By Darren Gutteridge
The Royal Rumble is my favorite type of match. It therefore saddens me to report that there hasn’t been a good one since 2010. That year, Edge returned to surprise everyone and win, but it also included other great surprises (the expertly done “was that supposed to happen?” elimination of Shawn Michaels, for example), standout moments (highlighted by the CM Punk sit-in), and true star power sprinkled throughout the match.
While on a now weekly tirade bemoaning the current state of WWE, I pointed out this belief of mine to a colleague. He said, “Well, how would you book the Rumble better?” I think he was expecting a quick run down of things that could happen. Instead, I went a little Beautiful Mind about the whole thing, and booked the Rumble match top to bottom.
So pleased am I with what I have produced, I thought I would map the whole thing out for your reading pleasure/disinterest/anger. The following is complete armchair quarterbacking, but I do truly believe I’ve put together a Rumble that everyone can enjoy, and adheres to the five key components of a good Rumble match.
- Four or five legit contenders to win going into the match (admittedly, this I can’t control, but this year WWE has done this at least)
- Meaningful surprises (I loathe the “oh, Jim Duggan is here! That will be fun for the 90 seconds he is in the match” style of surprise)
- No overfilling the ring with no purpose
- Planting seeds for several WrestleMania matches
- A killer finish
To clarify the status of where we are going into the Rumble, the only prerequisites from the undercard are AJ Styles losing the WWE Championship to John Cena, and Kevin Owens retaining the WWE Universal Title defeating Roman Reigns thanks in some part to Chris Jericho. Here we go!
Mojo Rawley is entrant No. 1. Luke Harper is entrant No. 2. This isn’t ideal, as this was originally going to be The Miz and Enzo Amore, but I’m going to include everyone already announced for the match, so Harper and Mojo had to be slotted somewhere. These two can be an entertaining,”no, I’m the bigger man” showdown to begin. Big Cass is entrant No. 3. Why not throw another big man into the mix, this time with a nuclear excited Enzo at ringside?
What’s that? Flight of the Valkyries?! It can’t be Daniel Bryan, can it?! The Miz is entrant No. 4. I have seen this elsewhere, particularly on What Culture Wrestling’s booking video, but I think it is too good to ignore – Miz should enter to Bryan’s music, furthering their feud. He soaks in the boos while swanning his way to the ring, only to eat a Big Boot when he gets in the ring, flying straight back out of the ring.
The Miz is eliminated by Big Cass
Rusev is entrant No. 5. This is where the real story of the first third begins. Rusev runs in, but also gets hit by a Big Boot from Cass. Cass then helps Mojo eliminate Harper.
Luke Harper is eliminated by Mojo and Cass.
Once Harper is out Rusev upends both Mojo and Cass, which the commentators sell as a major moment, having eliminated two seven-footers in one go.
Mojo Rawley and Big Cass are eliminated by Rusev.
So Rusev is looking good, right? Here comes a big test. Big Show is entrant No. 6. Show was a late addition here, but ultimately he doesn’t need momentum to sell his Mania match with Shaq. So in order to keep up Rusev’s momentum, and with great difficulty, Rusev eliminates Show before the next entrant.
Show is eliminated by Rusev
Kurt Angle is entrant No. 7. Yep, I’m using my only true surprise of the Rumble to bring back the 2017 Hall of Famer. I’m not overly enamored with Angle wrestling again due to his health concerns, but if he is truly good to go, I can map out three matches for him before he retires, starting here. It’s patriotic, with the American coming back to take care of the foreign menace, but it will go down huge in the Alamodome. They brawl and even though Rusev seems to have the upper hand, Angle escapes elimination and clotheslines Rusev over the top.
Rusev is eliminated by Kurt Angle
We let things sink in for a second, hopefully to a huge ovation as Rusev loses it and Angle soaks it in. Chris Jericho is entrant No. 8. What else do WWE fans like? Attitude Era nostalgia, and they get it with a return to Angle vs. Jericho.
This is where some necessary ring filling takes place.
Cesaro is entrant No. 9. Then, ten. Tye Dillinger is entrant No. 10. It’s on the nose, but worth it. Dillinger is never going to be WWE Champion, but he can have great moments like this one.
Xavier Woods, Sheamus, Big E and Kofi Kingston are entrants No. 11, 12, 13 and 14. This is as full as the ring ever gets, with eight people. For good reason, though.
Brock Lesnar is entrant No. 15. Let the cleaning commence! Straight away, Lesnar eliminates Woods and Cesaro.
Xavier Woods and Cesaro are eliminated by Brock Lesnar
So intricate is my Rumble booking, I have even made use of the annual Kofi elimination escapes! For the first, he is blasted off the apron, landing on Cesaro in a Lou Thesz press position, without touching the ground. Cesaro shrugs, and sets Kofi up for the Swing. Big E, who has been flattened by Lesnar, reaches a hand out from under the bottom rope, catching Kofi’s outstretched hand. Woods hits Cesaro with Francesca, Kofi lands on his back, and is hauled back into the ring.
With everyone down (Jericho is adopting the Road Dogg strategy of just hugging the bottom rope in the corner), Angle steps up to face the rampaging beast. We relive WrestleMania 19 for a few seconds, as Angle and Lesnar start going hold for hold.
Dolph Ziggler is entrant No. 16. Dolph sees the King Kong vs. Godzilla match happening, and decides to wait it out on the outside, lying down on the barricade. Angle gets an Ankle Lock on Lesnar, but Lesnar rolls through, and drills Angle over the top rope.
Kurt Angle is eliminated by Brock Lesnar
With Lesnar down temporarily selling his ankle, Dolph sees an opportunity to eliminated Dillinger, who is lying prone against the ropes. Ziggler slides in, but Dillinger pulls down the top rope to eliminate Ziggler quickly.
Dolph Ziggler is eliminated by Tye Dillinger
Tye flashes the “10” sign at Ziggler, but turns round into a lariat from Lesnar.
Tye Dillinger is eliminated by Brock Lesnar
Ziggler beats up Dillinger on the floor, leading to a no-brainer feud between the Perfect 10 and the Show Off. Goldberg is entrant No. 17. Goldberg beelines for Lesnar, gets right in his face, but then both men are attacked by the New Day. Goldberg throws Big E out.
Big E is eliminated by Goldberg
Kofi’s second escape again involves him flying over the top, into the waiting arms of Big E. He puts him back in the ring, but he is taken straight out for good by Goldberg.
Kofi Kingston is eliminated by Goldberg
This plants seeds for a Big E heel turn down the line, frustrated at Kofi for getting saved twice only to fail. Lesnar and Goldberg square up again, but this time Sheamus attacks them both. Goldberg fights him back to the ropes, and manages to hurl him out.
Sheamus is eliminated by Goldberg
As the 10 second countdown begins, Goldberg turns around, and Lesnar hits him with a clothesline. Goldberg manages to hook Lesnar’s head though, so the momentum takes both men out.
Brock Lesnar and Goldberg eliminate each other
These two created a problem for me, so I solved it by having them both look dominant, before taking each other out. For those keeping score, only Jericho is left in the ring. However, with the clock at “03”, it stops. The commentators sell the confusion, saying the word backstage was that the clock was forced to be reset. A few moments later, the clock reappears.
Triple H is entrant No. 18. Triple H, with a big old smile, walks past a brawling Goldberg and Lesnar, tapping his head. The commentators put it together that, having seen the two biggest threats dumped out, Triple H inserted himself into the match here, restarting the clock. It is a little bit of a logic jump (forced upon me by Rollins dropping out), as given full control Trips would enter at 30, but he did that last year, plus this is something never before seen in a Rumble. He and Jericho go at it like it is 2002 all over again.
Randy Orton is entrant No. 19. Former best buds Orton and Triple H double team Jericho. Dean Ambrose is entrant No. 20. Dean beelines at Triple H, while Orton peels off to Jericho.
Luke Gallows is entrant No. 21. Gallows is now Orton’s target, as Triple H and Ambrose carry on trying to destroy each other and Jericho goes back into hiding.
Bray Wyatt is entrant No. 22. Things boil down to a brawl between Ambrose and Wyatt, Orton and Gallows going at it, and Triple H trying to boot Jericho out.
Orton drops Gallows with the RKO, and then goes to help Wyatt eliminate Ambrose who is halfway over. However, Ambrose hits Wyatt with a forearm, sending him a few steps away, draped over the ropes, and as Orton leavers Ambrose up, Ambrose catches Wyatt with a head-scissors, eliminating him while he lands safely on the apron.
Bray Wyatt is eliminated by Dean Ambrose
Orton looks shocked, but he is then clattered by a big boot from Gallows.
Randy Orton is eliminated by Luke Gallows
This continues the tension between the Wyatt family members. Karl Anderson is entrant No. 23. The Club quickly align themselves with Triple H, and start to work over Ambrose. As Triple H slides out to grab a sledgehammer, Gallows and Anderson hold Ambrose down on his knees. Triple H slides in, and with his back to the ramp, motions to nail Ambrose with the hammer. However, Seth Rollins music plays, and Rollins walks out. Triple H is distracted, and Ambrose manages to escape by low blowing Gallows and headbutting Anderson, moving quickly enough to upend Triple H and dump him out.
Triple H is eliminated by Dean Ambrose
Triple H is irate, and he and Rollins brawl up the ramp to the back. Ambrose, who was hurling abuse at Triple H, turns around into a sledgehammer low blow from Gallows, before Anderson grabs him and throws him out.
Dean Ambrose is eliminated by Karl Anderson
The Club are standing tall, with only the cowering in the corner Jericho left! AJ Styles is entrant No. 24. Gallows and Anderson sit on the rope to let AJ in. They go for a Too Sweet, but then attack Styles. They can be heard shouting “Loser!”, “How can you let John Cena beat you!?”, and other such things at him, rejecting him for losing his title earlier in the night. They look to eliminated him.
Samoa Joe is entrant No. 25. Joe will hopefully get a mega pop, and slides in the ring, taking it to Gallows and Anderson. He and AJ come face to face, and though they linger for a second, there is a fist bump between the two. Team TNA are taking over!
Sami Zayn is entrant No. 26. Sami looks like he is about to jump into the Club vs. Joe and AJ business, but he gets hit in the ribs with the sledgehammer from behind by Jericho (who had taken possession of it earlier), who uses this as his chance to get an elimination. Meanwhile, Samoa Joe gets his first elimination.
Karl Anderson is eliminated by Samoa Joe
This is quickly followed by Joe and AJ both getting Gallows out.
Luke Gallows is eliminated by Samoa Joe and AJ Styles
Braun Strowman is entrant No. 27. Things aren’t going to get easier for anyone. Strowman starts taking both AJ and Joe on, nearly eliminating one before the other makes the save.
Kane is entrant No. 28. Kane and Strowman have a face off, which again comes off in Strowman’s favour. Jericho, who has returned to his hiding place, is picked up and shoved off the apron, but as he didn’t go over the top rope, he isn’t eliminated.
This brings out Owens, who runs to Jericho’s aid.
Baron Corbin is entrant No. 29. Corbin slides in amidst the destruction, and is eyeballed by Strowman. However, Corbin starts gesturing at everyone else, and offer Strowman a handshake, which Strowman accepts. They pick up AJ, and throw him out.
AJ Styles is eliminated by Strowman and Corbin.
They do the same to Joe, who tries to fight them off but is eventually finished off.
Samoa Joe is eliminated by Strowman and Corbin.
As Strowman hits Zayn with the reverse Chokeslam, setting up a seemingly easy elimination, and while Corbin works over Kane, a gong goes off.
The Undertaker is entrant No. 30. Taker comes out, and is greeted by Strowman. Corbin joins Strowman’s side, before Kane stands side by side with his brother. Then the brawl ensues!
With Corbin and Kane brawling in the corner, Zayn down selling and Strowman looking like he is about to eliminate the Undertaker, Owens tells Jericho to get back in there and get Strowman out. Jericho reluctantly goes for it, but he immediately finds out he can’t lift Strowman, who gives him the death stare. Owens jumps on the opposite apron to shout at Strowman. Owens gets blindsided by Corbin, and accidentally pulls the rope down, which Jericho sails over after being launched by Strowman.
Chris Jericho is eliminated by Braun Strowman.
Finally snapping after helping Owens earlier, Jericho hits Owens with a Codebreaker, leaving him lying at ringside (where he stays). Back in the ring, a quick flurry of punches from Zayn to Corbin is ended quickly by a Deep Six. Now the pairs switch slightly, with Corbin working Taker, and Strowman working Kane.
Strowman and Kane attempt to out-power each other, a battle Strowman wins when he picks Kane up in vertical suplex style, dumping him over the top rope.
Kane is eliminated by Braun Strowman
Taker fights out of an elimination, and hits Corbin with a chokeslam. It then becomes Taker vs. Strowman for a while, and it is a battle that Taker is looking to be winning. He gets under Strowman, and is about to haul him over when Strowman escapes, and Taker eats a big boot from the onrushing Corbin!
The Undertaker is eliminated by Baron Corbin
Shock elimination! But, Corbin spends too long gloating at a retreating Undertaker, and is thrown out from behind by Strowman.
Baron Corbin is eliminated by Braun Strowman
This leaves Strowman with one person left to eliminate – Sami Zayn, who is down selling in the corner. Strowman just looks at him, and smiles.
This starts the longest run of near eliminations ever, as Sami hangs on by the skin of his teeth every time. After about 5 near misses, Zayn fires up with punches. He takes a knee to the stomach however, which sends him to the ropes clutching his ribs. But, as Strowman charges in for the kill, Zayn gets underneath him, and though it takes everything he has, Zayn eventually gets Strowman up and over.
Sami Zayn wins the 2017 Royal Rumble by eliminating Braun Strowman
The places goes bananas, the usual fireworks go off, and we close with a shot of Kevin Owens waking up, looking up at Zayn pointing at the WrestleMania sign, staring at Owens with a smile on his face.
Phew. Glad I got that out there! I genuinely think this Rumble can create such a good buzz, and lead to a fantastic WrestleMania. I haven’t mapped the whole thing out, but here are matches that could come out of this Rumble:
- An Undertaker title win at the Elimination Chamber, wherein he pins Corbin second to last to avenge his elimination here, before pinning Cena. This sets up Taker vs. Cena at Mania. There is even room for the elusive Cena heel turn, something he has to do to win his record breaking 17th WWE Title, finally cheating to beat a retiring Undertaker in a moment befitting the end of the Deadman’s career in the main event of Mania 33.
- Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens, via an Owens vs. Jericho match at Fastlane.
- Kurt Angle vs. Rusev, with Rusev winning (Angle’s run could also take in a six-man tag, where he teams with American Alpha to take on the Wyatts prior to their implosion)
- AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe, who betrays AJ in the Chamber after a glorious month of teaming together
- Seth Rollins vs. Triple H
- Lesnar vs. Goldberg. I’d even throw Roman in there too, so Roman can pin Goldberg and take the prestige of beating the guy who beat the guy who beat the streak without Lesnar taking a loss
- A New Day breakup, wherein Big E and maybe even Woods turn on Kofi
- A mini feud between Ziggler and Dillinger
I am open to any and all criticisms. I know it isn’t perfect, and I’d change a few things if I wasn’t being strict about including everyone announced, particular swapping out Triple H for Rollins as was the original plan until the last minute change. Tyler Bate would certainly be in there too given room. But please, do let me know your thoughts and opinions on Twitter – @TheGutteridge.