On Sunday night, we were treated to one of the best Royal Rumble events in recent history. On paper, it seemed as if that would be the case, but any seasoned WWE fan will have known to not count their chickens before they hatch. That would have been a safe thing to do for once though. The men’s Rumble was won by Shinsuke Nakamura to a raucous ovation and featured some terrific surprises, and the women’s equivalent may have been even better. The lasting image of Asuka, Charlotte Flair, Alexa Bliss, and Ronda Rousey standing in the ring together will be one that lives long in our memory.
Back to Nakamura’s landmark win though. Many fans likely couldn’t believe their eyes when The King of Strong Style dumped Roman Reigns over the top rope. When the match began in the middle of the card, some may have thought the reason was because WWE had plans for The Big Dog to win and it wasn’t a moment they wanted to end the night on, especially in Philadelphia. Thankfully though, it was merely because the ending to the women’s Rumble was so much more star-studded.
Why did WWE decide to pull the trigger on Nakamura right now though? Well, one of the main reasons became clear just moments after the Rumble came to and end. The former NXT Champion had to declare which World Champion he would be taking on at WrestleMania 34. While a showdown between him and Brock Lesnar would have been a curveball that many of us would have liked to see, the ensuing match would never have topped what he and AJ Styles can do together inside the squared circle. It may feel like WWE tries to ignore New Japan, but they know very well that Nakamura vs AJ Styles will not only be an incredible match, but it’s the Wrestle Kingdom 10 rematch most fans are dying to see. WWE has been teasing it since Money In The Bank.
What’s more is Nakamura needed something, and he needed it fast. The charismatic Japanese star has had something missing from his arsenal since becoming a WWE Superstar, even when he was in NXT to some extent. That is both WWE’s fault and Nakamura’s own fault. This Rumble win is a massive step in the right direction to fixing that. The King of Strong Style’s stock has continued to get lower and lower, from his rivalry with Dolph Ziggler to his failed attempts to defeat Jinder Mahal for the WWE Championship. Now, Nakamura is back in the title scene and it’s actually a championship match that we want to see.
All being considered the men’s Royal Rumble match needed to be won by a SmackDown Live Superstar. After everything that took place on Sunday night, it now seems even more obvious that on the Raw side of things Roman Reigns will be going up against Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship. That meant if a Raw star such as Finn Balor was going to win the match, then they would have either had to jump brand to take on Styles, which really wouldn’t make sense since Balor, in particular, has been vying for a Universal Title rematch for almost a year, or completely scuppered the Reigns/Lesnar plans. While many of us would much prefer to see Balor take on Lesnar, unfortunately, that doesn’t look like it’s on the cards, maybe ever. The two biggest World Title matches that can happen on the respective brands right now are Lesnar vs Reigns and Styles versus Nakamura, and that’s what we’re going to get.
Last but not least is who we have seen AJ Styles take on already. Without having a Raw star challenge him, there are not many opponents left on SmackDown Live for The Phenomenal One to take on, at least not ones worthy of a WrestleMania showdown. Randy Orton would have been entertaining, but that match is most certainly not a Mania worthy bout. WWE won’t want another Orton/Wyatt situation on their hands. Styles has taken on Mahal, Cena, Owens, and Zayn, and The King of Strong Style has been saved until last on purpose. As mentioned above, this mega match has been on the cards for over six months now, and it’s nice to see what WWE may have had long-term plans for Nakamura all along. Had you told us three years ago that Nakamura and Styles would battle it out for the WWE Championship in the main event of WrestleMania one day, we would have likely laughed in your face. It’s happening though, and it will take a special match on that card to beat it.
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