By Travis Welch
I’m going to get this out of the way at the start of this piece, the booking for the Rumble was horrible, underwhelming, and more of the safe booking fans have grown not only accustomed to, but increasingly frustrated with. Before i get into it deeper, let’s knock the complaints out first.
- Styles should have went over
- Reigns is a God, 3 people and everything but the kitchen sink to beat him
- Charlotte’s PPV streak is not worth keeping the title on someone who is growing more bland by the show
- No IC or US title defense
- Tag belts relegated to pre show
- Neville and Swann not given enoough time
- Only surprise entrant was Dillinger, really?
- Randy. Fucking. Orton.
There’s a lot to dissect, and I don’t want to ramble so I’m gonna narrow down those complaints to the ones I find most pressing. See, I have this theory, I feel like Vince is seeing the lower ratings and blaming it on the pushing of indie favorites and non-conventional superstars(even though the lowest TV ratings for Raw in it’s history happened when Reigns was champ) and the poor response for the cruiser weights (which he is booking by the way, more on that in an upcoming article) and is reverting back to old form. Lesnar/Goldberg is headlining Mania,Cena is the champ again, Owens looks like a joke,and Orton is in title contention. He’s going into safe mode because he’s afraid to take a risk. Let’s take a look.
No midcard belt defended
This is a gripe most of you might not care aboout, but to me it’s vital to how the creative team views the titles. I grew up feeling that the IC belt was actually more important than the World Heavyweight Championship. It was not only the title they put on guys to see if they were main event worthy, but it was also the workhorse title. Usually put on the guy who could put on a match with a jobber and still make it feel important. The US title might not be as prestigious in a lot of peoples eyes but it has still been held by some of the greats in the industry.
Instead of having either of these titles defended last night they relegated them to nothing more than an after thought. Reigns was in a title match and then entered the rumble, why not book these titles as well and have a few more guys pull double duty? Jericho and Ambrose could have still been in the rumble, and the titles deserve to be showcased. I swear Vince Russo has an inside guy telling creative that the titles are just props and don’t really matter all over again. The more valuable the midcard belts are, the more valuable it makes the World titles. Look to NJPW for an example. Their IC title regularly headlines events, and the chance to earn a shot at the junior heavyweight title( NJPW’s version of the cruiserweight title, which predates it by decades) is the focus of one of the biggest tournament of the year, the Best of the Super Juniors tournament. New Era, same old shit.
More Superman booking
Can we just get this out of the way? No one has liked the superman booking of John Cena in years, and we sure as hell don’t like the Roman Reigns version 2.0. As much as it’s fun to criticize Cena, and there’s a lot to criticize him for, his mic skills and in ring work are not among them. Reigns on the other hand has the charisma of a potato on the mic, and while he has improved greatly, needs an A-list talent to carry him in the ring to anything more than a mediocre match. Fans reject him at every stop, but still at the Rumble it took 2 guys, brass knuckles, chairs, tables, and then finally Braun Strowman to keep him down. I’m sure Vince would have worked in a literal kitchen sink if he could. This isn’t the 80’s anymore, the invincible face doesn’t work. No one wants to see it except for the kids in the audience, and their numbers are growing smaller. So instead of ending it on the logical part, where KO superman punched Reigns with the knuckles ( great heel heat for KO, while Reigns still looks strong, but not superman), they continue after that with him fighting back, only being stopped by Braun. An otherwise amazingly entertaining match ruined by safe booking and protecting a talent that, let’s face it, won’t get over unless he turns heel. New Era, same old shit.
Cena flexing his stroke over the MVP
This was the MOTN easily. I never had any doubt these guys would turn in an amazing performance. I have no problem with Cena in the ring, his matches constantly entertain, and when you put him in there with a world class talent like Styles, magic can happen. All that being said, I feel like a conspiracy theorist when i say, did Cena really need that win? Was it creatives call or his call? I have no proof but it just doesn’t add up. Cena tying Flairs record is something that I thought they’d save for a Mania, not a Rumble. Now we have the MVP of the entire WWE, AJ Styles, the man who can put on a 5 star match with a broom, being relegated to the midcard at best for Wrestlemania season. While it looks like Cena is going on to face… we’ll get to that next entry. The point is Styles deserves to have a big Wrestlemania moment that matters, fighting for or defending a title and winning. That’s not just due to his non-WWE accolades either, he’s proven he belongs in the main event on the big show more than anybody since his debut at last years Rumble.
Randy. Fucking. Orton.
Orton winning this Rumble is the most anticlimactic Rumble in years. The general response from the people I’ve talked to has been less “Holy shit can you believe it?!”, and more “So it’s gonna be Cena and Orton again, huh?…meh.” None of this was helped by the lack of surprise entrants, and Reigns being introduced at 30. That stunt alone drained the crowd of any hopeful energy they had. They could have booked it so many different ways. Wyatt finally getting the big win. Y2J doing the unthinkable and winning, setting up a program with KO. Giving Samoa Joe or Shinsuke Nakamura an instant main event push, but no. We get the possibility of a match we’ve seen a dozen plus times, but one nobody wanted. Please tell me how any of this is better than a WM with Cena/Taker, Styles/Nakamura, Wyatt/Owens, and Joe/anyone. Yet again it seems like it’s New Era, same old shit.