I have said this before and am liable to say it again: if the Women’s Revolution was a levelling designed to eliminate gender identity in WWE, then that translates as much as an equal opportunity to fail as it does an equal opportunity to succeed.
Understanding this means that claims that the Revolution failed every time the women in WWE hit something of a creative plateau are misguided. The Revolution was built on the back of match quality; it was never defined as match quality. Its scope was much wider.
This does not, however, mean that when storylines, character arcs or matches have failed in the eyes of the popular audience they do so without impact. It remains important that opportunities afforded to the female division in WWE are capitalised upon appropriately, lest the fickle promotion suddenly start reneging on its embrace of its new found gender-free form of thought. The continued zeal with which so many female WWE performers compete demonstrates their perennial awareness of this fact.
The 30 woman Royal Rumble Match that looms ever closer is yet another flashpoint in the ongoing evolution of women’s wrestling in WWE, then, and you can bet your last penny that the female performers due to enter this first-time fray are going to be stirringly aware of that. I’m expecting a stable of motivated performances hungry to make the most of their opportunity. I think it’s beyond question we’ll get some. The only question that does remain, though, is whether or not the promotion will hold up their end of the bargain. Will this be a Royal Rumble Match to remember, or a sixty minute creative void?
It seems to me that two possible methods now present themselves to the company and cast. The first is to plumb the depths of Rumble lore and borrow some of its better concepts to create an exhilarating mix tape of self-contained stories that will propel the bout along at a brisk pace. Plenty of Rumble Matches over the years have gone back to the well of proven ideas and deployed them to great effect, and though it might sound like a method airing on the side of caution over originality, seeing some of those ideas applied to the female characters currently active on the roster would feel fresh by virtue.
This isn’t really where the interesting possibilities presented to Royal Rumble 2018 and the first female instalment of its titular match type rest, though. Despite the Rumble being one of the better realised concepts in WWE – not least because of its age – there remain some ideas (many of them more radical in design) yet to be broached. While it is fitting that WWE have rolled out a first ever female instalment thirty years after the first ever male instalment of the match, it would be even better if they took the next step and immediately enshrined the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble Match in history with a truly original and forward-thinking effort.
Here are three ideas we have never seen used in a Royal Rumble Match that won’t be for everyone, but would prove how committed WWE are to this broken new ground.
1. One Woman at a Time, or the Classic Strategy as we might call it, is something we have seen armies of stars attempt but never succeed in, despite the constant reiteration from the announce booths across the decades that it makes the absolute most sense as a strategy in the Rumble Match. It’s the riskiest, bravest and undoubtedly most divisive idea to go for. It might even be inherently unworkable. It would certainly be a talking point, though.
To clarify, I am referring to the idea of a talent eliminating the opposition one star at a time, as and when they enter. Ted DiBiase tried it in 1990. Diesel tried it in 1994. Rikishi tried it in 2000. The list goes on. None of them ever succeeded. Would a fan base of today be prepared to accept such an overtly strong performance from a single character? Probably not; though I do believe it would be such a brave creative decision it would win some fans over. It’s not like the already monstrously presented Asuka doesn’t have her following, for instance. WWE do enjoy a celebrity too, though introducing the faded box office power of Ronda Rousey in such a manner would be much too heavy handed even for me. There’s always Nia Jax?
After recent years, Royal Rumble has become a crucible for violent backlash from fans because of its maltreatment at the hands of the promotion, meaning that introducing an idea like this probably wouldn’t be well timed, given fans currently long for something more comfortable; more reassuring. Thus, while this particular concept would, I expect, push more people away than it would enamour, there’s no denying it would also be a hell of a way to set the women’s first ever try at the match massively apart from all thirty previous male efforts.
2. Not Such a Novelty would be a strong possibility considering the decision made by WWE to field a full roster of thirty women in the match. By this, I mean that one of the inevitable ‘novelty entrants’ goes on to prove to be more than just a reach for a pop, instead shockingly going on to win the whole thing and emerging as the heart of a captivating, full time (!!!) new story arc.
I have no appetite for Ronda Rousey, whether she be full time or not, sweeping in at #30 to take home the day. Nor would I want to see a retired Trish Stratus or Michelle McCool show up and snatch the spotlight from a Sasha Banks or Becky Lynch. Nonetheless, we’ve already seen on this week’s edition of Monday Night Raw that WWE are lining up some novelty entrants for us and rumours have surfaced about Serena Deeb possibly making a full on return to the company in the last day or so. Then there are some of the other more polished Mae Young Classic alumni who could show their faces, or infamous NXT names.
If ‘anyone’ can truly win the Royal Rumble Match, why not weaponise the novelty entrant and transform it into something actually worthwhile, creating a brand new star for Monday Night Raw or Smackdown Live from a totally blank canvas? Consider it an opportunity to get right what the promotion got so wrong with Alberto Del Rio and Sheamus in 2011 and 2012 respectively, while creating an immortal debut for highlight reels in all the years to come.
3. Gang Rules is not too dissimilar from the idea of the aforementioned Classic Strategy. It’s not just singles stars who have attempted, over the years, to eliminate their opponents one at a time and stride with ease down the road to victory. Groups have attempted it too, and unholy alliances. Whether it was Kane and Undertaker’s reunion in 2001, Legacy and The Shield making their presences felt in 2009 and 2013 respectively; whether it was the absolute domination of the New Nexus in 2011 or the unholy alliance of Rusev and Bray Wyatt in 2015; Rumble lore is littered with instances where friends were found and / or made among a field of foes to dominate the ring and carry any one given member of a group to guaranteed victory.
With Absolution appearing on Monday Night Raw and the Riott Squad appearing simultaneously on Smackdown Live, immediately you have the potential to see this particular idea through to completion. They’re not alone either. The dual branded nature means a possible three-quarter Horesewomen reunion that could carry the workhorses of the Revolution to bout’s end. Or what if the Iconic Duo show up from NXT, or a Nikki Cross being repeatedly helped from the outside by her Sanity brethren? If you were feeling really brave, you could even go in for something of an NXT invasion. Seeing a raft of NXT female talent overwhelm and eliminate a raft of main roster talent would be guaranteed to get the audience on their feet and chanting those familiar three syllables.
That lattermost possibility is enough to make this writer balk, but the point is that no group has ever succeeded in actually attaining victory for one of its members in a Royal Rumble Match. Thirty years in that seems like something of a creative stretch; especially when you consider the sometimes ignominious ways such groups and temporary alliances get dismantled. Seeing as Royal Rumble 2018 is in the habit of getting into new habits, why not break the habit of a lifetime and prove, after all these years, that it isn’t always “no friends, only foes.”
These are just three ideas that have been swimming round my head over the last couple of days when considering what new ground there might be to break creatively in the Royal Rumble Match. Luckily for those of you reading, I’m not employed to come up with this stuff! I’m sure actual wrestling minds that know how to construct these bouts would have much better ideas.
My point is simply that the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble Match is begging for a new central idea to be brought to the table to inform how the match concludes. While the sub-genre functions perfectly, perhaps even best, by returning time and again to any number of its wealth of structural conceits, allowing the women to do something truly innovative, I feel, would not only help refresh the Rumble Match in the midst of its worst creative stretch ever, it would also offer a strong opportunity to those women to succeed (or fail!); and that’s everything the Revolution, and now the Evolution, has been about.
Ultimately, Royal Rumble is about opportunity. The female performers of WWE aren’t the only ones facing such opportunity come January’s end. So too is WWE itself. Let’s hope they don’t waste it.
Why not let me know your thoughts on this? Do you think it’s a wise idea for WWE to try something genuinely new with the Women’s Royal Rumble Match this year, and what would you like that new idea to be? Let me know in the comments below, over on social media or even by signing up to our own LOPForums; just click here to sign up!
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