Question 1: Did Roman Reigns coming out as entrant #30 upset you? If so, why? What should WWE have done differently?
CHAFFIOTTE: At this point in the Rumble I got up, paced around the room, and then collapsed back down to my seat, hysterically laughing about how this was the WORST thing they could’ve done. Does that answer the question? Let me air my grievances one by one:
First of all, Roman ate brass knuckles to the face (and kicked out), he went through hell and back with Kevin (and kicked out), and then got flung him through a table by Bruan. Kevin sold the fact he was hurting the next night on Raw, but you’re telling me Roman was just fine to compete a couple hours later? This is the issue, he’s booked overpowered, like nothing can hurt him.
But fine, if Roman needs to be in the rumble then Roman needs to be in the Rumble. Look, I like the guy, I respect his work, I would’ve been perfectly happy to see him. Just not there. I’ll share the blame, I began to convince myself Finn would be back, but I think a lot of people were expecting him or Samoa Joe as #30. Finn got hurt almost exactly 5 months ago with a prognosis of 6-9 months out. We’re not talking John Cena out for 7 and comes back at 3, this is well within what we’re used to seeing from WWE Superstars. Not to mention rumors of him doing incredibly well at his rehab. Like I said before the rumble, it was always going to be up to fate, but they could have offset those expectations by having an appearance by Finn in the lead up where he in-story announces he will not be in the Rumble but starts to sow the seeds for a returning feud. Sure you take away some unpredictability but if it’s only going to rain on our parade, what does that one bit matter? Meanwhile, you had Joe who, yes, debut was beautifully done, but it was disappointing to think he was probably coming out and then not show his face. In fact, the lack of surprise entries, returns, and NXT callups did damper the excitement for me a bit.
Here’s a simple solution to both of those problems: switch Roman and Taker. If #30 went to a guy who we knew was going to be there, we wouldn’t have felt deflated (or hysterical) about it being Roman. Instead of saying “Joe or Finn it’s got to be Joe or Finn,” we might have realized that Taker had yet to make his move. The crowd would’ve been calling for the deadman, and the current participants could tell the story as they realize who’s about to come out. Sure Roman at #29 would probably still get boos but it wouldn’t have felt like a booking mistake the way this does. Oh, and maybe Vince is patting himself on the back due to the buzz but personally I think content should come before publicity.
GUEST: When Roman came out at #30 my first reaction was quite a loud laugh. I thought it was an amazing piece of booking that made EVERYONE talk. I completely understand why everyone hates Roman and why everyone thinks he should take time away from the main event and turn heel. But why does WWE need to play into the fans hands when they create more talk by ignoring them? I don’t know anyone who has stopped watching WWE because of how Roman is being booked, so why should they stop? You either have all of your fans ignoring Roman and getting very little reaction, or all of your fans booing and hating Roman even though he’s booked as a face, I know which one makes more money and so does Vince McMahon. Sure, he didn’t need to be in the Rumble, he didn’t need to be at #30 but people would have been even more upset if he won the Universal Championship or the Rumble itself, so this is really nothing in comparison. If Joe, Finn or anyone else was never going to be in the match, then having Roman in the match made it bigger and gave it more star power, as well as potentially setting up a WrestleMania match with The Undertaker (not that I like that idea).
PARKHURST: At first, it felt like a punch straight in the stomach. I loved the Rumble up to this point, minus a few things like Ellsworth getting a spot and Enzo coming out as late as he did. I was angry in the moment for sure because I hyped myself up so hard on who #30 could be. Finn, Angle, Joe, or literally anyone that wasn’t the guy who ate a pair of brass knuckles to the jaw and got put through some tables. If it was going to be someone who lost earlier, it should’ve been AJ who didn’t go through the extreme “war” Roman did.
Now, I guess I can see why he was #30. I mean he got some nuclear level heat, but was that really WWE’s intentions if they aren’t booking him as a heel? Then having him eliminate Taker when Strowman already got involved in his match earlier?! I just didn’t understand this at all. No, I didn’t like it. I wish it would’ve been Joe, but then part of me thinks that I hyped it up too much in my own head and I need to blame myself for not being ready for the fact it could be Roman. They could have, and should have went another direction, but we have this now and need to accept that.
Question 2: Are you actually happy with WWE's choice of Royal Rumble winner this year or has this just continued the trend of disappointments going on this decade?
CHAFFIOTTE: Well, I’ve been watching for about three years, so I can’t really speak to the past decade of booking. But in terms of WrestleMania 33, I see two realistic options here. The first, Cena retains at the Elimination Chamber in March and it’s Randy Orton vs. John Cena, in which case I would like to direct you to the Botchamania “Too Many Cooks” end card because boy does this feel like groundhog day. It could be interesting with the new Wyatt Family dynamic to push that this is a Randy that John’s never seen before...maybe.
It seems more likely that Bray Wyatt takes the belt off of John at Elimination Chamber and all of a sudden their dynamic changes. Although it’s faster than I would’ve like, WWE has never been masters at the slow burn and setting up Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton for the main event of WrestleMania is not something I’m going to reject. I just think they have this backwards. Bray should’ve won the Royal Rumble, possibly involving Randy sacrificing himself to get Roman out or just to allow Bray the win. Then he should’ve gone on to the Elimination Chamber and won in an underhanded move, and play Bray all the way to WrestleMania. It would’ve made for a massive face turn when he does not lay down for Bray but instead beats him to a pulp. I’m looking forward to the match still, I just think the story was a bit stronger the other way around.
I’ll admit I kind of got the wind taken out of my sails once Roman came out and my pick of Sami Zayn was eliminated. Again, I did that to myself by beginning to convince myself they might really give it to him, so I was pretty deflated by the time we got to the final four. I’m sure I’ll come around to the booking in due time.
GUEST: Randy Orton was never going to be my first choice to win and even with the direction they’re likely heading in, you didn’t need him to win. However, I’m not disappointed that he did. Randy Orton is a well-established star and WWE know they can rely on him, so no matter what they choose to do with either title between now and then, they know Randy can put on a great match with anyone. If they end up doing the match with Bray Wyatt, as I think they will, then this could be one of their best booking decisions of all time.
A lot of people are saying that Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt could very easily be a good midcard WrestleMania match that helps fill the card and that ‘bigger’ names can be in the title picture. But what’s the point in that? Why not make Bray Wyatt a big name? Give him the belt and a decent run and he might be a big name. Randy Orton could face The Undertaker, John Cena, Bray Wyatt or AJ Styles and I would consider it a match to look forward to. The John Cena match is my least favourite of these options, but they will have to fight at least once more, why not put it on the Grandest Stage of the all?
PARKHURST: I love Randy Orton. Easily in my top 5 favorites of all time, but with that being said only time will tell if I like this move. The Elimination Chamber will go a long way of telling me how to feel about this. Right now, I feel like this was the “safe choice” instead of going with someone a little out of the norm like a Chris Jericho (WHO SHOULD HAVE WON).
They have several options going forward, most of which I’ll talk about in the next question. But it seems they want to do a falling out between The Wyatt Family which has already started with Luke Harper turning on the crew. I’m whole-heartedly expecting Bray vs. Randy which needs a huge build to make it feel like a main event worthy feud. I love Bray, and I’ve been saying for years the guy needs a taste of the gold, but this has a long way to go. So, to answer the question, I’m not a fan of this move nor am I disappointed just yet. It just depends on who we see Randy face at the show of shows.
Question 3: How can WWE course-correct the Road to WrestleMania at this point so you and the rest of the WWE Universe don't just lose all motivation to watch for the next few months?
CHAFFIOTTE: There’s a lot to work with, and I could go on about my ideal Mania card for days, but here are a few highlights:
A fatal four-way is the only solution for the Raw Women’s title, though I wish they’d reverse these matches. To build Sasha’s heel turn over the next two months, I’d even have her lose to one of the jobbers and maybe get taken down by a returning Emma.
Triple H delivered his best promo ever earlier this week, but I feel like his explanation of why Seth got dumped was far-fetched. That, coupled with the segment between Stephanie and Rollins that included copious amounts of flirtatious comments, innuendos, and oh yeah, him calling her babe, it really is starting to feel like they might be implying there was an affair. I don’t want them to come out and say it, but this has me intrigued and it seems to have lit a fire under Seth, so it’s on the right path.
This isn’t my first choice, but the best option for Finn right now is to insert him into the Undertaker/Roman Reigns match when Stephanie denies him his rematch (maybe because his buddy Sami Zayn just won the US Title and she’s grumpy about it). Finn says the title goes through this match, so this is where he has to be. He’s pulled out excellence from Reigns in the past and can carry Taker if he starts to have a rough time.
I’d continue to push the idea that Cena has never faced this Randy, he no longer understands his opponent. Building it for the next few weeks, Wyatt’s mind games finally are truly devastating to Cena because he feels like he should understand this man he’s fought for a decade. That’s how they get one over on him and steal the title at Elimination Chamber, but Randy decides he’s done laying down for Bray.
GUEST: As you may have gathered, I’m very optimistic about how things look right now, so rather than say how WWE can correct what they’ve done, I’m going to try to encourage people that the picture can still be bright with the current direction. Let’s say that we have these matches ‘set in stone’ for WrestleMania: Bray Wyatt vs Randy Orton for the WWE Championship, Kevin Owens vs Chris Jericho for the Universal Championship, Brock Lesnar vs Goldberg, Roman Reigns vs Braun Strowman for the US Championship, Undertaker vs John Cena.
These are five matches that are all capable of main eventing WrestleMania, okay maybe not the US title match, but they are all huge matches and we even have AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, The Miz, Finn Balor, Samoa Joe and many others to make the event even bigger. Owens vs Jericho is a great way to make Owens a bigger name before Jericho goes to tour with Fozzy, Lesnar vs Goldberg is a HUGE match, John Cena vs Undertaker is one of the few matches all WWE fans agree should happen and Reigns vs Strowman will make either guy a bigger star.
Bray Wyatt vs Randy Orton is my favourite of these, though. A couple of years ago it seemed like all fans wanted Bray to be given a main event role and now that he might be, everyone is hating on it. My dream scenario would be to have Bray Wyatt win the title at Elimination Chamber, then at Wrestlemania (not the main event, though) have Randy Orton lie down for Bray for the three count. Make the Wyatt Family a group that are devout to Bray and do anything to keep the title on him, make them seem like a group of monsters, I would even have Erick Rowan and Luke Harper act as his henchmen. Maybe even give Orton the Intercontinental Championship and Harper and Rowan the Tag belts. Use this opportunity to make Bray Wyatt one of the biggest names in the company!
PARKHURST: Okay, here we go. There are several things WWE can do here, but the million dollar question is what is the true plan?
When it comes to SmackDown, the rumors so far are Bray vs. Randy for the belt which would cut Cena’s 16th title run to probably his shortest run ever which makes no sense. Another is Cena vs. Dolph, which blows my mind and seems ridiculous. And then AJ vs. Shane. Which I instantly hate. What I would rather see is AJ win it back in the chamber and set up for AJ vs. Randy Orton. A match I’ve always wanted to see and if there is anyone that deserves to main event WrestleMania for the work he has put in this year, it's AJ Styles. I would rather see The Miz with Maryse at ringside face Shane with Daniel Bryan at ringside to solve that feud, and maybe something like Dolph vs. Dean vs. Baron Corbin in some sort of stipulation match for the IC Title and finally see Baron start his title runs. That leaves us with Bray vs. Luke in what could be an incredible feud with the history they have, and both being great in ring athletes. Then put Cena vs. The Undertaker in there because that would be a great match. That would be a great card for SmackDown when comes to Mania and could totally right this ship that is sailing towards a downer of a Mania.
My card for SmackDown would look like: Randy vs. AJ for the WWE Championship, The Miz (w Maryse) vs. Shane McMahon (w Daniel Bryan), Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin for the Intercontinental Championship in some sort of stipulation, John Cena vs. The Undertaker, and American Alpha vs. The Revival for the SmackDown Tag Titles. To me, that rights this ship. Then you could slow build Randy vs. Bray into a title match at SummerSlam where it could actually main event!
Those are our thoughts on the issue, but where do you stand?
Let us know your answers to these questions in the comments below!