Welcome to part 2 of my 3-part series detailing the top potential candidates for this year’s 5th annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal coming our way at WrestleMania 34.
Previously, we’ve taken a look at some of the contenders from the Monday Night Raw side of things, but now we need to shift our focus to the wrestlers who compete for SmackDown Live.
The blue brand has a smaller roster overall, but because they aren’t given as much of a priority, they actually have more people lingering around and waiting to be announced for this match because they aren’t busy doing something else.
This means SmackDown stands a much better chance at having a wrestler in its ranks that will win this match, and as it stands right now, these men are my top 3 picks for who I consider the most likely to take home the trophy:
3) Mike Kanellis
This may seem like it’s out of left field, but that’s exactly why I rank him above people like Baron Corbin and Tye Dillinger, who are in the match because WWE had nothing better for them to do and not because they’ll be doing anything particularly noteworthy. The same goes for Mojo Rawley, who is certainly not going to be the first two-time winner of this.
History has shown that damn near anybody can win this because of its nature as something that doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. It’s a match that WWE pretends means something, but four out of four times, they haven’t legitimately pushed the winner for more than a few weeks, so it must not hold that much actual clout to them.
With that in mind, they do like using it as a platform to give someone some attention when it comes to highlighting a newcomer or someone from NXT, and I think Kanellis has that advantage over plenty of other people.
True, he isn’t an actual newcomer to the roster, but he might as well be, since his run on SmackDown was completely uneventful and very short. He never made any splash and his theme song is the only thing people might remember, so he’s virtually an entirely fresh face to most of the audience, who haven’t seen him in months.
In those months, Kanellis has worked out and achieved a much better physique than he had the last time around—something WWE is always taking notice of—and I wouldn’t be shocked at all if he won this as a means to give him a fresh start on the main roster with a bit of momentum to kick it off.
Almost nobody would be calling for him to be the standout star of the match, so the shock factor is there, too.
2) Dolph Ziggler
For a brief moment, I thought the backstage segment between Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler meant that The Showoff was going to get his wish for a singles match at WrestleMania, but that quickly went down the drain once Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn cemented their entanglement with Bryan.
It seems as though a singles match is out the window for Ziggler now and he’ll be relegated to this match instead, as there just simply aren’t any other open spots available, nor any stars who would be justifiably worth him facing unless in the next two weeks, someone is able to return and starts a feud. That’s just not going to happen, though.
Since Ziggler is one of those guys who is a big deal but not big enough to be given a prioritized spot at Mania by the brass, a win with this Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal could be their way of telling him that they do see him as valuable and are willing to give him some “big victories” once in a while, even if it’s not the ones that he is actually looking for.
Essentially, this would be a consolation prize. We’re not pushing you to a main event, we’re not giving you a world title, and we’re not giving you a prime spot at Mania like John Cena vs. The Undertaker, but we still want to be buds, so will this battle royal win make you happy enough to stick around without pouting?
Look at it as a meaningless “assistant manager” type promotion where you don’t get a raise, but you do get an increase in your title and your responsibilities go up, so you’re basically working harder for the imaginary upgrade.
Ziggler is a former world champion and even if he’s one of the smaller guys in the match, that doesn’t mean he lacks the pizazz to pull out a win or the clout to justify outlasting everybody else.
For my money, this guy right here is the overall best possible choice to win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal this year for one reason and one reason only: the support for the Rusev Day joke.
That started off as just a random throwaway line and it has spawned into a great merchandise seller and something that gives Rusev the momentum to turn into a babyface more than ever before.
For some reason, WWE has decided it’s best to keep him a heel, but the creative team can’t possibly think that’s the right decision long term, based off the reception he gets from the crowd.
It’s only a matter of time before they can’t ignore it anymore and have to pull the trigger on making him a fan favorite and this could be the right thing to catapult him into midcard title contention.
Let’s be realistic: Rusev isn’t going to be dethroning Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship or beating up Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam or even taking Shinsuke Nakamura’s WWE Championship away from him, but he could very well become the United States or Intercontinental champion over the course of the next few months if the right cards are played, starting with a big victory here.
Rusev isn’t the tallest or the biggest, but that isn’t a requirement to win a battle royal—it’s just an advantage—and he previously went on a winning streak as a monster when originally brought onto the main roster, so he has some previous credibility to back him up for a renewed push in 2018.
If The Bulgarian Brute is victorious, the fans will pop more than they would for almost anybody else that will be in the match, and that is certainly something WWE should factor into their choice.
Those are my thoughts for SmackDown, but who are your picks? Tell us your predictions and your favorites in the comments section below!