by Scott Saffran
Basic economics dictates that there are effects in the short run and in the long run as a result of any action. The 2017 Royal Rumble seemed to be tightly focused on short run issues, mostly ignoring any sort of long run payoffs. I understand that planning too much for too far in the future is taking great risks – just this past August the WWE lost one of their big-time future players to injury as soon as they laid the title on his shoulder.
However, the WWE has cornered themselves into relying heavily on the drawing power of old hands over investing in growing talent.
The winner of the Royal Rumble — Randy Orton – though he has participated in a compelling feud over the past few months with young talents – is still a previous winner and 12-time world champion. Remarkably only 36 years of age, Randy has been a fixture of the main event scene for over a decade-and-a-half and thus has great drawing power with fans the WWE Universe over. It is definitively not a bad idea to crown him the winner at the end of the evening, but it leaves a lot to be desired.
To me, victory in the Royal Rumble is more symbolic than any other contest or championship since the demise of the regularly occurring King of the Ring tournament. The winner becomes a singular focus for the weeks leading up to the Showcase of the Immortals, but further the winner is instantly catapulted to the stratosphere in terms of credibility and importance within the WWE brand – at least if he isn’t there already. 2017 was the first chance in five to cement a new name in eternal legend.
It was the chance to toss someone relatively new the ball of WWE legitimacy, someone who hasn’t held a major WWE singles title or needs that chance to become a true ‘face’ of the company. While there may be plans for a Orton/Wyatt confrontation at ‘Mania that would certainly lock in Bray’s star status, the choice to place Randy atop the 30-man heap still falls far short of success. The Royal Rumble should not be a place to make ‘safe’ decisions.
The Royal Rumble is a night where the second-most eyes are on the WWE every year. It ought to be a space to take chances and impress the legions of fans. It ought to be an arena for young talent to prove their worth, not for aging stars to limp about the squared circle.
Between Sami Zayn, Dean Ambrose, Braun Strowman, Bray Wyatt, the Miz, and Dolph Ziggler – six young men who carried the WWE shows through the very thin months between September and January – two looked even remotely credible during the proceedings on Sunday night. Braun had several impressive eliminations, while Sami lasted over 45 minutes (though did not eliminate a single competitor). Unless we see a complete 180 by WrestleMania (I won’t be holding my breath), the WWE has committed to a pattern that will see them completely devoid of star talent in a few years’ time.
With the impressive level of wrestling ability spread throughout the roster, it is an absolute crime to see young superstar after young superstar tossed aside for the continual dominance of yesteryear’s heroes. The aforementioned athletes deserve a chance to stand in the spotlight after the insurmountable work and effort they continually put into the WWE product on a daily basis.
Outside of killing any potential future, the WWE is breeding into their talent and their fans that the Superstars seen every week on TV screens across the globe are somehow not worthy, undeserving, and less-than the exclusive tier of predominantly part-time talent who continually get the nod in any circumstance of relevance.
There is a breach between what the world tunes into every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday night and what comes every few Sundays. While dedicated fans may be able to discern the reasons for this, casual fans and children, especially, see a class of believable talent (Brock, Cena, Undertaker, etc.) and a class of puny and insignificant talent (Ambrose, Zayn, Bray, etc.). These perceptions and presuppositions are not going to disappear overnight when Vince McMahon needs big-money players to keep his House of Sports Entertainment alive and well. The WWE must, and I say that with all the urgency I can muster, stop conditioning fans to neglect the only future this worldwide brand has.
The Royal Rumble was not bad, but it was a disappointing signal towards the future of the WWE. I was not angry or upset that Randy Orton came away as victory. I was both angry and upset, however, that men like Sami Zayn and Dean Ambrose were passed over so flippantly.
If the WWE took Finance 101, they would fail miserably. Roman Reigns can’t be your only stock. We are now existing in a ‘big draw’ dearth in the wake of investing entirely in John Cena. Don’t make the same mistake twice, WWE. Diversify your investments.
Photo Credit: WWE.com