The 2021 Men’s Royal Rumble Hurt Me
I ain’t heard a peep about this.
The Royal Rumble is, hands down, my favourite wrestling match. The whole procedure is my favourite kind of match. When WWE added a women’s Rumble to each PPV so I got two in one night, I was overjoyed. And even when it’s not that great or contains questionable decisions, I have a good to great time watching, or even re-watching, them.
So it says a lot that the 2021 Men’s Royal Rumble left me disappointed. Frustrated. Short-changed.
All things that I could be feeling towards a sexual encounter, but I feel towards a wrestling show because I’m a functional adult.
I’M ABOUT TO PRAISE STUFF SO THEN I’M ALLOWED TO CRITICISE OTHER STUFF
Now, I don’t like wailing on stuff. I much prefer the opposite, and would much rather accentuate the positives than dwell on the negatives, but in a WWE that offers ever-dwindling mark-out moments for me, it’s come to this.
The Royal Rumble event could always be counted on as being on the positive side. For me, even a shoddy undercard could be brought up just for sharing an event with the Royal Rumble match(es), and the worst Royal Rumble beats the best day fishing, or what have you.
That’s what I thought.
Then I watched the 2021 Men’s Royal Rumble.
Thank fuck the women’s match from earlier in the night was good, ‘cos I couldn’t have handled two going tits up.
Am I putting too much stock in this?
But let’s start with a quick cash-eating scenario and accentuate the good bit — the 2021 Women’s Royal Rumble.
- Bianca Belair winning was great. She was a bit of a favourite, but not enough for her #3 entry not to cast doubt on it.
- Having one tyrannical heel (in this case, Charlotte Flair) can work wonders for a match.
- The returning legends were used sparingly and were genuine surprises. Victoria and Jillian Hall finally got some respect, Alicia Fox got the title run that her previous run with the company deserved, and it’s never bad to see Torrie Wilson, I was genuinely hoping she would go a fair distance, but the right call was probably made. They shouldn’t have to pad the numbers, but if this is what they pad with, it ain’t bad.
- It felt like everyone (bar a few who didn’t need it) got a chance to shine and played off a story they had coming into the match. (See Riott Squad with Billie Kay that got Jillian and Peyton Royce involved, or Bianca and Bayley).
- So colourful.
Five things seems good.
Like, it wasn’t the perfect Rumble, Jax and Baszler obviously didn’t learn from Big Show and Kane in 2015 and dragged their stuff out, and the latter third of the entries made it look like the ideas were drying up, but things don’t need to be perfect to be enjoyed.
It was still damn fine, and like I do in the year following any Rumble, I’ve rewatched it a loada times.
But then, for the first time I genuinely think ever, I have got to the following January without even sniffing the Royal Rumble match that followed it.
I THOUGHT YOU LOVED ME
So from here, it’s largely just gonna be a load of talk regarding what was so bad about the 2021 Men’s Royal Rumble.
Just like the women’s match wasn’t all great, this wasn’t all absolute dross, there were things I liked about it… I liked that Sami Zayn and Mustafa Ali were in it… I liked a few of the ‘stories’ coming into it… There were probably a few spots, but that might actually be it.
I will start by saying that WWE know how to do a Royal Rumble. In general, the Rumble concept is one that WWE are better at than anybody else. I’ll give a shout-out to Impact ‘cos I’ve always found their gauntlets real fly, and while AEW are in the process of getting their shit together, they’re still well off. But have you seen an Honor Rumble? Or a New Japan Ranbo? They’re a state most of the time. If Indies do one, you’ll more often than not see entrants #1 and #2 going the distance, feckin’ that whole thing up even more.
But WWE have, by and large, got it down from production to presentation.
Just not in one instance in 2021.
We’ll start at the start.
Announcing entrants is often seen as quite risky, ruining surprises and all that, but I’ve never minded it, as long as it’s kept to a minimum, keep it to a maximum of seventeen to twenty and it’ll be reet.
This was where WWE stood a week before the match.
Then, six days prior to the event, on the go-home episode of RAW, the man who would win the Rumble match, Edge, announced his participation.
Imagine if Clarice Starling hadn’t gone to see Hannibal Lecter, but had instead phoned him for a couple of conversations.
I get that the ‘rona was raging, but he didn’t need to be in the match, so if you can’t do something, don’t half-arse it. You surely need to be whole-arsing everything.
So, this lovely Canadian says he’s gonna be at the Rumble. But if I miss that 50 second long phonecall, six days before the event, I have missed the eventual winner saying they’re gonna be in it.
Might be a nice surprise, right? WRONG. Because instead, I am forced to find out via a bombardment of graphics informing me that he will be entering at #2 in the match, with Randy Orton entering #1.
Randy Orton, a wrestler engaged in his own story, that is not addressed at the event, and Edge — reigniting their rivalry from the Summer, except they didn’t, and nothing happened between them in the time after the match either.
Cut to, the day of the event.
Little change, now Edge is entering #1, and Orton #2.
I’ve rarely liked spoiled entry numbers ahead of time. It sometimes works if an authority makes a babyface enter first because they’re feuding, and Jericho worked it well in 2003, but this had no purpose.
Speaking of this, they also did it with Natalya entering last in the women’s Rumble, a right she earned by beating Tamina the night before. No offense to either of those wrestlers, but why? Why did they do that? Did that really move a lot of last minute tickets? Would we have been so shocked if Natalya ‘randomly’ drew #30? Would we have cottoned on to the conspiracy?
And if you thought about the entry number switch for a second too long, it kinda spoiled the result.
Now… The match begins.
As I begin my second viewing, it feels weird beginning to watch a Royal Rumble and knowing I won’t enjoy it.
Edge and Orton start, they scrap, Zayn and Ali rock up, it’s promising so far, with Hardy, Ziggler, and Nakamura all joining, it’s fine.
Then comes probably the biggest sin of this match. Hell, they’re all major sins. But the first major sin is the ‘taken to the back due to injury’ angle.
Between Jeff’s and Dolph’s entries, Edge gave Orton a DDT onto the announcer’s table and the hit him twice with a chair. Rough, but Orton has survived worse within the same minute.
Not this time — he’s out until the literal final seconds of the match. It’s the worst attempt at this there’s been, and that’s because…
IT DOESN’T WORK ANYMORE.
Because you’ve done it.
We know in reality they’re resting up in the back waiting ’til the end like Roman in 2016 and Orton this year.
It worked in 1999, and the reasons are four-fold:-
- It was the first time something like this had happened.
- Though it was reasonably predictable, they had a good foil presence in ‘non-wrestler’ Vince McMahon, preaching about the bounty on Austin’s head.
- When Austin did eventually return, it was halfway through the match and not right at the end. A face should wanna (most of the time) get right back out there.
- It was Stone Cold Steve Austin in 1999.
Nowadays if that happened, which it did, you’d have a guy carried off midway through the match, which did happen, and Michael Cole would be screaming at you every five minutes that they’re not eliminated, which he did, while Jerry Lawler or someone would add ‘but I doubt they’re coming back’, which is code for ‘please forget about them a lot but not so much that you get confused when they run back out as a member of the final five’.
Which is what happened.
For Orton, it could have worked if they made it a bit more obvious afterwards that it was his dastardly plan to sit in time out for nine-tenths of the match, but if he was just milling about the whole time then that flies in the face of the rules you set out. If you made that commonplace then any heel who entered would just hang out. There’d be 15 guys dotted around ringside waiting for their chance.
Hey, then Carlito came back! That’s feckin’ great.
It’s just a shame that all it remind me of is how much the Thunderdome sucks.
Carlito’s rad though.
There’s a bit of calm then, as New Day and Ali get to extend their rivalry, but as we get into the teens, things start rushing and it becomes so easy to forget that Edge is in the match.
I don’t know how you would need to rush in a one-hour match, but folk start coming out just to get eliminated. I know people have to get eliminated, but everyone in the match can have a part to play above fodder. Elias is swiftly tossed, Miz is in for a minute to get a feud with Bad Bunny started, which is… Fine? There were probably better ways to do it, but I did like seeing BB fly off the top.
You also get Otis (lovely boy), Dominick Mysterio (lovely boy), and King Corbin (loveliest boy), who are there to eliminate each other in a triangle of lazy writing.
Oh, and Kane. An actual politician entered and eliminated TWO GUYS.
Oh, and Hurricane. To repeat a spot from two decades prior in front of, once again, nobody. Sorry, I mean The Thunderdome.
If you think it was sad to see Carlito and Hurricane return in The Chunderdome, seeing Christian walk out to artificial cheers was straight-up depressing.
The lack of follow-up on his appearance followed suit.
Just after that, Michael Cole said, and I quote, ‘Edge just keeps going, and going, and going, and going.’
After his scuffle with Randy, he has, been hurricanrana’d by Ricochet, been lifted up by Damian Priest, been the non-bumping part of a double-team move with Christian, given Riddle a headbutt, been chokeslammed by Kane, and speared AJ Styles.
For the time he’s been in (39 minutes since the Randy skirmish), that’s one thing every six and a half minutes.
In between, he doesn’t add depth — he lies in the corner. Good tactic, I guess.
To me, it seems like the whole thing was more about padding stats than putting on an entertaining spectacle — it showed the world, it showed us wrestling, but it failed at being entertainment.
Rey Mysterio enters and Michael Cole promotes beer, genuinely excellent work.
Big E survives for half an hour only to be eliminated by someone not in the match with no follow up.
In the latter half, we see the introductions of Daniel Bryan, Cesaro, Bobby Lashley, AJ Styles, and Sheamus. These five guys probably had the biggest claim to the win coming into the match. Stories had been weaved, declarations made, and I think folk were excited to see a pretty fresh foursome (out of these five) at the finale.
That all looked set (apart from Lashley, who was ganged up on and eliminated) prior to the final two entries, which tipped this Rumble from ‘poor’ to ‘come on, guys, you’re not even trying’.
Two returns at #29 and #30.
Two returns at #29 and #30 make the final four.
That can happen — it can be done. The problem is, and would be quite often, the lack of stakes. Heavy Machinery would be furious.
They also add nothing story-wise by being in the final four. Braun Strowman kinda has a bit of a claim but that isn’t obvious, and Seth Rollins has nothing to offer. If he returned the next night on RAW and cut the same promo, nothing would be different.
The last entrant doesn’t have to be a surprise, it can just be someone who got a good draw. The more times you make it a surprise, the more scripted the whole thing looks. *coughcough — going the distance from #1 and #1 — coughcough*
Rollins and Strowman had nothing to offer that match — it’s like Brad Pitt being available for the movie of Coronation Street — you have to build up his character next to those who already have a stake. He’s a get, but just because you can get him doesn’t mean you should. Will it make sense?
It’s just like we’re being trolled, like, with Cesaro coming out late and guys like Bryan and Riddle lasting ‘til the very end only to be hossed within seconds of Strowman coming out one after another, it’s very reminiscent of Big Show entering in 2012 and throwing out three dudes the match had been built around and taking a spot in the final four as if he was figuratively taking the credit.
The final four should be a big deal. Inclusion within it should be sought after, obviously. So in 2021, when you’ve got a final eight including Daniel Bryan, Riddle, Cesaro, and Sheamus coming off cracker 2020s, and your final four is Edge, Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman, and Randy Orton — three of whom have had no matches in the past two months — something’s up.
So Rollins gets rid of all your favourites, and then Edge gets his first eliminations of the match to get Rollins out and then, shocker, Orton comes back.
You really had me there.
Orton tries to eliminate Edge, Edge reverses, wins.
Here ends the lesson.
Of how not to write a Royal Rumble.
I don’t like wrestling reviews in general, but I looked up some videos to get a gauge from the community, and they just kinda… Said what happened? Like, they were just ‘okay, cool’ about it, which is the worst reaction to have; just, indifference.
I dunno if they were worried about saying something because it’s Edge, and feck, everything he’s been through, he deserved a Rumble win, but he didn’t deserve this.
Would you accept anyone else who made their Rumble debut twenty-two years prior winning the match?
What if Christian won the Rumble in 2022? What about Scotty 2 Hotty? Albert? Would that be good?
OF COURSE IT WOULD BE. IF IT WAS DONE WELL.
Edge entering at number one and winning didn’t need to happen. #1 and #2 entrances are big chances for names to make an impact, but they were used here to highlight a feud that had ended six months prior.
That’s a bad thing to do with the first two, so the fact that this match did the same with the final two is INSANE. It’s an INSANE thing to double down on.
It’s like playing a dachshund at right-back for the first half of a Sunday League game, watching it not play football, but deciding to persist with his inclusion into the second half.
If Edge came out at say, #22, and pushed through to win after being involved in programming for at least a month prior relaying his claim and then shocking everyone to win, that can be a great story — I probably still wouldn’t be onside, but it’d be better than what we got. Which was, the eventual winner being off-TV for months, entering himself into the match six days prior, being pre-announced as the first entrant for no reason, doing a bit in the match, winning.
The thing is if he’d have actually done nothing the whole match and just hidden quietly, not getting involved at all, it would have fit with the character he presented in the story that followed. That story with Bryan and Reigns was good, and one that painted him as a bit more of a greedy opportunist, as he has often been known, but because he put himself about a bit too bravely, they fecked that up n’all.
In conclusion, my night was momentarily ruined, but then I just focused on the rad women’s Rumble and my love for the match returned.
But this was like the first time in a relationship when your partner is comfortable enough with you to commit their bad habit and they think you’ll be cool, but it actually hurts you, it deeply physically pains you, in fact. It was your favourite thing in the world that they didn’t do that, and now you know they’re capable of it, you’re scared they’ll do it again.
You thought you’d love them no matter what, you thought even at their worst, they were the most interesting, beautiful thing you’d ever seen, but now they will always be tainted, and in those down moments when you lie awake next to them at night, your mind will go back to that one blemish and you fear that it will stain your soul while every other good memory pails in comparison.
You don’t want it to be like this, but that’s how it is, you can’t help how your mind works, no, it’s not your fault, it’s their’s, they did this, they ruined themselves by having Edge enter at #1 and win the whole thing with no build.
But I’ll still love you if you promise to never do it again.
But then I can’t control you and you will be your own beast, maybe I just have to learn to take the rough with the smooth…
But could you try in 2022? Could you actually try and not just re-hash a load of already-done ideas while rushing through 90% of the participants’ involvements or rendering them unnecessary? Just try, I’m begging you. For me. For this asshole here.
I’ll pay you.
I mean it.
Name your price.
Up to $50.
Because I’m not a rich man.
I’m not asking to write it, but if I give you a bit extra, I’d pay for that.
Otherwise, I guess I’m asking to veto any ideas where I deem that you’ve written it without trying.
Just to make sure this shit doesn’t happen again.
We can hash out the details.
Gimme a call.
And keep it streets ahead,