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!
Tyler West: Natalya isn’t the most dynamic wrestler, so she isn’t going to be the focal point of the Rumble match. She is the workhorse, coming in early and outlasting the field. She wins and faces…Charlotte Flair.
Yes, I know, how many times can we see this same match? And I’m going to double down on another familiar path WWE takes when pairing off Nattie vs Charlotte: the history of the Flairs vs. the Harts. But this time, we’re doing things correctly. WWE loves the past but never seems to ever actually know anything or respect anything from it. Not this time.
Instead of typical WWE scripted promos, which Natalya just has never sounded very natural giving, we do a lot of interviews with The Harts. We talk about the history of the Hart Dungeon, how difficult it was for her to train in there. What it’s like for her to carry on the legacy of the Harts as a woman.
When it comes to Charlotte, she’s incredibly dismissive. She’s bigger than Ric Flair, bigger than all of that family drama, and she will be happy to tell you that. She’s well on her way to breaking her dad’s record, and once she does, she never wants to be compared to him ever again.
On the go-home show, Nattie gets one (seriously, only one) open mic to cut a promo where she tells Charlotte “this isn’t about the Flairs vs the Harts at WrestleMania, because you don’t fight for your family. But I still fight for mine. So I’ll see you, and that,” and points at the belt, then at the WrestleMania sign, “on Sunday.”
Nattie loses, but the Harts come out and hug her, escorting her out of the ring and up the ramp.
Jay Barrett: Aliyah has spent the past six years of her life training at WWE Performance Center so it was only fitting she entered her first Royal Rumble match at #6. Like a house of fire, Aliyah runs into the ring and like Ric Flair in ‘92, goes on to have an all-time classic performance. Superstar after Superstar after Superstar falls victim to her drop toe holds, her headlock takeovers, roll-ups she learned in drills that one time (forgetting there are no pinfalls in the Royal Rumble), and her high spot, a hurricanrana.
The crowd is outright mild (but a fierce mild) for these proceedings as she finally and triumphantly eliminates Charlotte Flair to win the match. Dozens of fans are applauding as Aliyah celebrates in the ring with confetti falling around her, climbs the ropes with tears streaming down her face, but then feels a familiar, quite literal dread in her stomach as she goes to point at the WrestleMania sign. Just like her SmackDown debut, Aliyah vomits while standing on the top rope to the backdrop of fireworks going off in the arena.
Aliyah declares that she will be challenging Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania the following SmackDown and must not only train to defeat the upteen-time SmackDown Women’s champion, but she must also go to her gastroenterologist to find the cause of the vomiting. We follow Aliyah on her journey as the audience gets weekly updates and vignettes regarding the status of her workup as her primary care providers entertain everything from ulcers, viral causes, Menetrier’s disease, gastroparesis, pancreatitis, vertigo, gastric and small bowel obstructions, Chron’s disease, psychosomatic causes with her lab results and imaging being shown on the TitanTron as she makes her entrance for weekly segments on SmackDown. Fans and healthcare providers from around the world begin to chime in on possible causes for Aliyah’s gastric woes and even Vince McMahon himself begins to take a special interest in Aliyah’s Road to WrestleMania, inspired by her perseverance in the face of persistent vomit.
WrestleMania comes and though Aliyah is still left without a diagnosis, destiny arrives regardless of her dysmotile bowel. She bravely steps onto the stage with the soundtrack of cheering fans brandishing vomit bags to show their support and Vince McMahon making a rare return to guest commentary. Charlotte dominates the match, making a point of targeting Aliyah’s midsection till finally she hooks the Figure Four leg lock. Aliyah struggles as Charlotte begins to arch her back to transition into the Figure Eight, but as Aliyah turns side to side in an effort to turn to her stomach to reverse the pressure of the hold, she clutches her stomach with a look of fear on her face. There is an audible gasp in the audience and the silence is broken by none other than Vince McMahon who shouts on commentary, “SHE’S GONNA–SHE’S GONNA PUKE!”
Like a demonically possessed geyser, Aliyah rises to a seated position while in Charlotte’s Figure Four and projectile vomits right in Charlotte’s face. Charlotte’s speed, power, technique, and ferocity mean nothing as she has been blinded by the raw acidity of Aliyah’s vomit. Aliyah continues to vomit but finally gets to her feet with a renewed vigor and begins to hit the blinded Charlotte with rapid-fire clotheslines and dropkicks. Charlotte, being a stalwart champion, refuses to stay down but can only swing wildly due to Aliyah’s vomit till she finally is able to hit a spear on Aliyah. Charlotte then runs to the ropes to hit Natural Selection but the spear had triggered yet another vomiting episode from Aliyah. Charlotte trips on the vomit and falls to the mat as Aliyah makes the cover for three count. The crowd begins to cheer as they throw vomit bags into the ring. The entire women’s division comes out onto the ramp to give a round of applause to our new champion as Aliyah raises the now vomit-stained title over her head, proudly spits vomit into the air like she was Triple H, and Vince shouts “SUCH GOOD SH*T” over commentary as WrestleMania goes off the air as this was the main event of Night 2.
Jason Segarra: If the women’s Rumble had existed in the mid 00s, Nikki Bella would have at least 3 wins under her lycra shorts by this point. Honestly, if she were still healthy enough for an extended run, I could definitely see them giving it to Nikki. She’s very much the John Cena of the women’s division (in that she was the over-pushed Ruthless Aggression Era star who fans booed until late-in-the-game workrate improvements warmed the heart of the IWC), and I think that’s the pattern to follow.
The final six women will be Nikki, Trish Stratus, and Charlotte on one side, Bianca Belair, Rhea Ripley and Liv Morgan on the other. As the old guard and the new face off, Trish tosses Liv, but Charlotte tosses Trish. They reset and it’s Nikki and Rhea on one side vs. two past Rumble winners across the ring. We shmoz until Charlotte and Rhea eliminate each other, leaving Bianca and Nikki to duke it out one on one. A lot of close calls on this one but Nikki is able to reverse the KOD into the Rack Attack position. She’ll tease going for her old finisher before dumping Belair to win. Lots of shots of her son ringside cheering her on. Charlotte, who still hasn’t left ringside, glares at Nikki while she celebrates.
The next night on Raw, Nikki comes out to say she’s doing it all to show her son that she’s still got it, but she’s interrupted by Nikki A.S.H. who claims to be Matteo’s real hero. They brawl, with Bella coming out on top. Backstage, the good Nikki bonds with Rhea over mutual dislike of Nikki Almost-A-Cogent-Gimmick and mentions that she’s challenging Charlotte on SmackDown.
They hint at a friendly rivalry between Rhea and Nikki, but when Friday rolls around, a flustered Charlotte breaks out a chair and absolutely wrecks Ripley, even placing a chair around her knee and stomping on it. Rhea’s stretchered out and everything. The following week, Nikki is on SmackDown to confront Charlotte about beating up her new friend, but gets jumped by Flair in the back. Charlotte gets in Nikki’s face as she’s writhing on the ground and says her typical nonsense about being the Queen, yada, yada, but ends her threat with “You really want to be your baby boy’s hero? Then I’ll see you at WrestleMania.”
The next week, Brie comes out to speak on behalf of her sister, and when Charlotte starts stomping down the ramp, Nikki runs up from behind her and the two have a brawl at ringside. There’s some back and forth but it ends with Nikki using the Attitude Adjustment to put Charlotte through the announce table, then grabbing a mic and accepting Charlotte’s challenge. The next few weeks are video packages about heroes fighting evil queens, pre-recorded promos from Nikki, and the usual tired chat from Flair. At Mania they have a competitive match with Charlotte carrying most of the load. There should be a sequence where Flair goes out of the ring to taunt Matteo, which sets Nikki off into a rage. She rips off the turnbuckle and plans to TKO Charlotte onto it, but the Queen reverses and pushes Bella into it, hits the Natural Selection and retains. She heads up the ramp, leaving Nikki to soak in the crowd noise as she hugs Matteo and her sister at ringside in a bittersweet moment.
Patrick Ross: Carmella has flirted with the main event over the past several years, so it wouldn’t be a huge stretch for WWE to suddenly grow interested in the Most Beautiful Woman in All of WWE once again. And her WrestleMania story is a simple one: at SummerSlam last year, Sasha Banks was deemed unable to compete in her scheduled title match against SmackDown Women’s Champion Bianca Belair, so Carmella was set to take her place. Becky Lynch decided that that was the perfect time to make her first appearance in WWE in nearly a year, attacking Carmella and taking her place in the title match. Becky would go on to beat Bianca in 37 seconds and become the SmackDown Women’s Champion, and Carmella was all but forgotten.
Carmella wins the Royal Rumble by righting the wrongs of last summer, eliminating former champion Bianca Belair last. The next night on Raw, she calls out current Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch, vowing to get revenge for the humiliation she suffered at the hands of The Man. Becky responds, managing to goad Carmella into convincing WWE Officials Adam Pearce and Sonya Deville to allow her to use her title shot not at WrestleMania, but right there, that night on Raw! Carmella puts up a good fight, but in the end, Becky cheats by both using the ropes for leverage and grabbing a handful of tights in a dirty pinning combination.
Dejected, Carmella is beside herself in disbelief, but the following week she snaps, showing a violent, unhinged side of herself the WWE Universe has never witnessed. Her path of destruction leads her right back to Becky, interrupting The Man’s promo and beating her within an inch of her life. Adam Pearce comes out, begging Carmella to stop. Carmella says she will on one condition: her WrestleMania title shot is reinstated. Pearce says he can’t do that, but he can give Carmella one more chance: Carmella is in the women’s Elimination Chamber match, and she will enter in the final sixth position. ‘Mella wins the Chamber, punching her ticket to WrestleMania once and for all.
At WrestleMania, Carmella shocks the world when she makes The Man tap out to the Code of Silence after a grueling match, cementing Carmella as a tough, credible champion.
Shane Martin: I think it’s safe to say that Michelle McCool is one of the more successful women’s wrestlers of the Divas era of WWE. After becoming the inaugural Divas Champion, it seemed that Michelle McCool was either the champion or in the championship picture up to her retirement from full-time active performing. Michelle McCool was definitely successful, but her success doesn’t quite compare to some of the performers to come after her, which is where her WrestleMania story begins.
McCool cuts a promo before entering the Royal Rumble, talking about how proud she is of her career she had and how it was performers like her paving the way for the success of female performers like Charolotte Flair, Sasha Banks, Bayley and Becky Lynch just to name a few. But, even though she is proud of what she has done, she is out to prove that she can still go in the ring and can still accomplish things that performers in her day didn’t even have the opportunity to accomplish — her own personal wrestling bucket list, you could say. The first thing on her list: winning the Royal Rumble.
And winning the Rumble is exactly what she does. Entering at lucky number 27, McCool last eliminates Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair, punching her ticket to the WrestleMania main event and crossing the first item off her list.
The next night on Raw, Michelle McCool cuts a passionate promo about her accomplishment the night before, thanking the live audience for their support. But, she is not looking forward to WrestleMania just yet; instead, her focus is square on Elimination Chamber. McCool then announces that she will be putting her WrestleMania title shot on the line to not only compete in and win an Elimination Chamber match, but she will also compete in Saudi Arabia, checking off two more items off her bucket list.
Entering the Elimination Chamber, Michelle McCool barely survives the match with her WrestleMania Main Event still intact, outlasting Alexa Bliss, Rhea Ripley, Nikki A.S.H., Bianca Belair, and Liv Morgan. McCool, exhausted from competing in the Elimation Chamber, states that there is only thing left on her list, and that is to main event WrestleMania, which she says she will now do when she faces Becky Lynch at the Show of Shows.
Michelle McCool makes it a perfect four for four when she manages to defeat Becky Lynch in the main event of Night 1 of WrestleMania, celebrating in the ring with her husband The Undertaker as the camera fades.
However, all good things must come to an end, and Michelle’s storybook run comes to an end when she loses her newly won Raw Women’s Championship to Piper “Don’t Call me Doudrop” Niven at whatever the ‘Premium Live Event’ is in May.
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