It was like the 2014 Royal Rumble never happened, a dream or a mirage – gone and never to be remembered by Vince McMahon as a night his company got things so terribly and obviously wrong.
No one could possibly think that just one year on the WWE would place themselves right back into almost the exact same set of circumstances, with absolutely no foresight whatsoever and seemingly no care at all for the development of a rising potential star in Roman Reigns.
I understand that the plan likely all along was for Reigns to go on and win the Rumble, but his development in recent weeks has been severely hindered by some of the worst promos ever to air on any wrestling program – self penned by McMahon himself if most reports are to be believed. Even more of a hindrance was the return of Daniel Bryan, last year’s number one babyface in the company for the first half of the year, until injury cut short his title reign.
The timing and thinking behind that return makes the decision to go with Reigns even more puzzling; Bryan could have easily been held off television until the February pay per view and a lot of the negativity around Reigns’ win wouldn’t have been there. Again the WWE had no foresight, Vince McMahon once again believed that the crowd would just accept what they were being fed even if that was the last thing they actually wanted.
The rationale for the Bryan return was likely to drive Network subscriptions leading into the Rumble itself. I wonder how those people who purchased the Network specifically in the false hope that Bryan may be victorious are feeling? If the number one worldwide trend of #CancelWWENetwork is anything to go by then I’d take a guess that they’re likely not too pleased.
As for Reigns and seemingly his choice by McMahon as the next face of the company, I’m at a loss as to why at this moment the decision has been made to go with him. Yes he has some size, but his face aside his look is actually terrible. He wrestles (or should I say, he ‘Sports entertains’) in terrible cargo pants and an odd vest still. This look worked in the Shield as part of a renegade faction but it just doesn’t work for a WWE main eventer.
His promo work, due to a mixture of awful content and at times poor delivery, has ranged from average to very poor and in ring, while he is no slouch, he hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in a string of memorable singles matches.
Sadly, along with the fans being the loser as a result of this choice of direction, it is likely that Reigns himself will be severely damaged. You had to feel a slight hint of sorrow for him last night, as it was by far and away the biggest moment of his career and even with an expensive endorsement courtesy of the Rock, the fans in Philadelphia still booed him out of the building. The negative heat he garnered may not be exactly replicated in every arena between now and WrestleMania but he will certainly have to face his fair share of adversity en route to the match in Santa Clara.
That main event, with Brock Lesnar, may be the point where the heat once again reaches nuclear levels with the largely smart WrestleMania crowd rejecting this choice of new champion and showing support for the departing Lesnar. That or equally bad they’ll just reject the match and both men entirely.
The Brock Lesnar and Daniel Bryan story was such a simple one, David vs Goliath, and the in ring action would have been undoubtedly superb. Reigns could have been protected and slowly built for a match against Bryan at SummerSlam and then taken the title from there. That route would have shown some sense, but this is a company where the boss is so far out of touch with his fan base that he has television ratings the weakest they’ve been since 1997, a floundering Network (which has killed the company’s pay per view business in the process) and an angry and frustrated fan base.
It’s a real shame that the Rumble ended the way it did because in the middle Brock Lesnar, John Cena and Seth Rollins presented a triple threat encounter that was right up there with the greatest in company history and a match to rival Namakura vs Ibushi and Tanahashi vs Okada as early match of the year candidates. It’s difficult to understand how WWE can book one match so right and one so brutally wrong in the same evening.
image via WWE