WWE Royal Rumble 2014: Unified Title Gives Added Importance to Battle Royal

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WWE Royal Rumble 2014: Unified Title Gives Added Importance to Battle Royal
Photo Credit: WWE.com

A long, long time ago, in a Federation not so far away, there was a match that offered one lucky Superstar the opportunity to challenge for the most prestigious prize in professional wrestling. 

That match was the Royal Rumble and between 1993 and 2002, it was key in setting up the WrestleMania main event.

Yokozuna, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin parlayed their success in the Rumble into championship glory and cemented their places in the WWE Hall of Fame. Austin, in fact, made history by becoming the only three-time winner and managed to score two title reigns out of his victories.

For the longest time, the Rumble match was must-see programming. Fans waited with baited breath to see which wrestler would enter the match at what position. There was a great deal of drama and intrigue surrounding the bout, even when the winner was obvious to anyone who had ever watched wrestling before.

Then the brand extension happened.

For the most part, the match retained its prestige: Brock Lesnar, Chris Benoit, Batista, Rey Mysterio and The Undertaker all went on to capture championship gold. Even in 2008 and 2009, when John Cena and Randy Orton won the match but not the WWE Championship, it still felt like a big deal.

The year 2010 was the first time the Rumble match started to lose its luster, which is strange because it was one of the better Rumbles in the match's long and illustrious history.

Edge returned from injury to win that year's match and went on to challenge Chris Jericho for the World Heavyweight Championship. The feud made sense given their history together but, for the first time, the title felt like and, more importantly, was treated like a secondary championship. 

It only got worse in the two years that followed. Alberto Del Rio won the first-ever 40-man Royal Rumble, a match that should have been historic but, instead, severely watered down the match concept. He would go on to challenge Edge for the World title in the opening contest of WrestleMania 27.

Yes, the opening contest.

The same happened to Sheamus in 2012. Despite outlasting future Hall of Famer Chris Jericho, he was relegated to the opening match of that year's WrestleMania and, worst of all, saw his match with World champion Daniel Bryan get only 18 seconds.

That was the straw that really broke the proverbial camel's back.

The Rumble match had been used to crown the No. 1 contender to the World title, and not only had four out of five Superstars lost their title opportunities since 2008, but the title had been devalued to the point that it was essentially an over-hyped B-level championship. 

Now, with the World title unified with the WWE championship, the Rumble match will instantly regain the prestige it once had.

The creative team will no longer be able to use it as a way to lazily book the World title No. 1 contender while focusing their energy and time on the more prestigious WWE Championship.

For the first time in a decade, they will have to use the Rumble match as the launching point for its premier title bout. Rather than getting by based on name alone, the Royal Rumble will be re-established as one of the most important matches of the year.

And that will benefit everyone, from writers to wrestlers to fans, as a result.

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