Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic


Let’s Get Ready
PLUS: Royal Rumble Roundtable results.

Just like most people reading this right now, I watch a lot of professional wrestling. A steady diet of standard one-on-one or tag team matches could force an avid fan into a little rut, so the occasional special event comes to the rescue. Gimmick matches, tournaments, unusual ppv concepts (like Cyber Sunday) and signature events (like Survivor Series) help to break the monotony.

Of course, the gimmick match on everyone’s mind this week is WWE’s Royal Rumble, a 30-man battle royal in which two participants start the match in the ring, while the remaining 28 enter at regular intervals. The winner of course earns a title shot on the grandest stage of them all, in the main event at WrestleMania.

TODAY’S ISSUE: What the Royal Rumble Should Be

Due to its unique format and incredibly high stakes, the hook of the Rumble match should be that anyone, including somebody not normally expected to win, could shock the world and survive 29 other opponents to slingshot their entire career into the stratosphere. You don’t have to be the biggest, strongest, fastest, or most famous competitor to win a match of this nature, you just need heart, endurance, sound strategy, and perhaps a lucky number draw, although that has proven in the past to be less important to certain wrestlers that others.

Besides last year when Rey Mysterio won the Royal Rumble both in tribute to the late, great Eddie Guerrero and because Batista’s injury-forced abdication of the title shook up WWE’s plans, the last several Rumble matches were won by performers who were already main-eventers, or close to that level. Prior to Mysterio’s improbably victory, five of the last six Rumble winners, Chris Benoit, Brock Lesnar, HHH, Steve Austin, and The Rock, were former world champions when they won the Rumble. The seventh, Batista, was clearly well on his way to the top of the card when he eliminated John Cena to win the match in 2005. And now the Undertaker, another former world champion, has won the 2007 version of the Rumble to earn his slot at WrestleMania 23.

Except in special circumstances, like when an evil authority figure decrees “you’ll never get another shot at the title again”, having men at this level of the card win the Rumble and go on to WrestleMania destroys the appeal of the match. Rather than use the Rumble as a plot device to get an established main-eventer back to the world title, WWE should make the match all about an opportunity for a performer who wouldn’t normally get one. These six grapplers had obviously been to the top of the mountain, and could have re-ascended without taking all the magic out of what should be a one-of-a-kind magical event.

Having a crowd favorite with a rabid fan following like Chris Benoit win the Rumble in 2004 was effective, because his world title reign in WCW was long ago, insanely brief, and is never really mentioned on WWE television, which means it’s almost like it never happened. His storybook run from the Rumble to WrestleMania XX through SummerSlam that year was a reward to longtime fans of the Rabid Wolverine, and his Rumble victory kicked that arc off in white-hot fashion.

Considering that there will rarely be a performer like Benoit who is that talented and beloved by a large percentage of the fan base but isn’t already locked into the main event scene, WWE should try to use the Royal Rumble match for what it is: an ideal storyline opportunity to “make” a performer and rocket him to the top of the card.

However, the prospect of a newcomer to the main event scene performing in such a key slot makes WWE’s promotion of the main event at WrestleMania, the biggest show of the year, problematic if you consider the possible impact of an unproven commodity as one half of this very important equation.

If only a surprise victor could somehow satisfy the emotional elements of the underdog story while also ensuring an exciting and potentially prosperous build to WWE’s most important show of the year, WWE would have the best of both worlds. I can see four possible candidates from this year’s Rumble who would both surprise fans with a victory, and who would also hold up their end of the biggest match of the year: Gregory Helms, CM Punk, Kenny Dykstra, and Johnny Nitro.

Helms is the longest reigning champion in the history of SmackDown!, and JBL has been touting Helms as the best kept secret in the business today. With his in-ring skills, veteran promos and established heel character, he could be made to look convincing as a world title challenger. Well, maybe he could have been, until Batista ate him last Friday night. Helms’ character will be tough to rehabilitate in the coming weeks, but a strong showing in the Rumble might have been just the ticket.

CM Punk is developing a huge following and is a breath of fresh air in otherwise drab WWE rings. His straight edge lifestyle and unique moveset allow him to stand apart from other wrestlers, and he could truly be the future of the company. Well, maybe he could have been, until Hardcore Holly beat him the other night. Certainly that’s a setback a Rumble victory would have erased from many fans’ memories.

Kenny Dykstra rose like a Phoenix from the death of the Spirit Squad to multiple victories over Ric Flair, and has started to develop a personality to help separate him from the memory of the evil cheerleading crew. He’s got a marketable look and a universe of potential. Dykstra could have been pushed from now until March via a convincing victory in the Rumble match. This would have made for some interesting television over the next two months.

Johnny Nitro has brushed with the main event, has held titles, and possesses a superstar quality. If he were to win the Rumble, he could certainly have been marketed as a convincing threat to either world title. He’s got the look, the agility, the gimmick, the hated heel manager, and friends in low places. Nitro would be an ideal upper mid-carder to break through the glass ceiling by winning the Royal Rumble.

If WWE management feels they need to have an established star win the Rumble, then perhaps they could reintroduce the King of the Ring as a full scale, company-wide tournament culminating in a pay-per-view, with the winner going on to the main event of SummerSlam as they did in Brock Lesnar’s first world title hunt. This way, the underdog could win the big one and ascend the card without forcing WWE to rely on an unseasoned headliner for WrestleMania. The “Rocky Balboa” storyline is simply too good and too effective to pass up.

Although I’m pleased to have correctly predicted the Undertaker would win this year’s Rumble, I feel WWE has eschewed the very essence of the story the match could tell: the long-shot dark horse makes one mighty effort that changes the face of his professional life forever. Former multi-time world champions don’t need to win the Royal Rumble to get another shot at the gold, but for some performers (both within and outside kayfabe) the Rumble might be the only opportunity they ever have to become main-eventers. WWE should take advantage of that dynamic and create a new star instead of re-anointing a previous top dog.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.

p.s. – Does the dyslexic atheist not believe in Dog?

Speaking of the Royal Rumble, check out our Rasslin’ Roundtable, then compare our picks to PK’s Live Coverage to see how we did. Roundtable results are listed below.

IP Staff Roundtable Results for Final Resolution

David Brashear Roundtable Champion! TIE
WWE Royal Rumble (28 Jan 07): 4-1
Total: 13-3

Iain Burnside

Master Sergeant, United States Air Force