By Lex Marston
The 2014 Royal Rumble could have been special. It wasn't. We could have seen the rise of a new mega-star in WWE. What we saw was a man past his prime (if he ever had one) get booed out of the building to end one of the biggest events of the wrestling year. That would have been fine and dandy if he were heel, but he wasn't. The story of the 2014 Royal Rumble could have been a joyful one. Instead, wrestling fans were left scratching their heads or underwhelmed. In the case of myself, both.
I woke up at 6:50am today, as I normally do on a weekday. My first thought? "How could Vince McMahon be THAT disconnected?" Yes, as much as I didn't want to think about WWE first thing in the morning, I did. Now, for those of you who don't know me personally, I stopped watching WWE a few years ago. I had come to the conclusion that the product WWE wanted to put on just wasn't for me and my personal interests. I got tired of asking "Why?" and rolling my eyes every time I watched. Understand that when I say that I stopped watching WWE, I don't mean wrestling in general. Some people are of the opinion that WWE is the be-all-end-all of professional wrestling. I am not one of those people. I love wrestling, and I don't think I could ever stop watching some form of wrestling straight up. Anyway, in an attempt to get back on the air and have fun with my podcasting mates again, I decided to begin watching Raw about two weeks ago. Now, although I haven't been watching WWE, I still know what goes on for the most part, thanks in part to the few WWE fans on my social media feeds.
What I saw last night during the Royal Rumble reminded me all too well of why I stopped giving energy to the WWE.
Let's take a trip back in time, almost a decade ago, to the 2005 Royal Rumble. Before last night's event, I spoke on the RantEM Rumble Pre-Show about how one of my favorite Rumble moments came at the 2005 Royal Rumble, when Vince McMahon blew out both quads trying to slide into the ring. But that's not what we're talking about today. I bring up the 2005 Royal Rumble for the winner of that event. After eliminating each other simultaneously, Batista threw John Cena to the outside to win a spot in the WrestleMania 21 main event. Imagine, if you will, that that didn't happen. Imagine if someone like Kurt Angle or Shawn Michaels won that Rumble. Would Batista or John Cena be as big of stars as they are now? I would think John Cena would, but I have my doubts about Batista. While the Rumble win wasn't what made Batista's rise to the top memorable (I attribute that to the Evolution storyline), imagine if Batista were just thrown in a match with Triple H at a random Raw, did the job to Triple H, and went down to the midcard at WM 21. "Ok, what's your point, Lex?"
My point is that WWE decided to make a star that night.
Now, my own personal feelings aside (Batista's a turd), WWE made money with Batista. Not anywhere near as much money they made with John Cena, but WWE did make money with Batista. WWE had a chance to make a lot of future earnings last night by putting Daniel Bryan over in a grandiose manner, but they didn't. They decided to go with the guy who won the event nearly a decade earlier.
The question is, "Why?"
Batista has a big role in an upcoming movie that looks to capitalize on the current comic book movie craze. Does Vince McMahon hope in his heart of hearts that Disney/Marvel Studios will promote Batista as a "WWE Superstar?" It's not as if Batista is the lead role, and I don't see an ensemble cast role leading to anything major. I can't say that I'm familiar with the Guardians of the Galaxy books, but I can't see Dave getting his own spinoff film. Even if all that were to happen, did Batista really need a Royal Rumble win? I don't think so.
Maybe it was in Batista's contract that, to return, he needed a Rumble win. If this is true, it would be in line with my personal feelings of the guy. And in case you have pleasant thoughts of how nice it would be to meet the former Leviathan in-person, there are several fans out there (including myself) that can tell you: you will probably be met with the ol' one-fingered salute.
Let's get to the last night's Royal Rumble now.
The night was off to a good start with two decent-to-good matches. The Tag Title switch surprised me that they would make a title change on a pre-show, but I'm told that's somewhat commonplace these days. Fair enough. Not a big deal. Then Bray Wyatt and Daniel Bryan opened the show with a match that exceeded everyone's expectations. "Bryan's working the first match so he can rest for the Rumble" I thought to myself. "Bryan lost the match so he can win something big at the end of the night, like Bret Hart at WM 10. Makes Bray look strong going into WM 30, too. This is pretty damn good booking right here." Hell, I even gave a nod to Lesnar/Big Show for making Lesnar look strong and (hopefully) taking Big Show out of the picture for a while. The crowd booed and jeered for Cena vs Orton, which was expected when you serve the same pile of grool for dinner as frequently as they do with Cena vs Orton. The match was nothing special, but what little air it had in it was deflated by the frustration of the crowd.
Things were zooming by at that point, and it was time for the big match. The 2014 Royal Rumble.
Now, I didn't think Bryan would make an appearance until #30. Wouldn't make sense to bring him out any earlier. "Hey, Lex! Bryan wasn't even advertised for the Royal Rumble match!" Neither was Kevin Nash, but that didn't stop his big, sandbaggin' ass from coming down to the ring. Oh, by the way, what a big surprise, eh? *Eye roll* <----See, there's the eye roll! Save that for future reference...
As we get closer to 30, it's obvious that Roman Reigns is getting a push in a strong direction. I personally don't see a whole lot in Reigns, but pushing new talent is definitely a good thing, so long as they aren't totally devoid of any upside.
Wait, here it is! #30! 10! 9! 8! 7! 6! 5! 4! 3! 2! 1!.......
"What the hell is this?"
My face had a look like I just guzzled down a carton of sour milk.
I like Rey Mysterio. I don't have the disdain for him that many of my cohorts here at RantEM probably do. I enjoy his work. But boy, if I've ever seen anyone being fed to the wolves, this was it. Bryan didn't show up. Batista won the Rumble. Bray Wyatt moved on to John Cena. The hottest wrestler WWE has right now just did the job in the opening match on one of the biggest shows of the year.
Time for another analogy! Imagine you owned an Ice Cream Truck, and you parked at your usuall spot you do every day around noon. People like your ice cream. It's not always the best, but there's something about it that keeps them coming back. Maybe nostalgia. Yeah, probably nostalgia. And habit. Probably habit, too. Anyway, there's a long line at your truck as you're getting your ice cream prepared, and the line is chanting "MINT CHIP! MINT CHIP! MINT CHIP" All of 'em. Now let's say you look around in your truck, and you have a tub of Mint Chip sitting there, looking pristine and fresh. BUT, you also have a tub of Rocky Road sitting over there that's 10 years past it's expiration, and you REALLY like Rocky Road. Plus, you overpaid for this expired tub of... Rocky Road, so you have to get your money's worth. Then, when you open up shop, and the people are screaming for Mint Chip, you force the expired Rocky Road down their gullets. And as they're coughing up the soured goods, they're booing you all the while.
Now, there are a few things wrong with this analogy as it pertains to WWE, and these errors are what upset me most about wrestling fans in general.
1) If your favorite ice cream joint starts serving rotten desserts, you're going to go somewhere else. This is not the case with most WWE fans, including those boisterous fans in Pittsburgh and those demanding refunds for the PPV they purchased at home. These fans might even take a week off from Raw, but they'll surely be back the week after, posting their thoughts on the product all over their Twitter and Facebook pages, even though there's plenty of other wrestling out there to be taken in.
2) You don't usually pre-pay for ice cream without at least making sure you're getting what you expected. This is just the way it is. You spend $65 on a PPV, and as long as it goes from 8pm to 10:45pm uninteruppted, you have no grounds for demanding a refunded. This is even the case with advertising a certain wrestler to be at an event that doesn't show up, because the card is always subject to change. You got burned. Eat the $65 and don't spend another dime on WWE merchandise. But that seems to be something too difficult to do for most fans to follow through on. Even myself, who doesn't watch the product, spends time and energy reading stories and posts about the WWE. Paying attention is still paying something.
The outrage over the 2014 Royal Rumble, however, goes beyond fans. Check out this string of Tweets from Mick Foley; a guy who NEVER speaks ill of the WWE and is always putting a positive spin on the most questionable of situations:
Hell, even his kids got open on Twitter last night, and I know from following them that they're pretty big WWE fans. Foley went on to post a blog on his Facebook page. Go read it. It's great.
Last night, I watched my first WWE PPV in what seems like forever, but it induced the same reaction I used to have before I stopped watching. Me rolling my eyes and asking, "Why?"
So to bring this article to a close, I want you to think about this: The backlash last night was about business. We all want to see good wrestling succeed and make money. We all want to see good wrestlers and good people succeed and make money. Last night, we lost at both of those. WWE will do just fine come WrestleMania, financials-wise. And sure, they could do a "Microsoft" and flip the ship completely. But I'll always be wondering, "What if Daniel Bryan won the 2014 Royal Rumble..."
As for Batista... well, to a nicer guy, it should have happened.