The Hits & Misses Of The Royal Rumble

(Photo Credit: WWE)

Just a day after Vince McMahon re-signed for the TKO group, effectively ending the McMahon era of the WWE, a time span that dates back to the 1950s with the founding of Capital Wrestling when Vince Sr. was the boss, a new chapter of the organization was marked with the Royal Rumble pay-per-view, the official start to Wrestlemania season. Make no mistake about it, even with Vince McMahon’s resignation, a move that prompted Slim Jim to bring back their sponsorship after they initially canceled it for the event after the lawsuit was reported, the organization must still distance itself as much as possible from the former boss.

McMahon’s disgraceful exit must be clearly defined as the final move to clean up the structure of the company with the standards of a legitimate corporation. Despite some silly speculation on social media that Triple H’s job could theoretically be in jeopardy if he had any knowledge of McMahon’s action, it’s very doubtful that Paul Levesque could’ve been aware of Vince’s personal scandal because the majority of the time that the accusations were alleged to have taken place, Levesque had been away from the company because of a heart attack.

So, assuming that Triple H will remain as the head of WWE going forward, I’d say that the company is in much better hands than it would’ve been under McMahon, especially because his presence at the WWE office would be a danger to the female employees. As I wrote in the article earlier this week where I discussed why Vince should be exiled from the corporation prior to his resignation, you’ve never heard any misconduct stories about Levesque and it’s well-known that he didn’t drink or use recreational drugs during his career.

In many ways, Triple H is a great old school wrestling mind without any of the bad habits of the previous generation. So, the history books will probably look back on the Royal Rumble as the official start of the Triple H era of WWE.

It was interesting to find out that the main card only had four matches, but somehow still managed to go four hours. I understand this sounds way too repetitive, but these four-hour shows, especially in this case became a rather tedious viewing experience. I’m guessing the Seth Rollins’ injury scare took that title match off the table, which is understandable, but management could’ve adjusted the runtime to reflect that. Would anyone have thought they didn’t get their money’s worth if the pay-per-view went three and a half hours rather than stretching it another thirty minutes?

I’ve said it many times before, but it remains true, more wrestling doesn’t automatically translate to better wrestling.

The show opened with the women’s rumble match, and all things considered, it was very well done. The booking and psychology was there to spotlight specific performers and make the most out of the segment. As we know, the women’s division is one of the most consistent and quality aspects of WWE programming, and this segment added even more to that. While Jordynne Grace doesn’t really bring a measurable level of star power to the table, it was still neat to see another TNA champion in the match, as it doesn’t do any damage to the dominance of WWE, it gives TNA some shine to help them continue to develop talent that might be on the table for WWE in the future, and makes the moniker of “anything can happen” more than just a marketing strategy. Let’s be honest here, TNA is a niche Canadian product, and there’s nothing wrong with that, as profit and revenue are the true barometer of success. If Anthem found a successful formula for TNA on the Fight Network that allows them to make a profit with the brand they rescued from the brink of collapse in 2016 then good for them. They made some wise business decisions that allowed the TNA brand to continue to be an asset, albeit mostly a non-factor in the wrestling industry. That said, WWE could promote TNA, its time slot, and the channels that it airs on in both the US and Canada, but it would have a minimal impact on their business. By nature, TNA is a niche product for diehard wrestling fans, which isn’t the WWE’s primary demographic so helping TNA with some extra exposure in the Rumble does zero harm to the WWE brand. Speaking of Total Nonstop Action, while the current Knockouts champion made a guest appearence, a former KO champion made a return to the WWE. As many expected, Naomi made a comeback to the company after she left in May 2022 alongside Sasha Banks. Trinity Fatu is a great athlete with an energetic entrance and solid in-ring skills so she’s another great addition to the women’s division that has already done very well in recent years.

Nia Jax was spotlighted in the Rumble when she had several eliminations, and the psychology of this portion of the match was key to the overall success of the segment. The office established Nia as a force in the bout before the in-ring debut of Jade Cargill, and when Jade tossed Jax over the ropes, it gave her a level of credibility because of the way that Nia was presented previously. The face off between Jade and Bianca Belair creates a level of intruging as far as potential match-ups, and it will be very interesting to see what Cargill’s plans are for Wrestlemania in April. The upside of Jade in WWE is very much the same as it was in All Elite Wrestling, she has the athletic ability, the look, and the potential to be a major star. She’s a real-life Marvel character, and the WWE did more to make her look like a major star in one appearence than anything AEW did in three years, which says more about how All Elite missed the boat than anything else.

Bayley won the match to advance to a title shot at Wrestlemania, which makes sense as a baby face turn would allow her to feud with the remaining members of Damage Control. Very similar to Asuka, Bayley has been an MVP for the organization and always does quality work, regardless of the role she was booked for. Management botched her initial baby face run on the main roster, but given how her character has evolved in recent years, I’d guess that the upcoming baby face turn to set up a featured match at WM 40 might be the best run of her career.

The Universal title match was good for what it was and had some good action, but there’s not much to discuss about it, simply because nobody in the building or watching on Peacock believed that there was any chance that Roman Reigns was going to drop the title. Granted, that’s one of the tradeoffs made of an extended and important title run, the audience knows that there will only be a switch on the biggest stage possible. So, it wasn’t for lack of effort or lack of entertainment value, but there just wasn’t an occasion in this contest where it looked like it was even remotely possible that Reigns was going to lose the championship so it was a rather one-dimensional presentation.

The US title match was fine, and Kevin Owens is such a solid worker that he could make Logan Paul look good without the risk of exposing his level of relative inexperience. I’ve said it before, I don’t know if spotlighting Logan Paul truly has a worthwhile return on investment for the organization, but he’s done a good job with what he was asked to do. If nothing else, he gives the company an automatic celebrity card to play when needed, which can be very valuable for the overseas events that the corporation gets paid a hefty sum to import to different countries. The only downside of this match-up was the underwhelming DQ finish, but it’s very possible that it was booked to set up the rematch at Wrestlemania.

The men’s Royal Rumble match was a basic paint by the numbers segment, but that isn’t a negative. In fact, sometimes the simplest answer is the right answer. In this case, the two most popular stars in the company right now are CM Punk and Cody Rhodes, and that’s the interaction that the audience was wanted to see in this contest. Was it predictable? Sure, but the reason it was predictable was that the two grapplers have such a buzz and investment in their paths to Wrestlemania, which is key for drawing power. If Punk got tossed out before Cody entered the match, the same jaded fans that complained that the Rumble was too predictable would gripe that they didn’t get to see the anticipated showdown. As expected, Andrade made his return to the company and it will be interesting to see what he does next under Triple H’s direction. Bron Breakker was given Brock Lesnar’s spot in the Rumble, a decision that was made after Brock was implied to be involved in the Vince McMahon lawsuit so the Rumble cameo might not necessarily mean that Breaker will be added to the main roster, even though he should probably be on Raw or Smackdown already.

Cody tossed Punk over the ropes to win the bout, setting up the rematch with Roman Reigns. How the office decides to get there and promote it on television that next few months will be compelling television, as they will have to keep it fresh to avoid a carbon copy build from last year. If it’s a retread of the build up to WM 39, the rematch might not have the same hype around it that it might receive otherwise. WWE brass will have to build and maintain interest in the contest for the next two months so it gives viewers a reason to tune into WWE programming prior to Wrestlemania in April.

What do you think? Share your thoughts, opinions, feedback, and anything else that was raised on Twitter @PWMania and Facebook.com/PWMania.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, & Threads @jimlamotta89