Defending the Rumble…Again

Image Credit:WWE.com

Image Credit:WWE.com

An hour before the second straight “Royal Rumble Meltdown” in as many years, social media was abuzz with praise for a Match of the Year candidate, rightfully praising three incredible talents and anticipating the 2015 Royal Rumble match.  An hour later?  Twitter was figuratively screaming and yelling that WWE doesn’t understand their fans.  Reports came out that fans in Philly decided punishing the talents they claim to support by blocking their exit from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.  Let’s stick it to Fandango because Daniel Bryan didn’t win!  (Wait…what?)  #CancelWWENetwork was trending.  All because a scripted show didn’t give grown adults what they wanted.

A lot of stray thoughts went through my mind in preparing for this article, many that if put to paper would look like the ramblings of a madman.  One instance involved hypothesizing the reaction if social media was around in 1993 when Yokozuna last eliminated Hall of Famer Randy Savage, 4 months into his WWE career.  The analogy isn’t quite as direct to 2015, but I can feel the butt hurt through the timestream.

While I’m proudly a part of a section of internet fans who felt that the Rumble was an extremely entertaining show, I’m not going to tell you that you dear reader, should you disagree with the selection of Roman Reigns as Rumble winner, are wrong.  Did I have problems with the Rumble match?  Some.  I would have made the final elimination of Rusev mean more and I would have had Wyatt in that spot.  Could I have done without Show/Kane’s dominance?  Sure, but at the same time I’m not hitting an Usos’ rental car over it.  And its faults can never overshadow how balls out amazing the triple threat title match was.  So, huge thumbs up from the Keymaster.

To the angry wrestling fan, heavily invested in social media and online spoilers, yes, your opinion counts.  However, it’s not the only or always the majority opinion.  I’d like to take you back to something I wrote around this time last year.

“I’ve also seen a lot of chatter about giving the fans what they want. While the Pittsburgh and Internet crowds voiced their choice, that’s not the entire WWE Universe.  There is still a large segment of the WWE Universe who aren’t involved in reading the “sheets” every day and get their info straight from WWE.  Give the fans what they want?   The clear leader in the clubhouse, when it comes to merchandise sales is John Cena.  If we’re now giving the fans exactly what they want there’s a very vocal portion of the fan base that would have preferred to see John Cena walk out of Pittsburgh with the straps.  Give the fans what they want?  Batista’s return popped a rating that was 2 million viewers higher than usual last week on Raw.  Who’s to say a portion of the WWE Universe not in attendance in Pittsburgh didn’t want Batista to win?”

It’s a point I still feel is valid today.   John Cena is still King Snake and a portion of the fan base, who coincidentally spends money, would have been pleased with his recapturing of the WWE Championship.  Roman Reigns, still has his fair share of fans I’m sure, who were puzzled by the boos reigning down in Philly.

I discussed the results with a couple of fans in my real life yesterday who fit into the category of fan I described above and they had generally positive feelings about the PPV.  One in particular loved the Rumble match, especially the second half, the half everyone complained about.  Reinforcing the fact that some internet fans are probably just as “out of touch” as they feel WWE has become.

I’ve supported Dukes’ take on hating negative wrestling fans.  I take umbrage with the fact that each and every Sunday night/Monday morning post-PPV I read social media claiming that the previous show is the worst thing they’ve ever seen.  Add to it the vitriol that gets spewed at users who deign to enjoy the WWE product on these occasions baffles me even more.  Try being a public figure and say you enjoyed/understood the Rumble and you’ll be labeled a WWE sycophant.

What I don’t understand about this subset of wrestling fans is why do they continue invest so much time and energy into a product they seemingly can’t find positives in?  There aren’t a lack of alternatives in 2015.  With the internet, YouTube, and various streaming platforms you can find any number of alternatives.  What is the end game of temper tantrums because Vince McMahon made a decision he feels is best for his business?

A year back or so, I finally decided entertainment-wise, The Walking Dead wasn’t doing it for me anymore.  So I stopped watching.  I didn’t continue to watch the show, hunt for spoilers online, passing judgment before things aired, or yelling at other fans for enjoying something I did not.

As far as wrestling goes, I do this crazy thing where I actively try to enjoy what I’m watching and brush off the negatives.   I don’t think there’s been a time where I’ve personally had a bigger list of “favorite guys” in a wrestling promotion.  There’s so much to love about pro wrestling, for me, the positives outweigh the negatives.  I have enough negative things happen in my personal life, I go to my entertainment to be…entertained.

“It was predictable.” 

If you managed to avoid spoilers like I did, I found the Rumble match to be a highly enjoyable experience.  Bubba Ray?  DDP?  The Boogeyman?  Bray Wyatt ragdoll-ing the mid card for a long portion and lasting 45+ minutes.  Daniel Bryan’s elimination!?  Who saw that coming?  Not pleasing to some, sure. But to label an entire match predictable because the winner was forecasted correctly?  I disagree.  I thought it was especially shrewd to put the heat on Bryan’s elimination on a heel, Bray Wyatt, only the guy rumored to be facing the Undertaker at Wrestlemania.  Somehow I don’t think we’ll be getting a keep Bray strong meme though, but that’s what this does.  If Reigns had eliminated Bryan, he might not have left the building alive.

Plus, these interesting nuggets occurred during the Rumble: Bubba put over the Wyatts & DDP put over Rusev.  For a fanbase obsessed with the talking point of “WWE doesn’t create new stars,” were the angry faction of the fanbase not watching those legends elevating young talent when labeling this the worst Rumble ever?

Speaking of  the “Worst. Rumble. Ever” talking point.  Right off the top of my head, 2013 won by John Cena was 1) more predictable & 2) contained 2 “surprise” entrants (Chris Jericho and an unheralded Bo Dallas) that were way less of a surprise than 2015.  I could go on to other Rumbles, but I point this out for perspective.

I will throw WWE and the Rock some shade for ruining that surprise, however. The pop would have been insane if they could just keep it in their pants.

Roman Reigns

I’ve read a number of criticisms about the performer in the hours after the Rumble.  Shoved down our throats, he’s horrible on the mic, didn’t earn it/work on the independents, etc.  The man who 12 months ago, if in the same spot, somehow would’ve deserved it because…he wasn’t part-time? He’s young?  Wrestling fans have notoriously short memories. Which is ironic because that’s a criticism levied on WWE creative…by wrestling fans. 

What went wrong?  Apparently I wasn’t invited to the big secret meeting of the IWC elders when we decided we hated Roman Reigns now.  Is it because he’s impossibly good-looking and we are not?  Is it because of CM Punk’s “Keep Roman Strong” story?  I legitimately don’t know the answer.

Yes, the guy has limitations. A great number of LEGENDS in this industry have had limitations.  Paul Heyman made a career out of booking around superstars limitations in ECW.  So you’ll have to excuse me if I find the arguments against Reigns being “the guy” to be largely thin.

Since his return from injury, Reigns has never been the focus of  a 3 hour Raw broadcast. He’s not killing the entire roster. In fact, since his return Reigns has won 2 singles pinfall victories.  He’s held one championship in his 2+ years on the main roster. Is that pushing down our throats?

Reigns isn’t CM Punk on the mic, but also nowhere near the worst.  Average would be an accurate assessment.  I mean, I can point to any number of World Champions in wrestling’s past who shouldn’t have been let near a live mic at all: Sid Vicious, Rey Mysterio, Jeff Hardy, Goldberg, BROCK LESNAR, to name a few.  I’m not comparing their ring work but, Bret Hart was a fantastic technical wrestler, his baby face mic work?  Not so great.

Perhaps the most hilarious tweet I saw in regards to Reigns’ defects was that he “never worked the Indies.”  Want some notable names who also didn’t work the Indies?  Kurt Angle. Bray Wyatt. Goldberg. And again…Brock Lesnar, who won the title within 5 months on the main roster.  Roman’s been around for almost 3 years.  And if we’re disqualifying guys who have only wrestled in NXT, you’ve got a lot of complaining to do in the future because Bray Wyatt’s holding that strap at some point in the near future.

Not being a technical marvel hardly prohibits you from winning the WWE Championship and being a successful draw.  Hulk Hogan had a big boot and a leg drop.  The Ultimate Warrior had a press slam and a clothesline.  The Rock had the people’s elbow and the Rock Bottom…oh and sloppiest sharpshooter imaginable.  All 3…mega stars.  To suppose that Roman Reigns can’t be a star and box office draw because of these supposed drawbacks is laughable.

The Flying Goat in the Room

Look. I love Daniel Bryan too.  In that way. But I get not placing him in the WrestleMania Main Event again for a number of reasons, primarily his health.  Do you feel comfortable with Daniel Bryan fresh of a neck injury, that we were led to believe could have been career ending, being german suplexed and ragdolled by Brock Lesnar?  I sure don’t.

Daniel Bryan’s appeal is not being presented as John Cena.  His appeal is the underdog.  It’s extremely naive and short-sighted to lose our collective sh*t and cancel the Network because Daniel Bryan doesn’t win every match. Where are the peaks, where are the valleys in that type of storytelling?  One defeat is not a “burial.”  He beat 3 Hall of Famers in one night to win the belt last year, it doesn’t get much better than that.  I’m pretty sure he’s gonna be okay.

His appeal is also putting on kick ass matches on Raw and Smackdown every week.  My wrestling enjoyment isn’t going to be affected by Daniel Bryan holding a gold belt.  It will be affected by never seeing him perform again.  He’s been back two weeks.  Let him prove he’s healed, then we’ll talk championship programs.

I feel most disappointed for the array of young talent who entered and performed in the Rumble after Bryan’s elimination. Guys like Bray Wyatt, Rusev, Stardust, Bad News Barrett, Cesaro, Dean Ambrose, Kofi Kingston, Big E, Dolph Ziggler and yes, even Roman Reigns, deserve better than to have their work largely ignored simply for the crime of being not Daniel Bryan.  Whether you like Roman’s coronation or not, these guys lay their bodies and health on the line every night for your entertainment and they deserve better than chanting for Daniel Bryan or CM Punk above all others.

4 Comments on "Defending the Rumble…Again"

  1. Lindy says:

    I agree with a lot of your post. I was also highly entertained by PPV, including the Royal Rumble match. I enjoyed the surprises and didn’t mind seeing Bryan get knocked out early.

    I wasn’t exactly thrilled with Roman Reigns winning because as someone who recently got back into following the WWE (I became a subscriber sometime around Wrestlemania last year), I haven’t really been blown away by the guy. When I came back to watching last year, The Shield was together and Reigns was the quiet big guy in the background for the group. I read a lot about how he was going to become one of the next big stars and that his big push was coming soon.

    But I just haven’t seen anything that he does extremely well. He looks the part, but almost none of his skills are top-notch just yet. I think he can get there but he’s not at the point that I get excited about him headlining Wrestlemania. Now combing through the archives, I do realize that far lesser talents have headlined the event before and it’s doubtful that I won’t be excited when the actual event comes around. I just wasn’t excited by Reigns’ win.

    I’m not one of these guys trolling twitter threatening to cancel the Network. If it stays at $10 a month, I’ll probably keep it until I’m dead. I’ve really enjoyed the last year getting back into watching WWE. I would say the most impressive person that I have seen stand out to me in the last year is Seth Rollins. If Lesnar is on his way out (for UFC or something else), I would really enjoy seeing a Rollins-Reigns feud (if the powers that be are sticking with the Reigns push).

    Either way, I love the product and I’m not canceling a damn thing.

  2. Louis Tully says:

    Awesome. I can understand people disagreeing with the fact that Roman won and you don’t sound like the over reactive types that wanted to stage internet protests and burn everything to the ground. For quite some time Mania’s been about much more than the final match, sometimes people lose sight of that. I totally see the Rollins-Reigns scenario you talked about playing out as well. Seth still has that briefcase and the backing of the Authority. Thanks for the feedback and checking out the piece!

  3. I was looking at the times for The Rumble; of the top times Kane was the only veteran in the top 6. 4 of the 6 were from NXT. Not a big enough fan of BIG E to know if he came from NXT, but if he did that would be 5 of 6.

    I loved the PPV aside from Bray showing he can go against any style(the best part)
    We saw Tyson Kidd in the preshow and in the rumble.
    I can’t remember the last time i enjoyed a Cena match that much, save when he just ate suplexes for 20 minutes at summer slam. Before that it would have to be sometime during the wordlife era.

    Last year I think you wrote an article about the length of time from Austin’s King of the Ring victory to him actually getting the title. With that in mind my is it so bad if they build the Rumble as the PPV that Daniel Bryan always gets screwed on so when he finally wins it it means way more. I always loved the you go in as No.1 or 2 because we don’t want you to win story lines.

  4. Louis Tully says:

    Especially since the WWE title isn’t really a big goal for Bryan now. He beat 3 Hall of Famers in one night to win that goal. Do you get much bigger a WrestleMania moment? The Royal Rumble being his new hill to climb is a great idea. Good call.

 
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