As we approach this year’s Royal Rumble on January 28th in Philadelphia, it’s becoming clear that WWE already has plans in place for WrestleMania in April. Rumors abound on the Internet, but our first real indication of what will really take place in New Orleans will happen at the Royal Rumble. Most of the rumors seem to point to Roman Reigns taking the rumble title, thus setting up a Reigns/Brock Lesnar main event at WM34.
On the women’s side, things are less clear. However, the smart money is on Asuka taking the rumble, and clashing with Alexa Bliss in the Big Easy this April. What better way to demonstrate the dominance of the Empress of Tomorrow than to have her top 29 other competitors in the inaugural women’s Royal Rumble?
I think most fans would be down with Asuka taking the women’s match. Now that the women are mostly booked better than the men in WWE, it’s unlikely we’ll get anything that doesn’t make sense. (Aside from the possible Stephanie McMahon surprise entry…just kidding.) (Or was I?)
However, a big part of the audience doesn’t want to see Reigns win again. They’re already pissed off because Brock Lesnar and the Universal Championship are absent from Raw on a weekly basis. The only thing that they’d find worse is if Reigns were to win the belt back. I happen to like Reigns more than most, but I think there are other ways to put the belt on him. The other big problem here is that the men’s Rumble is typically pretty predictable. There are only a few performers that are worthy of main-eventing WrestleMania, so odds are that only one or two guys are actually a threat.
With these things in mind, let’s take a look at how things could be different this year.
The Professor’s Royal Rumble Recommendations
Crazy Thought – Let a SmackDown wrestler win. Fans don’t want to see Reigns win, but if anyone else on Raw takes the match, they’re guaranteed a spot against the Universal Champion at WrestleMania. The easiest solution is to have someone from SmackDown win. Imagine if Kevin Owens or Sami Zayn, beaten by AJ Styles in a handicap match for the WWE Championship earlier in the show, were to enter the Rumble and win. The story could easily stretch to April’s big show. Alternatively, you could have Styles lose the handicap match, then appear in the Rumble and win a rematch in April. You could also have Shinsuke Nakamura, Rusev, or Bobby Roode win the match, setting up an epic feud with Styles.
Take the Belt off Brock at the Royal Rumble – Lesnar is currently scheduled to compete in a Triple Threat match for the Universal Championship at the Rumble. What if WWE finally pulled the trigger and let Braun Strowman pin Kane for the title? That keeps Strowman out of the Rumble match (where the crowd would be loudly chanting for him) and gives the Beast a way out without taking a fall. WWE could take the belt from Strowman at Elimination Chamber and give it to Reigns (maybe through a multi-man attack on Strowman). Then, whoever won the Rumble match (maybe someone like Samoa Joe or Finn Balor) would be set for a match with Reigns. Paul Heyman would step in and proclaim loudly that his Beast is due a rematch, and the main event becomes a triple-threat.
Let them Fight – While this may shake WWE to its very foundations, maybe let the match between Lesnar and Reigns take place as planned – without the belt in play. Let Strowman take the belt in the triple-threat match. Now, the Rumble match becomes much more interesting. You could have any number of Raw wrestlers (Joe, Balor, Miz, Seth Rollins etc.) win the match and set up a feud with Strowman. There’s plenty of time between now and April to set up a feud between Reigns and Lesnar, and neither needs the belt to be over at this point.
Go in a Completely Different Direction – What if Reigns didn’t face Lesnar at WrestleMania? I know it’s a crazy thought, but it’s possible. I’ve long said that WWE needs to look to the future instead of leaning on stars of the past. Let Reigns fight with The Miz over the Intercontinental title and give someone else a shot at Lesnar. Imagine the crowd reaction if Joe or Balor managed to topple The Beast in New Orleans. You could still bring Lesnar in as a special attraction from time to time, and even have him get his rematch in some sort of multi-man match later in the year. For example, you could have Lesnar, Reigns and the new champ wrestle each other, with the new champ retaining the belt while Brock and Roman destroy each other. That would take care of Lesnar’s rematch, and set up a program with Reigns that could culminate at SummerSlam. Meanwhile, the belt would return to Raw on a weekly basis, and the whole title picture would feel refreshed.
Next week, I’ll hit you with my preview and predictions. Until then…..