It might be my favorite show and match of the year but this year’s Royal Rumble wasn’t all that great. There were just a few moments and elements missing from the match and it needed a few tweaks to really work. That’s what we’ll be looking at today: where this year’s Royal Rumble didn’t quite measure up to the best of the best. Please note that this is just about the battle royal itself and not the rest of the show.
Let’s take a look at some of the midcard names in the match and how long they lasted. For the sake of this, we’ll consider midcarders to be people of value who had little or no realistic shot of winning.
Sami Zayn (47:12)
Dean Ambrose (26:55)
Baron Corbin (32:39)
Look at those times. Their average time is thirty six minutes each and do you know how many people they combined to eliminate? One. One. All five of those people, who were all in there over twenty two minutes, combined to eliminate one person. Who did they eliminate you ask? Corbin got rid of Braun Strowman. Those five stayed in the match for about two hours and forty minutes combined for ONE elimination. By comparison, Undertaker, Goldberg and Lesnar were in the match less than fourteen minutes combined and eliminated TEN (including all five of the names on the list).
This list (which omits Bray Wyatt, who made the final three after 24:11 and zero eliminations of his own as well as Chris Jericho who was in there for over an hour and got rid of two people at the same time) was around WAY too long as they were all in the first two thirds of the entrants. That means they were all just standing around for long stretches of time and not eliminating anyone. In other words, they were just warm bodies filling in time, waiting on someone to come in and get rid of them.
That’s a big part of the problem: for some reason these guys aren’t allowed to be eliminated in short order. Why can’t they just be eliminated by someone to, I don’t know, set up a midcard match down the line? Is anyone going to complain if Zayn was in there for twenty minutes instead of forty seven? Or why was Corbin in there for over half an hour if he was just going to be tossed later on like any other guy? You don’t need that much cannon fodder and it really slowed things down a lot.
Let’s move on to one of the most important thing in the Royal Rumble: surprises. To do that, let’s look at the names that were entered into the Royal Rumble with no previous announcement. As we came into the match, twenty two out of thirty names were already filled. These are the following eight names in the other they came into the match:
5. Jack Gallagher
6. Mark Henry
10. Tye Dillinger
11. James Ellsworth
22. Apollo Crews
27. Enzo Amore
30. Roman Reigns
Let’s take a quick look at these names. We’ve covered Reigns (we’ll come back to him later), Kalisto (cannon fodder for Strowman), Gallagher (there for a quick laugh), Henry (cannon fodder for Strowman), Dillinger (more fodder for Strowman but at least he gave us a nice moment in probably the second biggest surprise of the match), Ellsworth (there for comedy), Crews (just a warm body) and Amore (comedy spot, lasted 18 seconds).
Compare that to last year’s surprises with AJ Styles and Triple H (ok not exactly a surprise but a big deal). These names don’t come close to adding up to Styles and it left a lot to be desired. There wasn’t a big favorite coming into the match and while I get the idea of not wanting to blow something here, couldn’t someone like, say, Samoa Joe, debut here instead of the next night? Just give us a little something to remember the match by. It’s not exactly asking much.
Speaking of something to remember the match by, where was the nostalgia? This year’s show, as well as last year’s show (a bit more understandable given the stakes), hasn’t had any old timers come in for a quick appearance. In 2015 we had the Boogeyman and Diamond Dallas Page and in 2014 it was Kevin Nash and John Bradshaw Layfield. None of these people lasted more than three minutes but they popped the crowd and gave the fans a fun little surprise. Now wouldn’t that be better than Gallagher, Kalisto or Henry (who did the same thing Big Show did a few seconds later)? It’s ok to stop and have fun for a second.
While they weren’t exactly nostalgia, let’s take a look at the three older names in the match who were the focal point of the go home episode of “Monday Night Raw”: Goldberg, Lesnar and Undertaker. The three of them were the big draws of the match, all came in spots 26-29, eliminated ten men between them (mainly cannon fodder, jobbers or each other), and none of them lasted six minutes or made it to the Final Four.
In other words, they didn’t really mean much. Goldberg eliminated Lesnar to set up their “Wrestlemania XXXIII” rematch, Undertaker eliminated Goldberg because someone had to and Reigns eliminated Undertaker, seemingly to set up their “Wrestlemania XXXIII” match. What’s the appeal here? These three could have been spread out so much better instead of clumping them up at the end but instead they’re all just there and then out before they mean much of anything.
That brings us to the grand finale: Reigns was #30. The #30 spot in the Royal Rumble has turned into one of the most interesting moments of the year and the fans get very anxious to find out who will actually get the final spot. A variety of Hall of Famers and World Champions have taken the spot over the years and it’s one of the most anticipated moments of the wrestling year.
And then this year it was Reigns. As in the same Reigns who already wrestled once that night and didn’t seem all that popular. At the end of the day, a lot of fans don’t seem to like Reigns all that much and the Royal Rumble in particular is the show where Reigns’ hatred really started to take off. Back in 2015, Reigns ran through the Royal Rumble and dominated the entire match, much to the fans’ annoyance. This was the case again in 2016 and bringing him out again in this spot in 2017, even if he only lasted for about five minutes, was a guaranteed way to kill the crowd.
Look back at Randy Orton eliminating Reigns to win the match. Orton, a heel, tosses him out and the fans breathe a sigh of relief. That’s a very bad sign for someone who is supposed to be the top face in the company. Reigns as the big surprise of the match just was not a good idea but WWE seems to just love the idea of having him out there no matter how harshly the fans react to him.
If Reigns just has to be in there (even though he seemed to just be a red herring), put him in there in the late 20s or so and let one of the bigger announced names (Goldberg, Lesnar or Undertaker, all of whom were in the final five) come out to give the fans something they’ll react to in a better way. In other words, stop doing something that you know is going to annoy the fans.
Yet somehow, the Rumble wasn’t even that bad. The match is almost good by definition and it starts from a very solid baseline. It’s nowhere near the worst Rumble but it was just so unbalanced with the midcard being horrible and the three big names doing a lot but being tossed right before the ending. This match felt like a big preview for another match and that’s where the match falls off the rails: it stops being anything worth seeing and starts being a match built around where we can go from here. Fix a few things and it’s good but fix the big things and it could be great.
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