Last night was the 2014 Royal Rumble, an event beloved my most wrestling fans, both die-hards and casual fans. It was a very unique night in Pittsburgh and so I thought I’d briefly share some of my personal thoughts.
This photo, is fan taken picture from the arena of Batista flipping the bird to a fan; a sentiment many fans felt the WWE gave to it’s paying audience.
The pre-show match saw the New Age Outlaws win the Tag Titles. This was a good move as I feel they won the titles at the right time. Goldust and Cody could have still held the titles, but this loss prevents them from going stale as champs. The New Age Outlaws are transitional champions but it will be exciting to see which team steps in and defeats this legendary team for the titles.
First match to kickoff the show was Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt. Bryan received the loudest chants of the night and the fans were really into this match. This was just a fantastic match that showcased wrestling and storytelling. Bryan and Wyatt didn’t resort to many spots and Bray looked convincing in his clean win and Bryan didn’t look weak in the losing effort. I think many fans assumed that since Bryan lost he would get redemption in the Rumble. There was no mention of Bryan’s participation in the Rumble, so at that point it was purely fan speculation.
Second match was Lesnar versus Big Show. Brock arrived destroyed Show with chairs, took a KO punch, recuperated, and hit an F-5 for a pretty easy pay day. The post match beat down was a bit long but Heyman (and for that matter Lesnar too) made it clear: Lesnar is the #1 Contender.
Third match was John Cena and Randy Orton for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Now both men are good at what they do and the match itself wasn’t poor quality but the fans didn’t give this match a chance as soon as the bell rang. Why? Not just because they adore Daniel Bryan but because this match and feud has been exhausted over the years and fans have seen the outcomes, why would they want to see it again? Orton and Cena remained pros throughout the match despite the crowd reacting negatively to them. There were “Daniel Bryan” chants to indicate who they wanted to see challenging for the title. The crowd did start a premature “boring” chant and those “random Superstars” chants which I think were uncalled for. Later on the crowd chanted “This is Awful” which was more directed to the office and what they think fans want to see. There was also a “We Want Divas” chant to which i would have loved if they called an audible and allowed AJ to skip around and leave. Despite the near falls, the fans gave up on this match from the start. They did react to the Wyatt Family interrupting and costing Cena the match. If the Wyatts and the Authority are working together we may get the 2014 version of the Corporate Ministry I’ve been asking to see. Hat tip to Cena and Orton for being pros but I do side with the crowd as I had no interest in seeing this match either.
Now unto the Rumble match. As it relates to Daniel Bryan’s participation, you can read my prediction page for my thoughts. I did think it was a missed opportunity to capitalize on his present popularity. I did enjoy the story of the Shield’s involvement in the Rumble. Roman Reigns setting the record did catch me off guard as it was his rookie debut in the Rumble, but he looked like a star. The crowd getting behind him is simply a sample of things to come in the future for Reigns. The Cesaro swing was another spot I enjoyed in this match. My favourite thing probably was the debut of Alexander Rusev. His ring gear was great (his NXT gear received mixed criticism), his theme song was great and his arsenal of moves was impressive for a man his size. He got the attention of the fans and so I hope the WWE follows up strongly with how Rusev is portrayed.
What I didn’t enjoy? The lack of surprise returns. No Jake the Snake. No RVD. Instead we got a bunch of guys we see or it feels we see often: Kevin Nash, El Torito, and JBL. Mind you, I still reacted toward each entrance, they just weren’t my top picks for surprise returns. Sheamus coming back was good if you’re a Sheamus fan but it just didn’t feel special.
As it relates to Batista, I am not a fan but I can say that Batista has his fan base and is a draw. Batista is being paid based on what he established is his worth. My only personal grievance is that I am not a fan of guys making returns after being away from the ring for a lengthy time and being pushed into the main event title picture upon their return. My opinion is you have guys on your roster who have been working hard all year round on TV and at Live Events so from a fairness standpoint it is disheartening. But this is a business and Batista isn’t being paid chump change and so the company needs to get the most out of their financial investment so I get it.
So overall, I don’t classify this Royal Rumble as the worst ever. It wasn’t. A lot of future stars worked hard and elevated their stock. Guys like Rey Mysterio, Sheamus and Batista all fell victim to circumstance. They wanted Bryan at #30, not Mysterio. They wanted Bryan to make a surprise return, not Sheamus. They wanted Bryan to win, not Batista. This by no means that these 3 men “suck”, they just aren’t they guys fans want to see NOW. I just found it surreal that the fans were able to use a platform like the Royal Rumble, the second biggest PPV of the year to voice their displeasure so loudly that it would dictate how the show was received.
I think the WWE has a great story on their hands if they choose to go that direction. Batista is a money making heel right now, Bryan is a huge babyface. I’d love to see them run with this story. Batista came in for the #1 spot and it came so easily to him. Bryan continues work hard and face obstacle after obstacle and gets nothing. You slowly cook this and this match is a draw. Wrestling fans, keep watching!