The boos rained down at the Wells Fargo Center. Roman Reigns was the Royal Rumble winner, but the fans were not happy.
12 months on from Batista's controversial victory at the same pay-per-view, WWE fans were left with that feeling of déjà vu. Last year, a groundswell of support carried fan favourite Daniel Bryan to WrestleMania.
Bryan was unceremoniously dumped out again on Sunday, and it would be little surprise to see the IWC mobilise once more in favour of the former-World Heavyweight Champion.
Whether that happens or not, all is not well in the WWE Universe. Pay-per-views have been panned, story lines have been botched, the WWE Network launched to a mixed reaction and the company's share price has plummeted since March.
GiveMeSport approached four of our chief WWE contributors to assess their thoughts on the state of WWE.
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What follows is a roundtable approach to exploring the issues affecting the company, and some of the things that can be done to make it right...
Pat (US edition editor)
Hi guys, thanks for joining me today. We're a few days removed from the Rumble now, so hopefully everybody's got their breath back.
Obviously, Reigns was not a hugely popular winner last Sunday, is his victory another example of a tone-deaf WWE failing to listen to the fans?
Gabriella (Lead WWE writer)
To an extent, but it's the scripted promos that are the real problem. In the best days of WWE, legends like Stone Cold and The Rock connected with their audience because their promos felt spontaneous. This lack of spontaneity has affected Reigns.
Phillipa (Lead WWE writer)
That's a fair point - the writing really doesn't do them any favours. It seems WWE only sees five superstars as their top guys - Roman Reigns, John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins and Brock Lesnar.
So what's the problem with Reigns specifically?
Its hard for WWE to push a new star like they are with Roman Reigns because they are so good at falling back and accepting John Cena as the easy answer to every question.
They are trying to turn Reigns into the next Cena with the exact same character and persona and it really isn't working for him. They need to allow him to produce his own character and develop it, that way he will look less awkward when delivering promos.
Raza (Lead WWE writer)
I agree with both Phillipa and Gabriella here, some bookings have just been bad while potential superstars are being overlooked. But, looking at the Royal Rumble as well, the internet and IWC are just as much to blame.
There’s no real element of surprise left anymore, we know days in advance when somebody is going to return or when a championship could change hands. This is why the IWC are hardly ever surprised as to what could happen next in the WWE and then they blast the company when they don’t change the plans, simply because the news has been leaked beforehand, but that is out of the WWE's control and something which probably won't ever change.
Michael (Lead Writer)
You've got to look at the change to PG as well - to this end the WWE Network hasn't helped.
The Network reminds fans of the past glory of the company and unfortunately for Vince McMahon, it has highlighted the current eras shortcomings by comparison.
In the PG-era, matches such as the Elimination Chamber, TLC and even the fabled Hell in a Cell matches have become very tame. Unfortunately, the WWE will never change back.
These are obviously key issues, but they are much broader in scope. And obviously, the WWE Network is here to stay, passing 1 million subscribers recently.
Several pay-per-views now have ended controversially, with reports even claiming WWE edited out the boos at the Rumble in subsequent broadcasts. What is prompting this negative reaction?
Right now it all comes down to Roman Reigns and how much he is ‘being forced down our throats.' The fans love Daniel Bryan. His ‘YES!’ chant is probably more popular than Bryan himself, the fact he was eliminated in the Royal Rumble and a less-talented star who fits the WWE’s look perfectly managed to win played a big role [in the reaction].
The disillusion boils down to the fact that superstars like Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose and Bryan aren’t getting the pushes they deserve.
I can see that, but fans will never be happy regardless of what WWE does, that's the point. WWE needs to continue the way they are going and allow the fans to voice their opinion, but it shouldn't influence the company or the way it books its shows.
For the most part right now a lot of WWE fans aren't actually disillusioned with the company. The pay-per-view event last Sunday saw undoubtedly one of the greatest Title matches in WWE history, and as for the Rumble match itself, I felt it was booked perfectly aside from the obvious backlash against Reigns being the winner.
OK, so is it a straight case of re-promoting Bryan back into Wrestlmania like last year?
This is the main problem, WWE should never have changed the Daniel Bryan storyline last year "for the fans" because they showed the fans that if they make enough noise then the company will listen and that's not the way it should be.
I don't actually think pushing Daniel Bryan would help that much.
At the moment, and for a long time now, there has been a heavy reliance upon the age old tale of the underdog triumphing against all odds.
From Daniel Bryan against the world to the WWE roster vs. the Authority, there are very few storylines right now that pit evenly matched superstars against each other.
Rusev vs. Ryback had great potential but it was stamped out before it was given a chance to play out and it wasn’t the only storyline ended too soon.
They need to prioritise giving creative direction to Dolph Ziggler and Daniel Bryan ahead of WrestleMania. Also, after the segment with Paul Heyman, Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns on Raw on Monday, it seemed to go down so well with WWE fans, despite being a last-minute show, that I would definitely maintain this storyline to keep the fans on side.
On that thought, WWE should continue to promote the Reigns vs. Lesnar story line in the way Heyman did on Monday.
That was a great example of WWE storytelling and to continue to develop it in this way would surely turn things around, not only for WWE, but also to the benefit of Reigns.
I have no idea what WWE were thinking putting Dean Ambrose in a feud with Bray Wyatt when they refused to let Wyatt get pinned. Ambrose is one of the rising stars of the company and he has been missing episodes of Raw and put in stupid matches instead.
He pinned Barrett last week on Smackdown, but will he get an Intercontinental Championship shot? Probably not, because WWE seems to keep overlooking him.
He is one of the best talkers WWE have at the moment and they need to use him more and push him back up the card.
The best thing the WWE can do right now to get the fans back on their side – whether it happens or not is a different story – is to somehow include the likes of Ambrose, Ziggler or Bryan in a championship match.
Phillipa, you mentioned Cena earlier. It's pretty clear WWE are trying to position Reigns as a second coming of Cena. The Rock was there on Sunday to crown him the winner, and it looks like he's being booked to follow this Cena/Rock tradition.
But that's such a stale storyline, how could WWE mix it up and maybe get a few more fans engaged again?
Looking at WWE right now, they need to bring up some of the guys from NXT and allow them to show the world what they can do on the big stage.
NXT is where the excitement is, the full time, full blooded athletes who always put on a show and those guys could show some of the superstars in the WWE locker room all about pride and passion for the business.
A renewed push for Cesaro would go along way in turning those followers of WWE who are disillusioned around. He has so much untapped potential and this could be realised through his newly-formed tag team partnership with Tyson Kidd, who is another wrestler with a huge amount of potential.
I'm 100 per cent with Phillipa here, I would push the entire NXT roster. But sticking with the main guys I have to say Tyson Kidd, Bad News Barrett, Bray Wyatt and Dean Ambrose are the four superstars I say deserve more air-time and promotion.
Definitely, Ambrose, Ziggler and Bryan could all be much higher up the card.
They’re all great inside the ring and the fans love them whether they’re a heel or a face, Tyson Kidd is finally getting regular TV time now since his stint on NXT and that’s the least he deserves, he’s the most underrated star in WWE today.
Ziggler is the stand-out name for a superstar in need of a major push given the high level of popularity he has amassed and his impressive in-ring ability.
However, in a time where there are a distinctive lack of big name heels, stars such as Rusev, Bad News Barrett and Cesaro deserve to be higher up the roster in order to offer an alternative source of heels away from the Authority.
Unfortunately, we're going to have to wrap things up there but that's great, thanks for taking the time everyone.
Despite the reaction last weekend, WWE always finds a way to get the fans back in front of the TV for WrestleMania and there's little reason to think this year will be any different.
Such is the nature of wrestling that it's hard to tell whether this Reigns storyline is all part of a longer-term plan from the company to get the fans onside or whether it is indeed just a huge misjudgement.
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