Royal Rumble HITS
Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt: Let me first start by saying that the right person won this match. And while the later follow-up on Daniel Bryan would be disastrously off-the-mark, this match didn’t suffer from knowing that going in. Instead we got what I consider to be a 5-star match that absolutely stole the show. Bray Wyatt is real. He’s legitimate, and very clearly going to be a star for a long, long time. This was his opportunity for a star-making performance, he and hit this one so far, it still hasn’t quite landed yet. Fast-paced when it needed to be, and slowed down when it was appropriate, this match told a fantastic story from bell to bell. Sister Abigail is one of the most devastation looking finishers, due to its sudden impact, in WWE today, and we were treated to seeing it done in unique fashion, outside the ring along the guard rail. Go out of your way to see this match. This is something we will still be talking about in December, when match of the year nominations are out.
Daniel Bryan: Yes. Yes, this is the first time ever someone has been listed twice in the HITS column for the same performance. Bryan is the most popular superstar in WWE; beyond John Cena, beyond CM Punk, beyond Big Show, and far beyond WWE’s comprehension. He can do no wrong, and is a dump truck full of money just waiting to be cashed in. Everything Daniel Bryan touches right now turns to solid gold. Opening the Royal Rumble with his match was absolutely the right idea, if only to get the crowd excited, and motivated for the events to come. There hasn’t been a performer in the past 10 years not named Steve Austin, The Rock, or Mick Foley who has connected with the fans on a level like this. It’s difficult to even put to words what emotion he evokes from the fans. Bryan is already the Superstar of 2014, and no one is even in the same stratosphere.
Roman Reigns: Roman Reigns was an absolute beast in the Royal Rumble last night. Eliminating 13 guys, breaking the all-time record, and seemingly not even breaking a sweat, was a real treat to watch. When the Shield debuted, I was a Dean Ambrose guy. Now? I’m a Roman Reigns guy, and I’m not the only one who’s been turned into a believer. 2014 is going to be a big year for Reigns, and it has only just begun.
Brock Lesnar vs. The Big Show: I’ve seen a lot of negative commentary concerning this match over the past 24 hours, but I don’t understand it. This is how Lesnar should have been booked from the moment he walked back into the WWE a year and a half ago. An absolutely unstoppable wrecking machine, with no mercy, and no regard for human suffering. That way, when he finally was defeated, it immediately made whomever beat him (especially if it happened in convincing fashion). It’s too late for that now, but last night’s performance was absolutely devastating to say the very least. The Big Show absorbed more than a dozen vicious chairshots from a man who likely has no concept of his own strength, and Brock’s facial expressions clearly showed he was enjoying dealing them out. This is the type of Lesnar match I could watch over and over again. And let’s face it….the feat of strength of hitting that HUGELY impressive F5 on Big Show will be talked about for a long time to come. This match kept the Royal Rumble on the right track.
Royal Rumble MISSES
Overall show: And then it all fell apart. The rest of this show was a complete dud. This is another “premiere” WWE pay-per-view, where top dollar was paid to watch, and a huge number of fans left with a poor taste in their mouth, feeling like they had been ripped off. This has been a pattern, largely, for the past six months. How many more pay-per-views will go by before fans either stop buying, or worse, tune out altogether. WWE’s pay-per-view audience, while a fraction of their live television audience weekly, is one of its most important. It has driven a steady stream of hundreds of million of dollars into their pockets for the past 25 plus years. Those customers are most valuable because they open up their pocket, monthly, for the privilege of watching a premiere event, at a time where there is as much wrestling on TV as ever before, completely free. Illegal streaming, and torrent sites are as easy to access as ever, as well. So to continuously disappoint, and turn off this loyal and dedicated fan base is insanity at its absolute most blatant. And the real shame comes from the fact that once the WWE Network is live, and “pay-per-views only cost $10”, they will be treated more like an episodic piece of television than ever before. No event will be any more special than the last, and gone are the days of feuds peaking because you’re paying to see the result. Lazy writing, and terrible business.
Batista wins the Royal Rumble: (and I’ll tie in the misuse of Daniel Bryan): Dave Batista has returned to the WWE. I’m a Dave Batista guy. I always have been, and likely always will be. But he had absolutely no business winning last night’s Royal Rumble. So, as of last night we’re headed in the Road to WrestleMania, detouring directly through 2005. One step forward, and nine years of steps backwards. It’s mind-boggling. Worse, the crowd was very clear in their desire to see Daniel Bryan in the match, and/or win the match. How Bryan, the 2013 superstar of the year, and the wrestler who clearly has the greatest connection with the crowd, wasn’t given an opportunity in this match is the most stubborn and ridiculous thing I’ve seen WWE do in a long, long time. We all get it. WWE doesn’t believe Bryan’s popularity is sustainable. They don’t believe he has the marketability of a Randy Orton, a John Cena, a Brock Lesnar, or a Dave Batista. But they’re wrong, and they truly have no idea how wrong they are. While they might have a dump truck full of money in Bryan, they’re preparing to light it on fire in spectacular fashion. Those same loyal fans that are passionately attempting to have their voice heard in support of Bryan are the same people who are purchasing the pay-per-views month in and month out. Given the landscape of WWE, and the lousy PPV finish track-record WWE has developed in the past half year, those fans are going to tune out sooner rather than later, and likely permanently.
The Crowd’s Attempt at Highjacking Cena/Orton: Okay, I get it. It was cute when the post-WrestleMania 29 crowd highjacked the show, and I’m guilty of enjoying a few of the past “crowd-takeovers” that have followed that. But the crowd was just flat-out disrespectful during this match. Cena and Orton worked an above average match (not enough to garner a hit, but certainly not bad enough to garner a miss), and the crowd completely shit all over them. This is the wrong way to get WWE to listen to your voice. Hating John Cena isn’t a new fad. And, let’s face it. Cena delivers in big-match situations with a hard-working, generally enjoyable performance. We can disagree with how he’s being used, and his Superman tendencies, but those are booking faults, not faults of the man. And Randy Orton is doing some of the finest work of his career, again. So, instead of having their voices heard with cheers, or boos, or chants for another wrestler, the crowd attempted to hijack the match with chants of “You Both Suck” (they don’t), “Boring” (it wasn’t), and “This is Awful” (it wasn’t). Quit with the cutesy crap. It doesn’t help anybody.