Welcome to part 2 of a 3-part series I’m doing this week to break down the top potential candidates who might walk away victorious for the 4th annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 33.
So far, the match has not even been announced, let alone has the field of competitors been set, so many elements are up in the air, but that’s what makes speculation fun, right?
We’ve already run down the Raw options, so for this post, we’ll be setting our sights on the SmackDown roster. Keep in mind that tonight’s show could change everything as they may make some announcements regarding the status of any of these men that could sway things one way or another.
As I see it right now, these are the most likely wrestlers from the blue brand to be standing tall at the end of the night (in no particular order):
I know…I know….you’re rolling your eyes…but hear me out.
For a far longer time than many of us would have assumed, James Ellsworth was one of the most prominently featured men on the SmackDown roster. He had more screen time in a month than some people have had in an entire year (Jack Swagger being one example).
This has tapered off since the beginning of 2017 when he was paired up with Carmella, but the two of them have still popped up here and there. Clearly, WWE’s creative team has pushed him off on the side but not forgotten about him and still sees some value to his comedic shtick or else he would just completely disappear like what has happened with many others in his position.
The Royal Rumble saw him be a joke—which is what we all expected and what is best for him—but that is a far, far more important match than the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal is. While the former has implications for the two title matches at WrestleMania, this is just a gimmick to throw as many people on the card as possible. History has shown that the winner doesn’t even get to keep the statue, nor are they promised a legitimate push, as all three previous men had to struggle after their victory. This isn’t the Money in the Bank briefcase or even a King of the Ring crown.
If it tickles Vince McMahon enough, we could very well see this be a comedy segment where two more deserving people are in the final three with Ellsworth and the chinless wonder pulls out an upset. Would it piss some people off? Sure. Does WWE care about that? Just ask them how that Roman Reigns babyface run has worked. In their minds and with their current edict that they repeat incessantly, “if you get any reaction, good or bad, it’s a good thing” so if people were upset about Ellsworth winning, they would consider it a win.
Dolph Ziggler / Kalisto / Apollo Crews
All three of these men have a chance, but they all need to be lumped together because their value and the possibilities of their wins are completely reliant upon each other.
First off, the way WWE has been booking these three together has been quite odd. This isn’t a situation where Dolph Ziggler is a huge monstrosity like Braun Strowman, Big Show, Khali or even Ryback where he needs to have multiple opponents in order to have some competition, nor did it start off as a 2-on-2 feud where Ziggler’s teammate was injured or otherwise taken out of commission and WWE just kept the feud going.
The feud has been going on for enough time that there’s little to no momentum for it to be justified taking up a segment on the WrestleMania card while there are bigger fish to fry, as that would only happen if WWE puts it on the pre-show. History has shown that a two-hour kickoff still will consist of at least an hour of video packages and other filler, so that’s doubtful.
With that assumption, all three men will probably be included in the battle royal and if you look at the general field of participants, while they aren’t the absolute biggest names, they’re certainly in the running. The likelihood one of them will win instead of The Bollywood Boyz or an injured Zack Ryder is far in their favor.
But which one of the three do you go with? Ziggler has consistently been proving that he’s better than both of them in singles matches and essentially on par or superior even in handicap scenarios, so logic would dictate he—the bigger star by far—would take the cake. That is pretty much why I’d actually lean more toward the other two being able to throw him out at the end for the upset.
Apollo Crews has struggled since moving up to the main roster and this is the first real feud he’s even had in a year’s span, yet he’s sharing it with Kalisto. If they were that hesitant to push him, why did they bother bringing him up to begin with? Since this is a good means to get him back on track to looking like a contender for the Intercontinental Championship, Crews is the one who needs it the most out of the bunch.
But then there’s Kalisto, who has his fans backstage based on how he was given two United States Championship reigns and is strategically being kept away from the cruiserweight division. He spent a portion of the year on the shelf with an injury and hasn’t quite bounced back yet, so if WWE values him enough to consider him a midcarder they want to invest a lot of stock in for 2017, being the underdog who wins a match designed for super heavyweights and “big men” is a great means to accomplish that task.
Don’t sleep on these three just because they’ve been sitting on the sidelines here and there. Just because someone is a favorite to win this match doesn’t mean they will. Just as Damien Mizdow.
As a consolation prize for not including him in the WWE Championship picture, Luke Harper might ride the momentum of that small taste of the main event status and capitalize on that with a victory in the battle royal.
Sure, it isn’t the same thing, but it’s still a WrestleMania moment, a victory, an accolade to his name and a means to boost his credibility in the eyes of the fans. With Orton and Wyatt off doing their feud, Harper is going to be left out of the mix at best and at worst, used as a sacrificial lamb to put Wyatt over when he needs a victory, so a better alternative is to move him in an entirely different direction and start anew.