The New Challengers: Comparing the 2016 and 2017 Royal Rumbles (Part 2)

As promised in the first part, where I analysed the 15 entrants from last years Rumble that weren't brought back this year, it is now time to take a look at the faces who replaced them (if you're interested in the entire list of entrants, check the first article). What did they do over the course of the past year to earn their place in the match? Without further ado, let's get right to the first name:

Apollo Crews:

  • As his main roster debut wasn't until the Wrestlemania Fallout Show of Raw, Crews was still in NXT at the time of last years Royal Rumble. While he certainly managed to impress a few fans who hadn't seen much of NXT at the time of his debut, it was mostly overshadowed by the simultaneous call-ups of Baron Corbin and Enzo&Cass, as well as the return of Cesaro. Due to a lack of character in his portrayal, he wasn't used as much as the other 4, but still frequently enough to keep him in peoples minds as more then just a jobber. Right now, he seems to be heading into a feud with heel-Ziggler, which could finally give him and his character some direction.

Baron Corbin:

  • Just like Crews, Corbin had still been in NXT one year ago. His inoffical debut came during the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania, with the offical call-up on the following night. After that, however, it didn't look too good for him at first. He had a long lasting feud with Ziggler that certainly lacked direction (and involved nut-cracking finishes), which was so meaningless that I'm not even certain anymore who won it, and honestly, I don't even care. After that, he began to go after smaller guys, preferably Kalisto, to show his dominance. But since he didn't just squash them like Strowman would have, it didn't make him look quite as strong as he was hoping for. On the other hand, however, he has been roaming the title scene ever since the draft happened. He had the guts to interupt Cena and Styles, two living-legends, trash talking to one another, interfered with an IC title match between Miz and Ambrose, frequently fought in the main events, and much more. This all added up to him now being considered the new "monster" of Smackdown by many, and his participation in the Rumble, even as the first from the blue brand to announce it, was much deserved. He may be more complicated to write for then Walking-Destruction-Braun-Strowman, but he has been on a good path for the past few months.

Big Cass:

  • Another call-up from NXT, he and Enzo have been very popular before and after their debut, despite their characters having hardly any direction at all. They tried for the titles once, which ended with Enzo getting injured (for real). Aside from that, the duo hasn't really been used much in a serious way, but Cass on his own had a few memorable moments. On more then one occasion he competed for a singles title shot, and even managed to take over Enzos mic-duties while the certified G was out for a month. And even though their current feud with Rusev and Jinder over...whatever it was being not quite as entertaining as they used to be, they are still popular, and no one questioned the seven-footer entering the Rumble.

Big E:

  • A year ago, he and his fellow members of the New Day were still Tag-Team champions. They were also still heels, and people were still chanting "New Day sucks" rather then "New Day rocks". But as they got people to change their mind over time, they also slowly transformed into the positive babyfaces they look like. After they were done defeating the entire existing tag-team division, they did the same with all the new call ups, which made their matches not quite as enjoyable as they could've been, with the outcome being obvious most of the time. But they did end up writing history, as they broke the record for the longest reigning tag-team champs in WWE history. If it wasn't for Gallows and Anderson taking the term "low blow" a little bit too literal, he probably would have a hard time finding any part about 2016 to complain about. For some reason, though, they have lost a lot of steam since Cesaro & Sheamus took the belts from them at Roadblock, and have been busy doing (not so) funny bits with Titus O'Neil lately.


  • Last year, he had still been injured, and didn't make if back to the ring until the Mania Fallout episode of Raw, where he was the surprise entrant in a fatal fourway. "The Swiss Superman", as he is now known due to his entrance containing him tearing of a suit, has since feuded for the IC title in some very memorable matches, been part of MITB, and somehow ended up in a tag-team with Sheamus after an overlong feud, which eventually led to them ending the New Days record-reign despite the two of them not even liking each other. They showed some interesting team-moves, and their title defences so far were certainly more entertaining then most of New Days. Given, they lost one on the pre-show, and it's putting a lot of stress on the tag-team, which could be seen in the Rumble itself, but people are still caring about them, and hopefully we can expect more memorable matches with the odd couple in the near future.

Enzo Amore:

  • Already mentioned most there is to say about him while talking about Cass. While most of their in-ring potential comes from his partner, the Certified G quickly proved to people that he is probably one of the best guys on the mic WWE currently has. He was injured twice, once in a genuine accident, and I think the other one was meant to cover up some other medical treatment. He's still popular with fans, despite being involved in a much disliked story with Rusev, Lana and Jinder, and served as one of the comedy acts in this years Rumble (he also opened it with a promo).


  • So what has The Iconic been up to last year before becoming Lesnars Waterloo at Survivor Series? Around the time of the Rumble, he was in Miami at Legends of Wrestling to deliver a spear to Scott Steiner. After that, he apparently took a break in a nice little bunker to "hatch", until WWE decided to take him out for a walk as they announced him as a pre-order bonus for WWE 2K17 (which features Brock on the cover...a little foreshadowing there?). He officially returned to Raw in October, to build for his match against Lesnar at Survivor Series. Brock had the same attidue towards him he had towards all his previous opponents, which Goldberg answered by spearing Heyman into a hospital, saving Lesnar for the PPV. The match came, Lesnar attacked...and then was squashed. In less then 1 and a half minutes. Some people loved it, some people hated it, but it was a memorable moment nevertheless. On the following night, he came out to announce his participation in the Royal Rumble, way ahead of everyone else (except for Lesnar, who followed his example one week later.)

Jack Gallagher:

  • While the cruiserweight devision on Raw seems to be not quite as popular as WWE might have hoped, the Extraordinary Gentleman certainly is. He may look like the third member of the Vaudevillians at first glance, but his British charm, which allows him to be extremly humorous while never slipping into goofy-territory, clearly separates him from the tag-team of a bygone era. Despite being eliminated from the CWC tournament in the second round already, he became one of the most memorable members of the 205 Live cast after a very entertaining feud with "Mr. Daivari", as he likes to call him (on those few occasions he's not calling him a scoundrel), which included "Parley", a "Gentlemen's Duel" (with the leather-glove face slap and all), a match interference he announced in good sportsmanship, and an "I forfeit" match that concluded the feud in Gallaghers favor. Just like anything else he did in WWE so far, his part in the Rumble was as funny as it was graceful, and well deserved if I may say so.

James Ellsworth:

  • Some people were surprised to see Styles in WWE last year. EVERYONE was surprised to see Ellsworth. He managed to get people interested in him by ad libbing a (pre-approved) line before getting squashed by Braun like so many before and after him. As a permanent member of the main roster, he was involved in a silly yet highly entertaining feud between Ambrose and Stlyes, where he acted as the Lunatic Fringe's proxy to build for their match without having to run it too many times before that. He played an important role at Survivor Series 5-on-5 singles male match, as him keeping Strowman from beating the 10 count turned the tides in Smackdowns favor. Right now, he is being used by Carmella, though he doesn't really look like he would complain about it even if he was aware of it. His entire role in the Rumble was as a comedy act, just like every other appearance he had so far.


  • Since his then-still tag-team partner Sin Cara had been injured at the time, Kalisto was wrestling some matches on his own in January last year. On the night of the Rumble, he regained the US title against Del Rio, who had taken it from him a few weeks earlier. At Fastlane, he was the one to defend it in the rematch, which he managed to do. Even when Sin Cara returned, he was featured in title-defenses more often then in tag-team matches, mostly against Ryback, and mostly on pre-shows. The belt eventually ended up in Rusevs hands, and just before the draft the Lucha Dragons dissolved in a friendly fashion. Since then, Kalisto has mostly been facing Baron Corbin on Smackdown, who injured him once and costed him several important matches. In the end, he wasn't able to overcome the Lone Wolf. His entrance in the Rumble was probably to remember people he hasn't become just a jobber yet, as one may think given how Ziggler keeps squashing him lately.

Mojo Rowley:

  • Was called up from NXT to join forces with Zack Rhyder again, and even managed to earn a title shot for the Smackdown belts. Sadly, his tag-team partner was injured in the very match that got them this opportunity, which prompted him to start a (maybe temporary) singles run with a win over Curt Hawkins. Then again, he earned his spot in the Rumble by winning a battle royal consisting of the (I think) entire Smackdown Tag-Team division, so he's probably still considered a part of that.

Randy Orton:

  • Just like Cesaro, he was still on the injury list one year ago. Unlike with the Swiss Superman or Seth Rollins, though, his return wasn't used as a surprise, but advertised in advance to build for a match against Lesnar at Summerslam...where the Beast Incarnate busted the head of the Viper open...Orton missed out on a match against Wyatt on the next PPV, but eventually joined the family, with his true intentions having yet to become apparent. He has earned the trust of Bray himself, and was picked over his loyal right hand man Luke Harper. They even held the Tag-Team belts at one point.

The Undertaker:

  • There's not really any need to justify the Deadman entering the Rumble. Last year, he had about half a dozen appearances, I think, most of them to build for his match against Shane at Wrestlemania, which he ended up winning. He wasn't drafted, and appeared once on Smackdown to threaten them into winning at Survivor Series, and then once again on Raw to help Foley, though he denied it. There was probably more screen time with him in that Scooby-Doo movie then on televised shows in 2016.

Tye Dillinger:

  • Despite calling himself a "Perfect 10", Dyllinger didn't exactlly hit the highscores in 2016. One loss at NXT Takeover: the End, a betrayal at the hands of his tag-team partner Bobby Roode in their very first match, and another loss at NXT Takeover: Toronto where the glorious one was also the victorious one. Things were going up a little when he became the new No. 1 contender after defeating Eric Young and two others in a fatal-fourway match, but he had to suffer retaliation at the next Takeover, when Young got the better of him with some help from his fellow SAnitY members. Hopefully, the Rumble prepared him for what may come, as he could very easily find himself outnumbered once again in the not too far future...

Xavier Woods:

  • Mostly the same as with Big E. He didn't hurt his little Xavier, though, so he did a little better then his teammate. His Youtube Channel "UpUpDownDown" was quite successful, and he got to star in a short funny video as the black Power Ranger, using his own transformer as he confirmed via twitter.

Now, those were the new faces we saw last Sunday. That leaves us with just one other group to cover: the 15 men who returned from last year. While some of them stayed on top for the entirety of 2016, others had to come back from a low or two. If you liked the first two articles so far, join me again for part 3, where I will take a closer look at who stayed hot all year, and who managed to heat himself up again just in time for the Rumble!

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