Royal Rumble (2015)
Royal Rumble (2015) was a professional wrestling pay-per-view (PPV) event and WWE Network event produced by WWE. It took place on January 25, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was the twenty-eighth annual Royal Rumble event and the first to air on the WWE Network.
|Royal Rumble (2015)|
Promotional poster featuring various WWE wrestlers
|Date||January 25, 2015|
|Venue||Wells Fargo Center|
|WWE Network event chronology|
|Royal Rumble chronology|
Six matches were contested at the event, with one being shown on the pre-show. In the main event, Roman Reigns won the traditional Royal Rumble match to receive a shot for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 31. Elsewhere on the event's card, The Usos defeated The Miz and Damien Mizdow to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship, while the WWE World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar successfully defended his title against Seth Rollins and John Cena in a triple threat match.
Like the previous year's event, the 2015 Royal Rumble was marked by a strongly negative audience reaction to the Royal Rumble match, which was won by Roman Reigns. The event as a whole, however, received mixed reviews, with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship triple threat match receiving the most praise from critics and fans. The event received 145,000 buys (excluding WWE Network views), down from the previous year's 467,000 buys.
As is tradition at this yearly event, the card was highlighted by the 30-man Royal Rumble match, where this year's winner received a WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at WrestleMania 31. At TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs, Roman Reigns returned and announced himself as the first entrant in the Royal Rumble match. On the December 29 episode of Raw, Daniel Bryan announced his participation in the match. On the January 6 episode of Main Event, WWE United States Champion Rusev announced his participation in the match. On the January 9 episode of SmackDown, Bray Wyatt and WWE Intercontinental Champion Bad News Barrett announced their participation in the match. On the January 12 episode of Raw, Dean Ambrose announced his participation in the match. On the January 13 episode of Main Event, Gold and Stardust announced their participation in the match. On the January 15 episode of SmackDown, Big Show and Kane announced their participation in the match. On the January 19 edition of Raw, R-Truth, The Miz and Damien Mizdow announced their participation in the match. On the January 22 edition of SmackDown, Dolph Ziggler defeated Bad News Barrett, Luke Harper defeated Erick Rowan, and Ryback defeated Rusev by countout to qualify for the match. That same night, Daniel Bryan defeated Kane to retain his spot in the match.
The card consisted of six matches that resulted from scripted storylines, where wrestlers portrayed villains, heroes, or less distinguishable characters in scripted events that built tension and culminated in a wrestling match or series of matches, with results predetermined by WWE's writers. Storylines were produced on WWE's weekly television shows, Raw and SmackDown.
At SummerSlam, Brock Lesnar defeated John Cena to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Cena would receive his rematch the following month at Night of Champions which he would win by disqualification after Seth Rollins interfered and attempted to cash-in his Money in the Bank contract. At the next event, Hell in a Cell, Cena defeated Authority member Randy Orton in a Hell in a Cell match to earn a future shot at Lesnar. The Authority was then removed from power after losing the 5-on-5 Survivor Series elimination match at Survivor Series with Cena being the only one who could bring them back if he chose to. At TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs, Cena faced Rollins in a Tables match which he won to retain his #1 contender status. Later in the event, it was announced that Cena would face Lesnar for the title at the Royal Rumble. On the final Raw of 2014, Rollins attacked special guest host Edge and threatened to perform a Curb Stomp on him if Cena did not reinstate The Authority. Cena came down to save Edge but reluctantly brought The Authority back after Rollins held Edge hostage. On the January 5, 2015 episode of Raw, Rollins was added to the match by Triple H as a reward for bringing back The Authority, turning the match into a Triple Threat. That same episode, the members of Team Cena from Survivor Series (Dolph Ziggler, Ryback and Erick Rowan) were fired by The Authority for helping Cena to remove them from power. The following week, Lesnar returned for the contract signing with Cena and Rollins. A brawl broke out between all three men and ended when Rollins performed a Curb Stomp each on Cena and Lesnar. On the final Raw before the Royal Rumble, Triple H forced Cena to compete in a 3-on-1 handicap match against Rollins, Big Show and Kane to not only secure his spot in the Triple Threat match, but also win Ziggler, Ryback and Rowan their jobs back. During the match, Sting, who previously assisted Team Cena at Survivor Series, caused a distraction which allowed Cena to roll-up Rollins for the win to keep his spot in the match and reinstate Ziggler, Ryback and Rowan. Lesnar then came down to the ring and attacked Rollins before executing an F-5 each on Kane and Big Show. Rollins then retreated to avoid further punishment.
On the December 29 episode of Raw, The Usos defeated The Miz and Damien Mizdow to win the WWE Tag Team Championship. On the January 15 episode of SmackDown, it was announced that the Usos would defend the titles against Miz and Mizdow at the event.
On the January 5 episode of Raw, Paige came out and helped Natalya to defeat Nikki Bella. On the January 6 episode of Main Event, Natalya came out and helped Paige to defeat Nikki Bella. On the January 12 episode of Raw, Brie Bella defeated Paige due to distraction by Tyson Kidd. On the January 15 episode of SmackDown, Natalya defeated Nikki via submission. On the January 19 edition of Raw, after Paige and Natalya defeated Summer Rae and Alicia Fox, it was announced that The Bella Twins (Brie and Nikki) would face Paige and Natalya in a tag team match at the event.
On the January 5 episode of Raw, Cesaro and Tyson Kidd attacked Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods, which let Adam Rose to defeat Big E. On the January 19, episode of Raw, Big E and Kofi defeated Cesaro and Kidd. Later in the night, it was announced that The New Day would face Cesaro, Kidd and Rose in a Six-man tag team elimination match on the Royal Rumble Kickoff Show. On January 25, it was changed to a tag team match with Cesaro and Kidd accompanied by Rose versus Big E and Kingston with Woods due to Woods being unable to compete.
On the December 29 episode of Raw, The Ascension (Konnor and Viktor) made their WWE debut. Over the next few weeks, the duo would easily defeat local preliminary wrestlers and compare themselves to famous tag teams, like The Road Warriors. On the January 19 episode of Raw, the Ascension were confronted and attacked by the New World Order, the APA and the New Age Outlaws (Billy Gunn and Road Dogg) after the Ascension interfered in the nWo reunion segment. Later in the night, it was announced that the Ascension would face the New Age Outlaws at the event.
|English commentators||Michael Cole|
|John "Bradshaw" Layfield|
|Spanish commentators||Carlos Cabrera|
|Ring announcers||Lillian Garcia|
|Pre-show Panel||Renee Young|
During the pre-show, Cesaro and Tyson Kidd faced The New Day (Big E and Kofi Kingston). Kingston and Big E were in control for most of the match until Cesaro executed a European uppercut on Kingston (from the outside) and Kidd executed a fisherman's neckbreaker on Kingston to secure a decisive victory.
The actual pay-per-view opened with The Ascension (Konnor and Viktor) facing The New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg and Billy Gunn). The Ascension had control for the majority of the match, however, Gunn came back with a tilt-a-whirl slam and positioned Viktor for the "Famouser". Viktor made a blind tag to Konnor and executed the "Fall of Man" on Gunn for the win.
Next was the WWE Tag Team Championship match between The Miz and Damien Mizdow and The Usos. During the match, The Miz refused to tag Mizdow into the match, but Mizdow made a few saves. Miz executed a "Skull Crushing Finale" on Jey for a near-fall. Mizdow did the same to Jey but earned a near-fall again. The Usos won the match with a "Samoan Splash" on Miz.
In the fourth match, Brock Lesnar, John Cena, and Seth Rollins fought in a triple threat match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Lesnar dominated the match early with multiple suplexes on both Cena and Rollins. Lesnar then applied the kimura lock on Cena, but Rollins broke it up. Cena executed an "Attitude Adjustment" on Lesnar, but Rollins threw Cena out of the ring to steal a pin attempt, but Lesnar kicked out at one. Lesnar caught Rollins and executed an "F-5" on him, but Cena broke up the pin. Cena executed three AAs on Lesnar but Rollins broke up the pin. Rollins then executed a "Curb Stomp" on Lesnar, but Cena broke up the pin. Cena hit Lesnar with the steel steps and Rollins took out Lesnar with a diving elbow drop through a broadcast table. Doctors came from backstage to check on and eventually attempt to stretcher out Lesnar. Cena eventually locked in the STF on Rollins but J&J Security (Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury) interfered, resulting in Cena executing a double "Attitude Adjustment" on Mercury and Noble. Cena then executed an "Attitude Adjustment" on Rollins and Rollins "Curb Stomped" Cena – both for near-falls. Lesnar later returned to the ring and threw Cena out of the ring. Rollins hit Lesnar twice with his Money in the Bank briefcase and positioned the briefcase under Lesnar's head. As Rollins attempted a second "Curb Stomp" to Lesnar, Lesnar countered with a second "F-5" on Rollins to retain the title.
The main event was the traditional 30-man Royal Rumble match, where the winner would receive a WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at WrestleMania 31. The Miz and R-Truth started the match at numbers one and two respectively. Bubba Ray Dudley made his return to WWE, entering at #3 to a very enthusiastic response from the fans, eliminating Miz and Truth. Bray Wyatt would enter the match at #5, and would soon begin a string of eliminations one by one – including The Boogeyman who was a surprise entrant at #7. The string ended once Daniel Bryan entered at #10. During the string, Curtis Axel, who was supposed to enter at #6, was attacked by Erick Rowan who took his place.
Diamond Dallas Page was a surprise entrant at #14, executed the Diamond Cutter on various wrestlers, before being eliminated by #15 entrant – U.S. Champion Rusev. Wyatt would then eliminate Bryan, noticeably agitating the audience. As the match went on, the fans would boo most of the remaining entrants – especially Roman Reigns at #19 – and only really cheering for Damien Mizdow at #21, Dean Ambrose at #25, and Dolph Ziggler at #30 the rest of the match.
Towards the end of the match, Kane at #24 and Big Show at #29 teamed up to go on a string of eliminations (including crowd favorites Ziggler and Ambrose – further upsetting the Philadelphia crowd). The final four consisted of Reigns, Show, Kane, and Rusev (who was outside the ring at the time). Reigns eliminated both Show and Kane, however they both re-entered the ring and began a double team assault on Reigns. The Rock emerged to a huge ovation and executed a Rock Bottom on Big Show and a People's Elbow on Kane. Rusev re-entered the match (as he was never eliminated, going under the bottom rope instead of over the top) and was speared by Reigns. Reigns then eliminated Rusev to win the match to very noticeable boos (despite Reigns being portrayed as a "good guy"). The Authority (Triple H and Stephanie McMahon) showed up at the end of the show, unhappy with the result as Reigns and The Rock celebrated.
The very negative reaction of the fans attending the event in Philadelphia towards the Royal Rumble match and its winner was described as being even worse than the 2014 event. When Daniel Bryan was eliminated in the first half of the match, the crowd repeatedly chanted his name for the second half of the match while booing other wrestlers making their entrance to the match, including eventual winner Roman Reigns. The crowd grew even more unhappy when Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose were eliminated, and chanted for the anti-American villain Rusev when the main event came down to Rusev and Reigns, as well as chants of "bullshit" and "CM Punk". Reigns was booed after winning the main event, even after he received The Rock's endorsement, and The Rock was heckled for helping Reigns. Many fans took to social media to display their displeasure at Bryan's elimination.
Dave Scherer of PWInsider.com wrote that the event "is definitely worth watching for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship triple threat match and how the Rumble went bad". He added that "bringing Bryan back for this match was a huge mistake, at least tonight", as "the fans wanted Bryan and they took him away", with the result that it "totally killed Roman in the eyes of those fans", resulting in a "really bad" ending.
James Caldwell of Pro Wrestling Torch newsletter rated the Royal Rumble main event as 3.5 stars out of 5, commenting that it was a "pretty good Rumble" until "the crowd turned on the match when they saw the writing on the wall for how it would end". Caldwell praised Bray Wyatt's involvement in the match and noted that Bubba Ray Dudley was a "good surprise return", but added that any good moments during the match were "overshadowed by the ending". Caldwell rated the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match as 4.0 out of 5 stars, praising the "very strong story-telling" and describing the action as "top-notch" but adding that the match was "too dependent on the finisher kick-outs". He rated the Tag Team Championship match at 2.5 stars, describing it as a "solid tag match", while the Divas match and the opening bout between The Ascension and The New Age Outlaws were both rated at 1.5 stars out of 5.
Kenny Herzog of Rolling Stone questioned the possibility of the Royal Rumble match being the worst in history, arguing that several factors such as the poor treatment of former Intercontinental champions, Daniel Bryan's unexpected early elimination and Kane and Big Show's dominance over younger talent all detracted from the match. Herzog concluded, "That was less a Rumble match – i.e. the kind replete with feats of endurance and athleticism, free-for-all chaos and dozens of developing stories – than random gauntlet of triple-threat and four-way slugfests with no pacing or point. Unless, that is, you still think serving some idea of the Authority's omnipresence is really what's best for business." Despite this, Herzog praised the lively Philadelphia crowd, the return of Bubba Ray Dudley and Rollins' performance in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match as positives.
Luke Winkie of Sports Illustrated was less critical of the Royal Rumble match, attributing Bryan's elimination to good storytelling and an instance where "you're supposed to hate the product". Winkie suggested that the "tepid reaction to [Reigns'] win has much more to do with Daniel Bryan’s early departure than it does with [Reigns'] actual reputation". Winkie singled out Ziggler's late entrance and elimination as "the most heartbreaking". He also praised the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match as being an early "Match of the Year" candidate, while questioning whether anyone cared about the Ascension.
WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley, who had been critical of the previous year's show, wrote that he was saddened by the prospect of the Royal Rumble losing its luster and relevance as an annual event, and that he now considers it to be "a roadblock to the good will and excitement needed for a truly memorable WrestleMania atmosphere." Foley took aim at WWE for the supposedly unimaginative and unflattering use of fan favorites in the main Royal Rumble match, and, based on his observations of fans as they exited the arena, said "there was no joy in Philadelphia".
Shortly after the event, #CancelWWENetwork became the top Twitter trend worldwide, while PWInsider.com reported that the WWE Network online cancellation page had crashed and that some subscribers who had called WWE to cancel their subscription were told to call back the next day as there were too many people attempting to manually cancel their subscription. The day after the Royal Rumble, Dave Meltzer reported on Wrestling Observer Radio that Vince McMahon and WWE had expected that Reigns's victory would receive some backlash, but not to the level they had experienced, and that despite this, WWE would not add Daniel Bryan to the main event at WrestleMania 31, since Vince felt that "it would be a repeat and gone to the well one time too often". Two days after the Royal Rumble event, WWE announced that the WWE Network surpassed 1 million subscribers worldwide, but the Pro Wrestling Torch newsletter reported that the recent "upset subscribers canceling" had yet to be factored into the subscriber count. Four days after the Royal Rumble, WWE announced a new promotion for the WWE Network where new subscribers could watch for free for the month of February. In February 2015, WWE held a poll on WWE.com asking if fans thought Bryan or Reigns was more deserving of headlining WrestleMania 31; following more than 33,000 votes, 86% of votes went to Bryan. Also in that month, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon responded to #CancelWWENetwork in a conference call, saying that the controversy was good for WWE. McMahon labelled it as a vocal minority upset that "the babyface did not win" and "Santa Claus didn't come on that PPV", but he expected those who complained to continue watching WWE anyway.
WWE had to postpone the post-Rumble Raw from Hartford, Connecticut due to the January 2015 nor'easter, marking the first time WWE had to cancel a scheduled Raw taping since the Chris Benoit double-murder and suicide and the first time Raw had to be moved to another city since 2009. WWE also canceled its scheduled SmackDown taping from Boston the following night. WWE decided to have Raw come from WWE headquarters in nearby Stamford, Connecticut instead, announcing it would hold a live SmackDown on Thursday from Hartford, honoring tickets that would be used for Raw, while allowing fans in Boston to either exchange their tickets for an upcoming house show on June 27 or obtaining a full refund. The post-Rumble Raw showed the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match and the main event of the Royal Rumble, albeit with commercial breaks. Seth Rollins, Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman, Roman Reigns, and Daniel Bryan did in-studio interviews with several WWE announcers, such as Michael Cole, Renee Young and Byron Saxton, while Dean Ambrose "walked" to WWE headquarters from Hartford due to the statewide 9 PM travel ban.
Although Curtis Axel being unable to participate in the Rumble match was not unprecedented, the fact that Axel was not eliminated (having never officially entered the match) ended up trended on Twitter following the event, and also received supportive tweets from former WWE wrestlers Lance Storm and Tommy Dreamer, and then later from current WWE wrestlers Xavier Woods, Zack Ryder, and David Otunga, the latter offering his legal services. This led to an angle where he began referring to himself as "the true winner" of the Royal Rumble, claiming that he still had not been eliminated from the match and that he thus deserved a match with Lesnar at WrestleMania 31 for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. This also led to Axel starting his own hashtag (#AxelMania). Instead of facing Brock Lesnar, Axel participated in the second annual André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 31, but was the first wrestler eliminated after the majority of the field threw him out of the ring.
|1P||Cesaro and Tyson Kidd (with Adam Rose and Natalya) defeated The New Day (Big E and Kofi Kingston) (with Xavier Woods)||Tag team match||11:03|
|2||The Ascension (Konnor and Viktor) defeated The New Age Outlaws (Billy Gunn and Road Dogg)||Tag team match||5:25|
|3||The Usos (Jey Uso and Jimmy Uso) (c) defeated Damien Mizdow and The Miz||Tag team match for the WWE Tag Team Championship||9:20|
|4||The Bella Twins (Brie Bella and Nikki Bella) defeated Paige and Natalya||Tag team match||8:05|
|5||Brock Lesnar (c) (with Paul Heyman) defeated Seth Rollins (with Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury) and John Cena||Triple threat match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship||22:42|
|6||Roman Reigns won by last eliminating Rusev||30-man Royal Rumble match for a WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at WrestleMania 31||59:31|
Royal Rumble entrances and eliminationsEdit
- – Winner
A new entrant came out approximately every 90 seconds.
|1||The Miz||1||Bubba Ray Dudley||04:01||0|
|3||Bubba Ray Dudley||3||Bray Wyatt||05:22||2|
|5||Bray Wyatt||25||Big Show and Kane||47:29||6|
|6||Curtis Axel||4||Attacked on the entrance ramp by Erick Rowan||N/A||0|
|7||The Boogeyman||6||Bray Wyatt||00:47||0|
|12||Tyson Kidd||9||Daniel Bryan||02:41||0|
|14||Diamond Dallas Page||10||Rusev||02:47||0|
|22||Jack Swagger||21||Big Show||13:06||0|
|23||Ryback||20||Big Show and Kane||11:15||0|
|25||Dean Ambrose||26||Big Show and Kane||10:40||1|
|26||Titus O'Neil||18||Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns||00:04||0|
|27||Bad News Barrett||22||Dolph Ziggler||06:10||0|
|29||Big Show||28||Roman Reigns||08:39||5|
|30||Dolph Ziggler||24||Big Show and Kane||02:29||2|
- 1 – Rowan attacked Curtis Axel before he could reach the ring, and took his place.
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The big issue on a lot of people's minds is Curtis Axel. [...] Curtis Axel was actually trending on social media throughout much of the Royal Rumble pay-per-view.
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Heck, will Curtis Axel have a chance for Rumble redemption after Erick Rowan ambushed him on the entrance ramp, preventing the former Intercontinental Champion from officially entering the fray?
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I still wasn't eliminated, no matter what Dean Ambrose did, I still was not eliminated from the Royal Rumble match, and regardless of what The Authority said tonight, I still deserve a shot at Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship!
- Benigno, Anthony (2 February 2015). "WWE Raw results, February 2, 2015: Curtis Axel demanded a WrestleMania title match". WWE. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
... the non-exit of Curtis Axel, who was jumped before he could officially enter the over-the-top-rope fracas and was therefore never eliminated and therefore has grounds to demand a WWE World Heavyweight Title Match at WrestleMania.
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Though the rules say the only way to lose a Royal Rumble Match is an ignominious exit over the top rope...
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... the Internet helpfully pointed out that means Axel was never technically eliminated and Roman Reigns’ victory therefore does not stand.
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