As you might have heard, this past Sunday, Triple H won the 2016 Royal Rumble to become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion for the fourteenth time. Triple H took the title from Roman Reigns by eliminating both Reigns and Dean Ambrose to win the match and the title in a moment that a lot of fans saw coming. For some reason though, some fans are considering this a horrible idea and a sign that WWE is falling apart. Today we’re going to look at why Triple H winning the title was the best available option given what WWE had to work with.
This brings us to the other issue: who else was there? You can’t keep the title on Reigns as he would have beaten the entire roster and then had almost no one left to face at “Wrestlemania XXXII”. On top of that, can you imagine the crowd’s reaction to having him pushed down their collective throat that hard? If WWE wants Reigns to be the next big thing (or even a thing in general at the moment), they need something more than Reigns beats everyone.
So who were the realistic options to win the 2016 Royal Rumble? Here’s a look at the entrants in the match, going in order of entrance and omitting Reigns who we’ve already covered.
AJ Styles. WAY too soon. I’m sure WWE knew he was going to get a big reaction, but almost anyone debuting in the Royal Rumble is going to get one of those. Styles is certainly an international star and a huge talent, but you don’t give someone the World Title in their debut match in the company, especially with so many other people in the same match. Maybe in a year or two, but way too soon.
Chris Jericho. Who would buy this? Jericho is a good hand but he’s there as a veteran who is going to put people over. You can use him as a challenger to make the champion look good, but aside from a few fans at house shows, no one is going to buy Jericho as a threat to win the World Title. He might come close and put on some good performances, but the idea of him being the main guy in WWE died years ago.
Kevin Owens. That’s probably the strongest option yet and even still he would have been a huge dark horse. Owens is almost guaranteed to be a major player going forward in WWE but you don’t go from a quick Intercontinental Title reign to the World Title in just a few months. Much like AJ, he’ll be there at some point in the future but he’s not there yet. It’s fun to imagine it though.
Dean Ambrose. Again a very dark horse and he came in second, but this would really only be as a foil to Reigns down the line. He’s certainly a fan favorite, but at this point Ambrose is in a good spot as the Intercontinental Champion. I know he’s the one people want to see break out, though the fans need to remember that it’s ok to make you wait on something every now and then.
Brock Lesnar. Now we’re getting somewhere. Lesnar was the strongest option to put the title on and could have easily set up Reigns vs. Lesnar II. It’s a simple story: Reigns can say Lesnar never beat him and that he wants a one on one shot after Lesnar beat him in the Royal Rumble. Lesnar wants to beat the one that got away. The story works but instead we’re getting Lesnar vs. the Wyatts for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, though that’s for another time.
Bray Wyatt. Another dark horse, though Bray is the kind of guy that doesn’t need titles to be a big deal. Granted he does need some important wins to be a big deal and this would have finally given him one but again, another story for another time. It’s pretty clear we’re getting Brock vs. Bray in Dallas so the story they went with here was fine.
Sheamus. Oh please. Next.
That really just leaves Triple H as the other option. Really, that’s about it as far as people who would make sense: Triple H and Brock Lesnar. Other than that you really just had a bunch of midcarders and I’m not crazy on the idea of putting the title on a gamble like that at the biggest show ever.
Third, Triple H winning the title fits the story. The Authority has thrown everything they’ve had at Reigns (Rollins, Big Show, Kane, League of Nations) and he’s mowed them all down. That leaves you with a classic case of “if you want a job done, do it yourself.” Triple H went in and took the title from Reigns because he was the only person he knew could pull it off. They even mentioned that it was convenient for Triple H to get #30 while Reigns got #1. I know it’s overdone to death, but this is a simple corrupt authority storyline as they screw with Reigns to get the title off of him.
Finally, and probably most importantly, you know what you’re going to get with Triple H. Like him or not, it’s really hard to argue that he doesn’t put on a good performance and put people over. I know he’s been around for a long time and that he’s in his mid 40s, but until the Royal Rumble, Triple H had won five televised matches since April 2010. In that same span, he’s lost eleven matches. Triple H puts people over and he has been for years. This idea that he’s going to hog the spotlight and put himself over long term is nonsense.
To go along with that, let’s take a quick look back at some of his most recent matches.
Sting (Wrestlemania XXXI): Total mess, but a really fun one.
Shield (Payback 2014/Vengeance 2014): Fun brawls with a ton of drama.
Daniel Bryan (Wrestlemania XXX): Match of the Year candidate.
Brock Lesnar (Extreme Rules 2013/Summerslam 2012): Both good matches.
I could keep going but you should get the point by now. If there’s one thing you can almost guarantee from Triple H, it’s a solid performance. Reigns is going to need someone to help carry him to a top level performance at “Wrestlemania XXXII” (assuming the match happens there) and there is really no one more qualified to do that than Triple H.
I’m not saying the story is perfect or that I really like it, but this is a case where they didn’t have many other options if they want to go with a big Reigns moment in Dallas. Triple H fits the story, isn’t going to hold the title long term and is likely to give Reigns one of the best matches of his career. I know a lot of fans are annoyed that Triple H won the Royal Rumble instead of one of their favorites, but isn’t that kind of the idea behind wrestling?
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