The WWE Royal Rumble is one of those events that can be fairly easy to predict. Every year the company puts a guy in position to rise up through the roster, with the biggest step coming in the form of a Rumble win. That win ultimately leads to the main event of WrestleMania, and world title success.
If that theory doesn’t apply, there’s always the notion of the veteran star that gets red hot at some point near the end of the year. WWE decides to move forward with him as the Rumble winner, probably so the Mania main event will draw more interest because of the established name. But neither scenario seems to fit this year.
WWE told the Roman Reigns story in 2015 and 2016, so that will likely not happen again this year. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins are both involved, but neither man seems to be on the road to WrestleMania. Baron Corbin and Braun Strowman are both on the way up, but it’s not exactly been an obvious slam dunk for either one.
The Miz could win the match, and fans would likely be okay with that outcome. Of all the talents in the Rumble that deserve the spotlight, Miz is at the top of the list due to his work in 2016. Triple H may or may not be in the Rumble match this time, so there’s no way to know if he could win it as he did last year.
Chris Jericho did some great work last year as well, so it’s not impossible to believe that he could be the last man standing. John Cena is working AJ Styles for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble, so the likelihood that the company’s perennial favorite will enter and win is slim. Of course that doesn’t mean it can’t happen; despite being part-time, Cena is still WWE’s most valuable asset.
But maybe the winner will be among the big three in this year’s Rumble. The Undertaker, Brock Lesnar and Goldberg all have to be considered at the top of the heap, mostly because there seems to be more options with any of the three at Mania.
An Undertaker win leads to a dream match with Styles for the WWE title. A Lesnar or Goldberg win leads to a possible three-way for the Universal Championship against Kevin Owens. Of course Kurt Angle could potentially make a Rumble appearance, then be inducted into the Hall of Fame the night before headlining WrestleMania.
There seems to be no clear-cut outcome this time around and while that’s exciting for many, it’s also a bit disturbing. Is the fact that fans can’t predict a winner tied to the possibility that the company just doesn’t have a great plan this year?
This Royal Rumble is believed to be one of the biggest of all time, mostly because of the top level talent that is booked in it. But does an impressive amount of star power guarantee a memorable Rumble? Or is it all meant to give the audience something to connect to, with the winner being an afterthought until the end?
It could be said that fans can’t have it both ways. Either the Royal Rumble is too predictable, or it’s not predictable enough. Perhaps there is some truth to that, as many just can’t allow themselves to sit back and watch it all unfold without overanalyzing too much.
But maybe it has more to do with WWE. The New Era angle has been used to promote the evolution of WWE, as a way to prepare for the future now. The influx of new faces and veteran stars has been constant over the past two years, and all of that is surely leading to the next phase of WWE’s growth.
So why hasn’t one of the company’s top young prospects been driven upward to the point of winning the Royal Rumble? Have fans truly missed the point of being entertained, or is the answer hiding in plain sight? Is it possible that one of NXT’s top stars could emerge in the Rumble and shock the world with a victory?
Shinsuke Nakamura or Samoa Joe could fit the bill, which would completely change the complexion of WWE and WrestleMania moving forward. While that seems like wishful thinking to some, WWE has been known to take some major chances in the past. 2017 could stand out as the most surprising year the company has ever produced, and it could start with a nearly impossible to predict Royal Rumble winner.
Maybe the fun lies in the speculation. The company has been accused many times in the past of going the familiar route with its pay-per-view main events, so maybe that’s all changing now. If the New Era is indeed something more than just a gimmick, then there may be no better time to prove it than now.
Despite what happens on January 29, there’s no doubting that WWE is keeping fans guessing this time out. Perhaps that’s the point, and only time will tell if fans get it or not.
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