By Aaron Oster
7:25 AM EST, January 27, 2014
"Stamford, you have a problem."
That, along with just utter shock at exactly what I was seeing, was all I could think of as Batista was standing tall at the end of Sunday's Royal Rumble match. Batista winning wasn't the shocking part. The shocking part of the scene was the mostly united crowd raining boos down on him -- after spending the better part of two hours booing whoever was in the ring and chanting for Daniel Bryan.
We’ve seen and heard fans voice their displeasure before, especially in traditional wrestling cities like New York, Chicago and Toronto. But I can’t remember a time when fans, both the IWC (Internet Wrestling Community) and your “common fans” were so unified against what was happening in the ring, especially in a city like Pittsburgh, which tends to be on the tamer side of wrestling fans unless Kurt Angle is involved.
They were tired of Orton and Cena wrestling again, and they were outraged that Daniel Bryan wasn’t even involved in the Rumble match. When wrestler No. 30, Rey Mysterio, came into the ring, he received more boos than he’s ever had in his WWE career. And when Batista ended up winning, besides the fact that a supposed face was getting booed, the boos were stronger than any Rumble winner I can remember, including when Vince McMahon won 1999.
While trying to think about it logically and not assuming -- like Mick Foley suggested on Twitter -- that the WWE legitimately hates its fans, there are some possibilities here. The more Daniel Bryan is viewed as being kept down, the more rabid the fanbase is getting for him to finally win. When he does win, if it happens, I think you’re looking at one of the biggest reactions ever. If you look at Daniel Bryan’s Twitter timeline, he has several tweets, including one after the Rumble, bashing the machine. So I think, as much as anything, this is the WWE’s attempt at a meta-storyline.
However, I think the company severely underestimated just how passionately the entire WWE Universe cared about Daniel Bryan. And if that’s what they’re trying to do, do they keep going down this path? Do they dare risk having what happened Sunday night happen at Wrestlemania? I don’t know that they can risk it, and if that was their plan, I think there is going to be some serious talk in the upcoming creative meetings to move some plans around.
I have never been one to think that the crowd is always right, or that the fans should just be given what they want. No matter what any of us think, we probably could not book a television program better than the guys in charge. However, at some point, especially when you have a wrestler who might be the most popular in nearly a decade, you have to cave to the fans’ demands. Otherwise, you get what happened at the Royal Rumble on Sunday night, which to me was truly uncomfortable at times.
What is certain is that the Road to Wrestlemania has gotten that much more interesting.
In other news at the Royal Rumble:
** Randy Orton defeated John Cena after the Wyatts came out and distracted Cena. They all beat down Cena after the match. This was barely an hour after Bray Wyatt beat Daniel Bryan cleanly in what could be a Match of the Year candidate. To paraphrase Tenacious D, “That’s elevation, holmes.”
** There were a few notable things that happened during the Rumble besides Batista’s win. Roman Reigns set a record for most wrestlers eliminated in a single match, breaking Kane’s old record. He also ended up knocking out both other members of the Shield, after Ambrose tried to eliminate him.
** There were two surprise entrants (three if you include Sheamus). The first was NXT’s Alexander Rusev. He’s being pushed as a foreign monster heel down in NXT, and doing a great job of it. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him on the main roster sooner rather than later. The other was Kevin Nash, which I do not believe will turn into a full run like his previous Rumble entry in 2010.
** Brock Lesnar beat the Big Show in dominating fashion. Before the match, Lesnar attacked Big Show with chair shots. The match then started, and Lesnar quickly was able to hit an F5 (which still was unbelievably impressive) and win. He then continued to assault Big Show with a chair. There were rumors before the match that Big Show had injured his hand in a house show, and this seems to confirm those rumors. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was used to write off Big Show to heal.
** The New Age Outlaws became tag-team champions for the first time in 14 years. In my preview column, I wrote that I thought it would be a mistake to put the titles on the Outlaws, and I still believe it, though after Goldust accidentally helped eliminate Cody, it makes more sense to potentially set up a Rhodes Bros. match at Wrestlemania and allow the belts to move, eventually, to the Usos.
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