Several days ago I briefly discussed how Big E’s loss to Sami Zayn on last week’s (Dec. 11) episode of SmackDown did him no favors, and is not how a future Royal Rumble winner is booked.
I received a decent amount of feedback telling me that it’s too early to reach that conclusion, so I wanted to elaborate on why I feel like the window for Big E to become a Royal Rumble 2021 threat is rapidly closing. In order for Big E to win the Royal Rumble and get a match with Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 37, he’ll have to be pushed on an even more accelerated timeline than Drew McIntyre received last year at this time.
As recently as November 2019, Drew McIntyre was losing matches on Raw and didn’t have much traction at all. He even lost a match against consistent loser Ricochet some time that fall. Drew’s failures on pay-per-view were hard to ignore. WWE suddenly shifted gears with him starting with the Dec. 2 episode of Raw, where he went on a weekly spree of squashing jobbers like Zack Ryder and Matt Hardy. 55 days later, McIntyre won the Royal Rumble match.
Big E doesn’t have 55 days left to work with. Even if Royal Rumble 2021 takes place on the latest day possible, Jan. 31, that’s 45 days from now. That time span includes seven episodes of SmackDown, at most, for Big E to get on the right track for a Royal Rumble victory.
One counterpoint to this is that Drew McIntyre only had eight episodes of Raw to turn things around last year, and he still managed to go all the way to a Royal Rumble victory. So Big E isn’t that far behind Drew’s timeline.
That may be true, but what makes things more difficult for Big E is that the next two episodes of SmackDown will likely have well below average television viewership; that’s because tomorrow night’s (Dec. 18) episode will air on Fox Sports, and the episode after that falls on Christmas night (Dec. 25).
An even trickier situation to navigate is that Drew McIntyre had a live audience to interact with one year ago when he was getting over counting down Claymore kicks for jobbers like Akira Tozawa and No Way Jose. Big E won’t have a live audience to work with due to the coronavirus pandemic. Vince McMahon is left to his own whims to assess wrestlers without any meaningful audience feedback, and these days that could mean baffling decisions like sending Keith Lee for additional training.
There’s also the fact that even though McIntyre lost a bunch of pay-per-view bouts in 2019, he was still getting booked into matches with top stars like Undertaker, Shane McMahon, Roman Reigns, The Shield, etc. That’s at least a sign of confidence that WWE believed McIntyre could potentially be an upper card mainstay. Big E had a great run for years with New Day, but his pay-pay-view placement just doesn’t measure up to what Drew had one year ago, largely thanks to Vince McMahon’s dismissal of tag team wrestling. And in his current singles run, Big E really hasn’t accomplished much besides winning a feud over Sheamus. That feud wrapped up more than two months ago.
One other factor to consider is that Big E is not a part-timer, and it’s very tempting to believe that Vince McMahon prefers to book Goldberg vs. Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 37. That’s because Goldberg ruins everything.
Finally, there were rumors that McIntyre had Paul Heyman in his corner, who was pushing for a WrestleMania match against Brock Lesnar. If true, that’s a pretty big advantage for McIntyre, whereas it’s unknown if Big E has anyone on SmackDown’s creative team with that kind of influence backing him up right now.
Paul Heyman is no longer on a WWE creative team, but he did recently use Talking Smack to hype up a Big E WrestleMania run. Despite Heyman’s best efforts, it looks to me like the calendar is just not in Big E’s favor right now for that big Royal Rumble victory that so many people are hoping for. He’s going to need this push to start immediately. Every week counts when there are only seven episodes of television to go.
This looks to me like a case where fans are hopeful for something that needs at least another year of seasoning to make more plausible. There are plenty of scenarios where Big E has a very successful year in 2021 without a Royal Rumble win or a top match at WrestleMania, so I also want to stress that this is far from the end of Big E’s singles run if he is not given a big push right now.
The final thought I’ll leave you with is that roughly one year ago I wrote an article where I expressed doubt about Drew McIntyre’s probability of winning the 2020 Royal Rumble match. I somehow displayed a special level of buffoonery by getting that one wrong. So here’s to hoping that I am screwing this up again, and that Big E will come through on those early Royal Rumble odds.
How do you think Big E will fare in the 2021 Royal Rumble match?