The 2017 Royal Rumble match may be one of the most unpredictable in recent memory, but a lot of that has to do with Vince McMahon and his top WWE officials’ uncertainty themselves. As soon as San Antonio’s Alamodome was announced as the venue for this year’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view, it was the company’s attention to stack the card as much as possible and treat it more like a WrestleMania.
Initially, one of the WWE’s major goals was to lure legends like the Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Shawn Michaels to the Royal Rumble because of the show’s proximity to each of their homes. All three reside in Texas, and as of now, two out of the three are scheduled to appear. Michaels is slotted for a role on the Royal Rumble Kickoff Show, while the Deadman is an actual participant in the show’s namesake main event match.
Any other year, the Undertaker would be star power enough for the Royal Rumble match, but, of course, he’ll joined by other marquee, part-time stars like Goldberg and Brock Lesnar, as well as full-time performers such as Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, and Braun Strowman, among others. And at press time, there are still eight spots unaccounted for that will likely be filled by surprise entrants. That speculation has been swirling for months.
Most of the names listed above, particularly the Undertaker, Lesnar, Goldberg, Strowman, and Orton have taken turns being listed as the favorite to win the Royal Rumble match among the many sportsbook sites that offer such odds. Wrestling sites all over the internet have been buzzing with their fantasy booking scenarios, connecting the dots between the winner and who will leave the Royal Rumble with the WWE and Universal Championships.
The Undertaker was briefly favored until news leaked that he would neither face a SmackDown superstar at WrestleMania, nor challenge for either top title. The latter has since cooled seeing how it’s now presumed that he’ll face off with Roman Reigns, who could very well win the Universal Championship between now and then, on the big stage in Orlando.
Goldberg and Brock Lesnar are expected to headline WrestleMania 33, and though it wasn’t a necessity that gold be involved in their encounter, WWE officials have discussed the idea of one of them winning the Royal Rumble match and ultimately putting it up for grabs against the other in April. Strowman was viewed as the Royal Rumble front-runner for some time, and at one time, considered heavily for a WrestleMania showdown with either Reigns or the Undertaker. That has also been scrapped and it appears he’ll have to wait his turn another year.
So now, according to a new report, Vince and his officials have tentatively decided on who will win the Royal Rumble match, and had it in place as of late Friday night. However, it appears as if they’re open to any last-minute suggestions and could change their minds leading all the way up to right before the pay-per-view starts. This isn’t entirely uncommon for finishes to matches at a WWE event, but the winner of the Royal Rumble match is generally immune to 11th-hour audibles.
From 2011-2015, the winner of the Royal Rumble had been locked in place weeks, and sometimes, months in advance. But unfortunately for the company, those plans tended to leak out to the public, resulting in predictable finishes. Alberto Del Rio, Sheamus, John Cena, Batista, and Roman Reigns all felt some degree of wrath from the WWE Universe because the crowd could see their victories coming from a mile away.
Even last year, despite the title being on the line in the match, gave off a slight scent of predictability in terms of how many superstars actually had a chance to win. This year, any of the names we mentioned above (with the probable exception of Ambrose, and including any potential surprise entrants) have a legitimate shot and that’s what makes this year’s Royal Rumble so special. Officials may credit that notion to the fact that the sure-fire winner hasn’t been leaked yet.
Even if Randy Orton wins the Royal Rumble, and Bray Wyatt wins the WWE Championship at the Elimination Chamber as we reported was being discussed, those plans weren’t revealed until four days before the show. That’s a stark contrast to the news of Roman Reigns winning the 2015 Royal Rumble six months before it happened, and the decision-makers sticking to those plans despite the backlash.
[Featured Image by WWE]