Mark for War: Forty is the New Thirty
I was bummed this week to hear the news that this January’s Royal Rumble, held in Philadelphia, will have forty participants, as apposed to its usual thirty.
The Royal Rumble is arguably the most important annual WWE pay-per-view event. Yes, more important than Wrestlemania. If wrestling has an offseason, it’s during the Fall. The WWE’s main demographic, Males ages 18-35, are often preoccupied with football. I have several friends that will be the first to admit that they don’t watch wrestling during thefootball season. Monday Nights for them isfootball night. A DVR’d Raw will often be quickly sifted through at some point during the week, or possibly even ignored. This goes all the way through the NFL playoffs in January. Then there’s the much needed NFL off week before the Superbowl, also known as “Royal Rumble Sunday.” Even though this is in January, I often parallel this Sunday to a wrestling fan’s Thanksgiving. It ushers in the “holiday” season for WWE, if you will. The road to the Wrestlemania. This is when WWE gets their fair-weather fans back from the NFL, and because of that, they usually try to pull out all the stops with a great show anchored by a high powered Royal Rumble match. The Rumble match is the perfect match for the fair-weather fan to get back in the mix with. You’re pretty much going to see every wrestler on the card. They all have legit entrances with their theme music in tow. You understand who is being pushed based on the amount of time spent in the match and the amount of people they eliminate. Last year, a good friend of mine who’s a casual fan watched the Rumble. He didn’t know who the hell Roman Reigns was. After the Rumble, he knew. Even if Reigns had a show-stealing match on a normal PPV, he wouldn’t have made as much an impression as he did in a Rumble match. Ironically, a great Royal Rumble performance requires a fraction of the effort as a show-stealing match. Yet, for whatever reason, it puts a guy way more over.
We are back to forty guys in the Rumble this year (the first time since 2011). I hated it in 2011 and I am set to hate this again in 2015. I like when traditions are held sacred in the WWE. There’s a mathematic semblance of order that exists in the Royal Rumble with the traditional thirty man, entry-every-two-minutes format. The WWE has flirted with a thirty man, new-entrant-every-minute format before, which I don’t care for. It doesn’t establish a person’s presence in the match as much as it should. Some characters take thirty seconds to get to the ring. By the time they make an offensive move, there’s another superstar already entering. Even the ninety second format I believe is too short. If nothing else, the entry-every-two-minute format means that a wrestler drawing number one or two would essentially have to last an hour in the ring (at minimum).
An expansion to forty participants will likely showcase superstars participating in both pre-Rumble contests and the Rumble match itself. I hate this! The last time the WWE did a forty man Royal Rumble, we saw a pre-Rumble match where Randy Orton challenged the Miz for the WWE title. Orton Lost. An hour later, he is in the Rumble, conveniently drawing number thirty0nine, and attempting to get another WWE championship shot. So stupid! More of this easily can be coming down the pike this year.
If the Uso’s have a great opening contest against Heath Slater and Titus O’Neil, why is it important for them to be entrants in the Rumble? They’ve also already made their presence on the card known. Also, does anyone expect those superstars to have a viable chance to win? It’s pointless to crowbar them into the story twice. I also assume that some NXT guys will be in the mix in this year’s Rumble. I’m not fond on this, either. The Rumble is not the proper format to introduce characters to non-NXT watchers. Rusev (as Alexander Rusev) was introduced to the WWE Universe last year in the Rumble. Michael Cole verbally introduced Rusev to the non-NXT watchers for ten seconds and moved on to calling the rest of the match. It was pointless for Rusev to be in the match. Also, can anyone fathom a NXT wrestler as a viable winner?
If there’s one thing I maybe like about the expanded amount of participants, it’s the ability to throw a couple legends in the match without making more significant players sit it out. It sounds hypocritical for me to like legends in the match because I just stated how I don’t like any participants that don’t have a chance to win. But it is fun seeing a legend come back for a few minutes, so I tend to turn a blind eye. It would suck if several WWE legends came back for the match, though. One or two is fine. If we start hitting four or five, it becomes hacky.
Match of the Week: Royal Rumble Match, 1993
This is an example of a perfectly booked Royal Rumble match. Thirty participants, new entrant every two minutes. No one for the opening card matches participated in the Royal Rumble match. This includes A-listers like Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart and Razor Ramon. Even Doink the Clown, a super over-heel who participated in the show’s dark match, did not participate in the Rumble. The Royal Rumble matched outlined feuds we’d see culminate at Wrestlemania: Taker vs. Giant Gonzalez, Yoko vs. Bret; a feud we’d see come to a head the following night on Raw between Mr. Perfect and Ric Flair; an establishment of the repackaged Bob Backlund, who lasted an 1:01 minutes; and also, properly debuted “The Narcissist,” Lex Lugar — all without putting them in the Rumble Match itself. Even though it was about to lag in popularity and business, this example showcases the very booking control that would eventually allow the WWE to persevere over it’s rival, WCW.