Tomorrow night’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view will kickoff the “road to Wrestlemania,” a path that creates the opportunity for intriguing television as the WWE builds toward the biggest event on their calendar. Before the discussion about the scenarios of the Rumble, I must mention that management’s latest marketing move to boost Network numbers prior to their next conference call is somewhat perplexing. According to The Wrestling Observer’s Bryan Alvarez, the company has randomly sent different pricing offers to some fans through e-mail. For a limited time, it’s possible to sign up for the streaming service for 99 cents a month for the first three months before the required monthly rate of $9.99 is applied.
On the surface, it might make sense to encourage fans to try the service in hopes that a preview will entice them to subscribe continuously, but WWE has offered a free month for new subscribers for an extended period of time already. Let’s be honest here, anyone that watches WWE programming or would have any interest in the historical footage already knows about the extensive selection of events on the network, as the video library was advertised consistently on WWE TV. The reality is, the network number might’ve plateaued, considering that the casual fan that WWE markets toward might be content with the amount of sports entertainment already on television weekly. Some diehard fans might find this difficult to believe, but most casual fans don’t demand more than the five hours of shows already broadcasted on USA network. Sure, there will be the usual boost in numbers around Wrestlemania, but that’s where the average amount of total subscribers will plateau, because even those that pay the $10 a month for the biggest show of the year aren’t drawn to pay on a continuous basis. The problem is, the network model essentially made every PPV the same in terms of revenue since it cost the same $10 a month to watch WM as it does to watch any other show during the year.
That said, the build toward WM and the brand extension allow for many possibilities before the card is set for the event at the Super Dome. As I’ve written before, Roman Reigns’ plans for the event were decided months ago and you can expect him to defeat Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship as a part of the four-year plan to attempt to get him over as the next John Cena. It’s predictable and manufactured with nothing organic about it, but as I wrote earlier week, Vince McMahon owns sports entertainment in the United States and if he says fans will watch Roman Reigns, they will watch him. But, does that mean Roman’s path to the anointed championship begins with another Rumble win?
I would say that WWE brass wouldn’t risk another Roman revolt at the Rumble, considering what happened in years previously, but after the way Daniel Bryan was booked in the battle royal in 2015, anything is possible. Speaking of the 2015 match that Reigns won, it took place in Philadelphia, the same location of this year’s event so if Roman is booked to win again in the same building, you can expect the same hostile response. It wouldn’t do anything to help him toward another predictable title win, but it might be booked as a way to take a jab at the revolting fans in attendance.
Since Reigns will beat Lesnar for the title, obviously, Brock will retain the belt in the triple threat match. Another point that I made earlier this week in the article about Raw 25, Brock will be booked as strong as possible in his victory against two monsters so that it can ultimately be used to push Roman when he’s the one to finally pin Lesnar.
Truthfully, the reason Kane was added to this bout was to take the pin so that Braun keeps his momentum on Raw. That said, Kane is such an established pro that a defeat at this stage of his career doesn’t diminish his status. This leaves questions about what Braun will be booked for at WM. While his feats of strength are impressive, the cartoonish way this three-way rival was booked on Raw might actually be counter productive for Strowman in the long-term picture. Keep in mind, he got over with simple, physical in-ring work. The goofy stunts almost stretch logic too far even for wrestling and there might be too much distance from the aspects that got Braun over in the first place. Hopefully, the post-Rumble booking will further highlight Strowman in the ring because all things considered, he doesn’t have quite the momentum that he had when he originally challenged Lesnar for the championship in mid-2017.
The women’s battle royal is still a little unclear since nearly half of the competitors haven’t been announced yet, which could lead to either memorable surprise entrants or a series of NXT women that the crowd aren’t familiar with just to get the required amount of participants in the match. As far as the winner, there’s somewhat of a predicament depending on the booking perspective. In theory, Asuka should win it as a way to continue her push as the undefeated star of the division, but her status hasn’t exactly been protected since she debuted on the main roster. It’s puzzling, but for some reason, as simple as it seems, very few make a seamless transition to Raw after they build steam in NXT. For Asuka, her pair of matches with Emma were too competitive and reduced much of the mystic she brought to the table. It made zero sense that those matches weren’t just squash matches to showcase Asuka, especially considering that Emma was released a few weeks later. If Asuka doesn’t win the opportunity to compete for the Women’s title at WM, where does the undefeated streak go?
On the flip side, without the full roster announced, there’s the possibility that a surprise entrant might win, simply as a way to make it more memorable. Rumors swirled in recent months that Ronda Rousey will debut in the WWE this year so this might be the stage for it, but at the same time, she would need more experience ahead of a potential WM match. Make no mistake about it, despite the losses in the octagon that sent her into MMA retirement, Ronda in the squared circle will be a main stream draw for the WWE. That said, her appearances should be extremely limited because as soon as she competes regularly, she will become just another wrestler, which is completely counter productive to the draw of her involvement in sports entertainment. If I had to pick a winner, I would say that Asuka will get the win because it makes the most sense for booking of an undefeated steak to lead to a title match.
Aside from Roman Reigns’ chances to win, the SD equation is a much less convoluted scenario. Assuming that AJ Styles is still the champion at WM 34, the challenger that will generate the most buzz a head of the event is Shinsuke Nakamura, the Japanese grappler that was a main event star in New Japan prior to his arrival in WWE. Ironically, Nakamura and AJ had an incredible match at the Tokyo Dome two years ago, just weeks before AJ debuted at the Royal Rumble. In my view, the current success of the SD brand is built around the presentation as the “wrestling brand.” AJ’s solid matches set the tone for the rest of the show, and the tag division compliments the dynamic well.
Along with that theme, AJ vs. Nakamura could deliver a tremendous in-ring bout on the big stage to further establish the “wrestling brand” of SD. It’s actually a wise move to book Raw as more entertainment based in comparison because it allows for variety within the company. Most importantly, a main event match on that stage could elevate Nakamura to the next level. In many ways, management fumbled Nakamura’s character after he SD debut, as he was presented as just another wrestler and was basically used to try to push Jinder Mahal in that failed experiment. The charismatic Japanese athlete has all the tools to be a major star in the United States. If the writing team thinks the perceived language barrier would prevent Nakamura from identifying with the audience then the promotion will miss the boat on the chance to establish a legitimate star.
So, who will win the Rumble?
While anything is possible, and I didn’t think Randy Orton would be the winner last year, I will say that Shinsuke Nakamura will win the match to set up the previously mentioned bout against AJ Styles. Despite the plan for Reigns to get the continued push, the WWE knows the crowd reaction he will get if he wins the match in Philadelphia again. Either way, it should be interesting to see the direction of the company prior to the biggest event of the year.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
E mail firstname.lastname@example.org | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta
The Lack of Hype for Stomping Grounds
NJPW ‘G1 Climax 29’ Night 8 Preview & Predictions
NJPW ‘Kizuna Road 2019’ (6.25.19) Results & Review
WWE Stomping Grounds: The Good, The Bad & The Weird
NJPW ‘G1 Climax 29’ Night 7 Preview & Predictions
It’s time to “Flex” with Dana Brooke
NJPW ‘Best of the Super Juniors 26’ (5.31.19) Results & Review
PJ Polaco returns with ‘Aldo Montoya’ action figure campaign, chilling ‘Credible’ documentary trailer
NJPW ‘Dominion 2019’ (6.9.19) Results & Review
NJPW ‘Dominion 2019’ Preview & Predictions
Jon Moxley is coming to New Japan next week
AEW: Double or Nothing ‘The Buy In’ pre-show (live stream)
Watch AEW’s first match: PAC vs. Hangman
The One That Got Away: Jon Moxley is reborn
WrestleMania 35 kick off show (live stream)
WWE2 weeks ago
It’s time to “Flex” with Dana Brooke
FigBooth2 weeks ago
WWE Mattel Elite Series 69 is beyond stacked (Gallery)
NJPW1 week ago
NJPW ‘G1 Climax 29’ Night 1 Preview & Predictions
NJPW7 days ago
NJPW ‘G1 Climax 29’ Night 2 Preview & Predictions
NJPW1 week ago
NJPW ‘Kizuna Road 2019’ (6.16.19) Results & Review
Evolve1 week ago
Viceland’s ‘The Wrestlers’ a perfect mix of compelling & informative
NJPW6 days ago
NJPW ‘G1 Climax 29’ Night 3 Preview & Predictions
NJPW2 weeks ago
Why Dominion was key for New Japan