Career assists for Flyers captain Claude Giroux

Heel Turns: Looking back at Royal Rumble

Posted by Achilles Heel On February 7

Your favorite wrestling columnist is back!

I would apologize for my prolonged absence – if it were my fault. While you were pining for the Greek God of Wrestling’s impression of the Royal Rumble, Heel Turns was placed on the shelf because Eric Fisher didn’t want to detract from the Super Bowl coverage with professional wrestling.

Well, that’s not exactly how Fisher put it. He said that he was afraid Heel Turns would get lost amidst the Super Bowl coverage. Achilles Heel admits that PhillyPhanatics.com’s Super Bowl coverage was pretty good, but the idea that somehow it would overshadow my column is ludicrous.

The Greek God of Wrestling has wasted enough time on Fisher. Let’s get to the Royal Rumble. When it comes to Heel Turns, the old adage that “late is better than never” certainly rings true.

Both the men’s Royal Rumble and the first women’s Royal Rumble in history delivered. They were well-paced matches that never seemed to drag.

The Final Four shouldn’t have been a surprise to those who read the Greek God of Wrestling’s Royal Rumble preview. I explained that the four most likely winners were Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura, Roman Reigns and John Cena. Of course, those were the final four wrestlers left in the ring. Although my pick to win was Reigns, that was based on the winner facing Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship. Achilles Heel wrote that a Nakamura win would make sense if he were to challenge AJ Styles for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania.

The biggest surprise in the Royal Rumble was Rey Mysterio, who entered at No. 27. Although it’s not a traditional match, Mysterio looked terrific in his return. Two other surprises were NXT champion Andrade “Cien” Almas, who had a tremendous match with Johnny Gargano the previous night at NXT Takeover: Philadelphia, and NXT’s Adam Cole, one night after a physical extreme rules match against Aleister Black.

The first women’s Royal Rumble in history featured numerous surprises. Former WWE wrestlers who participated in the women’s Rumble included Lita, Trish Stratus, Beth Phoenix, Torrie Wilson, Kelly Kelly, Molly Holly, Jaqueline, Michelle McCool and Nikki and Brie Bella. Phoenix had a staredown and power confrontation with Nia Jax. Lita made quite an impression early in the match. Trish Stratus was in excellent form.

In the end, the Bellas were left with Asuka. But, with Asuka down, Nikki turned on her sister and eliminated Brie. That turned out to be a mistake because Asuka bested Nikki to win the Rumble. Asuka was joined in the ring by Smackdown Women’s champion Charlotte and Raw Women’s champion Alexa Bliss. But, before she could say which champion she wanted to face at WrestleMania, Ronda Rousey, the night’s biggest surprise, came down the ramp, providing a big finish to the show.

Styles defeated Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in a handicapped match to retain the WWE Championship. However, Styles didn’t pin the legal man so that feud is continuing. Lesnar retained the WWE Universal Championship in a triple-threat match against Kane and Braun Strowman.

A title that changed hands was the Raw Tag Team Championship. Cesaro and Sheamus defeated Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan to regain the titles. Jordan wasn’t able to wrestle because of a legitimate neck injury, leaving Rollins to fend for himself. In the Smackdown Tag Team Championship match, Jimmy and Jey Uso defeated Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable in straight falls in a best-out-of-three match. During the preshow, Bobby Roode retained the United States Championship against Mojo Rawley, The Revival (Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder) beat Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, and the team of Kalisto, Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado defeated Drew Gulak, T.J. Perkins and Jack Gallagher.

With the two Royal Rumble matches being the best matches, the Royal Rumble was a terrific pay-per-view (or whatever WWE is calling these premier events these days).


ROUSEY’S FUTURE: Ronda Rousey reportedly has signed a deal to be with WWE on a full-time basis. There is speculation that she will debut in a tag team match at WrestleMania against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. This would be the culmination of a storyline that started at WrestleMania XXXI in Santa Clara, Calif., with The Rock bringing Rousey into the ring to confront McMahon and Triple H.

The problem with that potential match is the availability of The Rock, who had to delay a movie after requiring abdominal surgery following a WrestleMania match against John Cena. If the Rock isn’t available, Cena is a possible replacement.


PHILY FANS: As you can tell by the start of this edition of Heel Turns, Eric Fisher and the Greek God of Wrestling often don’t see eye to eye. One topic on which we agree, though, is the awesomeness of Philly fans. As Edge and Christian used to say, Philly fans reeked of awesomeness during WWE’s four-day stint at Wells Fargo Center.

Their enthusiasm was tremendous, although they seemed to tire out a bit by the fourth night. The fans helped make NXT Takeover: Philadelphia a huge hit. Their reactions, particularly during the NXT Championship match between Andrade “Cien” Almas and challenger Johnny Gargano, enhanced the event.

Philly fans were terrific again during the Royal Rumble. They were on their feet for the latter stages of both the men’s and women’s Royal Rumble. It was humorous to hear the knowledgeable Philly fans react to some of the participants in the women’s Royal Rumble by referencing their husbands. Michelle McCool drew an “Undertaker!” chant. Nikki Bella was greeted by a “John Cena sucks!” chant. The fans also loved to chant “Rusev Day!,” even doing so during the kickoff show.


NXT TAKES OVER: The main event for NXT Takeover: Philadelphia was a classic. Johnny Gargano came so close to defeating Andrade “Cien” Almas for the NXT Championship that the Philly fans could feel it in their bones. But Almas escaped with a victory in a fantastic match. The post-match included Tommaso Ciampa, Gargano’s former tag team partner, crunching him from behind with a crutch. Achilles Heel thought Ciampa might get involved in the finish of the match, which is what I hinted at in the pre-Royal Rumble Heel Turns.

The extreme rules match between Aleister Black and Adam Cole, which was won by Black, was also terrific. Ember Moon retained the NXT Women’s Championship in a physical match against Shayne Baszler, and The Undisputed Era (bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly) defeated The Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar) in an interesting match. Velveteen started the card off with a victory over Kassius Ohno.


NEW NXT FACES: Some of the news made at NXT was made outside the ring. Seated ringside during NXT Takeover: Philly were Trevor “Ricochet” Mann, Ethan Carter III (EC3), War Machine (Hanson and Raymond Rowe) and Candice LeRae, the wife of Johnny Gargano. LeRae got involved in the main event, chasing Zelina Vega, the manager for Andrade “Cien” Almas away from ringside after Vega interfered in the match several times.


ARIES MAKES IMMEDIATE IMPACT: Austin Aries stepped right to the forefront with Impact Wrestling, defeating Eli Drake to become the Impact Wrestling champion. This is a wonderful opportunity for Aries. The company was already struggling mightily when he became champion, so he can’t be blamed if the organization continues to spiral downhill.


19th ANNIVERSARY: Combat Zone Wrestling presents its 19th anniversary show Saturday (8 p.m.) at the Colossal Sports Academy at the Coliseum. CZW World Heavyweight Rickey Shane Page teams up with Rey Fenix and Penta El Zero M to face Sami Callihan and Jake and Dave Crist. There also will be a CZW Rumble, with the winner getting a future title shot against the NXT World champion.

In other matches, MJF defends the CZW Wired Championship against Alex Colon, Greg Excellent squares off against Ace Romero in an ultraviolent Dog Collar match, and Joe Janela battles Brandon Kirk.


A FLAIR FOR WINGS: Ric Flair appeared at WIP’s Wing Bowl for the second consecutive year. If ever an event were made for the Nature Boy, it’s Wing Bowl. When Flair saw all of the Wingettes, he must have thought he really died last summer and went to heaven.


CELEBRATING WRESTLING: CHIKARA will host a show on National Pro Wrestling Day at Sat., Feb. 17 (3 p.m.) at The Wrestle Factory. In one of the matches, Los Ice Creams will defend the tag team titles against the Closers (Rick Roland and Sloan Caprice).


IMPERFECT 10: When Smackdown general manager Daniel Bryan revealed the inaugural Smackdown Top 10 list, Achilles Heel had the exact same reaction as WWE broadcaster Corey Graves. Orton is only No. 9? Where’s Rusev? And how are The New Day rated above Jimmy and Jey Uso, who are the Smackdown Tag Team champions? No wonder the Greek God of Wrestling thinks so highly of Graves.


BROADCAST NEWS: One person who apparently doesn’t share the Greek God of Wrestling’s admiration for Corey Graves is Booker T. Judging by Booker T’s harsh words regarding Graves after he was replaced on Raw’s broadcasting team by Jonathan Coachman, the banter between Booker T and Graves wasn’t as good-natured as it appeared. Graves often called attention to Booker T’s gaffes, but both men usually laughed it off. With Booker T demoted, apparently it doesn’t seem so funny anymore.

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Side angle of Cody Parkey's missed field goal