January 28, 2014 by Joey Keogh
Every smark’s favourite PPV is upon us yet again, and if you pay attention to news media – the BBC, no less! – then it’s probably already clear that this year’s Royal Rumble wasn’t exactly the most well-received.
The event took place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in front of what we are assured, by the always-reliable, never-trying-to-sell-us-anything Michael Cole, is a sold out crowd of 15,000 fans. The show starts in typical fashion with the usual “inspirational” promos involving random wrestlers, standing around looking a bit pensive/pissed off while a super-serious voiceover intones that this is a huge moment for their careers, or some shit.
What’s most notable about this overly long opening sequence is that, in spite of an impressive fireworks display, this year’s Rumble set looks a hell of a lot like the Raw set, with the addition of the massive Wrestlemania sign hanging over the ring, to which many a man shall point tonight, in the deluded hope that he has a shot at it.
Daniel Bryan -V- Bray Wyatt
For some, unknown reason, the most highly anticipated match of the night is scheduled first, with the people’s favourite Daniel Bryan emerging to rapturous applause and ear-splitting screams. Bryan is so ridiculously over right now, he could’ve come out dressed as a member of the KKK and everyone still would’ve cheered for him (though, having said that, this is the same company who have turned racism into a gimmick in the form of The Real Americans). This match is clearly going to be the highlight of the show, not least because Bryan is up against the incorrigible Bray Wyatt, a man who should really spend more time wrestling and less time muttering to himself but who gives as good as he gets in the ring, even managing to walk backwards on his hands and feet for about three steps. This should really be Bryan’s match – the crowd adore him, literally booing when he gets Wyatt pinned for a two-count, or if he even comes close to almost losing himself – and he’s been unfairly excluded from the Rumble, much to the chagrin of practically everyone who watches WWE, religiously or otherwise. Unfortunately, the powers that be have decided this is Wyatt’s match, and he wins after an impressive display of brutality from both sides. Even so, Bryan was robbed, and the fans aren’t happy.
Winner: Bray Wyatt (a moral victory for Bryan)
The match is followed by the first promo of the night, from chief shit-stirrer Paul Heyman, who tortures long-suffering, sort-of journalist Renee by prattling on about the usual bullshit, for example that his client (whose name he over-pronounces to an excruciating degree) Brock Lesnar being The Best In The World. Wait, no, that was someone else. Never mind, here comes Lesnar now.
Big Show -V- Brock Lesnar
From the most anticipated to the best booked – two big, burly dudes facing up against one another, neither of whom is doing anything particularly interesting at the moment (is this even a feud!?) Sadly, anyone who was looking forward to watching these two face off and beat the living shit out of each other is sorely disappointed as the match is cut ludicrously short when Lesnar did his usual F5 on Show. Though the sight of him carrying the truly massive Big Show on his shoulders for all of ten seconds is quite something to behold, the outcome is stupidly obvious and, even though Lesnar continues to beat his opponent with a chair even after the bell has rung, nobody has cared for a while.
Winner: Brock Lesnar
Before the match that nobody cares about begins, we are treated to three promos in a row, one of which is effective and mildly distracting. First up, the still-interesting-but-only-just-barely The Shield deliver one of their “we’re broadcasting from a sewer, which is why we’re soaking wet, but don’t focus on that” spiels about how they’ll never break up, which alludes to the fact that their demise is, most likely, imminent.
After that tiny little bit of fun, it’s really hard to care about the overplayed, overdone, overly serious Orton/Cena promos that follow, even though the brains behind them have tried their very best to make the stakes seem as high as possible. Let’s face it, nobody really cares anymore, we’ve seen it all before. Perhaps this is the last match before the Rumble itself because WWE want to get us good and pissed off?
Randy Orton -V- John Cena
Although this match is, technically, for two belts – or, really, just the WWE Heavyweight Championship – it’s obvious from the moment these two, previously well-liked men enter the ring that nobody could give a shit what they have to say or do. The crowd lets them know just how little they care by cheering repeatedly for Bryan throughout, along with shouting the more succinct “Boring”, “This is awful” and “We want Divas”. At one point, they cheer for WWE legend Randy Savage, which momentarily confuses, then infuriates, Orton. John Cena carries his opponent throughout, braving a smile in spite of the obvious hostility towards him. In a moment of brilliance, he uses an old school Electric Chair on Orton, who flails around on Cena’s shoulders like a kid who’s been unfairly hoisted up by his father. It’s a clever move in an otherwise boring match and somehow, through some means or other, Orton emerges the winner, only to have Bray Wyatt turn up uninvited to perform a Sister Abigail on Cena. Nobody could really blame him for laying in the ring, totally dejected, after what was such a terrible end to a terrible match – remember when everyone was cheering for him?
Winner: Randy Orton (so nothing changes, woo hoo)
Just as the Rumble is about to begin, the fantastic New Age Outlaws, who were relegated to the pre-show for some bizarre, unfathomable reason, turn up to deliver the best promo of the night by toasting their earlier victory over the Rhodes brothers, with poor ol’ Renee whom, they delight in telling, is not invited to their celebration. Why the fuck were these guys not included in the Rumble!?
Finally, the Rumble itself is upon us, almost two hours into the show, which begs the question – what the hell even happened in the last hour or so to fill that gap? Oh, right, advertisements for pizza pockets, or whatever those things were. As revealed on Raw previously, CM Punk is first entrant, followed by The Shield’s Seth Rollins. The first surprise of the night comes when Kane emerges fifth, throwing off his suit jacket before disappearing under the ring (something the WWE cameras probably shouldn’t have caught), only to emerge later, as though from the gates of Hell, or whatever. He’s followed by NXT’s Alexander Rusev, a welcome addition for some, although he doesn’t last long, after being knocked out third. Kofi Kingston proves, once again, that he will do anything not to touch the floor and get eliminated, by jumping from the barricade back into the ring, besting previous achievements like walking on his hands, etc., while at another, rather brilliant moment, he holds on tight to Jack Swagger’s boot as he dangles dangerously over the edge. Kingston is a good sport, even though he realises he hasn’t a chance in hell of winning this thing, which seems to be what most of the participants are thinking. It’s business as usual as the ring seems immediately overcrowded, though Dolph Ziggler makes his triumphant return following a concussion, only to be turfed out almost immediately afterwards. Another welcome return to the fray is the Great White beast himself Sheamus, who enters to rapturous applause and manages to stay put almost until the very end. But sadly he has no chance of winning either, because, save for a late entry by none other than JBL – who almost beats Santino Marella’s record for fastest expulsion – it’s clear the fight is all but over when Batista shows up as 28th, followed by the twin anticlimaxes of Big E Langston and, rather annoyingly, Rey Mysterio as the last two entreants. The tension is palpable in the arena as it suddenly dawns on the assembled crowd that their hero, Daniel Bryan, really won’t be turning up to save the day. And, as only two men remain to fight for the chance to headline Wrestlemania 30 – both must pause to point at the sign once more– it’s sadly obvious that Roman Reigns doesn’t stand a chance against the clear and obvious winner, Batista.
Winner: Batista (it’s even painful to type this)
To call this year’s Royal Rumble an anticlimax would be a massive understatement, not to mention a slap in the face to every WWE fan who paid good money to watch the PPV only to be brutally, and rather unabashedly, let down by the powers that be. The question remains that, if Batista was set up to win all along, why did he make his return on Raw last week – why not just utilise him as a surprise entrant in the Rumble? It still would’ve sucked, but at least it would’ve been somewhat surprising, even momentarily.
One of the main reasons everybody loves the Rumble is because it is supposed to be, by its very nature, unpredictable. The countdown happens every ninety seconds and yet the buzz is always the same as we sit there wondering who’s going to turn up next – granted, often it’s someone like R-Truth, and everyone just shrugs and waits for the next entrant, but still.
The Rumble is fun because it’s messy, yet totally ordered, chaos, where old scores are settled and new allegiances are made, while a dozen men clamber on top of one another, each trying to make his mark. One of the most surprising elements of this Rumble was when Roman Reigns turned on his fellow brothers in The Shield, eliminating both of them in one, fell swoop as he simultaneously emerged, alone, as a contender. It raised all sorts of questions and it kept things interesting, unlike the emergence of Batista who was clearly set to win the moment he appeared.
It’s often difficult to tell what’s going on, or even who’s who, but there’s no end to the funny moments that this kind of setup elicits – such as El Turito squaring up to a clearly bemused Punk, who then held him at arm’s length while the audience cheered, or Ryback head-butting Antonio Cesaro like he’s Homer fucking Simpson.
The Rumble is a marketing gimmick, just like any other PPV, but it’s not usually presented in such a cynical manner. Those of us watching at home knew Bryan wasn’t going to show up at the last minute, but it didn’t soften the blow when, as more and more men were eliminated, it became blindingly obvious that nobody had a shot against the recently returned Batista.
Something similar happened with Cena in 2008, but in that case, he made his return as the thirtieth entrant, not on Raw the previous week and, although he was obviously destined to win, too, it didn’t feel like as much of a slap in the face. Are the WWE really behind Batista? Do they hate Bryan? Is this all part of some elaborate scheme?
Social media blew up following the aftermath of the Rumble, with most fans calling foul for what they deemed a remarkable lack of care for their opinions, not to mention the hugely over Bryan, who has had an incredibly successful year and who deserved more than anyone to be a part of the main event, even if he didn’t win it.
WWE legend Mick Foley called his former bosses out, Tweetingthat he’d never been so disgusted with a PPV, and later following it up by confirming he’s a part of the #YESMovement, a hashtag which fans started to try to encourage the company to give Bryan the proper shot he deserves. Bryan himself waded in to thanks the fans for their support, and to tell them not to give up until WWE listens.
It remains to be seen whether this is just a massive work on the part of the company – which seems about as likely as Cena being the next Wyatt Family recruit – but, given how often Bryan has had the piss taken out of him in the past year or so, it’s probably just yet another nail in his coffin. One thing is for sure, the Royal Rumble had the potential to be the most exciting PPV of the year, but thanks to some bizarre marketing ploys, matches being scheduled weirdly and fizzling out after ten seconds, and the ultimate “winner”, it’s not just the first, but may even turn out to be the worst.