WWE Royal Rumble: Triple H Shows It’s Okay to Be Predictable


As rumored, Triple H won the WWE Royal Rumble match, capturing his 14th world championship in the process. Is sticking to such a well-known plan good for the story?

At the 2016 WWE Royal Rumble, Triple H was a “surprise” entrant at #30, ultimately winning the match and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. It had been widely reported that this would likely be the case – even sports book websites were listing Triple H as the odds-on favorite to win the match as early as mid-week.

So why would WWE stick to such a predictable plan as opposed to changing it up to surprise the fans?

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This isn’t the first time in recent memory that the winner of the Royal Rumble was the heavily-rumored favorite. In fact, this is at least the third consecutive year in which the winner was all but crowned ahead of time.

Last year, Roman Reigns was being groomed for superstardom when he entered the Royal Rumble. While Reigns was heavily favored to win, the crowd would have none of it, booing Reigns and The Rock out of the building as the two stood tall to end the show.

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In 2014, Batista had made a return to WWE, declaring himself for the Royal Rumble. With a major Marvel movie to promote, it was seen by many as a chance for WWE to capitalize on the publicity, and unsurprisingly Batista won the Royal Rumble. In a “what a difference a year makes” moment, the last man eliminated was Reigns, and the crowd was solidly behind him – if just for the chance at having something different and unexpected happen.

In all three cases, WWE stuck with their initial plan. Even as the crowd voiced their displeasure at the outcome, or desperately cheered for other entrants in the Royal Rumble to try and will them to an improbable victory, the pre-ordained victor remained unchanged. They stuck to the plan.

What happened in each of those cases? Last year, Roman Reigns went on to WrestleMania to face the reigning WWE World Heavyweight Champion in Brock Lesnar. As the match progressed, we were treated to one of the most unexpected WrestleMania moments of all time, as Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank contract in the main event, ultimately pinning Reigns to become champion. It was shocking, and unexpected, and it led the storyline to a new place.

In 2014, Batista’s victory was overshadowed by the absence of Daniel Bryan in the Royal Rumble. Eventually, the YES Movement took over, and Bryan was given an opportunity to gain entry in the WrestleMania main event, making the Batista vs. Randy Orton championship match a triple threat. He only had to defeat Triple H to open the show to do so. The collusion between Triple H, Batista, and Orton in trying to keep Bryan out of the main event led to the reformation of Evolution, and gave us two excellent pay-per-view matches between Evolution and The Shield.

Oh, and Daniel Bryan defeated Triple H in a great match, then went on to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in one of the best-feeling feel-good moments in recent WWE history.

Who knows where this storyline is going right now? Sure, Triple H is the world champion, but the Road to WrestleMania is a long and winding one. He may not still be champion by the time WrestleMania rolls around. Clearly the story is set up to be Triple H vs. Roman Reigns to finish the “One vs. All” plot line. But that story can be told with or without the world title.

Where do the other superstars fit into this story? Dean Ambrose was the last man eliminated, and even though he’s the reigning Intercontinental Champion, he could easily drop the title to someone to move into the world title picture.

Several superstars put themselves in position to be considered for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship picture during the Royal Rumble. Chris Jericho, Brock Lesnar, Bray Wyatt, Kevin Owens, and the debuting AJ Styles all had excellent and impressive showings in the Royal Rumble, and could easily take the title from Triple H to shift the focus.

WWE has also shown ability to adjust the plan, despite what we all say about the static booking. It’s doubtful that Rollins winning via cash-in was the plan at the 2015 Royal Rumble, and Daniel Bryan wasn’t even in the 2014 Royal Rumble. Yet, both men left WrestleMania that year as WWE World Heavyweight Champion.

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Let’s put it this way: if you go see a movie called “Titanic,” you know the boat is going to sink. It doesn’t detract from what else is going on. And if somehow the boat didn’t sink? It might not make it any better.

Even though it’s easy to complain on the Internet, perhaps the pitchforks should be lowered for a bit, until we see where things are actually headed. After all, this is a company that once used the slogan, “Anything can Happen.”

Maybe it still can.