We’re only a couple of days away from one of my favorite events of the year, the official kickoff of WrestleMania season – The Royal Rumble!
The Rumble, even in its bad years, has always proved itself to be a match worth watching. There’s just something about the inherent unpredictability that it breeds that makes it one of the most can’t-miss-able events on the entire Pro Wrestling calendar.
Just last week, I re-watched the Rumble from 1992. It was an incredible match, and it was an amazing snapshot of what the WWF was like 20 years ago (holy crap, writing that just made me feel REALLY old!). Almost every single participant in that year’s rumble was, and remains, an undoubtedly memorable character. With each new entrant that made their way out, I found myself thinking, “This guy could have won, and it would have made sense.” It was fantastic! Every single one of the 30 guys in that match was a STAR. Even a guy like Skinner, who is just a footnote in the grand scheme of things, felt like a viable contender. The Berzerker, too, ultimately amounted to nothing but in that moment you felt like he had a viable shot. And now, looking back at the match, knowing what happened to those two characters, I still got a kick out of seeing them enter the Rumble.
It got me thinking about this year’s Rumble. They’ve expanded it to 40 guys, making it longer, more competitive, and more unpredictable than ever….Or have they.
Even with 40 guys involved, I have a sense that this may be one of the weaker Rumble matches of all time. The reason? There are no more stars.
With the exception of maybe 7-10 of the participants, the rest are just pure filler. He may be in the match, but you know that there is absolutely less than zero chance that Darren Young is going to win the Rumble. Same goes for Trent Baretta. And Primo. And Tyler Reks. And Yoshi Tatsu. And on and on and on.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Alex. That’s the way the Rumble has been for the past 10+ years.”
I’m well aware of that. I know that the true unpredictable nature left the Royal Rumble a long time ago. WWE isn’t in the business of making memorable stars like they were in 1992 or during the Attitude Era. Most of the guys on today’s roster are faceless, muscle-bound, non-issues. But still, over the last few years WWE has found away to work around that, by padding the Rumble with even the best of their worst.
For the last few years it’s been a steady crop of maybe 6 likely competitors and 24 filler bodies, but most of those bodies were at least somewhat memorable. Today, though, even those also-rans are gone. Guys that had been around, toiling in the midcard for years are nowhere to be found in 2011. Shelton Benjamin, Charlie Haas, The Hurricane, MVP, Carlito, Matt Hardy, just to name a few. Those were guys who you knew had no shot at winning, but still felt like they deserved to be in the Rumble. And at 30 guys, WWE was able to keep the basically-jobber level workers out of the match, in order to retain some semblance of credibility.
But this year that’s all gone. This year there are 40 wrestlers in the Royal Rumble. I think it’s an interesting move, but also one that could completely backfire by exposing just how weak the current roster is.
What is it going to do for a guy like Darren Young, or DH Smith, or Trent Baretta when they’re put in the Rumble for no other reason than the help build up Sheamus or John Cena’s body count? How is it going to make the WWE as a whole look when the match is over, 40 guys have just been in and out of the ring, and the audience can only remember half of them?
It all leads to a bigger problem with WWE’s development of stars, something which I won’t fully go into now because that’s an entirely different post for a different day.
I could keep going but I think you get my point. Just watch RAW, whenever the “cavalry” hits the ring to make the save it’s filled with no-point jobbers like Yoshi Tatsu, Primo, Zack Ryder (please push him soon), DH Smith, Darren Young, The Uso’s, etc. being led by Mark Henry, who then proceeds to throw each of those previously named over the top rope. Now ask yourself, “Does Mark Henry have a snowball’s chance in Hell of winning the Royal Rumble?” No. Absolutely not. But he just eliminated a quarter of the guys in the match…..
Either way, it’s the Rumble. It’ll be fun. Enjoy it on Sunday.
Edge will retain against Dolph Ziggler. They'll both be in next month's Elimination Chamber.
The Miz will sneak out the win over Randy Orton. Miz/Cena at Mania is a virtual lock.
Natalya will win the 2-on-1 match by DQ after Amazing Kong debuts as the new bodyguard for Lay-Cool.
Alberto Del Rio will win the Rumble and challenge Edge at WrestleMania in the semi-main event.
Either that or Cena picks up his 2nd Rumble win.
(Hey, there’s two belts and 40 guys, I’m allowed an A and B pick).