The Rock at the Royal Rumble: Long Term Booking in a Short Term World
Remember back in the eighties and early nineties when everybody was lining up to praise the then WWF for their long term booking strategy? It was the one thing we could point to and agree that WWF had over the likes of WCW, they had a story and they saw it through. And it was a good advantage to have until your main rival begins to kick your arse in the ratings by seemingly throwing faeces at a rotating wheel and seeing where it lands, and then urinating on it to see where they throw in the swerve.
Enter the wrongly maligned Vince Russo Gang who decided to one up this method by vomiting into a big bucket of wrestler’s names to decide who was feuding that week. It was a method that created some great television but had a tendency to leave legacies covered in carrots and stomach lining. Almost overnight the WWF/E forgot how to write a compelling story that wasn’t concluded within a matter of weeks, but it didn’t matter because everybody was a billionaire living inside a titanium lined bubble that would surely never burst.
And then the bubble burst.
Shock TV was no longer shocking and the slow and sometimes painful transition back to family friendly programming began. The billionaires had forgotten how to write for children and instead just found a man that the young consumers liked to cheer and gave him a colourful T-shirt. They forgot that children need a story to follow and that it didn’t matter if the ending was telegraphed or clichéd because they wanted to enjoy the ride. They forgot that a long term booking plan was vital now that they were no longer fighting a weekly war with their enemies, rather a long-term battle with themselves.
Sometime during the last two years, Vince McMahon awoke from a power nap, had a quick power shower, then power strut through his corridors of power. He powered through a door, (possibly a double door) and sat at the head of a table that consisted of his daughter, his doofus son-in-law and a man who used to play volleyball. He told them they should probably write some long term storylines and they tried their best, bless em.
They said that The Rock would wrestle John Cena at WrestleMania a whole year before the event. A whole year! And then they pretended they hadn’t said that for a bit so Cena could wrestle against some other men for no real reason and The Rock could spend a few months trying desperately to make a film as good as Suburban Commando. Then they had a tag match at a PPV which nobody saw because The Miz probably tripped over some wires and his jacket was too dark, so they just shouted things at each other that their core audience couldn’t possibly comprehend and then looked at a sign that says WrestleMania.
Everybody bought WrestleMania and the billionaires rejoiced. Their long term storylines were working! They were truly experts. So they decided to do another one. Just to keep things fresh it involved The Rock main eventing a PPV, this time The Royal Rumble. The Rock proclaimed his ascension to a WWE title shot during Raw 1000; a show which took place on the 23rd of July, and the match will take place on the 27th of January, some six months later.
Now, I’m no soothsayer, but allow me to go out on a limb here and predict what will happen over those next six months. Current champion CM Punk will wrestle some other men for no real reason whilst The Rock desperately tries to make a film as good as Mr Nanny. They will have a tag match at Survivor series which nobody will see because Dolph Ziggler will probably break the internet and his hair is too blonde, so they will shout things at each other that their core audience will not comprehend then look at a sign that says Royal Rumble.
The billionaires will no doubt rejoice when The Royal Rumble does a good number, sold on the back of their clever storytelling rather than The Royal Rumble match itself, the only match in the WWE cannon that can sell a PPV without any wrestlers confirmed to appear in it. And the “long term story telling” will continue.
The moral of the story is that we should really be careful what we wish for. I, the (semi) intelligent wrestling enthusiast want a simple yet logical and lasting storyline. What I get is a three week story arc told over 365 days. I wanted longer title reigns and I got them, but only once the world titles had become less prestigious than the TNA Knockouts tag titles. One hand gives whilst the other takes away.
I’ll watch The Rock vs (please, oh please) CM Punk at The Rumble and I’ll no doubt enjoy it. I’ll probably get involved and a little excited even when (please, oh please) Punk starts dropping pipe bombs about two weeks before the event. I just refuse to fall into the trap of thinking that WWE have any idea what they are doing more than a month in advance. The only reason The Rock isn’t returning as soon as SummerSlam is because he’s desperately trying to make a film as good as Santa with Muscles.
Article by Chris Pilkington. Twitter
Great first article by Chris there. Look out for more of his work here at CallingSpots.com in the future!
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