After weeks of focusing on board room drama, stock prices and potential litigation, I hope you guys are cool if I return to having some fun this week. We’re just eight days away from my favorite event of the year and I’m hyped to see what Triple H and company have up their sleeves. Especially after a new report indicates we’re in for more than a few surprises.
Many people were at least puzzled with WWE’s decision to announce Cody Rhodes return ahead of time, worried that they may have spoiled the biggest surprise they had for this year’s match. But let’s be honest, would anyone have been surprised by Cody making his return at the Rumble?
The answer is no. And according to a new report, WWE was well aware fans would be expecting the American Nightmare to be back following his pectoral tear last year.
“Asked a source the reasoning behind Cody’s Rumble return being announced as opposed to a surprise.
Source said it’s twofold, one being that nearly everyone expected it to happen already & two, source states they are “more than pleased” w/ the other surprises that are lined up.”
Well then. Things just got a bit more interesting ahead of next weekend.
I was very pleased to read this item from WrestleVotes. For one thing, surprises are among the best things about the entire event. You truly never know who’s going to show up. And secondly, I think we can all agree, WWE kind of owes us after last year’s debacle, don’t they?
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll never hate on a Bad Bunny appearance, but outside of that the men’s match last year was a complete mess - fueled by all the backstage drama involving Shane McMahon. Not to mention, the match itself ended up being meaningless in the long run. Something I’ve written about countless times, so I won’t rehash it here.
Bottom line, WWE knows they have to deliver big time this year. So, who could we see make their return to the ring in San Antonio?
There’s a few logical choices, that are actually a bit obvious when you think about it, but they are some big time names that could be in town to set up some marquee WrestleMania matches. Here’s a few possibilities.
Note: I am not reporting that any of the following Superstars will appear at the Royal Rumble. I am simply making educated guesses.
The 16-time World Champion waited until the last possible opportunity to compete in a match in 2022, thus keeping his streak of wrestling in WWE every year for the last 20 years alive and well. I have a hunch he won’t wait nearly as long to stretch that remarkable feet to 21 years.
Much like someone else a little further down on the list, his insanely busy schedule makes any WWE appearance (especially one that involves an actual match) very difficult to predict, but I do believe we’ll see John Cena enter his first Rumble match since 2018.
His chances of winning and challenging Roman Reigns are very slim. But fear not Cenation. According to recent reports, John does have a date with a Champion at WrestleMania 39, it’s just not the Tribal Chief.
The Wrestling Observer says that Cena is penciled in for a match against the United States Champion Austin Theory.
This match has been rumored and hinted at for some time now. Back in June, Theory basically told Cena to his face that he was a washed up old has-been during the 20th anniversary of his WWE debut. Fast forward to just a couple weeks ago, and “The Champ” dropped this not so subtle hint on Raw.
I mean, come one. That’s the same tone, pace, inflection, and change in pitch on the word “here” that we’ve heard from John Cena roughly a million times throughout his career. You gotta give the kid some credit, he nailed it.
With Theory already declared for the Rumble match, the opportunity is right there to give the 25 year-old the major rub by eliminating Cena and giving him weeks of promo material to set up their eventual showdown in April.
However, as one of my bosses has engrained into my head, nothing is a thing until it’s a thing. Plans fluctuate and constantly change.
There are several other names that have been brought up as potential opponents for Cena, with Fightful Select reporting that Cody Rhodes and Logan Paul are among them. Of course, there’s always the possibility that Triple H decides to tease us with a big time dream match up.
Stone Cold Steve Austin
Imagine it for a moment. It’s about the midway point through the Royal Rumble match. There’s about 10-12 Superstars in the ring, many of whom have been in there a hot minute. The crowd is starting to lull just a little bit and could use a bit of a pick-me-up.
The clock starts counting down from 10, 9... gets down to 3... 2... 1... The Buzzer goes off. There’s a brief moment of silence. And then that iconic glass shatters.
I cannot even fathom how loud it would be inside the Alamodome as 30,000 plus people lose their minds. Austin hits the ring. One stunner.
Ok. I’ll stop, but you get my point. Austin could help clear out the ring until there’s only two men left. Stone Cold and John Cena - staring each other down, soaking in the electricity of the crowd before ultimately trading blows. A moment truly comparable to Hogan vs. The Rock at WrestleMania X8.
Even if we don’t see Austin and Cena lock-up in Los Angeles, if done correctly, the exchange should be sufficient for those fans who have been dying to see this generational battle, that’s only ever been played out in video games.
Anyone who follows the Texas Rattlesnake on social media knows he’s in tremendous shape and wrestling fans have been thirsting for another Stone Cold mud stomping after the rave reviews he received for his match against Kevin Owens in Dallas last year.
I think there’s a better than good chance we see Austin fire up a Texas crowd once again.
Sasha Banks, now known as Mercedes Monè, may not be on her way back to WWE anytime soon, but the vibe within the company is that Naomi will return at some point in the near future.
We have not seen the former SmackDown Women’s Champion since she walked out on an episode of Raw, with Sasha, over creative differences. A new report says what happened last May, came during the midst of contract negotiations that were apparently headed toward a big pay day for Naomi.
If WWE was willing to invest financially in Naomi, my hope is that they are willing to do so creatively upon her return.
This is a phrase that gets thrown around fairly often, but Naomi truly has been one of the most underutilized talents in the locker room the past few years. Even when she was SmackDown Women’s Champion, she didn’t get the chance to have a marquee program to cement her title run. She fought Charlotte to a draw and had a series of televised defenses against Lana, before dropping the belt to Natalya at SummerSlam.
Naomi is exactly what SmackDown needs right now. The Blue Brand has plenty of talent in its Women’s Division, but it’s in dire need of someone else who’s over with the audience and can help elevate the others in the locker room.
Also, if Ronda Rousey truly is out of the title picture for the foreseeable future, then Charlotte needs an opponent for WrestleMania. If WWE can get Naomi to put pen to paper on a new deal, then they should strongly consider having her win the whole damn thing in San Antonio and take on the Queen for the SmackDown Women’s Championship in Los Angeles.
Chelsea Green and Matt Cardona
Chelsea Green seems like a no brainer to make her return in Texas. She’s reportedly been under contract with the company for some time and has just been waiting on creative plans before coming back to TV.
If WWE is looking to make a few surprise splashes in the Women’s Royal Rumble, then the former Impact Knockouts World Champion is card they could definitely play. Over the past few weeks, Green herself has been dropping hints on social media that she’s coming back to WWE. The most recent indicating that will see her next Saturday night.
Obviously, Green could just be having some fun here. Maybe she really is stuck in creative purgatory. Or maybe she’s just waiting for her husband to make his return to the company as well.
Personally, I think the addition of Green and Matt Cardona as a power couple would be a very smart way to go for WWE.
Cardona has been on an incredible run since his WWE release, competing across Impact, NWA, GCW and others the last few years. However, there’s been rumblings about Cardona returning to the place he called home for 15 years and that speculation has only ramped up recently.
Earlier this week, Cardona filed to trademark the name “Zack Ryder”, which (for those who don’t know) was the in-ring name he used during his time in WWE. What that could possibly mean, is anyone’s guess.
Cardona has been staying busy, competing just last week at Impact Wrestling Hard to Kill in a four way elimination match for the Tag Team Championships. The former Intercontinental Champion has not ruled out a potential return to WWE, but there’s been no report that he’s signed a new contract.
Whether he ultimately does or not, there’s always a possibility that Cardona comes in as a “forbidden door” entrant. I think he’s definitely someone to look out for at the Royal Rumble.
Well, here’s the (great) one you’ve been waiting to read about. It’s been the worst kept secret in wrestling that WWE is hoping to book an epic Night 2 main event at WrestleMania 39. Roman Reigns defending his Undisputed WWE Universal Championship against his real life cousin, and Hollywood Superstar, Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson.
However, with just one World Champion on the roster, that spot on the Grandest Stage of Them All is guaranteed to the winner of the 2023 Men’s Royal Rumble Match. Either Triple H is going to have to get very creative and work around that somehow or The Rock is going to have to be booked for two matches, instead of one.
Given his schedule, that would seem to be highly unlikely, but that’s not stopping fans from reading the tea leaves and convincing themselves of the Great One’s immanent return.
It is definitely a possibility that WWE uses Roman Reigns Acknowledgement Ceremony at Raw XXX, as a catalyst to bring the most famous member of the Anoa’i family. Not saying he’ll be at that show, but something could happen that would motivate him to book a flight to San Antonio.
Fan excitement then went into overdrive when WWE released new Rock merchandise.
Before you get your hopes up like Miss Undisputed Sunshine here, the new Wrestling Observer Newsletter has dumped a huge bucket of cold water on Rock vs. Reigns happening at WrestleMania.
This report means one of two things. There is a huge difference between being in shape, which The Rock clearly is, and being in in-ring shape. The Rock could genuinely be worried about his cardio not being where it needs to be to put on the kind of match that would match the hype.
Or... this is a giant smoke screen to make people doubt the obvious. If it is, it’s a smart play. If even a small fraction of the audience convinces themselves that he’s not going to be there, it’ll make The Rock’s return even better. WWE would want his involvement to be as big a secret as possible.
I’ll say this much, unless it’s the aforementioned Stone Cold or John Cena, I pity whomever enters the Rumble at No. 30 if the Rock is not there. They are going to hear it from 30,000 strong. Might want to save that spot for Austin Theory.
What do you guys think we’ll see as a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble? Let us know in the comment section below. You can follow Rick Ucchino on Twitter and subscribe to the Bleav in Pro Wrestling Podcast Channel for more of his work.