Like last year’s winner, Batista, Reigns suffered from months-long anointed one status, and that was evident from the moment his music hit at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
It didn’t help that Philly crowd favorite Daniel Bryan had been eliminated surprisingly early and unceremoniously moments earlier, the second year in a row that WWE flubbed on Bryan’s role in the Rumble. (Last year, Bryan wasn’t even one of the 30 participants.)
The moment Bryan, who had reportedly been getting a push in the higher levels of WWE as a possible winner in recent weeks, was out of the mix, the rest of the Rumble was a foregone conclusion to the at-that-point inevitable Reigns victory.
The rest of the Rumble main event was devoid of drama. The surprise appearances were few and far between – nice pops for Bubba Ray Dudley and Diamond Dallas Page – with way, way too many jobbers thrown in for whatever measure.
Honestly, are any of us going to believe Zach Ryder, Adam Rose, Kofi Kingston, R-Truth for the main event of WrestleMania?
As the contestants started falling by the wayside toward the end, it was the team of Kane and Big Show eliminating everybody methodically, one by one by one. Somehow Rusev, who had seemingly been one of their victims, was still part of the mix, on the floor, out of sight, to put the attention on Kane, Show and their apparent last victim, Reigns, for whom the boos grew louder as he predictably began to fight his way out of the predicament.
Then the cheap pop for his “cousin” The Rock, who made the save when Show and Kane attacked Reigns after being eliminated, allowing Reigns to dispense with the returning Rusev for the win and the WM31 spot.
Bored, lazy, uninspired booking, leading to a bored, lazy, uninspired main event for WrestleMania, as Brock Lesnar, also predictably, won the triple-threat world title match with John Cena and Seth Rollins. As predictable as the outcome was, though, the execution on the title match was above-average, with numerous near-falls, and a nice interlude with an “injured” Lesnar that the champ and the TV commentators sold well, making it seem that Lesnar had suffered a legit broken rib after taking a top-rope-to-the-Spanish-announce-table elbow from Rollins, before returning to clear the ring and get the fall on Rollins.
All told, we left the Royal Rumble with what we’d expected going in basically since SummerSlam – a main event for WrestleMania 31 with Lesnar defending against Reigns, and a brewing feud for John Cena and Rusev. You’re pardoned if you’re scratching your head about where that one came from: it wasn’t featured on the actual Rumble TV telecast, but on an interview segment on the WWE app, which is a ridiculous place to launch a WrestleMania feud for a company desperately trying to get people to sign up for its $9.99 a month pay service to be able to watch the big shows, then gives away the seeding of a new, top-of-the-card feud on an app.
The brewing Sting-Triple H feud that is supposed to be another big part of WrestleMania also got no airtime on Rumble. And we have no idea where Daniel Bryan, Bray Wyatt and Dean Ambrose are going next.
All of that, and we have ourselves another WrestleMania main event that is being met with disapproval by a pretty large focus group in Philly.
And we can rest assured knowing that we can look forward to more of the tired storyline involving The Authority because the people who run the company think what’s best for business is more exposure for themselves at the expense of their actual talents.
Here’s to hoping WWE rights the ship over the next couple of months.
– Review by Chris Graham