A New Chapter for the Royal Rumble
Welcome to the Cool Points.
Been a long time (long time)…shouldn’t a left you (left you)….
Just in time for the second “premium live event” of the year, it’s JCool back in action with some thoughts to share on the 2022 Royal Rumble, from the Friday Night Smackdown perspective. I’ve been following the show, reviewing the Rumble’s recent history and I realized something.
The WWE Universe is getting an impressive card on Saturday and while the results may not be too surprising, the match quality and storyline interest should be very high. Let’s take a look at what we’re getting ourselves into.
Women’s Royal Rumble: A First Time For…
The fifth Women’s Royal Rumble. This is the most interesting match of the show because there are multiple directions this match could go, and a number of surprises that could.
First, a little context for this fifth women’s Royal Rumble. Past champions include Asuka (RAW), Becky Lynch (SDOWN), Charlotte Flair (RAW) and Bianca Belair (SDOWN). If the trend continues, we’ll see a Raw roster member win.
There are presently 7 open spots in the 30-woman match. Normally, those spots go to returning stars, but WWE has already announced 3 HOFs, and 3 legends. A few of these will be nXt stars, but rumours are flying about Ronda Rousey returning. That would certainly provide the kind of shock WWE has aimed to make at the Royal Rumble in recent years.
Where it is often the case that surprise entrants return simply for the shock factor alone, or to kickstart a feud for the road to Wrestlemania, having a surprise entrant win would be a unique decision. In a time where it sometimes seem like everything has already been done, Rousey would be a perfect candidate for this.
Another first would see current Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair become the first champion to win a Rumble since Hulk Hogan did in 1990. The practice of the winner getting a championship match hadn’t started at that point. Charlotte has already said, though, that if she wins, she will hand-pick her opponent for Mania. That presents some interesting possibilities, including her and GM Sonya Deville colluding to make life miserable for Naomi. They recently fought on Smackdown and fan support seems to be swelling for the Glow, who hasn’t been champion since 2017.
With the amount of TV time she has received in recent weeks, Naomi could be a crowd favourite to win, depending on who’s left in the match when the numbers lower to the final four or five.
The only other Smackdown woman who has a decent shot at winning is Sasha Banks, who just announced her spot this evening. Given her status as one of the four horsewomen, it would seem to be a matter of time before she adds Royal Rumble winner to her resume. Furthermore, with Banks often being the loser in big matches, a Rumble win would be a great way to counter the arguments that she can’t win when it really counts.
Acknowledge Roman vs. Seth as a Turning Point
Who else can’t stand Seth “Freakin” Rollins these days? I thought Roman Reigns, the WWE Universal Champion, was supposed to be the big baddie these days. Watching Rollins tease and laugh, and play with Roman’s emotions, these are all heel moves. He spent half of 2021 making fan favourite Edge’s life miserable. After that, he got involved with Big E, challenging him at live shows for the WWE Championship.
Watching the final face to face between he and Reigns, I found myself wondering if I wanted either one of them to win. I watched Reigns react to Rollins’ reminder of how he broke up the Shield with a chair shot. Those memories made me think of how hated Rollins was in that moment, and the months that followed, as he became the Authority’s golden star.
So, after months of booing Reigns (and Heyman) and wanting to see the title reign end, I think it would be even worse to see Rollins as the champion going into the road to Wrestlemania. Besides, if we’re supposed to get Reigns vs. Lesnar finally, without Covid complications, Reigns can’t lose. And he might end up being cheered a little bit Saturday night, too. Such a strange title match. It’s almost heel vs. heel.
Men’s Royal Rumble:
The odds of a Smackdown-exclusive wrestler winning the Rumble this year aren’t great, even though the last 3 winners have hailed from the RAW brand (Edge, McIntyre, Rollins). If we’re looking at Smackdown stars who have had consistent TV time and prominent status on the shows, there are three main feuds:
– Sami Zayn and Shinsuke Nakamura (IC Champ), which has had some celebrity added with Johnny Knoxville’s role in recent weeks. That would suggest a feature spot in the Rumble, but not one that leads to a win for anyone connected to it, no matter how much you enjoy Rick Boogs’ wailing rock voice and guitar soloing.
– Sheamus and Ricochet, and it would be no surprise to see Cesaro and Ridge Holland added to two of the five open spots in the Rumble. Though the feud has produced some decent TV matches, there’s not enough momentum here for anyone to be considered a title contender.
– Happy Baron Corbin and Madcap Moss have been getting time for their own talk show and backstage segments, but it’s mostly in a comic role and they can’t be taken seriously as a threat to Roman Reigns or anyone else.
Somebody has noticed that I haven’t mentioned Drew McIntyre. He’s certainly a threat to Reigns, and they just fought a great match at Survivor Series. He’s also a threat to Lesnar, having defeated him handily at Wrestlemania 36. His big title win was void of the emotional outpouring of an audience, since it was held at the WWE PC at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. He’d do well to face either one of them.
Unfortunately, he’s dealing with a neck injury at present, so this option that may have been on the WWE’s radar has to be set aside.
Would the WWE have a surprise entrant on the men’s side win on the same night as a potential surprise women’s entrant wins? That would be a first. Honestly, it would be appropriate for an event that works best when it can shock the audience. We all remember how awful the crowd response is when things are too obvious (see 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016).
All of that said, what non-roster member needs a Rumble win to challenge Reigns or Lesnar? I don’t see who it could be.
So, we can expect the Rumble winner to once again hail from the RAW roster: Austin Theory, AJ Styles, Big E or even Matt Riddle are the likeliest candidates.
Here are a few questions to consider from today’s column:
Who’s your pick for the Women’s Royal Rumble?
Does this look like one of the strongest Royal Rumble cards of the past 10 years?
Do you want to see Rollins defeat Reigns, or for Reigns to stay champion to fight Lesnar at Mania?
Please join in the discussion below on those questions or anything else you’d like to share. You can also follow me on Twitter to keep the conversation going there.