Roundtable: WWE Royal Rumble 2017

The Wrestledelphia staff talks about various storylines going into the pay-per-view.

Has SmackDown been getting the short end of the stick in the Royal Rumble build?

John Corrigan: Perhaps, but Smackdown had the traditional go-home show brawl, and has Baron Corbin and The Miz as very likely Rumble winners.

Evan Cross: SmackDown is a victim of its own success. With the exception of Baron Corbin, all the feasible winners on the better brand are either busy with the title match (Styles & Cena) or have been more focused on their personal feuds than the Rumble (Ziggler, Miz & Ambrose). Raw hasn’t been able to build good feuds for many of its wrestlers, so lots of them are purely looking for Rumble glory.

David Gibb: SmackDown is the second child and will always be promoted as such. Was SmackDown diminished by the Hall of Fame-level part-timers appearing almost exclusively on Raw? Probably yes. Would, say, a Goldberg appearance have boosted ratings and created a buzz for SmackDown? Probably yes. Did this do harm to any of the SmackDown talent? Probably not.

David Levin: Yes. Honestly, who do you see winning the Rumble match on the blue team? I love the idea of Baron Corbin winning the match, but a feud with John Cena that leads to WrestleMania 33 does not sell well. There should have been better booking.

Jay Mackle: Yes. Raw had development for all the undercard to the Rumble, minus Cena vs Styles. Raw also had more focus on the Rumble match than SmackDown did, with the part-timers all declaring on Raw. The six-woman tag match is a last minute space filler for the event from SmackDown. SmackDown definitely got the short straw.

Mark Macyk: Yes, because the Royal Rumble is a gimmick match and Raw is a gimmick show. SmackDown is more sophisticated and has thus focused on building toward The Elimination Chamber.

Is it good or bad that part-timers are the ones that seem most focused on winning the Rumble?

Corrigan: It’s good because they are the ones who truly need to win the Rumble. Guys like Dean Ambrose or Sami Zayn will receive plenty of title shots in their career, but Goldberg and Undertaker are running out of steam. If they want one more dance in the spotlight, they’ll have to outlast 29 other competitors on Sunday.

Cross: It’s the right move as far as building the Rumble match, because Goldberg, Lesnar and Undertaker aren’t around enough before the Rumble to build any separate feuds. Ideally, none of them wins the match, though – they don’t need to win to be a WrestleMania draw. Someone like Braun Strowman or Baron Corbin needs it more.

Gibb: It’s the time of year when the residents of Sunnyvale Rest come out to play kick the can — it’s just the new reality. While it’s certainly an honor for second and third-tier wrestlers to be in the same building as the heroes of old, it’s definitely hurting their ability to become stars people care about.

Levin: I am not a fan of part-time wrestlers. I know Undertaker, Lesnar and Goldberg in the same ring sells tickets. I’m OK with their participation as it makes for the best Rumble in years. Winning it is a different story. Part-time workers take away the focus on those that work week after week. If Lesnar, et al are in the final four and one wins, someone has some explaining to do.

Mackle: I think it’s good that the focus is on the part timers winning, because it allows a full timer to be the winner while creating more surprise for that individual.

Macyk: It depends on how you feel about the “Gig Economy” we are currently moving toward. On one hand, it allows more freedom. On the other, it offers less protection and likely hinders upward mobility. I think what WWE is trying to say is that millennials will never be as successful as our parents, and perhaps we should alter our definition of what success means.

Which world title challenger (Roman Reigns or John Cena) is more likely to come out on top?

Corrigan: John Cena is never, ever, ever tying Ric Flair’s record. Ever.

Cross: Both are likely to win, but Reigns is more likely on the basis that Styles is a more believable champ entering WrestleMania than Owens is.

Gibb: Reigns. SmackDown doesn’t need a title change to build excitement for their top match at WrestleMania, but Raw does. Also, dropping the US Title to Owens’ best buddy Chris Jericho felt like a hint…

Levin: Cena. It breaks down easy: Owens beats Reigns and Jericho wins the Rumble match. Owens tries to convince his BFF to face Cena for the title, but we all know that does not happen. I do think Reigns has a better than even chance of winning, but better booking would be for this kind of scenario to play out.

Mackle: There’s a chance for both to walk away with the title here. I would lean more towards Reigns being a guarantee, because I think Cena tying Flair should be saved for WrestleMania.

Macyk: John Cena will not win another title until he accepts that he one day will die.

Which women’s feud is the most intriguing: Flair vs. Bayley, Lynch vs. Bliss/James, Banks vs. Jax or Bella vs. Natalya?

Corrigan: I can’t believe I’m typing this, but Nikki vs. Natalya is the most intriguing women’s feud right now. It’s not that I’m all Brieeee Mooooode, but Nikki’s struggle to be accepted as a legitimate pro wrestler is interesting, refreshing and relatable to the WWE Universe. Plus, Natalya is hot fire on the mic.

Cross: They’ve all been good, but Lynch vs. Bliss & James has a ton of intrigue behind it. We don’t know why James hates Lynch or why she’s teaming up with Bliss, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.

Gibb: Charlotte & Bayley have the most intriguing feud brewing because Charlotte is the best wrestler in the division and one of the best promoted champions of the new brand split era, while Bayley is the best fighting-from-underneath babyface on the WWE roster.

Levin: Is all of them an option? When was the last time any women in WWE have been involved in this many storylines? While the rotation gets a bit stale, there are nine or 10 women who could conceivably be part of a title program. Of them all, I like the Lynch vs. Bliss & James matchup because of the way they have brought James back to the main roster. A feud with Lynch could be the best of 2017.

Mackle: Lynch vs. Bliss & James has been the best female story heading into the Rumble. It’s had the most physical interaction, rather than boring promos and preshow attacks. Nattie vs Nikki has tested the PG barrier a lot, but hasn’t done much since the opening promos. Mickie vs Becky is a WrestleMania match in the making!

Macyk: There are only two ways to get ahead in our world: Be born into a successful family or try to marry John Cena. The Nikki vs. Natty feud represents this divide.

Who is your favorite and your dark horse to win the Royal Rumble?

Corrigan: Chris Jericho is my favorite to win the Rumble. My dark horse is actually a lone wolf.

Cross: The Kingpin will be proud to hear that my favorite is Brock Lesnar. I’m guessing we get The Beast vs. The Guy II at Mania. I’m going with Samoa Joe for my dark horse – a win gives him instant credibility as a top heel.

Gibb: Favorite: Undertaker. Dark Horse: AJ Styles following a title loss.

Levin: Chris Jericho will win the Rumble. While we know there will be a few surprises and a few “wow” moments, it’s the best booking option WWE has to help put Owens over one more time as a star for the future. Don’t count Bray Wyatt out as a dark horse, especially if AJ Styles beats Cena. This is the type of move that makes Styles a babyface again and allows Wyatt to finally challenge for a singles title.

Mackle: Even though he’s a part-timer, my favorite is the Undertaker because he needs one last title match in his career. I’d love to see Taker vs. Styles vs. Cena in a triple threat tear the building down. My dark horse is Baron Corbin. I said in an article this month he’s definitely one to watch, and a Royal Rumble win would definitely solidify an awesome rookie year.

Macyk: Favorite: Big Show. He is the biggest and thus always the Royal Rumble favorite. Dark Horse: Samoa Joe. We have never seen him stand next to the Big Show, so no one knows how big he actually is.

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