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411’s WWE Royal Rumble 2023 Preview

January 28, 2023 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
WWE Royal Rumble 2023 Image Credit: WWE

Hello 411 guys, gals, enbies, and everyone else! Welcome to 411’s WWE Royal Rumble 2023 preview! I’m Jeremy Thomas, here as always, and today WWE begins the Road to WrestleMania with one of the most anticipated shows of the year. The Royal Rumble tripped and fell on its face in 2022, but this year’s show has some real potential in the actual Rumble matches and the remaining three bouts announced thus far have potential, even if one gimmick is a little…let’s say concerning. There’s a lot to get into, so let’s go ahead and jump right in!

Pitch Black Match
Bray Wyatt vs. LA Knight

Image Credit: WWE

First up is the Pitch Black match…whatever that is. I’m not being facetious about that; I don’t think anyone knows what this is. You know how I know this? If you google “Pitch Black,” the first thing that comes up is “Pitch Black Match Rules WWE.” I assume it’s just going to be a Street Fight with funky lighting, which — okay, fine. Weird lighting has done so well for Bray Wyatt matches in the past, right? What can go wrong? (Don’t answer that, Seth Rollins.)

Anyway, the point is that WWE hasn’t bothered to clarify what the rules of this match is, and the reason is because they don’t think they need to. The name is just for the branding and sponsorship, and fair enough. WWE has instead focused on the storyline of this match, which people either love or hate. To their credit, Bray and Knight are doing some fantastic work here. Knight has been showing why he can be a main roster star, and Wyatt feels invigorated since he returned even if he needs to actually do something beyond his creepy promos. There’s a lot of question as to how this is going to work out; I’m worried about the quality of the match just because we don’t know what the stipulation means, though we do know there will be a lot of shenanigans in play. Overall, I don’t think it’s out of pocket to suggest this will be very much a “sports entertainment match,” which is fine for these two. It’s almost certain to have enough overbooked wackiness that a Wyatt win — which is vastly needed — hurts Knight much..

WINNER: Bray Wyatt

Raw Women’s Championship Match
Bianca Belair vs. Alexa Bliss

Image Credit: WWE

I know it has its critics, but Bianca Belair’s rivalry with Alexa Bliss has been more intriguing than I expected it to be. And I say that as someone who is a fan of both Belair and Bliss; I think they’re both great, but the Bray Wyatt-ness of it all had me more than a wee bit skeptical because there were quite valid concerns over whether Wyatt would overshadow the competitors being that it’s one of WWE’s big focuses over the last several months. Fortunately they’ve kept the attention of that aspect on Bliss and Uncle Howdy, while a presence, hasn’t been dominating the storyline the way he could have in the wrong hands.

Belair’s reign as Raw Women’s Champion has been a nice little redemption run after the way she lost her first title reign, and she’s coming up on a year as champion now. In some cases I would argue that she can safely lose the title in order to elevate another champion, but I don’t believe that’s where this story is going. The road to WrestleMania is simply stronger with Belair walking down it as champion, and Bliss can easily transition into something else. I expect these two to have a very solid match, but in the end (even with Howdy-nanigans in play), it would be a mistake to take the title off Belair and I don’t think they’re going to do that.

WINNER: Bianca Belair (STILL Raw Women’s Champion)

Undisputed WWE Universal Match
Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens

Image Credit: WWE

The Undisputed WWE Universal clash at Royal Rumble is an odd sort of duck. On one hand, it’s unfortunate that one of the competitors is the last important part of the match’s storyline. On the other hand, that’s only because the rest of it has been so damned good. Owens is a perfect guy to put against Reigns in the context of The Bloodline’s latest travails with Sami Zayn for obvious reasons. Zayn and Reigns have been absolutely electric in this whole arc, and it has done absolute wonders for Zayn’s career as he now has the fans completely behind him. It’s something that he’s deserved for a long time, and no matter who you are it’s hard not to see this as something that has been a long time coming.

All that is to say that WWE clearly sees something beyond the Royal Rumble involving Roman Reigns and the Bloodline, and it doesn’t involve Kevin Owens as champion. Owens is great; we all know that. And he’d be a great champion, much as he has before. But WWE has a direction clearly plotted out here that almost certainly requires Reigns to stay champion, whether that’s Zayn challenging for one of Reigns’ titles at WrestleMania or Owens & Zayn challenging the Usos for one of their tag titles. What this means is that there isn’t a lot of drama around who wins this match — the question is how they get there. Reigns has demanded a “final test” from Zayn at the Rumble, and one could assume that involves screwing Owens. Maybe he does it and maybe he doesn’t, but either way there’s going to be a lot of drama mixed in with the in-ring action that Owens and Reigns are capable of. This should be a fun match and the crowd will be incredibly into it, but in the end the Tribal Chief should still reign supreme.

WINNER: Roman Reigns (STILL Undisputed WWE Universal Champion)

Women’s Royal Rumble Match

Image Credit: WWE

The most interesting thing about the women’s Royal Rumble match is how few names are confirmed for the match at this point. As the time of this writing (after Smackdown), there are still almost two-thirds of the spots open for the match. For comparison’s sake, there were 21 announced by this point last year. That leaves the door open for several surprises, but in this case I’m not banking on any of the surprises being the victors. The reason for that is simple: I think that it’s obvious who is winning this, and her name is Mami Rhea Ripley. Ripley has been an almost-winner more than once; she was the runner-up in 2021 to Bianca Belair and made it to the final five last year after lasting half an hour. Ripley has caught fire with the WWE fanbase more than arguably any women’s wrestler over the past year and a WrestleMania title match boosts not only her, but all of Judgment Day. There are certainly some other people who could potentially win; you can never count Becky Lynch out, and I think Raquel Rodriguez is a dark horse. But in the end I think this is the clearest “must-win” Rumble decision in a while.

WINNER: Rhea Ripley

Men’s Royal Rumble Match

Image Credit: WWE

Yeah, I know the graphic for this and the women’s Rumble match are the same. Take it up with WWE; I’m not the one who decides “Make a Royal Rumble Matches graphic and call it a day.” Anyway, WWE has found itself in an interesting conundrum regarding the men’s Rumble match. On one hand, there is a clear plan for a winner, and it’s one that would make many people happy in Cody Rhodes. Rhodes’ return to WWE was a bigger success than I think most expected when he came back at WrestleMania and then declared his intent to win the World Title for his old man the night after. He had a hell of a run until a training injury put him on the shelf, and his post-injury match with Seth Rollins at Hell in a Cell defied reason but still delivered. His return at the Rumble seems like an obvious place for him to pick up a big win and move onto WrestleMania to battle Reigns.

But Sami. Sami, Sami, Sami. Out of nowhere, Zayn’s storyline with The Bloodline has become the most compelling thing on WWE (or frankly, any other wrestling) TV. Fans know that Zayn is going to end up on the opposite side of the ring from The Bloodline, and they are salivating for it. To some it feels more than a little bit like the Daniel Bryan 2014 run when the fans were behind Bryan as an underdog favorite. That one didn’t turn out well for WWE at first until they got behind Bryan, and it’s easy to see why some might see a correlation here.

All that said, I don’t see the two situations as the same. 2014 was Daniel Bryan (the fan’s choice) against Batista (the boss’ choice), with no one really behind Big Dave. This year, both of the two are sentimental fan favorites, and I agree with Zayn when he says that the fans won’t necessarily revolt if Zayn loses as long as it’s done well. Anyone else would be a horrible choice, but there’s no wrong answer with these two because they have a plan for both men and The Bloodline heading into Mania. And no one else will win; Lesnar and Lashley will probably eliminate each other and everyone else will not factor in. There’s always the possibility of The Rock, but if he does have a WrestleMania match I don’t think it happens because of a Rumble win because he doesn’t need it. That brings us to Cody and Sami, and with Sami having a built-in storyline no matter what happens I think Cody is the clear choice to win.

WINNER: Cody Rhodes

And that’s all we have for the Royal Rumble! All we need is a better show than last year and we’re on the right track. Thanks once again for reading and remember that we will have live coverage of the show courtesy our own Robert Winfree right here on 411mania.com. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go before Sami does something to make me break character..

Image Courtesy of WWE

article topics :

Royal Rumble, Jeremy Thomas