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What If...?: 2022 Men's Royal Rumble match edition
WWE

Pro Wrestling

What If…?: 2022 Men’s Royal Rumble match edition

Anyone can win the 30-man over-the-top-rope Royal Rumble — and we do mean anyone!

In lieu of traditional predictions for the Royal Rumble this year, we decided to focus on just the two Rumble matches themselves, and shake up the format a little bit: each of our writers was randomly assigned an announced competitor in the Royal Rumble match, and had to argue for why it would make sense for that Superstar to win and outline what their Road to WrestleMania would look like. Think of it as Marvel’s What If…?, for the Royal Rumble.

Some writers got fairly plausible Superstars, while others….well, enjoy!

Big E

What If...?: 2022 Men's Royal Rumble match edition

WWE

Tyler West: This is it, WWE’s chance at building an organic star. It’s right there for them. At 35, Big E isn’t getting any younger. It’s now or never. It’s now.

Final three: Big E and two heels. Fans on their feet. Big E looks to the crowd. This won’t be drawn out. Instead of taking the beatdown and drawing sympathy before overcoming the odds, Big E turns, charges, and clotheslines the two heels over the rope and wins the Rumble. The arena explodes. 

He opens up Monday Night Raw the next night and says, “I know I’m supposed to say that I’ve waited 15 years for this moment, but I haven’t. I haven’t toiled away in obscurity. In fact, I’ve succeeded in everything I’ve done: tag division? Greatest tag team of all time. Now I’m a singles wrestler? IC champ, Money in the Bank winner, WWE Champion, and now Royal Rumble winner!” Imagine a fired up, confident Big E.

Big E has a date with Brock Lesnar, of course. And it’ll take literally one promo from Big E for you to believe that he is a legitimate star and deserves this main event match at WrestleMania.

Because, like I said, this is it. If they don’t capitalize now with Big E, the ship has sailed. He will never be hotter than what he is now. Perception is reality and if WWE says Big E is a star going into 2022, he will be a star. If they don’t believe that to be the case but change their mind in two years, I think that ship has sailed. They dropped the ball with Kofi Kingston when he lost the title to Brock Lesnar, and something as organic as KofiMania died when Kofi’s push instantly disappeared with no followup. Three years later, the same opponent — WWE can’t afford to miss this opportunity.

It’s now or never. It’s now. And as for the match? Give Big E that damn belt. Big Ending. 1-2-3. And NEW!

Otis

What If...?: 2022 Men's Royal Rumble match edition

WWE

Jay Barrett: Otis’s career in WWE has been defined by potential, manipulation, and, ultimately, tragedy. His Road to WrestleMania will be paved by all three. Under the tutelage of Chad Gable, Otis will win the Royal Rumble by using his size and basic common sense considering how the match works by simply sitting  in the corner. No seriously, he’s going to come out at number 5, rush the ring, and just sit in the corner. Periodically, other participants in the match will try to assault him, but Otis will swat them away. He will then go to sleep around the time number 15 comes out like he was a Snorlax till number 27 or so, at which time Otis will wake up and toss out whoever remains.

The next night on Raw, Otis will proudly proclaim, “at WrestleMania, I am challenging HAM!!!” to the confusion of all until Gable relays to the crowd that Paul Heyman reminds Otis of ham, which means he’s coming after Brock Lesnar. Little does Otis know that this high is nothing but a preamble to a fall.

Otis and Gable then venture to NXT 2.0 the next night to begin training camp. The Performance Center would have all they need to prep for The Beast; however, what they find is not weights and rings but calamity as Otis’s former beau, Mandy, is found severely injured and left comatose by an unknown assailant. Otis then descends into a blind rage as that episode of NXT 2.0 is dominated by Otis interrogating the entire roster, much to the chagrin of Gable who just wants Otis to stay focused on his challenge on Mania. Otis’s rampage is finally stopped by Diamond Mine’s Ivy Nile, who is able to restrain Otis as Malcolm Bivens brings Otis to reason, assuring him that no one on the NXT roster did this to Mandy and agrees to investigate the case on his behalf as Malcolm Bevins is a renowned detective for this story because I want Malcolm Bivens in it. 

Weeks pass and Otis finds nothing but angst and rage. For the first time since aligning with Gable, the focused stoicism taught to him by the Alpha Academy begins to crack and he devolves into the wandering ogre he was with Heavy Machinery. Otis’s wrath spreads across Raw like a plague as week by week he terrorizes the undercard seeking answers, Gable grows frustrated and anxious as Otis has not trained, Bivens’ investigation has taken him to his couch as he studies old reruns of Martin, and Lesnar and Heyman laugh knowing Otis no longer poses a threat.

The Raw before Mania, Gable confronts Otis, begging him to let the hunt for Mandy’s assailant go and to train with him for Mania to no avail. Gable then shoves Otis out of frustration and in a fit of anger, Otis slams Gable to the mat and splashes him. Otis recoils, stunned and horrified by his own action as he realizes he is not only is unprepared for Brock Lesnar, he has hurt his only friend.

WrestleMania arrives and Otis appears disheveled, out of shape, and is winded upon entering the ring. Just as match starts, Mandy Rose’s music plays and she comes out to the stage hand in hand with none other than Otis’ former tag partner, Tucker Knight. Otis appears stunned and shouts, “TUCKY!?” as Brock Lesnar begins to suplex him over and over and over to the point of unconsciousness. Lesnar F-5s Otis for the three count as Tucker takes the mic and reveals that Mandy was never hurt, that all of this was done to manipulate and distract Otis so that he would lose to Lesnar, shares a ham with Mandy Rose over his unconscious body, and is then released before Raw the next night. None of this is mentioned again and Malcolm Bivens finally finishes his binge of Martin.

Damian Priest

What If...?: 2022 Men's Royal Rumble match edition

Jason Segarra: Of the people on this list, I think I got the guy with the second-best chance of actually winning. I can see it now: Bad Bunny’s best friend DP is in the final five of the Rumble when Kevin Owens, Happy Corbin and Madcap Moss start triple-team our boy. They beat him down bad, and he takes finishers from all three guys who pause to gloat before they are about to throw him out – and that’s when Damian’s inner demon comes out. His eyes go crazy, and he goes ballistic. He tosses the heels, leaving him head-to-head with Randy Orton. Orton goes for the RKO, only for Priest to reverse it into the Reckoning and toss The Viper out of the ring to win.

On Monday’s Raw, Brock (who retained the previous night) is doing his big rah rah promo, when he’s interrupted by Priest’s music. DP doesn’t say a word; he just comes out and points at the Mania sign with his archery pose, and then the sign bursts into flames! The next week, Heyman hypes up the former Punishment Martinez but says he just isn’t in Brock’s league. This brings out Priest who admits he’s never faced a challenge like Lesnar, but he steps up to him, stares him dead in the eyes and says: “I see you’ve got a devil on your back, but trust me when I say, you’re not ready to meet the devil on mine!” Priest throws the first punch, they get into a pull apart brawl.

Over the next few weeks, DP ruthlessly decimates all of his opponents when his darker side takes over. In the go home show our guys finally go face to face, and after a stare down Priest looks down at the title only for Brock to headbutt him. He picks DP up, F5! But Damian gets up! Fire in his eyes, he starts wailing on Brock until the big man ducks out of the ring – leaving behind his belt. Naturally Priest picks up the title, holds it over his head as the ring ropes catch fire! It’s Brock vs. Priest in an Inferno match at Mania!

Of course DP is played to the ring by Bad Bunny, and summarily trounced by the Beast incarnate in under 5 minutes. Brock F5s Bunny on the way out too, because you know that dude would love it.

Dolph Ziggler

What If...?: 2022 Men's Royal Rumble match edition

WWE

Patrick Ross: Rehabilitating Dolph Ziggler into a credible World Championship contender in the year 2022 is a tall task. I’ve long been a fan of the Showoff, but somewhere over the last eight or so years, thinking about Ziggler’s role in the company has shifted from “what if” to “what could have been”. However, there is one way to write a World Title storyline involving Dolph Ziggler — you just have to go all the way back to 2014.

At Survivor Series 2014, Dolph Ziggler took Roman Reigns’ place in the men’s traditional Survivor Series match after the Big Dog had to undergo emergency surgery. Ziggler ended up being the sole survivor of that match (thanks in no small part to Sting), but failed to do anything with the momentum, slipping back down the card after a brief flash of newfound relevance.

So after he wins the 2022 Royal Rumble, Ziggler makes a spectacle out of his decision the following night on Raw — will he go after the WWE Championship or the Universal Championship? Before he can come to a conclusion, though, Universal Champion Roman Reigns interrupts the Showoff, taunting Ziggler for being an also-ran all those years ago, and not even doing anything with the Roman Reigns rub that he never deserved to receive. Dolph wasn’t on Roman’s level back then, and he sure as hell isn’t anywhere near the Tribal Chief’s orbit now, Roman would say.

Dolph would prove he could hang by defeating Jimmy and Jey Uso in one-on-one matches leading up to WrestleMania, overcoming the insurmountable odds of the Bloodline, cutting impassioned promos about his career coming to a close and maybe, just maybe, there’s one last glimmer of hope that it’s finally, after all these years, Dolph’s time to redeem himself and have the world title run he has deserved for a decade.

Dolph Ziggler is then handily defeated by Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 38, closing another chapter in Dolph’s “What Could Have Been” book.

Chad Gable

What If...?: 2022 Men's Royal Rumble match edition

WWE

Shane Martin: With the newfound success of the Alpha Academy, Chad Gable is a man on a mission to prove that with the right preparation and strategy, anyone can do what they set their mind to. The Alpha Academy founder will surpass all expectations and will last eliminate Kevin Owens and Big E on his way to victory. 

The next night on Raw, fresh off his title win over Brock Lesnar, new WWE Champion Bobby Lashley and MVP are in the ring, bragging about their most recent accomplishment. Lashley and MVP quickly began to verbally run down any and all future challengers they could think of before being interrupted by Chad Gable and Otis. 

Unfazed, Lashley immediately laughs off the Royal Rumble winner, telling Gable that it looks like his dreams of main eventing and winning the WWE Championship at WrestleMania will “fall short”. Incensed at the blatant slam against his height, Gable and Otis attack Bobby Lashley and MVP, igniting the WWE Championship feud for WrestleMania

Over the course of the next several weeks, Gable and Lashley would participate in various academic and athletic events, trying to one-up one another in whatever way possible. Gable and his above average IQ and Olympic caliber wrestling skills would find ways to squeak out victory after victory over Lashley. MVP and Otis would soon become involved, trying to help Lashley and Gable respectfully get ahead by whatever means necessary.

As WrestleMania looms closer and closer, Gable and Otis would pick up a tag team victory over Lashley and MVP at Elimination Chamber in Saudi Arabia in February, cementing some much-needed momentum. 

However, even with all the momentum and fan support on his side, Chad Gable just could not topple the mountain that is the WWE Champion Bobby Lashley, tapping out to the Hurt Lock after a few measly minutes at the Showcase of the Immortals.

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