“Remember the Rumble.” That was the tagline WWE used for their 2017 “Royal Rumble,” invoking the old saying about the Alamo. Unfortunately for the company, fans will remember this “Rumble” — and it won’t be for the reasons they’d like to.
The show itself was a good one. The best match of the night was the fight for the WWE World Championship between AJ Styles and John Cena — which Cena won, becoming a 16-time world champion. Elsewhere on the card, Kevin Owens retained his Universal Championship.
Then came the 30-man “Royal Rumble” match itself. The build for the match centered on Brock Lesnar, Goldberg and The Undertaker — three men whose best days in their career are likely behind them — while the younger talents that will be the marquee WWE stars for years to come were mostly relegated to “Oh yeah, he’s also in it!” Somehow though, it wasn’t the featured veterans of an up-and-comer to win the “Rumble” and get a main event match at “WrestleMania.” Instead, it was Randy Orton.
Yes, the same Randy Orton who’s spent the last few months as a lackey to Bray Wyatt on “Smackdown Live.” He’s going to “WrestleMania 33” to face John Cena for the WWE World Championship. We know what you’re thinking: This sounds familiar. That’s because it is.
Orton and Cena have been opponents seemingly dozens of times over the years, making the “WrestleMania” main event already seem like little more than a rehash. Is yet another match between Cena and Orton really what wrestling fans want to see in 2017?
Cena’s status as a 16-time world champion is to be respected but after a year of WWE seemingly looking to the future and showcasing the talent of tomorrow, this outcome feels like a giant step back. And to be quite honest, it started with Cena’s return to “Smackdown Live,” heading into the “Rumble.”
Upon his first appearance in months, Cena claimed that the “new era” didn’t matter — instead, it was him that mattered, because his time was now. The problem, John, is that it’s been your time for nearly 15 years. And as you downshift into a more limited role, the next generation of superstars has stepped up.
To shut them down now feels like a mistake. It’s as if WWE is suddenly scared of what the future could mean. With how quickly the NXT brand has become popular, it’s easy to see fans are craving a change. They’ve gotten it from the likes of Styles, Owens and a handful of others on the “Raw” and “Smackdown” rosters. It’s not enough, though.
Now fans are looking down the barrel of yet another Orton/Cena match — and it’s one that just doesn’t seem all that important. And that’s not to say Orton and Cena aren’t important to the DNA of WWE. They are two of the biggest names of all time, and have long careers with the company. Pitting them against each other just doesn’t have the shine it might have 6 years ago.
There’s still time for the company to right the course — Daniel Bryan knows all about what can happen when the audience turns on the idea of Randy Orton in the “WrestleMania” main event. At this rate though, the Showcase of the Immortals is starting to live up to its moniker. It’s the place where legends can live forever.
But what happens when those legends retire — or in Cena’s case become the next Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson — and you don’t have anybody there to main event that year’s “WrestleMania”?