There are some years in which WWE treats the Royal Rumble as the most important match on the pay-per-view (PPV) of the same name — what they’re calling a PREMIUM LIVE EVENT these days — that takes place every January and officially starts us on the road to WrestleMania. It’s quite obviously the most important match on the card, considering the winner of the match (now matches, with the women’s division also getting a Royal Rumble, though we’re here to preview the men’s Rumble match) is gifted a headlining championship match at the biggest show of the year months later.
This is not the case this year.
The winner still gets the title match at WrestleMania, of course, it’s just that WWE decided to build to the men’s Rumble this year by having a bunch of mid-card acts show each other they know how to throw someone over the top rope by, you guessed it, throwing each other over the top rope. The most significant action we got, at least as far as promotion for the match, was “Jackass” star Johnny Knoxville managing to work his way into the match by sneaking up on Sami Zayn and throwing him over the top rope on an episode of SmackDown after he declared his intention to enter the match.
Demonstrating a proficiency at completing the act necessary to win the match has ruled the day this year.
That kind of sucks!
Sure, Brock Lesnar vs. Bobby Lashley and Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins are objectively strong title matches that will also take place on this show, but the Royal Rumble, as fun as it is on its own, is much better when they bother to tell an actual story surrounding the match itself. This year, we’re left with “Rey Mysterio might eliminate his own son in the match, but also Dominik Mysterio might take out his own father.”
There’s also the issue of there being no clear and obvious candidate to win the damn thing. That’s a product of poor planning on WWE’s part. You could argue it’s a good thing, that lack of predictability, but I’d much rather a cohesive, rewarding story with an obvious conclusion than randomness that just sorta comes together along the way.
That’s pretty much the best we can hope for this year.
A last look at the betting odds shows just how poorly WWE has built up anyone as a legitimate threat to win and therefore become a title challenger. Big E, who just lost the WWE championship at Day 1, is the current favorite. The next two underneath him? Brock Lesnar, who is the WWE champion, and Roman Reigns, who is the Universal champion. They’re both working other matches on this show, which have received the lion’s share of the promotion for the event. I suppose, then, it only makes sense to believe they might also win the Rumble.
Others on the odds list (which is changing all the time but these are the names around the top):
- Drew McIntyre: Currently out injured
- AJ Styles: Just recently got out of a tag team and a brief stint in NXT to work a program with Grayson Waller, but always a threat to challenge the established order
- The Rock: Has better shit to do
- Kevin Owens: Lost in his last title match at Day 1 but is a perennial main event level guy
- Omos: Just recently got out of a tag team, is very big and also clearly planned to be something special
- Bobby Lashley: Is wrestling for the WWE championship on this show
- Seth Rollins: Is wrestling for the Universal championship on this show
- Finn Balor: Has been doing jobs for Austin Theory while reports circulate Vince McMahon sees him as a mid-card guy
- Damian Priest: The current United States champion
- Randy Orton: In a tag team with Riddle, currently in the midst of an Academic Challenge with Alpha Academy, probably high
- Austin Theory: A pet project of Vince McMahon’s, his whole character is that he’s a doofus who badly wants to succeed but usually doesn’t
- Riddle: In a tag team with Orton, currently in the midst of an Academic Challenge with Alpha Academy, definitely high
You get the point.
Someone has to win, though, and we’ll find out who they decided on soon enough.
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