo on Monday night - at the beginning of the match, only for Rich Brennan to cut him off: “Should we repeat that!?.....is it family friendly?” No, Rich. It’s not.
Decent 10+ minute match here, that was admittedly pretty boring prior to Ryback’s comeback, but picked up significantly forthwith - the turning point being a back-and-forth battle to suplex each other over the top rope. Ryback wins, bringing Rusev from the apron to the ring, before again busting out Punk’s high knee into the corner.
The Ryback also hits a top rope missile dropkick and brings back his old backpack stunner maneuver to kick off the nearfalls segment of the match. Ryback appears to be responding to criticism of his work in a similar fashion to John Cena, by expanding his moveset - which, ironically, is arguably the least important element of what makes one a great worker.
A failed Shellshock sees Ryback almost get pushed into Lana, who had positioned herself on the apron. He gets a slap to the face for his troubles, but the roll-up from Rusev only gets two. Ryback then returns the superkick he received earlier, as if he is now absorbing the signature moves of his opponents. This also gets two.
A second Shellshock attempt then also fails, as Rusev grabs the ropes. Ryback’s workrate aspirations then finally cost him, as a high knee from the top misses, allowing Rusev to hit another superkick and lock in the Accolade. Ryback doesn’t tap, but is deemed to have passed out by referee, Charles Robinson. Rusev celebrates vigorously in front of the large flag bearing his own visage as the show goes off the air.
Unquestionably the best outing for Main Event this year, with two good-to-very good 10+ minute matches. It’s particularly worth going out of one’s way to see Kevin Owens’ match with Jack Swagger, who has turned in some truly excellent work on this show over the last couple of months.