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Ready to Rumble? Lower Your Expectations

Hey guys! Did you hear the rumor about Daniel Bryan? And the one about CM Punk? Oooh! And Okada – you know New Japan probably owes WWE for allowing Jericho to work Wrestle Kingdom! I heard Batista’s gearing up for a final run in WWE as well. And now that Ricochet’s in WWE, he has to be in the Rumble, right?

The names go on: Ethan Carter III, Bobby Lashley, Pete Dunne, and Jeff Hardy. Rumors raging, scouring betting lines, fan theories abound…

Welcome to Rumble season.

I wrote an article in 2014 for Cageside where I scolded WWE for how poorly they had read their fan base during that year’s Royal Rumble. That was the year of Daniel Bryan, by the way. In hindsight though, I get WWE’s decision.

Daniel Bryan was a competitor coming from the wrestling indies. Anyone who knew Bryan knew him from wrestling. But Batista? That dude was off in Hollywood doing things, shaking hands, meeting new people. He was a veteran wrestler that WWE had counted on to draw for them for years in the past. It makes all the financial sense in the world to go with the guy who might bring more eyeballs to WrestleMania, right?

In the end, the overwhelming enthusiasm for Bryan drew mainstream attention. WWE shifted course. Batista headlined WrestleMania, and so did Bryan. Both the WWE and the fans got what they wanted.

That year worked out well. But fans have been slow in learning the lesson of Batista: When it comes to the Royal Rumble, WWE would rather not take risks with its winner.

In the past ten years, 8 of the ten Rumble winners had been a World Champion prior to their Rumble victory. The only two exceptions? Roman Reigns and Alberto Del Rio.

In the past ten years, John Cena and Randy Orton hold two wins a piece. Two big-named part-time wrestlers won as well: The aforementioned Batista and Triple H.

And perhaps the most tempering stat of all: In the past ten years, the Royal Rumble winner had around eight years of experience on the main roster at the time of their Rumble victory.

So when it comes to the Rumble, expect a familiar face to be pointing at the WrestleMania sign. You’ll know their name, you’ll know their story, and there’s a good chance that it won’t be the man or woman you were hoping for.

I must sound like a spoilsport, but that’s not my intention here. As a fan, it’s okay to want a surprise winner! But with that said, you have to also realize that such a decision is a financial risk for WWE. It’s much easier to go with a man or woman they already know they can trust. They’d also like a name that will draw mainstream attention.

That’s the antithesis of what the fans in Philadelphia will want. They’ll want a well-known wrestler whose work around the world is critically acclaimed. They’ll want a Nakamura, an Omega, a returning Punk or Bryan. And frankly? That sort of name goes against what WWE’s usually looking for.

So temper your expectations and instead demand what WWE has no excuse not to give you. The Royal Rumble should have surprises. It should have fun debuts. It should have silly things like Tye Dillinger entering at #10 last year.

The Rumble should also be used to introduce new feuds for WrestleMania. It should feature good storytelling and fun moments. The Royal Rumble should be a unique spectacle that keeps us chatting long into the night about how much fun it was.

We’re seven days away from the Rumble and rumors will continue to fly. And by all means, keep hoping for Bryan to make a magical return to wrestling. Just be prepared in advance to settle for a Cena, Orton, or Reigns.

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