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Royal Rumble Preview: Is Roman Reigns winning a foregone conclusion?

The best time of the WWE year is the period beginning with Royal Rumble, which is the unofficial opening day of the WWE calendar year heading into Wrestlemania.

The expectation heading into this year’s Rumble is that it’s a foregone conclusion that the big winner at the end of the night will be the current Intercontinental champion, Roman Reigns, to set up a Reigns-Brock Lesnar match in the main event at Wrestlemania 34.

But, is it that much an inevitability? Some other possible ways this can go.

Braun Strowman

Strowman has been getting a huge push dating back several months, most notably as a thorn in the side of Reigns, but also seeing himself injected into the Universal title picture in the triple threat match at the Rumble against Lesnar and former WWE champ Kane.

Strowman was the unquestioned focus of this week’s Monday Night Raw, terrorizing the talent, staff and a big rig in the arena garage in a series of vignettes putting him over yet again as a monster.

One thought as to where Strowman goes from here is that WWE surprises us all by having him win the belt off Lesnar in the triple threat, by pinning Kane, preserving Lesnar as was done back at Wrestlemania 31, when Seth Rollins cashed in the Money in the Bank briefcase to steal the WWE title from Lesnar and Reigns.

Another thought: Lesnar wins, and Strowman shows up as entrant #30 in the Royal Rumble, and clears the ring, leading up to a one-on-one confrontation with Reigns, crowd popping like you’ve never seen, then throwing the Big Dog over the top rope, to the loudest pop in WWE history.

More likely: Lesnar wins the title match, Strowman is entered into the Rumble, clears the ring to set up that one-on-one with Reigns, Reigns dispatches of Strowman, the fans throw garbage at the ring, and WWE quickly cuts the picture as Michael Cole wishes us a good night.

Sorry. Just reality.

Daniel Bryan

Bully Ray is advancing this one on Busted Open today. The idea is that Bryan has been medically cleared, WWE has been patiently building toward a return, and, wham, his name is called at the Rumble, he wins, and challenges AJ Styles for the WWE title at ‘Mania.

The WWE Universe would collectively crap itself if this were to happen, of course, but, no worries, you’re not going to need to adult diaper up in anticipation.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see Bryan in a WWE ring in the near future. I’ve noted the patient build toward a Bryan return for the past few weeks. It’s obvious that the on-screen tensions that have been building between Bryan and Shane McMahon are going somewhere.

I have to wonder if the recent injury to Paige after she had been out for more than a year with concussion issues might put a kibosh on plans involving Bryan. That spot that led to Paige going back on the shelf wasn’t all that intense, but illustrates the fine line between controlled violence and real-life consequences.

That said, I bet we see Bryan working at ‘Mania, opposite Shane McMahon, with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.

I love the idea that Bully Ray is trying to sell us on. You can see why he was a good guy for Paul Heyman to have around on the booking committee in ECW.

Ain’t happenin’, though.

The field

In an interview with Mark Moses on the radio yesterday, I threw out the name Shinsuke Nakamura, admittedly as a personal favorite, and long shot, more than anything realistic.

I just want to see Nakamura-Styles at ‘Mania. But there are so many ways we can see that match get set up.

Some fans are making a clamor for Kenny Omega, again more a dream than anything that can be close to reality, if only because Omega, the current IWGP U.S. champ, reportedly re-signed with New Japan, which, if you’re actually an Omega fan, you’d really want to see.

No way you actually want to have Omega in WWE, where Vince McMahon would bury him to the midcard with some dumbass gimmick, wrestling obvious nontalents like Elias or Jinder Mahal on an endless series of house shows.

Bottom line: It’s Reigns

You know in your heart where this is going. You’re going to watch anyway, but you know that Reigns is going to have his hand raised at the end of the night, that he’s going to face Lesnar at Wrestlemania, that you’re not going to be excited at that prospect, and that you’re going to watch that anyway.

Again, sorry.

Article by Chris Graham