By Michael Battista
WWE put on one of it’s yearly mainstay pay-per-views on Sunday, Jan. 29, known as the Royal Rumble. In the 13th iteration of the event, WWE replaced what usually is a night of surprises and athletics with a demonstration of how deep its roster could be — key word being “could.”
The rules of the match are simple — two men start in the ring and fight, and every two minutes, another contestant enters the match until all 30 are in the ring. Wrestlers are eliminated if they leave the ring over the top rope and both feet touch the ground. The simplicity of it is what makes it fun to watch.
While WWE, along with all professional wrestling, is predetermined, the athletics of the match are always a sight to behold.
Seeing large competitors such as Barron Corbin and Braun Strowman throw people around is great, and the interesting ways people avoid elimination is always entertaining.
However, 2017 didn’t see as many highlight reel moments — nothing I can see being put into one of WWE’s promotional packages.
The rumble has had many older wrestlers return in the past, such as the late Roddy Piper popping up in 2008 or New Jersey native Diamond Dallas Page in 2015. The only real surprise was when fan-favorite Tye Dillinger — from WWE’s developmental brand NXT — joined the match at No. 10. Most fans, however, already assumed this would be the case, as the young star’s current gimmick of calling himself “The Perfect 10” made easy to make the assumption.
Another small surprise was when cruiserweight Jack Gallagher came in at No. 5. The crowd favorite was entertaining, using a few props such as an umbrella and his style of high flyer and brawling against the first few opponents made him a shining point of the match.
Sami Zayn and Dean Ambrose both put in dedicated performances, but their eliminations left something to be desired.
Ambrose has helped keep WWE relevant putting in hard work for the better part of last year as the WWE Champion and WWE Intercontinental Champion. He was eliminated by Brock Lesner, a part timer whose impact on the match — while being heavily advertized — was very minimal.
Lesner and Bill Goldberg continued their feud from last November… by having the latter eliminate the former fairly swiftly — mirroring their last match which only lasted one minute and 26 seconds. WWE, the first time you do this it’s really cool. Doing it again? You’re going to have a bit more of a mixed reaction of boos and cheers after the shock sets in.
Most fans will find the most irritating comes down to the last two entrants into the match — No. 29 The Undertaker and No. 30 Roman Reigns. The former is one of the biggest names in the industry, wrestling for WWE for more than 20 years and always adapting in order to stay in the forefront. The latter is WWE’s current attempt to create the brand’s top superstar. The experiment has not gone so well over the past few years with fans booing the protagonist whenever he comes out, but WWE insists to keep pushing him as a hero.
Having Reigns eliminate Undertaker at the end did not seem like the best idea. Fans may be on route to watch Reigns vs. Undertaker at Wrestlemania this year in April in what could be the Undertaker’s final match.
With established superstar and future WWE Hall of Famer Randy Orton winning the event by last eliminating Reigns — ensuring the night ended with some cheers this sets up a rematch for Wrestlemania. John Cena won the WWE Championship earlier in the night against AJ Styles, setting up Cena vs. Orton for the 22nd time on PPV.
The two have met on TV and PPV nearly 80 times, according to records from cagematch.net.
As two of the company’s biggest stars who both started at the same time and hold numerous titles between them, fans are justifiably tired of seeing this match. Even with Orton’s new character working with the creepy Wyatt Family, it may not be enough to save the fight.
WWE seemed to leave a lot to be desired with this year’s Royal Rumble. It certainly isn’t the worst of the past few years, but when the company promotes this as the most anticipated rumble because of star power, fans expect more.