I loved every bit of the men’s Royal Rumble match last night at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas.
My biggest beef with WWE has long been the unwillingness among those in creative positions to try something different, especially on the bigger stages. Here we got the WWE Champion, Brock Lesnar, not just entering the match but starting it from the number one spot. His title wasn’t even on the line!
He proceeded to eliminate the first 13 wrestlers to enter after him. Instead of allowing the likes of John Morrison and Kofi Kingston to go long and give them some fancy elimination save with no real hope of winning, they were dominated and tossed aside. This was part of the brilliance of the opening half of the match. The majority of the guys he ran through had no hope of winning anyway. Why not use them to tell an actually compelling story? Each new elimination brought with it a legitimate worry that he was going to go the distance.
It also set up Keith Lee to look good — until he looked incredibly stupid, at least — when he actually got to stand in with Lesnar and go toe-to-toe with him. But even better, it was precisely what they needed to do to establish Drew McIntyre, the big beefy bastard who would ultimately eliminate Brock — with a nice low blow assist from Ricochet — by kicking him in the face.
McIntyre instantly became the favorite, and the atmosphere in the building was electric. In one elimination they built a WrestleMania match, and then they emphatically put McIntyre over the rest of the way by having him win the match outright, last eliminating the one and only Roman Reigns. He was also the Iron Man, lasting just over 34 minutes.
The second half of the match was arguably even better than the first, with all the big names coming in, the return of Edge (which was every bit as good as anyone could have hoped for), the fantastic booking of Seth Rollins and his crew, the incredibly fun interaction between Edge and Randy Orton, and Reigns being entirely willing to be the big star fans would be scared would win just enough to be so incredibly happy to cheer for the guy he would ultimately be thrown out by.
Again, this was played brilliantly to showcase the stars they wanted to showcase while setting up a legitimately compelling WrestleMania main event level title match. I would much rather have the Rumble, with all its versatility, be used to tell a great story than simply run a bunch of guys to the ring to throw bad punches while resting in the corner.
To best illustrate how well this worked, I would like to share with you the journey of our very own Stella Cheeks, who despises Brock Lesnar and adores Drew McIntyre.
When Lesnar was running wild:
When McIntyre sent him packing:
When McIntyre won the match:
That’s what pro wrestling is all about, folks.