Last week, I handicapped the 2011 Royal Rumble, Las Vegas style. Had you gone with my odds (and if professional wrestling was something Vegas actually paid out on) you'd have made some money in all likelihood. Alberto del Rio was my #3 favorite at 7-1, with only John Cena and John Morrison getting better odds. Between this and my NFL playoff picks, I should really move to Nevada and retire as an Irish version of Robert deNiro's Sam "Ace" Rothstein from the film Casino.
For all of us "internet wrestling nerds" out there, myself included, the Royal Rumble can be the best show of the wrestling year. Often better than Mania. It is unpredictable, we don't see anything like it the rest of the year, and there is the "game within the game" trying to predict the order of entry into the match. We realized last night at the #27 entry that a 40-man Rumble is awesome because there was till so much match left.
Yes folks, nights like last night do for nerdy wrestling fans like us what Xena: Warrior Princess did for lesbians in the 90's. It gives us something to discuss, debate, watch, analyze, and above all else, post blogs about. Everything I have is positive.
1. Every one of the final combatants was 33 years old or younger. Proof the youth movement is alive and well, Alberto del Rio, Randy Orton, and Wade Barrett are all representative of the focus the WWE is placing on youth. It's sometimes hard to remember that Orton, while at this point certainly a seasoned veteran, is only 30. del Rio is 33. Barrett is 30. In the title matches, Dolph Ziggler is also 30 and so is The Miz. The elder statesman of the main eventers right now is probably Edge, who is 37 and still looks great.
2. We forgot - for a split second - that he's kind of a jobber. When Santino emerged and hit del Rio with the Cobra, impossible as it seemed, for a split second you had to wonder if Santino was going to take the thing. It would be plausible for the anonymous GM to congratulate Santino but force him to defend the Wrestlemania title shot against del Rio because of the way he'd won it. Even still, the ultra-popular unibrowed tag champion once again showed an unparalleled ability to make us forget that he's been a jobber much of his career, and yet remains as over as almost anyone.
3. Once again, the "throw-away" title matches were excellent. Royal Rumbles are full of WWE and World Title matches that few bought into as legit challenges. Yet last night, Miz and Orton and Edge and Ziggler put on two very solid and well worked title matches. Ziggler showed me a lot last night, including his ability to sell well in big spots. WWE clearly trusts him enough to place him with Vickie Guerrero, the 1-ton human heat magnet.
4. The right guys showed up. I know people were anticipating the sound of either "King of Kings" or "Time to Play the Game" last night, especially with S(h)eamus in the ring, but it didn't happen. That's ok, because the anticipation is back. Everybody wants to see HHH make his one final run before morphing into a full time executive. Myself included. Last night would have been terrific, except that people DID expect it to happen. So I'm glad it didn't. But Booker T and Nash I didn't see coming (I avoided the spoilers for this very reason) and was pleasantly surprised. WOW did Booker T looks terrific. Nash looked worn in the ring, kind of out of sync, but Booker looks like he's never missed a step.
5. Wrestlemania makes sense. del Rio winning the Rumble was brilliant, because that's the only thing that could possibly give the World Title match the cred it needs to stand up at Wrestlemania. Outside for Edge vs Christian, the World Title match (if the belt stays with Edge) would have no sensibly built up heat without the Rumble as a factor. I am, of course, TERRIFIED that over-REY-ted Mysterio is going to win the World Title between now and Wrestlemania to give the feud with del Rio a bigger stage, but even if that happens, the rest of the card is shaping up really well. Cena / Miz, Orton / Punk, HHH / S(h)eamus, Barrett / Undertaker, Nexus / Corre, Edge / del Rio OR Edge / Christian and del Rio / Mysterio. Throw in an IC Title defense and a US Title defense, maybe a tag title and women's title (Awesome Kong, anyone?) match, and you have a stacked card after all.
Give the WWE credit - they saw the writing on the wall, albeit later, and minted several young new starts VERY quickly to make the current product viable in the long term. They made short-term sacrifices for long-term gains, which is the same thing they did in the mid-90's when they said goodbye to Hogan, Savage, Luger, Hall, Nash, etc. and cleared a path for Austin, Rock, Jericho, Benoit, Guerrero, Lesnar, etc. It may not translate into a huge Wrestlemania buyrate in 2011, but suddenly my plans to attend Wrestlemania 30 at Madison Square Garden feels awesome knowing there will be a mess of piqued talent on that card. It's a good time to be a wrestling fan.
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All aboard the road to Wrestlemania!
Chris "IrishCanadian25" Fitzpatrick
Wrestlezone Forums Moderator