The Rumble was a perfect example of everything WWE can do right in one night, while still getting so much wrong. I’ll start with the good news. WWE made some new stars tonight. Bray Wyatt was vaulted into superstar heel territory after a match with Bryan that left many fans calling it an early match of the year candidate. He won cleanly, with his goons Harper and Rowan being sent to the locker room early on. He won decisively, ramming Bryan’s head into the barricade with ‘Sister Abigail’ before hitting the finisher again in the ring for good measure, leaving Bryan a heaping mess of humanity as he left the ring. Bryan won’t lose any momentum from this loss, but WWE did make a massive mistake with his booking later in the show, but more on that later.
The other star created tonight was Roman Reigns, who is set up perfectly for a face turn after his showing in the Royal Rumble match. Reigns broke Kane’s record of 11 eliminations, by tossing 12 competitors, including his (soon to be former?) allies Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. The crowd loved every second of Reigns’ domination, marking for every bone rattling spear (Ziggler on the receiving end of a Reigns spear is as good as pro wrestling gets) and every Superman punch.
Speaking of the crowd, they are a perfect illustration of WWE’s up and down night. As I said they loved Reigns, and were very into the Wyatt/Bryan match. Just as much as they loved those matches, they absolutely hated the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match between John Cena and Randy Orton. Who can blame them? Its not the first time a pay per view crowd turned on an Orton championship match, as the Boston crowd at Survivor Series completely buried his attempt at a match with Big Show back in November.
We’ve seen Cena main event way too often. We’ve seen Orton. We’ve seen Cena vs Orton. The crowd tonight in Pittsburgh was able to speak for a lot of fans tonight in trying to send a message to WWE that “WE WANT TO SEE NEW TALENT PUSHED TO THE MAIN EVENT SCENE!”. I don’t think it could be any more clear after tonight that the fans are begging to see new guys in the spotlight. After an elongated, boring, slow-paced finisher/kickout fest, the Wyatts interfered and helped Orton gain the victory.
This lays the foundation for a Wyatt vs Cena feud going into Wrestlemania, which is great. What wasn’t great was sitting through 20+ minutes of the Pittsburgh crowd chanting “Daniel Bryan”, “Boring”, “You Both Suck”, “Y2J” and many other things while trying to entertain themselves during the “biggest rematch in WWE history”.
I should mention, in between the perfectly handled booking of Bray Wyatt & Roman Reigns and the disasters of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and Royal Rumble match result, we got exactly what we expected out of Brock Lesnar and Big Show. Lesnar was an animal, beating Big Show mercilessly with a chair before and after the match. During the match, he hoisted Show onto his shoulders, paraded him around the ring and hit him with one of the cooler F5’s we’ve seen. Lesnar’s momentum is on level 10, and I predict he will take the belt off of Orton at the EC, either in a singles match or more likely in the Elimination Chamber match.
Now, on to the Rumble match itself. A lot of what happened during this match was perfect, in fact I might go as far to say that everything was perfect until the final entrant. While Daniel Bryan had gotten the everloving piss beaten out of him by Wyatt earlier in the night, I still think the overwhelming feeling was that Bryan would somehow find a way to enter into the Rumble match. As the spots were filling, the tension began to build with the crowd. Del Rio came out. Batista came out. “Daniel Bryan” chants continued.
As Big E came out at 29, the anxiety really climaxed as most people realized that Rey Mysterio was still yet to come out. I was running through scenarios in my mind.. Maybe Daniel Bryan talked to Mysterio, who agreed to give him his spot? Something had to happen, no way WWE was just going to trot out broken down old Rey Rey as the fans ached to see the most over superstar to come along in years. You could tell the crowd wasn’t going to be satisfied with anyone but Bryan at 30, as the “Daniel Bryan” chants had reached their peak.
When Mysterio’s music hit, the crowd seemed to be in disbelief. They boo’d in frustration, and eventually cheered when Rey was eliminated. They boo’d Sheamus during his spots. They boo’d Batista during his spots. They chanted more for Bryan. The one person they were 100% behind was Roman Reigns, who got one of the louder pops of the night when he speared Batista during their back and forth as the final 2.
But, WWE wasn’t quite ready for the leap of faith that would have been Roman Reigns fighting for the title at Wrestlemania. Although, I think most fans would have preferred it over Batista. Batista was boo’d relentlessly after eliminating Reigns, and what could he really do in response? He screamed, stomped, snorted and pointed at the Wrestlemania sign, but he was standing there coming to the realization that he was being shoved down a fanbase’s throat that didn’t want to see him being pushed like it was 2005.
Ultimately, these booking errors by WWE are easily masked and more good should come out of tonight than harm. Clearly Bray Wyatt is now a superstar, top heel in the midst of an ascension toward great things. He will likely feud with Cena and have a high profile match at Mania. Reigns is going to go solo as a face soon, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he is ready to win the Rumble by 2015.
Even on the negative side, we can assume Cena/Orton is done, considering Cena’s likely involvement with Bray Wyatt moving forward. The crowd’s flat out denial of Orton as champion will hopefully open WWE’s eyes to the fact that he simply cannot carry the belt into Mania, although perhaps they already knew that. Lesnar vs Batista is a solid enough main event for both casual fans and ‘smarks’, as Lesnar matches tend to please everyone and, at times, draw pretty well. And frankly, I would hate to see how badly the Wrestlemania crowd would bury a Batista vs Orton main event.
The real wild card is what happens with Bryan as we move towards Mania? Will the rumor of a match with Sheamus come to fruition? That seems lackluster. The crowd clearly will accept nothing less than a high profile match for Bryan at Mania, but if not Sheamus, than what? A chance at the streak could be in the works, if we do in fact see Batista vs Lesnar for the title, but that seems a little ambitious considering WWE’s treatment of Bryan. Perhaps he could face Triple H, bringing the authority storyline full circle, but most seem to think Punk will be squaring off with Trips at Wrestlemania 30. Could we get one last Bryan vs Orton match, sans the title, with Bryan finally going over Randy cleanly? It might just be a result of those are the last two big names left after the rest of the pairings are made.
Whatever happens, WWE needs to learn from what happened at the Rumble and take steps to fix these issues as they move toward Wrestlemania 30. Creative has a lot of toys to play with, now they need to make sure and put the right pieces into place to accommodate the evolving needs of the fans. The people want Bryan, Reigns, Wyatt, Ziggler and Antonio Cesaro. If they wanted to see Cena, Orton and Batista running wild they’d put on some tape of 2005.