At one point in time, the Royal Rumble was nothing more than a bonus tip of the hat for a wrestler similar to a Slammy award or a King of the Ring victory. Everything changed in 1992, as the Royal Rumble became an event that had championship implications—sometimes with the title on the line in the match itself, but most often than not, it would determine who would be the #1 contender to the WWE Championship. Things got a little more confusing when the brand extension was implemented, as two world titles meant a decision needed to be made to either force the winner to challenge his brand’s champion or he’d be given the opportunity to jump ship and choose to fight for the other title.
For the past few years, we haven’t had to worry about this problem as there’s only been one WWE World Heavyweight Championship to contend for, but now that the Universal Championship has been added to the mix, the question comes up yet again: should the Royal Rumble winner be forced to fight for his brand’s title or is it better to give them the ability to choose?
This is a topic I’d love to see a lot of responses for in the comments, as I can imagine there will be people arguing passionately for either side. Both options have their pros and cons and there doesn’t seem to be a definitive “right answer”, yet I’d personally make the case that it makes more sense to have the more flexible choice variant on the table just in case WWE ever needs to use that as a means to get out of a tough situation.
This past WrestleMania was plagued with a lot of injuries which seemed to change the plans quite a bit. We’ll never know for sure what WWE had in mind that we never got to see, but it’s safe to say there at least were ideas pitched for Sting, Daniel Bryan, John Cena and Seth Rollins that never came to fruition. If they decided to go the route where the winner has to fight his brand’s champion and then that guy was injured, they’d be lumping themselves into a main event with a replacement champion by default instead of having the option to flip the script and recalibrate things at the last minute. It never hurts to have backup plans, but it also does no good to have those plans with no means to accomplish them once you’ve pigeonholed yourself.
What about Elimination Chamber, by the way? Right now, it’s being advertised as a SmackDown event, which pretty much spoils the surprise by saying someone will challenge Raw’s Universal champion. If WWE goes with the default “your brand’s champion is who you face” idea, it then also spoils which potential people could win the match, as it would need to be someone specifically from the Raw roster. At least with the ability for a SmackDown person to win and change their brands, it leaves some doubt open for speculation. Then again, they still need to rethink their strategy about how to advertise Elimination Chamber going forward, as it would be in everyone’s best interest to not specify a brand’s designation until after the Royal Rumble winner has been decided. That way, Fastlane and Elimination Chamber can switch brands dependent upon which is necessary for that year.
On the other hand, does it hurt the brand split if someone wouldn’t want to fight for his show’s main title because he sees the other one as being more valuable? For example, if Seth Rollins were to win this year’s Royal Rumble, but rather choose the WWE Championship over the Universal Championship, there would immediately be jokes about him not liking the design of the red strap or how the Universal title didn’t mean as much because it wasn’t chosen over the standard WWE Championship. They’ll never truly be on equal playing ground, as if they ever were to combine the two titles, WWE would surely keep the lineage of the old championship, but at least in the minds of the fans, they should try to be on par with one another. For a Royal Rumble winner to challenge the opposite brand’s champion, there would need to be some kind of rivalry already happening between the two wrestlers to use as a catalyst to the feud. Sparking things just from a random challenge would feel awkward, but how would you properly set up a cross-branded feud before the Royal Rumble without giving that finish away?
There are a lot of circumstantial variables that play into this decision and I’m sure many fans just want to sit back and see what happens rather than trying to over-analyze everything like I do, but for those who have a strong opinion one way or another, where do you lean? Would you like to see the option on the table for winners to choose which title to challenge for, or should it be an understood default path they’re put on where they have to face their brand’s world champion?
Keep the debate going in the comments below!