In 1999, Vince McMahon won the Royal Rumble. The crowd booed him out of the building, but that was the WWE’s intention. McMahon was the bad guy, the evil boss everyone hated. Both the 2014 and 2015 Royal Rumble’s ended in a chorus of boos, but for completely different reasons. The audience had absolutely no want to see either Batista or Roman Reigns win the rumble. In fact, in the 2014 rumble, the audience was actually hoping Reigns would throw Batista over the top rope, just so they didn’t have to see Batista win. What a difference a year makes.
This year, the WWE did absolutely everything in their power to generate some kind of positive reaction to Roman Reigns winning the Royal Rumble. Without a doubt, they failed miserably. WWE is well aware that the majority of the audience wants to see Daniel Bryan win essentially every match he is in, which is totally unreasonable. However, when they elected to eliminate Daniel Bryan so early in the Rumble this year, it ruined the match. WWE’s intention was for the crowd to get all the anger out of their system and then the crowd would be happy to see Reigns win the rumble. It didn’t work. They even had The Rock come out to celebrate with Reigns, which also failed miserably.
On February 22nd, WWE Fastlane took place and predictably Daniel Bryan helped put Roman Reigns over. In other words, he lost to him and then the next night on Raw complimented Reigns on what a terrific wrestler he is. The entire goal of this angle was to get the audience just to simply give Roman Reigns a chance. The fans may stop booing Roman Reigns, but in the wrestling world, silence is worse than a negative reaction. The WWE Universe may simply wind up having no reaction to Reigns, because they realize that no matter how much they boo the WWE will not alter their plans. Truth be told, the WWE should not alter their plans based on negative reactions. However, they have been consistently disappointing their fan-base for years due to the lack of understanding they have for their audience.
10 Dolph Ziggler/Cesaro
Both of these superstars are crowd favorites. WWE seems allergic to allowing Dolph Ziggler to win a match. Now, that may be because that the second they put a title on him the guy gets injured. That also may play into why Daniel Bryan is not playing a significant role at this year’s Wrestlemania. Cesaro is the definition of a wasted opportunity. For what seemed like 20 seconds, the WWE placed Paul Heyman with Cesaro. Inexplicably, they broke the pairing up and Cesaro was regulated to doing absolutely nothing of significance for several months. Thankfully, he is being utilized much better nowadays as he and Tyson Kidd are Tag Team champions. The fact remains that the WWE once again dropped the ball on yet another wrestler with main-event potential.
Cody Rhodes is just one of the many talented wrestlers that the WWE seemingly has no idea what to do with. He has had his moments and is a former Intercontinental champion, but his latest character has lost its luster. At first, Stardust was a very entertaining character. The thought of the two Rhodes brothers, Goldust and Stardust, being a tag team was awesome. However, the WWE once again failed to maintain their popularity and had no choice but to separate the team. Stardust versus Goldust is pretty much a lock for WrestleMania, most likely within the ladder match for the IC title, and it could wind up being Goldust’s last match for the WWE. Shortly after that, Stardust may just turn right back into Cody Rhodes, a character the WWE has failed to do anything substantial with. His promo after the match at Fastlane was the best thing the WWE has ever done with the Stardust character. We'll see if the WWE can build off of that. I think most are seeing the character being done after WrestleMania.
8 The Diet Road Warriors
The Ascension never had a chance once they came up from NXT. WWE has a real problem with creating tag teams and getting them over with the audience. The Usos were popular for a second, but now not so much. The WWE thought that having The Ascension defeat The New Age Outlaws at the Royal Rumble would help increase their popularity. This would be true a decade ago, the last time the Outlaws were relevant. It seems like the WWE has no idea what they are doing with them and subsequently the audience has no idea how to react to them.
7 The Constant Use of Big Show
We get it. Big Show is tall. He is also well past his prime and really has no business being in the final four of the Royal Rumble. His finishing move went from a powerful, bone-crushing chokeslam to a punch to the face. The WWE has had Big Show be a good guy and a bad guy so many times it is nearly impossible to take his character seriously. Big Show has also cried several times in the ring, only to be billed as an unstoppable monster a month later. He is a gifted athlete for a man of his size, but for everybody’s sake, can we stop having him on TV so much? At Fastlane he knocked out Ziggler with a punch and Kane wound up getting the win. Why? I don’t know.
6 Corporate Kane
The only wrestler that should ever perform in dress pants is Irwin R. Schyster. Stripping Kane of his mask is one thing, making him a corporate stooge simply makes no sense. Children used to be petrified by Kane just a few years ago. His pyros would hit and the entire crowd would flinch. Today’s Kane wears dress pants and is just another guy out there. He is not the wrestler he once was, but this gimmick surely isn’t helping him. It seems like any wrestler can play the role of corporate stooge. WWE has decided to have Kane play that role and not too many people find it interesting.
5 Too Many Hours to Fill
There is way too much WWE programming. To a wrestling fan that may sound ridiculous, but think about it. How much of Monday Night Raw is wasted on replays of things you just watched? Most of them aren’t even replays of wrestling, they are replays of a promo everyone just sat through. The fact is that the WWE does not have enough popular wrestlers to fill all this time. SmackDown is almost like the forgotten show and it doesn’t feel like you have to watch it when it gets recapped so much on Raw. However, a lot of the time SmackDown is a better program than Raw because it is only two hours. The fact that NXT is the best show WWE is putting on is saying something about how dull most of their weekly televised programming has become.
4 Predictable Writing
Two years ago, WWE had the wrong person win the Royal Rumble. It doesn’t have to be Daniel Bryan winning every event. He is already so popular he almost doesn’t even need it. It does have to be someone that fans either love or love to hate. Right now, Roman Reigns is neither. Reigns absolutely has a bright future and the potential to be the next big star of the WWE, it's just not his time right now. The WWE Universe wants to feel like they have a say in who gets the big WrestleMania push or the next great title run. Daniel Bryan would have been the most sensible wrestler to win the Royal Rumble given his level of popularity.
Wrestlers like Dolph Ziggler or Dean Ambrose also would have worked because the audience is behind those guys. It was apparent that once Daniel Bryan was eliminated that Roman Reigns was going to win. Instead of letting the crowd start to like Reigns by building him up over time, WWE forced him on the fans. In an effort to try and gain some positive feedback for Reigns, WWE had him defeat Daniel Bryan at Fastlane in order to ensure his position in the main event at WrestleMania. It may have bought Reigns some time, but if Bryan is suddenly just thrown into the Intercontinental title ladder match at WrestleMania, it feels like is a waste of the most popular superstar on their roster.
3 Commercials During Matches
This is inexcusable, especially when the WWE has a three-hour time slot. Almost every Raw opens up with a 30-minute talkfest promo that sets up the main event. There are rarely any commercials during that, but once the main event rolls around, you can count on a commercial break. We all understand the need for advertisements. However, with already such little wrestling on Raw already, the fact that most of the matches are interrupted by commercials is infuriating. It completely takes the viewer out of the match. Wrestling is about telling a story in the ring. When that story is interrupted for several minutes, it disrupts the flow of the match and leaves the viewer completely disengaged.
2 Inability to Develop New Stars
The WWE has been relying on stars like John Cena and Big Show for far too long. They have failed time and time again to create a superstar that connects with the WWE Universe like The Rock and Stone Cold did back in the day. It is not just that they have failed to create the main-eventer that they need so much, they have barely been able to create a viable mid card. There are times when it feels like the only relevant title in the company is the WWE Championship. This comes back to the writing. Everything is so scripted and planned, the organic connection that people felt with wrestlers like Stone Cold is lost. The wrestlers don’t seem like personalities anymore, they come across as actors reading lines. It just doesn’t work.
1 Far Too Much Catering to the Casual Fan
This is a problem that has gone on forever. John Cena is a perfect example of someone that while very talented, isn’t fully embraced by the audience. For example, look back at superstars like Stone Cold and the Rock. The audience overwhelmingly rooted for both of them and it seems like the WWE has been looking to replace those guys for over a decade now. Some feel like the answer is right in front of them, Daniel Bryan. While others may feel that the WWE doesn’t need to have a singular talent constantly at the top. One of the main reasons people are rejecting Roman Reigns headlining WrestleMania is because he feels like another John Cena. Roman Reigns has the look of a top guy, as does John Cena. The WWE made a lot of money with John Cena at the top, but I don’t think anyone that has watched wrestling for more than a few years could deny that the current product isn't exceptional.
Now, it seems like Cena is not in the main-event picture anymore, only because someone who feels like a Cena clone with long hair is replacing him. It all comes down to aesthetics. Roman Reigns looks like the prototypical champion, big muscles and all. Daniel Bryan looks nothing like that, yet the majority of the audience wants to see him with the title. By majority, I mean those that have watched wrestling for a long time. You are not their target audience because they know you will always watch. It is the plight of the wrestling fan, the wrestler with the obvious talent often gets overlooked for the one that is most marketable and the WWE knows you will watch no matter what. On second thought, maybe they understand us all too well.