Brock Lesnar was reportedly not the original planned winner of the 2022 men's Royal Rumble match.
Mike Johnson of PW Insider reported Riddle was locked in as the winner in the week leading up to the match before a last-minute change handed the win to Lesnar. Randy Orton was also considered in what would have been his third Rumble win, but Riddle was the internal choice—right until the moment plans changed.
The report said WWE switched to Lesnar at the last minute as a "surprise."
One issue: No one was surprised.
Lesnar was the betting favorite heading into the event. Once he lost his WWE championship to Bobby Lashley earlier in the night, the direction of the story could be seen from a mile away. Lesnar enters the Rumble, wins and then challenges Roman Reigns at WrestleMania to give the Tribal Chief comeuppance for his interference earlier in the night.
A Reigns-Lesnar WrestleMania match has been in the offing for several months. It's been one of the longest, most well-told stories in years from WWE. Paul Heyman's done yeoman's work as the middle man, Reigns is in the best run of his career, and Lesnar has allowed his personality to shine for the first time in his career.
Having Lesnar win the Rumble potentially poisoned the well in the story among fans. Cagematch fan ratings have the Royal Rumble pay-per-view rated as the worst in history, and the 2022 Rumble ranks only behind the 2015 debacle as the lowest-rated men's match in history.
Had an actual surprise like Riddle won the match, it would have created the next two months of stories on Raw. Tensions could have brewed between RKBro as Riddle blossomed into a single's main eventer, setting up Randy Orton to potentially beat Lashley at the Elimination pay-per-view to set up a championship showdown.
Lesnar, meanwhile, could have simply gone to SmackDown and demanded a match with Reigns—something that fits his in-kayfabe character. The storyline was straightforward and did not necessarily need the Rumble victory.
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