Last night at WrestleMania 33, many a fan was shocked to see SmackDown Live mid-carder Mojo Rawley win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal in the event’s kickoff show. Although WWE Creative has given him a better push as a singles wrestler in recent months, his battle royal win came as a surprise to those who were expecting Braun Strowman, or maybe even Big Show, to win the 33-man, over-the-top-rope match. Does this mean an even bigger push is coming for this NFL defensive lineman-turned-pro wrestler?
For those who missed it at WrestleMania 33, this year’s Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal fittingly featured 33 men, including a good percentage of the SmackDown Live brand’s mid-card and guest performers such as NXT standout Killian Dain of the Sanity faction. With overwhelming favorite Braun Strowman eliminated by practically everyone else who was in the ring with him, it was down to a final three of Rawley, Dain, and Monday Night RAW lower-carder Jinder Mahal.
As WWE’s official website related, Rawley and Mahal went through the middle ropes (thus not getting eliminated) to brawl outside the ring, prompting Mojo’s real-life friend Rob Gronkowski to get involved after Mahal grabbed Gronkowski’s cup of water and spilled its contents on him. The New England Patriots tight end then jumped into the ring to hit Mahal with a shoulder tackle, allowing Rawley to eliminate Dain, then Mahal to win the Andre battle royal at WrestleMania 33.
Although Mojo Rawley’s victory at the Andre the Giant Battle Royal does serve as a good “WrestleMania moment” for the 30-year-old big man, many have pointed out that success going forward after winning this annual match is pretty much hit-or-miss.
As Bleacher Report recalled in February, inaugural winner Cesaro won the battle royal at WrestleMania XXX in 2014, but he failed to make the desired impact when he became the latest “Paul Heyman Guy.” He has since gone on to be a part of successful tag teams with Tyson Kidd, then with Sheamus, though he remains largely a mid-card competitor to this day. In 2015, Big Show won the match, though many argued that the veteran and future Hall of Famer didn’t need the win as much as Damien Sandow (aka Aron Rex in Impact Wrestling), who eliminated erstwhile partner The Miz, only to get thrown off the top rope by Big Show to finish second in WrestleMania 31’s Andre battle royal.
A year later, Baron Corbin made his WWE main roster debut by winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 32, and he’s since become a rising star on SmackDown Live, despite losing to WWE Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose in the WrestleMania 33 kickoff show. Considering Corbin’s success since his battle royal win, there may be a chance Mojo Rawley makes it two in a row for Andre the Giant Battle Royal winners getting a better push going forward.
According to the April 3 issue of the members-only Wrestling Observer Newsletter, one sign that Mojo Rawley may be getting a big push on SmackDown Live is his booking on a March 28 house show, just five days before WrestleMania. Based on the Wrestling Observer’s notes on that show, Rawley was “booked to be the star” of a 10-man tag team match, where he teamed up with American Alpha, Heath Slater, and Rhyno against The Usos, Breezango, and Dolph Ziggler. With Rawley getting the hot tag and commentators focusing on him ahead of the other wrestlers, Mojo was able to get the pinfall victory for his team, taking Breezango’s Tyler Breeze out with a running forearm.
Could this, as well as Mojo Rawley’s Andre the Giant battle royal win at WrestleMania 33 be a sign of bigger things to come? To borrow his catchphrase, it’s hard not to “stay hyped” about this young competitor, though the only way to find out would be to keep watching SmackDown Live and see if he moves up a SmackDown Live mid-card that features the more experienced likes of Dolph Ziggler, Kalisto, Luke Harper, and others.
[Featured Image by WWE]