by Craig Higham - January 15, 2014
The unification of the WWE title and World Heavyweight Title has many positives for the WWE, but one of the big negatives about the WWE doing this is it has now made the Royal Rumble match slightly more predictable. By having 2 world title matches at Wrestlemania, meant that the options for a winner of the Royal Rumble increased to about 6-10 different superstars. However by just having the one world title, then the pool of potential winner’s decreases due to the winner needs to be a superstar that has the star power to headline Wrestlemania. Currently CM Punk, Batista and Daniel Bryan are the only three men talked about as potential Rumble winners.
What made the Royal Rumble grab the attention of the WWE universe initially was the fact that the first two winners were Hacksaw Jim Duggan (1988) and Big John Studd (1989). No disrespect to these two wrestling legends, but this is the highlight of their WWE career. Neither wrestler would win the WWE title, in fact Hacksaw Jim Duggan failed to win any titles during his WWE run, while Big John Studd only held the WWWF World Tag team titles with Killer Kowalski and that was while wearing black hoods as The Executioners. But their wins for many years made us believe any WWE superstar could win the Royal Rumble.
With the addition of the prize of the Royal Rumble winner facing the WWE champion at Wrestlemania, this essentially limited the underdog/mid-card superstar option (of the likes of Hacksaw and Studd)of winning the Royal Rumble. In fact from the years of 1995-2001 it limited the options of winners to basically 2! Shawn Michaels would go back-to-back in 95 and 96 while Stone Cold Steve Austin would dominate 97-2001 Rumbles winning 3 times and losing controversially to Vince McMahon in the other. He would, by coming second, still get to headline Wrestlemania due to Vince pulling out which meant the superstar who came second gets the Wrestlemania spot. The Rock would win in 2000 to break the Stone Cold dominant run in Rumbles (possibly only due to the fact that Stone Cold was the WWE champion already). Many claim this period / era’s to be the best of the WWE, however the Royal Rumble during this time lost a lot of its unique unpredictability during this era.
But with 2 titles for the winner to choose (3 when ECW was included) then the WWE could ‘test the waters’ of an upper mid-card wrestler to see if they had the ‘it’ factor to go to the next step. If it wasn’t for the option of 2 world titles then the likes of Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, Rey Mysterio and Edge would possibly not have their Royal Rumble wins. Instead over the past 10 years we could have had the likes of John Cena and Randy Orton winning the Rumble 5 times each. Nobody really wants to see the main event at Wrestlemania be Randy Orton vs. Santino Marella, however, how many people hoped that he would be the victor in the 2011 Royal Rumble when it came down to Santino and Alberto Del Rio? We all knew the ADR was going to get the win, but many of us hoped that a lowly ‘jobber’ could shock the world. Sadly a major surprise winner of the Rumble such as Kofi Kingston, Drew McIntyre, Dolph Ziggler or Antonio Cesaro seems highly unlikely.
So how can the WWE still give us a variety of winners, and not just the handful of main event superstars???
One of the options the WWE has to still give us a surprise winner and not to return to the predictable Rumbles of the late 90’s is to turn the main event Wrestlemania match into a triple threat or fatal four way match that includes the Royal Rumble winner and current main event superstars. They have done this twice before which gave us Rumble winners Chris Beniot (2004) and Rey Mysterio(2006). Both were untested at headlining major WWE PPV’s so Chris went on to Wrestlemania against Triple H & Shawn Michaels, while Rey battled Kurt Angle & Randy Orton. On both occasions the Rumble winner went up against 2 former champions, which made the matches have the major ‘star’ power, and on both occasions Chis Beniot and Rey Mysterio won the first major titles in great feel-good moments (the image of Beniot and Eddie Guerrero embracing in the ring at the end of Wrestlemania XX was a great Wrestlemania moment).
A second option the WWE has used to give a swerve in potential winners but saving face at Wrestlemania is by having controversial finish to the Rumble match. In 1994 no winner could be determined between Lex Luger and Bret Hart as both their feet hit the floor at the same time. So both were given title matches at Wrestlemania. The lower status Luger would battle WWE Champion Yokozuna early on the Wrestlemania card while the more main event superstar Brett Hart had his title match as the night’s main event. In the 2000 Rumble, while The Rock was named the winner of the Rumble, the following night on Raw they showed the The Big Show and The Rock’s feet hit the floor at the same time. This allowed both stars to be added to the eventual fatal four match at Wrestlemania that included the feuding Triple H and Mankind.
The WWE has used shock returning superstars as a way of producing a ‘surprise winner’ of the Royal Rumble with Triple H (2002), John Cena (2008) and Edge (2010) all accomplishing this feet. However each of these superstars were prior to and after their injury main event superstars so while it was a shock to see them return, it was not a huge shock to see them win. As much as I would love to see it, a returning Christian has very little hope of winning this year’s Royal Rumble, however a returning Batista is already a favourite to win.
Finally an option that would allow for a ‘shock’ winner of the Rumble to be crowned is to have the last person eliminated challenge the winner at Elimination Chamber for their spot in the main event at Wrestlemania. This was done in 2006 when Randy Orton challenged Rey Mysterio for his Wrestlemania spot and won. Rey would eventually be added to the Wrestlemania title match by then Smackdown GM Teddy Long, but this is another option for the WWE to use to give them more options of Rumble winners.
With The Undertaker possibly only having 1 or 2 more Wrestlemania’s left in him, then the WWE will lose yet another of their main event matches at Wrestlemania in the coming years. This makes it an even greater challenge for the WWE creative to come up with different ways to make the Royal Rumble seem like more than one or two superstars have a chance of winning. Let’s hope they can, and we are not left with 5 to 6 years of CM Punk &/or Daniel Bryan winning every Rumble…
Who would you choose as your ‘shock’ winner of the Royal Rumble???
Hooroo and see you next week.
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