Historically Significant Disasters of Wrestling. #10 Royal Rumble 2014

Yes it's the tenth article of this series! Today we look at a event which saw Rey Mysterio become Public Enemy Number 1

As we all bask in the aftermath of what was possibly the best Wrestlemania in 10 years, it is strange to stop and remember that three months ago we were not drooling in anticipation for Wrestlemania 30 but rather wallowing in the pits of despair at what we thought could be one of the most drab, awfully booked and badly worked Wrestlemanias in history.

The rise of Daniel Bryan from internet darling to the most over babyface in the company was a long time coming. His in ring skills, infectious demeanour and truly universal catchphrase (there's not many people who were not swept up with chanting 'Yes!') had seen him gradually overcome all obstacles to be the guy that the WWE universe was screaming to the WWE to give a main event shot. So come Summerslam 2013, they did with Daniel Bryan pinning John Cena clean in the middle of the ring.

Just think about that for a second. He pinned Cena clean. There was no mitigating factor, no leg on the rope, no untoward chair shot or distraction by an authority figure who thought Bryan was not up to scratch. Bryan hit Cena with the Busaiku Knee and got the 1, 2, 3. He celebrated. We celebrated. A new dawn seemed to be here.


Triple H stabbed Bryan in the back, Orton cashed in and Bryan's reign was snuffed out before it had even begun.

But at Night of Champions, Bryan got his win back in the main event and all seemed right with the world.

Well, no, as Scott Armstrong had counted fast and so Bryan was stripped of his belt the next night on Raw.

It almost seemed like the WWE creative were teasing us with the idea of Bryan being champion- like the idea was a notion that they would flirt with, but not fully commit to. These unsettling thoughts seemed to be cemented when Bryan found himself out of the main event and the WWE went back to the old tried and true formula of Cena vs Orton. Bryan on the other hand would join that other Internet sensation CM Punk in matches to occupy the two biggest heel factions of the company- the Wyatt Family and the Shield.

Heading into the Royal Rumble Bryan was on a collision course with Bray Wyatt after humiliating the Eater of Worlds a couple of weeks before, while Punk was railing against Triple H, Kane and the Authority. Meanwhile, Cena and Orton were continuing to do battle for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. The stage was set for a big moment that would put either Punk or (more obviously) Bryan over to win the World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania.

Bryan and Wyatt came out first and had what can only be described as a blinder of a match. Bryan was his usual great self and Wyatt proved a lot of his doubters wrong with an amazing display of in ring storytelling and brutality. Though Bryan lost, everyone was quite happy- after all, it was an amazing match, Wyatt was a cool character and Bryan would get his moment later.

The WWE should have really suspected something was up when their two biggest mainstays of the last 5 years in Orton and Cena went out and had a match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. This was supposed to be a big deal.

The trouble was, to the crowd at least, this was the same deal they had seen so many times before. According to one source I looked up, since 2007 Cena and Orton have been involved in the same PPV match 19 times- and that is not including Royal Rumbles or Tag Teams. Eighteen of those PPV matches were World Title bouts (the other was a #1 contender's match). This idea of repetition was not helped by the fact that John Cena's dad was beaten up by Orton- something he had already done which made the angle seem repetitive. At some point there has to be a backlash.

And boy did they get one.

Cena is often booed by a substantial amount of the audience. But this was not just booing- this was venomous as the two performers attempted to try and put together a decent match under the hateful eyes of fans who wanted to see their stars in Punk and Bryan exhibit their skills. Cena and Orton were perceived as corporate choices, rather than people's choices and the fact that the WWE still could not see the problem was something that Pittsburgh was not going to stand for. Eventually the Wyatt Family distracted Cena to end the match (to the chant of "Thank you Wyatts!" from the crowd before nailing Cena with a Sister Abigail.

Well at least there was the Royal Rumble to look forward to.

Before we get onto the major controversy of the Rumble Match, it's important to face the fact that it really wasn't a great Rumble in any case. If one was to sum it up in a word it would be 'formulaic'. Nothing about the whole thing seemed new or intriguing. The only return they got was Kevin Nash- (Kevin Nash?!) who proceeded to look quite out of shape as he made a quick exit from proceedings and Sheamus, who was returning from injury. It was very anticlimatic after rumours of Jericho and RVD making appearances. Furthermore, Batista looked very rusty and nothing about the Rumble seemed like it was a big moment. Even Roman Reigns' 12 eliminations did not seem as big as it could be because it got swamped in the controversy that was to follow.

But never mind, thought the crowd. At least coming up we'll see Daniel Bryan come out and win the Rumble.

As soon as the honker for the 30th entrant sounded, and the Booyakah Booyakah started, you could write the PPV off. Poor Rey Mysterio never stood a chance. The crowd reacted to him like Sergeant Slaughter during his Iraq sympathiser days and the crowd were far from finished. To them, this was Bryan's night- the night where overcame the machine of the Authority and won himself the right to challenge for the WWE Championship.

Instead that went to Batista. A guy who had just come back and had not wrestled in the company for two years. Admittedly it did not help that Batista's spears in the match seemed to look like he was almost leaning against someone and then falling over, but the guy was on a hiding to nothing.

The WWE clearly thought they could slip this by the universe and have a great main event at Wrestlemania. It truly shows how much they underestimated how invested the crowd was in Bryan. Instead the WWE tried to put forward a guy who just felt wrong as a face (a fact that was validated later with his reaction to much of the crowd at the Rumble) in order to create some sort of mainstream crossover event like they did at WM28 and WM 29.

CM Punk left the WWE the next day. How much of this is due to the Royal Rumble is debatable, but what is clear is that the Royal Rumble gave the WWE a massive smack in the face. Wrestlemania 30 seemed like an acknowledgement of the past, but also a break from it, allowing the WWE to turn its eyes to the future. The Wrestlemania that the WWE seemed to be cooking up before the backlash in Pittsburgh was one that seemed to be far more nostalgic and rose tinted towards the past. Would it have sold well? Probably. Would it have made for a great Wrestlemania that could set up future superstars? Nope.

The Royal Rumble of 2014 will be analysed by us wrestling obsessives for years to come because it showed the power that the universe has over the WWE. There was very little chance that if the WWE decided to go ahead with Batista vs Orton that they would have had another chance to go back on their ideas.

The darker side of this coin though is how much more pressure there is on the WWE staff in the world of the media savvy fan. With so many more websites dedicated to wrestling, the idea of having a feud stalling for PPV like Cena and Orton did is now a tremendous risk. Likewise, superstars are now taking the brunt of boos from decisions by creative- Rey Mysterio is still getting a bit of stick post-Rumble. The fans are much more willing to voice opinions, and in the atmosphere of a stadium considered argument and discourse is not really an option.

Nevertheless, the 2014 Royal Rumble was a disaster that helped prevent a much bigger disaster three months down the line. For that reason we should look back on it and be somewhat thankful.

That concludes my tenth article in this series! Next time I am going to do something a little bit different- stay tuned!

#1 Owen Hart vs Stone Cold @ Summerslam '97

#2 December to Dismember 2006

#3 The Fingerpoke of Doom

#4 The Scott Steiner vs HHH Feud

#5 Ryback vs Mark Henry @ Wrestlemania XXIX

#6 Bret Hart vs Vince McMahon @ Wrestlemania XXVI

#7 The Jerry Lawler/Michael Cole Feud

#8 The Curtain Call

#9 Bash at the Beach 2000

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