REQUESTING FLYBY #52: Time To Make The Rumble Royal Again
#52: Time To Make The Rumble Royal Again
The arena is packed to the rafters with raving fans in full mark out mode. A countdown appears on the Titantron. Anticipation mounts; who’s next? Will this next entrant be the man to win the Royal Rumble? The audience roars the count. TEN! NINE! EIGHT! SEVEN! SIX! FIVE! FOUR! THREE! TWO! ONE! A klaxon blares, entrance music kicks in, the crowd goes wild, regardless of who it is. Jeers, cheers, it makes no matter. Those unengaged by foemen in the ring will look down the aisle to see who their next foe is, perhaps feeling dismay if the fresh man is a heavy hitter. Some entrants will walk casually to the ring, others will sprint with purpose, some may even fail to make it to the ring at all due to a cowardly attack by a jealous rival when their back is turned. One thing is for certain; there is nothing in the world of wrestling to compare to the unadulterated excitement of the Royal Rumble. More than any other event in the calendar- and I include Wrestlemania in this- the Rumble has the power to turn us all into children again, to make us sit back, forget the cynicism and just mark out. The reverse battle royal is, in a sense, what professional wrestling is all about. The stakes are high, the in-ring action is unpredictable and the match is action packed from beginning to end. At the time of writing, this magical event is a mere six weeks away.
With TLC a successfully in the books, I find myself more excited about my perennial favourite event of the year than I have in a long time. I also find myself coming full circle in my column writing career and in my fandom. Almost a year ago, having been writing in the Columns Forum for around nine months, a competition to find the next main page columnist was announced, the second incarnation of the CF version of NXT, a tournament in which I reached the semi-finals. I threw my hat into the ring with a column about my passion for the Rumble and my sadness at its decreasing importance. For those of you who haven’t heard the tale before, I discovered professional wrestling at the age of ten when a friend showed me a tape of Royal Rumble 1990; enthralled by the likes of ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude and Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, I fell in love with wrestling…and never forgot why. It was all down to the Royal Rumble. I’ve always been a Rumble guy. The column I published on the fourth of January has stayed with me ever since, mainly due to the fact that it was, I suppose, the last truly “innocent” column I wrote. NXT was such a seasoning process that I came out of it a very different wrestling journalist than I went into it. And yet, here I am, in another wrestling writing competition, talking about the Royal Rumble. How time distorts!
So, back in the early part of January 2013, I pointed out some of the ways in which WWE had devalued the Royal Rumble, and to be honest, I didn’t realistically think that most of the problems I pinpointed would ever be fixed. I foresaw the winter classic fading away, and yet knew at the same time that I’d always love it, however far it was degraded. I’m pleased to say, sitting here in December 2013, that many of the issues I had with the recent booking of the event seem to be well on the way to being solved. I suppose it just goes to show that one should never lose one’s sense of hope, particularly with wrestling shows one has a particular affinity for.
Back then, I said that special attraction and nostalgia entrants were ruining the kayfabe credibility of the Rumble match itself. 2011 and 2012 represented the nadir of this loathsome trend, with the forty entrant stipulation of 2011 overusing the “legends” to a ludicrous degree, and with 2012’s edition featuring all three announcers climbing into the ring only to be thrown straight out to resume their commentary. I was therefore pleased to see 2013’s edition feature only Goldust- who would return later in the year to magnificent effect- and The Godfather, whose entrance alone makes him worth the place. This year, with increased importance attached to the match, I am hoping for the grand total of zero surprise entrants. WWE have a massive roster, can fill the places with no problem, and have nothing to gain from putting in superfluous names from the past. It’s time the Rumble regained its urgency by losing the “family fun” feel it has worn in recent years.
I also noted that Elimination Chamber and Money in the Bank had rained on the Rumble’s parade by essentially duplicating its storyline role. Part of the problem there, in hindsight, was to do with the brand split, and then latterly, the fact that the brand split had been eroded to the extent that one of the two championships felt less important than the other. With last Sunday’s unification, that problem has essentially been solved. Now, the Rumble winner will presumably face the WWE World Heavyweight Champion at Wrestlemania, and that title holder will be the man who comes out of the Elimination Chamber unscathed. Therefore, the chamber and the reverse battle royal are suddenly fulfilling two distinct roles. Similarly, Money in the Bank this July will be a briefcase that guarantees a shot at one belt. That makes a massive difference. Suddenly, the Wrestlemania title shot becomes a genuinely special prize again, and the speculation about who may win it becomes genuinely exciting again.
A final danger I highlighted almost a year ago is the fact that Rumble winners have curtain jerked or gone on at the midway point in recent years. Whatever you may think about Cena’s win this year, at least it meant that the top guy in the company won the Rumble and challenged for the title in the main event. You know what that is? It’s precedent. You may not have realised at the time, but by booking John Cena to win the 2013 event, WWE have restored the shine to the event. So long as the match was being won by Vince creatures that no-one cared much about- Del Rio, Sheamus- it was destined to be something less than it used to be. But now? It’s a match that propels you into the main event. Pittsburgh is a brilliant wrestling city, an underrated wrestling city, the home of Kurt Angle for crying out loud. If Daniel Bryan clotheslines his last remaining opponent and throws his arms in the air, chanting “YES! YES! YES!” then the roof is going to come off the place.
I have spent the past six months, in concert with my Right Side of the Pond cohorts, talking about the way WWE have suddenly got everything right- booking, long term storytelling, match quality- and the result has been every single event acquiring a sense of importance. If you miss the pay-per-view, if you miss Raw, you might miss something significant. Now, apply that maxim to the Royal Rumble. Exciting, no? Summerslam 2013 was an all-time top 5 iteration of that pay-per-view. Something tells me that we may well be in for an all-time great Royal Rumble match and overall show for the first time since 2009, when, coincidentally, Randy Orton was on a fantastic villainous run at the top.
In six weeks, WWE will get the Road to Wrestlemania well and truly underway. And this time, I truly believe that they are not going to botch it. TLC was terrific in execution and build, but Royal Rumble 2014 is going to be truly epic, a big four event restored to greatness in the way Summerslam was a few months back. Dare you miss it? Dare you play the cynic any longer?
This is Maverick, requesting flyby.
Weren't Booker T and Diesel the only legends in the 2011 Royal Rumble? Considering that's 2 out of 40, I don't think that's overusing to a ludicrous degree. Plus (and this comes to down to personal opinion more than anything!), I'd levy the same reason you accepted Godfather's 2013 inclusion to argue that Booker's inclusion in 2011 was cool. Guy got a massive pop! While I share your optimism regarding the upcoming Rumble, I fear that there's nothing to genuinely hold WWE back from slotting a couple of spots for legends - they did, after all, have well-established rosters at the Rumbles you pinpointed and could've used them there, too.
Originally Posted by Maverick
You're painfully correct, in my opinion, with regards to the 2012 edition, though. That stupid Rumble was littered with unnecessary names - the announcers, Ricardo Rodriguez, Jim fucking Duggan - one might extend it to Mick Foley and Road Dogg, but selfishly, I liked their parts in the match.
I find myself agreeing with the remainder of your points - the Cena factor and the title unification give the Rumble a rejuvenated sense of importance that was marred a little bit in 2011/12.
I'm finding these sporadic "look back at an old column and how it turned out" pieces to be, in large part, a big success, man. "Analyzing a Year of Flybys", "The Rise and Stall of Dolph Ziggler: Redux", and now this one have all been killer columns. Excellent work!
Good work here.
I like how "to the point" this was and that you gave very clear reasons for why last year's Rumble and this year's Rumble will be different than what we saw in '10 and 11'. I agree that this year's show has a "must see" vibe.
Good luck with the voting!
Mav- Fantastic column. I too mark out more for the Rumble than most anything else. It has always been that event that really does seem to restore a bit of the kayfabe for me. I will say one thing though. I'd wager there will never again be a single Royal Rumble without a few surprises. That's practically what it's been all about from the start. I wouldn't want to see a Rumble without the occasional blast from the past. Although as you mentioned when all three announcers were in the rumble I got really annoyed. For the same reason as your point of they could put actual guys in the back who can and want to go out there. Tell me though you wouldn't mark out if Jake came out with the Snake? Or Razor Ramon? Or Scotty Steiner? Those moments are the bridge over the gap in generational viewing. Kids and parents marking out. It's got that family vibe in that respect. Anyways, you did an excellent job with this column. You and Oli both have rocked throughout DBC. Nice work Mav.
I am a huge, huge, enormous, unreserved nerd for the Royal Rumble. Even the bad Rumbles are good in my eyes. To me there is no more fun match type anywhere, ever. Hell, even last year when the Rumble event so irked me that I considered quitting my longtime hobby, I still enjoyed the match itself all the way up until the poorly booked conclusion (I can handle Cena winning, but throwing out a fresh Ryback with relatively little trouble was bullshit!). But anyway, even though I regard TLC as more of a middling success than outright terrific, I'm happy to report I agree that WWE is at the very least on the right track and we should be looking at one of the better Rumble matches in recent memory. Another benefit of the unified championships is that whatever two main event players where previously scheduled to battle for the WHC are now free to join the fray, so the field is automatically strengthened as well. I'm certainly looking forward to it more than I have been for the past couple years if nothing else, and while I'm going to guard my expectations a little just in case I think it should be a bang up show.
Nice return to form here 'Rick, very straightforward but in a good way. If I had a criticism, I suppose it would be I didn't feel like you provided much material for discussion. The gist of the piece is that you're happy with the Rumble this year, which is all well and good but doesn't really provoke a response. Maybe a little speculation on the winners might have added? It's quite a minor quibble to me, I really enjoyed the enthusiasm and positivity, just thinking larger picture since we are on the cusp of a tournament winner and all.
Best of luck 'Rick, haven't read Ollie's piece yet but I'm sure you've given him stiff competition as ever!
Maker of Rain
Nothing too extraordinary here, Mav, but I suspect that was by design. I can half-see where Mizzles is coming from, but not every main page column is a knockout. In fact, the majority of them are not. New content is demanded from MP writers in order to maintain site traffic. Almost like soap operas, the framework almost demands solid, unexceptional output. In that regard, you’ve more than demonstrated your capability as an MP writer.
Reading that back, it comes across as a backhanded compliment. It wasn’t meant to be! These pieces will build up your core readership, and you’ll have more people to wow when you choose to tune up the guitar.
On a happier note, we are in agreement over the product itself for the first time in months. Having the commentary team enter the Rumble was nothing short of a disgrace. I know kayfabe is hardly of WWE’s concern these days, but watching that unfold in the context of even a pseudo-sporting organisation was utterly baffling. Old hands for a cheap pop, I don’t mind that at all, but Michael Cole? Fuck me.
The Underage Pessimist
The Title Unification will go a long way in bringing back the prestige to the Rumble. I just hope they don't mess things up by pulling off a bait and switch with the Chamber, like they did with Cena in '08, and the Royal Rumble sheds its royality again. Punk and Bryan look to be the favorites going in this year, but we've seen WWE throw us off the cliff, so I'll expect the worst and hope for the best. That's the strategy we've been adopting since the Summer, anyways.
Like I mentioned in Oli's column, its very difficult to choose a winner between both of you this go around. I think it'll boil down to individual preferences regarding the topic, in the end. The column was wonderful in highlighting your personal opinion, and would atleast illicit an emotional response from the readers, if not a discursive. Like Skul said, revisiting your own columns is a wonderful idea and it is working brilliantly.
Best of luck for the round and forward!
The Rumble is the PPV I look forward to the most in any year too, in fact I'm already getting a little bit too excited for it and starting to look over past events and the matches themselves as I seem to do every year in the run up to it. Whether it's because it's truly the start of the 'Road to Wrestlemania' or something else, I don't know, but I love the PPV. This year should be a doozy, with only one title to go after and a lot of players that could, in my book, step up. My only fear is a Sheamus return and victory - so many better stories to tell than that!
And I loved this, Mav - it's taken me time to get here, I know, but it was a great column, nicely to the point and really easy to read. A knockout, in my book - I think we provided two quite similar style columns on two different points here, which is interesting when you look at it. Agree with Skul on the 2012 point, but that's the only hole I'd pick. It was a pleasure competing with you here, and I hope we get to do it again some time in the future in some way.
I'm predicting Sheamus has a "surprise" return, enters quite early, lasts a long time until the final four or maybe even final three, but does not win. You heard it here first.
Originally Posted by Oliver
I'm with you, though - I'm a big, big fan of Sheamus, but I hope he doesn't win this year. Give it to somebody else.
Skul- I unresrervedly hate the legends in the Rumble thing. The Goldust one turned out to be an audition for a full time return, and yes, selfishly and hypocritically, I loved the Godfather entrance, but generally? I think they should use the enormous roster they already have! And yes, always interesting to check out one's old work. I'd love to see you take another look at the Tortoise and the Hare now that Ziggler is where he is...
Josh- Cheers mate! It is indeed very good to think about the Rumble feeling important again. It should be!
Mizzie- I was actually expecting everyone to tell me that I was being too optimistic again! Ha ha. I like your point about the WHC division being in the Rumble instead of in their own match.
Sidg- Honestly, time and work pressure caught up with me with the last two columns. Just didn't have time to pull out a rabbit. But as you say, as an everyday common or garden column, I'm sure this would've done just fine on the MP. And yeah, Cole in the Rumble, what the fuck was that about?
Sub- The unification will be hugely beneficial, I'm sure of it. Also, what's this nonsense about WWE throwing us off a cliff and bracing for the best? Surely you know by now that I've been behind everything they've done since the summer? The last time I really felt like WWE had thrown me "off a cliff" was early 2011 when Punk was getting jobbed out to Orton all the time. Since then, they've done fine by me, and since August, they've been SUPERB. And you're too young to be that cynical, anyway. Chill!
Oli- I don't think Sheamus will win; I figure he'll be on special attraction duty at 'Mania. If he does win, I riot. Fucking Sheamus. Urgh. And yes, an honour to compete against you too mate. Congratulations!
Skul- I could deal with that. I'm not a fan of Sheamus, to say the least, though! Ha ha.