WWE ROYAL RUMBLE 2023
JANUARY 28, 2023
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
MEET YOUR PREVIEWERS
Suit Williams: The Royal Rumble is not only the beginning of WWE’s hottest period of the year, but it also serves as a temperature check for the promotion. It’s a sign of who’s catching fire, who is gaining steam, and what future matchups the WWE Universe is excited to see. Unfortunately, last year’s Rumble had the heat of a frozen pizza. It was a damning indictment on the lack of star power on the WWE roster. It was also an indictment of WWE’s creative bankruptcy, as their choice for Royal Rumble winner was Brock Lesnar…who entered the night as WWE Champion.
This year, there is a veneer of change over the company. At press time, Paul Levesque is still in his position as head of WWE Creative. While many of WWE’s tropes remain, there has been an increase in the steadiness of the long-term stories being told. The WWE Title match has been built up since Survivor Series, and the Pitch Black match has also had a months-long build. The concern lies in the execution of the end of these feuds. Can WWE stick the landing? I doubt it, but let’s get into this Rumble card. Follow me on Twitter, @SuitWilliams.
Joey O’Doherty: Even for those completely disillusioned with WWE’s product for the past two decades, the Royal Rumble always provides an opportunity to see if there is any hope that the company has changed. Last year, casual and lapsed fans gathered round to watch arguably the most popular show on WWE’s calendar and left utterly disappointed as WWE delivered one of the worst men’s rumble match in years, especially as it was the first post pandemic Rumble with fans since the very enjoyable 2020 edition. Shane McMahon was the scapegoat for how dismal the match was and the show as a whole mostly underperformed.
This year brings more optimism has “Papa H” Paul Levesque is seemingly in charge of creative while a massive Vince McMahon shaped cloud hangs over the company. With the product only showing minor changes since Triple H took over creative in the wake of Vince’s initial departure, the Rumble can provide returning fans with a chance to see the direction of the company as it leads to WrestleMania. Lets take a look at how the show is shaping up. Feel free to follow me on Twitter at @awesomeojoe.
WWE UNIVERSAL CHAMPIONSHIP
KEVIN OWENS VS. ROMAN REIGNS (c)
Suit: This match is first in this preview, but it is the last one I’m writing because I truly don’t have anything to say about it. Kevin Owens is only here to get pinned and advance the Reigns/Sami Zayn story to whatever end that will go to. The match will probably be good considering who is in it, as these two have good chemistry. But there’s no intrigue here for me. Zayn will get involved, Roman will win, and we move on to the next showing of the Bloodline Theater. Prediction: Roman Reigns
Joey: Didn’t they do this match at a Rumble a couple of years ago. Nut yes, the circumstances are much different and the story is much better. The result here isn’t in doubt, but the draw here is the progression of the Sami/Bloodline tale. What direction will this tale of brotherhood and honor take? Who knows exactly, but it surely will involving Sami having to choose between Roman and Kevin while Paul Heyman picks up the easiest paycheque of his career. Considering the competitors, this match has potential to be very enjoyable despite perhaps lacking any drama until Sami appears. Prediction: Roman Reigns
WWE RAW WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP
ALEXA BLISS VS. BIANCA BELAIR (c)
Suit: After a run as a rudderless, bland babyface, Alexa Bliss seems to be slipping back into the warm embrace of the Wyatt Cinematic Universe. Uncle Howdy has been mi’ladying his way into Bliss’ head, leading her to get more violent towards Belair in the build to this match. My only hope is that Belair gets out of this thing unscathed and moves on to her WrestleMania feud. Prediction: Bianca Belair
Joey: I’ve no time for this match. It’s a waste of Bianca’s talent and she should be against someone who isn’t a spooky child cosplayer. Alexa isn’t very good as an in-ring performer for my taste, while her characters, either as a boringly nothing babyface or as the aforementioned spooky child, present little to get excite about. The presence of Bray Wyatt and his so-called creative genius in this match only furthers my desire to view this match as an opportunity to collect snacks and take a much more pleasurable dump in the my bathroom than the dump Alexa and her ghoulish character will take in the ring on Saturday. Will Bianca overcome Alexa, or more importantly will she overcome this feud without the pebbledash of an Uncle Howdy program on her resume Prediction: Bianca Belair
MOUNTAIN DEW PITCH BLACK MATCH
BRAY WYATT VS. LA KNIGHT
Suit: In his first televised match since WrestleMania 37, Bray Wyatt takes on LA Knight in the Pitch Black match.
— WWE (@WWE) October 9, 2022
After he returned at Extreme Rules on October 2nd, Wyatt stated that he wanted to become a new man and leave the Fiend in the past. However, he’s had to battle his own demons in the form of Uncle Howdy, a mysterious figure who wanted Wyatt to embrace his past and become the Fiend again. LA Knight got involved after an interview interruption caused Uncle Howdy to go after him on multiple occasions. Knight believes that Wyatt and Uncle Howdy are the same person (which Wyatt seemed to confirm?) and is looking to win this match to be rid of both.
#BrayWyatt is HIM. 👀
— WWE (@WWE) January 14, 2023
I say this with no hyperbole. Bray Wyatt is my least favorite professional wrestler ever. That wasn’t always the case. I was into him in NXT and the early days of the Wyatt Family. He spoke differently than anyone else on WWE television. He had a charisma about him that took me in and got me interested in whatever he was doing. After his call-up to the main roster, the Wyatt Family’s feud with the Shield was one of the most energizing things about WWE television at the time. The matches still hold up a decade later. The problems came soon after that though.
You asked for it. You can't un-ask for it. Have fun. pic.twitter.com/pRtBuO80Nj
— Suit Williams 👔 (@SuitWilliams) October 9, 2022
Bray Wyatt is an idea man. He has a lot of ideas of cool things to do that can enhance his character and make him a more interesting part of WWE television. That’s not an inherent problem, but when those ideas aren’t fully fleshed out, they turned Wyatt from this interesting character into a headache to try and keep up with. The same way Indie Guy #45 can be considered a “spot monkey”, I consider Wyatt to be a “story simian”. His ideas are cool in a sense, but they tend to fall apart after a few seconds of thought. I can easily see this Uncle Howdy thing going the same route as School Girl Alexa Bliss, or Sister Abigail as another Wyatt side project that ultimately goes down as a waste of time.
— WWE (@WWE) January 22, 2023
God bless LA Knight, as he’s tried to make some sense of his role in all of this. I’ve always been a bit higher than most on him, seeing his big television charisma warranting a spot on a wrestling show. But his hands are going to be full in this Pitch Black match, which is part product placement and, I assume, part hardcore match. It would be nice if anyone knew for a fact what a Pitch Black match was going to entail, but I’ll go out on a limb and say this will be the kendo stick/chair/table portion of the evening. As far as who wins, I’ll say that Uncle Howdy appears in the darkness and costs Wyatt the match to set up his WrestleMania feud. Prediction: LA Knight
Joey: Ah a Mountain Dew Pitch Black match. A match developed by a top marketing team no doubt. Judging by the limited information about this match, it’s hard to formulate exactly what is in store. Is it possible that the powers that be thought of the name of the match first and are working hard to figure out what kind of match it eventually be? Never.
But have no fear, Bray Wyatt is involved, so I shall ready my Krusty the Clown “What the hell was that?” gif. It’s been like forever since Bray Wyatt returned and he has done very little since his return. If substance was meat, Bray’s current return is the wrestling equivalent to the cafeteria food in the Simpsons. “there is very little meat in these gym mats”. I’ve been pretty vocal about my opinion of Bray so let’s not go over old ground.
The match will be most likely a walk n brawl spliced with theatrical horror drivel only the dregs of wrestling community will enjoy. An early contender for match of the year and a potential “so bad its good” encounter. Please spare a thought for LA Knight, who deserves better than this. We all deserve better than Bray Wyatt. Knight has given it is all to get us invested in this match, but he’s is pissing in the wind. Saturday night he will be covered in preverbal piss as he enters this horrible I think the opposite of Suit and think Uncle Howdy assist’s Bray to win, but I really don’t care that much. Prediction: Bray Wyatt
WOMEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE
Announced Names: Candice LeRae, Emma, Zelina Vega, Shayna Baszler, Rhea Ripley, Liv Morgan, Raquel Rodriguez
Possible Entrants: Ronda Rousey, Becky Lynch, Bayley, Iyo Sky, Dakota Kai, Asuka, Natalya, Shotzi, Sonya Deville, Tegan Nox, Xia Li, Lacey Evans, Dana Brooke, Shotzi
Suit: Two Rumbles in one night is too much. Excess is not a new to WWE television, with over a decade of shows centered around multiples of the same stipulation match in one night. From Hell in a Cell and Elimination Chamber matches, to your garden variety plunder matches, to even Fatal 4 Way matches one time, this isn’t some new revelation. But it still cheapens the match to have two of them in one night. I would alternate between men’s and women’s Rumbles every year, with the other gender getting the Elimination Chamber, but I’m not a billionaire so I can’t be a booker.
There’s not much to this one, as WWE has put little effort into promoting this Rumble other than letting us know it would happen. Liv Morgan has caught the crazy and wants to start at #1, and uhh…that’s about it. As far as winners go, the only name on the list that would be any type of fresh challenger would be Rhea Ripley. She’s been the most protected non-champion woman on the roster, having beaten some lower-card men recently to boot. She’s the most interesting part of the Judgment Day group, and Ripley/Belair is about as marquee a match they have on the women’s side. Either that, or Charlotte can beat her. Again. Either way, this one seems clear cut to me. Prediction: Rhea Ripley
Joey: WWE have booked themselves into a corner by pushing ahead with a Women’s Rumble year after year despite not having the talent to fill it. No women beyond Bianca really feels hot at the minute, with WWE having really done a bad job with Bayley and Becky Lynch while others just either haven’t got the chops to be higher up the card or are just so bad that we don’t really care. As Suit above said, Rhea is the most obvious candidate for a win, but even she doesn’t seem worthy of being the next big thing yet. Sasha returning here would have be the best choice but she had other ideas so she won’t be turning up unless WWE . It’s a match that has been neglected for the last couple of years so if WWE don’t care, why should I? Prediction: Rhea Ripley
MEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE
Announced Names: Rey Mysterio, Bobby Lashley, Seth Rollins, Sheamus, Drew McIntyre, Cody Rhodes, Kofi Kingston, Ricochet, Santos Escobar, Baron Corbin, Braun Strowman, Karrion Kross, Gunther, Austin Theory, Omos
Possible Entrants: Brock Lesnar, Sami Zayn, Jimmy & Jey Uso, Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor, Damien Priest & Dominik Mysterio (Judgment Day), Giovanni Vinci & Ludwig Kaiser (Imperium), Joaquin Wilde & Cruz Del Toro (Legado Del Fantasma), Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford (The Street Profits), Butch & Ridge Holland (Brawling Brutes), Chad Gable & Otis (Alpha Academy), Xavier Woods, Dolph Ziggler
Suit: As I said earlier, last year’s Royal Rumble was as harsh of an indictment of WWE’s roster as possible. A train of ice-cold names coming one after another in a disjointed, boring affair that ended in the most predictable surprise you could imagine. Now that WWE has put the slightest effort into longer-term booking, we may be able to see the dividends paid off here. There are a few possible throughlines in this match that can buoy the hour, such as:
- Cody Rhodes’ return, featuring the man that put him on the shelf in Seth Rollins
- Rey and Dominik Mysterio being in the same ring for the first time since October
- Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley’s renewed rivalry after Lesnar’s attack on Raw
- Sheamus and Gunther renewing their acclaimed rivalry from last year
The rest of the talent in this match has the talent to make the match a fluid, exciting affair, but like all Rumbles, it comes down to structure. Pat Patterson, the man credited with creating the Rumble match, is also credited with perfecting how to structure the match for peak effectiveness. After his retirement from full-time work with the company, he would still be brought in as a consultant to put together the Rumble matches. Ever since his passing in 2020, the Rumbles have missed that expert’s touch that made the Royal Rumble so great. Hopefully with a different voice running creative, they can make this thing work again. If not, we’re in for another unspectacular Royal Rumble match.
As far as the winner goes, there are only two real options. First, there’s the storyline choice of Sami Zayn. Zayn has been the catalyst for the renewed interest in the Bloodline storyline, going from comedy fodder to comedy fodder with what seems like a real emotional connection to the crowd. It’s almost like he’s got experience with that type of thing. He’s been the shield for Roman Reigns and his title reign, helping to secure the win for their team at War Games and consistently putting himself in harm’s way to defend the Bloodline. Despite this, recently Reigns has called Zayn’s loyalty into question and was close to ejecting him from the group this past Monday on Raw. Zayn winning the Rumble and becoming the top contender to Reigns’ title would send this simmering feud to a boil and give Reigns the biggest storyline threat to his title reign since it began.
Then, there’s going with the biggest star. Cody Rhodes felt like the biggest star in the world when he walked out at WrestleMania last year. His matches with Seth Rollins were critically acclaimed, with the Hell in a Cell match he worked with a torn pec quickly becoming the stuff of WWE legend. His well-hyped return leading to a Royal Rumble win could solidify Cody as a made man in this company, and a match between himself and Roman Reigns is easily the biggest money match the company can make that doesn’t involve past stars. Between those two names, the one with the crowd connection and the one who feels like the bigger star, who do you think is WWE is gonna pick? Prediction: Cody Rhodes
Joey: As stated early, last year’s Rumble was beyond abysmal and the worst one in recent memory. No real structure, no one really got a shine beyond Shane-O-Mac and the absence of any cool spots really made it a slog to watch. A few storylines will mesh with the match, such as Cody’s return, Brock v Lashley (do we need that again) and Sami Zayn’s Bloodline saga, so the match should at the least progress some stories if booked with care. As for surprises expect Matt Riddle and AJ Styles might potential appear but don’t expect The Rock or Jay White any time Saturday. Some expect Stone Cold to return and after last years heroics at Mania, you can’t rule Austin out in terms of an appearance.
As for winners, Sami Zayn winning makes the most sense. He’s in a long term story with the current top dog and has been the most entertain and consistent performer in WWE all year. Sami winning and dethroning Roman is an opportunity for WWE to naturally create a new top star, something they have botched too many times in the last 30 years. At the very least Sami winning to face Roman gives their current story more juice and an easy road map to Wrestlemania’s main event. It’s the pragmatic approach.
But why make a new star, when you can throw a ready made star into the mix instead. Cody Rhodes winning isn’t exactly a Batista 2014 situation as not only is Cody someone people want to see taking Roman down, but also the fans left watching WWE live really lap up everything the company throws at them regardless of how good or bad it really is. Cody can solidify himself as a top star and realise his dream as being THE guy in Vinceland. But while Cody is a good choice, Sami is the better one.
Going by WWE’s track record and how they have used Cody since his jump from AEW, I think Cody is the bookies choice. Prediction: Cody Rhodes