January 26th, 2020.
Minute Maid Park. Houston, Texas.
It’s the 2020 Royal Rumble.
We’re deep into the night’s main event, the men’s Royal Rumble match. There’s already a buzz in the air, as the 42,715 people in attendance have been rowdy all night. The 21st entrant in the match is about to make themselves known, and the countdown hits zero.
“You think you know me…”
Wait… what?!? No way! No fucking way!
The stadium nearly explodes. Fans are going absolutely banana pancake. Edge walks through the familiar fog of his entrance, and he already appears overcome with emotion. Twitter is in near-meltdown mode. It is one of the all-time greatest moments in the history of the Royal Rumble, without a doubt. Some would even say it’s one of the all-time greatest moments in wrestling history, period.
By the time this column is available to read, it will have been 423 days since Edge made his shocking return to the ring. 423 days that have been filled with just about every possible emotion you could have. There was the high of the return itself, which was then followed by an incredibly well-done heel turn by Randy Orton, who laid Edge out with an RKO and a Con-Chair-To on Raw the next night. The feud between Edge and Orton made for some very entertaining television, but then a torn triceps put Edge back on the shelf four-and-a-half months after he returned. After being out of action for seven months, he would return six days before the 2021 Royal Rumble to declare himself as an entrant for the Rumble match, which he would go on to win from the #1 spot. He was back to being one of the biggest acts in the business, primed and ready for a huge WrestleMania showdown against the Universal Champion, Roman Reigns.
Well, I have one question to ask.
What the hell happened?
Roman Reigns vs Edge at WrestleMania should’ve been an easy story to tell. The biggest star in the business today going up against the returning hero. Era vs Era. Good vs Bad. Grit vs Godfather. With what both men are capable of in the ring and on the microphone, it was a shoo-in for a WrestleMania main event spot.
Almost immediately, though, Daniel Bryan was thrown into the mix. He was like a pesky little gnat, flying around Edge and Reigns, annoying them as they try, unsuccessfully, to shoo him away. Bryan would irritate Reigns by saying that he could dethrone the champion, and he would irritate Edge by saying that he should be the one to get the main event spot at WrestleMania. He just kept on flying around… buzz, buzz, buzz… and it seemed innocent enough at first. He would help to add some sort of “drama” to the proceedings in the two-plus months between the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania, but before long, we’d be able to focus on the Reigns vs Edge match.
Then, Bryan got more and more involved.
He found himself in a Universal Title match against Reigns at Fastlane. It was billed as, perhaps, Bryan’s last chance to be involved in a WrestleMania main event. He’s been spending more and more time talking about the end of the line for his in-ring career and wanting to go home and spend more time being a husband and father for his family. A couple months away from turning 40, it’s believable that he’s contemplating retirement, especially on his own terms after nearly being forced into it in 2016.
Even the biggest Daniel Bryan supporters would’ve told you, heading into Fastlane, that Reigns would pick up the victory and Bryan would probably find himself in some sort of tag or multi-man match at WrestleMania before being moved back to the main event again down the road. The Fastlane match turned out to be as good a WWE match as we’ve seen in a long time. It was just a fantastic piece of storytelling from beginning to end, but it’s the end that got everybody talking. With the Referee out of commission, Bryan had Reigns in the Yes Lock and he actually forced Reigns to tap out. Edge, the Special Guest Enforcer for the match, entered the ring with a steel chair and attacked Bryan with it, breaking the hold. It was payback for Bryan accidentally hitting Edge with a chair earlier in the match. Edge hits Reigns with the chair, too, for good measure and leaves in a huff. It may not have been an official turn, but it sure as hell looked like a heel turn for Edge. The whole thing came across as him finally snapping because of everything going on, from his obsession in becoming the Universal Champion to his anger that Daniel Bryan had tried to “cut the line” in front of him. Reigns would go on to win the match because of Bryan being knocked out by Edge’s chair shot. The champion had retained, but he also tapped out to the challenger during the match.
Everyone wondered where the Universal Championship picture would be going, and we seemingly got our answer pretty quickly after Fastlane went off the air. For those of you who don’t like these types of things, I have to point out that this is a potential spoiler for where things are going. It hasn’t been announced on WWE programming or social media yet as of the second I’m typing this. If you don’t want anything to be spoiled, feel free to stop reading now and just come back to this column later. You’ve been warned. Stop reading after this sentence. It was reported that Daniel Bryan was going to be added to the WrestleMania match, making it a Triple Threat for the Universal Title. If you’ve been following along, it made sense and it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to you. As Bryan kept becoming a bigger and bigger part of the story, it started to get more obvious that he wasn’t just there as the “added drama” or any sort of “red herring” that people had initially thought.
Let me get this out in the open right here and right now… if Vince McMahon had 100% faith in Edge and the way fans are, and would be, reacting to him in this spot, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now. There would be no Triple Threat. Daniel Bryan would be in a teaming up with Shinsuke Nakamura at WrestleMania or something that nobody would remember a week later. Somewhere along the way, after Vince made the decision to go with Edge as the Royal Rumble winner, he changed his mind about what would be taking place at his biggest show of the year. A while back, we saw the reports that said Vince wasn’t happy about the entire Mania card and was looking to shake things up in a big way. I’d say turning the Universal Title match into a Triple Threat counts as shaking things up in a big way.
Can any of you confidently say that Edge has done anything “wrong” since winning the Rumble? I can’t. Anything that comes across as different from previous years isn’t his doing. Sure, he went seven weeks between matches, from the episode of Raw the night after the Rumble to the episode of Smackdown before Fastlane, but that’s WWE’s doing. They either didn’t book him for in-ring competition during that stretch or they put it into his contract that he’ll only wrestle a certain amount of matches this year. Otherwise, Edge has done everything he can to make the match with Reigns as big as he can. He’s been great on the mic, selling how important the match is to him. He has played off of Reigns, Paul Heyman, and Jey Uso very well. He was running a perfectly good race, pulled out in the lead, and everything looked good. Then, while he was still running, WWE decided to equip Daniel Bryan with the rocket shoes, and he took the fuck off like someone with rocket shoes would. Edge was making good time, but Daniel Bryan was moving so much faster, and he not only caught up to Edge in a shorter amount of time, but he overtook him for the lead.
This is all a pretty easy connection to make when it comes to 2014 and WrestleMania 30. A returning legend (Batista) is back after a lengthy hiatus and wins the Royal Rumble, putting himself in a WrestleMania main event against one of the hottest heel acts in the business (Randy Orton), only for Daniel Bryan’s overwhelming popularity with the WWE Universe helping him get inserted into the match. In 2014, it was one of the most emotional stories ever told in the history of the business, as fans were invested in not only Daniel Bryan, but in Bryan Danielson, as well. The WWE Universe’s desire to see Daniel Bryan at the top of the mountain was matched only by WWE’s desire for it not to happen. Fans simply would not take “no” for an answer, and in the end, everyone was happy once WrestleMania 30 came to an end. The difference here is that Reigns vs Edge is a lot more desirable in 2021 than Orton vs Batista was in 2014.
The silver lining for Edge right now is that things don’t appear to be set in stone just yet. As soon as WWE booked Daniel Bryan vs Triple H at WrestleMania 30, with the winner being inserted into the night’s main event, everyone knew where it was going. The night was going to end with Bryan finally overcoming the odds and being all alone at the top. Since word broke that Bryan will be in the title match at WrestleMania 37, I’ve already seen a few people say they’re still predicting a victory for Edge. I haven’t made my official prediction yet, but I can definitely see that happening. The newly-turned heel Edge comes out victorious through some sort of nefarious ways, and we can do it all over again with these three at the next event. It would be entertaining to watch Bryan continue to chase the title, but also to watch Reigns play the new role as heel challenger, desperate to regain his seat at the head of the table, with both men hunting down “The Ultimate Opportunist” who lived up to the nickname once again. Honestly, though, the fact that fans will be in attendance for WrestleMania really has to bode well for Bryan’s chances. With the Universal Title match being placed on night two, the visual of Daniel Bryan holding the belt in the air as he celebrates is a strong, strong way to go off the air.
I just feel really bad for Edge, and this is coming from one of the biggest Daniel Bryan/Bryan Danielson fans to ever live. What a weird series of decisions from Vince McMahon and WWE. Why not just have Bryan win the Royal Rumble if you wanted him to be involved in the Mania match, instead of leaving Edge hanging and blowing in the breeze?
I’m curious about what all of you think. Do you want Daniel Bryan involved in the Universal Title match at WrestleMania? Going back, do you think it was the right call for Edge to win the Royal Rumble in the first place? You know the routine… hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind.
Weekly Power Rankings
- Thunder Rosa vs Britt Baker: Both of these women earned so much respect for their performances here. The AEW women’s division has taken a lot of heat over the company’s brief tenure, and a lot of times, rightfully so. Things are really starting to turn around, though, and it’s great to see. As the first women to receive a main event match in AEW history, there was a lot of pressure on them, but they exceeded all expectations. A Match Of The Year contender for absolutely sure.
- Roman Reigns vs Daniel Bryan: 97 out of 100 times, this match probably would’ve ended up being in the top spot on my rankings. You can argue about which was the better overall match, and I would say this one gets that crown, but the reason Thunder Rosa vs Britt Baker gets the top spot is because of what it meant, and could mean down the road, for the entire women’s division in AEW. Reigns vs Bryan was still a fantastic match, with both men going above and beyond, as usual, to tell a tremendous story.
- Drew McIntyre vs Sheamus: Another great match between these two. Another match where they beat the shit out of each other. I’m still not tired of seeing it, but I would imagine their bodies continue waking up the day after their matches and are just SCREAMING at them to take it easy next time out.
- Rhea Ripley: After weeks of “coming soon” vignettes, Ripley finally made her official main roster debut. One segment later, she had a Raw Women’s Title match at WrestleMania. Not bad. Not bad at all. A match with Asuka is going to be a blast.
- Will Ospreay: The winner of the 2021 New Japan Cup, Ospreay will be challenging IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, Kota Ibushi, at New Japan’s upcoming Sakura Genesis event on April 4th. Ospreay continues his successful transition from the junior heavyweight division to the heavyweight division, and now rides a wave of momentum into his match with Ibushi. I’m pretty disappointed that Shingo Takagi didn’t end up winning the tournament, but I still think his time is coming.
- Eric Bischoff: Nobody in the history of wrestling has ever taken it to Vince McMahon the way Eric Bischoff and WCW did during the Monday Night War. Bischoff is one of the most important figures of an entire era, and is very deserving of his induction into the WWE Hall Of Fame. (Writer’s Note: This column was written before the announcements that Kane and The Great Khali will also be members of this year’s WWE Hall Of Fame Class.)
- Bobby Lashley vs Sheamus: While it wasn’t quite on the level of McIntyre vs Sheamus, these two also went out there and had a “hoss battle” that saw them beat the shit out of each other. Poor Sheamus. It seems like every match he competes in these days is a physical war. That probably isn’t going to change now that he seems to be moving into a feud with Riddle for the United States Title.
- Kofi Kingston vs AJ Styles: Two of the most athletic performers in the business today had a match that went nearly 15 minutes on Raw. It was a really fun match, but it will ultimately be forgotten as it was just used to build to the upcoming Raw Tag Team Title match at WrestleMania.
- Rob Van Dam: Another deserving WWE Hall Of Fame inductee, RVD spent years as one of the most popular and exciting performers in the business. One of ECW’s brightest stars turned that into a great run in WWE, picking up a WWE Title win, an ECW Title win, six Intercontinental Title reigns, four Hardcore Title reigns, a European Title reign, and three total Tag Team Title reigns. He has become very unfiltered through the years, so his speech should be fun.
- Bad Bunny: All along, the rumor was that Bad Bunny would be teaming with Damian Priest to take on The Miz and John Morrison at WrestleMania. Then, Morrison ended up suffering some sort of leg injury, so people started assuming it would be Priest vs Miz, with Bad Bunny and Morrison in the corners of their pals. Instead, we’re going the surprise route with Bad Bunny vs The Miz, one-on-one, at the biggest show of the year. To me, that says a ton about Bad Bunny’s training at the WWE Performance Center. If WWE is willing to put him out there on an island, so to speak, his training must be going well.
This Week’s Playlist: “Hold Us Together (Hope Mix)” by H.E.R. & Tauren Wells… “Tu Veneno” by J Balvin… “Falling (Remix)” by Montell Jordan & Flesh N Bone… “Before I Let Go” by Frankie Beverly & Maze… “As We Lay” by Dana Harris… “Girl I’ve Been Hurt” by Snow… “Wild World” by Maxi Priest… “Close To You” by Maxi Priest… “Pretty Savage” by BLACKPINK… “Broken Dreams” by Shaman’s Harvest… “The Time Is Now” by John Cena & Tha Trademarc… “Right Now” by John Cena & Tha Trademarc… “Line In The Sand” by Motorhead… “The Rising Sun” by CFO$… “White Iverson” by Post Malone… “I Fall Apart” by Post Malone… “Ralph Wiggum” by Bloodhound Gang… “Girl All The Bad Guys Want” by Bowling For Soup… “My Friends Over You” by New Found Glory… “Right Now” by SR-71