As fans, we talk amongst ourselves about star power and the next wrestler to crossover into the mainstream. For those of you who haven’t snapped out of that dream yet, the latest Royal Rumble should serve as a big bucket of cold water mixed with a dose of reality. Edge had the best story going into the 2021 Royal Rumble, which says the billion-dollar company will always rely on tried and true. And him winning is an indictment of the company and how it’s failed to truly develop and tell quality stories in its Men’s division for quite some time.
Let’s get this out of the way now: this is in no way a diss to Edge. The fact Adam Copeland is even in the position to main event WrestleMania a decade after he was told he’d never wrestle again is a miracle. His comeback tale is the kind of thing people will talk about over campfires in hushed tones from now until the day we’ve exhausted all our natural resources.
All that said, the Rumble used to turn wrestlers into made men. The event and the following WrestleMania match elevated a wrestler into the main event. People like Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, Batista, and Drew McIntyre were all on the cusp of something dope. Winning the Rumble just etched their names in the company and the larger wrestling world. The problem with the main roster in the year of our Lord 2021 is there aren’t many guys who haven’t carved out their spots.
Of the 30 cats in the Rumble, most have called WWE home for a decade or longer. Of the final four, the guy with the least amount of tread on his tires is knee-deep into a six-year career with a couple championships to his name already. And it’s hard to envision a scenario where Braun Strowman’s chase for another title reign becomes interesting. Seth Rollins is a multi-time world champion. Just like A.J. Styles, Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, Sheamus, and Rey Mysterio.
While it would be dope for a New Day member or someone like Cesaro to go on to ‘Mania, we know the deal by now. They’ve been around long enough where Vince has them right where he wants them (Cesaro), he’s not quite ready to put them in the main event (Big E), or they’re pure comedy now and have no shot at being taken seriously (fill in the blank).
These aren’t fresh faces looking for their first taste of glory on the Men’s side of the equation. For every Mustafa Ali, there are two Dolph Zigglers. And guys like Ali just don’t get enough love for us to even pretend they’re viable winners. The easiest way to determine who can possibly win the Rumble is to look at the stories told going into the event. Outside four of the five last guys, most of the participants are involved in some variation of mid-card beef. If one were inclined—and I just so happen to be—one might say WWE stuck so many of its wrestlers in the mid-card for so long that it’s hard picturing them as legitimate main event threats.
That becomes clearer when juxtaposed with the Women’s roster. Are there a few people who have not an ounce of a shot of winning? Of course. But there are more than enough out of 30 who could not only succeed but provide a different flavor for the main event scene. Win or lose, the fact Bianca Belair is getting her very first shot at the WWE Women’s Championship at WrestleMania is a great story on its own.
Rather than tease us or waiting long enough until the crowd loses interest, WWE struck while Bianca’s proverbial iron is hot as hell. There are way too many men toiling away in the mid-card or lower simply because WWE, for whatever reason, consistently made them bridesmaids.
Edge’s promo from last Monday made it clear he had the best story going into the night. He needed to prove to fans, doctors, family, friends, and more importantly to himself, that his comeback wasn’t a mistake. He needed to be in WrestleMania’s main event, probably more than anyone else since Kofi Kingston.
For years, most everyone in Sunday’s Men’s Rumble’s story was about how it would be cool to be the champion of the world, but it wasn’t a necessity. For them, at least the way it looks on TV every week, becoming the Universal Champion or WWE Champion just ain’t what it used to be. Edge needed to win, while they simply wanted to. And we all know what happens when a need crosses paths with a want.
WWE doesn’t feel it needs to do better with its men, even if we want the company to do so.