The 2014 Royal Rumble has come and gone. It was a night filled with the usual surprise entrants, good under card, and a somewhat predicable finish. Yes, a predicable finish. Because when you cut right into the meat of it, Batista winning the Rumble was going to happen regardless of how many people chanted for Daniel Bryan or not. More on that in a minute.
What surprised me the most about the finish was the reaction to it by fans…and even people in the business. I’m not talking about independent wrestlers either. I’m talking about Mrs. Foley’s baby boy, Mick Foley going very publicly on twitter to denounce the Pay-Per-View as the most “disappointed” he’s ever been?
Does @WWE actually hate their own audience? I’ve never been so disgusted with a PPV.
— Mick Foley (@realmickfoley) January 27, 2014
I’m thinking there’s more to Foley’s tweet that meets the eye. Or, he really is that fed up in something I figured was the plan all along. WWE doesn’t have the faith that Daniel Bryan can carry an audience. Let me clarify. Wrestling fans, the core audience, will certainly love everything the guy does. It’s the casual fans that Cena, Hogan, and even Batista draw in that WWE thinks Bryan can’t do.
Objectively, Bryan is indeed very successful. He’s making a ton of cash doing what he loves to do. He’s doing what a fair margin of people reading my words right now would pay to do. Would he like better placement on the card, a title, or something more? I’ll ask him when he’s done banging whichever Bella Twin he’s engaged to.
Seriously, fans, workers, and whoever else thinks this was the second coming of Pearl Harbor consider for a second Bryan was never announced as an entrant in the Rumble. Bryan *should* have been in the Rumble, I guess. But, would you have rather have had Reigns the guy who Batista eliminated to win, or Bryan?
With all that said, let’s take a look at the rest of the events from a memorable Rumble.
- Bryan and Bray Wyatt had a tremendous opener. I would not call it a MOTY candidate, but they worked a very good match. Wyatt should be quite proud because with each passing day he continues to exorcise the Husky Harris persona. I’m sure people had issues with the placement of the match, but it was a solid opener that continued Wyatt’s push, and sort of resets the Bryan character.
- Big Show and Brock Lesnar was really more of an angle than a match, and for people that crapped on it, again, did you want a 20 minute ROH style match between these two, or did you want a brawl. It put over Lesnar as he likely moves forward to a WrestleMania match with Undertaker.
- The only true misfire of the night went to the Cena/Orton match. Cena’s weakness in my eyes is he simply goes from finisher to finisher in the latter part of matches, and this was no different. Orton’s weakness recently has been his utter and complete lack of charisma. No one cared about the match, and no one cared about the outcome. The interference of the Wyatt Family is another head scratcher and likely means Cena will face Bray at Mania.
- Oh, the Rumble. Yes, Batista won. But, there were a lot of good things to take away from the match. The continuing rise of Reigns as he broke Kane’s long standing record for eliminations. The eventual split of the Shield which hopefully happens on RAW tonight. The return of Sheamus. Punk’s long stint in the match. JBL’s surprise (and to short stint). The seeds planted for the Rhodes Brothers to finally have the match at Mania. Again, objectively, the good outweighs Batista’s win (if you consider that bad).
It wasn’t the most disappointed I’ve ever been in a PPV. That honor goes to either last year’s BattleGround or one of the awful WCW UnCensored PPVs from so long ago. Sure, Bryan could have been booked to win, and all the fans in Mudville could have rejoiced. But, believe it or not, WWE is a business. They look at things like marketability of their wrestlers. They probably have a staff that measures things that would make the common fan’s head spin. This isn’t an independent promotion in the local VFW that will put over a guy based on fan reaction. How much merchandise does this wrestler sell? How many DVDs or PPVs? WWE has shareholders to make happy, and in this era that has always been the bottom line.
In the end, the Rumble likely created a new star in Reigns. It gave you another anti-hero to jeer in Batista (and honestly I think WWE thought the fans would love his win). Hell, on the Pre-Show, you even got some nostalgia with the Outlaws winning the tag titles. Wrestling fans these days are ultra-sensitive and overly reactionary. The core fans will continue to watch. A few fans from 5 or 10 years ago may tune back in when they hear about Batista winning. In the end, WWE is not really about wrestling anymore. It’s all about making money, and cashing in on short term returns (although Batista is a fulltimer from my understanding). Take a breath, sit back, and try and enjoy. You likely will be watching anyway.