The Royal Rumble’s troubling trend

In business, there are two ways to sell a product: you either give your targeted audience what they want or you make a product you want and persuade your audience that they want it too.

The WWE is a business that does both. Sometimes Vince McMahon follows his gut and does what he thinks is best and tries to persuade people later. Other times, the WWE bends to the will of the crowd and gives them what they want. Those are the Daniel Bryan moments, the moments that are truly magical for the fans.

But to get those moments, sometimes we have to work in good faith. Sometimes we have to give WWE a chance to tell the story they want to tell.

And from my perspective, Randy Orton winning the Royal Rumble is their story. Not ours.

Tell me, reader; when you were excited this week for the Royal Rumble, who were you hoping would win? Even more, what were you hoping for from the Rumble? What surprise entrances did you want to see?

I doubt many of you were cheering for Randy Orton over everyone else. WWE knew that. That’s why they sent out Roman Reigns at the 30th entrant to make you scream and swear and tear your hair out.

That was…masterfully done, by the way. Credit where it’s due, WWE. And by the end, Orton got cheered because he was not Roman Reigns.

But this leads me to the title of my little post. In 2014, I wrote a post on Cageside Seats called “The Royal Rumble that will Live in Infamy.” You can read that here, if you’d like. You remember that Rumble, right? The one where we all screamed and clamored for Daniel Bryan? Instead, we got WWE’s man and WWE’s story: Batista.

The company/consumer relationship is all about good faith. As consumers, we sometimes let WWE tell stories that don’t necessarily interest us. It would be absurd to expect them to please you EVERY time, right? But with something like the Daniel Bryan situation of 2014, that’s on them. They should have known. They made the mistake, not us.

Well now I’m here to caution WWE: You’ve got a troubling trend on your hands.

Over the last four years, the winners of the Royal Rumble are Batista, Roman Reigns, Triple H, and Randy Orton. By my count, that’s four stories in the past four years that fit what WWE wanted, but not necessarily what the fans were hoping for.

Some of it is on us. It was unfair to expect Finn Balor back, a man who tore his labrum, bicep, pectoral tendon, and fractured his glenoid neck socket. It’s not completely fair to just assume Samoa Joe is going to debut and wreak havoc on the Rumble.

But you do have to meet us halfway sometimes, WWE. Tye Dillinger entering at 10 is exactly what I mean. Thanks for that; we loved it.

Four straight years is four straight years however, and it does lead me to wonder if WWE really understands how we view the Royal Rumble. For me, I see it as an event that is similar to WrestleMania. I hope for surprises, for pageantry, for shocking moments. And most importantly, I’d like to hope for a Rumble winner who isn’t just the same ol’ guys who main event on a regular basis.

Is that realistic all the time? Of course not. But I’d imagine many of you would agree with me that we value variety from the Rumble.

So what is the point of this column? My good faith with WWE was not broken last night; I’m still going to follow Orton along and allow them to sell me a WrestleMania main event.

…But it is a cautionary warning for WWE. We’re with you. You dodged a bullet; our good faith is alive. But there’s no guarantee it will be if four straight years becomes five.