At the conclusion of this week’s regular WWE programming, only eight of the thirty participants in this year’s Royal Rumble main event have been confirmed, adding six names alongside Brock Lesnar and Goldberg, the first two participants announced for the Royal Rumble Match. The New Day, Chris Jericho, Braun Strowman and Baron Corbin added their names to the list this week. The winner of the biggest battle royal of the year will go on to challenge for either the WWE Championship (most likely to be held by the winner of AJ Styles vs. John Cena) or the WWE Universal Championship (most likely to be held by the winner of Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns) at WrestleMania 33.
With three weeks left before Royal Rumble 2017, the WWE hasn’t been very clear on how the brand split will impact the participants allowed to enter the Rumble Match. Will each brand be allowed fifteen participants? If so, does that mean that a surprise entry would automatically be signed to a brand, rather than coming into the company as a free agent? How many spots will be given to NXT call-ups, and will any spots be given to NXT stars as a one-off appearance rather than an official introduction to either brand?
For our purpose here, it will be assumed that both Monday Night Raw and SmackDown LIVE will have thirteen participants who are already established on their brand, and a total of four superstars will make a surprise return or debut on the main roster.
From the red brand, seven participants have already been confirmed: Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, Braun Strowman, Chris Jericho and The New Day. It’s a no-brainer that Seth Rollins will be a participant. Still in the midst of a feud with Strowman, Sami Zayn will likely remain a thorn in his side during this match, and names like Big Cass and Rusev have seen too much TV time lately not to be involved in the Rumble. If Raw gets thirteen spots, that would only leave two spots for representation from 205 Live, which would almost certainly go to Neville and Rich Swann.
From the blue brand, the only confirmed participant is Baron Corbin. Some of the bigger names on SmackDown are almost certain to join him, including Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt, The Miz and Dean Ambrose. Luke Harper is likely to be included to round out The Wyatt Family, and the heel Dolph Ziggler will almost definitely have an impact in the match. They seem to be big on American Alpha and Apollo Crews, and the 30-man battle royal has been a signature match of Kane for over a decade. Kalisto has issues with both Ziggler and Corbin, so it would make sense for him to make an appearance, and James Ellsworth can easily be the guy who gets treated like a rag doll.
Using the aforementioned 26 wrestlers from Raw and SmackDown — while sprinkling in four surprise entrants that could come from either brand — what follows is one take on how the Royal Rumble Match should play out — with a few possible WrestleMania 33 main events that could result depending on the winners of the world title bouts and the battle royal.
The 2017 Royal Rumble Match
To get the WWE Universe on their feet from the get-go, Goldberg is revealed to be the No. 1 entrant in the main event. And instead of making the fans wait for the highly-anticipated confrontation, Brock Lesnar comes out as the second entrant. As the two stand face-to-face, the announcers say the same thing that most of the fans are thinking: it’s very possible that these two men could be the last two men after they eliminate 28 others.
However, just as the bell rings to officially start the match, Lesnar kicks Goldberg below the belt. The WCW icon is then easily disposed of, and Lesnar embarrasses him by tossing him out mere seconds after the match started. Lesnar ducks under the ropes and suplexes Goldberg three or four times before the countdown starts. Brock gets back in the ring just as the buzzer goes off, and it’s James Ellsworth. Obviously scared to face Lesnar one-on-one, Carmella has to encourage James just to get him in the ring.
Lesnar toys with Ellsworth in the ring after crushing him immediately. After a minute or so, however, as a beaten Ellsworth rolls under the bottom rope and to the floor, Goldberg gets back into the ring, unbeknownst to Lesnar. Brock turns around just in time to eat a spear from Goldberg, followed by a Jackhammer, which he finishes just as the buzzer goes off for the fourth entrant: Neville. Neville rushes to the ring to eliminate Lesnar, thus giving him bragging rights on 205 Live as the man who “slayed the beast” in the Royal Rumble Match. When Ellsworth gets back in the ring, Neville beats on him pretty severely until the buzzer goes off again, at which point Dean Ambrose enters the match.
Teasing the fans with the possibility of Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar in the Royal Rumble Match — and this time, allowing Lesnar to embarrass Goldberg, again without much of a match — the final showdown at WrestleMania 33 between Lesnar and Goldberg can build for months between the Rumble and Mania.
As soon as Dean Ambrose gets in the ring, he hits Ellsworth with Dirty Deeds and then tosses him over the ropes. Over the next few entrants, the ring begins to fill up: Dolph Ziggler, Xavier Woods, Bray Wyatt, Rich Swann, Luke Harper and Kofi Kingston make up the next six entries, without anyone getting eliminated. When Samoa Joe enters as a surprise at No. 12, it is announced that he has signed with Monday Night Raw. He hits the ring and immediately eliminates Neville, Swann and Xavier Woods. He almost eliminates Kingston, but Kofi pulls out his annual Royal Rumble spot to avoid his first elimination.
Seth Rollins enters at No. 13 and Kane is announced at No. 14. The Miz comes in at No. 15 and focuses on Dean Ambrose. When Braun Strowman enters the ring at No. 16, he is the eleventh man. He quickly finishes off Kingston for good and then does away with Kane. He also manages to eliminate Samoa Joe before turning his eyes to Bray Wyatt. Luke Harper attacks Strowman from behind, however, only to be eliminated himself. Baron Corbin comes in at No. 17 and gets in Strowman’s face, putting a temporary end to the mass exodus.
With seven men in the ring, Kalisto enters at No. 18 and goes right after Corbin. After landing one or two impressive offensive moves, The Lone Wolf eliminates Kalisto just as the buzzer goes off for the second NXT call-up and second surprise Raw signing: Bobby Roode. As Roode makes his lengthy, glorious entrance, Corbin manages to eliminate both Dolph Ziggler and The Miz before Bobby even makes it to the ring. As Big E joins the Rumble at No. 20, he gets in the ring with six men: Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman, Baron Corbin and Bobby Roode. Apollo Crews comes in at No. 21 and Jason Jordan follows at No. 22.
Then, with nine men in the ring, the first surprise from SmackDown enters: Kurt Angle. With everyone in shock, the Olympic Hero quickly eliminates both Big E and Apollo Crews before trading blows with former TNA nemesis, Bobby Roode. As Roode has Angle in a compromising position, Jason Jordan makes the save. Chad Gable comes in at No. 24, allowing Kurt Angle and American Alpha to stand together, teasing the new incarnation of the World’s Greatest Tag Team (Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin) under the tutelage of the Olympic Gold Medalist. When Chris Jericho comes in at No. 25 and gets into it with Angle, American Alpha double-team Y2J and eliminate him. When they look to Angle for his approval, he actually eliminates both Jordan and Gable, quickly putting to rest any ideas that he will be forming a stable with them.
When Big Cass joins the foray at No. 26, he’s the eighth man in the ring. At No. 27, the second surprise SmackDown entry comes out: The Undertaker. Bobby Roode and The Undertaker come face-to-face inside a ring for the first time in history. But moments later, the Dead Man eliminates the Glorious One. Rusev enters at No. 28 and goes straight for Big Cass, while Randy Orton comes in at No. 29 and prevents Bray Wyatt from being eliminated by Seth Rollins. As Baron Corbin turns his attention to The Undertaker, Sami Zayn comes in as the final entrant and goes after Strowman. Zayn knocks Braun out of the ring, but not over the top rope. Strowman brings a chair into the ring, lays into Zayn with it, and then tosses his lifeless body over the top ropes.
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With no one left to make an appearance, there are ten men still in the ring: Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman, Baron Corbin, Kurt Angle, Big Cass, The Undertaker, Rusev, and Randy Orton. Wyatt and Orton work together to eliminate Rusev and Big Cass, leaving six SmackDown superstars and just two Raw superstars in the final eight. Bray and Randy team up to take out Dean as well, giving the impression that the two of them may be able to work together to get to the end. But almost out of nowhere, Baron Corbin eliminates both of them. The Lone Wolf turns around and meets Strowman, however, who tosses Corbin.
The final four becomes Braun Strowman, The Undertaker, Seth Rollins and Kurt Angle. As Angle and Rollins are tied up in one corner, Strowman turns around and eyes The Undertaker. But as he’s doing so, Sami Zayn has just recovered from the chair-beating and decides to return the favor. He hits Strowman in the back with a chair, sending him into the hands of The Undertaker en route to his elimination. At WrestleMania 33, Strowman and Zayn put an end to their feud in a Stretcher Match.
Since Kurt Angle vs. AJ Styles is a match that happened several times in TNA, there’s no way Vince McMahon would allow it to go down again as a WrestleMania match. And while John Cena vs. Kurt Angle might be a good match to headline almost any other PPV of the year, it’s not big enough for Mania. So, the win has to go to The Undertaker or Seth Rollins.
The WrestleMania 33 Main Event(s)
Both John Cena vs. The Undertaker and Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins have been rumored for WrestleMania 33 — and there’s certainly no reason that those two matches can’t represent the two world title bouts at Mania, regardless of who ends up winning the Royal Rumble Match.
Assuming Seth Rollins wins the main event of the Royal Rumble, he would go on to face either Kevin Owens or Roman Reigns for the WWE Universal Championship. Either of those match-ups would work well from a story line perspective, especially since Rollins just wants the title to get after Triple H. His history with Roman Reigns in The Shield would make it easy to build a lot of drama for a WrestleMania 33 main event featuring Rollins vs. Reigns. But putting The Rock’s cousin in a main event Mania match against someone as beloved by the fans as Seth Rollins will only work if they’re ready to turn Roman full heel. It can certainly be a big-money match, but so could Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens, pitting one of Triple H’s former go-to guys against his most recent.
Then, of course, there’s John Cena vs. The Undertaker. While The Phenomenal One has certainly had an amazing first year in WWE, he’s still nowhere near the commercial value of guys like Cena and Taker. A match in which John Cena defends the WWE Championship at WrestleMania against The Undertaker — especially with the annual rumors that “this year’s WrestleMania will the Undertaker’s last” — will create more buzz than AJ Styles against anyone in the world of sports entertainment.
Where To Watch
WWE Monday Night Raw airs weekly on the USA Network at 8/7c. SmackDown LIVE airs on USA on Tuesday nights at 8/7c, immediately followed by 205 Live on the WWE Network.
WWE Royal Rumble 2017 will air live on the WWE Network on Sunday, January 29 at 8/7c. WrestleMania 33 is scheduled for Sunday, April 2, and will also air on the WWE Network.
[Featured Image by WWE]