Everything Right and Wrong with the 2014 Royal Rumble
On Sunday night we were unfortunate enough to witness yet another boring and predictable end to a Royal Rumble match.
Honestly, I'm getting a little tired of being able to predict the main event of the evening's winner at least a month before the pay-per-view even airs.
That said, the 2014 Rumble—despite leaving a bitter taste in a lot of fans' mouths—did have its high points.
This article will analyze both those moments noteworthy of praise as well as those that show us why the WWE is slowly becoming more of a corporate husk and far less of a spectacle of quality entertainment.
Let's kick off with what the boys backstage pulling the strings got wrong.
Wrong: Batista Winning the Rumble
Yes, this was about as predictable as the outcome to a foot race between Usain Bolt and Long John Silver.
Why, why, oh why does the WWE keep doing this?
Superstars from bygone days are constantly being brought back and instantly promoted to top billing—having effectively abandoned the company prior to its reemergence.
The Rock and Brock Lesnar were at least incredibly popular returning superstars—but Batista?!
The fans' patience for "The Animal" ran out a long time ago, and while some were excited to see his return, instantly crediting him with a Rumble victory less than a week after his re-debut on Raw is just a huge slap in the face to guys who have been trying to battle their way to the top of the company for the past few years.
Not only is Batista undeserving of the honor of being a two-time Royal Rumble winner, but one can hardly see him selling many tickets in that headlining role given the lackluster welcome he has received upon his return.
Then again, it must be fairly hard for WWE bookers to find many guys that the fans really like. I mean, it's not as if they were chanting anyone else's name all night, right? If only those pesky silent fans would have given them a sign of some kind. Like maybe the repetition of the same word over and over again in a chanting fashion to prove some kind of point? Those poor storyline writers, they really aren't being given a thing to play around with...
Wrong: The Whole Lesnar-Big Show "Match"
This one is more of a personal opinion than it is necessarily a huge faux pas on the part of the creative team.
Some people did actually like this "match" (effectively Brock Lesnar beating the holy heck out of the Big Show with a chair for five minutes, F-5ing him and then picking up the pin before smacking him around again with another set of chairs for a further five minutes) but for me, it just showed Lesnar's inability to wrestle yet again. He's just a UFC fighter to me now.
There was a time when Brock was king of this business and, unlike Batista, the break away from the company doesn't seem to have tarnished that image too much.
Fans seemed to be fairly happy with the way things went during the match, so maybe I'm wrong about this.
Still, I thought it was a little cheap and somewhat pointless. I'm guessing the idea was to sell Lesnar as a powerhouse who can cripple a giant...but wait, didn't we already see that when he broke Mark Henry's arm like it was a twig a few weeks ago?
What also annoyed me was how at the 2003 Royal Rumble these two men had another match that was vastly superior to this one. I guess it raised my hopes that this would follow suite. It didn't.
"Brock Lesnar is an unstoppable force"—we get it already, WWE. It would have been much more worthwhile to see both of these men in the Rumble, adding to the list of guys who could have had a genuine shot at winning it, as opposed to wasting their spots on the likes of JBL and The Great Khali.
Wrong: Kane Not Breaking Shawn Michaels' Record
I had a very strong feeling that the Big Red Machine (now otherwise referred to as "corporate" Kane) would feature in this year's Rumble to go at it with CM Punk.
My intuition served me well, as Kane ran down to the ring as the No. 5 entrant (Punk having of course entered at the No. 1 slot) making a beeline for his soon-to-be in-ring rival (you would have to assume).
This would have been the perfect chance for Kane to at least tie Michaels' record of 39 eliminations. Instead, Kane was tossed out by Punk after a mere 56-second stint, without being able to eliminate anyone himself.
That would at least be partially rectified when the rather humorously dressed Kane reappeared to dump CM Punk out of the match in fourth place later in the night. While it happened after he was already eliminated, the feat means that Kane is one expulsion of a foe closer to that record.
Still, it begs the question: What was the point of having Kane in the Rumble at all if he wasn't going to break that record once and for all? (Other than to "set up" a rivalry with Punk—as if being in the Rumble was required for that.) Nobody would argue for a minute that he doesn't deserve it and yet the WWE, for the time being at least, doesn't seem to want to give him the honor ahead of HBK.
Let's hope that they are saving it for his final year of active wrestling.
To clarify: I loved Kane's inclusion in the match, just hated how he was used.
Note: Some sources claim that Kane has equaled Michaels' record (Wikipedia) with this elimination, whereas others, including the WWE, state he has only achieved 38. In the WWE promo video "Royal Rumble by the numbers," it is very clearly stated that before the 2014 event, Kane had made 37 eliminations. If you take the addition of Punk into account, that still only adds up to a grand total of 38.
Right: Everything Roman Reigns Related
Yes! Yes! Yes! (but more on that later)—The WWE actually used a superstar correctly in a big event.
The aforementioned reliance on "old talent" like Batista and Lesnar from the past has meant that a lot of superstars from the here and now are being completely overlooked when it comes to most main events.
Roman Reigns was thankfully not one of these unfortunate few.
It's impressive enough to go out and beat Kane's record of 11 superstars eliminated in one Rumble match (the Shield member tossed out a whopping 12), but to do so in a wrestler's debut Rumble is nothing short of incredible.
Thanks to this miraculous showing, the 2014 event will now forever be remembered as Roman Reigns' year—much like how the 2001 Rumble will always be Kane's despite neither superstar winning his respective match.
While the manner of the 12 eliminations wasn't quite as dominant as Kane's back in the day (Reigns tended to throw the odd superstar out here and there as opposed to the couple of "cleaning house" jobs that Kane pulled off), it was nevertheless a historic moment when he knocked Sheamus off the apron, thus taking his tally in the match to 12.
Two of the infamous 12 came in the form of fellow Shield members Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose.
While many people have come to grow fond of this particular faction, it was probably approaching the right kind of time to slowly disband the group.
The three men have shown incredible skill in the year or so that they have been with the company and the time has come for them to tackle the WWE as individual performers.
All three men gave a terrific account of themselves in the Rumble (Reigns, obviously, in particular) which should have boosted their already popular status further.
It was also the right decision for Reigns not win the match, as controversial as that may sound. While Roman is a future big player in the company, the time isn't right just yet for him to be headlining the big one.
In truth, the person who was most deserving of that honor didn't even appear in the match.
Right and Wrong: Daniel Bryan (and Bray Wyatt)
Daniel Bryan's involvement at the 2014 Royal Rumble will probably go down in infamy.
His match against Bray Wyatt to kick off the main show proper was easily one of (if not the best) undercard matches in Rumble history.
The crowd was lapping it up as the familiar chants of "This is awesome!" filled the Consol Energy Center.
Bryan would go on to lose (straight) to Wyatt. There's something so much more rewarding about a heel beating a popular face straight. It adds a real level of achievement to the victory and leaves the crowd feeling like they watched something truly worthwhile and valid.
Let's face it though, with both Wyatt and Bryan as popular as any wrestlers has been in recent years, the winner of the match was relatively unimportant. All that mattered was the fantastic show that the two men gave their Pittsburgh audience.
It was a testament to the two (particularly the ever-popular Bryan) that chants of "Daniel Bryan," "Yes, Yes, Yes" and "No, No, No" (my personal favorite—for me nothing is funnier than hearing an entire crowd so bluntly yelling their disapproval at the creative team) remained strong from the opening bell of that match until the closing one of the Royal Rumble itself.
And here's where that "wrong" section kicks in. Why the heck was Bryan not at least given a spot in the Rumble itself?
Even if Bryan had lost the event, it would have been worthwhile to at least see him compete in the 30-man Battle Royal now that his feud with Bray Wyatt appears to be coming to an end.
When the No. 30 entrant's 10-second countdown started, the fans were in full voice with their "Daniel Bryan" chants. Unfortunately for Rey Mysterio (talk about a reversal in fortunes when it comes to crowd popularity for that guy), his inclusion as the final entrant meant that for the two to three minutes he was in the ring he received major boos from the fans every time he was involved (but more on them in a little bit).
Bryan would later go on to tweet about how he wasn't included in the match despite wanting to be. It was a stupid decision from the company which saw the end of the main event shot down in flames by the fans on a global scale as a direct result.
Right (?): The Pittsburgh Fans
I am doing the WWE a huge service when I include the actions of the fans as something that it as a company did correctly. Naturally, they have no control over how the spectators react, so this was pure dumb luck on their part.
The Pittsburgh faithful, who hadn't seen a WWE PPV in their fair city since 2009, gave us one of the all-time best Rumble atmospheres on Sunday night.
After it became apparent that their hero, Daniel Bryan, would not be entering the main event, any actions carried out in the ring by anyone other than the Shield or CM Punk were met with resoundingly negative responses.
I adored this.
All through the night the fans in attendance had pretty much paralleled the views held by the wider proportion of WWE fans, with wrestlers like those previously mentioned as well as Dolph Ziggler, Kofi Kingston and Bray Wyatt all cheered to the rafters, and less popular superstars like John Cena, Randy Orton and, of course, Batista all booed to death.
"This is awesome" came the chants during the Wyatt-Bryan match, "This is awful" they echoed out in unison during the Orton-Cena bout.
"Let's go Ziggler" for the man whom WWE backstage staff seem to have completely forgotten about—or rather have chosen to forget.
"Boring, Boring" on regular occasions during the WWE world heavyweight title clash.
I don't remember the last time a crowd so vehemently opposed the creative decisions taken by the company at such a big event.
Sure, there have been times in the past when an unpopular figure won a title or a big match to the crowd's disdain. On those occasions, however, that negative reaction was more than likely intended from the WWE.
Here, Batista's victory was meant to raise the roof. Instead, "The Animal" was met with a wall of boos. "No! No! No!" they bellowed out at him. I chortled happily at the idea of the bigwigs backstage panicking at this reaction.
As a result, Batista was caught flipping the bird to fans after the cameras shut off, as well as threatening to rip a spectator in half.
Impressively, after a little over 12 minutes of in-ring time, the returning Batista has already turned the WWE Universe against him. That's going to help sell tickets at Wrestlemania XXX for sure, huh?
Listen to your fans, WWE, or more scenes like this are sure to follow.