It’s Every Man For Himself…

3…2…1…BUZZ!

3…2…1…BUZZ!

It’s nearly that time of year again where for this wrestling fan the WWE year hits it’s high point. I love the Royal Rumble, I love the concept, I love the drama of the countdown format and I love the fact that this show more than any other (with the possible exception of MITB these days) has huge implications on the coming year in the world’s biggest wrestling company.

A lot of time you can see the winner coming a mile off. Be it Hogan, Michaels, Austin, Cena or Triple H the build-up can be centred around one return, one hot star or someone who is clearly where WWE want to go like with Roman Reigns in recent years. The best, most exciting and intriguing Rumble matches are those where you have a more open field, and this year’s over the top rope spectacular might be the most open field yet.

On paper the two big names of Goldberg and Brock Lesnar stand head and shoulders above all else in terms of match favourites but surely some sort of storyline plays out that sees the two interact heavily and possibly, even probably, contribute to neither winning the match. If you take those two names away as possible winners it gets even more interesting. John Cena, AJ Styles, Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns all won’t be in the match as they are in their respective World/Universal title matches. That is four more huge names out of the running for the first-class ticket to Wrestlemania’s main event.

If you believe, as I do, that Seth Rollins is headed to Wrestlemania and it is his time to finally play the game when he battles Triple H then you can rule out Seth from winning the Rumble. If you’re keeping score now you can now rule out seven of the top names in the company! Of the big names left on the respective brands, and whatever your thoughts on them that leaves only Chris Jericho on RAW and Randy Orton, The Miz plus Dean Ambrose on Smackdown as legitimate main event players on the week to week roster. With Dean Ambrose going in to the Rumble as Intercontinental Champion it is hard to see him winning the match. If the Undertaker declares he is entering the Royal Rumble on RAW this evening then he is a serious contender but I think more likely, and like many other years in recent times, the Undertaker’s Wrestlemania opponent will cause his downfall and so I don’t think he wins the match, although a Styles/Cena v Undertaker match at Wrestlemania would be fine with me.

Maybe this year’s Rumble is the year that we see a new star made, a new main eventer elevated like we did when the likes of Michaels, Mysterio and Benoit won their Rumble matches and took the step to the next level? If that is the line WWE are following then you must look at the likes of Braun Strowman, Sami Zayn, Baron Corbin or Bray Wyatt. As much as I’m all for new or underused talent being given their chance I don’t see any of these winning the Royal Rumble this year. Maybe a very strong showing by one or more of them will help in their process up the card but a win? That is probably a step too far at this point.

So, that is lots of people who I don’t see winning one of the most open Rumbles for many a year, so who do I see being involved at the business end of the hour of over the top rope action? I see Chris Jericho being there, but I see Kevin Owens somehow costing him his chance to main event Wrestlemania, and in the process completing the Jericho babyface turn and leading to their battle at the show of shows in Orlando. I see Samoa Joe debuting at the Rumble being involved at the end of the Rumble. I don’t see Samoa Joe winning the whole thing (although I’d love it) I see him looking strong and then eventually falling just short.

I think this Rumble could be remembered as a breakout performance for the likes of Strowman, Corbin or even (and most intriguingly) Luke Harper who I expect to eliminate Randy Orton at some point to further develop their story. These nights, even in defeat can make a new star look so red hot that fans are baying to see them further up the card. I’d like to see Rusev back his dominant best but it is hard to believe the Bulgarian Brute can pull of the big win after how weakly he has been booked of late. The same goes for Dolph Ziggler.

So my pick for the 2017 Royal Rumble is not all that surprising if you think about it, and if there is a favourite in this match it may well be him with the bookies, is the demon himself…Finn Balor. Balor’s rehab from his shoulder injury sustained while defending his Universal title in mid-2016 has been going well and a spectacular demon entrance throwing the whole arena, and ring, into darkness before the red light and heartbeat begins to reveal Finn Balor at number thirty in this year’s Rumble akin to John Cena’s return at Madison Square Garden at the same number in 2008. By that time in the match the in-ring numbers have thinned, the Breezangos of the world have been eliminated (no doubt in eye rolling manner) and the crowd is totally in to the match. Balor can come in, and even with some ring rust do a few spots with the remaining combatants and work around twenty minutes before winning and all the pageantry that goes along with the moment, pointing at the Wrestlemania sign etc. All as the demon and totally on brand.

The WWE merchandise makers and production team can then spend three months inventing the most amazing entrance and merchandise collection that WWE has ever seen given the highly unique and iconic demon character. This year has the potential to be one of the most exciting, intriguing and unpredictable Royal Rumbles of all time and I can’t wait!

Catch more at Alex’s Blog: https://layingtheslackdown.wordpress.com/

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