Friday, January 22, 2016

The Rumble is coming

Look, a billion sites are going to give you a billion numbers about a billion different Royal Rumble facts. I'm not one of those sites. I would rather focus on the matches and what they might mean for the upcoming Wrestlemania season.

The show is always built around one match, but this year that match is even more the focus than ever before. In fact up until the last few days, the 30 man Royal Rumble was the only match on the card. The last few weeks of WWE storytelling have been built around Roman Reigns and his battle with the Authority. Vince McMahon, back on television after nearly five years of irregular appearances, changed the match to put the WWE World Heavyweight title on the line for only the second time in the history of the Rumble event. In addition, it will be the first time anyone has ever defended the title in the Rumble, something WWE has reminded fans of about twenty times per broadcast since the announcement.

While I personally think making the Rumble for the belt isn't the best idea as I would argue that the Rumble is slightly more important than the belt as it is about a main event spot for Wrestlemania for the title, this does create an interesting dynamic. Roman Reigns enters at at the number one spot and has to make it all the way through the match to retain. Now I suppose it is possible WWE will over-push Reigns to the point he makes it through all 29 other men and the Authority's machinations to retain the belt, but I suspect they instead will set up Reigns' Wrestlemania opponent (likely Triple H) with an elimination somewhere mid-match. This could then set up Brock Lesnar to take a long path towards the title only to also be screwed by the eventual winner. Who that winner will be remains more open than in previous years however. Names like Sheamus, Bray Wyatt, Chris Jericho and Dolph Ziggler are already entered, plus with the rumors of an AJ Styles appearance and the always real possibility of a Daniel Bryan return, more potential star spots are opening. With a roster heavily depleted by injury, WWE could take this as a chance to set up a new main event for Brock Lesnar at the biggest show of the year.

The rest of the card is filled out with title matches, a move WWE rarely makes for the Rumble cards. I personally think the Royal Rumble should only ever feature title matches and the Rumble because anyone not trying for another belt should be less concerned with petty rivalries than trying to get their chance at the big prize. Unfortunately, most of those matches are rehashes of previous battles we have seen over recent weeks. Becky Lynch gets another chance at Charlotte's Divas title, Kalisto gets a chance to beat Alberto Del Rio for the US title again, and Kevin Owens challenges Dean Ambrose again in a Last Man Standing match. The Usos and The New Day have been in matches against each other as well, although I believe this is the first time they have wrestled in a 2 on 2 title match.

In fact, the only other match with any bit of intrigue is actually the pre-show match where four teams wrestle for a chance to appear in the Royal Rumble. The Dudley Boyz seem like the immediate favorite over The Ascension and the unit of Mark Henry and Jack Swagger, but I am holding out hope that the completely thrown together unit of Darren Young and Damien Sandow pick up the win. Sandow has been gone from television for too long and a good showing in the Rumble would be a great way to reinvigorate his character and hopefully start a good push for one of the roster's most under-utilized stars.

Honestly, I am just happy to be excited about a Rumble match for the first time in quite awhile. The last two years have been woeful disappointments, something WWE has to know. For that reason, I suspect the Rumble to open up several new storylines for what may be the strangest major event in WWE history: Wrestlemania 32.

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