The Magnificent 7 1.16.14: The Seven Most Interesting Men to Watch for in the Royal Rumble
Posted by Mike Chin on 01.16.2014
From Batista and Jake Roberts to CM Punk, Roman Reigns and more, 411's Mike Chin counts down the top 7 interesting superstars to look out for heading into the Royal Rumble!
Greetings 411mania! Long-time followers of the site may recall that I had a stint as a columnist here from 2008-2009, writing a column called "The Importance of…" I have been no less of a wrestling fan since that time and, indeed, have eagerly awaited point at which the stars would align between my free time, the site's needs, and the wrestling world when I might return to you all. It seems that time has come.
I'm not the first person to author The Magnificent Seven, and on a site that already has excellent features such as The 8-Ball, The Ten Count, The Professional 3, and The 411 Wrestling Top 5, I pondered how I might differentiate this list-based columns from others on the site. We'll see together how the column might evolve in the weeks ahead, but for the immediate future, my aim is to tackle upcoming and contemporary matters through a historical lens, and I may toss in a purely historical list every now and again when things are slow.
For a bit of perspective on where I'm coming from: I'm 30 years old, and a life-long follower of WWF/E. I followed WCW from 1993 to its demise. I have caught bits and pieces of old school Jim Crockett, Mid-South, WCCW, AWA, ECW, USWA, GWF, and SMW as they were each happening on TV and via the old Apter magazines (I've subsequently played catch up on some of these promotions via WWE-released DVDs and YouTube). I don't watch TNA every week, but have followed the product with varying degrees of intensity since its inception. I have limited familiarity with ROH and Chikara, and pretty minimal exposure to any of the other indy promotions running today. I don't follow NXT or any non-US wrestling entities with any regularity, but am game to take a look when someone calls my attention to something particularly noteworthy.
Nothing kills the heat off of a comeback quicker than too much promo time, right Warrior?
So here we go with my first column back.
The Seven Most Interesting Men to Watch for in the Royal Rumble
#7. Jake Roberts
Returning legends have become a signature part of the Rumble match. I'm torn on whether Roberts's appearance at Raw Old School paid enough lip service to his desire to return that that's all we'll get (in addition, perhaps, to the rumored Hall of Fame induction) or if he'll get his long-stated wish of actually wrestling in the Rumble. If the audience reaction in Baltimore was any indication, I have a feeling WWE is going to roll the dice and give The Snake one last, short run in the battle royal.
#6. Bray Wyatt
Rumors abound about Wyatt's direction and long-term WWE status. I've read reports that he'll face Cena in the main event of ‘Mania. I don't think that's entirely absurd, though I also don't think WWE is ready to pull the trigger to that degree just yet for the Wyatt. Just the same, this could be a big match for him, pushing forward his program with Daniel Bryan in a big way, pushing his stable by giving the Family a dominant run in the match, or possibly setting him up for a new direction altogether en route to ‘Mania with a new rival. One way or another, WWE seems to have settled on Wyatt as a player, and I have to suspect he'll make an impact in this match.
Had it not been for the info leak, it's likely Batista would have been a big surprise entry for 2014. That said, the Rumble is prime territory for Big Dave to thrive, and I'd anticipate a late entry and big showing for him. WWE seems to be setting up a mini-program between him and Alberto Del Rio. It feels like I should take Del Rio more seriously in this context (particularly considering he's spent most of the last year in the world title picture) but I have a feeling he'll be more quick and sudden fodder for The Animal when he storms the ring.
So, the question becomes whether Batista burns brightly and burns out just as quickly, or if he'll be the Rumble winner. The pessimist in me says Batista will take the win to help shake up the main event scene, en route to a title win at ‘Mania. My, hope, however is that he might enter the match like a wild Animal only to be stopped by a Beast.
#4. Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar may be the biggest wild card in this year's Rumble story. The character has asserted his interest in a title shot, and though he claims to be above the Rumble, the onset of this storyline has every possibility of making him a player in the Rumble's outcome—whether or not he's an actual participant in the match.
It's not out of the question that Lesnar will enter and win the Rumble and go on to challenge Cena in April, but I suspect a more likely scenario is that he won't be an official entrant but will play spoiler for another uppercard talent. My ideal pick would be for World War Hoss to start with a bang when Lesnar costs Batista the win, and for the two to have the sort of smash mouth power match Lesnar should have had with Goldberg, ten years later.
#3. Roman Reigns
We've all read the rumors that Roman Reigns is being groomed for the Diesel/Kane monster push this year in which he eliminates a disproportionately high number superstars. It would make sense and befit his current line of booking as the badass and prospective breakout member of The Shield, though a part of me wonders of the E might second guess the plan (if it ever was the plan) since it leaked.
All of that said, most signs point toward The Shield fracturing soon, and there are few more logical places for that to start in earnest than The Royal Rumble, where allies work together then come to blows when opportunists see their chances. The best way to elevate talent is for more than one guy to move up concurrently (e.g., Bret Hart-Shawn Michaels, Rock-Triple H), and there's a very real shot of Reigns and Ambrose each climbing the ladder together starting here (while I hope Seth Rollins might be along for the ride, too, I suspect he'll more likely get lost in the shuffle, or find success elsewhere).
#2. CM Punk
In the revolving door of guys who may or may not challenge for the undisputed championship at Wrestlemania, CM Punk's name is more often than not in consideration. Punk is a proven champion and quite arguably the highest caliber man on the roster not to have already won a Royal Rumble. In addition, contrary Daniel Bryan, he doesn't have very many readymade storylines heading into Wrestlemania other than world title contender, unless WWE seeks to revisit the Punk-Triple H program of 2012 with more clearly drawn lines between face and heel. In any event, Punk is a compelling figure to see last until the end of The Rumble, likely with a memorable confrontation or two against The Shield along the way.
#1. Daniel Bryan
Daniel Brian is one of the most unpredictable figures headed into this Royal Rumble. His upper-mid-card/fringe-main-event spot is all but set in concrete, so the question becomes what path he travels on the road to Wrestlemania.
Yes, there is a chance that Bryan goes all the way, wins the Rumble, and we all get our pay off from 2013 in the form of Bryan winning the world championship and reigning supreme at ‘Mania. It's possible, but the main event scene is cluttered enough, and there are enough options for Bryan that I don't foresee him getting a main event spot in New Orleans.
Popular theory has had Bryan challenging Shawn Michaels in one-shot comeback match at ‘Mania. There's ample set up with the mentor-student story, Michaels costing Bryan his championship, and their confrontations on Raw last month. It's not too much of a stretch to imagine Michaels interfering in the Rumble match (I won't go so far as to peg him a surprise entrant) superkick Bryan and screw him over again to set officially set their issue on fire headed into ‘Mania season.
Then there are the Wyatts. As of this past Monday, Bryan is no longer necessarily locked into a story with them but they'll probably still have unfinished business heading into the Royal Rumble, or the feud between Bryan and Bray Wyatt may continue, with the Rumble match just a stepping stone in that process.
Amidst all of these possibilities, there's a real chance that Bryan will be this year's iron man. As one of the most watchable performers in WWE today, who has proven himself capable of lengthy performances in more than one gauntlet match and several lengthy main events, we may well see Bryan go end to end, regardless of how the match winds up for him.
Those are my picks for the seven most interesting men to watch in the Royal Rumble this year. Who did I miss? What do you think? Let me know in the comments. See you in seven.
Read stories and miscellaneous criticism from Mike Chin at his website and his thoughts on a cappella music at The A Cappella Blog.