In the WWE, there is no fool-proof method to get a superstar over. Sometimes it happens naturally, sometimes it’s forced, and sometimes it’s accidental. Regardless, the Royal Rumble serves as a platform to inaugurate a new top superstar in the WWE. Someone forgot to tell the WWE this.
Over the last 5 years, WWE has been struggling to create new superstars and has been leaning heavily on their legacy stars; Triple H, John Cena, Batista and Randy Orton. Just look at the last 5 winners of the Royal Rumble:
- 2013: John Cena
- 2014: Batista
- 2015: Roman Reigns
- 2016: Triple H
- 2017: Randy Orton
Of those 5, Roman Reigns is the only one who won the Royal Rumble for the first time. The other 4 men were undoubtedly destined for the hall of fame before they won the rumble, so one must ask: Why did they need to win the rumble and steal the spotlight from someone who could’ve used the rub?
The WWE has crucially ignored the fact that their audience has been clamoring for a new guy to cheer for. No one in their right mind wanted to see Batista win the rumble in 2014, and likewise for Triple H in 2016. Missed opportunities have plagued the WWE for years now, and one can only imagine where the current roster would be had those spots been given to a new, young star.
Where would we be if Bray Wyatt, instead of Orton, won the rumble in 2017? What about if Seth Rollins took home the WWE Championship over Triple H in 2016? Want to really go outside the box? What if Dolph Ziggler shocked the world and tossed Batista out of the rumble in 2014. These are just a few of the names that are waiting to be catapulted into superstardom, and the Royal Rumble can do just that.
There are few things as legitimate as a Royal Rumble victory. Just look at what it can do when utilized properly.
In 2003, Brock Lesnar was already a former WWE Champion despite not even being on the main roster for a full year. You could argue that he was already a bonafide superstar after beating the Rock at SummerSlam 2002. But 2003 served as the true launch pad for what would be WWE’s most captivating figure in recent history. Lesnar would win the 2003 Royal Rumble and go on to defeat Kurt Angle in the main event of WrestleMania XIX.
In 2004, Chris Benoit saw himself rising to the top despite pushback from management. The build to this Rumble was significant in that it offered a plethora of new candidates to potentially win their first rumble. There were many legit options, but WWE decided to go with Benoit. After making Triple H tap in the middle of the ring at WrestleMania XX, WWE had successfully built up a credible, new main event star.
In 2005, there were really only 2 candidates to win, John Cena and Batista. Batista won, but Cena would go on to win #1 contender-ship on the Smackdown side, and what would follow was a history-making WrestleMania. With Batista winning the World Heavyweight Title and John Cena capturing the WWE Title at WrestleMania 21, the WWE had created a moment that still resonates with fans to this day; crowning two new main event stars to lead the WWE’s next generation.
2006’s rumble match crowned Rey Mysterio as the next superstar to be thrusted into the main event. After the loss of Eddie Guerrero in late 2005, Mysterio was the feel-good candidate to win, and, although I am not sure if this is the only reason he won, it was arguably the most celebrated Rumble victory in history. Mysterio would win the World Heavyweight title at WrestleMania 22, and just like that, a new main event star was born.
Unfortunately, the trend of using the Rumble to create new stars ended in 2007. Although you could argue it did just that for Alberto Del Rio and Sheamus in 2011 and 2012 respectively, neither of those men benefited as much as they could have. Sheamus would go on to win the World title from Daniel Bryan in a match that’s only remembered for the amount of time it lasted, and Alberto Del Rio would end up losing to Edge.
The 2018 Royal Rumble offers an intriguing opportunity to launch the career of the many, many fresh faces on today’s roster. Shinsuke Nakumara, Finn Balor, Bobby Roode, Samoa Joe, Kevin Owens… Hell, I would even be happy if someone like The Miz won this year’s Rumble. Those are just some of the candidates who are more than deserving of a rumble win and are just waiting for their crowning moment.
As long as the WWE stays away from 3 men being declared winners, it will be a success. John Cena, Randy Orton, and Roman Reigns cannot be this year’s winner. If so, the WWE will once again fail to seize the opportunity to create a new star.