The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the opinions of WrestlingInc or its staff
The Royal Rumble, no matter how bad it ends up being, is still one of the more exciting events in wrestling. This year's Rumble was another in what is becoming an extended streak of disappointing Royal Rumbles, but that does not mean that it was necessarily boring.
The Royal Rumble Match-** (2 stars)
I was fairly certain in my preview column Thursday that Daniel Bryan was going to win the Royal Rumble. Unfortunately it turns out that I was wrong, and Daniel Bryan didn't even get a spot in the Royal Rumble, for some unexplained reason. We will get to Bryan later, but for now let's talk about the man who actually won the Rumble: Batista.
Batista was a very interesting choice to win the Royal Rumble. For starters, he had made exactly one appearance for WWE in the last 4 years. It seems strange to me that WWE would give such an enormous push to someone that they don't really know what they have in. Sure, Batista has main evented a couple Wrestlemanias before, but that was a long time ago. Now, WWE has put a lot of faith in Batista to be a top player for their biggest event of the year when his value is still very much a question mark.
Batista's return last Monday on Raw was met with a very underwhelming response from the fans, and his performance tonight was A LOT worse. Sure, some of that venom probably came from the fans being upset that Daniel Bryan was not in the Rumble, but if that was the case, the fans wouldn't have cheered for anybody. The crowd was very much in favor of Roman Reigns (the heel) at the end then they were of Batista (the face), and that is a big problem right there. Pittsburgh is a city with a pretty good reputation for crowds, but they do not have the same level of hardcore fans as Chicago or New York. In those cities (and Toronto too), WWE can bank on some atypical crowd reactions, but the reactions they get in Pittsburgh are pretty much what they can expect from their typical city for Raw. If the reactions to Batista in other cities are even close to what they were in Pittsburgh, then WWE is going to be in some serious trouble heading into Wrestlemania.
Moving on to Daniel Bryan, it is very clear to me that WWE dropped the ball on Bryan. This was maybe their last chance to fix the damage that they did to Bryan during the fall, but once again they passed that opportunity up in favor of an older, less talented and less popular star. The fans were 100% right to boo WWE for tonight's performance, because WWE's number one goal should be to satisfy their fans, and they have not even come close to doing so.
What amazes me the most is that booking Daniel Bryan is really not that difficult. Anyone that does not believe that Daniel Bryan is the most over performer in WWE is kidding themselves. Randy Orton and Triple H have jerked him around, but Daniel Bryan can win the Royal Rumble and finally get his revenge on the biggest stage. That is clearly what the fans want, yet WWE routinely shoots itself in the foot. I don't believe that Triple H, Vince McMahon, or whoever is in charge of this stuff is stupid, or that they are ignorant towards what their fans are interested in. The only explanation that really exists as too why Bryan did not win the Royal Rumble, or was not even entered in the Rumble, was because politics played a role in the decision process, an excuse so unfathomably inexcusable that whoever made the call should be discharged immediately.
There actually is another possible reason why Bryan didn't win tonight, and that is that eventually, between now and Wrestlemania, Bryan will move his way into the main event of Wrestlemania. That in theory could happen, but why get my hopes up? WWE has mishandled Bryan pretty much every step of the way since Summerslam, so expecting them to right the ship anytime soon is much more fantasy then reality.
Moving past Bryan, the Royal Rumble match was kind of lame. The only real surprises were a returning Sheamus (hardly a surprise) and Kevin Nash inexplicably showing up. It is good to have Sheamus back, but Nash coming out was a head-scratcher. He already had his great surprising return a few years ago, it was unnecessary and his spot probably would have been better spent elsewhere, but I guess it pays to be Triple H's friend, right?
Roman Reigns will probably end up being the biggest winner of this Rumble. He broke Kane's record for eliminations with 12 and he was clearly more over then the eventual winner in Batista. I don't think Reigns right now is ready to be in the main event, put tonight was most certainly a giant step in the right direction for him. At Wrestlemania he will probably defeat Ambrose and Rollins and then will probably get a push into the title picture, which is the right move.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match: Randy Orton vs John Cena- *1/2 (1.5 stars)
What Michael Cole dubbed as being one of the greatest rematches in wrestling history seems hardly noteworthy right now, but the ending did give us a clue as to what will take place for John Cena at Wrestlemania. The Wyatt family seems to be moving onto a feud with Cena, which will probably also involve Bryan, which will allow Cena to mooch off of Bryan's popularity some more. I expect Cena to face Wyatt at Wrestlemania, which will hopefully elevate Wyatt a good bit.
The match itself was the typical Cena/Orton match of the highest order. Orton dominated the match to the disgust of the crowd, and then they traded finishers like they were going out of style, with Orton winning in a typical heel fashion. The only thing interesting was that the crowd despised the match, and frequently chanted for Daniel Bryan, Chris Jericho, Randy Savage, JBL, "This match sucks" and a slew of other derogatory ideas. Very odd that WWE can watch a match that is supposed to be between their two biggest stars, and have the crowd chant for a bunch of other things during the match and think that is okay.
Brock Lesnar vs The Big Show- ** (2 stars)
Anyone that was expecting a match that was anything different than what we saw tonight had way too high expectations. The match was only used to make Lesnar look strong for his title push following the Royal Rumble and that was exactly what happened. Brock looked as dominant as ever and F-5'd Show to further extenuate the point that he might not actually be a mortal being. It may have been short, but I prefer it that way as opposed to a 30 minute match of outside the ring brawling.
Daniel Bryan vs Bray Wyatt-****1/4 (4.25 stars)
Easily the match of the night, Bryan further displayed why is among the very best workers in the world by having a sensational match with Bray Wyatt. Wyatt's character does not require him to do a lot of technical wrestling, so he did his very best when it came to brawling and delivering high-impact moves. Bryan was excellent in selling Wyatt's offense, and Wyatt was probably as good as he ever is going to be in a normal wrestling match. The decision to have Wyatt win, and then to have him interfere in Cena's match was strange, but that can't stop this match from being an early candidate for best WWE match of 2014.
WWE Tag Team Championship Match: New Age Outlaws vs Cody Rhodes and Goldust-**1/2 (2.5 stars)
I don't expect the NAO to hold the titles for very long, and most likely they are going to drop them to the Usos in a match that is destined for the Wrestlemania pre-show. Having Goldust accidently eliminate Cody Rhodes in the Royal Rumble almost sets the match between them that is rumored to be happening at Wrestlemania in stone. I think that is a shame personally, because I really liked seeing them work together and have awesome tag team matches, and I felt like their team still had a lot of life left in them.
To wrap everything up, I would like to say that WWE should hold a Wrestlemania inside a standard arena one year. This will never happen, as WWE loves to have one event a year with 50,000+ people in attendance, but the interactions with the crowd get lost in stadiums that big. A rowdy crowd in a small arena is always better than one in a big arena, so I wish we could get that just one more time.