Thursday, February 02, 2017

'Royal Rumble 2017' Was Genius Booking

In general, I really don’t care if WWE pay-per-view results are spoiled to me.  Except for the Royal Rumble.  I still don’t mind being spoiled, but with this one pay-per-view, I prefer to go watch it knowing as little as possible what’s going to happen.  This year’s winner was spoiled to me in my Facebook newsfeed, which I thought was going to be drowned by Miss Universe posts last Monday.  Anyway, I proceeded to watch it on Tuesday, aware of only two things: John Cena won his 16th world championship (might write my thoughts on this later, but this post is all about the Royal Rumble match), and that Randy Orton won the Royal Rumble.

I tremendously enjoyed Royal Rumble 2017 as a whole, but most especially how the Royal Rumble match turned out.  And not only because of the fact that Randy Orton – who is probably my most favorite wrestler currently working in the WWE – won it, but because I genuinely think it was a well-thought-out booking.

The match started and progressed solidly – featuring a couple of cool, exciting moments spread out across the match.  No.2 entrant Chris Jericho slithered out of the ring, seemingly intending to wait it out till the latter minutes – a cowardly but sly strategy, which is simply typical of Jericho.  This guy named Jack Gallagher – who I had no idea exists in the WWE (since I’m no regular viewer) prior this – came out at no. 5, and I found him a lot of fun, with his utilization of an umbrella as weapon, his “extraordinary gentleman” gimmick, and having “Les Toréadors” as theme song – he was like a character straight out of a Tom & Jerry cartoon.  Braun Strowman did some dominating early on.  There was a minor surprise at number ten, as a NXT talent made an appearance (someone I honestly didn’t recognize and appreciate since, again, I’m no regular WWE viewer).  RKO fest.  Luke Harper turned on Bray Wyatt.  So far, so good; entertaining, but no big surprises yet.  Down the stretch, the legendary “part-timers” finally made their entrances.  First came Brock Lesnar at no. 26.  Then Goldberg at no. 28 – who swiftly eliminated Lesnar!  Undertaker came out at no. 29.  After some skirmishes, Undertaker eliminated Goldberg.  At this point, everything seemed to be picking up towards an epic end, and with each new entry only escalating the match, there was white-knuckled, lofty anticipation for the last entrant.  So when the clock began its countdown to the no. 30 entrant, everybody was expecting to have their minds blown.  TEN! NINE! EIGHT! SEVEN! SIX! FIVE! FOUR! THREE! TWO! ONE! BZZZT!  AND IT WAS… Roman Reigns.
I understand why many fans thought it was disappointing.  It’s the 30th Royal Rumble after all.  There was hype that it was going to be the best ever.  Heading towards that no. 30 spot, the match was solid and entertaining, but not exactly the “best Rumble ever” kind that everyone was expecting.  Thus, everyone was thinking that the bombshell was finally going to happen at no. 30 – a shocking entrant that nobody would see coming.  An entry that would ensure that it was the “best Rumble ever.”  Could it be The Rock, maybe?  Or, at least, Kurt Angle, who was heavily rumored.

But it turned out being Roman Reigns.  Now, I personally don’t hate Reigns.  I think his Superman Punch is pretty cool, and he delivers some of the most incredibly believable fake-punches I’ve seen in the WWE these days.  However, I understand that the fan consensus is that Reigns sucks.  There’s a lot of hate for him – probably as much as the peak of John Cena hate.  Fans feel that there’s nothing organic about his meteoric rise, that he’s something that the WWE is forcibly pushing down their throats.

Bringing Reigns at no. 30 was such a shocking letdown for many fans.  And I personally find it hilarious.  I laughed so hard when Reigns’ music hit after the countdown, realizing immediately that die-hard fans will lose their heads.  It was fantastic trolling in WWE’s part.  I laughed some more when I watched several live-reaction videos at Youtube afterwards.
And, oh, it just kept getting better.  WWE was not yet done trolling its fans.  Reigns then eliminated the Undertaker!  Some people from the crowd started chanting “Bullshit.”   So it came down to Reigns, Orton, Wyatt, and Jericho.  At that point, considering Jericho’s “lie-low” strategy, there might have been heavy assumption among fans that he would win.  But that hope was soon taken when Reigns eliminated him.

I could sense the fans were angrily panicking out of their minds (verified this afterwards by watching those live-reaction Youtube videos).  So with Bray, Orton, and Reigns as final three, it might be an indication that Bray was going to win it since Orton and Reigns had won it before already.  But, noooo, Reigns eliminated Bray.  The horror and rage of the WWE fans of the likelihood of the hated Reigns winning again was a moment of pure awesomeness.

So when Randy Orton won, the cheers were thunderous.  Now, Orton has always been cheered, even when he’s a heel.  But the cheers he received after winning was likely more enthusiastic than what he usually receives at this point of his career.  The crowd was just too relieved it wasn’t Reigns.
WWE fans may have felt cheated of Reigns at no. 30.  But if they set aside their blind dislike for him, and reflect on it, they might realize that WWE had actually done something remarkable.  It created a heluva emotional roller coaster ride, and brilliantly played with expectations.

It was a calculated decision in WWE’s part to put Reigns at 30.  Sure, it might felt underwhelming.  But that’s just the thing: by letting Lesnar, Goldberg, and Undertaker herald the 30th spot, the hype was heightened into an extent where fans were looking forward to have their minds blown.  Instead, what they got is Roman Reigns.  Literally nobody was expecting him.  After all, he just had a match early in the night.  Most importantly, he’s the most hated wrestler in the roster.  The thought of giving him that hallowed no. 30 spot is atrocious.  So when he came out at no. 30, isn’t that one heck of a Shyamalan plot twist?

The fans were brought to such euphoric emotional height while waiting for no. 30… then the rug was rudely pulled under them when it turned out being Reigns.  And just when the momentum of the match was seemingly heading towards the inevitability of him winning again, the fans were saved from a devastating outcome.  “Outta nowhere.”
So into its home stretch, the match elicited a spectrum of emotions in such a short period of time.  Bliss.  Heightened anticipation.  Disappointment.  Disbelief.  Loathing.  Dread.  Relief.  Exhilaration.  WWE exploited the hatred for Reigns to bring that about.  And, thus, regardless of his or her opinion of Orton, a fan is manipulated into celebrating his win as if it’s the best thing ever.

Royal Rumble 2017 may not have delivered the fans’ expected surprise, but it delivered a surprise nonetheless – and a more effective one at that (besides, isn’t “expected surprise” an oxymoron?).  It was genius booking.

That, or I’m just too happy Orton is being pushed to the top again.

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