It’s January and it’s the start of a new year. For some people, it’s the time for a fresh, new beginnings. For others, it’s time to try to better themselves and make up resolutions they intend to keep in the upcoming days. For professional wrestling fans, however, January means it’s time for the Royal Rumble!
The Royal Rumble, the annual live event wherein the Superstars who makes it through the other 30 competitors automatically gains a shot at the title of their choosing at the biggest show of the WWE: Wrestlemania. It wasn’t always like that, however, as the Royal Rumble’s origins were much more humble than that and the winner… just won it, I guess. Thankfully, the WWE wised up and decided to add this Wrestlemania stipulation to make it officially start the Road to Wrestlemania.
Despite it supposedly being a preview of what’s going to happen at Wrestlemania, I do believe the Royal Rumble, in most instances, outshines what’s supposed to be the WWE’s biggest live event. As much as I look forward to Wrestlemania, I find myself much more excited for the Royal Rumble each and every year. It is, in my opinion, the WWE’s best live event of the year each and every year.
One of the reasons why it’s much better than the other pay-per-view shows each and every year is it eschews the entire brand split the WWE has been pushing on us. I guess it does make some good business sense to diversify your stars and split them apart into RAW and Smackdown, separating your roster into two divisions. This gives the performers some breathing room as they don’t have to compete on two live shows each and every week. Even though it’s “predetermined” and all of that, professional wrestling is super taxing on the body due to all the bumps and falls they have to take.
All of that brand loyalty it thrown out the window, though, as all RAW and Smackdown members can compete at the same time. This allows Superstars who would normally not be in the same ring with each other because they belong to different brands actually enter the same match. You can have a RAW Superstar fight or even team up with someone from Smackdown, making it possibly the only time you’ll see them interact in a WWE ring together for the entire year. Sometime, they even have to team up to take on a bigger threat (or someone who’s just insufferable) and it’s always nice to see someone supposedly unstoppable get tossed over the top rope in frustration.
Not only that, there’s always a chance to see someone surprising enter in the Royal Rumble. It may be a former WWE Superstar returning after a long hiatus so you know they have no chance of winning. However, just seeing these memorable icons compete in the ring for possibly the last time ever is always a hoot.
What’s even better is seeing some Superstars returning to active competition or a well-known wrestler making their debut during the Royal Rumble. It’s always a real surprise to see someone big be a surprise entrant in the middle of the Rumble as it genuinely catches viewers by surprise. Sure, someone returning can show up on RAW or Smackdown or a new guy can pop up during either show. However, adding them to the Royal Rumble feels extra special because of the anticipation. As there’s this countdown prior to the next entrant, there’s always this weird anticipation of who it might be. Of course, most of the time, it’s going to be one of the regular RAW or Smackdown Superstars running down that ramp. However, when it’s some beloved former WWE roster member, it feels just a little bit more extra special.
I also feel the Royal Rumble is just a little more exciting now because the WWE was smart enough to not only have one for the men’s division. For the past several years, they’ve also been putting out one for the women’s division. Honestly, it does feel like it’s about time. It’s been traditional for women’s wrestling to take a back seat to the men’s division; you can even say it’s still this way even up to now. However, the WWE’s women division has gotten really good and the company has taken notice. So it only made sense to give the women’s division their own Royal Rumble with all the same stipulations as the men’s.
The Royal Rumble also has the greatest potential for incredibly dramatic moments. Storylines can develop, like hinting at potential breakups for beloved tag teams. There are also the antics of some entrants who refuse to enter the ring or are clobbered before getting into the ring so they were never eliminated. I also cannot understate the wonderfully creative ways some Superstars have saved themselves for elimination. Whether it be Shawn Michaels standing on one leg outside the ring, Kofi Kingston performing some acrobatic handstand or Naomi walking along the barricade, it just fun to see them skirt the rules to stay in the match.
All of this then culminates to the remaining Final Four competitors in the Royal Rumble. This is basically the climax of each Royal Rumble and it’s always a good showdown. These are always good because, after 30 entrants, whittling it down to the Final Four Superstars shows we’re in the home stretch. Any of these four can be the one to win it all and get that title shot at Wrestlemania. This leads to some kind of a mini-match involving them. However, how it all goes down boils down to whoever is remaining. It could be two guys versus the other two guys. It also could be three of them trying to take out one of them. It could just be an all out brawl with all of them just beating on one another!
There’s also the added drama of when someone will backstab the other when they do team up. After all, there are no co-winners in the Royal Rumble… most of the time, anyway. Since everyone wants that singular shot to main event Wrestlemania, alliances are always going to be short lived. Whether it happens sooner or later is just part of the drama.
However, the biggest reason why the Royal Rumble is better than even Wrestlemania is, oddly, because it’s the start to the Road to Wrestlemania. You see the winner of the Royal Rumble and you can start piecing together what might happen during Wrestlemania. The potential for greatness just started. It doesn’t exactly depict if the upcoming Wrestlemania will be good or not. All we see is that it can potentially be good. Maybe the winner is super unexpected like Drew McIntyre or maybe utterly hated like Roman Reigns during the Rumble where Daniel Bryan was eliminated at the middle. It doesn’t matter at that point. What’s important is we form the idea of what Wrestlemania will be like. It could get us excited… even if the eventual Wrestlemania match could be a dud.
As with every year, I’m eagerly awaiting what the WWE has planned for the Royal Rumble. It’s always been my favorite show and regularly outshines even Wrestlemania in terms of excitement levels. I know I’ll be dumbfounded by the dramatic saves, shocked by the surprise entrants and, hopefully, exhilarated by the eventual winner as he and/or she climbs up to the middle turnbuckle and points to the Wrestlemania sign as fireworks erupt all around the arena.