Welcome to another edition of the ‘Monday Gorilla Position’! A weekly column here at Cageside Seats that dissects the latest shows and reports, and tries to figure out just what is going on in the world of WWE, AEW & more!
At the risk of stealing Mojo Rawley’s gimmick, let’s get hyped everyone! It’s Royal Rumble week!
Unfortunately for fans of World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins, of which there are many, that may prove to be a little difficult given the events of the past week.
Stating the obvious right off the bat — this sucks. It sucks for the fans, but it especially sucks for Rollins who was finally on a clear path to that WrestleMania main event that he’s worked his whole career to achieve.
WWE has already announced that Seth Rollins is set to kick-off Raw tonight to address his future as World Heavyweight Champion... which is a bit ominous to say the least.
It’s never a good sign when someone has to “address their future”. Brace yourself for bad news and hope for the best in these situations.
There are two big questions surrounding this injury for Rollins. How severe is the tear and how much time is he expected to miss?
Note: I am not a medical professional, but after consulting Dr. Google, here is what I understand to be the short and skinny of the present situation.
If Rollins is dealing with a grade 1 tear, then there should be nothing to be overly concerned about. A mild MCL tear will usually heal up on it’s own within 1-3 weeks, meaning Seth could conceivably hang on to the World Title and be more than healthy in time for his scheduled defense at WrestleMania 40.
Unless tonight’s announcement is merely a ratings ploy or a set up for some kind of angle, the fact the WWE is taking time on the go-home show for the Royal Rumble to address his health leads me to believe Rollins is dealing with a grade 2 or grade 3 tear. That would put him out of action anywhere from 4-12 weeks, or even longer if he requires surgery.
If that’s the case, then some serious decisions need to be made regarding the World Heavyweight Championship and the card for WrestleMania 40.
We’re less than 11 weeks out from the Showcase of the Immortals. If Rollins’ is set to miss significant time, he most certainly will have to vacate his title tonight. Especially if there is even the slightest question as to whether or not he’ll be able to perform in Philadelphia.
Luckily, Triple H finds himself in really a good position with the current depth of top level talent at his disposal. You never want to see an injury of this caliber, but it there was ever a time that WWE is equipped to handle it, it’s right now.
Perhaps the simplest path forward for the creative team would be to put the World Heavyweight Championship on the line this Saturday inside the Men’s Royal Rumble match.
Currently, this weekend’s big event is a two horse race in the eyes of many. It’s either Cody Rhodes or CM Punk’s match to lose. Putting the WHC on the line suddenly opens up WWE to wide array of possibilities that could heavily alter the current betting odds.
Last week here on the Monday Gorilla Position, I broke down the odds for the Women’s Royal Rumble Match. Until we know the injury status of Seth Rollins, it’s going to be almost impossible to nail down the favorites for the Men’s Rumble match, but that’s not going to stop me from giving it the old college try.
5) The Rock (+700 according to Bet Online)
Will it be The Rock or will it be Cody Rhodes who faces Roman Reigns at WrestleMania? Smart money, and all the recent reporting, says it’ll be one of these two men vying to end the Tribal Chief’s reign of terror.
I don’t believe The Rock will be competing in the Royal Rumble this year, and he definitely won’t be in the match if turns out the World Heavyweight Championship is on the line.
What I do believe, is that it’s more likely that we see Hollywood’s leading man return to the ring to punch his ticket to Philadelphia than it is we see GUNTHER, Randy Orton or L.A. Knight claim victory. All three men are currently receiving as good or better odds to win the match than The Rock.
- GUNTHER +300
- Randy Orton +600
- LA Knight +700
While it’s certainly not unprecedented for someone to pull double duty at the Royal Rumble, Orton and Knight could very well be out of the running to win the match before the night even begins if the WWE Universal Championship Fatal 4-way is booked as the main event.
When it comes to The Rock though, It’s pretty cut and dry. If the Great One’s music hits this Saturday night in Tampa, then he’ll be pointing at the WrestleMania sign at the end of the night.
I wouldn’t bet on it, however. Chances are if he is Reigns’ opponent for ‘Mania, that match will be set up another way.
4) Sami Zayn (+1400)
You could make a pretty decent chunk of change if you place a bet on Sami Zayn to win the Royal Rumble and The Underdog from the Underground pulls it off.
At +1400, Zayn currently has worse odds to win the Royal Rumble match than Maxwell Jacob Friedman — who is not only facing the possibility of shoulder surgery in the near future, but is also still under contract with AEW as far as we know.
As your unofficial wrestling gambling adviser, I am not telling you to go out and put money on Sami... just yet.
It just wouldn’t make a ton of sense, unless WWE does decide to put the WHC on the line in the match.
Among the growing list of wrestlers in the locker room who have a story to finish, you can count Sami Zayn among them. He has repeatedly, and very passionately, vowed to win a World Championship in WWE.
If Seth Rollins is unable to compete on “The Grandest Stage of Them All” this year, pivoting to a World Title match that features another beloved fan favorite would be a wise move for WWE to make.
Zayn could win the Rumble and the World Heavyweight Championship by last eliminating Drew McIntyre, the very man who put him on the kayfabe injury list. Thus setting up Zayn vs. McIntyre one-on-one at WrestleMania 40.
3) Drew McIntyre (+1000)
Pop quiz. Can anyone tell me who the last Men’s Royal Rumble winner was to actually win their Championship match at WrestleMania?
If you said the Scottish Warrior, then you are correct. Roman Reigns has smashed and/or stacked all four of his most recent WrestleMania opponents, three of whom who won the Rumble Royal, only to fall short of dethroning the Tribal Chief - Brock Lesnar, Edge (Now wrestling as Adam Copeland in AEW), and Cody Rhodes.
The last man to successfully transform his main event opportunity into Championship gold was Drew McIntyre, when he defeated Brock Lesnar at the WWE Performance Center back in 2020.
McIntyre is producing some of the best work of his career right now, both on the mic and in the ring, and is still craving his moment of glory in front of the WWE Universe.
Drew winning the vacated World Heavyweight Championship by claiming his second Royal Rumble victory would position him prominently as the dominate heel Champion on the road to the company’s biggest show of the year.
A McIntyre win at the Rumble could also set up a must see Elimination Chamber match with Cody Rhodes, CM Punk, Jey Uso, and Sami Zayn among the competitors vying for a shot at the Scottish Warrior.
And honestly, WWE really couldn’t go wrong with any of those four men earning the opportunity.
2) Cody Rhodes (+275)
Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold Steve Austin. Those are the three men that Cody Rhodes is hoping to etch his name alongside as the only Superstars to ever win back-to-back Royal Rumble matches, and he has a great chance to do it.
Regardless of what happens with Seth Rollins tonight, Rhodes has to be considered a favorite to get the pyro shower in Tampa this weekend.
The WWE 2K24 cover boy is primed for another huge match at WrestleMania this year. Whether it’s against Roman Reigns. Whether it’s against Randy Orton. Or whether it’s against CM Punk.
Rhodes was in his hometown of Atlanta this past Friday, wrestling a dark match after SmackDown went off the air. He then addressed the live audience, vowing to win the Royal Rumble for a second time and bring a “championship” back home.
Does the American Nightmare already know something that we don’t? Vowing to head to the Royal Rumble and bring back, not the Championship, but a Championship.
Could I be reading too much into the wording? Absolutely. Am I secretly hoping that tonight’s promo exchange between Punk and Cody on Raw is a precursor to them being the final two competitors inside the Rumble match with the WHC on the line? Abso-freaking-lutely.
Cody Rhodes winning the World Heavyweight Championship is not him finishing the story, and it certainly should not alter WWE’s plans to have him dethrone Roman Reigns. If that is indeed their plan, one day down the line.
But if The Rock is coming in to face Roman and if Seth Rollins is unable to wrestle on the show this year, than having Rhodes defend his newly won WHC against Punk in the night one main event of WrestleMania 40, would be a more than acceptable audible to call.
1) CM Punk (+150)
CM Punk vs. Seth Rollins in the main event of WrestleMania seemed like a pipe dream just a few weeks ago. Then Punk shocked the world when he walked back into WWE at Survivor Series, proving once again that anything is possible in this business.
Right up until last Monday night you could have written this match onto the rundown sheet in permanent market as the night one main event. Nothing was going to stop these two men from each finally achieving their one big bucket list item.
And then Rollins injured his knee.
Now what seemed like a slam dunk is far from a guarantee. Everything hinges on Rollins health.
Perhaps the smartest play WWE could make is to simply buy some time to see if this match can still happen.
Strip Seth of the Title. Have CM Punk win the Royal Rumble and the belt. And then reassess a few weeks down the road after Seth has had a few weeks to recover.
If Rollins is able to make it back to the ring in time, why not simply reverse the roles? Instead of the Visionary walking into Lincoln Financial Field as Champion, have him be the challenger instead.
There would be no need to have Rollins earn a match against Punk — at Elimination Chamber for example — as Rollins would already hold the right to the rematch having been a Champion that had to relinquish his title due to injury.
If there simply isn’t enough time for Rollins to get healthy enough to compete, WWE could then pivot to a number of opponents for Punk, like Cody Rhodes or Drew McIntyre.
Maybe Triple H is able to pull off a massive move in free agency and bring in The Rainmaker, Kazuchika Okada. Or here’s a thought. What about Kevin Owens? For a man who’s main evented back-to-back WrestleManias, he sure doesn’t seem to be on a path to making the card this year unless he beats Logan Paul for the United States Championship this Saturday.
The bottom line in all of this is that despite Rollins’ injury, Triple H and his team have a bevy of options they could turn to if the current World Heavyweight Champion is unable to make it to Philadelphia.
When it comes to the Royal Rumble, given all the options that were just presented, it still feels like a two horse race between CM Punk and Cody Rhodes with the ‘Best in the World’ slightly out in front. We’ll see if Rollins has anything to say tonight on Raw that could change that.
Also... how about this?
There is one more option that I’ve neglected to mention, when it comes to what to do with the World Heavyweight Championship. Damian Priest and the rest of Judgment Day could attack a wounded Rollins tonight on Raw, allowing Priest to successfully cash-in his Money in the Bank briefcase.
WWE could then make Priest’s match against Drew McIntyre for his newly won World Title if they so choose, giving them the option to seamlessly put the belt on the Scottish Warrior.
Or, and hear me out on this one, they could keep the belt on Priest long enough for him to defend it at WrestleMania 40 against... R-Truth.
Think about it. Think about it.
R-Truth is a national treasure, one of the greatest character performers in WWE history and is someone who is certainly worthy of Hall of Fame considerations. He hasn’t had a one-on-one opportunity to win a World Championship in over a decade and he’s never had a singles match at WrestleMania.
I’m not saying that match should be the main event of either night, but why not give Truth his moment to shine? He’s over. He’s earned it. And you know the crowd in Philly would be going nuts hoping to see him capture the World Heavyweight Championship.
Someone give me one good reason for why that match would be a bad idea. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
How do you think Rollins’ injury will affect the build to WrestleMania 40? Who are your favorites to win the Men’s Royal Rumble this Saturday night? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to join us in our Raw live blog tonight to find out what Seth has to say about it all!
You can follow Rick Ucchino on Twitter and stay tuned for more in depth interviews with WWE and AEW talent here on Cageside Seats.