The Eternal Optimist Presents: Ranking The Royal Rumbles (#9)


QUESTION OF THE DAY:  Do you think that the WWE dropped the ball on not pushing Ryback?


Hi kids.

Welcome back to another edition in my Royal Rumble column series.

In today’s column, I’ll discuss the Royal Rumble that came in at 9th place on my countdown. As a reminder, here are the criteria that I used to analyze the matches:

The Participants – The easiest way to create a Royal Rumble is to have a compelling roster that people want to see participate. I’ll take a look at the level star power, the level of “overness” of the other players, and whether or not there were an unnecessary amount of jobbers and/or non-factors in the match.

The Storylines and Flow of the Match – The storylines are without question the most important part of a Royal Rumble match. I’ll look at whether or not the storylines presented enhanced the match. I’ll also look at the surprise entrants and evaluate whether or not they added value. Lastly, I’ll look at whether or not the match had a solid flow or if it dragged at times. This is by far the most important category, and it will be the category in which I spend the majority of each column discussing.

The Final Four – Every Rumble inevitably comes down to a “show down” between the final four competitors. Here, I’ll look at whether the WWE chose a strong group to represent the final four, and whether or not the end game to the Rumble was compelling.

The Winner – I’ll evaluate three things relating to the winner of each Rumble. First, was the winner a surprise? I have a strong appreciation for Rumble winners that weren’t necessarily expected to win. Second, was the winner satisfying? Just because the winner wasn’t someone I expected doesn’t mean that I enjoyed the outcome. On the other hand, just because the winner was a foregone conclusion doesn’t mean that I didn’t love every minute of it. Lastly, how did winning the Royal Rumble impact this wrestler at Wrestlemania and beyond? The overall success of the subsequent push impacts how I view many of the Rumbles and their winner.

A couple additional disclaimers:

First – lengthy Royal Rumble runs rarely move me. Sure, you might love Rick Martel lasting 53 minutes in 1991. I didn’t. He, as well as almost everyone else that goes coast to coast, spent the majority of the match sitting in the corner getting kicked. For me, a single wrestler’s longevity is the most overrated factor in evaluating the strength of a Royal Rumble.

Second – these factors aren’t weighted evenly. They are merely talking points. My overall impression of the Rumble is what ultimately mattered when I made my rankings.

Last, but certainly not least – I’ve added a new wrinkle to this column series. As you already know, my thought process on wrestling seems to wildly differ from the majority of the fans in our community. Many have taken me to task in other forums over where my rankings ultimately landed. I’ve decided to incorporate that into this column series. As such, every entry will end with a guest “rebuttal” telling me exactly why I’m an idiot for ranking that particular Rumble where I did. The guests range from my fellow columnists, both on the main page and the Forums, to real life friends, to buddies I frequently interact with on social media. I try not to take myself too seriously, and I think you’ll enjoy the alternative takes.

No rebuttal this week.  No one was all that interested in arguing against my placement.

Here is where the countdown currently stands – links to the previous columns are embedded:

Without further ado, here’s the Royal Rumble that came in at 9th place on my countdown:


#9:  The 2013 Royal Rumble:

The Roster:

  1. Dolph Ziggler
  2. Chris Jericho
  3. Cody Rhodes
  4. Kofi Kingston
  5. Santino Marella
  6. Drew McIntyre
  7. Titus O’Neill
  8. Goldust
  9. David Otunga
  10. Heath Slater
  11. Sheamus
  12. Tensai
  13. Brodus Clay
  14. Rey Mysterio
  15. Darren Young
  16. Bo Dallas
  17. Godfather
  18. Wade Barrett
  19. John Cena
  20. Damien Sandow
  21. Daniel Bryan
  22. Cesaro
  23. Great Khali
  24. Kane
  25. Zack Ryder
  26. Randy Orton
  27. Jinder Mahal
  28. Miz
  29. Sin Cara
  30. Ryback

The WWE certainly fixed their roster issues that plagued the 2012 Royal Rumble.  Cena, Ryback, Orton and Sheamus were legitimate current stars and Jericho was a surprise returning superstar.  To have five of the thirty spots being held down by main eventers is a pretty good ratio.

The mid-card in this Rumble was incredibly strong.  Wade Barrett and Cesaro were both booked incredibly strong as the IC and US champs, respectively.  Dolph Ziggler had won Money In The Bank earlier that year and had a ton of momentum.  Rey Mysterio was no longer a main eventer but still a very popular upper mid-card act.  Daniel Bryan was just on the cusp of starting the “Yes” movement and his tag team with Kane was an act that drew great reactions from the crowd.  Sin Cara was in the middle of the biggest push of his career.

All in all, this Rumble’s roster is loaded with wrestlers that were had either already hit or were about to hit their stride.  The roster for 2013 was a marked improvement from 2011 and 2012.  That is not up for debate.

The Storylines & Flow:

Boy, did the WWE come out with both barrels firing in the 2013 Rumble or what?  Chris Jericho’s return was completely unexpected, really popped the crowd and got the match started in the right way.  I loved that the WWE not only got maximum value from a surprise return, but also had utilized nice continuity.  Ziggler had beaten Jericho six months prior in a “Briefcase v Contract” match, so this was a nice way to pick up that story again.

In 2013, the WWE had a roster full of great workers.  Two such workers were Cody Rhodes and Kofi Kingston.  Having them come in at the third and fourth spots allowed for great back and forth wrestling action between the first four men in the ring, something that you don’t often see in Rumble matches.

This Rumble was absolutely LOADED with quality storylines and moments.  Santino Marella was such a comedic genius.  His mannerisms are as good as anyone’s in the history of the business.  I loved his short sequence that saw him enter the match and “eliminate” all four of the abovementioned wrestlers.   Of course, all four landed on the apron and weren’t actually eliminated, but Santino celebrated as if he had just won the entire match.  It was funny, it was memorable and it was a nice tribute to his close call in the 2011 Rumble two years prior.

While The Godfather’s surprise inclusion in the 2013 Royal Rumble wasn’t nearly as memorable as his prior surprise entrance into a previous Rumble match, he still popped the crowd in a big way.  Goldust as a surprise entrant was fantastic.  He had really strong interaction with his brother and it was really well received the fans.  We never got a full fledged brother v brother feud between the two, so this was the closest thing that the WWE did to giving the fans what they wanted in that regard.

The storyline between Bo Dallas and Wade Barrett wasn’t good by any stretch of the imagination, but it certainly was important.  Dallas was the first NXT wrestler to participate in the Rumble match.  He was a dud as a future star but the WWE did something really smart here.  They made his inclusion feel important.  He eliminated the Intercontinental Champion in Chris Benoit 2004 style.  Barrett attacked him afterwards with a Bull Hammer and caused his elimination.  The event itself was bland, but it served notice that NXT was a brand to be taken seriously.  The NXT spots in recent Royal Rumbles have been some of the most anticipated and well received out of any.  The 2013 Rumble gets credit for being the trendsetter in this area.

I thought that 2013 had the best “Kofi Spot” out of any Rumble.  To refresh your memory, Kofi was knocked of the apron and onto Tensai’s back.  Tensai immediately dumped him onto the announcer’s table.  Kofi briefly pondered what to do, grabbed JBL’s chair and used it as a pogo stick to get back into the ring.  The creativity on this was A+.  It was a great inclusion to keep the match moving and very memorable.

Another rock solid storyline and moment was what took place between Daniel Bryan and Kane.  They were right in the middle of their “Team Hell No” storyline and putting out brilliant comedic segments on a weekly basis.  Bryan eliminating Kane only to end up knocked off the apron and into his arms was poetic justice.  He begged Kane to help him back into the ring.  He didn’t.  I thought it was a testament to both of their brilliance that they could execute an angle revolving around tag team dissension that both furthered the story and didn’t involve physical violence towards each other.

I also thought that the buildup to the final four was particularly strong that year.  I loved having Ryback come in at the #30 spot.  He was at the height of his popularity but was still somewhat limited in the ring.  Doing so allowed him to clean house while hiding his shortcomings.  Additionally, 2013 was in my opinion, Randy Orton’s best year.  It all started here.  I’ve always loved his multiple RKO spots within a Royal Rumble, and this year’s seemed particularly effective and well done.

I thought it was a home run decision to have Dolph Ziggler eliminate Chris Jericho.  It would all go wrong for Dolph later in the year and he would steadily descend into the abyss to the point where he is now one of my least favorite performers, but he was riding a great wave in January of 2013.  Both he and Jericho put in fantastic performances in the 2013 Rumble, the type of performances that stand out from the usual “length but not quality” drivel that we are often subjected to.

From a storyline and flow standpoint, 2013 stands up against just about any other Rumble when it comes to the use of angles and moments to keep the match moving along.  Awesome stuff.  

The Final Four:

I found the final four of the 2013 Royal Rumble to be extremely compelling.  I was happy to see Dolph Ziggler get his due at the time – his run from number one to finishing in fourth place was impressive.  I loved that they had the top three faces in Cena, Ryback and Sheamus as the final three in the Rumble.  Ryback was scorching at the time, Sheamus was one year removed from winning the match and love him or hate him, there’s just a different atmosphere when John Cena is in the ring.

It was the right thing to do to have John Cena and Ryback as the final two wrestlers in the match.  It felt like an “old guard v new guard” moment.  It turned out not to be that, and that’s where the 2013 Rumble ultimately comes up short.

The Winner:

I love John Cena, but this was a baaaaaaad decision.  In hindsight, it shouldn’t have been surprising at all to see Cena get the nod.  He was going to face The Rock again in order to even the series and the WWE simply didn’t feel that they could make that the main event without the world title on the line.  Nonetheless, I was surprised.  It just seemed to be such a no-brainer to have Ryback win the match and have him be the man to dethrone C.M. Punk at Wrestlemania.  

The WWE dropped the ball big time.  John Cena in 2013 was one of the least satisfying winners in the history of the event.  There was absolutely no reason to include the world title in the Rock v Cena return match.  That was a match that sells itself.  On the other hand, you had a guy that was absolutely getting a crowd reaction worthy of being anointed as “the man”.

People can mentioned Ryback’s in-ring and promo shortcomings, but it shouldn’t have mattered.  When someone is getting superstar level reactions, the WWE needs to make them a superstar and worry about the details after the fact.  If you don’t believe me, look no further than Batista leading into Wrestlemania 21.  He was a worse promo and a worse wrestler than Ryback was at this point in his career.  The WWE recognized that he was a bona fide superstar due to his crowd reactions and pushed him accordingly.  That seemed to work out “just fine”.  The same should have been done with Ryback.

Instead, John Cena headlined a reasonably unmemorable main event against The Rock.  The match was nowhere close to their epic first encounter, and Ryback’s push sure shouldn’t have been derailed from it.  Cena literally derived ZERO value from winning the 2013 Rumble, and Ryback was never the same again.  He went on to lose to Mark Henry at Wrestlemania 29, and that was the beginning of a precipitous decline.  What a waste.

Overall:

As my glowing praise of the match itself should indicate, 2013 is without a doubt one of the best Royal Rumbles of all time.  Had the idiotic decision to cut Ryback’s legs out from under him not occurred, I would have given it reasonable consideration for the number one spot.  While the booking of the finish was mind-numbing and terrible, I still wanted to give this match credit for being the masterpiece that it was.  Hence, the #9 spot on the countdown felt like the right place for it to land.

That’s a wrap kids.  Thank you for reading.  Agree or disagree with my placement?  Sound off below!

I can best be reached @The_Eternal_Optimist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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