That is the question addressed in this edition of BUSTED OPEN, where we try to take a question about the world of professional wrestling and get down to the bottom of it by inspecting every aspect of it and analyzing it from all the angles.
When the Royal Rumble first came about in 1989, it not only had 20 participants instead of 30, but it was not for anything in particular. Hacksaw Jim Duggan simply won this random battle royale and that was that. In 1992, the Royal Rumble was used to determine who would hold the then-vacated WWF Championship and was won by Ric Flair. After that, starting with the 1993 Royal Rumble, the winner would be granted a shot at the WWF champion at WrestleMania.
In 2004, however, this reward was amended. There were now two champions in WWE—holding the WWE Championship and the World Heavyweight Championship—and the winner of the Royal Rumble was given the option to choose which one he would like to face at WrestleMania. In 2007, the ECW World Championship was added as a third option. For the champions that weren't chosen by the Royal Rumble winner, usually their challenger was determined in another type of match, whether it be the Elimination Chamber or some other #1 contender's match of some sort.
Now that the titles have been unified and we only have one world champion in WWE, we're back to the old system, where the winner of the Royal Rumble has no option. They're simply going to face the current holder of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and that's it.
The Benefits of No Choice:
Over the past few years, there's been this problem where the Royal Rumble winner didn't actually "main event" WrestleMania in the sense that they were not the last match of the night. While in my personal opinion, this was not the absolute biggest deal, a lot of people had a problem with it. Now, that problem is more likely to be resolved, as there won't be many matches that will go on after the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match.
This also means by default, the Royal Rumble victor gets a boost up in credibility. With it being almost a guarantee to be the main event of WrestleMania, when you win the Royal Rumble, you're essentially at the top of the company, as opposed to an upper midcarder like before when you could challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship and be placed at the beginning of the pay-per-view.
The Drawbacks of No Choice:
Because there's no more flexibility, it means that only the main eventers will win the Royal Rumble from now on. While that sounds good at first, it presents a few negatives. First and foremost, this means that there will be more repetitive winners.
People complained that John Cena won the Royal Rumble last year to challenge The Rock. Well look at how things were with Steve Austin at the top. He won it three times and essentially won it a fourth time, as he took the title shot away from Vince McMahon. Four times, the Royal Rumble was built around him. Do you really think we're not going to see that with John Cena, Randy Orton, Sheamus, and the other people that are always at the top?
This means that the people like Dolph Ziggler, Daniel Bryan, and even new guys like Roman Reigns will have a significantly harder time at ever being booked to win the Royal Rumble in comparison.
There's also no more suspense about who they will challenge. We know who they'll be fighting at WrestleMania. In turn, this means we know who is more likely to win the Royal Rumble, as if the champion at the time looks like they're going to hold it until WrestleMania, it narrows down the potential winners to only a handful of names. Randy Orton is probably going into WrestleMania this year as the champion, so could you ever really see anyone winning this year's opportunity to challenge him other than CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, John Cena or Batista? Thus, you've killed any hope or suspense that someone else could win and challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship instead.
Likewise, the Elimination Chamber is no longer going to be used for a title shot at WrestleMania. Without that second championship, that means we'll only have one chamber match and it'll be a title defense. While I like the idea that the champion has to go through just as rough of a contest as the challenger to earn the right to walk into WrestleMania as the champion, it means that THAT won't be as suspenseful either. The champion is probably just going to retain.
But what if the champion doesn't retain? Then that's even worse, because they've just switched the title right before the biggest pay-per-view of the year! That's something I absolutely hate and I think should only be done in extremely rare circumstances, such as an injury.
It was better before, when we had two options. Not only was it more suspenseful, but it prevented WWE from making the mistake of being boring and repetitive and only using the Royal Rumble to further benefit the careers of a handful of guys that they're stuck on. Maybe a change can be implemented that allows the winner to be able to challenge for ANY title in WWE that they'd want to. I doubt that would be utilized for anything other than the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, but who knows, maybe down the line, someone challenges for the Intercontinental Championship and makes that look like it's incredibly valuable.