By Haydn Gleed
The images of last year’s Royal Rumble are still clear in our minds. One of the most popular wrestlers in WWE history, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, standing mid-ring holding Roman Reigns’ arm aloft with boos echoing around the arena. After Monday Night Raw this week, I’m concerned that WWE are walking a very fine line and there is every chance that this could happen again.
Let me state one thing right at the start of this blog, I give WWE huge credit. Through the use of the McMahon family, they have gotten Roman over to the point that fans are willing to see him triumph over his unfair treatment by The Authority. Who can honestly say they thought we would be in this position going into the Rumbe six months ago? However, with the latest stipulation of Reigns being the number one entrant in the Royal Rumble, we are essentially looking at a Herculean effort required from the Reigns character to retain his title. My fear is with a crowd of fans that the Royal Rumble now attracts, could the fans see this as another attempt at shoving Roman down the throats of those fans, with a large percentage still bitter that he is the chosen one over other wrestlers that they feel are more deserving?
From a logic point of view, placing Roman as the first entrant makes perfect sense. The McMahons want to get the title off Roman so they are stacking the deck against him. The problem is, although the fans are starting to accept Roman as a star, they don’t see him as someone deserving of the opportunity, the way that Shawn Michaels was seen by the fans despite being heel when he went from number one all the way through to win the Rumble in 1995. Maybe a better comparison would be Steve Austin, who went the whole length of the Rumble to lose on a fluke to Vince McMahon in 1999. The fans won’t buy or at the least will be reluctant to buy that Roman is big enough of a star to survive the onslaught of 29 other men. With many of the hardcore fans already known for mocking a miraculous comeback from John Cena by labelling him Super Cena, will these same fans feel the same way about Reigns retaining the title with the odds firmly stacked against him? Will there be a huge backlash to his apparent being pushed way above his current talents?
On the flip side, this could be WWE’s way of giving Reigns an out if he loses the title. After all there is no shame in getting to the point where the bosses have unfairly stacked the deck to the point the good guy topples over. It could be another ingenious way to make Roman feel more relatable to the audience, to give him the fans sympathy. It could be that they are putting the odds against him, that when he loses but then finally overcomes the obstacles, Roman and therefore WWE will be in a much better position.
These possibilities are why I’m finding the Royal Rumble so intriguing this year. If WWE decides they want to make a new star and give them a huge push to WrestleMania, this is their opportunity. On the other hand, if they book Roman to win then they are walking a very fine line and I anticipate a sense of de ja vu.
Either way it’s going to be interesting. WWE has positioned themselves in way that they can give us a Rumble to remember fondly. Or they could make it memorable for the wrong reasons by setting up a repeat of what happened last year. Which way will they go?
As always, feel free to get in touch via Twitter @haydngleed or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.