WWE State of the Union: Post Royal Rumble
Once upon a time, I rented every Royal Rumble circa late 80s – early 2000s from my local video store since it’s my all-time favorite wrestling event. For the record, I also rented plenty of World War 3’s for my fellow WCW fans out there. Outside of the deceased King of the Ring, few WWE events create an even level playing field for a majority of the roster. That’s why wrestling fans gravitate towards this event – any of our favorite wrester’s could potentially win.
Well, I’ll start off this editorial by providing a small sample of my 2015 Royal Rumble prediction: “Winner: Daniel Bryan
Last year, I walked away from the Royal Rumble in such disgust – I’m taking a level of disappointment right up there with the Montreal Screwjob, The Fingerpoke of Doom, and CM Punk’s revelations in the Colt Cabana podcast. Daniel Bryan earned his opportunity to win last year’s Royal Rumble and witnessing that crowd’s disappointment at such a premier event – it took away from the purity of watching wrestling. The WWE consistently churns out a mediocre product – at best – and still managed to ruin something special like the Royal Rumble.”
Please take notice of my last sentence. Looking back, how could I be so naïve to think this wouldn’t happen again? Maybe I thought WWE wouldn’t pull off this sort of embarrassment in front of Philadelphia – the nation’s capitol of smarks.
Every issue related to last night’s Royal Rumble goes far beyond Daniel Bryan – last night’s disaster was the result of Vince McMahon trying to shove his creative vision down the throats of a deprived fanbase. At the end of the day, those of us who watched the Royal Rumble wanted to enjoy the show. Let’s not ignore the culprit of this reaction. Solid booking sounds so simple yet WWE consistently finds a way to shoot themselves in the foot. This isn’t 1998 – WWE no longer has the same marquee value it once held during the late 90s. The die-hards keep this company alive even as the WWE Network fails to attract subscribers.
Fans could sense the aura of a modern wrestling boom – the talent level within the WWE is off the charts right now. Look no further than Seth Rollins – this man took a clean loss from Brock Lesnar yet walked away the undisputed victor after a career-defining match. In my humble opinion, the uproar from last night’s Royal Rumble summed up a decade’s worth of frustration with WWE’s product. When guys like Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Luke Harper, and Cesaro have no platform to shine during the rumble – that’s when ‘creative’ officially crosses the line.
For nearly ten-years, we witnessed so many talented professionals succumb to Vince McMahon disciples like John Cena. Every generation or so – one wrestler captures the imagination of fans worldwide. Despite WWE’s insistence to destroy his momentum, Daniel Bryan is the most popular wrestler in WWE since Stone Cold or The Rock. I’m just stating the obvious at this point. Love him or hate him, Daniel Bryan’s “YES!” movement represents the organic essence of professional wrestling. Even if he doesn’t fit the mold of Vince McMahon’s typical protégé, fans across the globe recognize how Bryan’s in-ring ability outshines the entire roster. I’m not a professional wrestler but I could only imagine the difficulty of selling a character to a hostile audience. When someone’s popularity exceeds the boundaries of the four-corner ring and reaches mainstream culture, how could you not run away with this opportunity?
Last night, the stars were aligned for WWE to create some huge momentum for Wrestlemania. Daniel Bryan hasn’t lost any of his momentum since his return. Before the Royal Rumble, I read predictions from different outlets saying things like, ‘Could WWE trust Daniel Bryan to stay healthy? Should WWE still give Daniel Bryan a main event level push?’ To this I say – give me a break! Shawn Michaels and Stone Cold broke their necks yet came back to headline main events and hold titles.
Here’s where I change the tone of my story – why would the creative team choose to eliminate the company’s most popular wrestler not even halfway through the rumble? Think about how idiotic my last question sounds – that’s asinine booking right there. Even worse, I felt disgusted after guys like Big Show and Kane tossed out Wyatt, Ziggler, Ambrose, and Cesaro like they were amateurs from NXT. This wasn’t heel heat – this was a burial along the likes of Goodfellas where Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci bury a dead body somewhere in the woods at 3 A.M. This isn’t an overreaction editorial either – last night was a deliberate slap in the face to so many die-hard wrestling fans. I mean, replace the combination of Big Show and Kane with Luke Harper and Bray Wyatt in the final four and maybe the fans wouldn’t walk away so angry. Once Daniel Bryan was eliminated, WWE let their fanbase fester up feelings of hostility for over an hour and provided no saving grace like having Ambrose, Ziggler, Barrett, or Harper wreck house. The WWE only built up Bryan and Reigns as potential winners so once Bryan was eliminated – the Royal Rumble crashed from dull predictability. WWE dictates the storyline of the Rumble match and could have EASILY created a more compelling product on screen. There’s absolutely no excuse for such shortsighted judgment after last year’s debacle. Fan’s had every right to expect better from this year’s Royal Rumble and WWE topped themselves for all of the wrong reasons.
Should WWE fans feel so entitled? Absolutely. My hat goes off to the Philadelphia crowd who voiced their displeasure with the WWE for the remainder of the night. From what I understand, Royal Rumble tickets were just as expensive as Wrestlemania 29 tickets, which took place nearby in East Rutherford, New Jersey. WWE might be the only major wrestling ticket in town; however, they are far from bulletproof in today’s day and age. For the record, I actually own a few shares of WWE stock. It’s been well-documented through various outlets – the WWE Network dictates the fluctuation of WWE’s stock. From a financial perspective, I’d love to see the WWE Network blossom, however, I can’t blame anyone for canceling his or her subscription. If you’re unhappy with the product, hit ‘em where it hurts. The Royal Rumble should’ve been a calling card for potential subscribers yet the results shunned away a decent amount of customers. If you aren’t being entertained, spend your money elsewhere. Do fans actually want to see the WWE file bankruptcy? No. Last night was the prime example of ‘enough is enough.’ Those fans that legitimately unsubscribed for non-trendy reasons sent a message – “Give us a better product.” In the eyes of many, #CancelWWENetwork became the only resort to express their frustrations. Seriously, how many more premiere events need to conclude with unsatisfying results?
In my opinion, Roman Reigns did not deserve the onslaught of boos that he received last night. Unfortunately, Reigns is the victim of a decade’s worth of terrible booking. Let’s face it – it’s quite ironic how WWE’s successor to John Cena was relentlessly booed for portraying another Superman-like character. When Reigns was a member of The Shield, I envisioned him becoming some sort of mix between Goldberg and Kane. From an exterior perspective, this dude looks like a badass and was portrayed as such during his run with The Shield. Once the Looney Tunes promos started kicking in, fans sensed how McMahon was trying to push another Cena-like face for the next five-years. Rather than promote a proven commodity, WWE chose to rush Reigns’ development despite some growing pains and they potentially cost him a lengthy face run in the future. Within one single night, Reigns turned into the biggest heel in the company and Rollins became the biggest face.
What does the future hold for WWE? I’m not going to lie – I think this could become a historically ugly moment for the company depending on the results of Wrestlemania. Let’s flashback to WCW for a second – “The Fingerpoke of Doom” didn’t directly cause WCW’s pitfall but it left some irreplacable damage that the company never recovered from. Fans could only reach their breaking point so often and there have been way too many disheartening events in the WWE lately. The alternative’s are out there on the web – I highly recommend reader’s check out New Japan Pro Wrestling, ROH, Lucha Undeground, or your local indie matches. If I’m a potential millionare or billionare looking to invest in some form of entertainment, I’d thoroughly analyze the social media presence of last night’s Royal Rumble. Brands around the world wish they could garner this sort of publicity or loyalty from its customers. I’m not talking about another Dixie Carter – I’m fully confident some crafty businessmen or businesswomen could assemble the right creative team and recruit some top talent ala primetime WCW. I’m telling you guys – last night’s viral reaction won’t go unnoticed and maybe this moment will light the spark for someone to invest in a potential competitor. Give some of us young writers the chance to express our passion for wrestling through a creative outlet. For those disheartened fans reading this story, I urge you to keep saying “NO!” to sports entertainment and say, “YES!” to professional wrestling.