No year was better for the future of women’s wrestling than 2016 as hurdle after hurdle was jumped with historic matches happening left and right. For the first time ever, a woman’s match main-evented a pay-per-view in the Hell in a Cell, a No Disqualification match was checked off, and the “Women’s Revolution” finally seems like a legitimate thing instead of just a buzz phrase. With this trend clearly not slowing down any time soon, it begs the question: should there be a women’s edition of the Royal Rumble match?
Personally, I can see a few arguments both for and against this happening, so it isn’t quite as black and white of an issue as some might immediately think.
The Argument For…
Right off the bat, the easiest way to justify having a women’s Royal Rumble match is for the sheer equality factor. We’ve seen a lot of steps taken over the past few months in the direction of balancing things out so it doesn’t appear to be a great divide between male and female superstars like there was in the past, what with the distinction between “Divas” and “Superstars” going away and the championship titles being reminiscent of the primary male championships. Instead of being given a consolation butterfly prize that looks like the toy you give to a kid to keep them busy, the women in WWE are fighting for a more legitimate championship, and you have to present an environment where this perception creates the reality. Having a women’s Royal Rumble match would show that the Raw and SmackDown Women’s Championship titles are on par with the WWE and Universal Championship belts, just in a different division.
Also, who is to say it wouldn’t just be fun to witness, too? In the end, all of this setup we scrutinize WWE over and create fantasy booking scenarios in our head about boils down to whether or not something is entertaining, so if the women on Raw and SmackDown can pull off a great match, then all is good in the world. The ends justify the means most of the time, so while that can potentially be a bad thing if it doesn’t pan out too well, let’s look on the optimistic side and assume it would be on par with the other matches we’ve had as of late.
Having the Royal Rumble winner be able to challenge either the Raw or SmackDown champion also opens things up a bit more on the creative side when it comes to planning WrestleMania’s matches. Of course, we don’t know if WWE plans on having both women’s titles defended, but we can assume that’s the case. With the ability to name a #1 contender in January, you don’t have to worry about how to set up two different bitter feuds over Fastlane and Elimination Chamber to determine who challenges the champions in April. Plus, there’s a flexibility that allows for someone to challenge the opposite brand’s champion if WWE has realized a gap in the roster they would like to fix by moving someone over. Now, they have an excuse to send someone to a different brand without having to just tell the fans to go along with it as a random trade.
That all being said, there are some problems that might come up if a women’s Royal Rumble match were to take place.
The Argument Against…
First off, it’s a bit unoriginal, isn’t it? There are going to be people complaining that one Royal Rumble match is enough and by having another, you’re not only eating up a lot of time on the card, but you’re also taking away from the true big main event.
“Why don’t they just do something different for the women instead?” and “By the time the women’s match is done, I’ll be sick of counting down and watching that type of gimmick match” will surely be echoed by some of the WWE Universe, and it’s a decent enough point to bring up. After all, it’s more special when you have only one of something, as evidenced by the Hell in a Cell pay-per-views where there are three of them and nobody is salivating for the main event by the time they’ve already watched two previous matches with the same stipulation.
There’s also a logistical problem as far as numbers go. All but two of the Royal Rumble matches have had 30 men in it with the ability this year to even go to 60 if WWE opted to go that route. When it comes to the women WWE has at its disposal, there just aren’t enough to go around. When you remove non-wrestlers such as Lana, Maryse, Stephanie McMahon, Renee Young, Charly Caruso and others (as you’re not going to see JoJo and Noelle Foley added to the mix) as well as the injured stars (Paige, Summer Rae, Tamina, Naomi), the ones who haven’t appeared in a long while (Eva Marie) and the two champions themselves, you’re left with less than a dozen competitors. Even if you bring in talent from NXT, you’re still missing about 8. To include too many women from outside the company would showcase how there isn’t enough to go around and to have a match with only 20 women instead of 30 would come off a bit diminutive.
Then, as mentioned before in the positives, what if it sucks? Once you do a women’s Royal Rumble one time, you can’t take it away in the future without having some backlash and making it seem like you’re taking a step back from the progression the division has had. If it proves to be a faulty concept and you’re stuck with it, the Royal Rumble event becomes marred by something that will hinder the event’s entertainment value for years to come.
Speaking for myself, I’d have to say we should hold off for one more year. Supposedly in 2017, there’s going to be a women’s tournament similar to the Cruiserweight Classic, and if that follows the pattern the CWC did, we should see at least a handful of those women signed to the company. Mickie James will have returned by then, several injured women will be healed up by the 2018 Royal Rumble, and WWE can figure out some more of the problems with the brand split over the next few months to really have a firm grasp of what to do. If we had a women’s Royal Rumble match in 2017, I wouldn’t hate the idea, but I’d rather see them wait one more year and produce a much more streamlined product than to rush it and have too many problems kill its image.