A week – or even 24 hours – is a long time in professional wrestling, as WWE decided to pull the plug on Sheamus as the WWE Champion on the RAW following its TLC event and handed the championship to the much-maligned Roman Reigns.
Now that Reigns has acquired the WWE Championship – on an episode of RAW no less – and he seems to have finally clicked with the fans, you can nearly guarantee he will be holding onto it until WrestleMania.
While the short-term looks to provide a back-and-forth tussle with Sheamus and The Authority, Reigns being awarded the championship places WWE in a magnificent position as far as regrowing its dwindling viewership numbers goes.
With that in mind, the upcoming Royal Rumble pay-per-view opens up the door for some new and exciting rivalries with Reigns involved, and given this is his first genuine title run, the opportunity to do something fresh and exciting has been presented.
Although Reigns has had plenty of notable feuds over the past 18 months, everything receives an instant refreshment when a championship title is involved, especially the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Pretty much anybody winning the Royal Rumble and building up to a large payoff match at WrestleMania 32 against Roman Reigns will be interesting to watch given how new it all is, but there are some we would love to see in that position more than others.
Though let’s be honest, anything is likely going to be an improvement on the utter disaster that was the 2015 Royal Rumble, though at least people kinda like Roman Reigns this time around.
These are 12 of the most awesome potential Royal Rumble winners.
12. Randy Orton
Having requested a break from his hectic WWE schedule due to shoulder issues, Randy Orton is well and truly primed for a Royal Rumble return having been away for three months, though there is some debate as to whether or not he’ll be recovered from his injuries in time. Whether face or heel, Orton is by far one of the best characters and performers in the business and even if his victory isn’t to setup a championship victory at WrestleMania, a dedicated Orton-Reigns feud would bring legitimacy to Roman Reigns’ time as champion. Having been attacked by The Wyatt Family after coming to Reigns and Dean Ambrose’s aid before being written off TV, there is already a ready-made path straight into the main event scene for Orton.
Aside from a small handful of young fans, Ryback isn’t exactly hitting the mark with the WWE Universe. Now that his in-ring development is coming along, a heel turn and long feud with Roman Reigns could be a great way to establish two potential superstars of the future. All Ryback is missing is one home run that really hits the mark and winning the Royal Rumble and returning to heel status could be the perfect springboard to make him a household name.
10. Dolph Ziggler
It’s probably 12 months too late, and given his most recent prominent role has been jobbing to Tyler Breeze, the odds of Dolph Ziggler winning the Royal Rumble aren’t great. However, it can’t be denied that a Ziggler-Reigns feud would be unmissable given Ziggler’s unquestionably-passionate fan base and Reigns’ newly-established popularity. Ziggler seems like he has been waiting in the grass for an opportunity to present itself and winning the Royal Rumble would instantly shoot him into main event status; given how willing WWE has been to giving the fans more of what they want to see, a Ziggler Rumble victory may not be out of the question.
9. Finn Balor
Just about anything involving Finn Balor being promoted to the main roster will be an overwhelming hit, but coming straight out of NXT to win the Royal Rumble would not only be an unprecedented first, it would setup one hell of a WrestleMania main event. Although Balor is highly likely to remain in NXT until the end of his NXT Championship tenure, which looks to continue throughout 2016, Balor entering the Royal Rumble and coming out victorious would have fans all over the world in hysterics. No prospect in WWE history has created as much hype as Balor has, and the Royal Rumble is the perfect platform to take advantage of it just two months before WrestleMania.
8. Sami Zayn
Although there is a small void in NXT with a number of the top stars being elevated to the main roster, Sami Zayn is well and truly poised to be the new Daniel Bryan if that’s the way WWE wants to go with him. Having returned to in-ring action as part of NXT’s tour of the United Kingdom, Zayn is yet to be established in any feuds down in the developmental system. Having starred in an incredible United States Championship match against John Cena on RAW before being sidelined with injury, Zayn is already main roster material and has a large following despite his long absence. Rather than slowly building Zayn up in NXT again, having him win a ticket straight into the WrestleMania main event would establish a new superstar overnight.
7. Bray Wyatt
While Bray Wyatt has been slowly rebuilding The Wyatt Family and putting together some long-awaited victories, it was hinted after Wyatt and Roman Reigns’ Hell in a Cell match that the two would meet again someday soon. Although most fans are sick and tired of Wyatt and Reigns battling it out, the two facing off in an epic final battle in the main event of WrestleMania would be the perfect way to settle their differences. Wyatt is due for a championship run and the upcoming Royal Rumble could provide the perfect platform.
WWE fans were never sold on Sheamus as the WWE Champion, especially having been off-screen for the majority of his tenure possessing the Money in the Bank briefcase. It appeared pretty obvious that the decision to put the championship around his waist was a poor one, but the Royal Rumble and the current on-going feud between Sheamus/The Authority and Roman Reigns opens the door for the kayfabe Authority to really get under the crowd’s skin. The Royal Rumble is meant to be an unpredictable event, so if it is manufactured for Sheamus to win thanks to some in-ring assistance, the amount of heat Sheamus and The Authority will generate will be nuclear, ultimately making it easier for fans to cheer for Roman Reigns, which is essentially the overall goal.
5. John Cena
I can hear your groans, but let’s think rationally about this prospect for a moment. John Cena winning the Royal Rumble really depends on how far WWE wants to go with Roman Reigns as the company’s top guy, as the easiest way to establish someone as a superstar is to have him beat the face of the entire business, as Kevin Owens did. While seemingly underwhelming, it can’t be denied that a victory over John Cena in the main event of WrestleMania would undoubtedly make Roman Reigns the company’s top name and maybe even boost his popularity with the fans that can’t seem to get behind Reigns no matter what.
4. Daniel Bryan
It’s never too late for WWE to right the wrongs of years past and Roman Reigns winning the 2015 Royal Rumble instead of Daniel Bryan was a massive wrong. However, there would be no better way to correct that mistake than by having Bryan return from another long absence and win the 2016 Royal Rumble, booking a ticket into the main event of WrestleMania against Reigns and renewing a mini-rivalry from early 2015. This would all require Bryan’s sketchy health being up to scratch, which is a significant ‘if’, but if Bryan is ready to return, an unannounced surprise Royal Rumble entrance and victory ala Edge in 2010 would be truly awesome.
3. Dean Ambrose
Sometimes professional wrestling isn’t on par with rocket science like WWE writing staff and officials constantly remind us. When you’ve got a character that is white hot and undoubtedly the most popular guy on the roster, you put him in the main event of WrestleMania and proceed to print money. Although Dean Ambrose has been used in the WWE Championship scene twice since WrestleMania 31, he hasn’t been positioned in a way where fans could even start to believe he has a legitimate chance of winning the title. If he wins the Royal Rumble, however, suddenly that belief is there and fans will be glued to WrestleMania 32 hoping their guy will finally make the breakthrough against a sudden favourite, and his on-screen best buddy, Roman Reigns. Although this is incredibly unlikely given Ambrose attaining the Intercontinental title and being locked in a feud with Kevin Owens, it would still be completely awesome.
2. Triple H
Although Triple H winning the Royal Rumble as a mostly-retired WWE official is the sort of thing that makes you groan when reading it aloud, Roman Reigns’ current relationship with The Autority makes a WWE Championship match at WrestleMania the perfect payoff. Given Reigns’ unprovoked attack on Triple H at TLC, and his aforementioned semi-retired status, it would be a huge shock to fans’ systems if The Game was to make a surprise entry in the Royal Rumble and earn the chance to not only beat the life out of Roman Reigns, but take back the WWE Championship for The Authority. This dream scenario is so perfect that it may just happen.
1. Brock Lesnar
After completing a significant feud with The Undertaker, which left Brock Lesnar looking like a total badass before his most recent absence, Lesnar is kayfabe viewed as an unbeatable machine. Now that ‘Taker has been swept aside, there is no reason why Lesnar wouldn’t be gunning for the WWE Championship. After Roman Reigns’ surprising WWE Championship victory, a rematch between The Beast Incarnate and Reigns at WrestleMania with no outside interference shapes up as the perfect main event for the company’s biggest show of the year.
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