When Randy Orton tossed Roman Reigns over the top rope to win the 2017 Royal Rumble, many saw this as confusing and semi-boring booking from WWE. But when reexamined, this actually makes more sense than almost anyone else in the field. While we get lost in the fact that this is "sports entertainment" and a scripted show, it is based on the sport of wrestling. That means some wrestlers are better than others in the idea of winning and losing. There were lots of rumors and fantasy booking swirling around centered on new names possibly winning this year but at the end of the day the winner was an old name who has been one of the best in the business for the last decade. This is how sports often works -- guys who are good at what they do win more than guys who aren't.
Taking a look at some of the other names who many picked to win the match, there is an issue with why all of them could or couldn't win -- if you think about it from a competitive sports perspective.
Let's start with Finn Balor, who many expected to return from shoulder surgery and come in to claim his place at the top right where he was before it. But could it really be expected of a guy (within kayfabe) to come in after months away from competition and shake off the rust to beat 29 other active and (mostly) in their prime Superstars? Or to have him beat guys who are healthy and ready to go with an untested and newly repaired shoulder? In any other sport an athlete returning from injury is often eased back into games and doesn't usually perform at their best until they have been back for a few games and got their legs under them.
Next, let's go with Samoa Joe, probably the most popular pick this year to win the match. Yes, I know Joe has been wrestling for many years but WWE is the big leagues, and being a rookie in any sport is not always easy to adjust to right off the bat. Like a baseball player coming to the MLB who was a Japanese league MVP, they sometimes get swallowed up by the immense talent presented in the toughest league in the world and don't always come in and set the world on fire right away. Joe could have come in and looked strong but get beaten/eliminated by someone like Orton, Lesnar, or yes, even Roman Reigns, who have been at this for a while and are just as talented as him but have more experience
One more guy that was also seen as a possible winner was Braun Strowman. He also has the biggest case against being the winner due to his limited skill set. Strowman has made incredible strides in the past year or so to make himself into looking capable of hanging with main event guys week in and week out on Raw. However, he is far from a finished product and while he has the size and strength to keep up he would simply get outclassed by a better talent. Compare this to a basketball player who stands 7 feet tall and has basic skills he's developing but just isn't quite coordinated enough to be a dominant force yet in the NBA or even college basketball.
This brings us to Randy Orton, a mainstay of the upper-mid card and main event of WWE for over 12 years. Randy Orton, at age 36, may not be in his prime but clearly hasn't lost much of step on anyone he competes with and is in the midst of one of his most fascinating career chapters as a member of the Wyatt Family. He's proven with his 12 world championships that he's one of the best of all time and his talents in the ring are unquestioned. He's healthy now, and a guy having a career year at this age is definitely not unheard of -- just ask Tom Brady or Micheal Jordan. Orton was one of the best wrestlers in the match that night and ended up the winner again, and while he isn't the dynasty that John Cena is, he's certainly the closest thing currently to it. He is the equivalent of a team that just seems to win no matter their circumstances, like the San Francisco Giants, San Antonio Spurs, or Green Bay Packers who always seem to be there at the end of the season. Orton won because he was just as good as he's ever been and this time he used that talent to beat the other more flashy picks.
If we look at wrestling like sport, this makes complete sense. Randy Orton is a great wrestler and when you're that good, it means you also have the talent to win a lot too.
This is supposed to be like sport and that too often gets lost in the behind-the-scenes news. Did we all pick or want the Patriots to be back in the Super Bowl this year? Nope, but they are, and millions of people are going to tune in to watch what will almost assuredly be an incredible game.
We didn't pick Randy Orton to win the Royal Rumble and main event WrestleMania 33 but guess what? He won, and looked pretty good doing it too. It's a competition and sometimes when you're as good as the Viper, you do as the late great Al Davis said and "Just Win, Baby."