The road to Wrestlemania has begun. Despite the fact that the Peacock deal and the general structure of the “premium live event” business intrinsically reduces the importance of the historic pay-per-view brands, the name Wrestlemania still holds the most cache with the general public. Even the people that don’t regularly watch WWE will tune into Wrestlemania to see the spectacle, which is how the brand maintains its status as the “must-see” pro wrestling show on the calendar. The Royal Rumble, because of its direct association with WM, still has some of the shine as well.
That being said, I think it’d be fair to say that the event itself was very much hit or miss.
First and most importantly, I don’t care how common it becomes, I will still say that there’s hardly ever a reason for a pay-per-view to be four hours long. It should be a very rare exception to the rule that a broadcast goes more than three hours or prehaps just under three and a half hours if a post-match angle is booked. I know this is repetitive, but it must be said again, more wrestling doesn’t automatically translate to better wrestling. The amount of video packages, often vignettes that were played prior to the show or random commercials, between matches make for an extremely tedious viewing experience. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the hefty revenue that goes along with sponsorships and commercials so if you have to put those ads into the live show, that’s business, but the 10-minute delay between bouts after those are added to the video packages just makes for too many pauses in the action so the show drags on a semi-regular basis. Let the actual commercials, the stuff the company is getting paid for, be the break between contests and then they can trim at least thirty minutes off the broadcast.
Along with the extended broadcast of 4 hours and 18 minutes, The Royal Rumble pay-per-view was more or less booked backwards. The Rumble is probably the only time that the WWE title shouldn’t close the show, and the argument could be made that the decision was made because of the post-match angle, but the fact remains that since there was such a build up for Cody Rhodes’ return, his Rumble victory was the peak of the show. Since the event literally started with that peak, there wasn’t anywhere else for the show to go but to decline in some ways. Since Cody winning was obvious, and it was still the right call, the vast majority of the men’s Rumble, especially without the cameos to pop the crowd, was very mediocre. After Brock Lesnar’s stint in the match was brief and then Bobby Lashley was eliminated, there was a noticeable lack of star power in the ring, which is a result of the very talented roster often being booked as interchangeable instead of individual stars.
Essentially, the audience, both in the building and watching on pay-per-view, knew that once Brock and Lashley were eliminated, nothing of substance was truly going to happen until Cody entered the match. If you had a few of those legend cameos that make for fun appearances, there would’ve been more to the match than just waiting for Rhodes to get to the ring. The other problem was that while Gunter is a tremendous performer and one of the most believable on the roster, the audience knew that he wasn’t going to win the match so the extended conclusion of the match where he and Cody traded moves rather than elimination attempts was unnecessary. Fans know that the IC champion isn’t going to win the Rumble so a faster conclusion would’ve helped the pace of the show.
Visually speaking, The Mountain Dew match was impressive, but beyond watching this segment for five minutes, it was just terrible. There wasn’t really anything to the match itself, and the post-match stuff was as bizarre as the HIAC debacle or Alexa Bliss with the Papa Shango tar a few years ago. Granted, I understand this was done because of the sponsorship so use the black light and the logo on the canvas, but what was the green styrofoam supposed to be? Furthermore, what was the point of the mask that Bray Wyatt put on after the match? It looked like something from a kindergarten art class. The stuff with Uncle Howdy, who attacked Bray on Smackdown previously, randomly jumping on the stage with the fire afterwards was ridiculous. What’s the point? If the gimmick or the angle is so convoluted that nothing makes sense then it might not be good television. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve written for years that I think Bray Wyatt has the talent to be a top guy. However, his character is often used for segments that might sound good as a concept, but fumble with the application. There’s a fine line between The greatness of The Undertaker persona and the Seven gimmick from WCW. When you have the special effects, there’s a really small margin for error, and more often than not, these Wyatt gimmick matches make the audience shake their head. That’s actually why I think the original Wyatt presentation with just the rocking chair got over as much as it did with the audience, because there wasn’t an absurd amount of smoke and mirrors to dilute the talent he brings to the table.
The Raw Women’s title match was fine, but it was basically just a TV match. It went about five minutes and there isn’t really much to say about it. Bianca Belair is a great champion so her match at Wrestlemania should have a solid build before the major event. The post-match Alexia Bliss stuff was as goofy as the previous match and was another reason for the audience to shake their head after this bout.
Rhea Ripley winning the Women’s rumble was the right decision and she has a lot of potential to be a major star. It creates intrigue ahead of WM because you could make an argument that Rhea should win the championship, but at the same time, Bianca is on a stellar run as champion. Make no mistake about it, the women’s division is probably still the best segment of WWE programming.
This is where all those extended pauses in the action really brought the broadcast to a halt. It was almost midnight and there had to be more delays to set up for Hardy, whoever that is, to sing for an audience that wanted to watch him as much as they wanted to see Micheal Cole in a singlet again. Unless it’s Johnny Cash or Warren Zevon, I don’t want to see a musical performance on a wrestling show almost four hours into the broadcast.
Roman Reigns defeated Kevin Owens in a quality main event that proved why they are two of the best performers of their generation. Owens is a true star, even if he wasn’t always booked that way, and Roman still does the best work of his career. The post-match angle was tremendous and a prime example of the incredible drama that can be produced when a narrative has the right presentation. Sami Zayn is arguably the most popular star on the roster, and despite Cody winning The Rumble, the argument could be made that Sami should be the one to finally dethrone Reigns. That being said, I think Cody should still be the competitor to beat Roman, but Zayn got over organically so that might be a valid reason to shift the direction of the product.
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
E mail email@example.com | You can follow me on Instagram & Facebook @jimlamotta89