One of the coolest aspects of being a wrestling fan as a kid in the 80′s was the anticipation of a pay-per-view event. Back then, there were only four such shows in the course of the year, so there was ample time for the then WWF to build story lines and feuds to entice fans to drop whatever it cost back in the day to tune in. With a stacked roster in the golden era of professional wrestling, events like the first 6 WrestleMania’s, SummerSlam ’90, the ’91 & ’92 Royal Rumble’s and the ’90 Survivor Series still standout all these years later.
There was at least one signature match in so many of those shows that die hard fans remember them like it was yesterday. This Sunday, the WWE Royal Rumble has that kind of electric feel with a star studded and loaded card for one of the WWE’s premiere events. Ever since WWE Champion CM Punk delivered his patented go to sleep finisher on The Rock at Raw 1,000, fans have been patiently waiting for the best in the world to take on The Great One. We assumed from that moment that Rock vs Punk would headline the Rumble, and here we are.
The excitement and buildup to this clash isn’t the year long dance that Rock had with John Cena for WrestleMania last year, but it’s been jam packed with solid promos (watch the above videos) and an altercation that never occurred when Cena and Rock basically had an old school stipulation of no contact before their match.
I’ve been looking forward to this match with the enthusiasm that I did for Randy “Macho Man” Savage vs Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania V. As I’ve written about before, having guys like The Rock and Brock Lesnar around periodically give their matches a heavyweight title bout type of feel to it. You know, when boxing actually mattered.
When you have one of the most popular figures in the history of the business going one on one with a guy that was born to be a heel and one that’s been WWE champion for 432 (and counting) days, you get a ‘Mania quality main event at a pay-per-view that fans would already be jacked up for… The Rumble match still brings out the kid in a lot of us.
The Rock coming back for the people (really it’s the money, but whatever) and to win the WWE Championship one more time is fun and entertaining, but even though he’s been on a “the people don’t matter” rant binge lately… Nothing can diminish what Punk has accomplished as champion.
It’s been thought that The Rock would culminate his comeback and leave Phoenix as champion, but that would be too predictable. I’m not trying to say the WWE is against obvious outcomes (see Cena, John), but the hope is that Punk’s reign carries on for one more pay-per-view. What he’s accomplished as the longest reigning champion of the modern era speaks volumes. He’s brilliant on the mic, in the ring and isn’t your typical WWE “superstar.”
He’s been easy to root for, and his shoot promo in Vegas in 2011 is only a small reason why. Punk is constantly reinventing himself and somehow topping his promos on a weekly basis. In that regard, he’s the ultimate new school star that still has an old school game as a performer. He works more dates than anyone, wrestles in tougher matches than other champions that are equally as beaten up physically and has the unique ability to make sure you tune in on a weekly basis.
In some ways, he’s similar to The Rock when Dwayne was a full-time wrestler. You couldn’t wait to see what kind of promo Rock was going to cut that night, and Punk is the same way. A Rock vs Cena rematch at ‘Mania is likely, but the lead-in to Rock vs Punk has been scintillating television. If you’re a longtime fan and are as excited for this as you were for Hogan vs The Ultimate Warrior, it’s a justified reason.
As for a winner, I’m sticking with the champ to somehow retain the gold. It won’t be a clean victory, but Paul Heyman will have something up his sleeve.
The other main event on the card, is the 30-man over the top rope Rumble match. Casual fans like the Rumble because of the constant action and the surprise entrants (remember when Rowdy Roddy Piper came out?) that always elicit a laugh. The uncertainty of knowing when the wrestlers will enter makes for bigger pops from the crowd, and convinces you that, yes, this particular guy coming out at #27 is definitely winning the match. We don’t know the order other than Dolph Ziggler probably coming out at #30 after winning the Beat the Clock Challenge. If Ziggler was as good as he says he is he’d enter at #1 and try and pull a ’95 Shawn Michaels. Do you remember HBK posing with Pam Anderson after his win? Classic. What made it better, was that he walked out to the ring with Jenny McCarthy for the main event of ‘Mania XI.
The prevailing thought is that Cena will “emerge victorious” and soldier on to WrestleMania, but Vince and CO. can’t be that lame, can they? Shut up, don’t answer that. It would be annoyingly obvious and equally obnoxious if Cena walks away with the title opportunity at ‘Mania, but brace yourselves for it. The only other travesty bigger than a Cena win, is having U.S. Champ Antonio Cesaro stuck defending his title vs The Miz on the pre-show.
If I was running the show and writing this shit, I’d have Randy Orton win the Rumble because it’s been too long since he’s been in the main event picture. I know about his suspensions, but he’s on a different planet when it comes to performing in the ring than Cena could ever dream of. If not Orton, than Cesaro or Ziggler would be my pick. Hell, a Dean Ambrose win an immediate push would also be perfectly fine with me.
The World Heavyweight title match between Alberto Del Rio and The Big Show in a last man standing match will be entertaining, but there’s no chance Del Rio (who’s big with the Mexican fan base) is losing this title before ‘Mania. I’d start the show with this match and have Big Show enter the Rumble match later on in the night. Oh, and look for Team Rhodes Scholars to unseat Team Hell No as WWE Tag Team Champions. The Kane & Daniel Bryan anger management story line has been good comedy, but their graduation on Raw this past week looked like the beginning of the end as Gorilla Monsoon used to say.
The Royal Rumble is the official start to the road to WrestleMania, but this event is ‘Mania worthy and the Punk-Rock match will deliver on multiple levels. Both guys will bring it and tell an amazing story in the process. And for old school fans like me, it’ll be the last chance for a while to revel in a main event match that has late 80′s and Attitude Era anticipation without the ritual boredom that always accompanies a John Cena story line.