HEYDORN’S TAKE: Don’t hold me to this – WWE Royal Rumble 2021

BY ZACK HEYDORN, PWTORCH ASSISTANT EDITOR (@zheydorntorch)

Daniel Bryan (art credit Travis Beaven © PWTorch)

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Well, let the strangest WWE Royal Rumble event in history commence.

Piped in crowd noise, fake countdowns, a WrestleMania sign point worthy of WWE ThunderDome theatrics – pure craziness for a crazy time. So, get ready folks. This one is going to be weird.

Weirdness aside, we still have a big event on our hands. WrestleMania is set for two nights in April and the outcomes of this show will give clues as to how that event will take shape.

It starts with the Royal Rumble matches. WWE has swung and missed so many times in terms of how to book this match, that there isn’t any sense in revisiting those moments. They righted the ship last year, but this year the world is their oyster. The lack of a crowd gives Vince McMahon options. – too many options. Options in which there aren’t normal consequences that come along with a live audience. He can go in whatever direction he wants. On the men’s side, does he go with his favorite pet projects like Brock Lesnar, Goldberg, The Fiend, or Randy Orton? Or is it Daniel Bryan? On the women’s side of things, is it tried and true acts like Alexa Bliss and Bayley? Or is it a surging newcomer in Bianca Belair or Rhea Ripley?

Call this a preview, a calm look into the distant future, or a gaze into a wondrous crystal ball; just don’t hold me to anything, ok?

Women’s Royal Rumble Match

The smart play here is Bianca Belair or Rhea Ripley. Outside of Belair, there hasn’t been a suitable story surrounding any of the current women on the roster that would reasonably culminate with a rumble win. Bayley could work just fine, but unless the plan is finally to deliver the Bayley vs. Sasha Banks match at WrestleMania, a win for her is redundant due to the fact that any other match they do with her they could get to without playing the Royal Rumble card. WWE will use this to crown their next big star. I’ll take Belair since she’s already on the path, but Ripley makes sense too. Vince McMahon owes her after the nonsense he put her through with Charlotte Flair. WWE needs top women’s talent and things are thin on both brands. This match is the perfect catapult for the next big star.

Drew McIntyre vs. Goldberg – WWE Championship

The actual match needs to directly mirror the tone of the build – short, sweet, and to the point. Nobody wins if this thing lasts longer than four minutes. The goal here is easy to follow. Provide Drew McIntyre with a win over a top legacy star with some minimal name recognition in an effort to keep him front and center as a big attraction in front of a casual audience. That means punch, punch, spear, kick out, spear, kick out, counter spear, Claymore, Claymore, Claymore, 1, 2, 3. No need to get cuter than that.

Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens – Last Man Standing WWE Universal Championship Match

The match of the night. If only now was the time to crown Kevin Owens as WWE’s next babyface star, right? Seemingly by accident, WWE has built a hot Owens character that in any other circumstance would be taking the championship. Don’t throw your chips in the middle with confidence on that coming to fruition, though. Reigns and Owens have been tremendously effective in their roles throughout the feud and have created an impactful story during the lull in WWE’s calendar. It’s still all about Roman Reigns. He’s the focus. Big business is on the table for WWE with him holding the championship. Whether its Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, Edge, Brock Lesnar, or The Rock, all of those matches are more intriguing if Reigns is hot and unbeaten going in. He retains here because of that.

Sasha Banks vs. Carmella – WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship

So, this is happening? I guess? I chalk this up as WWE making good on their responsibility to get their top women’s star in Sasha Banks on the show. Banks vs. Carmella has more than run its course and this iteration is running on fumes. Look for Banks to dispatch Carmella with ease and begin the run to WrestleMania. Appearing likable within her babyface role should be a top tier goal for this match.

Charlotte Flair & Asuka vs. Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax – WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship

Unfortunately, there isn’t much to assess here. We’ve seen more of a focus on Charlotte Flair dealing with her father and Lacey Evans than we’ve seen with her and her partner, Asuka. A lack of definition isn’t necessarily new for WWE, but this sticks out like an extra sore thumb. Charlotte isn’t made for the tag team world and it feels like WWE knows that now. Look for that recognition to get the titles off her and Asuka and onto the waists of Baszler and Jax.

Men’s Royal Rumble Match

Daniel Bryan or bust. That should be WWE’s mantra when discussing how to book this year’s men’s Royal Rumble. He’s their biggest shot at big-ish business for the company during the second pandemic WrestleMania. He’s a safe play. All of WWE’s fan base is behind him and the story he can tell opposite Roman Reigns can lead to a big match payoff at the biggest event of the year. It was obvious that Bryan needed to win the Royal Rumble ahead of WrestleMania 30. WWE blew it. They won’t blow it here. If The Rock or CM Punk end up available and in the match for whatever reason, I amend. Until then, yes, yes, yes.

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