Allow me to preface the following article by saying that I am, without doubt, one of the biggest connoisseurs of the Royal Rumble you will ever meet. This is my event. Never in my life have I embraced a match concept quite as well as the battle royal, and when it comes to the Rumble, I won't hesitate to list off some of the most random and inane factoids one can produce.
I know every number one. I know every number thirty. I even recognize eliminations and times the WWE simply does not. Truth be told, if there's one event I wholeheartedly support each year regardless of the business, it is the Royal Rumble.
All that said, when I read the news today, I was initially stifled. My gut reaction to the idea of a 40-man Royal Rumble match as opposed to the typical 30-man affair was just awful. I couldn't fathom that the WWE would intentionally go out of their way to go against the grain of the old saying: "If it isn't broke, don't fix it."
And the Royal Rumble is nowhere near broken. Not as broken as say, the Survivor Series, or the idea of an over saturated market with concept pay-per-views every 30 days. This event remains one of the elite events that even the most jaded of fans would tune in to see because...well...it is the Royal Rumble.
I'm not one of those that thinks the concept is perfect as it has been presented lately, but this supposed upgrade is just stupid. Before we get too far into why, allow me to accentuate the few positives coming out of this startling revelation.
With a 40-man, 90-second format for the superstars, the WWE is expanding the absolute minimum length of the match to 57 minutes. That may seem a bit steep, but keep in mind that the programming for most of the Rumble's tenure was 30 men coming in every two minutes. That factors out to 56 minutes added time, only one minute less than the fast and furious colossus we're rapidly approaching.
A 40-man Rumble also gives guaranteed spotlights to the Rumble and its competitors, as well it should. At an event called the Royal Rumble, if the main event isn't our prestigious battle royal, then we're getting royally screwed. Remember the last time the Rumble wasn't showcased properly? Here's a hint: Mark Henry headlined that night instead. Enough said.
Speaking of the competitors, this officially will be the one night a year where you will likely see any and all WWE Superstars making appearances on the big stage.
During the brand extension's legitimate period of dignity and rules, this would mean something. So while it means much less now, it still sounds pretty damn cool.
The positives end there. And that isn't too many positives.
Amidst discussions of what we call this bastardization of one of the greatest matches of all-time (a few have suggested rechristening the event the Imperial Rumble), one has to wonder: Does the WWE even have 40 superstars they can put in this match? I mean, of course they do, but with appearances now almost guaranteed for Zack Ryder and Yoshi Tatsu, we're learning that quantity isn't necessarily quality.
Here's a short list of men we expect to see in the Rumble, because two weeks before this 40-man feldspar, we don't have any officially announced entrants.
-Alberto Del Rio
-Nexus (C.M. Punk, Husky Harris, Michael McGillicutty, David Otunga)
-The SmackDown! Nexus or, as I propose we call them, suxeN (Wade Barrett, Justin Gabriel, Ezekiel Jackson, Heath Slater)
Now, let's assume we'll have various surprise entries, and also assume that ALL of these guys are healthy enough to compete.
That still leaves us five men short of 40, and that's assuming that these guys were the best we could do. So here's a list of what would be left to choose from.
-The Great Khali
Throw in a few legends since the pay-per-view is in Boston (Pete Rose, anyone?) and we've got ourselves a watered-down RAW main event. Of course, the enormity of men to choose from and the amount of low cards in that hand are only the start of these difficulties.
Remember how disappointing the Rumble was in 2010 because they simply offed as many people as they could in a short amount of time? Now imagine that the Rumble has ten more men to blast through with slightly more time. It could be the same anticlimactic action all over again, but this time, we'll get to bury even more talent.
I would love to be in on a writing session for the Royal Rumble match just so I could see how intricate of details the wrestlers are given about the match as a whole. At least, I would have loved to be in on that writing session years ago. With the latest few entries, I'm wondering if any writing took place at all.
Through this chaos, we're still not 100% clear on what storylines, if any, will follow the stars in the Rumble. I mean there's so many of them going in, right? I'm sure Kofi Kingston's war with Jack Swagger will overshadow Darren Young's recent tear on Superstars. Give me a break.
I joked a few months back in an article that the WWE's chronic market saturation with their best gimmick matches could lead to half a dozen Rumbles per year to accompany our three Money in the Bank matches, two Elimination Chamber matches, and any other variety of dangerous outing. Instead, I feel like WWE RSVP'ed my Super Bowl party and brought along 10 uninvited relatives each telling stories that aren't related to ANYTHING.
Seriously, did anybody on the WWE Creative team stop to think about the catastrophe of WCW World War 3 before they made the decision that MORE GUYS would make this match better? How about compelling storytelling and interesting twists and turns to keep the audience captivated?
Not everyone in the audience will be disappointed with this change. I'm sure those with Attention Deficit Disorder will be thrilled to know that there is even more "action" to be missed. Was that too far? I don't care. This suck-diddly-ucks.
Still, at least the Rumble match exists and is desired enough by the company to continue putting it on (take that, Survivor Series).