Welcome to part 1 of my three-part predictions series breaking down which superstars will be entering the record books when it comes to the 2017 WWE Royal Rumble. For this edition, we’ll be examining the men most likely to rack up the highest amount of eliminations during the match.
Anything can happen in WWE—particularly in the Royal Rumble—but although we don’t know the full field of competitors, I’ve narrowed down my picks to the top five superstars I think stand the best chance of standing out as the most dominant man in the crowd.
In no particular order, let’s dig deeper…
Shocker, right? Last year, Braun Strowman tied Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns to get the most amount of eliminations and over the next 12 months, he took a step back only to up his game considerably. Now, he’s in an even better position to usurp this spot and even fly solo as the solitary guy to decimate the opposition.
I don’t think he’ll be surpassing the record of 12 eliminations, but I do think if you’re going to bet on a single man doing most of the heavy lifting for this match, Strowman is the way to go and a modest number would be 7 eliminations, which is the average outcome from 1988 onward. If WWE is kind to him, he could go so far as 10, but I have a feeling that’s where he’ll be cut off. There are still plenty of other people who need to accomplish something in order to look decent heading into WrestleMania, so this isn’t the Strowman Show with him being the top dog to book around.
Brock Lesnar / Goldberg
Depending on how WWE wants to play this, Goldberg and Lesnar are either going to utterly destroy everybody in their path or they’ll be relatively underwhelming. Remember, the only time Goldberg was in a Royal Rumble, he was the 30th entrant and only lasted two minutes before Lesnar caused a distraction which led to his elimination. He was able to get three men out in those two minutes, but it’s unnecessary to have him OR Lesnar be the biggest focal point this year, even though they’re clearly the marquee names it’s being built around.
So long as those two clash and set up their WrestleMania match, that’s all that matters. Everything else is circumstantial. There’s even a possibility WWE books them to be in each other’s way to the point where neither of them even gets a single elimination as they’re too busy fighting by themselves.
However, when you’re the two faces on the poster promoting the event and not only the biggest physical threats in the ring, but also the biggest names, it’s impossible not to be considered an option to show off the most. Goldberg and Lesnar can throw anybody out of the ring and it wouldn’t devalue them, so even main event talent like Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins aren’t safe from elimination around them.
Speaking of Seth Rollins, we know he’s going to be featured well and he’ll have a good showing, but he’s also an extremely unlikely choice to win the match as his feud with Triple H will exist on its own without involving either championship in any way. Since he’s not going to win, WWE might feel obligated to give him an impressive list of accomplishments by having him take out a good portion of the group; that way, it builds him up as a guy we can see winning, so when Triple H interferes to screw him over and a guy like Lesnar or Strowman eliminates him, it will be all that much more disappointing.
Rollins is a guy I could see scrapping with the midcarders he doesn’t often get a chance to wrestle with, too. If he starts off early enough, he could be the safety pin of the match that goes from the start until the end, keeping the audience’s attention. In that scenario, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to take out lesser folk like Titus O’Neil, Fandango, The Vaudevillains and more along the way.
As mentioned before, there are instances where more than one person has tied to eliminate the same amount of people. In fact, this has happened 8 times since 1988, including the last two years. Let’s say this is another one of those years where the most eliminations is a smaller number like 4 or 5. If that happens, Big Cass could be a sleeper choice to have a strong showing and assert his stature over the competition. A few big boots here, a few team-ups with Enzo Amore in the mix and a clothesline or two for good measure and he could end up checking off just enough people to tie someone else on this list.
A general rule of thumb when looking at the people who have had the most eliminations in the past is that they are all either main event wrestlers or they’re big, powerful guys who WWE thinks may have a future, such as Diesel in 1994 and The Great Khali in 2007. In fact, the two smallest guys to earn this award were Rey Mysterio in 2006 and Cody Rhodes in 2012, which were rare instances when compared to the other behemoths. There are plenty of towering wrestlers in the mix, but Big Cass is among the tallest, and you can’t teach that.
The Wyatt Family Trio
Factions do incredibly well in the Royal Rumble if they’re booked to stick together, rather than just appearing at random locations throughout the match. In 1998, the Nation of Domination were spread out all over the place and for some reason, fought each other damn near more than their adversaries. The same could apply with Randy Orton, Luke Harper and Bray Wyatt, or it could be a war path like what happened with Orton’s Legacy group in 2009 instead.
If they’re on the more positive side of things, all three members of The Wyatt Family stand a chance to be factored into the most eliminations pool. There’s really no combative force that could singlehandedly take an attack from all three of them at once, so they could even be responsible for eliminating a big name like Goldberg or even their former teammate Braun Strowman. They can also pick off smaller foes like buzzards, which would be quite fitting.
In 2014, Rusev was chosen as the NXT rookie to make his debut. He didn’t toss people out left and right, but he didn’t have a bad showing for his first time, either. When it comes to 2015, though, he tied Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns to have the most eliminations in that match. This year, his stock isn’t quite as high as it used to be, so I don’t think he’ll be given the same treatment, but it’s a possibility.