Roman Reigns will be the new name inserted in the Royal Rumble statistics package after Sunday night's event.
I fully expect him to make a huge impact.
I can see him being booked to eliminate more than 11 guys. This would break Kane's record for the most eliminations in one match.
From the moment The Shield debuted, you could see that Reigns fits the mold of WWE's perfect performer. His athletic size, abilities and background are always a plus to WWE. With over a year of valuable time on WWE television, he has had the ability to learn with the biggest names, but he hasn't been exposed, thanks to the dynamic work of the trio The Shield.
Every month, more prominence in the booking can be seen, as WWE is slowly burning the inevitable breakup of The Shield. Reigns has been labeled as the first to break out as a babyface and away from the group mentality.
2014 is going to be a big year for Reigns, and there's no better way to start it than to have him eliminate more than 11 guys in the Rumble. Perhaps they add another statistic to the package by having Reigns eliminate a certain amount of legends or former titleholders. Something prestigious-sounding.
This would mean Reigns would have to be around for a long time or inserted in the match at the perfect time with the right guys in before and after him.
Another reason why who Reigns eliminates is important is the fans' reactions. WWE wants him as a babyface, so he can't eliminate too many fan favorites. He shouldn't eliminate a guy like CM Punk (who The Shield has been linked to).
Dating all the way back to 1994 when Diesel held the most eliminations record prior to Kane (at seven), fans responded to the strong showing. They began to chant "Diesel," and that was the first time in his career it had happened up to that point.
The Royal Rumble match has that excitement. Fans respond to a dominant performer and do so positively—as long as the performer doesn't taunt the crowd. If they remain focused on the other participants in the match, the fans tend to react with cheers. If they play to the crowd and laugh at the fan favorites being eliminated, then they get the heat.
If Batista hadn't made his return to WWE this week, I would go as far as saying it would be reasonable to put Reigns as a possible winner of the Rumble match. If you take Batista out of the equation and add in the fact that WWE seems to want to take Bryan out of the equation, then it's a wide open race with the evolution of the roster.
Reigns won't win, but he will begin his 2014 with a strong showing, and the fans will begin to react to him as a babyface.
Justin LaBar is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He also is the creator of the Chair Shot Reality video talk show and Wrestling Reality radio show. He's been featured by various outlets including several appearances on NBC Sports, recognized as a lead wrestling analyst in the country.
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