It's that time of year again! The WWE puts on their annual Royal Rumble Pay Per View and I'm excited as a wrestling fan. It is my FAVORITE event of the year and the Rumble Matches are all that I want to see.
With the WWE lately, they seem to mail it in after SummerSlam with the occasional focus on Survivor Series if there is a good match or if Brock Lesnar is available. Otherwise, the WWE knows that its "bread and butter" is from January until April for Rumble to Wrestlemania season with some good business seen at SummerSlam a few months later. And with that weak 4th Quarter of wrestling, you could be "down in the dumps" about the WWE yet there is hope when January gets near.
In my opinion, the Royal Rumble match itself is the closest thing in the WWE that resembles an actual sport. Think about the rules of a regular singles match. Wrestlers could win legitimately by pinfall or submission. However, the opponent could always just leave the ring or get disqualified to lose but NOT lose their title. Lately in modern wrestling, the Referees do such a poor job of enforcing any rules and it just makes the matches look stupid overall. Anytime wrestlers use weapons outside the ring, in plain sight of the referee, and not get disqualified, my blood starts to boil.
However with the Rumble match, there is one simple rule... Over the top rope and you're out! Period, end of story.
A while back, a YouTube video game reviewer by the name of Matthewmatosis made a video review of the game Tetris and he made a great point about why Tetris was so great. Simply put, if Aliens were to invade earth, Tetris would be one of the few video games that they could pick up and play. After a while, they'd figure out how to move around shapes to create a full line that cancels out.
With the Rumble match, anybody can sit down and enjoy it. Simple concept... 30 men (or women) enter the ring and the last one remain who was NOT thrown over the top rope wins. Entrances are staggered with a countdown to add another wrestler every 2 minutes. Thus, you are guaranteed at least 1 hour of solid action with well understood rules. Anyone could sit down and watch it from invading Aliens to casual wrestling fans to sports fans to non-wrestling fans and pick up on what is happening rather quickly. The slow drip countdown builds anticipation and drama and viewers can find a wrestler to back during the match.
The match was a brilliant concept developed by the late Pat Patterson who just passed away at the tender age of 79 on December 2nd, 2020. It started off as a USA Network special but the match concept was so popular that it became the 4th Pay Per View annual special created by the WWE (Wrestlemania from 1985, Survivor Series from 1987, and SummerSlam from 1988). The "Big 4" was finally formed and to this day, those 4 shows remain in tact (though Survivor Series isn't what it used to be). Pat Patterson was a brilliant guy who could form match stipulations and was amazing at creating finishes.
Just having bragging rights to win this special match was fun... But then the stakes were elevated during 1992 when the vacant WWE Title was on the line. Then, during 1993, the WWE officially began having the Rumble match winner become the #1 contender for the WWE Title for Wrestlemania. Oh my, talk about placing a real "sense of urgency" on top of an amazing match. Now, the stakes to win this awesome match were higher than ever with the top spot of Wrestlemania on the line.
With that change, the Rumble match became the launching point for many wrestlers' big pushes in the WWE.
Yokozuna was the big heel that the WWE wanted to push during 1993, so he won the Rumble and then won the WWE Title off of Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 9. Of course, he lost to Hogan immediately thereafter, but would then defeat Hogan later in the year. We'll ignore the goofy double finish of 1994 but 1995 and 1996 were important to elevating Shawn Michaels. He won 1995 but failed to win the WWE Title against Diesel at Wrestlemania 11. However, he wins the next Rumble in 1996 and defeats Bret Hart in the Iron Man Match. Same formula happened for "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. He won the 1997 and 1998 Rumbles and was made into a big star by Wrestlemania 14 during 1998. Austin stole the win during 1997 and that helped pour gasoline onto top of his rivalry against Bret Hart that led to their Wrestlemania 13 match-up. Austin's performance in that match made him into a major star and then just 1 year later, Rumble and then Wrestlemania made him into a champion.
We'll ignore 1999 with Vince McMahon but that event created the "No Chance in Hell" theme song... The Rock, already a top star, just used the 2000 Rumble win to get a Wrestlemania title shot. Bad ending, as they tried to replicate the stupid 1994 double finish with the Big Show. 2001 saw Steve Austin win the Rumble to set up another blockbuster match against the Rock at Wrestlemania 17. I still say that Austin's "shine" was hurt at the No Way Out 2001 Pay Per View when he lost to Triple H cleanly... And then Austin turned heel at Wrestlemania 17 in a completely idiotic move. 2002 had the returning Triple H come back from his torn quad muscle and win the Rumble match. Sadly, his feud over Lucy the Dog with Stephanie McMahon and Chris Jericho was terrible and then Hulkamania swept the WWE that year. Brock Lesnar used the 2003 Rumble match to earn a WWE Title shot against Kurt Angle, which made sense.
And then there is 2004... Do y'all remember Chris Benoit? See, had he not murdered his family, the Royal Rumble victory from 2004 would be one of the most celebrated. Chris Benoit was one of the toughest and most badass competitors for about 8 years at this point and many wrestling fans wanted to see the big push. During 2003, he lost a close singles match against Kurt Angle for the WWE title that many labeled as 2003's "Match of the Year". He was THAT close to becoming champion then and many thought that was it... The 2004 Rumble, however, created that final opportunity to strike gold. However, one thing I did not like was how they shoehorned Shawn Michaels into the Wrestlemania 20 main event. Yes, it was an AMAZING Triple Threat match but the way it happened felt odd. But, Benoit made Triple H tap out to legitimately win the World Heavyweight Championship. This moment was tarnished by the horrific events of June 2007 and that's a shame because the storyline arc from Rumble 2003 to Rumble 2004 and then to Wrestlemania 20 was special for Benoit.
2005 is how you elevate talent using the Rumble, people! Batista was red hot as an up and coming star and was starting to branch out on his own as a singles wrestler during 2004 following being a tag wrestler with Ric Flair for a while. Orton left the group after SummerSlam 2004 and when when Batista won the Rumble match, it created friction between himself and the World Heavyweight Champion Triple H. In a great moment for the wrestling business, Triple H put over Batista cleanly to make him into a star. THAT is how you use the YEAR before the Rumble and then the Rumble match itself and then Wrestlemania to make a star. Respect thy process!!!
AND then we go downhill with Rey Mysterio winning it. Look, I love me some Rey Mysterio and always have... But him competing with Heavyweights for the biggest title on the planet? Come on, man... He won the title and was probably a reward for being a legitimate draw on the midcard but he fizzled out as a top guy at his 5'6" height and less than 200 pound weight even when jacked up. WWE then went on to have multiple common names win the Rumble to earn Wrestlemania title shots with Undertaker during 2007, John Cena's surprise return at 2008's match, Randy Orton during 2009, and Edge during 2010. There is nothing wrong with traditional names winning the match.
But the last 10 years, however... Eh...
I liked Alberto Del Rio winning it during 2011 especially after he lost at Wrestlemania. The WWE could have kept working on him throughout the rest of 2011 and then maybe give him another shot at the World Title during 2012. But nooooo, the WWE moved him to the RAW brand and shoved him down our throats to make him champion by SummerSlam 2011 when he drove the final nails into the "Summer of Punk" win his cheap Money in the Bank cash-in. But winning the 2011 Rumble match created promise and losing at Wrestlemania actually protected him from not being overhyped. But then they overhyped him at SummerSlam 2011 just to have him champion for the Mexico WWE tour. By Survivor Series 2011, he was no longer champion and never the same as a wrestler.
Why did Sheamus win it during 2012? Did the WWE not see the numbers when he was World Champion during years before this event? Reportedly, Triple H pushed HARD for this guy to win it and what happened? He smashes champion Daniel Bryan in 18 seconds and makes Bryan a big star instead. Ooops!
No problems with Cena winning the 2013 Rumble, as that set up Rock vs. Cena II. Looking back, they should have added the deserving CM Punk to that match. Big mistake, as just 1 year later, CM Punk would walk out of the company following the 2014 Rumble. Why? Because that 2014 Royal Rumble was a DISASTER. The idiot WWE had it in their heads that Randy Orton vs. Batista would draw for Wrestlemania 30. WRONG. As noted by the Sheamus squash from Wrestlemania 28, Daniel Bryan created a huge fan following and they were going to reject anything that the WWE wanted to try during 2014 instead. Batista was out of action since 2010 and he returns to have his first match as the Rumble match. The fans were booing hard and even supported a midcarder named Roman Reigns to possibly win the Rumble match instead. Batista won the match, however, and the fans went nuclear and forced the WWE to change its booking for the Wrestlemania 30 event. Talk about failing to take the temperature of the room!
And then there is the 2015 Royal Rumble. Actually, the 2014 Rumble was a second stage in the Roman Reigns mega push that was about to happen. Weeks before the Rumble, Roman Reigns was the only Shield member to defeat CM Punk cleanly in a singles match. Then, he was runner-up during the 2014 Rumble. For the Shield vs. Evolution matches, Roman scored the pins in BOTH matches and then earns back-to-back World Title shots in 2 consecutive Pay Per Views. He defeats Randy Orton cleanly at SummerSlam 2014 but then is out 3-4 months for a sports hernia I believe. At the end of 2014, the WWE had the nerve to rig the fan votes for the "Wrestler of the Year" Slammy to Roman Reigns DESPITE him wrestling as a Tag Wrestler for almost HALF of 2014 and being mostly injured for the latter half of 2014. By 2015 and with the returning Daniel Bryan, fans were rabid. They felt that Roman Reigns was being shoved down their throat and they crapped all over Roman winning the Rumble. The WWE even had the Rock come out to celebrate the win. WWE fans rejected Roman anywhere they went and may have caused the Wrestlemania 31 plans to change with Seth Rollins cashing in the Money in the Bank briefcase to steal the World Title from Brock Lesnar during his match with Roman.
I liked the 2016 Royal Rumble with Roman's WWE Title up for grabs. After a few years of lackluster rumbles, it was just different. It told a good story with Triple H winning the title to set up Roman going after him at Wrestlemania. One of the finer Rumble matches, in my opinion.
2017 returned to the disastrous booking with Randy Orton winning the Rumble match and then challenging Bray Wyatt for the Smackdown WWE Title. *face palm* Sorry, but Orton has NOT been the same since losing to Triple H at Wrestlemania 25. Each push towards a World Title has been nothing but dull.
Speaking of dull, Shinsuke Nakamura won the 2018 Rumble Match. The Rumble, itself, was one athletically best ones to ever happen. Why? I believe that the guys were upset that their match wasn't Main Eventing and wanted to show the debuting Women's Royal Rumble how it is done. Nakamura won the Rumble and went on to have a series of matches with AJ Styles that were surprisingly awful. For anyone suggesting that Nakamura should be pushed to defeat Roman Reigns and have a long title run during 2021, could you review 2018 please? The 2018 Royal Rumble Pay Per View featured the first ever Women's Rumble. It was fun, primarily due to older names like Trish, Lita, Jackie, Molly, Torrie, McCool, and others returning. BUT, with the female performers being shorter and biology not making them as strong or built the same athletically, some of those eliminations were rough to watch. Without the nostalgia, 2019 and 2020 Female Royal Rumbles weren't as fun and it became the equivalent of watching NBA versus WNBA with the same playing field dimensions. Both Nakamura and the Women's winner, Asuka, were just called up to the main WWE roster from NXT and were not ready for this big Wrestlemania push.
The future married couple and proud parents won the 2019 Rumble Matches. Both of them were able to defeat former top UFC Stars in their matches. Does anybody remember those matches? Now, Becky deserved to win the 2019 Rumble match because she was the most over thanks to the events of late 2018 where the WWE tried to shove a Charlotte babyface turn on his and then the infamous potato landed by Nia Jax on Becky. Becky's popularity boomed and it made her a logical choice for the Rumble winner. Seth Rollins, on the other hand, was able to defeat Brock Lesnar not once but twice during 2019... Did anyone care? No, because we all know that Brock Lesnar could physically harm Rollins in a real fight. Thus, the matches meant nothing for him and the rest of 2019 plus all of 2020 were bad timeframes for Seth Rollins.
2020 saw Drew McIntyre win the Men's Rumble and then he went on to defeat Brock Lesnar. Hard to say how things could have gone for Drew if fans were in the stands at Wrestlemania 36 thanks to COVID-19. When Drew eliminated Brock from the Rumble, the fans went bonkers and then when he won the Rumble, they cheered loudly. He seemed to be on the brink of stardom and then COVID-19 happened to ban fans from the stands. What a shame... Charlotte won the Women's Rumble and decided to chase after the NXT Title instead of anything on the main WWE roster. Huh?
So, as you can see from this brief history, the Rumble to Wrestlemania push does NOT instantly make stars. It is everything BEFORE that big Rumble to Wrestlemania push that matters. Both Austin in 1997 and Shawn Michaels during 1995 both won their Rumbles but didn't become WWE Champion until more than a year later. They had to win the next Royal Rumble match to get that legitimate title push. Batista paid his dues as a singles wrestler and was ready to explode by 2005. It was time for Chris Benoit to be champion during 2004. 2019 positioned Becky Lynch into being a real threat against Charlotte Flair and Ronda Rousey for Wrestlemania 35. It should have kept building up Alberto Del Rio from the 2011 Rumble and kept him climbing through 2012. But no, he had to win the WWE Title at SummerSlam 2011 and that was a disaster.
On top of that, the WWE creates an annual Elimination Chamber event that also has a #1 World Title contendership at stake thanks to the brand split. So, if you won't win the Rumble for your brand, you could always just win the Chamber match instead. Huh? Talk about watering the process down.
The Brand Split hasn't been kind to the Rumble match... Winning the Rumble allows wrestlers to CHOOSE which brand's title to go after. Effectively, this challenged the integrity of the brand split itself. After all, Chris Benoit was a Smackdown wrestlers who went after the RAW World Title during 2004. And he stayed with the RAW brand even after his lost his World Title to Randy Orton at SummerSlam 2004. How on earth does Charlotte Flair challenge Rhea Ripley for her NXT Title? That would be like the World Series winning Los Angeles Dodgers challenging a Double A team in the minor leagues. Quite idiotic.
And then you have the Saudi Arabian "Greatest Royal Rumble"... Whatever on that one.
DESPITE all of these nitpicks about the Rumble, who gets pushed, and how the Brand Split messes with it... It's STILL a great match no matter what. The match that Pat Patterson engineered is still a fantastic watch. The Rumble was in Pittsburgh, PA during 2014 and I'm still kicking myself for not attending. That was my only local chance to see the show and I blew it. I also didn't attend King of the Ring 1998 as well which was also in Pittsburgh. Ooops.
Lately with the Royal Rumble match, it's a reflection of how bad the Talent Development system has become along with WWE Creative. WWE thinks that anyone winning the Royal Rumble OR the Money in the Bank briefcase is made into an instant star. NO, it's what happens in the YEAR before the Rumble match that matters. Wrestlers need to perform great as a singles midcarder and also become a proven draw before receiving that mega push to the top. Right now, many are arguing that Big E should win the 2021 Royal Rumble but as I keep reminding everyone, just 5 months ago, he was shaking his booty as a tag wrestler with the New Day. HE NEEDS MORE WORK as a singles wrestler before that push. Did everybody forget the 2015 winner with Royal Reigns and what a disaster that was? Sure, Roman is doing great now as a HEEL, but 2014 through early 2020 had some bad wrestling moments.
WWE needs to not look at this as charity but as the bonus for a previous year of successfully drawing.
Sad thing is that WWE's talent developmental system isn't creating top level stars like OVW or FCW did... NXT has given Vince McMahon a bunch of duds who aren't drawing. Thus, the future Rumble winners will either be to foolishly subsidize an unworthy wrestler or be used to push an older name back into the spotlight. WWE's system needs a major overhaul and better experienced hands running the day-to-day operations.
BUT REGARDLESS of the recent problems, the Rumble match is still fun.
You know, the Royal Rumble is the 1 event where I believe it would draw major numbers on FOX's main broadcast channel. Put this on national television in between the NFL Conference Championships and the Super Bowl, and you've got a major hit on your hands. They could run sponsors while the action is happening while pumping in commercials between Rumbles or between matches. When FOX gives the WWE a chance to air a Pay Per View like show LIVE on their channel one Sunday Night (besides football season), it could be huge if done under the right circumstances.
Anyway, here are my 2021 WWE Royal Rumble predictions:
Mr. Tito's PHAT WWE Royal Rumble 2021 Predictions
Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns(c) for the WWE Universal Title I'm sorry, but I started telling myself that the match with Adam Pearce could have been good. We've seen Owens vs. Reigns a thousand times. Why not try something new? We all know that Roman will be Champion at Wrestlemania 37. Why not just create a fun match that people might remember for a while? Owens will likely fall through the table or take a big dive off a high platform during this match. Predictable! Roman wins this match easily.
WHO SHOULD WIN/WHO WILL WIN: Roman Reigns
Bill Goldberg vs. Drew McIntyre(c) for the WWE Title I'm not that clear on this match... WWE likes the short-term drawing power of Bill Goldberg. Having Bill in this match suggests that he's probably OUT for Wrestlemania and may appear later for another show. That or the RAW brand wins the Rumble and Goldberg somehow challenges Roman on Smackdown. I don't know... Things aren't going well for RAW and they did receive a slight 200,000 bump lately with Goldberg on the shows. To me, this is a toss-up but I'll lean slightly towards Drew. Could be a rough match unless Drew oversells everything.
WHO SHOULD WIN/WHO WILL WIN: Drew McIntyre. Miz won't cash in the MITB
Women's Royal Rumble Match This could go many ways. For me, I see Wrestlemania 37 as a year in waiting for bigger male stars like the Rock, Brock Lesnar, CM Punk, or others to return. Thus, it is very possible that a BIG Women's Match is allowed to headline one night of the Wrestlemania shows in Tampa this year. I could seriously see Trish Stratus appearing in the Women's Rumble to win the Rumble and then challenge Sasha Banks for a "dream match" at Wrestlemania 37. I believe that is a very strong possibility... But I also see a returning Becky Lynch to reclaim the Women's Title that she forfeited at Money in the Bank which Asuka won. Asuka holding on to the Women's Title since August tells me something is planned to happen. However, there are two wild cards... For one, many fans believe that Alexa Bliss will start wrestling full-time again thanks to the Fiend/Bray Wyatt feud. I just don't believe that, given her many issues with concussions. She is too valuable of an asset in a non-wrestling capacity. Also, many are suggesting that Bianca Belair might win it. After all, the WWE Network is going to air a documentary about her in the near future to start the hype train.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Returning Trish Stratus to challenge the Boss or Becky Lynch making a huge return to challenge Asuka
WHO WILL WIN: Bianca Belair to challenge Sasha. I think that will be good, though I wish that Bianca would gain more experience first before this big push.
Men's Royal Rumble Match So here is the dilemma... WWE has a bunch of big name stars who may make a big comeback during the 2021 Royal Rumble:
(b) The Rock
(c) John Cena
(d) Brock Lesnar
(e) CM Punk
BUT, the WWE is only partially live for the 2 night Wrestlemania 37 shows. WWE will want a full slate of fans to cash in on those comebacks. Reportedly, John Cena is available for Wrestlemania 37 and that could make for an interesting Roman Reigns vs. John Cena match-up with different roles. But is there heat for Cena vs. Roman during 2021? I just don't know.
The more logical choices for Roman Reigns opponents are the Rock (long distant cousin), Brock Lesnar (Paul Heyman client), or CM Punk (been missing from WWE since Rumble 2014). Any one of those guys, especially with Roman Reigns as a heel, could do serious business... But in front of a live crowd. That said, each of those guys will be 1 or 2 years later if saved for Wrestlemanias 38 and 39. Sometimes, it's "now or never" and COVID-19 has put the clamps on the Rock's acting schedule.
I think that if Edge were to return and win the 2021 Rumble, he'd challenging for RAW's title. Edge vs. Drew would be a pretty solid match-up, if I must say. I could also see a rematch between Brock Lesnar and Drew McIntyre happening.
I just don't see any current roster guys winning this... Many are pointing to Big E winning but in my opinion, it's too premature. He was just a goofy tag wrestler with the New Day about 5 months ago. Let him have 2021 to prove himself as a singles wrestler and let 2022 become the year he becomes a major Main Event star. He'll join Del Rio, Miz, Sheamus, Swagger, Mahal, and others who were pushed too fast to the World Title without any singles midcard build-up.
WHO SHOULD WIN/WHO WILL WIN: Brock Lesnar. In other words, think Wrestlemania 5 but instead of hot Miss Elizabeth in a neutral corner, it's Paul Heyman
So just chill... Until the next episode!
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