Royal Rumble is one of the few annual events that (what's left of) pro wrestling fans still care about, but the WWE apparently managed to mess that up as well.
At the 28th annual Royal Rumble in Philly on Sunday, the league's script writers incurred the fans' wrath one more time after they failed to give them what they wanted.
And what they wanted was for the returning star Daniel Bryan to win the 30-man competition so he could have a shot at Brock Lesnar's WWE World Heavyweight championship at WrestleMania. Instead, Bryan was eliminated in the first half of the match, infuriating fans like nothing ever.
From there on, the crowd booed every good guy wrestler who took the stage, including the eventual winner, Roman Reigns. The mutiny became even more evident when they cheered for guys like Rusev, who the WWE has always portrayed as the villain or a nemesis of the U.S.
Chants of "bullshit" and "CM Punk" were also heard when the main event came down to a final duel between Reigns and Rusev. An appearance from legend like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson usually calms the crowd down, but even the People's Champ was booed and heckled – such was the fans' unhappiness and shock.
Moreover, #CancelWWENetwork shot to the top of Twitter trends, as subscribers rushed to WWE Network's online cancelation page, which in turn crashed due to surge in traffic. Those who couldn't cut their ties with WWE over the Internet flooded the company's help lines to do so.
The backlash of Bryan's elimination was so loud that it completely overshadowed the quality of the other triple threat match between Lesnar, John Cena and Seth Rollins – which some suggested would go down as the best match of the year.
How could WWE make such a mistake? Bryan was the heavyweight champion before his injury stripped him of the title. The fans had only just seen him after months, and for him to be eliminated like that, their disappointment and reactions does make sense. It also took away from Reigns' big win, and alienated the fans even more. As PWInsider's Dave Scherer put it, bringing "Bryan back for this match was a huge mistake."
But was it really a mistake or did the league's creative minds accomplish just what they wanted? In a single move, they made people take notice of its apparent stupidity, revived ailing interest, got their hashtags trending and set Bryan up for an even bigger return.
It may have made the fans unhappy, but it's a well known fact that Vince McMahon and company is not out to please the fans. They're out to tease, taunt, play and profit off the fans' interest – even if it turns the league into a larger villain. Expect WWE's popularity to get a bump in times to come, thanks to its mistreatment of Bryan. He will have his title shot and probably win too, but not until the company has milked this angle thoroughly.