Please note: I penned this article on Sunday, looking ahead at WWE Royal Rumble 2015. Now that we're in the middle of the week, I wanted to run it again. Feel free to let us know your comments in the area designated below.
The Road to Wrestlemania 31 begins in just over one week with the Royal Rumble pay-per-view. Obviously all eyes will be on the show as we should get a clear picture of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at WWE’s pay-per-view of the year.
I’ve mentioned on a number of occasions that WWE has left their options open by inserting Seth Rollins into John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar but it’s the 30-man Royal Rumble match itself I went to focus in on.
To date, 10 participants have been announced for the match. They are as follows: Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan, Rusev, Bray Wyatt, Bad News Barrett, Dean Ambrose, Goldust, Stardust, Big Show and Kane.
We reported here on WrestlingNewsWorld.com Premium on January 6, 2015 that Triple H and Vince McMahon were in agreement on Reigns winning the Royal Rumble match.
Below is an excerpt from that exclusive report:
The biggest note is that sources have told us that Vince and Hunter are in agreement on Roman Reigns winning the Royal Rumble match and going on to challenge for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania 31. The current plan is for Reigns to be WWE World Heavyweight Champion after Wrestlemania 31 in March.
Some within the company expect Daniel Bryan to outshine Reigns and be the guy fans end up wanting in that spot. It will be interesting to see how WWE features Bryan in the next few months as there is concern his popularity could hurt Reigns’ ability to fill the top babyface role.
The quandary is clear. Reigns has been chosen but Daniel Bryan looms.
Multiple signs point to Reigns challenging Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania 31. But remember, it’s not even confirmed that Lesnar will be WWE World Heavyweight Champion in March. With him possibly leaving WWE after Wrestlemania (he hasn't signed a contract extension at press time), the company must at least consider Lesnar dropping the belt at Royal Rumble.
Regardless, Reigns has been tabbed as “the chosen one” and promotional material reflects that:
This leads me to my picks to win the 30-man Royal Rumble match by scenario.
The expected scenario…
If there is any doubt on Roman Reigns following up on his performance from last year, where he was scripted to eliminate 12 participants (breaking Kane’s record of 11 in 2001), he’s clearly listed as the favorite going in to this year’s match. The elevation of Reigns isn’t something that happened overnight.
Reigns was tabbed early on for big things, specifically when Triple H vetoed a pitch made by CM Punk for Kassius Ohno to be a member of The Shield faction in 2012 to include the former college football standout. Reigns, who never really impressed in NXT, joined Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose and saved his best work for the main roster. I remember speaking with sources after Reigns debuted and was told his work on the main roster was far superior to anything he ever did in developmental.
The story here is clear in that Reigns will do what John Cena couldn’t and win the title from The Beast that ended in the streak. The thinking is, Reigns will take the burning torch and carry WWE for years to come as their new top talent.
With that, he’s our favorite to win the 2015 Royal Rumble.
The fan favorite scenario…
As we mentioned in our Premium report in early January, Daniel Bryan’s return creates an opportunity and with that opportunity comes an issue. Will Bryan’s undeniable popularity force WWE’s hand?
After missing 8 months with what he thought could be a career-ending injury, Daniel Bryan has returned and he’s over like rover. In fact, sources indicate that Vince McMahon is “shocked” that Bryan hasn’t missed a beat.
Below is an excerpt from last week's Backstage Raw News:
Vince McMahon is said to be “completely sold” on Daniel Bryan and was “shocked” that he’s been able to maintain his strong babyface crowd reactions, even after missing so much time. While one observer noted he might not be considered the face of the company, Vince remains impressed.
In storyline, Bryan will face Kane this week on Smackdown in a rematch. If he loses, he loses his Rumble spot. WWE has picked back up on The Authority "holding Bryan down," giving them heat and keeping the leader of the Yes Movement as the company’s most over babyface.
There is little doubt that Bryan is more of a babyface than Roman Reigns but will it be enough for WWE to alter the master plan involving their chosen one? Will WWE correct their error from last year — when Daniel Bryan wasn’t even in the Royal Rumble — and have him win it?
Bryan has been very clear - the match he wants is one against Brock Lesnar. Technically, he never lost the WWE World Heavyweight Championship after vacating it due to injury. The story of Bryan vs. Brock at Wrestlemania is one of total redemption and gives Bryan his second "Wrestlemania moment" in as many years.
Daniel Bryan is our fan favorite to win the 2015 Royal Rumble.
The surprise scenario…
Randy Orton was written off TV via a Curb Stomp from Seth Rollins in early November 2014 to film the starring role in The Condemned 2. He returned at holiday live events in late December but has been held off TV due to a reported deviated septum. The plan is apparently for him to return as a babyface. Could WWE hold him off TV and re-debut him as a surprise Royal Rumble entrant and put him over?
Nothing would propel Orton back to a top spot like his second Royal Rumble win (he won Royal Rumble 2009). This scenario would also be effective if Seth Rollins went in to Wrestlemania 31 as WWE World Heavyweight Champion as WWE would be able to pick up on their program, with the stakes clearly being raised for the title.
This scenario does carry a large degree of risk, as the wrestling savvy crowd in Philadelphia could turn on Orton like they turned on Batista and backfire big time. However, Orton’s multiple month absence from WWE television leaves him as a surprise option.
For these reasons, Randy Orton is our surprise to win the 2015 Royal Rumble.
The swerve scenario…
What would any “big four” WWE pay-per-view event be without a swerve scenario? This year WWE has plenty of options for a dark horse to win the Royal Rumble. The three “fired” workers that comprised Team Cena at Survivor Series but were “put in their place” by The Authority loom as possible surprise entrants and have arguments for victory. Those workers - Dolph Ziggler, Ryback and Erick Rowan - are all in the midst of at least upper mid-card elevations.
Ziggler would have the best chance of “popping" the Philly crowd due to wrestling savvy fans clamoring for more from him for years. Ryback has found traction in the gimmick that should have been given to him when he was first elevated a few years back. Rowan still feels a bit out of place and probably has the lowest chance of anyone listed.
Then there’s Sheamus. Sheamus was originally scripted to be a member of Team Cena at Survivor Series but an injury wrote him off TV. He’s another former Royal Rumble winner (he won in 2012) that has to be considered.
Credible arguments could be made for Rusev or Bray Wyatt or most certainly Dean Ambrose. WWE has a myriad of options for their swerve scenario that should keep the intrigue of this year’s Royal Rumble match very high.
Obviously, as is the case with the surprise scenario, a swerve risks the crowd turning. Last year, the crowd turned on Batista in a big way and WWE ruined one of their biggest pay-per-views of the year by refusing to listen to their audience.
There is no way WWE wants to go down that road again and for that reason, we’re labeling a swerve scenario as unlikely.
All and all, our favorites to win the Royal Rumble match are Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton (in that order). The three “fired” workers must be considered as threats to win as do the likes of Sheamus, Rusev, Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt.
The good thing is WWE has left their options open and there is no sure thing this year. Whoever goes over will obviously go a long way in shaping the card for this year’s Wrestlemania 31 pay-per-view and will face enormous pressure in helping “carry the torch” into the next era.