The Royal Rumble is a hugely prestigious WWE event. It’s an opportunity for some of the company’s emerging talent to make a name for themselves and to help break into the main event. It also sets in motion the build-up to the company’s biggest event of the year, Wrestlemania. 2017’s Royal Rumble had a huge air of potential about it, with so many potential winners and such a stacked roster - how could the company fail to deliver one of the greatest Rumble matches of all time? Turns out we were wrong to be so optimistic.
The 2017 Royal Rumble was a mess. A meandering hour long drag that did all it could to suck the life out of the audience and kill all excitement that had been building. It was a match punctuated with awkward decisions, bafflingly poor story and some of the weakest in-ring action I’ve seen in a Rumble match. Make no mistake – this was not the Royal Rumble match people were expecting.
For all the hype and all the build that the Royal Rumble match received this year, the fact of the matter is the match itself was a huge disappointment to fans. From lacking in surprises and mystery, which have come to characterize the Royal Rumble match over the years, to a notable lack of the exciting spots - it’s easy to understand why the reaction to the Rumble has been such a mess. Because let’s be clear - the match itself was hugely was boring, overstuffed and largely lacking in the kind of fun that the Royal Rumble typically engages in.
Of course there were some moments of genuine fun, Gallagher’s umbrella spot as well as the annual Kofi Kingston escape angle provided a good amount of fun. Yet outside of these the really wasn’t all that much for fans to get excited about. Part of the reason I believe this occured was thanks to WWE’s decision to hold back Lesnar, Goldberg and the Undertaker from the early match. It was a decision that robbed the early match of much needed star power and left the match without a story. Lesnar came out and toyed with his opponents, but this was after a good 20 minute run where next to nobody got eliminated - the ring awkwardly filling with more and more Superstars.
By the time Lesnar’s music hit, there were around 9-10 Superstars in the ring and none of them were doing much to stand out. They were kind of just filling the ring and fans don’t want to see that. A much better example of this was when Braun came out and cleared the deck, with Jericho running outside the ring to avoid this. It was a great moment for him, but his elimination sparked something a prolonged lull in the match - one that didn’t go away for the longest time.
Perhaps though it was the decision to have Roman Reigns appear in the number 30 spot of the match, the closoing number, that ultimately sealed the fate for all involved.. This decision was insanely baffling and left many fans questioning the creative logic that WWE were using to justify his appearance. How could a man who had been so heavily beaten down earlier in the night come out and dominate in such a vigorous manner. Let’s be clear here, Reigns didn’t just appear in the Royal Rumble match; he dominated. He didn’t look slightly phased by his match earlier in the evening, nor did he seem particularly bothered that he’d taken a brass knuckle to the face. It was poor storytelling and yet another reason to dislike Roman Reigns.
I saw a number of prominent Roman Reigns fans attempting to defend this booking, like fans should accept it out of hand because WWE obviously knows what their doing. The reality is though that this jarring booking was systematic of the bigger reason as to why fans dislike Roman Reigns so much - he’s booked win when he should lose. There’s no reason to invest in a guy who shows up and is so relentless in his quest to dominate. His presence ultimately hurt the match more than it helped it.
Ultimately this years Royal Rumble had many great competitors, some of the best in the industry. Yet without that spark of brilliance, that creative flair to overcome shortcomings – it just felt lackluster. Worse still, it was the worst kind of start to this years Road to Wrestlemania. Why wasn’t Samoa Joe introduced? Where were the legends? WWE dropped the ball and dropped it heavy this year – and I don’t think it bodes well for the next three months of content.
“Remember the Royal Rumble” they kept saying. I just wish I could forget.