We’re a few days removed from the 2016 Royal Rumble now, and I feel like the audience reception was more or less split down the middle. A lot happened that can move WWE forward — the debut of AJ Styles and a great feud for the Divas title, namely — so I’m leaning more toward the “loved it” side. On the other hand, I’m still seeing a significant crowd of people not happy with the overall direction of the night. If you’re one of those people, then you’re in some pretty good company.
WWE Hall of Famer Bret Hart spoke with WrestleZone Radio yesterday, and he wasn’t shy about letting people know that this year’s Rumble wasn’t really his speed. In fact, he thought it was one of the all-time worst.
“I wasn’t that impressed with [the Rumble match]. I thought it was one of the least exciting ones I’ve ever watched. I just didn’t find it very exciting. I found it very predictable. When all of the guys came out and ganged up on Roman Reigns, I knew that he was going to come back out later. It was just so easy to figure out. It was not suspenseful…
…Even when it got down to the last four guys, I was surprised that they were the four guys. That they would pin the whole hopes of WrestleMania on the hopes of these four guys. Or two of them anyway. I didn’t like the decision that Triple H, surprise, put the belt on himself again. It just seemed like it just showed a real lack of imagination, if you ask me.
I watched three hours of wrestling last night and I got very little out of it. When it was over, I thought, “That was the worst Royal Rumble I think I’ve ever watched.” Maybe next to the one from a couple of years ago. There was another lousy one. I just really had higher expectations. When I say all of my criticisms, I just want to be honest. I have a lot of respect for the talent… They do good stuff out there. It’s how they are used.”
Bret has obviously known the WWE machine for longer than most of us and has a certain right to be disappointed, but personally, I’m choosing to be optimistic here. Yes, of course Triple H had to go and make the main-event about himself, that’s the kind of character he is. Let’s say they actually do want to pull the trigger on Dean Ambrose as champion at some point… does it have a greater emotional payoff as a fluke at the Royal Rumble, or at WrestleMania after the prize has been snatched away from him and his best friend Roman time and time again? Slow-burn storytelling has to run its course. I don’t think anyone walked out of The Empire Strikes Back complaining that the babyfaces didn’t win and Vader was booking himself too strong, but maybe that’s a generational thing.