I love the Royal Rumble. It always has, and I hope always will be, my favourite WWE show of the year. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate there’s a hell of a lot of good WWE shows out there, but the Rumble has a nostalgic hold of me that other shows just don’t have.
I love Wrestlemania, the Raw after it and find more and more anticipation within me whenever the next NXT Takeover is due to happen, but the Rumble just stays top of the pile. It’s not like I’ve ever seen one live that had a profound effect on me; it just has an air of mystery, wonder and is just so different to anything else on TV. Granted in this digital age it’s hard to keep a secret on surprise entrants – unless one went ‘off the grid’ for months before – but no matter the rumour mill or the whispers online, WWE normally manages to pull off at least one surprise for us.
This is where I think WWE is smart and in the same breath, a little lacking. They obviously get the impact of surprises. They like keeping secrets from everyone, knowing it’ll boost ratings and get people talking. But the part lacking is, they don’t do it often enough. I’m not asking for a swerve every week on Raw, but how about once every three months? Four times a year? Something that will grab us and keep us watching their programming, making their product must-see television.
WWE must know it works and what impact it has, so why on earth do they do it once in a blue moon? Without going down the route of predictable booking, the Rumble also gives ANY superstar the chance to win. Now I know there’ll be naysayers out there who disagree, and that only a select few can ‘realistically’ win, but hear me out.
If Seth Rollins loses on Raw in a cheap rollup (like he did this week due to a distraction), it’s easy to explain away because his attention was diverted. Same in the way any other top guy may have to run the gauntlet during a show and get pinned after several tough matches by a ‘weaker’ wrestler. There’s a story in place and legitimate reasons as to the outcome. Now, looking at the Rumble, WWE has an easy way of getting anyone to win, yet rarely uses that tactic.
Say Brock Lesnar starts off at #1 and out of the next 28 men he faces, he battles with Undertaker, Goldberg, Roman Reigns, Strowman, Big Show, etc. When he’s left to face #30 he’s going to be exhausted. Now, here’s the theoretical storyline in action. He’s blown up, tired, battered, bruised and certainly not 100%. Is it not then conceivable that somebody he’d normally crush have a good chance of eliminating him? Would that not work, given that he’d have a very valid excuse to fall back on? Moreover, a reason to continue the feud? See, that’s where I think WWE drops the ball in regards to the Rumble. As fantastic a spectacle in can be, it’s so different to anything else they have, that fans will accept the outcome – perhaps more so if it surprises them and not an outcome they could see coming a mile away.
Yes, there’s always an eye on Wrestlemania, but luck of the draw could play a massive part in any storyline on that road. You want to push someone who’s a fan favourite but never quite got the break they needed? Have them enter at #30 in the Rumble and seize their chance. Is it cheap? Yeah. Is it doing a disservice to the guys who’ve lasted almost an hour in the ring? Possibly, but it’s not about them. Thirty men will enter and each will have a part to play in helping just one move the WWE machine forward.
I love the Rumble perhaps purely for that ‘what if’ factor. As well as the Rumble itself, the rest of the card is hardly filler. It’s the time when the title belts are gearing up for their Wrestlemania matches. Where the stars begin to align and champions and challengers are put in place. The guy who has to drop the belt and take a back seat before the big dance isn’t going to do it lightly. If they steal the show, put on an incredible display, there’s always time for the head honchos to think again. Should we be taking the title off this guy? Hell of a match they just had. Can we rewrite this in time for Mania? I honestly wonder how many times that’s happened. Given WWE’s recent track record, perhaps pinning all hopes on The Guy that’ll take the company forward, isn’t all it cracked up to be?
This Sunday, I’ll be avoiding the spoilers, steering clear from the internet and enjoying the Rumble. I don’t want to predict a winner, because I honestly have no clue, and that’s just how I like it. To all of you watching, I hope it’s memorable for all the right reasons and WWE put on a great show.
As always, thanks for reading.