By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Join me for my live review of the WWE Royal Rumble beginning with either a Kickoff Show match or with the start of the main card at 7CT/8ET. Dot Net Members (including our Patreon patrons) will have exclusive access to the same night audio review co-hosted by Jake Barnett and I later tonight.
Men’s Royal Rumble match: The Rock? Cody Rhodes? Sami Zayn? We’ll get back to that in a moment. Reports indicate that Steve Austin could be in play for WrestleMania again this year. That’s great, but I don’t need to see Stone Cold challenging for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship at WrestleMania in 2023. The same holds true for WWE 2K23 cover boy John Cena. The Rock is another story. He’s one of the biggest stars in the world today and the Head of the Table story clearly started with the idea of Rock eventually showing up to stake his claim. If The Rock wants to face Roman Reigns at WrestleMania, then The Rock should face Roman Reigns at WrestleMania. Spare me any feedback about it not being the match that you want to see. This isn’t about you. It’s about the masses. And Roman Reigns vs. The Rock is the biggest match that WWE could deliver.
But what if The Rock declined? For me, it really does come down to Cody Rhodes or Sami Zayn. I’ve spent all week discussing the outcome of this match in various podcasts. I’ve typically settled on Cody winning in his comeback match. Yet here we are just hours away from showtime and my heart is telling me that the story of Cody trying to win the championship that eluded his father can wait. Heck, it might be better to see him embark on a long journey rather than accomplish his only stated goal so quickly. The company has months of great television invested in the Sami Zayn and Bloodline saga. Let’s face it, if Zayn had a more conventional WWE wrestler look, we’d all see him as a slam dunk choice to face Reigns at WrestleMania.
We’re all suffering from Post Traumatic Vince McMahon Syndrome. We knew what Vince wanted from his top guys. We remember how hard he fought the fans on the Daniel Bryan push before he finally caved. And while we know that the tyrannosaurus rex skull is no longer the only fossil occupying Vince’s once abandoned office, this is still Paul Levesque’s show to run (for now?). So why not Sami Zayn? Why not pay off one of the greatest WWE stories this company has ever told by headlining WrestleMania with Roman Reigns vs. Sami Zayn? It’s WrestleMania Hollywood. If you can’t get the biggest movie star on the planet, then there’s nothing more Hollywood than a classic underdog tale.
Sami Zayn wins the Men’s Royal Rumble (unless The Rock wants to play).
Women’s Royal Rumble match: Rhea Ripley or bust. Sure, Becky Lynch is always an option, but she’s one of the most popular wrestlers in the company and doesn’t need a Royal Rumble win. In fact, I’d love to see The Man stay out of the title matches at WrestleMania this year. Give me Lynch vs. Ronda Rousey while we get some fresh challengers for the Raw and Smackdown Women’s Championships. I don’t know if they’ll go that far with it, but I am hopeful that this is Mami’s night.
Rhea Ripley wins the Women’s Royal Rumble match.
Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship: The outcome of the match doesn’t feel like much of a mystery, especially after Owens guaranteed that he would essentially give it everything he has rather than actually vowing to win. Even so, Owens and Reigns have had some great matches in the past and this should be no exception. The real question is what type of developments they have in store for the Sami Zayn saga. Is this the end of the road for Sami in The Bloodline? Does Sami save Roman one more time? Does Sami choose his best friend over the Tribal Chief? If nothing else, I feel confident in predicting that…
Roman Reigns retains the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship.
Bianca Belair vs. Alexa Bliss for the Raw Women’s Championship: Bliss has been so rough in the ring that I’m hoping for a quick and painless brawl. I assume we’ll get some craziness related to Bliss being controlled by Bray Wyatt or Uncle Howdy, but there’s just no reason to put the title on her this close to WrestleMania.
Bianca Belair retains the Raw Women’s Championship.
Bray Wyatt vs. LA Knight in a Pitch Black match: When I think of wrestlers who would gleefully have a match sponsored by a soda company, the Wyatt character is at the bottom of the list. Anyway, we have no idea what this match is. A blindfold match? A cinematic match that eventually ends up in the ring? We do know that it’s Wyatt’s first televised match since his return to the company. Therefore, I’m curious to see what he and the creative forces have come up with. I’m going with Wyatt to win, but it’s worth nothing that he was on the receiving end of a Sister Abigail the only time that Uncle Howdy got physical. So it is at least possible that Wyatt dominates the match, yet the mysterious Uncle Howdy costs him the win. Either way, here’s hoping that Knight’s strong performances in this role as well as when he made Maximum Male Models worth watching will lead to bigger and better things coming out of this feud.
Bray Wyatt and diabetes win.
Jason, do you think they will have Reigns defend both belts on separate nights at Wrestlemania? I think they should do that and have Sami win one of them after winning the Rumble. I agree with you that the Rock vs Reigns should be on Mania if they can get Dwayne to appear, but I wouldn’t have him get there by winning the Rumble. I would like a long break from part-timers walking in and winning it.
I think it could work for Roman to defend against Sami AND the Rock. Perhaps losing the Raw belt to Sami and then getting his heat back by defeating the Rock for the SD belt. I know it would probably be the opposite, but Sami deserves the title run and the Rock doesn’t need it at all. Keep the Bloodline on SD and see what Sami can do with Raw against some fresh opponents.
2 world champs in one company. It was stupid before and its stupid now. One champion … make the WWE championship mean something …
If you’re actually going to split the belts, then do the double feet hit the ground Rumble finish and give both guys, Cody and Sami, a title shot at Mania.
If not, and I wouldn’t, then it’s probably better to go with Cody with the Sami turn used to get the belts off the Uso’s and deplete Roman’s interference advantage going into the title match.
Glad I’m not the only one who notices that Bliss, whilst cute and thus popular amongst a certain demographic, is a callback to the old Diva days of people who can’t go in the ring.
Rhea or bust indeed. Sometimes the obvious call is the right call.
It won’t be Rhea. Guaranteed. Rhea’s match at Mania is already set. V Beth Phoenix. Beth is in San Antonio and will cost her the Rumble. You watch.
Okay I was wrong. And I’m disappointed because I really wanted Rhea v Beth at Wrestlemania.