Projecting the Top Headlines from 2021 WWE Royal Rumble Match Card
The Royal Rumble is the most exciting, unpredictable and buzz-worthy event on WWE's schedule. It is the start of the Road to WrestleMania, providing fans a taste of what they can expect from the company ahead of The Showcase of the Immortals and the first look at what the card will feature.
While its popularity has thrived on the unexpected, that does not mean we cannot project the headlines that will come in the wake of the show.
Who will cash their ticket to the biggest event of the year? What matches will leave fans in awe? Who might return to write the latest chapters in their stories?
Find out with this preview of the annual extravaganza.
Bianca Belair Wins Royal Rumble, Sets Up Historic WrestleMania Title Match
One year after making her Royal Rumble debut, lasting 35 minutes and eliminating eight women—a joint-record—Bianca Belair will win this year's match and cash her ticket to WrestleMania and a historic SmackDown Women's Championship match against Sasha Banks.
That contest will mark the first time that two Black women have ever competed in a singles match for the top prize in women's wrestling at the industry's most prestigious event.
A Rumble win is a milestone Belair has earned while both she and Banks, a standard-bearer for women's wrestling for a long time, deserve the opportunity to mark said historic moment, even if WWE opts not to promote it as such.
Belair has all of the tools. She's agile, strong, inspirational, charismatic and, above all else, carries herself like a star in ways those more experienced than her have never managed to. She jumps off the screen whenever she performs. She has screamed "megastar" from her first appearance in the Mae Young Classic.
A Rumble win and major WrestleMania title opportunity have been inevitable for a while.
That she would get to have that match against Banks, who has personified excellence in her field for the better part of a decade, makes the prospective match that much more meaningful.
For Banks, it would represent the opportunity to again prove her greatness on a grand stage and in a singles match that would lay the groundwork for the future of the industry.
That it would be a celebration of strong, fierce, successful and ultra-talented Black women in wrestling and a true glass-ceiling-shattering moment would make it that much more special. It needs to happen, and if booking trends are any indication, The EST's arm will be raised in victory Sunday night.
Part-Time Superstars, Returning Legends Pave the Way to WrestleMania
WWE has already made it clear that part-time Superstars and returning legends are going to factor prominently into the Road to WrestleMania 37. Goldberg is back challenging for another title, and Edge is entering the Royal Rumble match, looking to recreate the magic of last year's show.
Throw in the possibility, regardless of how strong, of Brock Lesnar, John Cena and Ronda Rousey making appearances, and you have plenty of reason to believe that this year's Showcase of the Immortals will feature some of the most recognizable faces in pro wrestling history.
That is not necessarily a good thing, least of all because it stunts the growth of the company's young roster and robs them of the opportunity to work the biggest show of the year in any significant role. Worst of all, it shines a light on just how poor a job WWE has done of developing legitimate stars since Cena stepped away from the squared circle to go be a leading man in Hollywood.
We should be used to it, though. WrestleMania, once the launching-off point for superstardom and Hall of Fame-worthy careers, has become less about establishing the next generation and more about using the stars of yesteryear to create a buzz for and excitement around a show that can sell itself on name value alone.
The Royal Rumble will reiterate this.
Do not be surprised to see Goldberg dethrone Drew McIntyre and win the WWE Championship. He has beaten every champion he has come back to challenge, and there is no reason to believe it will not happen again.
Do not be shocked if Edge wins the men's Rumble to set up some shallow, hollow, mass-marketed feud with the new champion over who has the better spear.
That is the WWE of today.
Like it or not, the thirst for nostalgia and the stars who made CEO Vince McMahon money yesterday, rather than those who can make him even more tomorrow, prevails.
Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens Add Instant Classic to Incredible Series
Thus far in their rivalry, Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens have torn the house down in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match and waged war inside of a steel cage on Christmas night. In both instances, their mastery of storytelling and in-ring chemistry have fueled extraordinary contests.
Sunday night at the Rumble, they will steal the show in an early Match of the Year candidate that will instantly be regarded as one of the greatest to take place at the January spectacular.
It would not be the first time they have excelled at the Rumble. Four years ago, they delivered a banger of a match for the same universal title, which was then held by KO. Better in every phase almost half a decade later, they will improve upon that match and leave fans in awe.
No one will be surprised.
Reigns is the best thing in wrestling and WWE's go-to for epic masterpieces of storytelling. Owens is the perfect dance partner, an emotionally intense performer willing to throw caution to the wind and meet Reigns' aggression when necessary.
Their chemistry is off the charts and gives fans every reason to believe their match Sunday will live up to even the loftiest of expectations.
The Fiend Returns, Sets Up Final Battle with Randy Orton
The last image of WWE on pay-per-view in 2020 was that of Randy Orton standing over the burning carcass of "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt.
It is only fitting that The Fiend returns on the first event of 2021, seeking vengeance for his demise at the hands of The Viper.
With the Rumble taking place in what is essentially a closed set at Tropicana Field, WWE has the opportunity to work with some production tricks to ensure it pulls off a memorable return for its resident masked maniac.
Expect something along the lines of Orton being the sole competitor in the ring, only to be confronted by the monster from his nightmares as Wyatt avenges his fiery ordeal.
The mid-match angle will set up one final showdown in which The Fiend finally defeats Orton, presumably at Fastlane in March, so that both Superstars can put the long, twisty and surreal storyline behind them.
One can damn sure hope, at least.