WWE made a huge mistake by forcing Roman Reigns to defend the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the Royal Rumble match. Apparently, the Steve Austin playbook wasn't enough, so they had to bury the Royal Rumble itself to make Roman look strong. Although I was irate at first, I realized why I hated this. WWE created an opportunity to tell a new, unique, and compelling story with this Royal Rumble. They will not, because they will screw it up. Roman Reigns will win the 2016 Royal Rumble and get booed out of Orlando. It's inevitable.
The sad thing is, it doesn't have to be this way. Rather than writing themselves into a corner, WWE has the keys to the kingdom to make this the most memorable Royal Rumble of all time and create an ending that both casual and hardcore fans will enjoy. Not only that, but it will paint the exact picture that WWE wants Roman Reigns to be while making him look strong and setting up a WrestleMania main event worthy of 100,000 fans at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. (They will not do this, of course, and will bore 100,000 fans with Roman vs. Triple H.)
But WWE is fiction, after all. Does this article hold any less merit than the one that will be performed in front of thousands in attendance and millions spending $9.99 to watch it on the WWE Network? Well, yes, but it's worth a shot. I'm going to beat you at your own game, WWE. I'm going to take the odds you've stacked against the Royal Rumble and overcome them with a story for the ages, and then I'm going to ride that wave all the way to WrestleMania.
First things first, let's establish what we have to work with:
- All of the injured wrestlers will be henceforth considered out. There's a chance that someone could come back (maybe Orton, considering the recent good news as to his recovery progress), but rather than blindly guess, we will assume everyone on the shelf will stay there.
- Ambrose and Owens will be fighting for the IC title, so they're almost certainly out. Putting them in a world title match later in the night would bury the credibility of the IC title, something that WWE spent all of 2015 trying to undo.
- None of the new NJPW recruits will be in this match either. This match needs to tell a story, and there's already going to be two or three stories in this match. Those guys need to have a much bigger debut down the line - trust me, we'll get to that.
Nobody watches the Royal Rumble for the undercard, so let's get straight to the meat and potatoes.
1. BO DALLAS. First of all, if Roman doesn't come out at #1, this whole McMahon vs. Roman angle instantly dies in my mind. If Vince wants to screw Roman so bad, why doesn't he put him in at #1? The out-of-kayfabe answer is that Roman can't work for an hour. Anyway, Bo Dallas comes out and cuts a cheesy promo about everyone wanting to win the title, and if they want to survive 29 other superstars, "all they have to do is Bo-"
2. BARON CORBIN. Word on the street is that Corbin is coming up to the main roster soon, and Corbin will be taking a similar move to several others before him. Since Corbin shouldn't be flattened on his first night, #2 is a good spot for him to come in since he has roughly zero chance of winning from that spot anyway. We'll get him out in due time. For now, Bo needs to stall for a minute and a half until...
3. HEATH SLATER. Just someone for Corbin to dump out. This puts Corbin in a 2-on-1 situation and having him look strong is a good avenue to the main roster.
4. CHRIS JERICHO. You see, Chris Jericho really has no business being in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship picture in 2016, so we're getting him in early before the real fun begins. Also, who wants to see a 45 year old man get dumped on his neck? Anyway, this match is pretty bad so far. Let's get in some technical guys.
5. NEVILLE. Much better. Jericho and Neville had one of the better matches of 2015, so we know these guys have chemistry.
6. XAVIER WOODS. We had to have a Jericho/New Day interaction in this Rumble. Woods gets mercy-killed.
7. KALISTO. Mainly because I want to see Neville and Kalisto do cool spots. Kalisto won't last long, anyway. Is he even taller than the top rope? (HEIGHT BURIED.)
8. STARDUST. Only because...
9. TITUS O'NEIL. ...those Raw matches were terrible and these two need a more meaningful interaction. O'Neil gets the win again as he quickly dumps Stardust over the top rope. Poor Cody.
10. LUKE HARPER. Harper is going to have to be our Iron Man in this match. (Along with Neville, I suppose.) We need the Wyatt Family to come out of this looking really, really strong for reasons I'll explain later.
11. CARLITO. Remember how thirsty WWE was to bring him back? Well, at least it's something. These Rumble returns never end up being big stars but assorted midcarders from WWE's past, and most of them right now have burned bridges with WWE or are signed by TNA, so picking surprise returns not named AJ Styles is incredibly difficult.
12. DAMIEN SANDOW. This qualifies as a return, right? Sandow won't last long.
13. RUSEV. Per the man himself, he's not hurt, so he can prance around for a while and do nothing of interest.
14. CURTIS AXEL. I mean, he has to be in the Rumble this year, right? I presume he's going to eliminate himself and claim to still be in the Rumble because no one THREW him over the top rope. (See: Carey, 2001)
15. ERICK ROWAN. The Wyatt Family gets another ally in this match, even though Rowan will probably get eliminated later on in the match without much afterthought.
16. JONATHAN COACHMAN. Hey, remember how WWE's collaboration with ESPN is a thing? What a way to put over ESPN and have a big surprise return than have Jonathan Coachman dumped out by Erick Rowan in 10 seconds. That's one for SportsCenter, Maggle!
17. KOFI KINGSTON. Sorry, guys. I've run out of ideas for Kofi spots.
18. JACK SWAGGER. Speaking of which, I'm also running out of wrestlers.
19. ROB VAN DAM. He's not doing anything at the moment, right? We last saw him going over Cesaro clean on his way out so he might as well be useful now.
20. RHYNO. Aside from the ECW reunion with RVD, we need a big guy in the ring to be dumped out by...
21. BRAY WYATT. The clan leader is out next, remaining fresh and having two meat-shields preventing him from being in harm's way. We'll save Strowman for last, since the guy has the work rate of a potato.
22. ALBERTO DEL RIO. $1.4 million downside? Eh, might as well put him in the final 10.
23. DOLPH ZIGGLER. When Brock comes in soon, Ziggler is going to make him look like a legend. I hope this happens in real life, not out of angst for Ziggler but rather because he's such a great seller.
24. MARK HENRY. Somebody's gonna get their - lol no.
25. BROCK LESNAR. If there's one thing I want to see in this Rumble, it's Brock Lesnar clowning multiple dudes at once. I'm not saying that Brock needs to break the elimination record, but I want to see bodies everywhere when Brock hits the ring.
26. RYBACK. Oh, Lesnar and Ryback in the ring at the same time. This should be fun, right?
27. BIG SHOW. Eww. do we have to? Fine, he can make Lesnar look strong.
28. BRAUN STROWMAN. We need him at the end of the match, and we still have two more people we need in, so this is our opportunity to bring in The Bigger Guy.
29. SHEAMUS. In comes Roman's foil from the last few months. He's ready to kick Roman's ass in a minute and a half, but in the mean time, he has to survive an onslaught of babyfaces. Thankfully, the heels are there to back him up, and Sheamus survives for the time being. The countdown begins, the fans clear out of the aisles in preparation to boo Roman out of the building, and...
30. R-TRUTH. You want a payoff to the R-Truth comedy angle? Here's a hell of a payoff for you. Everyone in the world is expecting Roman Reigns to come in at 30 and clown everyone, but alas, here's R-Truth to play a joke on everyone again. But here's the catch: R-Truth is actually #30.
You see, Vince McMahon is quite the smart guy. The only thing that matters about this Rumble is that the winner becomes WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Nowhere does it say that Roman Reigns has to be in it. The championship has been vacated for storyline reasons plenty of times before, so "Vince McMahon is super pissed" is a valid reason to strip Roman of the title. It's the ultimtae screwjob by Vince - even when the odds were against Roman Reigns, they were actually 0% all along.
Anyway, R-Truth gets dumped out unceremoniously after a few minutes. I have no idea who we're down to, but the last four are going to be Brock Lesnar, Bray Wyatt, Braun Strowman, and Luke Harper. Harper is the sacrificial lamb, getting brutalized by The Beast and sent over the top rope. This leads to a Lesnar/Strowman showdown (oh boy, I know you all have been clamoring for this) which ends in Lesnar getting the upper hand and throwing out Strowman. However, this leaves Bray Wyatt an opportunity to quickly dump Lesnar over the top rope and become WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
Wyatt grabs a mic after doing his kneeling pose with the championship and simply says, "Anyone but you, Roman" as the pyrotechnics go off and the screen fades to black. So why Bray Wyatt? Every superstar has their career rival - Steve Austin had The Rock. John Cena had Randy Orton. Now, Roman Reigns finds the man he will be compared to for the rest of history: Bray Wyatt. Not only does this make Wyatt into a legitimate main event superstar but also creates a compelling, dramatic WrestleMania main event. It also creates what should be a fun main event of Fastlane: Roman, Ambrose, and the Usos vs. the Wyatt Family in an Elimination tag match. Roman finds himself down 3 on 1 before pinning Harper, then getting brutalized by Strowman via repeated chair shots (and thus a DQ) before the crafty Wyatt slips in for the winning Sister Abigail. Now the odds may not be in Roman's favor after all, even though he's obviously leaving WrestleMania with the championship. Let's not kid ourselves.
So there you have it. Bray Wyatt becomes a top star in one night, Roman gets a few months' worth of epic rivalries, and no one gets booed out of Orlando. How could this possibly be a bad thing?
Oh, right, because WWE exists solely to put over Roman Reigns. My bad.
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