The Road to WrestlMania officially began Sunday night in Phoenix at the 2013 WWE Royal Rumble.
While some of the outcomes from last night's pay-per-view were predictable, there were a few surprises as well.
What did WWE do right at the Royal Rumble? What did it get wrong?
The following slideshow offers analysis of last night's PPV. We'll buy the things that were done well, and sell the mistakes.
Click on for the first-ever Royal Rumble Buy or Sell.
As always, feel free to make your opinions known in the comments section below.
While much of the Internet is abuzz with hatred for the ending of the World Heavyweight championship match, everything about last night's conflict between Alberto Del Rio and the Big Show gets a buy here.
WWE chose to open the show with the WHC match. This was a good move, as it kept several possibilities open for the remainder of the show.
No matter who emerged as the winner, the loser would be eligible to enter the actual Rumble match later on. Since the Rumble was set to go off after the WHC match, there was no reason that either Del Rio or Show couldn't enter the 30-man fracas later on if they lost the Last Man Standing match for the World Heavyweight belt.
Putting the WHC match on first also kept alive the possibility that Dolph Ziggler would cash in his Money in the Bank contract, and emerge with the title. Ziggler even cut a promo to that effect. Though the "Show Off" ultimately didn't cash in, placing the WHC match in the opening position kept the dream alive for Ziggler fans.
A second buy goes out for the match itself. After a somewhat slow start that featured Big Show's strength and dominance, the action picked up. Show continued to demonstrate his power and bulk, and Del Rio showcased his agility and resourcefulness.
The match also did a lot to solidify Del Rio as a babyface. Typical WWE good guys are underdogs, as Del Rio was here. They overcome dominant foes through the use of opportunism, guile and superior tactical ability. Del Rio did all of those things last night. Big Show also demonstrated that he can have a good PPV match with just about anyone.
While a lot of fans were not happy with the ending of the match, it was a fun and creative way to give Del Rio a much-needed win. Having Ricardo Rodriguez duct tape Show's feet to the ropes demonstrated his loyalty to Del Rio and provided a way to have Del Rio retain the strap without making Big Show look weak.
The overall pacing of the show earns the first sell of the night.
At one point, it seemed like all 30 Royal Rumble participants were going to cut a 90-second promo. While a couple of the promos were interesting, running them all back-to-back seemed like overkill.
There were also several commercials during the broadcast. When fans pay up to $55 for a PPV broadcast, shouldn't they be entitled to commercial-free entertainment?
WWE also made extensive use of video recaps and promos. While the production value of WWE highlight packages is undisputed, two or three of them between every match is far too many. How many times over the past week did WWE run the "Royal Rumble by the Numbers" package? It was interesting the first five times. By the end, it felt like a math lesson.
The announcers weren't much help. At times, it felt like Michael Cole, JBL and Jerry Lawler were more interested in getting off one-liners than in calling the action in the ring.
If WWE wants to keep fans interested, the pacing of PPV broadcasts needs to be more lively.
While there's no doubt that Team Hell No is wildly popular with the WWE Universe and has done a lot to elevate the cachet of the Tag Team championship belts, everything about last night's title tilt with Rhodes Scholars gets a sell.
If WWE was ever going to push Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow, putting the tag belts on Rhodes Scholars at the Rumble would have been the place to start. Now, the dastardly duo has lost clean to Kane and Bryan several times and the heels' credibility is waning.
Keeping the belts on Hell No seems to close the door on several storyline possibilities.
While there were a few comedic moments later in the show where Kane and Bryan seemed at odds, particularly during the Rumble match itself, the duo has to stay together at least long enough to drop the belts. This keeps both men from starting singles feuds. It also limits the possibilities for the tag titles. Aside from the Prime Time Players, there's not another established heel team to face off with Kane and Bryan.
Giving the title to Sandow and Rhodes would have enhanced the team's credibility. It would have virtually guaranteed another matchup with Hell No. Further, since Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara both returned from injury during the Rumble match, there would have been a second babyface team for Rhodes Scholars to feud with.
Now, unless there is a title change on tonight's Raw, there's no legitimate way to get the belts on Rhodes and Sandow. Why would Hell No continually give Rhodes Scholars title matches?
As a side note, the announcing was very distracting during this match. It felt like the crew talked more about Dr. Shelby than anything going on in the ring. Maybe Cole and Co., like the rest of the fanbase, is getting bored with Hell No's act.
When it comes to last night's actual Royal Rumble match, there were things to like and things to hate. Thus, the Rumble match itself earns the first-ever mixed bag.
First, the lowlights.
The positioning of the Rumble match before the WWE championship battle seemed to virtually guarantee that John Cena would win the WrestleMania title shot. That's a definite sell.
If the tilt between the Rock and CM Punk had gone off before the actual Rumble, there was a possibility that the loser of the match would enter the Rumble and win redemption, setting up a rematch between the two for WrestleMania 29. Without the star power of Punk or Rock in the battle royal, Cena's victory seemed all but assured.
Points off for killing the drama.
Another sell is awarded for the predictable outcome of the Rumble match. Cena was the overwhelming favorite going into the match. There's no way that WWE could have prevented that from happening, but the company is famous for changing the outcomes of matches in order to "fool" the fanbase.
If it was ever going to pull a fast one, last night would have been the time. Cena's win all but guaranteed that The Rock would win the WWE title in the closing match of the show. WWE can have a Cena-Punk showdown anytime it wants. Cena vs. Rock is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The Rumble also gets a sell for having three of the top four babyfaces in the company as the final three combatants. No viewer thought Sheamus would win a second straight Rumble match, and very few fans feel that Ryback is ready to headline WrestleMania. Since Cena was bound to win, WWE would have been wise to elevate a heel such as Dolph Ziggler by letting him make it to the final two.
Now, the good stuff.
A buy goes to Dolph Ziggler for a strong showing. The "Show Off" was the first entrant and made it all the way to the final four. Though Ziggler wasn't dominant during his more than 45 minutes in the ring, he showed guile and stamina by making it almost to the end. It also elevated Ziggler to have him in the ring with three of the company's top babyfaces.
Another buy goes out for having Chris Jericho not only return to WWE, but enter the Rumble in the second spot. The fact that Y2J returned, faced off with Ziggler and lasted a long time creates intrigue.
If so, will he renew his feud with Ziggler? Will he turn heel and go after World Heavyweight champion Alberto Del Rio? The possibilities are endless. Jericho's surprise return also got the crowd into the match early, and kept the energy level high during the early parts of the Rumble.
The comedy spots in the Rumble match earn a buy, as well.
Santino Marella bested his 2012 performance by lasting more than two seconds. Further, he came into the ring, destroyed everyone in sight and began to celebrate before realizing that he hadn't actually eliminated anyone.
Kane's elimination of Daniel Bryan by simply dropping him on the floor after Bryan eliminated him, then diving into his tag team partner to avoid elimination was very amusing. Perhaps the comedic highlight of the Rumble was the look on Cody Rhodes' mustachioed face when his brother, Goldust, was announced.
While the announcers weren't stellar for most of the evening, a special buy goes out to JBL's commentary when Brodus Clay entered the Rumble match. Clay began his typical dance routine, and JBL said something to the effect of "Somewhere a Sasquatch and LaToya Jackson are sitting on the couch watching their kid in the Royal Rumble." It was the only real laugh-out-loud moment of the night.
At first, it would seem that the WWE championship match from last night's 2013 Royal Rumble should earn a buy, but think again.
Overall, the outcome was predictable, the wrong guy won the match and the ultimate finish of the match was babyface dreck seemingly lifted from the John Cena's Superman playbook.
The WWE title match earns the first Keep Your Receipt award.
The match itself was epic. Punk and Rock exchanged offense throughout the tilt, and neither seemed to gain a definitive advantage. Rock's superior size and strength came into play numerous times and Punk's strategy and superior mobility seemed to give the champion an advantage at other times. The crowd was on its feet for a lot of the bout, and the outcome seemed to be legitimately in doubt throughout most of the battle.
The actual match gets a buy.
The sell goes to WWE's creative team for one of the worst cases of overbooking in the history of professional wrestling.
First of all, even though Vince McMahon stipulated that Punk would be stripped of the title if The Shield became involved in the match, there wasn't a fan alive that thought the Terrible Trio wouldn't make an appearance. When the lights went out, no one was surprised. A sell here for sheer predictability.
The fact that no one actually saw The Shield didn't make it less obvious who was responsible. Even Michael Cole was outraged.
Secondly, those that hate John Cena usually cite his ability to overcome any odds to win a match. Cena is infamous for taking a horrific beating and facing several foes at once, only to rise from the ashes and win his matches anyway. How was Rock's win any different?
A sell for plagiarism, if nothing else.
Rock took a beating from Punk during the match. He absorbed a PowerBomb through the announcers' table and was apparently unconscious at ringside.
However, when McMahon came out on the ramp to strip Punk of the title, "The Great One" miraculously recovered and insisted on re-starting the match. No Cena comeback was ever cheesier. Once the bell rang to re-start the match, there was absolutely no doubt who would win. Another sell for killing the drama of an otherwise great match.
Rock's win seems to guarantee a rematch with Cena at WrestleMania. This makes Elimination Chamber and just about everything else that happens before April 7 anticlimactic.
There's virtually no chance that Rock will drop the belt before the biggest show of the year, and there's little doubt who Cena will choose to face when he announces his intentions. The loss leaves Punk twisting in the wind and takes the drama out of just about every encounter he might have with Rock in the next few months.
While a Rock/Cena rematch will undoubtedly make WWE a lot of money in the short term, the long view is not as rosy. Keeping the belt on Punk would have at least made Elimination Chamber an intriguing event. Now, fans are left with little to look forward to.
What were your thoughts about last night's show? Did you buy and sell the same things listed here? Have some opinions of your own? Speak your mind in the comments section below.