Welcome to part 1 of a 3-part series I’ll be 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?
For this post, we’ll be setting our sights on Monday Night Raw’s roster, meaning tonight’s show could change the landscape of things going forward with any announcements now that Fastlane is in the bag and WWE will be chugging along full-steam in the build to WrestleMania with no more speed bumps in the way.
As I see it right now, these are the most likely wrestlers from the red brand to be standing tall at the end of the night (in no particular order):
Strowman has had a very impressive past couple of months where even his loss to Roman Reigns last night at Fastlane isn’t going to completely derail his upward momentum, although it certainly did him no favors and will make the situation harder than it was before the event.
Worse, though, is how absolutely nothing has been properly set up for him if Reigns faces The Undertaker at WrestleMania as we all suspect. No other opponents are in line to go toe-to-toe with the mountain of a man and if he is pushed aside completely for WrestleMania, that would be a travesty.
Since he’s made it a point to always request competition, what better way to showcase his skills than to have him up against 20 or more other men and to come out as the fourth winner of the battle royal? The moment his name is entered into the mix, he should be everybody’s favorite to win, without a doubt.
Similarly to Strowman’s situation, there hasn’t been a genuine go-to obvious pick for a match to feature Samoa Joe at WrestleMania. If Seth Rollins is able to wrestle, he’ll be facing Triple H, not Joe. If the intended feud is another match against Sami Zayn, isn’t that underwhelming, particularly considering they just had a match at Fastlane?
Joe shouldn’t have been brought up to the main roster if there weren’t legitimate plans for him to do something decent at WrestleMania, so he and Strowman share a similar necessity to be placed somewhere on the card or else they’ll look like they don’t truly matter as much as they’ve been built up to be as of late.
While I think it’s more likely Strowman is the one to take the cake, if the monster among men isn’t in the match, I’d have to imagine it’s going to be used to give Joe a victory instead unless someone else makes a surprise entrance and eliminates him to start a feud or reignite an older one. Speaking of which…
At this point, I’m working under the assumption that not only is Finn Balor ready to be cleared for competition (based off his appearance at the recent NXT tapings) but also the rumors that he would potentially replace Seth Rollins if necessary. Since a match between Balor and Triple H makes zero sense and there’s not much time to build to that, I’d rather see Rollins and Triple H brawl in a segment if they can’t wrestle a true match than to have a shoehorned Balor tossed into the ring with The Game instead.
With that being stated, if Balor isn’t going to be held off until after WrestleMania and he’s going to not only make an appearance on the card itself, but actually wrestle in a match rather than just do a run-in or something, this match could be a somewhat decent way to ease him back into the fold. He could be the last person announced and it would pop the crowd, who would then be cheering him on throughout the match. When he’d be victorious, it’s doubtful the response would be anything less than positive, and with the potential for fans to boo Roman Reigns, Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar and other things throughout the night, it wouldn’t hurt for a match to end with some cheers.
Sami Zayn plays up the underdog story on a regular basis because it works for him. He’s on the smaller side, but he connects with the audience in a way that gets them to cheer for him despite his disadvantages. This makes the heels who beat him down that much worse for doing it and it makes his victories all that much sweeter.
So far with the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, we’ve had an IWC favorite in Cesaro, the giant-successor Big Show, and a rookie in Baron Corbin. For the fourth, what about “the little guy who did it” story?
Zayn isn’t going to be suddenly thrust into the championship picture or popping up on SmackDown to wrestle a downtrodden AJ Styles when he’s passed over for Randy Orton, nor is Zayn going to find himself partnering up with someone to fight for the Raw Tag Team Championship. At this point, he either faces Joe or he’s in the battle royal, and if it’s the latter option, I like his chances.
Although he lost against Big Show at Fastlane, this whole storyline pretty much came out of nowhere. He and Jinder Mahal had been tagging for a while and suddenly, a decision was made to split them up and feature them rather prominently throughout the night despite how absolutely nothing was promoted ahead of time regarding either of them.
Something had to be the impetus for that, along with his haircut and the removal of the facial mask. Could it be that WWE has plans for him to be a noteworthy member of the battle royal scene and possibly its winner?
Every so often, Rusev goes into slumps, but he comes roaring back with another push. This could very well be his rise back to glory after spending the past few months lingering around in the undercard. He’s a big enough name to win it without it seeming forced but also not too big to be above it where WWE definitely has other plans for him to shine elsewhere on the card.
Those are my picks, but who do you think will be the last man standing tall in the ring come April 2nd? Drop your thoughts and predictions in the comments below and stay tuned tomorrow for the SmackDown picks and Wednesday for the NXT contenders!