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What If…?: 2023 Women’s Royal Rumble match edition

Pro Wrestling

What If…?: 2023 Women’s Royal Rumble match edition

They say anybody can win the Royal Rumble, but our writers were tasked with making the impossible seem plausible.

One of the most exciting things about the Royal Rumble is that with 30 Superstars involved, the field is wide open and anybody can win it. Okay, well not anybody – the prize is a world title match at WrestleMania after all, so realistically, you’re looking at a handful of potential winners. But what if anybody really could win it all and go on to headline The Grandest Stage of Them All?

That’s the conceit behind our now-annual What If…? Royal Rumble series, where AIPT’s wrestling writers are randomly assigned WWE Superstars and tasked with booking a scenario where they win the big one. And we do mean randomly assigned – as you’ll see, some writers had a harder task than others:

Tegan Nox

What If…?: 2023 Women’s Royal Rumble match edition


Tegan’s time in WWE can be summarized as “injury prone, often betrayed.” As such, I think we have to make the Rumble her standout match – which means she’s coming in early. I think coast-to-coast performances are pretty played out at this point, but if she comes in at, say, number 6, there’s a lot for the commentary team to work with. That’s the number Kane came in with in the 2001 Rumble, his best in-ring performance, possibly of all time.

And like Kane, I think she goes on a tear. Eliminating jobbers like Shotzi and Dana Brooke, and even scoring some big names like Shayna Baszler. In the end, The Girl with the Shiniest Wizard heads up with Raquel Rodriguez, only for Rhea Ripley to distract Raquel enough for Tegan to get off a big boot and drive her over the top rope and into a Ripley/Rodriguez match at Mania. For Nox, however, there is only Charlotte.

There’s no way Charlotte lasts as a face through Mania, so I imagine the build is a lot of the Queen looking down on the upstart Nox. A lot of “You haven’t got a leg to stand on” jokes as she pokes at Nox’s knee braces. I think Tegan needs to do some heartfelt promos about what this opportunity means to her, maybe talk about how she was bullied for her sexuality, really tug at the heartstrings, before ending with a line like “How do you deal with bullies? You stand up to them!”

This is Charlotte’s cue to attack, tearing at Nox’s knee with kicks and a chair before locking in the Figure Eight until officials pull her off. The following weeks, we get a gloaty Charlotte talking about how Tegan’s gone and just to be a jerk, let’s throw in some knee puns (“She kneeded more time in NXT”). At Elimination Chamber, Charlotte is sat ringside for a #1 contender’s 4-way between Shayna, Natalya, Raquel and Liv Morgan. At one point all four women will be down, leading Charlotte to walk into the ring and just start stomping on every one of them and gloat. That’s when Tegan’s music hits. Charlotte stares up the ramp, yelling “bring it on!” but Nox runs in from the crowd with a chair and exacts some revenge, wearing her out with the weapon and standing tall as the PPV comes to an end.

The Mania match is back on, and now Tegan is a serious contender. I think she could get some new gear to better incorporate the “rainbow warrior” gimmick that Sonya Deville had for a while, and she goes on to beat Flair at the Show of Shows to give the crowd a nice happy ending and put a new star into the scene. – Jason Segarra

Indi Hartwell

What If…?: 2023 Women’s Royal Rumble match edition


Sick of being in a rut in NXT, Indi decides she needs a change of scenery and declares eligibility for the Royal Rumble to the chagrin of, well, no one because she makes the announcement on NXT: Level Up which has less confirmed viewers than the Sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster, or the Wendigo. Indi uses the anonymity to her advantage and trains in secret with her husband, Dexter Lumis, who teaches her the stealthy ways of the stalker. Indi takes to being a stalker rather readily and she, slowly, ditches her colorful garb for the dark overtones and gloves that Lumis is known for. 

The Rumble finally arrives and Indi draws number 9. She takes her time sauntering down to the ring but then crawls underneath it, instead of into it. The fracas rages above her but Indi, craftily, only pops out from under the ring for jump scares and to pull down people teetering on the rope. It’s rather ingenious and it comes down to her and Dakota Kai. Kai, being a wily, crafty veteran, immediately begins to circle Indi and sizes her up but Indi knows Kai’s one true weakness: awkward situations. Indi starts to crawl around the ring on her fists and Dakota doesn’t know what to do. Kai has one of her psychotic breaks and seeks refuge on the top turnbuckle and Indi dumps her over. Indi wins the Royal Rumble, but instead of pointing at the sign, she just crawls under the ring.

The next night on Raw, Indi challenges the new Raw’s Women’s Champion, Alexa Bliss, to a match at Mania and the newly manic Alexa Bliss accepts. What entails is two months worth of spoopy BS that Alexa throws Indi’s way, but Indi’s newfound stoicism allows her to brush it off as just that: BS. Johnny Gargano, Candice LeRae, and Dexter Lumis continue to train Indi in prep for her Mania encounter. Gargano refines her superkicks, Candice teaches her the way of the hurricanrana, and Dexter teaches her the sleeper hold. 

WrestleMania finally comes and Bliss unleashes spoopy hell upon Indi. Fireballs, black goo, and Lilly all make an appearance, but Indi descends into a stoic trance so deep, she just sits cross legged in the middle of the ring. Bliss, frustrated, begins to yell at Indi to provoke her, to which Indi does a kip-up hurricanrana to Bliss, hits her with a superkick, and then locks in the sleeper hold. Bliss passes out and Indi becomes the new Raw Women’s Champion – but at what cost? Lumis comes to the ring celebrate with her, but she doesn’t acknowledge him. The Garganos and even Austin Theory make their way to the ring to wake Indi from her trance but she doesn’t budge. Indi may have won the title, but she has lost herself. – Jay Barrett


What If…?: 2023 Women’s Royal Rumble match edition


Karrion Kross’s gimmick is only as strong as it is because of Scarlett, and it’s about time she gets the recognition she deserves. It starts with her winning the 2023 Women’s Royal Rumble. I mean, the match is centered around a clock ticking down, so it kinda writes itself. 

Entering at lucky number 27, Scarlett is able to use her magic to not only survive into the final four, but to eliminate favorites Rhea Ripley, Becky Lynch and Bayley to claim her WrestleMania main event match. 

On SmackDown, Karrion Kross and Scarlett come out to the ring and cut one of their notoriously cryptic promos. Only one thing is certain afterwards, is that Scarlett has decided to shift her focus to taking the Smackdown Women’s Championship off of Charlotte Flair. What follows is a bunch of the mumbo jumbo that Scarlett and Kross are known for: black and white backstage promos, tarot cards, speaking in riddles and even more tick-tocking, all of which fail to get Charlotte’s attention. She’s the Queen and 14 time Women’s Champion; there isn’t much that she hasn’t seen. Putting out banger after banger each night, Charlotte is on a roll as the duo heads towards their WrestleMania showdown. 

One week before Elimination Chamber, the Raw crew finds themselves in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the broadcast is hijacked by Scarlett and Kross. The married couple make their way to the ring and cut a promo about legends and how it is their duty to put them out to pasture. Laughing maniacally, the duo go back to the ramp where an altar of sorts had been set up. And upon the altar, Scarlett puts a bloody, yet familiar looking robe onto it before setting it ablaze. 

The following SmackDown opens with an obviously emotional Charlotte in the ring who lets the WWE Universe know that her father, two time WWE Hall of Famer was attacked in his home on Monday and is in a local medical facility in stable condition. Turning her attention to Scarlett, she lets her WrestleMania challenger know that it’s “personal now, bitch!” If you watch WWE, you know this is when sh*t gets real. 

Scarlett and Kross jump Scarlett from behind and leave her a bloody mess. Refusing medical treatment, Charlotte challenges Scarlett and Kross to an intergender tag team match the following night at Elimination Chamber

At Chamber, we see Scarlett and Karrion Kross team up to face Charlotte and her husband, Andrade “Cien” Almas returning to the company with an actual last name. The two married couples beat the crap out of each other until, under intergender rules, Karrion locks in the Kross Jacket on Charlotte, scoring the win for the team. 

There is now no room for talk. The weeks leading up to WrestleMania see Scarlett and Charlotte tearing into each other every chance they get. Worried that their wives may kill each other, Karrion and Andrade do what they can to keep the women apart. The match for WrestleMania is signed and it is now a special “I Quit” Match where the only way to win is to have your opponent’s husband throw in the towel. 

WrestleMania arrives and it is time for the match. The match is brutal from the start, with both women throwing everything they can at each other. Scarlett isn’t the most technical wrestler in the world, but she is able to hold her own against the Queen, with the stipulation hiding Scarlett’s obvious shortcomings. In the final moments of the match, Scarlett is able to lock Charlotte in the Kross Jacket. Watching his wife starting to lose consciousness, Andrade has no choice but to throw in the towel, thus crowning Scarlett as the new Smackdown Women’s Champion. 

This serves two purposes: it gives Charlotte a little edge and believability as a babyface, and allows her to get the win back and move one step closer to being a 16 time women’s champion. And of course, it proves that Scarlett actually wears the pants in her relationship with Karrion Kross. – Shane Martin

Nikki Cross

What If…?: 2023 Women’s Royal Rumble match edition


While Rhea or Becky may be the odds-on favorites, Hunter is looking at the dark horse to take the victory in the 2023 women’s Royal Rumble, and her name is Nikki Cross.

The final two square off in Rhea Ripley and Nikki Cross. Before they can lock up, however, Judgment Day makes their way down the ramp. As they encircle the ring, Rhea begins to laugh. But to her chagrin, so does Nikki. 

The Judgment Day look at each other confused, but Nikki just points to the ramp, introducing the equalizers: SAnitY. The two factions clash, and the momentum given to Nikki by her old friends are enough to put her over the edge.

The next night on Raw, Bianca Belair congratulates Cross on winning the Royal Rumble, but Belair already did that, and two years quicker. And while Nikki was wrestling with an identity crisis, she was busy wrestling for the world title in back-to-back WrestleManias. She holds up her belt and says, “and winning.” She then asks what makes Nikki think she’s going to be any different? 

Nikki Cross comes out to tell Belair that yes, she’s right, she has won two straight title matches at WrestleMania. Yes, she’s right, she has already won the Royal Rumble. But she’s wrong about one thing: she always knows who she has been: Nikki Cross. (You know, in her chaotic, strange way.)

In the build, Belair is stubborn as she touts her scouting and athleticism, but commentary begins casting doubt by pointing out that against the chaotic wrestling nature of Cross, those skill sets just aren’t as relevant. Belair gets frustrated as their title fight draws near, knowing that maybe what has proven successful thus far isn’t enough, giving her more depth and rounding out the character. 

As for their match, the story in the ring is the same as the build. Unable to scout and counter, Bel Air’s physical edge evaporates as Cross’s mental edge reigns supreme. Instead of booking her as wacky, Hunter gives Cross some layers by making her “craziness” a strength instead of a fault. 

And as the last two years of the women’s division has had control with Belair on top, Cross’s reigns proves to be a bit more insane. – Tyler West

Dana Brooke

What If…?: 2023 Women’s Royal Rumble match edition


The Alamodome is electric as Rhea Ripley, Becky Lynch, and Bayley battle in the ring, the only three women left standing as the clock ticks down to the 29th entrant. The three of them are tired in the ring as ultra mega babyface Lacey Evans’s music hits, but as soon as she hits the ring, Rhea boots the poor lady back out to the other side. Becky Lynch uses this moment of weakness to toss odds-on favorite Ripley out of the ring, and two of WWE’s horsewomen remain in the ring.

The crowd lights up, realizing that there’s only one entrant left and Charlotte is already champion. It’s hard to gauge what the crowd’s trying to say — some of them are saying “We want Sasha!” while others chant “It’s Boss Time,” and the smark marks try and fail to get the crowd to yell “Moné!” However, the crowd’s dreams are dashed as Bayley wrestles Becky onto the ropes and tries to lariat her. Becky gets her legs up and gets Bayley in a rope-hung Dis-Arm-Her, but as Bayley tries to fight her way out, she foolishly jumps into the air, getting dragged over the top rope and causing both herself and Becky to hit the ground.

Then, the 10-count begins. The crowd goes nuts, ready for the return of Sasha Banks, Mercedes Moné, or whatever other mega star is about to come down the ramp at #30, especially now that that person is the guaranteed winner.

Which, of course, leads to the most insane, raucous cheers as an unfamiliar theme song plays! Then, when the TitanTron flashes the name, “Dana Brooke” on-screen, people realize that it’s just a repackage for The Total Diva.

Dana flexes her muscles and does her cool armless cartwheel down the ramp, and as soon as she hits the ring, the bell rings and her music plays once more. Without any effort, Dana Brooke is the winner of the 2023 Royal Rumble.

Thus begins the era of “Effortless” Dana Brooke, who uses her newfound confidence to go on a (tainted) winning streak. She quickly bats down a local talent the night after the Rumble and refuses to elaborate on who her opponent will be for WrestleMania until she’s thoroughly evaluated both candidates. Calling back to her Titus Worldwide days, she sits at ringside and takes notes on Charlotte and Bianca Belair’s matches; meanwhile, Dana wins all of her own matches thanks to flukes. One week, her opponent is beat up before the bell by a rival of theirs. The following week, Dana’s opponent (let’s say Aliyah) eats too much food in catering, assuming that they weren’t fighting tonight, and when it’s time for a match against Dana, they’re too full to put up a fight.

When Dana is finally forced into a tag match against Bianca Belair and Candice LeRae, Dana’s old tag partner, Emma, does all the work, and when Emma has Candice beat, Dana blind-tags in and gets the pin. Dana encourages Emma to go for Bianca at Elimination Chamber, with Dana privately noting that she knows Emma better than anyone and shouldn’t have trouble beating her. However, Bianca puts Emma down in dominant fashion, leaving Dana with her difficult choice.

After Elimination Chamber, Dana announces that, with Emma no longer an option, the person she most wants to face at WrestleMania is her old boss, Charlotte, who immediately laughs at the challenge. Charlotte spends the rest of the Road to WrestleMania ignoring Dana and doing more grandiose displays of flair (ha) as she goes along. Dana, meanwhile, is doing her own Rocky-style training arc, going to previous Charlotte Flair opponents like Rhea Ripley (who beats Dana up), Ronda Rousey (who beats Dana up), Becky Lynch (who tries to get Dana to sit out and allow Becky to fight Charlotte), and Asuka, the only person who truly takes Dana seriously.

At WrestleMania, “Effortful” Dana Brooke brings out all the stops to try and put Charlotte down, using multiple other wrestlers’ moves but mostly sticking to her own and Asuka’s, culminating in a ref distraction spot where Dana sprays Charlotte with green mist. However, in the end, the Ghosts of Charlotte Past are not enough to keep the Queen down, and Charlotte has to put Dana down with her new super finisher, the Figure 16.

It’s not a road paved with gold, but it is a road fitting of the Total Diva. – Darius Melton

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