The WWE Royal Rumble 2017 was so many things to look at: star-studded to the point of calling it legendary, exhilarating, and unpredictable. That last word certainly defines it from a fan’s perspective. Before the Rumble began, more names of potential winners than ever before were on shortlists of pundits everywhere. And yet, when the dust cleared, the winner seemed to have come from out of the blue.
Some thought we’d be seeing the Undertaker reign. Others expected a surprise Finn Balor win, while others claimed it was Chris Jericho’s time. Instead, when it was all over, Randy Orton was left on top.
A few instances during the nearly one-hour-long affair could be described as “Wow”. No, we didn’t get Shinsuke Nakamura or Samoa Joe, as some predicted (Tye Dillinger is a consolation prize). But there were great moments.
Firstly, credit where credit is due: Braun Strowman had an incredible run while he was in the ring, cleaning house with impunity. He eliminated the likes of Mark Henry and The Big Show, and only after surviving triple-teams of every kind did he finally get shot down by Baron Corbin.
Other strong showings? Chris Jericho, who came in at number 2 and still managed to hang on until the final four (with some slippery maneuverings out of the ring, of course). The Undertaker, still formidable despite his age. Flashes of fun from the New Day, Sheamus and Cesaro, and the Wyatt Fammily, all commendable.
The most jawdropping moment of Royal Rumble 2017, however? Doubtlessly, Goldberg’s elimination of Brock Lesnar after one Spear. For the second time since Survivor Series, Goldberg has shown that he’s got the Conquerer’s number. Lesnar had a few good eliminations of his own, but none of them are likely to matter given the embarrassment he (once again) suffered at Goldberg’s hands.
The Viper Strikes Again
With Bray Wyatt eliminated by Roman Reigns, it was up to Randy Orton to seal the deal for the Wyatt Family. The Viper struck the Big Dog from behind and claimed the Royal Rumble 2017 victory, his second time since 2009. This puts Orton in a pretty exclusive club: he joins Triple H, John Cena, Batista, Shawn Michaels, and Hulk Hogan as two-time victors of the Rumble (Steve Austin has three wins).
Four of those men, including Orton, have scored their repeats over the last five years. What does this mean now? Well, Orton’s been less of a vocal character lately, joining forces with the more mic-friendly Bray Wyatt. This is likely to signal the second coming of the Legend Killer persona, the brash, talkative superstar Orton first developed in his early prime.
He could be set to challenge John Cena, who won the WWE World Championship for a record-tying 16th time earlier in the night. But with everyone expecting Cena to give the Undertaker his send-off match at WrestleMania, we’ll probably see Orton challenge Kevin Owens for the Universal Title instead.
The man who won the Royal Rumble 2017 is a different man from the “Legacy” Orton who won in 2009. This one is older, wiser, the veteran of hundreds of matches by now.
Did he need the push? Perhaps not. Perhaps, Bray Wyatt or Sami Zayn would’ve benefited from the win more than an established champion like Orton could. For all the excellence the Rumble displayed, the choice of winner could have been someone newer on the roster than Randy.
But, will it make for a good match at WrestleMania? Certainly. SmackDown Live is doing a much better job than Raw is in handling their stars right now, and there’s a lot of time to sell a good story before the Main Event at The Grandest Stage of All. Orton’s already a legend in his own right. Count on it.