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In what seems to be shaping up as the most unpredictable Royal Rumble in recent memory, so many matches including the main event have tremendous implications on how the Wrestlemania card shapes up. Lets take a closer look at what wins and losses could mean for the wrestlers involved.
CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE MATCH: Rich Swann (C) vs. Neville
If there is any open and shut case to be made for an outcome of a match, this would be it. The wrestlers on 205 Live have had some entertaining matches but have struggled quite a bit to get the division over with WWE fans. The insertion of Neville to this group has been very refreshing and all signs point to him winning the Cruiserweight Championship this Sunday.
Neville has been booked perfectly upon his return to television. He has done what he set out to do – decimate the entire division. He has come out on top in almost every segment he has been a part of and had a tremendous match with Tommy End during the UK Tournament. WWE sees Neville as the face of the division and putting the title on him is the only move here. Rich Swann has done a nice job, but Neville is on another level. Swann will be able to handle the loss here as there has not been too much stock really built up in him during his short title run. One can only hope that Austin Aries will be ready sooner than later and challenge Neville for his newly won championship at Wrestlemania.
Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax
On paper this would look to be an easy win for Nia Jax, but after coming off of a loss against Charlotte, WWE needs to make sure they do not let Sasha slip too far down the pecking order heading into Wrestlemania season. The story being told here has been good, but Nia has not solidified herself as the fierce woman she claims to be.
Sasha Banks had a fantastic end to 2016 and in a thin RAW woman’s roster, her name could be called at any time to step in and challenge for the title. It is important for her to look strong here and if Bayley loses later in the evening, a win over Jax could give Sasha the opening she needs to slide right back into title contention. Banks has also been protected in the build to this match. She has been selling an injury that Nia continues to go after, and if she were to lose there is a plausible excuse to fall back on… maybe even a referee stoppage to avoid a tap out or clean pin fall. A loss, however, puts Sasha’s status in serious question as we move towards April.
Some could say that Nia Jax was not ready to be called up to the main roster during the draft. Her in-ring skills most certainly need polishing, and she has not yet fully found her voice as a dominant heel. That being said, an impressive victory against a very formidable opponent (regardless of the size difference) would be just the thing she would need to legitimize her spot within the Raw woman’s division. A losing effort, however, would be tough to recover from. Unlike Sasha having an injury to fall back on, Nia would have no excuse and would have been defeated by someone who is not at 100%. Yes, this match does take place on the kickoff portion of Royal Rumble, but the outcome will give fans a much better idea of how WWE sees Nia Jax moving forward. This is the biggest stage she has ever performed on, and will be a sink or swim situation for Jax.
TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH: Sheamus & Cesaro (C) vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
The team of Sheamus and Cesaro has made such great strides since being put together by Mick Foley. The dynamic of a heel and babyface together has really gotten great reactions from the crowd and these two wrestlers have found quite the niche within the Raw tag team division. Gallows & Anderson, however, came into WWE with very high expectations that have not yet been lived up to. This could finally be their opportunity to show why they belong in WWE and are as talented as they say they are.
This has to be the time for Gallows & Anderson to finally come out on top. While their opponents are still fresh and getting over with the crowd, these two Japanese wrestling “legends” cannot suffer another loss at a major event. The booking of Karl & Luke has been so stop and start, and a win here will finally show that the company has faith that they can carry the tag team division heading into Wrestlemania. Cesaro & Sheamus could endear themselves more to the crowd while chasing the titles, while Gallows & Anderson could add heat by cheating and talking down to the beloved Cesaro. If defeated, they will be out of excuses and start another long road back to being in title contention.
Following up on Cesaro & Sheamus getting more over in the chase, a loss here would not hurt them all that much, especially if the finish has some sort of cheating involved. A loss could also lead to these two breaking up and carrying out a program that culminates at Wrestlemania. Either way, if a strong performance is given the best outcome for this team would actually be defeat. On the flip side, if these two do pull off a victory it could lead to them growing closer as a team, but for how long?
Becky Lynch, Nikki Bella, and Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, and Natalya
This match is much more about standing out than who wins. There are three different storylines that WWE will attempt to further in a six women tag team match that has the potential to be great or extremely clunky. I don’t believe we will see anything in the middle. Look for WWE to highlight Mickie James as she is the returning star with something to prove. She claimed that any women’s revolution that is going on today is a direct result of the work she put in to pave the way, and she is out to prove that.
Two women to really keep your eye on here is Naomi and Becky Lynch. Naomi has just returned to TV after being away for a while and brings such an athletic element to the Smackdown women’s division. There was a tease of Naomi being the next challenger for Alexa’s title, which would most likely happen at Elimination Chamber. Will WWE book her to come off as that legitimate next opponent or will she just blend in? Becky is another interesting story here. Her interaction with James is something to pay attention to as these two are the likeliest challengers for the championship at Wrestlemania. This could be the first indication of who the front runner will be.
As for Natalya and Nikki – Expect nothing but chaos and brutality.
RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH: Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Bayley
In a rivalry that is shaping up to be very similar to what Daniel Bryan and Triple H went through years ago, Bayley vs. Charlotte is the perfect David vs. Goliath story. Charlotte was born for this, performing at the highest of levels and is undefeated in PPV singles matches since her main roster debut. Opposite the queen is Bayley, who has been portrayed as a super fan that is in awe of the spot she is in. While the storytelling and interviews that have led up to this has not put Bayley in the best light as it pertains to being a serious threat to Charlotte’s title, she has received more support from the fans who are beginning to believe that she has a chance.
Charlotte, and the Raw announce team, has made sure that everyone watching knows that she has not lost a PPV match. While this Royal Rumble event is one of the biggest of all time, a loss for Flair just does not seem plausible. If defeated, she will be eating crow every week until she is able to get her rematch, and still not own a one on one victory over Bayley. Given how dominant Charlotte looked coming out of her program with Sasha Banks, a loss may take some of the steam away from everything she has been trying to build. If Charlotte does defeat Bayley, she will still be able to tout her PPV streak as we build towards Wrestlemania and look as untouchable as ever.
With the way Bayley has been booked, telling the story about how big of a fan she is and how it is her dream come true just to be in WWE, a loss will not hurt too much. Remember that Bayley lost her very first NXT Woman’s Title match. She was then able to work that into her character as she built towards the match at Takeover: Brooklyn where she finally defeated Sasha Banks, making the victory all the more special. If Bayley were to pull off the upset, it would speak volumes about how WWE truly views Bayley and her drawing power. If victorious, Charlotte would need to be protected. After two clean wins against Charlotte on RAW, Bayley would need to get a quick roll up or exploit an injury to Flair to ensure that both look strong the following evening and moving forward.
WWE UNIVERSAL CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: Kevin Owens (c) vs. Roman Reigns
Until the no disqualification stipulation was added to this match it seemed so obvious that Roman Reigns would come out on top, especially after dropping the U.S. Title. With this new wrinkle, there are so many variables that could factor into the finish of this match that could favor either wrestler.
In Vince McMahon’s ultimate quest to make Roman Reigns the #1 babyface in the company, it would seem appropriate that Reigns would walk into Wrestlemania as the champion and headline the show for a 3rd year in a row. While no disqualification stipulations usually help the heel more so than the babyface, Reigns could win in brutal fashion with chair shirts or multiple table powerbombs that absolutely destroy Kevin Owens. Remember that Roman was most over with the crowd after his vicious assault on both Triple H and Vince, and something similar might be just the performance we need for Reigns to start getting support from the 18-54 male demographic that eludes him. If defeated, expect Chris Jericho to figure out a way to help his best friend while suspended in a shark cage. In the no DQ format, there is no chance Roman is beaten by just one man.
Kevin Owens needs a victory in this match more than any other in his career. His reign as Universal Champion has been far from successful, and while his interactions with Jericho have provided fantastic television segments, it has very much taken away from the legitimacy of his title reign. A win for Owens will show that WWE still has confidence that he can carry the Raw brand during the road to Wrestlemania and be featured in a prominent match at the top of the card. If Owens does lose here, I am not sure how much believability he will lose with the fans as most would assume it is just WWE putting over their super hero. A loss would also presumably lead to the break up of he and Jericho with the blow off happening at WrestleMania, possibly with the US Title on the line. A nice consolation prize, but Owens deserves better in April.
Keep in mind that Triple H will be looming large in this match. It is no secret that Owens is Hunter’s guy and he could play a role in the finish. To further that line of thinking, if Hunter comes to the ring, Seth Rollins (who is not booked to be appearing) will no doubt be close behind which could lead to a Reigns victory.
WWE WORLD TITLE MATCH: A.J. Styles (C) vs. John Cena
The build up to this match has been absolutely brilliant and it could be argued that John Cena is delivering better promos now than he ever has. AJ has brought out the best in Cena, and these two have been verbally abusing one another for weeks leading up to this match. They will have quite a bit to live up to after their encounter at Summerslam, and I expect WWE to have something big in store for this one. It is also one of the hardest matches to predict on the Royal Rumble Card.
If John Cena wins this match he will tie Ric Flair for the most world title reigns in history and cement himself as one of the greatest WWE Superstars of all time. Overcoming AJ Styles will prove that he still belongs at the top of the Smackdown card and that this new era truly runs through him. He will need to match the intensity he brought against AJ at Summerslam and has the opportunity to win over the fans that prefer AJ and similar wrestlers that came through the independent scene. In defeat, Cena would be put in a tough situation. After losing to Styles in August and this Sunday, he will have to explain why he was not able to pull this one out. That being said, if anyone could do that, it is John Cena.
AJ Styles was without a doubt the top performer of 2017, and one could argue that it was the best first year in the company’s history. With all of the momentum he has built up for himself, a loss to John Cena would show fans that the independent wrestling stars that break into the WWE still cannot hang with the company’s best. With that story being told in the go-home episode of Smackdown, it is imperative that AJ Styles looks as strong as possible if defeated. A victory would be a monumental step forward for AJ as he works towards April. If AJ were to win, it would be a massive vote of confidence given to him by WWE and a reward for his performance thus far. He would arguably be the strongest booked wrestler on the roster and look towards the marquee match his fans want at Wrestlemania.
POSSIBLE RUMBLE WINNERS
This is by far one of the most unpredictable Royal Rumbles in history where no one can confidently state who will come out on top. That being said, I wanted to take a closer look at what a victory could mean for the favorites. Please note that I left Brock Lesnar and Goldberg off of this list because I think it is inevitable that we will see these two face off against one another at Wrestlemania without a title involved.
The Undertaker: One of the odds on favorite to with the Royal Rumble, Taker (apologies JBL) has made it known that he is back to main event Wrestlemania and win a championship one last time. There have been serious health concerns surrounding The Undertaker after reports came out that he was having difficulty getting out of a knelt position after the show went off the air. A victory here would leave fans in suspense as to what title he would go after considering he has now shown up on both brands, but everything would point to a matchup with John Cena assuming he goes over against AJ.
Braun Strowman: A victory for Braun Strowman would be a nice throwback to the days of Royal Rumble winners being an up and comer that has recently been pushed to the top of the card. Strowman has already built up a rivalry with Roman Reigns and could potentially challenge him for the Universal Title should Reigns beat Kevin Owens earlier in the evening. Strowman has been booked extremely strong and has ben very protected since his push began. If he is the last man standing, it will be very clear that this had been the plan all along and a refreshing addition to the title picture moving into Wrestlemania. Win or lose, look for Strowman to have a Reigns-like impact with regards to eliminations as I am sure he will have a “cleaning house” moment, possibly leading to he and either Lesnar or Big Show facing off one on one before someone else enters the fray.
Chris Jericho: This one might be a long shot, but will be far more plausable if Kevin Owens comes out victorious in his Universal Title match. It is becoming quite clear that Jericho and KO will have a blow off match at Wrestlemania, and adding the Universal Title to the mix would make it all the more intriguing. If Owens does retain and keep the title leading into Wrestlemania, beating Jericho after defeating Reigns would put a whole new spin on Owens’ legitimacy as champion. A victory for Jericho would be a fantastic cherry on top on one of the best runs he has had in his career.
Randy Orton: Surprisingly, many betting odds show Randy Orton having a good chance at winning this Sunday. It would be a wise, yet safe choice. Orton has reinvented himself as a member of the Wyatt Family and continues to be one of the most popular wrestlers on Smackdown despite being a heel. He is a versatile choice because he can work both babyface and heel effectively which allows WWE to have options with the winner of the Styles/Cena match. After winning, using the Wyatts to intimidate whomever he might be facing could add a nice wrinkle leading up to Wrestlemania. Further, it could fuel animosity between he and Bray with Orton getting opportunities that Bray has not been afforded.
Samoa Joe: This seems like the best possible outcome, doesn’t it? Samoa Joe is 100% ready for the main roster. Instead of wasting two months showing vignettes, sit down interviews, and involving him in squash matches to put him in a great position for Wrestlemania, being a surprise entrant on Sunday and winning it all would instantly make him a star. An added bonus would be to eliminate two or three top superstars to really cement his place atop the card. Smackdown would be the likely destination for Joe and it would be fantastic. There is so much history between he and AJ Styles that could be used to make this a marquee Wrestlemania title match in which both men would thrive, provided that AJ beats Cena. Personally, this is my dream scenario and hope it happens.
It should be noted that while this is the most unpredictable Royal Rumble in recent history, the winner of each major championship match will most certainly narrow down the list of potential wrestlers who could come out on top. The Royal Rumble is one of the most beloved events by all wrestling fans and we are in for a real treat this year. Thanks so much for reading and enjoy!
NOW CHECK OUT LAST MONTHS ARTICLE: PPV OUTCOMES & IMPLICATIONS – WWE TLC: The pros and cons of various finishes for each of the matches