The Delco Elbow Drop

Thursday, January 29, 2015

WWE Royal Rumble 2015 – What went wrong

“And everything seemed to be going so well.”

I use this line from “Sin City” a lot (though I don’t think many get the reference) but I felt it was a pretty apt way to describe what happened at the 2015 WWE Royal Rumble.

The show leading up to the Rumble match itself was pretty good, bolstered by a hot Philadelphia crowd and an amazing triple threat match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. But then things…took a turn. After a series of booking decisions that were odd at best and terrible at worst, Roman Reigns emerged victorious from the Rumble match, only to be greeted with thunderous boos from the crowd in the Wells Fargo Center.

How did this happen? But more importantly – how could this happen TWO YEARS in a row?

Follow me now as I take a look at the card in its entirety, but focusing mainly on the Rumble itself.

Team C.A.T. vs. The New Day (Preshow)
Known online as Team Uppercat, Swinging Cats, or the Masters of the (WWE) Universe, Cesaro and Tyson Kidd (who tweeted their name was Team C.A.T. – Cesaro, Adam, and Tyson) faced Big E and Kofi Kingston of The New Day on the preshow.
It was an unspectacular match in itself, with the most memorable moments being the obvious cheers that Cesaro and Kidd received (despite being the heels) and the audible pop for Cesaro’s giant swing. But don’t you know – he’s Swiss, so he’s not getting over with the fans.
Other than the obviously positive reaction for Cesaro and Kidd, my favorite part of the preshow match was the Bullet Club-style “Brass Ring Club” shirts that Cesaro, Kidd and Rose were wearing.

The Ascension vs. The New Age Outlaws
The Ascension debuted on the main roster after spending a long time in developmental and many people had high hopes for the team. Despite being saddled with a gimmick that’s obviously biting off 80s-style tag teams, the duo of Konnor and Viktor are a talented team that works well together in the ring.
For weeks leading up to the Royal Rumble, JBL had been completely burying the team on commentary for daring to say they were superior to the tag teams they are modeled after (such as the Legion of Doom or Demolition). On the final Raw before the Rumble, The Ascension confronted Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and X-Pac before being outnumbered by the A.P.A. and the New Age Outlaws. JBL leveled Viktor with a Clothesline from Hell and a match between the Ascension and the Outlaws was set for the Rumble.
Thankfully, the Ascension actually got the win at the Rumble and looked pretty good doing it. They worked well as a team and though I wouldn’t call their performance dominant, they were definitely in control for the entire match. I wouldn’t be against the Ascension taking on a “tag team legend killer” angle, but I think having them move onto destroying current tag teams would be a better move for the duo.

The Usos (c) vs. Miz and Mizdow

WWE Tag Team Championships
The Usos have been a visible tag team on the main roster for years but it’s only been since the early months of 2014 that they won their first tag team titles and became the team to beat in the tag division.
Miz and Mizdow, on the other hand, are a much newer team but due to the dynamic of Mizdow being Miz’s stunt double and mimicking everything that Miz does, the team (well, Mizdow) has become hugely popular. But since Mizdow started getting a noticeable reaction from the crowd, it was obvious that their eventual implosion was inevitable. And it’s only been within the past few weeks that it became apparent the meltdown would be coming soon.
At the Royal Rumble, Miz and Mizdown had a shot at the Uso’s tag team titles. Mizdow has been getting huge pops for some time now but it’s only been recently that Miz has realized the cheers are for Mizdow and not himself.
Almost as soon as the match began, the crowd started chanting “We want Mizdow.” But The Miz never tagged Mizdow into the match. He acted like he was going for a tag but taunted the fans and Mizdow when those tags never came. Later on, Miz threw Mizdow into a dive over the top rope by one of the Usos (and then proceeded to not catch the others’ dive).

(But Miz has a history of not being the best at catching people.)

The Royal Rumble match itself would have been an ideal place to further the disintegration of the Miz/Mizdown team…but apparently WWE didn’t think so. More on that later.

The Bellas vs Natalya and Paige
Not much to say about this one – which is unfortunate because the WWE has the ability to write better storylines for the Divas, but just doesn’t. Paige and Natalya are two of the best female wrestlers in the world and even the Bella Twins are showing signs of improvement. But that still doesn’t change the fact that there was no discernable story going into this match other than “these Divas just don’t like each other.”
And what’s worse is that the Divas division seems to be nothing but a means for the WWE to advertise the “Total Divas” reality show. Despite having wrestlers who are actually talented in-ring performers, the WWE is content to use them to shill an awful reality show and not use them in meaningful, interesting storylines.

Brock Lesnar (c) vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins
WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Going into this match, I’ll admit I didn’t have very high hopes. I’m a big fan of Seth Rollins, but I felt like his inclusion in this match didn’t make sense since he holds the Money in the Bank briefcase. And, because we’ve seen Lesnar vs Cena many times already, I wasn’t too keen on seeing it again.
But man, this match was amazing. Easily one of the best matches WWE has produced in a long time.
Lesnar was an absolute beast in this match. Everything he did looked like it would maim or kill a normal human being and he was able to dominate both Cena and Rollins. Cena held his own in this match and was involved just enough to make it palatable but Rollins was the real star here.
Even in a losing effort, Rollins’ part in this match was nearly flawless. He threw himself from the top rope with reckless abandon and sold Lesnar and Cena’s offense perfectly. Not only that but he played the role of a top heel perfectly, picking his spots while leaving Lesnar to handle Cena and making liberal use of J & J Security (Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury) to help further his cause.
What was interesting about this match was the amount of praise Lesnar got from the crowd. Maybe it was because the Rumble was in Philadelphia (OK – it was definitely because the Rumble was in Philadelphia) that Lesnar was cheered so much – but it also goes to show how good a heel Rollins is that he wasn’t cheered equally loudly in Philly.
With Lesnar retaining the championship (despite the immense amount of punishment he took from both Cena and Rollins) he has a ton of momentum heading into Wrestlemania. It will be interesting to see if the WWE plays up the cheers he got during this match and tease a face turn – but considering who he will face at Wrestlemania, that doesn’t seem likely.

The Royal Rumble
It’s hard to really put this match into words – mostly because there’s only so many ways you can say “poorly booked.”
The Royal Rumble show as a whole gained a lot of positive momentum as it went on. The preshow match was good; The Ascension got a needed win; The Miz and Mizdow drama is escalating; the Divas put on a good (but ultimately pointless) match; and the World title triple threat match was incredible. All the Rumble match had to do was be good and the 2015 Royal Rumble would be looked back on as one of the better Pay-Per-Views in recent memory.
Unfortunately, the Rumble was anything but good. It started slowly and seemed to pick up steam but booking decisions that ranged from “safe” to “boring” to “questionable” to “downright awful” plagued the majority of it and the outcome left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
I don’t want to analyze every entrance and exit, but there are major points I want to hit:

- The Miz and R-Truth were the first entrants into the Rumble. Now, it would seem like the Rumble would be the perfect place to further the Miz/Mizdow storyline, right? Plenty of opportunities for friction as well as chances for great comedy spots where Miz could be thrown out, or almost thrown out, with Mizdow following suit or debating on whether to follow suit. But would that happen? You guessed it – nope. Heck, Miz and Mizdow weren’t even in the Rumble at the same time.

- Bubba Ray Dudley made his long awaited return to WWE. He was in the match for a few minutes early on and even eliminated Miz and Truth. But what was the point of having such a big ECW pop so early in the Rumble, especially when there weren’t any other ECW pops to be had in the birthplace of Extreme Championship Wrestling?
Not to mention, I found it kinda odd that WWE would have Bubba Ray treat Truth like he’s D-Von. Their shtick wasn’t overtly racist or anything, but it definitely would give you pause if it were a question on Tosh.0’s “Is It Racist?”
If WWE had brought in D-Von Dudley as well, a better use of the Dudleys would have been in a confrontation with The Ascension, but there is still time to hopefully build toward that at Wrestlemania.

-Bray Wyatt competed in his first Rumble and had a really good showing. He eliminated several Superstars (including Luke Harper and Erick Rowan after teasing a reunion with Harper) and even cut a promo during the match. Bray looked like the only person truly dedicated to winning as he tied Rusev and Reigns for most eliminations (6) and spent over 45 minutes in the match.
But, in the end, he was thrown out with little fanfare by Kane and Big Show. Don’t worry, there’ll be more on them later.
-Daniel Bryan. Poor Daniel Bryan. He entered the match at #10 to arguably the biggest pop of the entire show. But unfortunately, Vince McMahon doesn’t love Daniel Bryan as much as the WWE Universe does because he barely had any impact on the Rumble at all. After almost a year on the shelf and a huge deal made about his comeback and entering the Royal Rumble, he was eliminated after only about 10 minutes by Bray Wyatt.
Bryan was barely a footnote in the match despite many pegging him as an odds-on favorite. No tenacious underdog performance. No amazing comeback. No defying-all-odds win from an early spot. No “skinning the cat” or other impressive feats of rallying in the Rumble. Just tossed over the top by Rusev and casually knocked off the apron by Wyatt.
After his elimination, you could just feel the life and enthusiasm sucked out of the crowd as almost every entrant afterward was met by a chorus of boos. The crowd would continue to chant “Daniel Bryan” throughout the rest of the match, almost in disbelief that he had been thrown out so early and so unceremoniously.
Word online is that Vince thinks it’s the Yes chant that’s over, not Bryan himself. Vince also thinks that, despite the fans’ obvious love for Bryan, putting him in the main event of Wrestlemania two years in a row would be “repetitive.” This, from the man who booked Rock vs Cena as “Once in a Lifetime” at Wrestlemania 28…and then booked Rock vs Cena again at Wrestlemania 29. As well as putting Cena in the main event at Wrestlemania 22, 23, 27, 28 and 29, often in a championship match.
But no – putting Bryan into the main event of ‘Mania two years in a row is what would be “repetitive.”

Vince knows what the fans want
-Mizdow entered at #21 and got the best reaction since Bryan’s elimination. Miz showed up and demanded his spot…only to be mushed off the apron by Reigns. Mizdow looked, for a moment, as if he might retaliate against Miz but never did. He entered the ring but didn’t even last half a minute before being eliminated by Rusev.
But the goodwill earned by Mizdow’s appearance turned back to boos once he was tossed. Even though they used the Rumble to further the Miz/Mizdow story, I can’t help but think it would’ve been better if they had been in the ring at the same time.

- When Big Show entered at #29, there were 10 men in the Rumble – the most to that point. As the crowd began chanting “We want Ziggler,” knowing the Showoff must be entrant 30, Show and Kane started working together to eliminate fan favorites like Ryback, Ambrose and Wyatt. Once Dolph Ziggler got in the ring, he only lasted a few minutes before Show and Kane threw him out too.
WHY? What was the point of eliminating so many wrestlers the fans actually like in such quick succession and having guys the fans are tired of be the ones to do it? Why have Ziggler be the last to enter, when the crowd knows full well he earned a spot in the Rumble? It was such a waste giving that spot to someone you know was in the Rumble and not have it be a surprise.

-By the final four (Big Show, Kane, Ambrose and Reigns), the crowd was booing the match steadily. Perhaps because they could see the writing on the wall, that Reigns, the hand-picked successor to Cena, was most definitely going to Wrestlemania this year and not the crowd favorite Daniel Bryan. (The final four was actually Show, Kane, Reigns and Rusev, but Rusev hid outside the ring until Reigns was the only one left.)
Once Kane and Show tossed Ambrose, you could sense that WWE had hoped the crowd would be behind Reigns fighting against The Authority’s two monsters. But like last year, WWE failed to read the crowd at large – especially the crowd in Philly – and neglected to push the man they wanted most. As Show and Kane worked over Reigns, the crowd even began to chant “Bullsh*t” and “We want D-Bry.” Because even as Kane and Show started fighting each other, the booing continued, hinting that their dislike was aimed at something larger than just what was happening in the ring.
When Reigns eliminated both Kane and Show, the booing abated, but only momentarily. When the two monsters came back in the ring to attack Reigns, out of nowhere, The Rock appeared in the Wells Fargo Center. As he raced to the ring, “The Great One” got a big pop but that didn’t change the overall temperament of the crowd.
Once Reigns tossed the reemerging Rusev after just a few seconds, the booing came back in full force.
It was an unfortunate night that WWE so handily misjudged their audience and subjected both Reigns and The Rock to the ire of the WWE Universe, who had pledged their support to another Superstar long ago. As The Rock raised Reigns’ hand, the look on his face betrayed his emotions – that he was wholly unprepared for the reception that Reigns got as the winner of the 2015 Royal Rumble. By the same token, one can only assume that Vince and whoever else booked the Rumble had no idea this was coming either.

The Rock is clearly unsure about what is happening
It’s hard to say what WWE, Vince, Triple H and Stephanie thought would happen. By announcing Daniel Bryan returning in time for the Rumble, it was almost as if they were teasing he would win it. He seemed sure he would win and the fans believed it. After he was eliminated, the entire mood of the audience changed and not even The Rock could change their minds.
I can’t help but think that if they hadn’t announced Daniel Bryan for the Rumble at all, the reaction that Reigns’ victory got would’ve been quite different.
Vince making it Reigns
And I feel bad for Roman Reigns. I really do. He didn’t deserve the reaction he got. But WWE should have realized what was going to happen by treating Daniel Bryan the way they did.
The WWE knew how much the fans wanted to see him win, so they dangled it in front of our faces, then threw it away. And for what? So Daniel Bryan can go back to a meandering, directionless feud with Kane? Or maybe feud with Bray Wyatt (again) since he was the one who eliminated him?
These are not answers. These are not legitimate possibilities for a man that is more popular with the crowd than the company’s hand-picked golden boys, John Cena and Roman Reigns.
It’s amazing to me how badly WWE botched two Royal Rumbles in a row. The 2014 and 2015 Rumbles are indicative of how little the WWE cares about what their audience wants or, by the same token, how little they know what their audience wants.
One thing is for sure though – Pennsylvania will never get another Royal Rumble again.

(I should also point out a lot of these gifs came from

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An avid gamer and long-time pro wrestling fan, stay tuned to Grizzly Gaming and the Delco Elbow Drop for game reviews and pro wrestling news.

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