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How WWE Killed The Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal

How a match that was once endorsed by Hulk Hogan became the new bathroom break.

Feature 21 Apr 2017, 17:35 IST
This statue was once worth something; now it has less value than those WrestleMania chars.

When WWE announced the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal four years ago at WrestleMania XXX, it was a major decision. This new, annual over-the-top-rope match was given considerable hype, considering that Hulk Hogan was the one that first sold it as a big deal.

There was hope that, with all this hype and promotion, this new match would have some long-term impact and relevance. That never happened, and while the ATGMBR has been dying a slow death for many years, WrestleMania 33 was the final nail in its coffin.

For those of you that know and understand my writing, I am a fan of long-term booking and wins and losses making sense. In theory, wins and losses should matter, especially in pro wrestling.

Alas, WWE has long abandoned this philosophy and has, in its place, adopted a mentality based on random ‘50/50 booking’ whereby people don’t win when they should, and storylines don’t progress properly.

The ATGMBR was WWE’s opportunity to mend this problem. By introducing an annual, high-profile match based on the legacy of the Eight Wonder of the World himself, the idea was that winning this match would elevate a wrestler’s career.

Four years later, only one person has benefitted to any degree from this match, and that was more due to the brand extension doing him a big favour. Below, we’ll look at which steps WWE took that led to the ATGMBR losing all significance outside of WrestleMania season.

Oh, how WWE screwed this up royally.

Every year, during WrestleMania season, the ATGMBR would be promoted as an important match. You’d have all these big names talking about the match, but there was little action involved in hyping up.

You see, just like with the 2017 Royal Rumble Match, many wrestlers simply announced their participation in the ATGMBR instead of, you know, qualifying for it in some way.

It became something of a joke; wrestlers that didn’t have any other match on the WrestleMania main card were thrown into the Battle Royal by default. Worse, they were just announced as participants, with few, if any, actually having to compete to qualify.

By booking the ATGMBR in this manner, it created the idea that there was little incentive to actually participate in the match. If any wrestler could simply announce their participation, then it cheapens the prestige of the match in which they’re fighting.

That’s why, for the most part, WWE makes #1 Contenders matches for various championships because wrestlers have to actually prove to the audience (as well as to their fellow wrestlers and to management) that they deserve a shot at whatever item of value they’re fighting for.

But this mentality was nowhere to be seen with the ATGMBR. It became the new ‘bathroom break’ match that people would skip, instead of being something that could have some kind of ramifications for WWE’s storylines.

Of course, this wouldn’t have happened in the first place had WWE actually done something substantial with each winner.

At the time, this was presumed to be as important as winning the Royal Rumble.

Cesaro, who happens to be my personal favourite wrestler in WWE, was the inaugural winner of this match. After he won it, there were obvious signs he was getting something of a push, since his win was endorsed by Hulk Hogan and he was believed to be turning into a Paul Heyman guy.

But in one of the most infuriating and inexplicable acts of booking stupidity, WWE decided to halt the upward momentum Cesaro had, and instead had him lose to lower-card wrestlers.

It didn’t make any sense. WWE had given this big WrestleMania moment to one of the best wrestlers in the company, and they proceeded to do nothing with him. From this point on, the ATGMBR had a tainted aura about it, because despite being hyped in such a big way, its inaugural winner actually dropped down the card (at the time) instead of going up.

This didn’t lead to anything substantial for Big Show.

The next winner was even more of a bizarre choice. One year later, of all the people who could have won the match, WWE chose The Big Show. That same Big Show whose career had been winding down for a long time, who was basically one of the Authority’s hired muscle and who hadn’t done anything of note in years.

This was despite the fact that the match that year had several promising stars who could’ve used the win desperately, especially Damien Sandow/Mizdow or Hideo Itami. But once again, common sense was thrown out the window, and the man that won the ATGMBR was one that didn’t need the win whatsoever.

It was almost as if they thought, ‘Big Show, you’ve been here for so long, but we’ve booked you horribly for almost twenty years. Here’s a random win as a thanks for being such a good sport.’ Way to plan for the future, WWE.

Corbin looks so awkward doing that Andre pose.

The third winner of the ATGMBR was, thus far, the only person to have truly benefitted from winning it, Baron Corbin. After winning it, Corbin became a fixture on SmackDown Live, especially after the Draft made the wrestlers brand-exclusive.

Corbin was featured prominently and in many important matches and segments throughout 2016. While that was happening, he was improving with each passing week, to the point that he’s become one of the best wrestlers on the roster.

Even if he’s not yet on the same level as AJ Styles or Kevin Owens, or even Sami Zayn, as a big, intimidating tough guy, he has become a much bigger star than he was last year.

Indeed, Corbin is arguably the ATGMBR’s first true success story, but that isn’t even a fully accurate case given his match at WrestleMania 33. Common sense would’ve dictated that, as the winner of the 2016 ATGMBR, he should prove that match’s importance and prestige by winning the Intercontinental Championship one year after winning that Battle Royal.

But instead of going with what actually made sense, WWE decided to instead have Corbin lose at WrestleMania 33, after being hyped up for months as a big deal. In that moment, what prestige the ATGMBR had left was reduced to an almost microscopic amount.

And this year’s winner killed that off entirely.

This makes about as much sense as you think it does.

This was the year where there were three winners that made sense more than all others. Killian Dain was a monster from NXT whose appearance was meant to add further importance to that third brand. A win for him, though unlikely, would’ve done a lot to elevate the brand’s importance to casual fans that might not watch it.

Sami Zayn was an even more likely winner, given his continuous feud with RAW’s authority figures and also the fact that he was the only person to have had to actually win a qualifying match to enter the Battle Royal.

Since his entire storyline was that he needed to overcome the odds to prove himself to Stephanie McMahon, a win here would’ve made complete sense, and it would’ve helped him get out of the rut he’s been stuck in since last summer.

Finally, the most logical and smartest decision would’ve been to have Braun Strowman win the ATGMBR. Strowman has been an unstoppable force for months that has improved by leaps and bounds. He has become a much better worker and overall Superstar, to the point that people cheer him. He has, in many ways, become a new Brock Lesnar.

It was believed initially that Strowman was the one that would face the Undertaker at WrestleMania, but those plans were nixed. As such, when he was placed in the Battle Royal (instead of playing a bigger role at WrestleMania) it made sense to have him win because he was still being pushed as a monster, and after losing to Roman Reigns at Fastlane, he needed a big win to overcome that one black mark on his record.

Any smart person that thinks logically could see that any of those three people would’ve been an ideal winner. Instead, Vince McMahon decided it would be a better idea to play the ‘pop culture connection card’ and give the win to Mojo Rawley.

Why? Because Rawley’s friends with Rob ‘Gronk’ Gronkowski of the New England Patriots, who is a big star outside of wrestling.

In other words, Vince thought it was a smarter idea to have someone that isn’t a professional wrestler get involved in a pro-wrestling match to help his buddy, who happened to be arguably at the lowest level of the SmackDown totem pole.

This was the moment the ATGMBR lost all relevance and effectively died. Mojo had little-to-no credibility as a wrestler or as a gimmick, and now, even after winning the match, he isn’t even getting any big push.

The man he eliminated to win the ATGMBR, Jinder Mahal, is now #1 Contender for the WWE Championship, while Rawley’s doing a whole lot of nothing. Simply put, the ATGMBR did not matter…at all. The decision here was made to have Rawley win ONLY because of who he’s friends with.

So next year, when the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal takes place, you can rest assured you’ll know when your bathroom break will be. Because unless WWE changes how they book the match, it’ll never be anything more than that.

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