By Haydn Gleed
Well, we wanted WWE to shake things up a little bit heading into the new year and boy did we get it with the bombshell announcement that Roman Reigns will defend his WWE Championship in the Royal Rumble. My feelings on having Reigns defend the title against 29 men are mixed, yet leaning more towards the positives than the negatives.
Apparently I am one of the stupid people that Joey Styles referred to, as I haven’t turned off the text alerts on my phone. Thus, I woke up here in the UK a few hours after Raw went off the air and the big announcement was spoiled for me. Thoughts started going through my head regarding how predictable the Rumble was going to be as I couldn’t see anyway that Roman would lose the title so quickly after gaining it. I also started to fear that this could lead to Triple H winning the belt and/or Reigns vs. Trips at WrestleMania 32, and that doesn’t scream WrestleMania Main Event to me.
However, I started thinking about the stipulation, and I remembered Royal Rumble 1992 which is my all-time favorite. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the reason I loved it so much was the high stakes that were on the line. I loved the passionate promo’s beforehand from the undercard guys, people who you would never see near the title picture like Repo Man or The Texas Tornado, who were convinced this was their big chance to win the big one and they made their cases for why they were going to win the title. If they can tap into the same sort of fun and emotions that means the fans get a kick out of a Heath Slater or Curtis Axel declaring they are going to win, it will make for fun TV. On top of this, if they can get people like Kevin Owens, a long shot but more realistic than many, to make you believe that he has a chance to win then it sows some seeds in the mind for a winner of the title from left field and adds to the excitement of the match. If you also play up the fact that Ric Flair was an outside chance in 1992, and was even the number three entrant, it will add further water to the seed that someone unexpected can win.
Back in 1992, I was ten years old and there was nothing on the scale of the Internet today, so when the Rumble was broadcast a few days later here in the UK, I had no idea who had won. I was convinced that Hulk Hogan was going to regain the title that he lost in devious means against The Undertaker, so when Flair came out as winner, after being in the Rumble for nearly an hour, it both shocked and excited me. As Flair was a heel and I was a kid, I didn’t like the outcome, but was engrossed in the drama, especially when Sid Vicious eliminated Hogan and Flair won while Sid was distracted. If WWE are able to recreate the drama and excitement that surrounded the ’92 Rumble with this similar stipulation, this will be a success.
Of course reading the last two paragraphs, I can imagine you are sitting there calling me a nostalgic old fool, that was 24 years ago and times have changed. The point I’m trying to make is WWE has done this before and produced one of the most memorable pay per views of all time. On top of this is the fact that it’s been 24 years and they haven’t gone to this stipulation since. It makes it feel unique, special, and most importantly as far as WWE is concerned, must see.
That was the positives that ran through my mind, but unfortunately there are negatives especially the aforementioned Reigns only just retaining the title and the resulting predictable outcome. It does seem to indicate that he will retain, otherwise you are in a situation where the man you are trying to build as the top babyface in the company is a former two time champion of the WWE Championship, and his two title reigns add up to a total of roughly a month. Not only are you making Reigns look weak, no matter how badly the odds are stacked against him, but you are devaluing the title by playing hot potato with it.
Within a two month period, you would have Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns twice, Sheamus, and whoever comes out of the Rumble the winner as champion. It doesn’t really make the title feel as special does it? Although I’m still not crazy about Roman being the top babyface of the company, I would have him win the Rumble, but I would use every booking trick up their sleeves to make it feel that Roman was not going to win it during the match. I would even go as far as to say he is taken out on the floor, and is stretched out of the arena only to come back later on and win. Yes, there would be some semblance of super Roman, but as you are watching the match you are caught up in the drama of who is going to be the new champion now Reigns appears out of the match.
Leading out of the Rumble, if Reigns retains, after thinking about it logically it is not inevitable that Reigns would take on Triple H at WrestleMania, as you would simply have that as the match at Fast Lane with Hunter doing everything to get the title off the former Shield member. The other question that has been asked is what will happen in terms of the number one contender at WrestleMania. Again, I would simply have a number one contender’s match at Fast Lane to determine that. It does break away from the tradition of the last 20 years or so of the Rumble winner earning the main event at WrestleMania, but if there are any concerns regarding this, one possibility is to simply have whoever the last two men eliminated from the Rumble face off against one other.
So as you see there are certainly mixed feelings on my behalf regarding the stipulation. I know my judgement is being slightly clouded by nostalgia and harking back to one of my all-time favorite shows from the WWE, but I do feel the tools are there to make this nearly as dramatic as the first time they did this. I also realize that I’m putting a lot of faith in a WWE product and creative team that has been lukewarm at best recently. There are also certainly drawbacks, and based on the scrambling nature of passing around the world title before this stipulation was added to the Rumble, I do fear there is some panic last minute booking going on without a real plan in place. However, no matter what side of the fence you stand, whether you love the stipulation or hate it, you can’t argue with the fact that it has made the Royal Rumble, one of the most highly anticipated matches of the year, even more exciting.
As always, I encourage you to let me know your thoughts on the stipulation either through email email@example.com or through twitter @haydngleed.