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Posted in: The Eternal Optimist
The Eternal Optimist Presents a 30 Part Column Series - Ranking the Royal Rumbles (#24)
By Dave Fenichel
Dec 24, 2017 - 1:07:50 PM

Hi kids.

I’m back with part 4 of my 30 part column series, “Ranking the Royal Rumble Matches”. Today, I’ll discuss the Royal Rumble that came in at #24 on the countdown. As a reminder, here are the criteria that I used to analyze the matches:

The Participants - The easiest way to create a Royal Rumble is to have a compelling roster that people want to see participate. I’ll take a look at the level star power, the level of “overness” of the other players, and whether or not there were an unnecessary amount of jobbers and/or non-factors in the match.

The Storylines and Flow of the Match - The storylines are without question the most important part of a Royal Rumble match. I’ll look at whether or not the storylines presented enhanced the match. I’ll also look at the surprise entrants and evaluate whether or not they added value. Lastly, I’ll look at whether or not the match had a solid flow or if it dragged at times. This is by far the most important category, and it will be the category in which I spend the majority of each column discussing.

The Final Four - Every Rumble inevitably comes down to a “show down” between the final four competitors. Here, I’ll look at whether the WWE chose a strong group to represent the final four, and whether or not the end game to the Rumble was compelling.

The Winner - I’ll evaluate three things relating to the winner of each Rumble. First, was the winner a surprise? I have a strong appreciation for Rumble winners that weren’t necessarily expected to win. Second, was the winner satisfying? Just because the winner wasn’t someone I expected doesn’t mean that I enjoyed the outcome. On the other hand, just because the winner was a foregone conclusion doesn’t mean that I didn’t love every minute of it. Lastly, how did winning the Royal Rumble impact this wrestler at Wrestlemania and beyond? The overall success of the subsequent push impacts how I view many of the Rumbles and their winner.

A couple additional disclaimers:

First – lengthy Royal Rumble runs rarely move me. Sure, you might love Rick Martel lasting 53 minutes in 1991. I didn’t. He, as well as almost everyone else that goes coast to coast, spent the majority of the match sitting in the corner getting kicked. For me, a single wrestler’s longevity is the most overrated factor in evaluating the strength of a Royal Rumble.

Second – these factors aren’t weighted evenly. They are merely talking points. My overall impression of the Rumble is what ultimately mattered when I made my rankings.

Last, but certainly not least – I’ve added a new wrinkle to this column series. As you already know, my thought process on wrestling seems to wildly differ from the majority of the fans in our community. Many have taken me to task in other forums over where my rankings ultimately landed. I’ve decided to incorporate that into this column series. As such, every entry will end with a guest “rebuttal” telling me exactly why I’m an idiot for ranking that particular Rumble where I did. The guests range from my fellow columnists, both on the main page and the Forums, to real life friends, to buddies I frequently interact with on social media. I try not to take myself too seriously, and I think you’ll enjoy the alternative takes.

Today’s rebuttal once again comes from Rich Latta, my fellow LOP columnist and IWC booger eating extraordinaire.

Here is where the countdown currently stands:


#30. The 2009 Royal Rumble.
#29. The 1991 Royal Rumble.
#28. The 2011 Royal Rumble.
#27. The 1998 Royal Rumble.
#26. The 2000 Royal Rumble.
#25. The 1995 Royal Rumble.


Question of the Day: What is the WWE booking decision that offended you more than any other in history?

#24. The 2015 Royal Rumble.


The Roster.


The Miz
R Truth
Bubba Ray Dudley
Luke Harper
Bray Wyatt
Erick Rowan
The Boogeyman
Sin Cara
Zack Ryder
Daniel Bryan
Fandango
Tyson Kidd
Stardust
DDP
Rusev
Goldust
Kofi Kingston
Adam Rose
Roman Reigns
Big E
Damien Sandow
Jack Swagger
Ryback
Kane
Dean Ambrose
Titus O’Neil
Bad News Barrett
Cesaro
The Big Show
Dolph Ziggler

This was a very strong roster for the Rumble. There were four legitimate stars in Bray Wyatt, Daniel Bryan, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose. Wrestlers like Rusev, Dolph Ziggler and Bad News Barrett were still very popular. This Rumble was at the beginning stages of the New Day and the ending stages of the “We The People” storyline with Jack Swagger and Cesaro. The Miz and Damien Sandow were in the middle of their stunt double gimmick. All in all, there were very few wasted spots.

This Rumble roster was indicative of the improvements made to the WWE developmental system in the early part of this decade. There were a lot of wrestlers that provided value even if they weren’t used as well as they potentially could have been.


The Storylines and Flow.

There’s a very good reason that the majority of my readers hate this Rumble more than any other in history. I’ll get to that shortly. Before I do, I feel the need to point out what should be obvious to all. This Rumble was really good for the first 15 entrants or so.

I’m not sure that Bray Wyatt has ever looked like a bigger star than he did during the 2015 Royal Rumble. He came in at #5 and absolutely dominated. Seriously, look at the list of the first 10 or so entrants. He pretty much eliminated them all. The IWC b!tches and moans about how the WWE has dropped the wall on Bray over and over again, yet this was likely the best he’s ever been booked.

The surprises in this Royal Rumble were amazing. NO ONE saw Bubba Ray Dudley making a return at #3. The pop was insane. Sure, we probably could have done without the WWE inserting “replacement black guy” R Truth in for D-Von to do the signature Dudley spots, but it was a memorable moment nonetheless. I always hated the Boogey Man, but it is hard to deny that his brief return here was weirdly entertaining. His interaction with Bray Wyatt was cringe-worthy in an oddly satisfying way. Lastly, I marked so hard for DDP. He was always a personal favorite of mine and I appreciated that I got to see him drop a couple of RKDiamiondCutters during the match. Nostalgia is necessary, and all three returning acts were absolutely on point.

Daniel Bryan was his usual awesome self during the match. He was such a mega-star at the time and brought electricity to the audience that no one else did. Seriously, the five to ten minutes before he gets pooped on is unbelievable.

Now that I’ve explained why this Rumble doesn’t deserve to be anywhere near the bottom of the countdown, it’s time to talk about the white elephant in the room. Everything goes to $hit after Daniel Bryan is eliminated after only a ten minute stay in the match.

Don’t get me wrong. Roman Reigns was the right guy to win this Rumble. 2014 was the year of Bryan and 2015 was the time to cement Roman as the main event player he needed to be. However, the way they went about this was assanine. It’s as if they thought that by getting the Bryan elimination out of the way before Roman entered the match, people would forget about it and be more accepting of what was to come.

The audience saw right through it and completely turned on the match from here on out. Kofi’s usual elimination saving spot fell flat. He was launched over the top rope and caught by The Rose Buds. Was it as good as previous years Kofi spots? Definitely not. However, I think it would have been better received if the fans weren’t suffering from the Daniel Bryan hangover.

The WWE had an opportunity to make the fans forget about Bryan. Damien Sandow got a massive pop despite the outrage. Giving him a solid storyline for the remainder of the Rumble could have done wonders. Instead, he was promptly eliminated in sixty seconds. The WWE really shot themselves in the foot with this one.

The WWE booked a very bland stretch immediately after Roman’s entrance. They did nothing to get the crowd to forget about how much they hated Bryan being dumped on and Roman being the inevitable winner. The WWE brass should have really thought this one through.

Of course, the worst was yet to come. It wasn’t bad enough to have squashed Daniel Bryan so early in the match. The WWE proceeded to have Kane and The Big Show crush everyone we ever cared about in rapid succession. Dolph Ziggler, Bray Wyatt and Dean Ambrose were given the heave-ho in very unceremonious fashion. The fans chanted “bullshit” because that’s exactly what it was. Onto the final four.


The Final Four.

The final four was absolutely ridiculous – without question the worst booked finishing sequence to any Royal Rumble match.

The actual final four was billed as the final three. Rusev was dormant on the outside of the ring, not yet eliminated. The match came down to Roman, The Big Show and Kane. The crowd hated every second of it. Roman as the face in peril wasn’t going to work after what had happened with Bryan.

The problems run so much deeper than that. Kane and the Big Show worked incredibly well as a team to eliminate all of our heroes, only to start fighting with each other prior to eliminating Roman? That didn’t make any sense. In fact, having Roman eliminate them both while they were fighting each other didn’t make him look strong. It only made him look opportunistic. I highly doubt that was what the WWE was going for.

It just kept getting worse. After Kane and the Big Show were eliminated and Roman was “declared” the winner, the two big men came back into the ring to double team him. Gee, what a fantastic idea! You know when that would have made a ton of sense? WHEN THEY WERE THE LAST THREE LEFT AND INSTEAD NONSENSICALLY FOUGHT WITH EACH OTHER!

I understand why the WWE went in this direction. It gave a reason to have The Rock make a surprise appearance and make the save for his cousin. This was all well and good. The Rock received a massive pop but the WWE underestimated their audience’s ability to see through the bullshit. The Rock was only there to force them to cheer for Reigns. It wasn’t going to happen.

The dumbest of all dumb occurred next. After the massive climatic moment of The Rock making an appearance, the WWE tried to recreate Santino’s faux victory in 2011 with Rusev. Sure enough, Roman tossed him right the f*ck out of the ring, and the match was thankfully over. Seriously, what was the point? It made absolutely no sense to end on that. It’s as if Rusev missed his spot and was supposed to have been already eliminated, and that was the resolution to a bad situation.

All in all, the final four was as anticlimactic and terrible as the last twenty minutes leading up to it. Woof.


The Winner.

Roman Reigns’ winning was as predictable as could be. Daniel Bryan was the only other conceivable winner. Once he was out, it was Roman all the way.

Roman as winner was obviously not satisfying because of how it played out. Nonetheless, he was absolutely the rightful winner. Bryan’s time at Wrestlemania 30 had come and gone. He had proven himself to be an injury liability and the WWE wasn’t going to strap the rocket ship to him again. Roman was ready to be “the man” and needed to be pushed accordingly. That meant winning the 2015 Royal Rumble.

With that said, considering Bryan’s popularity and the fans’ perception of how he was being treated, the WWE needed to placate that portion of the audience in order to make a Roman victory work. It was easy to do. Daniel Bryan should have been one of the first entrants. He should have had a magical run and been the focus of the match. The final five should have been Roman and Bryan squaring off against a heel grouping of The Big Show, Kane and Rusev. Roman and Bryan should have conquered and had an epic and lengthy one on one showdown as the final two. Immediately after Roman went over, the heels should have attacked Reigns and Bryan, only for The Rock to THEN make the save. The show could have ended with The Rock, Roman and Daniel Bryan standing tall on equal footing, and I can guarantee you that the fans would have been A LOT more accepting of Roman’s rise than they were.

What the WWE shouldn’t have done is make Bryan a non-factor in hopes that the fans forgot about him before Reigns showed up, have the heels destroy literally everyone only for Roman to overcome the odds in front of a crowd that hated him. This was so badly mismanaged that the WWE was forced to abandon what was a rock solid plan of having Roman Reigns be the one to conquer Brock Lesnar and end his reign of terror. Terrible – simply terrible stuff.


Overall.

The 2015 Royal Rumble is a lightning rod for discussion for obvious reasons. The final third of the match is without question the worst booked stretch in the history of the Royal Rumble event. However, this Rumble was reasonably solid up until it completely jumped the shark. Thus, I simply cannot rank at the bottom of the list despite the mind blowing terrible thought process that went into the finishing sequence. Rest not 2015 naysayers, I am fairly certain that Rich Latta Is about to roast me over this one. GET YOUR POPCORN READY!

The Rebuttal – by Rich Latta.

Only David Fenichel himself could not have the single most destructive match of this decade as dead last in his Royal Rumble Rankings. This is unquestionably the WORST ROYAL RUMBLE OF ALL TIME. This match was a manual on how to try to cool your biggest fan favorite’s jets, permanently scar your next hand-chosen top star, and pit your company directly against its audience. The effects of this match are still being felt to this day, as Roman Reigns is still trying to dig himself out of the 1000 foot hole this match put him in. This was booked so terribly that GOD ALMIGHTY himself canceled Raw the next night via snowstorm. This match led #CancelWWENetwork to trend on Twitter until deep in the middle of the week. WWE themselves knew they did something stupid before they even booked the match, and tried to mask Roman Reigns’ boos by wheeling out The Rock to no avail. The Rock’s face went blank as his mind seemingly flashed back to early 1997 when crowds were chanting “DIE ROCKY DIE” at him.

WWE disregarded Daniel Bryan not even half way through the Royal Rumble, after they built up his return and allowed him to carry Smackdown week to week as its top star during the move to the USA Network. Did I mention that all of this occurred WHILE HAVING NEVER ACTUALLY LOST THE WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP? The feel of the match changed to the point where you can feel it through the screen years later. Fans were correct to hi-jack this abject disaster as every face aside from Reigns was dumped like common trash to make room for the washed up Big Show and Kane (who will be wrestling for the Universal Title at the 2018 Royal Rumble; they never learn do they), who closed the lid on the casket of this dead match. We watched WWE blow everything the previous 3 and a half years had created to pieces, as silence, “Daniel Bryan” chants and hope for anyone but Reigns to win took over the building. This match exposed its goal so early, and fans figured out that the WWE was trying to manipulate cheers for Reigns. They left him in there with Rusev, Big Show and Kane; monsters who Reigns was supposed to overcome valiantly, but no...Philly wasn’t here for any of that.

Kofi Kingston ran out of magic this night, they played insert-a-black guy with R-Truth for the head butt with 1999 Bubba Ray Dudley which will never score points with me, and had every roster member bow down before Roman Reigns, Kane and The Big Show like The Westside Connection before the coronation of a guy who had a grand total of 1 singles feud on record at that time. You must be a true optimist to enjoy this sorcery. So Dave, I can’t wait for the comment section to tear this match apart. Wipe this match from history WWE, this is bull**** like the crowd was chanting. MINUS 5 STARS.


That’s a wrap kids. Tune in next week to see which Rumble landed in the #23 spot on our countdown. Sound off below!

Facebook: David Fenichel

Twitter: @FFFightLeague

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