As WWE Raw went off the air, a frustrated and flustered Vince McMahon announced that the next time Roman Reigns defends his WWE Championship will be in the Royal Rumble match, which is set to take place on Sunday, January 24th.
Here are the names announced for the Rumble match so far.
– WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns
– Chris Jericho
– Bray Wyatt
– Erick Rowan
– Luke Harper
– Braun Strowman
– Dolph Ziggler
– Big Show
– Curtis Axel
This marks only the second time that the championship will actually be the received prize for whomever is victorious, as typically the winner gets to go on to the main event of WrestleMania in a championship match. The first instance, however, saw the WWE Championship vacated, so it made sense for the 1992 match to host it up for grabs. As most WWE fans remember, Ric Flair won that year in what was arguably the best Rumble match ever.
From a storyline perspective, it makes sense this time around too. You have Vince McMahon going on warpath to get the belt off of Reigns, so what better way (and more dickish) to force him to defend it than by pitting him against 29 other wrestlers? We can all make some jokes about how it’s being done just to make Reigns look strong, but at the end of the day the decision is logical.
Speaking from a business standpoint though, it feels as if with the major unexpected injury for then WWE Champion Seth Rollins, among other obstacles, WWE creative isn’t necessarily sure who should actually win the Royal Rumble and face Reigns. Names like Brock Lesnar and John Cena have been tossed around by insider analysts, and more than likely could still wind up facing Reigns down the road, but they don’t necessarily need a Royal Rumble victory.
A monumental win such as that should be reserved for circumstances and situations that elevate a younger star, unless there are special perks as in this case. John Cena has already emerged victorious multiple times, while inserting Brock Lesnar into the match for inevitable dominance does nothing but set him up for a predictable win, all while utilizing one of his precious yet limited contract dates. They don’t need these victories for their careers, but the WWE Championship on the line modifies that angle of thinking.
There’s also simply going to be added suspense going into the match this time around. Admittedly, it’s more than likely that Reigns will overcome the odds to infuriate Vince McMahon further, but WWE doing something different with the annual battle is still refreshing. This is also the season where the company does attempt to be occasionally unpredictable, so maybe a surprise winner is in store. We won’t know until January 24th, and to be honest, I’m actually excited for the match now.
As always, you can read a full recap of Raw in John Canton’s weekly Raw Deal review column.