WWE laid the first bricks on the Road to WrestleMania last night with an entertaining and memorable Royal Rumble that packed three hours with some good action, big surprises, and an unlikely winner of the night’s big match.
Alberto Del Rio outlasted 39 other men to win the Royal Rumble, guaranteeing himself a world title match at WrestleMania 27, presumably against Edge in the second-to-the-top world title match.
Although the only thing that is for sure about WrestleMania is that Del Rio will get a title shot, there were several other developments last night that helped bring into focus some of 'Mania’s likely top matches. With The Miz eliminating John Cena from the Rumble match, it seems likely that the two will compete in the other world title match in Atlanta. That match is likely to get top billing on the card, unless WWE pulls a rabbit out of its hat between now and April 3 by signing a major celebrity to compete in a match or bringing back a former top star along the lines of Shawn Michaels.
With CM Punk’s new Nexus attacking Randy Orton during his match with The Miz and costing him a possible world title victory, it’s likely that Punk and Orton are also headed for battle at 'Mania in an upper-mid-card match—perhaps with some major stakes involving The Nexus.
Although the Royal Rumble pay-per-view appeared to answer a lot of questions about WrestleMania, it also raised some new ones:
Are the top matches enough to carry WrestleMania? If you told me a year ago that then-tag team title co-holder The Miz and Mexican luchador Dos Caras would be involved in the two world title matches at this year's WrestleMania, I would have thought you were crazy. And the fact is that, even today, having the two top matches of the biggest wrestling show of the year featuring such relatively unproven main-event stars won't sit right with a lot of people. WWE deserves all the credit in the world for rolling the dice on some fresh talent, rather than exclusively featuring another combination of the usual suspects, but, inevitably, the lack of proven star power may establish this a "rebuilding year"for the company, as it struggles with plummeting pay-per-view revenues. Barring something unforeseen, this will likely be the least-watched 'Mania in a long, long time.
What—if any—role will Booker T and Diesel have in WWE going forward? Both men got pretty strong reactions from the Boston crowd, particularly “Big Daddy Cool.” If time has proven anything, it’s that stars of the past always mean more when they are featured in the proper context. And, so while the returns of Booker and Kevin Nash to TNA might induce groans, their returns also induce curiosity and excitement. With both mrn around the 50-mark, it’s unlikely that either will be headlining WWE pay-per-views anytime soon. But as nostalgia acts and veteran presences in a very young and green WWE locker room, both could play a valuable role.
What about Triple-H and The Undertaker? Both are sure to play prominent parts in this year’s WrestleMania, and yet both are still on the sidelines with injuries. With six entrants to the Rumble match kept a mystery ahead of time, it made sense that at least one, if not both the WWE legends, would make their surprise return in the match. Neither did, and so it would seem that WWE is saving their returns for some time in the next several weeks when they wouldn’t have to share the spotlight so much. Next month’s Elimination Chamber seems like the ideal setting for at least one of the two men to come back. And if neither has any other plans on April 3, why not put them in the ring together?
How about that John Morrison? The “Prince Of Parkour” left us with one of the most memorable moments in all of Royal Rumble history by defying gravity to avoid certain elimination from the Rumble match. In case you missed it, Morrison was knocked off the ring apron, but managed to avoid touching the arena floor by clinging to the ringside barrier like a fly on your living room wall. In a move that would make Spider-Man jealous, Morrison then climbed the ringside barrier, walked across the top of it, leaped onto the ringside steps, and made his way back into the ring—without ever having touched the floor. It was a sight to see, and further reason why WWE should take a good, long look at Morrison as a potential top act in the company. The guy can do things that nobody else in WWE—if not the entire sport—is capable of.
Where is WWE’s women’s division headed? Eve Torres won the Divas title last night after the Raw GM inserted her into the match involving LayCool and Natalya, making if a Fatal 4-Way. Despite what seemed like genuine emotion on Eve’s face following her title win, the match only served to further establish how weak the division is, with another interchangeable female competitor now wearing the championship. The imminent arrival of the former Awesome Kong could serve to shake things up, as could a possible breakup of BFF’s Layla and Michelle McCool, who seemed to have some tension between them last night.
Is Dolph Ziggler ready for the big time? With so much happening on last night’s show, one of the forgotten stories may have been Ziggler’s stellar performance in his match against World champion Edge in the night’s opening contest. Ziggler may be one of the more unlikely world title challengers on pay-per-view in recent years, but he showed he could more than do his part to deliver a main-event-worthy match on a big stage. With so many big names clamoring for a top spot at WrestleMania, it’s unlikely that Ziggler will be headlining any pay-per-view again in the next several months. But he definitely left Boston last night with a stronger reputation than he did when he arrived. Assuming WrestleMania features a Money in the Bank ladder match, Ziggler has to be a favorite to win it.
PWI Senior Writer