A+ Match of the Day

It’s a little early in the morning, but I have a lot to do today.

The 2013 Royal Rumble links are at the bottom, for whatever reason I’m having an issue embedding Dailymotion videos to the blog and if you want to see last year’s Rumble you’ll click, if you don’t, you don’t have to. Scott gave it ***1/4 stars and seemed fairly underwhelmed by the whole thing. I’m closer to ***1/2 for what’s it’s worth but the sucker died when Jericho got eliminated because what little drama was left went with him.

(2013 Rumble Part 1)
(2013 Rumble Part 2)

After the jump are some personal thoughts on the Rumble, why it still works and where it fails.

The fact is the Royal Rumble is still a hard match to mess up because it should move at a pace to hide the weaknesses of most of the roster. Now when someone decides ‘hey let’s give the Miz a 45-minute run’ (2012) when he has maybe six minutes of offense including the stomps and punches (I’m being generous), it’s not going to turn out well for the overall work flow of the match. When they decide to give Ziggler, who is more diverse as a worker and seller, and Jericho, who is an excellent worker that understands timing and pace, 45 minute runs the match will be kept together a little better because those guys understand that they have to work those 45 minutes by doing one of three things: trying to eliminate someone, fighting off elimination or working a mini one-on-one match with another worker.

Those problem with today’s Rumble isn’t the booking of the lack of Pat Patterson, it’s the fact that workers simply don’t know how to work Battle Royales. The great Rumbles of 1989, 1990 and 1992 featured guys that knew how to work Battle Royales. All these guys came from the territory system and battle royales were a big part of working a house. Like if guys were working in Florida and it was time to do a big house in Tampa or at the Bayfront Center in St. Petersburg there was a better than 50/50 chance they were going to do a match and then at the end of the night the available roster was going to do a (insert amount of fake money to the winner) 20-man Battle Royale as the go home match. The crowds loved them.

It also really highlighted what made Andre a special worker. Every territory Andre hit in the states he was going to work a Battle Royal. That was part of his attraction. So he knew that even at 500+ pounds he had to sell offense and sell the idea of being eliminated. Watch an old Battle Royal with Andre as a face and usually, early in the match, the whole ring will try to gang up on him to the horror of the crowd. As a heel in the two Rumbles he was in, several wrestlers tried to gang up on him and eliminate him. He was always on the defensive and he was such a good worker he could make sense of a 500-pound man fighting defensively.

It’s no surprise the best individual performances came from guys who could work the long stretches. Flair in 1992 was great because he didn’t rest at all. He worked with all 28 guys that came in the ring with him. He interacted with each of them for at least a short segment. Backlund in 1993 was the same way. Shawn in 1995 was great at selling the threat of elimination. Benoit in 2004 and really 2005 as well was a worker. He was always doing something…like I said, either fighting off elimination, aggressively trying to eliminate someone or working a match.

Kane in 2001 is probably the most impressive for the simple reason that, at the time, he was booked to rarely leave his feet. So for his 53 minutes in that match he was really working and moving all the time because he couldn’t stay on the mat for long. CM Punk, with his extensive training and ability to diversify his offense and defense, should have no problems for the 50-or-so minutes he’ll be in the ring Sunday. I expect he’s very excited to have the opportunity to put his name up there with the great Rumble performances of all time.

My personal favorite remains the 1990 Rumble. I loved the roster and the cool little matchups that year. Seeing Dusty vs. Andre in a segment was great. The Snake, Piper, Savage, DiBiase foursome early in the match was so much fun. The ring ganging up to eliminate Earthquake. The Warrior-Hogan showdown. I loved 1992, but it was focused on one person (deservedly so) whereas 1990 gave me a lot of different little stories to keep me entertained. The Rumble, a well booked one, should be able to encompass a lot of stories into the 60 minute match. 1990 Rumble basically set up Wrestlemania VI from Snake-DiBiase; Demolition eliminating Andre to set up the tag match; Piper and Bad News Brown brawling and of course Hogan-Warrior.