Four PPV events; that is all that is between now and Wrestlemania for the WWE, and the pressure is now starting to build. Although things don’t normally pick up until the Royal Rumble, with audience figures dropping until John Cena came back, WWE management have probably been pushed into action quicker than usual. The annual competition from NFL’s Monday Night Football has seen WWE take its usual drop in ratings, and it is only now that it seems like WWE have any idea of how to combat that.
The summertime is normally the time where WWE push forward, and try and maintain their audience through the autumn and winter months. This year, it seemed like WWE were a little slow in getting off the mark, and it was only really at Summerslam that things seemed to kick into gear. With established stars such as Sheamus, Chris Jericho, Rob Van Dam and John Cena taking time off between June and August for one reason or another, there was an added pressure of management having to find new main event talent, their job was made easier by the surging popularity of Daniel Bryan. With a fan chant that has come close to rivalling Stone Cold’s ‘WHAT?’ chant, Bryan made the most of an opportunity that he had created for himself, and he is now firmly set as one of the top guys in the company.
That is despite the fact that some of the booking throughout his feud with the Authority was sketchy to say the least. It seemed like we couldn’t go through a week or show without Daniel Bryan being attacked by Randy Orton or The Shield. And I understand why the company had him stripped of the title. It made the audience hate Orton more, and love Bryan more, and that is the basics of heels and faces. But there seemed to be a time where I struggled to believe whether Daniel Bryan could overcome everything in front of him.
Lose the believability, and you lose a lot of the audience.
Now, with Survivor Series around the corner, and Bryan looking likely to team with CM Punk to face off against The Wyatt Family, things could be in the pipeline for Wrestlemania already. I can see Punk and Bryan slowly turning against each other, with eliminations from the Royal Rumble match and the Elimination Chamber leading to a grudge match at Wrestlemania 30 in New Orleans.
Or maybe I’m looking way too much into this. Either way, there is the potential for both men to stay in high profile feuds after a summer of facing off against a sole enemy. Punk’s feud with Paul Heyman was one of the best in recent memory, especially if you look at the consistently brilliant promo work of both men. Why Paul Heyman hasn’t been offered a role teaching people in NXT how to talk is beyond me?
But I can soon see him coming back from his hiatus with another high profile feud. After his last protégé, CM Punk failed to end The Undertaker’s Streak at last year’s Wrestlemania, what better way for him to come back than to challenge The Deadman again with another of his clients. Not Curtis Axel or Ryback, but with the returning Brock Lesnar, a man who has had some excellent matches with Taker in the past.
One of the biggest decisions the company has to make is who will win next year’s Royal Rumble? Last year seemed like an easy decision, with John Cena winning to set up ‘Twice in a Lifetime’, with him ultimately defeating The Rock to win the WWE Championship. This year may be more difficult, although I believe that both Randy Orton and John Cena will both be champions come Wrestlemania night.
This year’s Royal Rumble winner could be any one of a number of men. In the past, the Royal Rumble match has given superstars the chance to headline Wrestlemania, and to use that win to give them a permanent push to the main event. Batista in 2005, Rey Mysterio in 2006, Alberto Del Rio in 2011, the Rumble can set stars up for long careers. It has also been used to set up huge returns, such as John Cena at Madison Square Garden in 2008, and Edge in 2010.
This year could see an established star win for the first time, such as Dolph Ziggler, Daniel Bryan or CM Punk. Then again, it could be used to reintroduce Sheamus to WWE audiences, and the Celtic Warrior could win the match for the second time in three years. Whatever happens, there has to be a long term plan as to who will win the match, and what will happen in New Orleans at the start of April. If Sheamus wins, give him a reason to go after either champion, not just because he wants to.
Personally, I do think that Sheamus will win, and turn heel in the process by eliminating someone popular, possibly Punk or Bryan at the end. Have him go after Cena at WM, and we could see a brutal match in New Orleans that will please the majority.
Whatever happens between now and the Royal Rumble, there needs to be better long term planning to ensure that people feel like they are getting their money’s worth. I have to be honest and say I’m not too sure how much PPV’s are to purchase in the US and Canada, and am not sure how they work in other regions. In the UK, we get 4 or 5 each year on Sky Sports, with the remaining events costing £14.99 on Sky Box Office. This can be a lot of money for some to be spending every couple of weeks, so WWE need to ensure they don’t give people a reason not to order. If people don’t order Wrestlemania, then things will be hard to recover for the WWE.