The Royal Rumble is in the books and the card for Wrestlemania began to take shape with some of the key decisions on the pay-per-view. Still, there are some unanswered questions as the build continues for the biggest event on the sports entertainment calendar.
As I mentioned in an article last week, the Baron Corbin feud was nothing more than a placeholder for Roman Reigns, who I still think will be in the championship picture at Wrestlemania. The Falls Count Anywhere match was clunky and somewhat of a mess, as basic brawling around the venue to emphasize the stipulation became repetitive during the nearly 20-minute bout. While the interference from Bobby Roode and Dolph Ziggler along with the retaliation from the Usos made sense because it was a key to the feud, the multiple table spots and the Uso dive from the scaffold in the crowd seemed a little too over the top since none of it was used for the finish of the match. While there will probably be big plans for Roman, Corbin doesn’t have much heat as a heel and appears to be typecast in a mid-card role. It’s somewhat ironic that the original basis for the King of the Ring stipulation was used to propel a competitor, but in recent years, it more or less regulates the winner to glorified enhancement status.
I was a little surprised that Charlotte won the women’s royal rumble match, but perhaps it shouldn’t have been that surprising, as it seemed management wanted to pay homage to Ric Flair’s Rumble win in 1992. All things considered, you have to win if this year’s victory was a way to cover the initial plans for last year’s Rumble when Becky Lynch spontaneously got over with the audience just before the start of Wrestlemania season to create the scenario that saw her win last year’s Rumble instead of Charlotte. That being said, I think Shayna Bazler would’ve been the better choice to win the match, as it would’ve made her a star to the general audience, as opposed to just the niche audience that watches NXT on USA. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a jab at Charlotte, but rather the opposite. Charlotte is already a star and considering that she’s already won nearly a dozen championships in her WWE tenure, she’s already as over as she’s going to be with the audience so she really didn’t need the Rumble win.
It appears that she will challenge Becky Lynch for the Raw Women’s title since Bayley is also a heel on Smackdown. Becky and the second generation Flair can probably build up a decent angle with promos ahead of Wrestlemania, but the match has been done before, including on Raw and pay-per-views so it’s not a fresh bout. Plus, technically WM isn’t even a fresh stage for it because it’s a partial rematch of the triple threat match last year. Decisions like this are why the star power for the WWE product are rather narrow because if Shayna got the win and elevated to a different level, it provides a fresh opponent for Charlotte, Becky, and others in the division. Aside from that, even as champion, Becky is less over now than she was when she won the title last year, which speaks volumes to the booking mishaps of Raw. It still doesn’t make much sense that Becky and Charlotte were a tag team briefly because it wasn’t used to further any angle.
Speaking of Becky Lynch, her match with Asuka was one of the best matches on the card. How Asuka isn’t used more prominently and booked in a tag team as somewhat of a consolation prize is puzzling. In fact, a feud for the Raw Women’s title between Kabuki Warriors would be very entertaining. Perhaps, the most glaring aspect to all this that again speaks to the lack of overall depth across the board, is that the Kubaki Warriors are probably the tag champions simply because there isn’t another majorly solid team to win the belts.
Bray Wyatt vs. Daniel Bryan was one of The Fiend’s best matches of his current run, which is another example of how great Bryan is as a performer. After the HIAC debacle soured many fans, this feud was needed to get Wyatt back on the right track. The contest did exactly what it was supposed to do, put as much heat as possible on Bray before Wrestlemania season, which is when I would guess Roman Reigns will get involved in the title picture again.
The Bayley/Lacey Evans match was a total train wreck and more proof that Lacey was rushed to the main roster based on her being a good representative for the company, not up to par for global television. Evans disappearing from TV following a lackluster feud with Becky Lynch was a way to give her a fresh start, but she’d be better off starting from scratch at the performance center because fans could reject her if she continues to botch most of her matches.
I still don’t get the point of Brock Lesnar being in the Royal Rumble match if the title wasn’t on the line, but if that was the path management was going to take then they booked this match almost perfectly for that scenario. Lesnar ran through everyone during the first half of the Rumble to set up for the elimination that propelled Drew McIntyre to be a contender. The only downside is, Brock eliminating several people almost immediately makes a major portion of the roster look like enhancement talent, but some of the usual Raw boooking does that anyway. Drew getting the victory was a surprise and it will be interesting to see if the audience buys him as a main event star after the initial novelty of the Rumble win, considering that not that long ago, he was a team with Ziggler, who hasn’t been given a chance to do anything other than make his opponents look good in several years.
If management is truly going to run with McIntyre then they must avoid the pitfalls of others that were pushed toward the main event. Drew can’t be shoehorned into a role that has tacky catchphrase that hindered much of Reigns’ original push or the whiny promos that detailed Seth Rollins baby face run. In theory, the writing team would have to allow Drew to tell his story, which involves his WWE release from a comedy gimmick to his journey through the independent scene that got him back to the main roster. Basically, WWE brass would have to admit that maybe they made a mistake when they saddled McIntyre with the 3MB character and they possibly made a bigger mistake when they released him from the company. Granted, the release is what allowed him to evolve his persona, but the argument could be made that he wouldn’t have needed the fresh start if the writing team didn’t make him a rock star impersonator.
The narrative that the company might’ve given up on Drew, but Drew didn’t give up on himself is something that the audience could identify with and rally around toward the build of Wrestlemania. However, if management is going to invest in him then they should fully run with him and give him time to establish himself as champion. For example, Kofi Kingston won the WWE title last year, is he anywhere near that level today? Kofi, very similar to Drew, has the talent to be a long term champion for the company, but the plan was ultimately to showcase Brock on the Smackdown debut on Fox. If booking Mcintrye as a main event talent in a relatively short amount of time is going to work, the WWE has to be willing to let him run with it, and at the same time, don’t put him in situations that could hinder his status as champion for the company.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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