wrestling / Columns

411 Wrestling Fact or Fiction: Was The 2024 Men’s Royal Rumble Match Boring?

February 9, 2024 | Posted by Jake Chambers
Cody Rhodes Image Credit: WWE

Welcome back to the 411mania Wrestling Fact or Fiction. I’m your host Jake Chambers.

I’m talking fallout from the 2024 Royal Rumble today with 411’s Blake Lovell. Blake has recently returned to pen some great opinion columns, including a must-read that just became a lot more relevant about whether Roman should face The Rock or Cody Rhodes at Wrestlemania. Check it out!

But now let’s fill up this column with opinions and see who should be thrown over the top!

Statement #1: The booking of the 2024 men’s Royal Rumble match was very conservative.

Jake Chambers: FACT – The WWE didn’t do a lot with this Rumble this year, it was pretty dull. This is even more disappointing because they went into the show with a lot of different people positioning in interesting ways, from Gunther declaring his intentions to challenge Seth, Drew McIntyre with a recent tweener shift, Cody looking for a rare repeat win, and CM Punk with the stunning comeback to the company. Of course, the only way they could think of to tell their stories in the Rumble was to put them all in very late and have them be the final four. It’s just not creative. Everyone else in the match was inconsequential, made even more so by the little interaction or stories they had with the ultimate and presumed final four throughout the match.

Pro-wrestling, especially the Royal Rumble, should not be about just telling the most obvious story in the most typical way. The beauty of pro-wrestling is that it’s always moving, always changing, always live, and always capable of surprise. These are not movies or dramas or fiction, like so many enlightened fans like to suppose, pro-wrestling is a live artistic form designed for spontaneity, and once you rely on too many writers plotting out arcs for pro-wrestling like they are in a screenwriting class you end up with conservative shows, boring matches, and despite the numbers blasted from loudest PR-approved corporate bullhorns, you’re going to make pro-wrestling that’s less interesting to the most amount of loyal fans.

Blake Lovell: FACT – I didn’t have an issue with the final four being conservative from the standpoint that it was predictable. Those are the four it should have been given the stories WWE has been telling on its weekly television, and the Cody Rhodes vs. CM Punk final two was perfect. However, I thought the booking of the match as a whole was conservative. They left some potential showdowns on the table during the match, including the Jey Uso entering No. 1 and Jimmy Uso entering No. 2 thing that didn’t go anywhere. There weren’t many memorable moments or significant feud developments beyond that. I’m sure pulling Brock Lesnar from the match was one of the reasons, and Bron Breakker replacing him led to one of the few aggressive pushes for anyone outside the main four of Cody, Punk, Gunther, and Drew McIntyre. They certainly could have done more to add those little things that made other Royal Rumble matches special.  

Statement #2: Sending Jordynne Grace to the WWE Royal Rumble was a great move for TNA.

Jake Chambers: FICTION – I don’t understand the upside for TNA here. I suppose you could argue that this is great “exposure” for the company, but will AXS TV get one new subscriber because of this, or one more PPV buy? I’d be shocked. When Micke James did the same thing a few years ago, or when Christian went back to TNA while under WWE contract, did that achieve anything tangible?

I guess the miracle of TNA remaining in business could be credited to small moves like this here and there, but it also continues to position TNA as such a minor company that WWE feels no threat from featuring one of their stars. It’s hardly new for the WWE to randomly put wrestlers from other companies in the Rumble over the years, from Doug Gilbert to Tenryu to that youngster Carlos Colon, but they would never have put WCW Goldberg or AEW Kenny Omega or even mid-2000s TNA AJ Styles in the Rumble and then let them go back and headline rival shows. The best thing that could happen from this is Jordynne Grace being offered a big money WWE contract when her TNA one expires, which she would no doubt take, but how does that help TNA?

Blake Lovell: FACT – I can understand Jake’s point on TNA not gaining much if it results in the company losing Grace to WWE in what may be a glorified tryout. However, if you’re building someone up to a level where WWE wants them, you’re doing something right. That’s why I think that overall, it was a great move for TNA. They just did a rebrand and saw an opportunity to attempt to get more eyeballs on their product, whether that’s new viewers on AXS TV, new followers from WWE pushing Grace’s appearance on its social media accounts, etc. Building a good relationship with the most successful company in your business is never a bad idea. There isn’t much that’s going to move the needle for TNA at this point unless it’s a huge free-agent signing, so you take your chance at showcasing one of your featured talents on the biggest stage. And the fact that Grace delivered a performance that was easily one of the highlights of the match makes it that more likely WWE will work with TNA in the future. That’s a win for a brand that’s always looking for ways to increase its exposure. 

Statement #3: Justice for Sami.

Jake Chambers: FACT – One year ago, Sami Zayn was the biggest pro-wrestler on the planet. He’d single-handedly catapulted the Universal Champion storyline into a stratosphere that had people comparing it to some of the great dramatic fiction of all-time. When he turned on Roman Reigns at the end of last year’s Royal Rumble, it was the main event of the show and one of the best moments in the history of the WWE. He went on to have a thrilling and emotional title match against Reigns in front of an incredible crowd that was nuclear for him to win… which he didn’t. Yes, we know all of this, but I repeat it just to remind myself of how amazing that run was and how little of his popularity or push has sustained.

This didn’t happen with Mick Foley or Chris Benoit (the character), or Daniel Bryan, who were all in Sami’s shoes before as these wrestler’s-wrestlers, who didn’t look like Hollywood stars, who shined not matter what you gave them, and made an organic connection with fans that eventually couldn’t be denied. They all got to headline Wrestlemania and have notable reigns with the world title. Sure, Sami was in the main event of the Wrestlemania B-show, in a story that made no sense, for titles that the WWE never cares about, in what felt like a colossal consolation prize for never getting to this spot again.

Why is it that people seem way more invested in the Cody Rhodes character instead of Sami Zayn? What has Cody done that was anywhere near Sami’s part of the Bloodline story? I don’t get it. You couldn’t ask for any more from what Sami accomplished in 2022-23, meanwhile, Cody has been doing the same weepy-destiny bit since he got to WWE, talks like he just finished his MBA, has okay matches with barely any angles, and we’ve all accepted that he should be in Sami’s place. I call for Justice for Sami Zayn!

Blake Lovell: FACT – Always! But in all seriousness, the CM Punk injury could give WWE a golden opportunity to get Sami Zayn back on track. I know he lost to Drew McIntyre on Raw, but it was via a low blow. That seems to suggest Sami will be involved with McIntyre for a bit, which would mean he’s likely also involved in the conversation for potential opponents for Seth Rollins at WrestleMania 40. It’s unlikely it would be a one-on-one match, but putting Sami in the mix in a potential Triple Threat Match would at least offer more intrigue as to how it could unfold. I still think the Royal Rumble 2023 angle involving Sami, Kevin Owens, and The Bloodline is one of the best things WWE has ever done. They can’t tell the same story again, but hopefully, they can find one that catapults Sami back into a top spot.


Statement #4: Bayley was the wrong choice to win the 2024 women’s Royal Rumble match.

Blake Lovell: FICTION – Bayley was the choice that made the most sense. Becky Lynch winning would have been fine, but it wouldn’t have offered the suspense that Bayley’s victory brings to the table. Who will she choose as her WrestleMania 40 opponent (it seems obvious but the question still stands)? If it’s indeed Io Sky, how do they get there? Does everyone in Damage CTRL turn on her? Do only a few members turn on her? How will the fans react? These are all good questions for building up a WrestleMania match. Since they didn’t have Cody Rhodes go through the Elimination Chamber gauntlet to earn his spot, they can use that trope for Becky. Meanwhile, Bayley’s decision allows for countless directions on the road to WrestleMania 40.

Jake Chambers: FICTION – Back when 411 used to do the PPV Roundtables, I’m sure I picked Bayley to win every Rumble and Money in the Bank that I could. It’s not that I’m particularly a fan, but she just seemed so over at one point and never really has any memorable wins. She was more over than Becky was when she first came to the main roster, right? I mean, the audience literally chanted “You Deserve It” just for appearing on RAW the first time. And when they said Bayley hasn’t even had a singles match at Wrestlemania before, that made me doubly sad for her and the continued state of any non-title match women’s wrestling in the WWE.

Statement #5: Bron Breakker is too small to be a main event-er on RAW or Smackdown.

Blake Lovell: FICTION – Great booking can make (almost) anyone look like a million bucks. Breakker still has skills to develop to be what WWE expects from its top stars on the main roster, but they introduced him like a top star in the Royal Rumble. It was clear from the start that he has “it,” and even if “it” isn’t a 6-5 stature, the tools are there. Also, I think the “too small” argument has been debunked throughout the years in pro wrestling. If a guy’s a star, a guy’s a star. Breakker is just that. He’s built like an absolute unit, so what he lacks in height he can make up for in physique. If he can keep growing as an in-ring wrestler, he’ll be well on his way to becoming a main event star on RAW or SmackDown.

Jake Chambers: FACT – The dude wrestles like he’s super jacked but he’s only kind of jacked. If you’re gonna pull off all that power stuff and be as tall as he is, then you gotta be more jacked. I think I just like saying “jacked”!

Statement #6: You are excited for Roman Reigns vs. The Rock to main event Wrestlemania.

[Ed. Note: These answers were provided before the WrestleMania XL Kickoff event.]

Blake Lovell: FICTION – Is WWE wrong for doing the match that will attract the most mainstream eyeballs? No. It makes sense given the desire to find something positive to combat the revolting Vince McMahon headlines. But the question is about excitement, and the reason I’m not as invested in The Rock vs. Roman Reigns is because that’s not the story WWE has been telling for over a year. It’s not even the fact that they’re doing the match, it’s how they made Cody look by booking it. He spent an entire year trying to find his way back to Reigns to right a wrong to finish his story. That motivation culminated in outlasting 29 other men to become the fourth back-to-back Royal Rumble winner in history….and then he proceeded to choose the injured babyface champion he’s never lost to in a singles match instead of the top heel that cheated to beat him in the WrestleMania main event a year ago….while also handing over that spot to someone he’s not affiliated with who hasn’t wrestled in over a decade. It’s one of the most baffling babyface decisions in wrestling history. The opportunity you worked so hard for is right there, and you reward the fans who supported you every step of the way with a big “no thanks.” That lacks logic and competent storytelling. The only way they could justify it is if they reveal it wasn’t Cody in the ring but rather someone Paul Heyman paid to get plastic surgery to look like Cody to prevent a rematch out of fear that he would beat Reigns in a rematch. I’m still intrigued by how they book Rock vs. Reigns, and I’m sure it’ll be a must-see spectacle by the time they get to Philadelphia. But at least right now, it’s understandable why many fans would be deflated after the emotional investment that WWE had built with Cody.

Jake Chambers: FACT – Of course! Long before Cody Rhodes was even back in the WWE, online fans wouldn’t shut up about Rock vs. Roman needing to headline Wrestlemania, citing the history they share with their families, the entire “head of the table” concept, the generational battle that was just so perfect. To be honest, I’m somewhat stunned by the sentiment online, as Blake outlined above, that all of a sudden thinks this is some kind of travesty.

Imagine thinking Cody Rhodes is Daniel Bryan and The Rock is Batista here… lol. Cody hasn’t had one match in his career as good as Bryan’s like 1,000th match, and Batista was a great wrestling and movie star, but The Rock is like Mount Rushmore levels for both. Plus, we got to see what Roman vs. Cody was like last year in the Wrestlemania main event, and it was fine. Other than being brainwashed by that empty “Finish the Story” motto, people really want to see them run that back… just so Cody can kick out of 10 Roman finishers before hitting his 4th Cross Rhodes for the predictable win – bo-ring. I’d rather see Logan Paul get a re-match from his excellent match with Roman than go through the motions with Cody again.

The Rock is awesome, this is a dream match we’ve all been begging to see for years, and it’s likely going to be one of the wildest Wrestlemania moments of all time. Why wouldn’t you be excited?

Thanks again to Blake! He is a very active and fun Twitter follow, so be sure to get over there and follow him: https://twitter.com/wrestleblake

See you next time!