As we approach Survivor Series and the hype for The Rock vs. John Cena at Wrestlemania 28 begins, I wanted to take a critical look at how World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) will manage the top two title situations for what may be one of the most important pay-per-view (PPV) events in the promotion's history.
One thing that will be interesting to see is how WWE juggles those two title shots with the Royal Rumble winner and Daniel Bryan's vow to cash in his Money in the Bank (MitB) briefcase at Wrestlemania. This brings me to how WWE has handled the Rumble and MitB with regards to the title and making new stars.
There is a perception that the MitB briefcase has been used poorly, with the champions often forgettable and easily discarded. On the other hand, winning the Royal Rumble and main-eventing Wrestlemania has been held as a prestigious honor and the men who have had a chance to do that have gone on to lead successful careers.
Is this perception true? I looked into some data and tried to find out.
Let's break it down.Methodology
I examined each Royal Rumble from 1998 to 2011, excluding the 1999 Rumble that Vince McMahon won. I chose this era because it is considered the beginning of the Austin-dominated "Attitude Era" that led to significant changes in booking within the WWE.
I looked at the average length of the reign following their victory at Wrestlemania. I then compared this to the average title reign of the winners of MitB. In order to make sure these numbers were somewhat comparable, I also found out the average length of title reigns in the 1998-2011 and 2005-2011 eras (the latter being the years which had Money in the Bank matches).
It turns out that the average title reign hasn't changed much since 1998:
Average World Title Reign, 1998-2011: 70 days
Average World Title Reign, 1998-2004: 73 days
Average World Title Reign, 2005-2011: 68 days
Here is the data, first for Rumble winners (13 in total), then for MitB winners (nine total):
|Year||Winner||Title?||Title Reign (days)|
|1998||Stone Cold Steve Austin||Y||91|
|2001||Stone Cold Steve Austin||Y||175|
|2011||Alberto Del Rio||N||0|
Money in the Bank
|Year||Winner||Title?||Title Reign (days)|
|2006||Rob Van Dam||Y||22|
|2007||Mr. Kennedy / Edge||Y||70|
|2011||Alberto Del Rio||Y||35|
Average Title Reign, Rumble Winners: 126 days
Average Title Reign, Rumble Overall: 77 days
Average Title Reign, Money in the Bank: 74 days
I find these numbers very intriguing.
If you look at just the winners, you can see that Rumble winners in general end up with successful title runs that last a decent amount of time (1.8 times the average title reign length). However, that is countered by the fact that Rumble winners have not all won their opportunities and when you average in the lack of title reigns from those Rumbles, the overall average title reign post-Rumble ends up being highly similar to the Money in the Bank reigns.
It's also worth noting that all three numbers are higher than that of the average reign in WWE, meaning that these winners have been given above average time with the belt as a group to establish a connection.
Of course, part of what makes a title run seem legitimate is how it is booked and I think that is where MitB's perception comes from. A good majority of these title reigns were weak just based on their lengths and for the most part, only two of the MitB winners (Punk and Edge) went on to establish themselves firmly as main event options (time will tell with Miz and Del Rio).
Among first-time world champions, only Punk, Edge, and Del Rio have won world titles since their first MitB-derived championships, while the remainder have toiled from mediocrity to worse.
But how have the Rumble winners done in terms of establishing themselves?
Of the Rumble winners listed, only five had not previously won a world title. This is significant in that the Rumble has been used less and less to get over a new star and more and more to set up a world title feud for an established character.
Just witness the 2007-2010 Rumbles, all of which were won by previous world champions.
So to a degree this isn't an apples-to-apples comparison; only one MitB winner (Kane) had previously held a world title. Of the five previous non-champs from the Rumble, two of them established themselves as main eventers on a full-time basis (Austin in 1998 followed by Batista). Two others were relegated to upper-mid card or temporary main event status (Benoit and Mysterio) and Del Rio did not win his opportunity.
I'm not sure what all of this ultimately means, but I don't think the Rumble lately has done much to elevate players compared to MitB. Neither has done a good job and that may be an indictment on how WWE uses those tools rather than how the event itself is utilized.
The Rumble has the momentous build-up behind it, but it seems WWE is more interested in using it to advance storylines with featured players. The situation with Bryan can mimic the Rumble in its slow buildup. His situation is likely the only opportunity WWE will have in this upcoming Wrestlemania season to build a new star using either of these tools, so I hope they use it wisely.
Agree? Disagree? Let's hear your thoughts in the comments section below.