No Chance – The Telling Problem of the WWE Royal Rumble

I’m mad at the WWE. I think a lot of us are mad at the WWE right now, but if you would allow me just a few moments of your time I would really like to unpack exactly why I’m this frustrated with the WWE right now. It’s not because Daniel Bryan lost the Royal Rumble. Bryan has a spot at Mania even if it’s not in the Main event, and if WWE didn’t want him to win then I can accept that. It’s not even because Roman Reigns was the guy that ended up winning. I said last week that Roman and Brock could put on a fine Main Event together and if that’s the way that the WWE plans to go I’ll accept that as well. What’s so incredibly frustrating is that the entire Royal Rumble was orchistrated around trying to get the WWE universe to be ok with the fact that Roman Reigns would be the eventual winner. Not even excited about that fact mind you, just ok with it.

Daniel Bryan was easily the fan favorite to win the Royal Rumble so he is eliminated early, before eventual winner Roman even gets to the ring. Try and space it out so that the boos will hopefully have run their course and died out before Roman ever gets there. Then make sure that Roman is in the ring with two monster heels at the end so that Roman will definitely be the best choice out of the three and people will at least cheer him for that. And just to be safe, WWE got The Rock to come back for the sole purpose of getting people to cheer while Roman Reigns was standing victorious in the ring. And then on top of all that, the show ended with Rusev trying to make one last ditch effort for victory so that if someone was still boing through all of that before, they would at least cheer Rusev getting thrown out of the ring as he’s the biggest heat magnet that the WWE has.

Now clearly none of that worked. Boos began as soon as Daniel Bryan was thrown out of the ring and continued throughout the rest of the night. “We want refunds” chants happened, BS chants happened and even a “We want Rusev” chant happened as a last ditch effort for anybody but Roman to win. That means that WWE’s most American hating character perhaps since Iron Sheik, was cheered for in the birthplace of America simply for not being Roman. Even standing him side by side with The Rock couldn’t keep people from booing Roman’s victory. But something bothered me about the whole night.

See, the WWE was worried that their might be backlash against Roman winning, in fact they anticipated it. I don’t know how much of a backlash they fully expected, but enough that they thought they would have to bring out The Rock to try and curb the reaction. That is not being worried about a few loud fans being obnoxious, that’s being worried about the entire audience being against what you want to do.

The best thing to come out of the Royal Rumble last year was that the audience forced the WWE to change the intended storyline. Nothing really count until it goes on air live (and even then sometimes it doesn’t count) and so when things don’t work out exactly as planned, WWE can change alter or even remove storylines that aren’t working and last year when we refused to let a storyline work in its current form. This meant that as out of touch as Vince and company might be, sometimes we can still be loud enough to make it count.

That is until this past Sunday. We talk about Vince and the other higher ups not knowing what we, the fans, would want and about them being out of touch. But I’m not sure thats 100% the case here. See, The WWE, knew what we wanted on Sunday, and they didn’t care. This isn’t last year where the WWE just underestimated the fans demand for Daniel Bryan. This is the WWE knowing that people, a vast majority of their fans would disapprove of their planned story and going ahead with it anyway, regardless. The WWE put so much time and effort into trying to get fans to accept the predetermined storyline and none of their time or effort into trying to construct a story that the fans might want to see. How can WWE possibly claim to listen to what the fans want after that stunt was pulled this Sunday?

Like I said at the beginning of this column, I wouldn’t hate a Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar main event at WrestleMania this year, but after Sunday, I do hope we have a repeat of last year. WWE tried so hard to control the fan reaction to the Rumble this year and they failed, and that is a point that the WWE needs driven home for them.

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