The Royal Rumble is this Sunday and that means some of the best fantasy booking in the wrestling calendar. Trying to figure out/guess (and it’s almost always more of the latter) the lineup for the battle royal is always fun, as well as nearly impossible to pull off. That’s never stopped me before though so today we’re going to try to figure out who the final entrants are going to be.
As of this writing, twenty two spots are officially confirmed, leaving us wight eight spots to guess. Note that I’m NOT saying these will be the winners but just rather that they’ll be in the match.
1. Samoa Joe. This should be the layup of all layups as Samoa Joe hasn’t been around for a few weeks in NXT and it’s not like there’s anything else for him to do down there. He’s been ready to come to the main roster for the better part of ever so just let him debut here and move on to something huge.
2/3. American Alpha. This is the kind of act that would fit in perfectly and it’s not like they’ve got anything else to do at the moment. American Alpha hasn’t really done much since winning the titles and with no major feuds in sight at the moment, just throw them in the Rumble, let Jason Jordan suplex a few nobodies (and a few somebodies) in half and get rid of them fifteen minutes later.
At the end of the day, you need some people like this to fill in spots and it’s not like they’re hard to get. They’re going to pop the crowd with how fast they do everything and that’s the kind of action you need when the match is getting boring. Of course they don’t have a chance but that’s the kind of entrant that can make the match so much more fun. Would you rather it be someone exciting like Chad Gable or someone boring like Fandango?
4. James Ellsworth. This would be your resident comedy spot of the match and odds are he’ll be in there all of fifteen seconds while JBL gets in his jokes and “outrage” that someone like Ellsworth could be in the match. If nothing else it allows you to see what Carmella has put together with the whole fashion upgrade story. I mean, it’s not like that story makes sense but it could be good for a comedy moment or two.
Guys like Ellsworth have been in the Royal Rumble for years and they’re almost always a small highlight. It might not be up there with Santino Marella’s one second appearance but it could be something on par with Bushwhacker Luke lasting all of three seconds before being tossed out. It’ll come and go with nothing in between and that’s really all it needs to do.
5. Tye Dillinger. I might have to take back what I said about Samoa Joe being the biggest layup. Dillinger’s entire character is based around the number TEN and this is a match where a lot of the drama and storytelling is about the numbers. Somehow that might not be clear enough for WWE’s resident brain trust though and I could actually see them screwing this up.
It’s not like Dillinger needs to be promoted to the main roster full time and he can be sent right back down after this appearance (Rusev did the same thing in 2014 before debuting on the “Monday Night Raw” after “Wrestlemania XXX” in early April). Dillinger can show up, blow the roof off the place with the with the TEN schtick and then be eliminated like almost anyone else. It’s all about the entrance with him and that’s going to be a great debut for the character.
6. Rhyno. He’s already on the roster, he was in the battle royal to get in the match in the first place and he’s the kind of veteran who isn’t going to be hurt by a poor performance. Rhyno can come in, Gore a few people, and then be cannon fodder for some big monster who throws out Rhyno in “an impressive display of strength”.
This is the kind of valuable person it’s always good to have around. Rhyno is long past the point of meaning anything important (save for the Tag Team Title run which was a nice surprise) so let him be a warm body in the Rumble. I mean, a warm body with one heck of a Gore but a warm body nonetheless.
7. Shelton Benjamin. This was a name that was mentioned on WWE TV around the time of the Brand Split but it turned out that Benjamin needed surgery. I don’t know if he’s ready to go yet and the last match I can find for him is back in July but maybe he’s healthy enough to show up for a surprise entrance. Benjamin is forty one years old and well past his prime but if he can do a few things well enough, he’ll be fine.
This is probably a long shot but Benjamin was always one of my favorites. Even a Benjamin at half speed is still more exciting than a lot of wrestlers today as he was just so much more athletic than almost anyone else on the roster. As long as he isn’t the Gold Standard again, this would be perfectly fine.
8. JBL. I went back and forth between JBL and Shane McMahon for this one and I hope I’m right. They’ve been teasing JBL getting more physical lately and if you want him to come back for one more match in Texas (preferably before a well deserved Hall of Fame induction), this would be the best possible option.
JBL is one of those people who time has been kind to as he wasn’t all that great in the ring but he’s a borderline legend now and could give the fans a nice nostalgia pop. Let him be in there for five minutes (without Cole saying “this is the first time the JBL character has been in the Royal Rumble”, thereby making every fan’s brain explode at the stupidity) and then be out without doing much damage.
Now let’s take a quick look at who I DO NOT think I will in the match despite a lot of talk about them.
1. Kenny Omega. This is the big one as Omega is pretty easily the hottest commodity in the wrestling world right now. After an excellent match at “Wrestle Kingdom 11” and rumors of him being the focal point of a worldwide New Japan push, a lot of people expect him to sign with WWE, especially given some of Omega’s recent comments.
That being said, I just don’t think it happens. Between the possibility of his New Japan contract not being up until January 31 and how much WWE and Omega seem to be hinting at it happening, I don’t think we actually see it take place. Maybe I’m wrong and I’d be fine if I was, but I don’t think Omega appears just yet.
2. Finn Balor. I know a lot of people are expecting the John Cena 2008 idea here with Balor surprising everyone and coming back way sooner than announced but I think WWE is a little more serious with its injuries now. There’s no reason to have Balor come back if he’s not going to win the Royal Rumble so just let him show up at “Fastlane 2017” or on some episode of “Monday Night Raw”. Everything will still be fine and there’s less of a risk of re-injuring the shoulder.
3. Seth Rollins. Now I know it would make sense to have Rollins stay in the match but he’ll get something far more important: a talking segment with Stephanie McMahon and maybe even Triple H! You know how much you want to see the match and we might even get to find out why Triple H turned on Rollins FIVE WHOLE MONTHS AGO! Sure it’s stupid but the former multiple time World Champion gets to have a match with Triple H and you know what that could mean for him.
4. Shawn Michaels. No. Let it go already and move on. It’s just not happening.
5. Kurt Angle. If Angle is going to have a big match (and I’m not sure he will), I don’t think it’s going to be just appearing in the Royal Rumble. Let him be a Hall of Fame inductee and maybe do a match down the line. Don’t just throw him in there with no story and then have him get eliminated. It doesn’t help anything so don’t waste time on it.
The best part of the Royal Rumble is that I’ll probably be wrong on so many of these guesses. You can put together so many possible combinations for the Royal Rumble and there’s always the chance that they change the lineup around on the day of the match. It makes for a lot of fun and that makes for a very entertaining show.