One of the biggest complaints about the WWE product is that it’s all too predictable. Far too often, we are told, match outcomes and supposedly surprising twists and turns are telegraphed to the point that even someone not paying much attention to proceedings can tell where things are headed.
Of course predictability is not in itself THE biggest problem; we knew that Stone Cold Steve Austin would unseat Shawn Michaels and lift the World Title at WrestleMania XIV; a decade later we knew that Shawn Michaels would retire Ric Flair at WrestleMania 24 (whilst also knowing that Flair wouldn’t be able to resist coming back); the sensible amongst us also knew that Shawn Michaels, Triple H and (yes) CM Punk would all put forward valiant efforts but ultimately fail to end The Undertaker’s Streak.
All those matches and outcomes were predictable but all still had the power to entertain and amaze.
Where the problem lies is that far too many times, the WWE takes not only the “predictable” option but also the easy option as well. Fans are conditioned to expect the “predictable” because the WWE rarely bothers to deviate from it (and neither do they bother to properly set up what’s going to happen these days, but that’s another story).
The first Rock vs John Cena Mania was, I would argue, the one time in recent memory a BIG match was genuinely one that was impossible to call. With the (in hindsight laughable) “Once In A Lifetime” hype, would the face of the WWE in John Cena win or would the Hollywood outsider’s media profile mean he would win, giving the WWE oodles of mainstream publicity?
Of course if we’d known for sure that there would be a rematch, it might have been easier to tip a Rock win first time around and the rematch was plainly Cena’s planned “redemption” but that totally acceptable storyline didn’t fall flat because it was predictable. It fell flat because the build-up was terrible (and went against the proclamation that it would never happen again).
But there is one very simple way that the WWE could, immediately, freshen things up and keep every fan on their toes…
And that’s to have a surprise winner of the Royal Rumble 2014, and by surprise I don’t simply mean someone who isn’t CM Punk or Daniel Bryan. I don’t mean that a returning Batista wins or that part-time Brock Lesnar takes the match. I don’t even necessarily mean that an up and coming name like Roman Reigns who the WWE have obviously got great things in store for should win.
I want a real surprise. I want a surprise on the level of what might have happened if Santino Marella had indeed vanquished Albert Del Rio in 2011.
Think about it, overnight the WWE would be revitalised as that magical place were “anything can happen”. Next time there was a totally “predictable” match result or turn in the offing there would be that little voice in your head that said “but what about the Rumble result”.
Maybe someone like Antonio Cesaro, who is treading water to some extent but seems to be someone the fans want to get behind, could win and receive a boost that makes his career. How about a veteran like Goldust, a man who has never won the World Title but is in an Indian summer of popularity? Maybe a comedic character like Xavier Woods could get a shock win and provide a feel-good moment. Perhaps even an NXT rookie can make his debut and shock the world. Pick a name, any name you want. From Brodus Clay to Darren Young. From Fandango to Zach Ryder.
In a way it wouldn’t matter which of the “lesser” names won. I’m not proposing that this man would have to go on to headline WrestleMania. This is the WWE after all; the stipulation could be overturned at a later date, the wrestler in question could put/be forced to put his title shot on the line at Elimination Chamber and lose it. He could even do a John Cena from last year and “cash it in” at an earlier point in a number one contender’s match (but actually lose it).
And hell, if a miracle did happen and it created a new superstar, he could even go the WrestleMania and win the title. (Admittedly in the modern day WWE environment that’s not going to happen, with main event plans supposedly in place months in advance and an unwillingness to upset the big names).
It’s a pipe dream, I know. The winner of this year’s Rumble will likely come from one of half a dozen (at best) big names which could be predicted without any insider leaks/spoilers. But a man can dream. And the unlikeness of it happening doesn’t change my opinion that doing it could very well be what is “best for business”.
– By Matthew Roberts