By Barney Gumble
Pro wrestling fans can be some of the hardest to please. On one hand we crave change, while on the other we desire to experience the same people and things we have seen before. It seems we as fans are never content with the present. We are constantly focused on the good times of the past or attempting to project our own opinion of the future onto any ear that will listen. Last night at the Royal Rumble, the WWE made a decision on their future and frankly the fans didn’t seem to enjoy it.
The match had an interesting start with The Miz lining up against one of his former tag team partners in R-Truth. However, things got quite exciting next when Bubba Ray Dudley entered and after a flurry of nostalgic moves eliminated both men. Over the next three entrants we saw the former members of the Wyatt family reunite and collide – this is where the Rumble’s base was truly established in Bray Wyatt. Wyatt dominated the Rumble’s early moments having entered in at #5. He eliminated The Boogeyman, Sin Cara and Zack Ryder, among others, before being faced by an old foe and fan favourite in Daniel Bryan – who entered at the #10 spot.
This is where the fans, be it in Philadelphia, on Twitter or watching at home really got excited about this year’s Royal Rumble. Bryan had been victorious at last year’s Wrestlemania but had spent much of the past year sidelined with a neck injury. Surely this was to be his redemption, right? Wrong. After receiving the biggest cheers of the night and a strong showing, Bryan was eliminated by Wyatt, much to the crowd’s disdain who very, very audibly jeered what they had just witnessed.
The boos were the only noteworthy element of the match in the moments that followed Bryan’s elimination. Rusev entered at #15 and made his entrance known, racking up eliminations in a similar fashion to Wyatt who was still heavily involved in the match at this point. Fans of yesteryear were then momentarily treated when DDP made a surprise return. Kofi Kinston made his way into the rumble at #17 but had quite an underwhelming elimination spot this year which saw him fall onto and be carried back into the ring by Adam Rose’s Rosebuds. Then at #19, Roman Reigns entered the Royal Rumble.
Reigns got heavily involved right away. He eliminated Goldust and Stardust and then, with help from his former Shield brother Dean Ambrose, he eliminated Titus O’Neil who managed to last a whole four seconds in the Rumble. The boos remained throughout the match, however, and certainly didn’t let up upon Kane and the Big Show entering the Rumble. The duo dominated and eliminated the likes of Ryback, Jack Swagger and even Bray Wyatt – who had lasted through most of the match. It wasn’t until Dolph Ziggler came in at #30 that the fans seemed to come to life again. Their cheers, however, were soon quashed by Kane and the Big Show slumping Ziggler’s body over the top ropes moments later.
The match concluded with a false final four finish. Rusev remained outside the ring while Reigns and Ambrose squared off against Kane and the Big Show. The predictable finish saw Ambrose being eliminated before Kane and the Big Show turned on one another. This allowed Reigns the opportunity to capitalise and eliminate both men. Kane and the Big Show vented their anger on Reigns before The Rock made a dramatic return to aid his cousin. Reigns and The Rock made short work of Kane and The Big Show before Rusev sneaked back in and tried to eliminate Reigns. It wasn’t Rusev’s night as it turns out; Reigns quickly overcame Rusev’s onslaught and fought back to eliminate him and become this year’s Royal Rumble winner.
Reigns celebrated to an array of boos and jeers from a crowd that wished to see something or someone else. WWE’s attempts to turn him into a star hasn’t worked organically and even by aligning him with his own flesh and blood in The Rock, the fans still reject the future being presented to them. This is the direction the WWE has chosen to travel, however, and whether the fans like it or not Reigns’ name is now etched in stone alongside other Royal Rumble winners, including; Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels and John Cena.
Should Reigns ever win over the fans then he will look back on the immediate aftermath of the 2015 Royal Rumble as his nadir. Frankly though, right now, that seems like a fairy tale outcome to this promising superstar’s journey to be WWE’s latest hero.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia