Who do you think is going to win the Rumble this year? It’s a question every wrestling fan asks every year. Unlike the Superbowl or even the NBA Championship, the WWE benefits from the idea that anyone on the roster (or returning to that roster surprisingly) can win The Royal Rumble and main event Wrestlemania. We as Wrestling fans get excited for this glorified battle royal each year, and nearly every year we’re disappointed, not because longshots like Tyson Kidd or old timers like DDP never actually win, it's because it's proof that Vince is always going to book what Vince wants for Wrestlemania, regardless of crowd reaction. Who do you think is going to win the Rumble this year? Has become “who do you think the WWE is going to give their ball to and F**k the fans over?” This year that answer was simple: Roman Reigns.
At the 2015, as expected by anyone who follows wrestling closely, Roman Reigns was the next big thing(click here to see how I called it). Last year he broke Kane’s record in what was truly a test run for his popularity. Last year Reigns was electrifying, not because his character was that over, it’s because the Batista/Randy Orton/Triple H bullshit was so stale that anyone would do. A year later and Roman Reigns has grown the least in terms of the Shield members. Ambrose is the people’s champion a crazy wild man that gives Vince a millennial version of Stone Cold if he could be packaged right. Rollins may be lacking on the microphone, but he’s done his job well as the Authority golden boy and arguably has had the best in-ring performances of anyone on the roster these past few months. So why Roman Reigns?
He’s a jacked up freak with movie star good looks, yet retains a mysterious quality that doesn’t make him come off as pretty. In the ring he’s no better or worse than The Miz. So the beef isn’t with Roman Reigns as Joe Anoa'I the person, but as Roman Reigns the company man who Vince thinks is best for business.
The thing about wrestling fans is that they historically have paid to be pissed off. If they’re ever happy they have no real reason to keep watching. The storylines have to be constantly frustrating to some point, but those days are changing. Wrestling fans don’t want to eat shit for an entire year and get rewarded like they did with the Daniel Bryan win last year. They want to go on a ride where they feel good for longer than a few PPVs, where the rug isn’t always being pulled from under them. New fans may have ADD, but jerking them around to the point where they feel as if their voices aren’t being heard isn’t how you keep the current WWE universe interested.
The reason why the 80’s WWE had a chance to boom was because the stability of Hulk Hogan created trust. The threat of him losing was always great but he rarely did, which made The Ultimate Warrior a legend when he pulled it off. In the 90’s WWE played hot potato with the belt, but they were given a chance to create Stone Cold through cheers, and even when he was being held back by Mr. McMahon he overcame and went through huge periods where he flourished with win after win. John Cena is the perfect example of giving those post-attitude fans someone to create and back.
The WWE fans want to get behind Daniel Bryan but going back to the Sheamus 18 second title loss in Miami, he’s been treated like a joke who fans shouldn’t get behind because it’s akin to cheering for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Dolph Ziggler won a huge Survivor Series match and was then buried once again. Ambrose is the only character being allowed to flourish and that’s because he’s under the radar feuding with people that WWE sees as only mid-card talent. WWE wants to tell it’s fans, Daniel Bryan is weird, Ambrose isn’t there yet, Dolph doesn’t have it—but look at Roman, he’s your guy… NOW EAT THE PEANUTS OUT HIS SH*T AND WORSHIP HIM BECAUSE HE’S ALSO ROCK’S COUSIN AND YOU IDIOTS LOVE ROCK!
Vince McMahon knows that he knows what the people want BETTER than the people. Right after Reigns won the internet began a "Cancel WWE Network Campaign" to show them that they aren't going to put up with having no say in the direction of the company anymore. Will this work? Will Vince realize that times have changed from where he could shove someone like Batista or Orton down your throat and you'd still buy it? Yes and No. Internet streams suck. Paying $75 for Mania sucks. And at $9.99 the WWE network does come with so much that it's hard to argue the value in keeping it even if you only sign up for certain PPVs. In short, wrestling fans aren't going to stop watching because Daniel Bryan isn't being pushed right, the same way they didn't leave after CM Punk went missing. Therefore, the only thing the fans can do besides stop watching is to be as vocal as Philadelphia fans were at the Rumble. You see Bubba "Bully" Ray Dudley come out, you give him the hot chants. You see someone you don't want to get behind, chant for who you want during their matches.
So how does WWE creative fix this current problem? Roman, like Batista the year before, isn’t going to last until Wrestlemania no matter how you book him. You can put him with The Authority like the Rock was with the Corporation but remember, Rock was already over when he made that switch. It's not about Good or Bad, it's about connecting with the audience so they relate to you. I’ve always said that I don’t really know Roman, outside of the great WWE Network documentary on the Usos, no one has really gotten to know his hard knock story. This isn’t to say have him go out on Raw and cut a Ryback promo where he talks about what inspired him to wrestle in order to get over. I think Roman needs to take a page out of Rock’s playbook and be real. Those boos hurt Joe the man, even if Roman the superhero wrestler didn’t acknowledge them. Reigns should talk about how he feels and shoot on the audience. If he goes heel or stays face shouldn’t even be a question, he should just develop into who he naturally is, much like Brock Lesnar.
Speaking of the one that put the one in 21-1, I applaud the WWE for booking that Triple Threat match that not only kept the title picture fresh, but delivered in ways Cena Vs. Lesnar wouldn't have if Rollins weren't involved. Brock’s style is that of a real fighter, he’s going to do stiff spots that hurt, and it’s only so long that can last. To have Rollins add athleticism to the mix made that match arguably Brock’s best bout since he’s been back and one of Cena’s finest performances in years. Which leads to the obvious, Roman Reigns is a believable opponent for Brock but as his character stands now does anyone believe he can do what Cena can’t?
I’m interested in seeing how these things develop on Monday Night Raw and what the main event for the next PPV is, as Brock will surely sit home until Levi Stadium. We’ll keep you updated as the Wrestlemania card comes into focus and give you our thoughts on each match of the card. Stay tuned.