The rules of the Royal Rumble are pretty simple: 30 men enter and after 29 of them are tossed over the top rope, one man is declared the winner and goes on to receive a title match at WrestleMania.
That is, of course, if you ignore 1994 when two men won, or 1997 when a loser came away with the victory, or instances like 2008 when Triple H found his way into the match despite John Cena winning….but all of those wacky circumstances aside, the point is that only one person can get that championship shot on a regular basis.
Every year, WWE has to essentially work out the entire WrestleMania card before going into the Royal Rumble event to make sure that not only do they make the right decision for the main event, but that the rest of the show will be good enough so that they aren’t scrambling at the last minute to make changes.
Contingency plans must be put in place to prepare for any potential injuries that could plague the big event and put a wrench in the works.
All in all, it’s a stressful choice to be made. Only one person normally can be given the big win and when you go with Batista instead of Daniel Bryan, you find yourself having to rewrite plans and scramble to appease the audience and save your show.
So with so many big names that will appear in this year’s match, how does WWE balance out Roman Reigns, Rusev, Dolph Ziggler, Ryback, John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan, and more in a way that they can all benefit from this year’s Royal Rumble?
The trick is to go into this event knowing that you’ve got a roster that, albeit a bit thin in some regards, is incredibly well-rounded, so WrestleMania can be a show where top to bottom is fun instead of having a clear distinction between main events and undercard disappointments.
Fan favorites like Damien Mizdow aren’t going to be winning this match, but nothing is stopping him from having a fun spot where he eliminates himself after Miz is tossed out. The two of them can be featured in a big tag team match at WrestleMania that includes the likes of The Usos, Tyson Kidd and Cesaro, The New Day and more.
Some may think that Rusev needs to be the winner to remain undefeated, but WWE has made the distinction in the past to clarify that he has not been pinned or made to submit, rather than that he is legitimately undefeated. Count outs, disqualifications and being eliminated in multi-man matches like Survivor Series and battle royals are not attributed to this statistic. For the betterment of everyone else, Rusev should be booked as a dominant enough man in this match to showcase his status, but he should be taken out by someone before all things are said and done.
The person who eliminates Rusev is going to do something big enough that they, too, do not need to win the match itself to be walking away with a win in at least one regard. This is the perfect role for someone like Ryback, who assuredly will not be going on to challenge the champion at WrestleMania. Sorry, Ryback fans.
Unfortunately, some people are going to take a bit of a hit. Dean Ambrose is no stranger to this as of late, since he has lost every important match he’s been in for quite some time. That will continue here, but if WWE plays its cards right, Ambrose will make at least one important elimination and give the fans a hardcore spot to get them riled up. Bray Wyatt is an easy contender for this role, as he needs to be protected for his possible match against Undertaker, but obviously cannot win in that scenario, either. It would be no insult for him to eliminate Ambrose and have Ambrose come back into the match and attack him with a chair, then toss him out and continue to brawl on the outside of the ring.
Dolph Ziggler has the reputation of being the guy who puts it all out there on the line and steals the show, but may not necessarily come out on top. It goes without being said that he can be trusted to go the distance, so the smartest way to book Ziggler in this match is to have him be an early entrant who lasts until the final group of 10 or so. Fans will be disappointed to see that he didn’t win, but they will still have some others to root for. On the next episode of Raw, a big deal can be made about how Ziggler was the “iron man” of the match, putting on an impressive performance and surviving longer than anyone else.
Here is where things get a little tricky, though: the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match.
Brock Lesnar has been absent for too long during his title reign to make it anywhere near as valuable as it should have been to the person who defeats him at WrestleMania. At this point, it would mean absolutely nothing for John Cena or Seth Rollins to defeat him in the sense of “being put over”. In a triple threat scenario, Lesnar losing in any capacity just helps protect Lesnar and ruins the purpose of him winning the title at SummerSlam. He absolutely has to retain somehow in order to be rebuilt a bit to drop the championship to someone at WrestleMania.
That means Seth Rollins and John Cena have to lose. Cena can take the hit, especially if he is just overwhelmed by a two-on-one assault. He’s busy dealing with Rollins and putting up a good fight, but Lesnar capitalizes and beats him. WWE loves to have Cena look like the underdog in scenarios where he isn’t, so the next two months could be built around him making up for this loss. Although that sounds like far from a win in his column, it’s a win for the writers who like this easy way to avoid putting more effort into things.
Rollins, on the other hand, is a slimy heel. He should be inserted into the Royal Rumble by The Authority and met with a round of boos from the crowd, since he’ll be expected to potentially win and secure the power in the company for them. That is where Randy Orton makes his return to eliminate him and put an end to that idea. With Rollins putting on a great show in both the title match and the Royal Rumble, he looks strong, and once Orton has accomplished his task of being the man responsible for eliminating him, he’s already gotten his win.