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Stapling WWE’s Royal Rumble Together by Matt Corton

You know the scene from countless movies. The guy drives down the road in the dark, alone. Troubled. He’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders and it’s weighing him down so hard even his eyelids are heavy. His eyelids close. He’s oblivious to the car weaving across the lanes. The bright yellow lane markings blur and weave left to right as his eyes wearily try and stay open.

Then he’s jolted from his near-slumber by the lights of a truck – always a truck, never another car – speeding towards him as he drives down the wrong side of the road. Suddenly fully awake, he swerves the car out of the way of the truck, missing by a hair’s breadth and brakes screeching he comes to a halt.

Like I said, that scene is in countless films. It’s become a movie staple, as tried and tested and as tired as the guy losing his appetite and pushing his plate away because something gross has happened or the guy who goes to the bar to be on his own but then spews five minutes of dialogue to the first person who sits down next to him.

WWE has its staples too, particularly when it comes to Royal Rumble season. Some of them are as tired as the scenes in the movies above, but others still feel as fresh as when they were first done. Here’s a few of my favourites from the Rumble of each – some good staples and some tired ones.

Falling asleep at the wheel

The first WWE Royal Rumble staple that turns me into that guy sleeping at the wheel of his car is the ‘big man showdown’. For years, we got Mark Henry THREAT TO WIN despite him never coming close. For years we got the inevitable showdown in the ring between either Mark and Kane, or Mark and Undertaker, or Mark and Big Show, or even sometimes Mark and Big Vis. They lumber toward each other very slowly indeed, tension building in the audience and between them, like the guy’s eyelids closing as he drives. The impending collision is as inevitable as it is tiresome.

The worst part of this isn’t the fact that this happens in the match. It’s that it happens on Raw for the weeks before. Big men slowly walking toward each other. Sometimes, a little guy like Rey Mysterio ends up knocking one or other of them out of the ring to show that smaller guys have a chance to win too – usually a direct prelude to a small guy actually winning the thing.

I understand it has to be done. You have to remind the audience before the Rumble that the big guys are a threat to win. It makes sense to have Big Show turn up before the Rumble to announce his presence in the Rumble, particularly as he looks to be in great shape. It makes sense for him to target Strowman because he wants the biggest fight he can get. I get it. I’m just bored by it, because the big heavyweights never, ever, win.

Which leads me neatly to my second tired staple – the guys who actually win these matches. There’s been a few times where the winner has been a real surprise, and each of those times has been absolutely fantastic. Edge, Cena and Benoit (a surprise to me anyway at the time) stick in my mind, but there’s probably others. What’s tired about that I hear you ask? Well, nothing – it’s the opposite of that which is what is tired – when the winner is so obvious that it pains you to the point of nausea when they enter the match. Roman Reigns, Triple H, Batista, it’s becoming a bit too common. Just as with any other match, when the main event at the Rumble is predictable, it’s 60 minutes of build to disappointment.

Pick-me-ups

What’s a good staple? That’s one that might well be tried and tested, but it hasn’t been used to the point of either pointlessness or despair. It’s something that actually leads somewhere, that makes something develop or it closes something off. It doesn’t lead you careering off the road because you’re tired; it leaves you feeling like you do after that second cup of coffee in the morning.

The first is the massive contradiction of everything I said in the first tired staple above. It’s when the music of that big guy hits and he heads down to the ring.

I know, I know – I said I hated the big guy staredowns. And I do. But when the ring is full of a bunch of mid-carders who you know stand no chance of winning and Big Show’s music hits, that’s always a cool moment. You know that two or three of them are going to be gone within a few moments of them hitting the ring. You know that some of those few will probably include the comedy guys that play a big part of the Rumble match. Sure, you know he’s never going to win the Rumble, just as Mark Henry was never going to, just as Kane was never going to, but you know that something is going to happen when they hit the ring.

A lot of people here might say that Strowman might win this year – but I really hope not. don’t think he will. It’s too soon, and whilst I don’t mind Strowman at all, I think he has huge potential in fact, if he main events Wrestlemania now it’ll disappoint and I think they know that. But…if he does, I’ll mark out for the threat to win finally winning.

The second staple that’s actually a staple diet of the Rumble is the comedy segment. I absolutely love this – because in a 60 minute match, you do need a bit of light relief, just as you need it on the show.

There’s far too much comedy on WWE TV generally. The tag team division is way too full of comedic teams, to the extent that it detracts from the titles. When the main event guys are joking around it diminishes the feuds in my opinion. There’s a way to do comedy while coupling it with threat, as KO and Jericho did a few weeks ago on Raw when Owens finally looked strong – comedy doesn’t have to equal weakness or stupidity but in the Rumble, there should be a little of both of those things and it’s the perfect setting for it.

Sixty minutes is too long to maintain a tense, serious mood going. Just as three hours of Raw is too long as well – and if WWE did as good a job of placing their comedy segments as they do in the Rumble, they’d have a better show before they even started.

That’s my two good, two bad for the Royal Rumble match, but this is the one time of year I will offer you guys a few predictions as well. I’m sure the boss will have this covered well enough by the guys. but I think it’s a Lesnar win for the Rumble match. That’s how he comes back strong from the Goldberg defeat – he tosses out Taker, Strowman and Jericho (that’s my final four). Strowman ends up with the most eliminations, including Big Show. Where’s Goldberg? I think he’ll be eliminated by Taker. I don’t think he lasts long.

What do you guys think? What are your favourite and least favourite parts of the Rumble?