10 Thoughts: WWE Royal Rumble 2014 (Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, John Cena, CM Punk, Batista)
1. So I took my time mulling over this show. I slept on it, read the “gut-reaction” articles I saw posted last night and now have the replay airing on my computer. There’s no argument that the WWE had an opportunity to set up 2014 as a year for a lot of young competitors that the WWE fans are rabid for right now. Obviously that didn’t happen but some good did come out of this show as well. You just had to look pretty deep to find it.
2. People were surprised when the New Age Outlaws reunited at Old School Raw & then when they appeared together again in a six man tag match with CM Punk as their partner. Suddenly the tag team of the Attitude Era where making an impression in 2014. Then they turned on CM Punk, leaving Punk to the mercy of The Shield, and now they were making a name for themselves besides for being just a nostalgia act. Hell, a few days later, they went out on SmackDown & defeated the WWE Tag Team Champions in a non-title match, Cody Rhodes and the similarly energized Attitude Era performer, Goldust. History states & is usually followed that if a competitor defeats a champion in a non-title match, then that challenger would receive a championship match; which is exactly what happened for the New Age Outlaws when they faced Cody & Goldust for the tag team titles on the 2014 Royal Rumble Kickoff Show. They took advantage of that opportunity and shocked the audience by winning the tag team titles. The crowd & people watching at home were baffled. How could a team of two old wrestlers, a purely nostalgia act, win WWE gold? But isn’t that exactly what happened a few months earlier when Goldust emerged from obscurity (except for on Twitter) to team with his half-brother Cody? And that was considered probably the feel good moment of the year. Of course this will be spun as Triple H once again putting his friends in the spotlight but in truth, how many other heel tag teams are there? The Shield, which are moving on to bigger things. The Real Americans but a strong argument can be made for at least one member of that group being more of a babyface than a heel. And The Wyatt Family, probably the one true heel tag team but, as we saw, they have a lot on their plates in the coming months. So why not put the belts on a heel New Age Outlaws? They might move at half the speed they did in their prime but they are still a great team for younger teams to learn from. I don’t expect a lengthy reign for Billy & Jesse but a few weeks until Elimination Chamber won’t kill anyone.
3. Daniel Bryan versus Bray Wyatt was intense, emotional, brutal, one-on-one and everything it needed to be. While I cringed each and every time Bryan took a bump or performed a high spot, Daniel Bryan was back in full-force in what was to be the blow off of the Wyatt Family/Daniel Bryan feud. While the match was very physical, I expected more storytelling between these two superstars, especially with the story they were working with. And although it seemed extremely odd that the babyface didn’t win this type of feud (especially a babyface as hot as Bryan is), Bray Wyatt looked like a million bucks here. Not just money either, vicious as hell with the two versions of Sister Abigail and it all really set Wyatt up for what was to happen later in the night (even if it came at the cost of Bryan).
4. Brock Lesnar versus The Big Show was exactly what everyone expected & that’s not a good thing. These two men feuded for years during Lesnar’s original run and while SOME of those matches were passable, even bordering on entertaining, now Lesnar & Show are 10 years older (and don’t have Kurt Angle to fall back on). The “match” just flat-out stunk. The total “official” running time of the match is 1:54… I wish that actually was the length of the match because everything that surrounded that one minute and fifty-four seconds was absolute crap.
5. Vince McMahon, Triple H, Randy Orton & John Cena all should have realized that the crowd was going to react this way once this rematch was announced. Just by quickly glancing through history, I found 15 PPV main events Orton & Cena have headlined since 2007. That’s not including the countless matches on Raw, SmackDown or the briefly revived Saturday Night’s Main Event. Fans who weren’t even alive during the Attitude Era were getting sick of seeing these two men wrestling for the sport’s top prize & by the sound of it, most of them were from the Pittsburgh area. I can only imagine the look on Cena and Orton’s faces when they were told they had 40 minutes for their WWE World Heavyweight Championship. I believe that’s why we saw the vaunted Randy Orton chinlocks, John Cena sleeper holds as well as Orton performing the Attitude Adjustment and Cena using the RKO. They were willing to try anything by the end of the match as they had already wrestled through chants of “This is boring!”, “We want Divas!”, “You both suck!” & “Daniel Bryan”. The Pittsburgh crowd had already decided they were going to crap all over the championship match well before the voices ever started speaking in Orton’s head. While yes, the match wasn’t a classic, it didn’t appear that they were given the opportunity to win the crowd over anyway.
6. Now the finish to the match was a completely different story. I don’t think anyone truly believed The Wyatt Family would make an appearance similar to how The Undertaker typically appears when the lights go out but when they did, it felt new. Sure the Family has attacked other top superstars in this fashion before but John Cena? The face of sports-entertainment and the Cena brand who grossed over $100 million in 2012 wasn’t going to battle a movie star or for the world championship for the next few months leading to WrestleMania? Instead, WWE’s clean-cut & drug-free version of Channing Tatum was going to face off against a “cult leader/pariah” that looks more comfortable around The House Of 1,000 Corpses than the glitz and glamour of what WrestleMania has become. The dichotomy between the two characters is more interesting than any match rumored for WrestleMania XXX right now and I’m just sorry we had to sit through that championship match & a Daniel Bryan loss to get to this moment.
7. Having CM Punk begin the match at number one was a stroke of genius but the way his night ended was so bad, it was painful. Firstly, I expected a lot more production, during the match, out of Punk. Most of the men who have been forced to enter at number one had a constant presence in the match, even if it was a random elimination every now and then just so the announcers can mention his name & keep his name fresh in the audience’s mind. After the entry of Corporate Kane in the Rumble and his quick elimination, it was hard to find Punk in the ring. His story of thwarting The Authority over and over again & still being able to survive in the Rumble should have been a top 5 plot point going into the 30 man Rumble & yet was turned into a sidenote until Kane cost him the match after Punk had reached the final four (of course, it didn’t help the “surprise” when Kane was clearly visible still ringside as JBL made his way into the ring). Even after Punk’s elimination, there was barely any discussion on commentary as the commentators had to quickly switch their attention to the final three of Batista, Roman Reigns and Sheamus. It was a horrible bit of storytelling that I’m sure they’re regretting today.
8. Speaking of JBL, what was the reason he was in the Rumble? It seems like a yearly tradition now that an announcer has to be a surprise entrant into the Rumble but surely JBL could have delivered at least one Clothesline From Hell before being eliminated by Roman Reigns. Again, another opportunity blown.
9. Now onto the winner… Well before the winner, I was extremely surprised that Roman Reigns broke Kane’s elimination streak with 12 eliminations. It was pretty obvious Kane was a lifer when he etched his name in history with that record while Reigns is far too young and too early in his career to really determine how long he’ll last. But enough about the impressive showing from Reigns (Survivor Series was more impressive) and onto the winner of the match, the man who returned to the company only 6 days previously, Batista. Thinking back on Batista’s comments about the WWE, the PG-Era and the current storylines, it seems impossible that Batista would return to the company he was continually bashing without a HUGE payday. And boy it seems like he got it. Batista is a business man. With The Rock out, Steve Austin looking like he can’t compete, Hulk Hogan not being able to pass a physical and acts like Triple H & Brock Lesnar losing their luster, Batista knew he was the one big star the current audience still remembered and would want to see back in a WWE ring. That leaves all the cards in his hands & it looks like those cards consisted of a Rumble win and the main event of WrestleMania XXX. It was just too bad for Batista that the WWE fans had already decided on who their new star was.
10. No, Daniel Bryan wasn’t in the Royal Rumble. Can I give you a reason why the hottest wrestler on the roster wasn’t in one of the biggest matches of WWE’s year – no. All I can think of is that there are Elimination Chamber plans that predominantly involve Bryan and we’ll begin to see that starting on Monday Night Raw. But in WWE’s defense, Daniel Bryan was never announced for the Rumble match and had just suffered a concussion less than 14 days before. If I was the WWE doctor, I wouldn’t want Bryan in the Rumble match. But I’m not a doctor. I’m a WWE fan and Bryan is the top babyface in the WWE right now, no matter how much John Cena or Batista are pushed. He’s the Shawn Michaels of 1996 where his boyhood dream should have become true at WrestleMania after defeating 30 other men at the Royal Rumble. We’re not getting that story, that’s quite obvious. Hopefully something will work out between now and April because Daniel Bryan right now appears like a lost cause.