Why Roman Reigns won the Royal Rumble
February 11, 2015
By: Greg McNeish, Wrestleview.com guest writer
Roman Reigns is the winner of the 2015 Royal Rumble. Chances are if you’re reading this, that gets your blood boiling. There was one outcome that people wanted from the Royal Rumble, and anything less than a Daniel Bryan victory, frankly, was unacceptable. He’s returned from injury ready to regain his place as WWE World Heavyweight Champion, and the leader of a new generation of WWE Superstars, so why, oh why, was he eliminated so quickly, so easily, for Roman Reigns to get the date with destiny? Are Vince and company that out of touch? Are they just sticking it to the fans? Or is this another case of big-guy love? I’m here to tell you that it’s none of these things. In fact, you – yes YOU – are the reason Daniel Bryan didn’t win the Royal Rumble, and Roman Reigns did.
To begin with, let’s be perfectly clear on something: None of this was the plan coming out of Wrestlemania XXX. We were supposed to be well entrenched in a world built around and for Daniel Bryan to be the top babyface. Sure, John Cena would still be there, but he was already taking a reduced role this time last year, and if Bryan had continued to grow his appeal with kids and the mainstream, we might even have a heel Cena by now. Yes, the Shield boys would have been split off and given substantial singles roles, but as supporting pieces, rather than rushing into main events, simply because there was nobody else to do it. Daniel Bryan went down with injury so suddenly, and he left a GAPING hole in the roster and its plans, that the WWE has spent the last 9 months desperately scrambling to fill the gaps, with some hits and some misses along the way. One of the hits has been Roman Reigns. Yeah, his ringwork is limited, he flubs his lines often enough to be a meme, and the lines he’s handed to read are cheesy enough that even John Cena would blush from how childishly dumb they are. Despite all that, he’s over. Like, massively over. Over enough that in the absence of the guy the company and its fans WANTED to be here, he was lined up to win the Royal Rumble, and if Daniel Bryan hadn’t returned, I bet most people would have been okay with it, too.
But Daniel Bryan did return, as suddenly and without warning as he’d left. With only one month to go before the Road to Wrestlemania began, the question was whether the return of Daniel Bryan was going to necessitate rewriting the script for Wrestlemania, as the Yes Movement had one year ago. Part of that would be answered by seeing Daniel Bryan in the ring, to know whether he was physically capable of doing it, and while it’s terrifying to see him launch himself neck-first through the ropes for the same suicide dive that broke it last time, I think it’s safe to say he passed that test. The other part – and as it always is with the WWE, the most important part – would be a test of all of you, all of us, to see whether we were as hot for Daniel Bryan as we had been one year ago. This is where things fell short, and it fell short by a lot.
There’s no question that Daniel Bryan is hugely popular with every segment of the crowd. There isn’t a wrestling fan in the world that doesn’t want to see him perform, see him headline, and see him with the title. What has been missing, though, is the spark, the burning NEED to see these things, that propelled him forward in 2013 and early 2014. Compare the crowd reactions in January to any crowd a year ago; they’re night and day. Those crowds were molten hot, lava hot; hot enough to melt the solid stone that are the hearts within WWE World Headquarters in Stanford, CT. Yes, he’s been getting pops, and yes, people have been chanting YES with him, but the reactions he got leading into the Rumble this year weren’t in the same galaxy as he was getting one year ago.
That’s the live arena crowds, though, and I said that you, dear reader, are to blame, so let’s step back and look at what was and continues to be happening in the IWC and social media. Daniel Bryan announced that he’d be in the Royal Rumble at the end of December, and since then, the internet has been abuzz… with continued talk about Roman Reigns was a LOCK to win the Royal Rumble. Everywhere you turned, that was all people were talking about. For sure, folks were saying that they WANTED Daniel Bryan to win, and that the smart thing to do would be to have him win, but try suggesting that he would actually do it (as I did whenever possible), and you’d be met with an impenetrable wall of resistance. Even those people who were willing to go out on a limb and believe in Daniel Bryan seemed to have a reflexive need to immediately qualify the prediction, saying that it probably wouldn’t happen, or that they knew Roman Reigns would win, but they were going with their heart over their head. The level of resignation running through the entire community was practically suffocating. Nobody liked it, but everyone was party to it.
So, whenever you or anyone in the IWC say that the WWE is out of touch, and that they need to listen to their audience, keep this in mind: The WWE *DID* listen to you, their audience, and you said Roman Reigns was going to win the Royal Rumble. Who are they to argue? In early 2014, the audience in arenas and online (and at sporting events, viral videos, etc.) didn’t just want Daniel Bryan in the main event of Wrestlemania; they NEEDED him to be there, and because of that, they MADE the WWE put him there. That unquenchable fire isn’t there, at least not yet. The WWE read that situation, and booked the Royal Rumble accordingly. Probably a lot more than you’d think, even if you’re with me this far.
Daniel Bryan isn’t the first person to be annointed by the IWC, and pushed from our end into the mainstream. There’s enough of a pattern that the WWE has learned how to push our buttons, and amplify those reactions. It could be as simple as Triple H hopping on the mic to troll the internet, or maybe just take selfies with indy darlings in NXT, but it can also take a subtler and often more powerful form. What they’ve learned is that those reactions stem from a feeling of oppression: We get louder and more forceful the more we feel someone is being treated unfairly, and held down. That’s what propelled Daniel Bryan’s rise in 2013/14, and that’s exactly what they are hoping can do it again. This year’s Royal Rumble was put together specifically for that purpose, and was executed brilliantly. From start to finish, it had a very clear goal: To make you feel cheated, and judging by the reactions, it worked like a charm. The early stages lulled us into a false sense of security, with nostalgia acts and fun with Bray Wyatt, before Daniel Bryan hit the scene, all ready to exact revenge for his loss on Raw, and usher in the next chapter of the match. Instead, as we found out, it wouldn’t be long before Bryan found himself out of the floor and out of the match, courtesy of Wyatt.
That’s the easy stuff to digest. It’s what comes after that which shows this match to be a concerted effort to get Bryan’s fanbase into a frenzy. Unlike any previous Royal Rumble, when deflating the crowd by eliminating their favourite, the WWE didn’t offer any lifelines. His elimination was followed by a parade of the least interesting people to take part in the match, with no one that the audience could latch onto as a consolation prize. That and the entrance of Roman Reigns, of course, which just hammered home the inevitability of what everyone predicted going in. The fix was in, as it were. Eventually, Dean Ambrose came into the match, giving the crowd someone to actually cheer for, but he quickly disappeared into the fray, after only the briefest of offensive flurries. Kane & Big Show coming out and just getting rid of people without building any real drama made the whole match feel like a fraud. They weren’t even PRETENDING to put on an interesting, engaging, dramatic Royal Rumble. This was just bullshit. Dolph Ziggler coming out at 30, doing basically nothing, then getting dumped so unceremoniously in a couple minutes, was just icing on the bullshit cake. What an abortion of a match.
… And that’s exactly what the WWE wants you to think. Bret may have screwed Bret, but the WWE screwed Daniel Bryan, and more importantly screwed YOU out of the 2015 Royal Rumble. It’s not something to get angry about, though, because this is how the WWE is *PUSHING* Daniel Bryan on his return. The reactions for him weren’t nuclear before the Rumble, and they are hoping they will get there, now that he’s back under the oppressive boot of Vince & his writing cronies. The proof of that is in this match now booked for Fast Lane, between Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns. They’ve presented you, the fans of Daniel Bryan, with another few weeks to rally support, hitch your wagons to the Yes Movement, and give them a reason to change course. They’ve given you a big shot of motivation, to boot, in the form of this farce of a Royal Rumble.
The key is in how the masses react to this situation. It could take the form of a negative backlash against Roman Reigns (who has done nothing to deserve such a thing), or a boycott of the product (including #CancelWWENetwork), but these things will not bring about any change. If you don’t enjoy watching WWE programming anymore, then by all means stop – there are plenty of other things you can do with your time that will make you happy – but if what you want is Daniel Bryan as champion, then tuning out will just make it EASIER for Roman Reigns and the kids to go slay the Beast. Booing Reigns won’t do any good, because that will just have him getting loud split-reactions, just like John Cena, and if the past decade is any indication, the WWE is perfectly fine with that. Negativity isn’t the answer, much as it can be cathartic. Let last year be your guide. Every obstacle in Daniel Bryan’s way was met with louder cheers for him, chanting Yes through more of the show, and getting the WHOLE crowd into a sustained pro-Bryan frenzy. The lesson there is that we older fans can LEAD the kids, but only by cheering. The more love you give to Daniel Bryan, the more the kids will want to join in, and THAT is how this war is won.
Vince McMahon wiped out every competitor, and practically conquered the world, by ALWAYS choosing the kids over adult wrestling fans. If it’s you versus the children, you will lose EVERY time. To get your way, you MUST bring the kids over to your side, just as happened one year ago. The gauntlet has been thrown, and the WWE has laid out the challenge: Reignite the Yes Movement by Fast Lane, and we can all live in a Daniel Bryan world; fail to light that fire, and there’ll be nothing left to do but surrender to the Roman Empire. The choices, and the power, are in your hands.