Why am I already tempering expectations? Because we aren’t getting the Rumble as usual. It’s become an annual tradition-a rite of passage, if you will. Someone gets hand-picked by the suits in Stamford, and he wins the Royal Rumble and closes the show pointing to the WrestleMania 32 banner hanging in the Arena rafters, getting the hype train kicked into high gear on the Road to WrestleMania.
We won’t have that this year. Instead, we get something that has effectively never been done in this fashion before, ever,within WWE. Yes, the WWF Championship was up for grabs when Ric Flair won, but no one was defending the title in that one-it was vacated. So for the first time, we get someone entering the Rumble as the champion, and the odds are heavily stacked against his retention of that belt. So, while it could be cool, call me disappointed that we lose out on what effectively becomes the first WrestleMania moment of 2016.
This booking gets called into question even more, because of who is champion, and the last 12 or so months he’s had. If this were almost any other Superstar, it might not feel so forced. But it’s Reigns, so it does. If this were Seth Rollins, it would be an angle to further elevate him. If it were Brock Lesnar, they’d bill it as it takes that many men to challenge a Beast. With Reigns? I don’t feel like fans are gravitating toward this specific angle, and who can blame them.
But is this booking brilliant? It could be. It hasn’t ever been done before, so logic would tell you there’s one of just a few ways this one goes. It either goes well, goes terrible, or fails to inspire either way. Clearly, WWE wants this to go well-but even if it flops, if it’s so bad, it could be turned into a positive of sorts-IE, if Reigns gets booed, then guess what? It’s time to turn him. Simple enough. If the match remains in neutral for the duration, then that is not a good sign for Reigns-assuming WWE pays attention.
The more I ponder the match, the less I expect from it and the more bummed I am. While the title is obviously the bigger prize versus number one contender, I look forward to seeing who the next annointed one might be, and I enjoy the months of buildup betweem Rumble and ‘Mania. I think hyping the Rumble, specifically Lesnar and Reigns, has overshadowed the rest of the Rumble match, and the card entirely. WWE needs to shock the world to make the Rumble really matter, and at the moment, that seems unlikely. Unless they trot out a huge star as a surprise entrant, one who sneaks in and wins the whole¬† thing, then I am concerned that this Rumble will be even worse than the 2015 edition. And while often fans are satisfied in part due to who is brought in as a surprise, we can’t bank on that. Like, we expect every year to see a surprise entrant or three, some alumni or NXT call up. But that alone wouldn’t be enough to erase the booking of the event thus far.
At the end of the day, when all is said and done, we may look back and remark that this card, this Rumble, was booked brilliantly. But at the moment, I fear it will be a second consecutive stinker of a Rumble match.