Is it time to start analyzing what comes next once the Royal Rumble is past its prime.
Every January, WWE fans anxiously anticipate the 30-man Royal Rumble match, and for good reason. It has been a staple in the WWE calendar since 1988, with each year offering new monumental moments and thrilling surprises.
The stipulation was later added that the winner would earn a world title match in the main event of WrestleMania. Thus, a large part of the Rumble match’s appeal is that its outcome has a direct effect on how WWE‘s most important event of the year is shaped.
As such, the Royal Rumble has traditionally kicked off the Road to WrestleMania—and it would be hard to imagine a Road to WrestleMania without the annual Battle Royal. Despite being around for nearly three decades, it has maintained its mystique and has yet to lose its luster.
The same can be said for the Money in the Bank Ladder match, which debuted in 2005 and is to this day one of the most suspenseful matches of the year. Although the formula of the winner cashing in the contract for a world title match at any given time or place has arguably grown tiresome, the match itself is always exhilarating and hasn’t worn out its welcome.
It has been over 10 years since the inception of the Money in the Bank match, and with Royal Rumble 2017 on Jan. 29 marking 30 years the pay-per-view has been around, the question turns to what type of match WWE will innovate next that could possibly come close to being as revered.
The company has been criticized for years for its lack of creativity and its inability to create anything new. The prime example would be WWE‘s overreliance on names from the past such as The Undertaker, Triple H, Brock Lesnar, Goldberg and The Rock.
Those top-tier talents won’t be around forever, and once they ride off into the sunset, who will replace them? The same can be said for the Royal Rumble, though that will last longer than any of the aforementioned athletes.
WWE has tried to create compelling matchups in the past, and although it was unsuccessful in its attempts, at least it looked forward to the future. One example was 2008’s Unforgiven event, where the Scramble match was held for the first time.
With 20 minutes on the clock, two wrestlers would start out in the ring before another individual would enter the fray every five minutes. Interim champions would be crowned, and whoever scored the final pinfall or submission win would be deemed the victor.
It was an interesting idea in theory, and the execution was decent, but other than one other time in June 2009, the Scramble bout wasn’t brought back. It was never disclosed why the Scramble was killed off, especially given that it led to a higher buyrate for that year’s installment, per Pro Wrestling Torch.
What is the origin of the Royal Rumble match?
Aside from the Scramble, WWE has largely failed to deliver a new gimmick match that has stood the test of time. Instead, officials have rested on their laurels and have resorted to the same tired tropes.
At a time when we see so many hardcore matches from week to week and entire events dedicated to ladder and Hell in a Cell matches, it will undoubtedly be a tough task for WWE to develop a match with the same level of prestige as the Rumble, though it can be done.
For instance, say WWE created a concept where instead of being held in one night, it would be spread out over the course of several weeks heading into SummerSlam (the sole Big Four event without a real gimmick match attached to it). It could be a tournament of sorts, but considering those have typically been overdone, it could feature multiple men in each match, with the winners of each bout meeting in one final faceoff at the show to earn a future title opportunity.
Additionally, there is the option to combine current match types, such as bringing back the Best of Five or Best of Seven series and adding an extra twist to it. By adding stipulations to each match in the series, such as a steel cage or ladder, it makes each match more exciting than the last.
Whether WWE builds upon a gimmick match already in existence (as with Money in the Bank) or potentially comes up with something completely original, it is imperative that officials start asking themselves what the next step will be in the evolution of the Royal Rumble match.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham “GSM” Matthews, is a Digital Journalism major at Endicott College. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and “like” his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.