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What If…?: 2023 Men's Royal Rumble match edition

Pro Wrestling

What If…?: 2023 Men’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 yesterday’s women’s edition proved, some writers had a harder task than others. Here’s their crack at the men’s Rumble:


What If…?: 2023 Men's Royal Rumble match edition


This one is tough to book, because I really don’t know what kind of wrestler ma.çé is. Whether as Brennen Williams, Dio Maddin, or Mace, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him win a match. With that being said, the Maximum Male Models are inherently silly characters, so ma.çé needs an inherently silly means of winning. So to do so, I see Cody Rhodes coming in at the number 1 spot, with number 2 Seth “Freakin'” Rollins. They get so into their fight that they don’t even notice that the number 3 entrant is mån.sôör, who comes out with ma.çé. Maxxine Dupri is on the mic saying that her fellas are going to hold the world’s longest pose ringside. And that’s what they do. 

Entrants 4 and 5 come, and our guys are just posing all statuesque at ringside. ma.çé is the sixth entrant and nothing happens. The camera jumps to him, but our boys are hitting those poses in ways that Zoolander and Hansel only wish they could. Entrants keep coming in, and commentary (and the crowd) sort of forgets about our boys even being involved. Maybe Austin Theory enters and takes a selfie with them before he gets in, but otherwise, no one pays any attention until the 15th entrant. Braun Strowman does his choo choo move and trucks our fellas just as they were about to break the record for longest pose.

Our boys remain lifeless on the outside of the ring, allowing the crowd to forget about them until the final four men in the ring are Cody, Seth, Theory and Braun. With the three smaller men all trying to hoist Braun out, our boys revive, psyche each other up to get back in there, run in and tip all four guys out of the ring! They celebrate, hug and pose in the ring, but Braun (a notably sore loser) is still irate at ringside. He runs in and flattens ma.çé, mån.sôör runs at him and Braun pounces him over the ropes and out of the ring. He hits his powerslam on Mace and leaves. Eventually our boys revive, and realize the truth: ma.çé has won the rumble!

I see the next few weeks having Roman refuse to acknowledge ma.çé as a serious threat, and Braun trying to get into the title match at Mania. It all leads to a no DQ match between Braun and both Maximum Male Models, which ends with Braun attempting to powerslam ma.çé, but hitting his head on a carefully placed ringbell, knocking him out and allowing an unconscious ma.çé to pin him and head into Mania with momentum. At Mania itself, Roman trounces our boy on night one so he can keep one of his titles after Cody takes whatever belt ends up on Raw. – Jason Segarra

LA Knight

What If…?: 2023 Men's Royal Rumble match edition


The Royal Rumble proves to be LA Knight’s game. Entering in at number 16, the former Maxx Dupri silences critics and proves that he is a big time player by winning the January classic, YEAHHH! The road is set for him to challenge the most dominant champion of the modern era, Roman Reigns, at WrestleMania. However, Knight is immediately jumped by the Bloodline at the conclusion of the match. Solo delivers the Samoan Spike, Sami hits the Helluva Kick, and The Usos splash him through the announcer’s table as Knight fears that his dream is becoming a nightmare.

Knight knows that he needs help. He’s outnumbered 4 to 1 and he needs a team to even the odds and he, sadly, knew what he had to do. He knew he needed to reconcile with the Maximum male models. Surprisingly, ma.çé and mån.sôör are willing to forgive him for the opportunity to walk down “the runaway”/ ramp at WrestleMania, but Knight’s former sister Maxxine isn’t too keen and refuses to participate. 

What ensues is several weeks of tag matches between The Usos and Mace and Mansoor, brawls between Knight and co and The Bloodline, and promo battles and, yeah, Knight’s camp gets stomped. I mean, c’mon. Knight knew they needed a new Maximum Male Model. They needed one with power, aggression, and someone with a bone to pick The Bloodline. You know who fits all of that? Brock Lesnar. Brock Lesnar becomes the newest Maximum Male Model and helps turn the tide in Knight’s favor in the weeks leading up to WrestleMania and does so in very fancy, bedazzled overalls and a cowboy hat. 

WrestleMania night arrives and The Maximum with Lesnar in tow saunter down the ramp in fake Prada jumpsuits. Knight looks focused on Roman, Brock is ringside to neutralize Bloodline interference, ma.çé and mån.sôör are present, and Maxxine hesitantly sits ringside to support her former brother. Roman dominates the early part of the match but Knight turns the tide with a well-placed neckbreaker and begins to go to work on the Tribal Chief. The Bloodline rushes the ring to aid Reigns but are only met with the Prada-wearing Beast Incarnate who sends them and their basic ass Nikes to hell. Everything seems to be going Knight’s way till Maxxine enters the ring and sprays cologne in Knight’s eyes. Reigns hits the spear, and it’s over. 

Maxxine joins The Bloodline as their fashion advisor and designs a new clothing line for them. Merch sales goes through the roof and they are even able to spin off the clothing line to be sold in high-end department stores. “Ucey by Maxxine” becomes a phenomenon in the fragrance world and Sami Zayn becomes the spokesperson for the cologne commercials. He like rides horses on beaches and stuff before smoldering into the camera holding the cologne bottle. She also designs Heyman a skin-tight jumpsuit with fur boots that he wears all the time now, and it’s just the darkest f***ing timeline. – Jay Barrett


What If…?: 2023 Men's Royal Rumble match edition


Much to everyone’s dismay and surprise, Otis accidentally eliminates Cody Rhodes, the man who was supposed to win, from the Royal Rumble. On the fly, the powers that be decide to change course and have Otis win the Rumble, a feat even more unbelievable than Otis winning Money in the Bank 2020

The following night on Raw, Chad Gable sets up a huge victory celebration for his “number 1 guy” before Paul Heyman and the Bloodline interrupt. Heyman verbally destroys both Otis and Gable, calling his victory no more than a fluke and makes clear that even if Otis manages to make it to WrestleMania, the Tribal Chief will annihilate him. 

Gable gets on the mic to defend Otis and challenges the Usos to a tag team match right then and there. After a solid performance and great tag team action, the Usos are able to hit the 1D on Otis and pin his shoulders to the mat. 

What follows is loss after loss for The Number 1 Guy. And to make matters worse, Heyman and Roman Reigns continue to play mind games with Otis attacking his fragile ego and making him feel that perhaps he doesn’t belong in the main event of WrestleMania and that Roman will more than likely destroy him. To prove that Otis doesn’t deserve his title match at WrestleMania, Roman convinces him to put his title match on the line at Elimination Chamber as he faces Solo Sikoa and Paul Heyman in a handicap match. Gable accepts the match on Otis’ behalf. 

It’s the night of Elimination Chamber and Otis is backstage stressing out about his match later in the evening. Cody Rhodes has just won his Chamber match and will now face Roman Reigns for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. If Otis wants his Universal Championship match at the Showcase of the Immortals, he must win tonight. Chad Gable finds Otis backstage and tells him that he has just the gift that will bring back Otis’ fighting spirit. 

The match goes exactly how Otis feared. Not only was he getting his butt handed to him by Solo, but the Wise Man was also getting his licks in. The only reason this match wasn’t ending sooner was because Solo and Heyman were relishing in the embarrassment they were handing to Otis. But, just when the end was near and Solo was about to nail the Samoan Spike, a familiar theme music filled the arena – “Mandy!” – allowing Otis to break free. 

To everyone’s surprise, the returning Mandy Rose runs down to the ring, jumps on the apron and gives Otis the biggest kiss of his life. His favorite girl has not only returned to WWE, but into his arms as well. Otis is running on full steam and caterpillars his way to WrestleMania by pinning Paul Heyman. 

With momentum completely on his side now, Otis ran through every challenge that Roman Reigns put in front of him. Mandy Rose’s return gave Otis just what he needed. Unfortunately, even love is not enough as Roman handedly defeated Otis in the main event of night one of WrestleMania, retaining his WWE Universal Championship. – Shane Martin


What If…?: 2023 Men's Royal Rumble match edition


Well, I guess we know who’s back in charge of creative. In this scenario, Vince happens to find out about Goldberg’s contract and, panic-stricken he’s All Elite bound, overreacts and books Goldberg to win the 2023 Royal Rumble!

Anybody there? Hello? Anyone still reading? 

Countdown begins: 5! 4! 3! 2! 1! 

Solo Sikoa draws the coveted number 30 spot. His music hits…but nobody comes out. Jimmy and Jey take a break from laying boots to a beaten down Cody Rhodes. Sami sits in the corner, catching a breather. They look on, but nobody comes out. 

Suddenly, the cameras capture chaos backstage. Solo writhes in pain, doubled over in agony. The Bloodline are obviously befuddled. The camera whips over to catch the shadow of a man walking away. 

And then we hear the music of the true final entrant: Goldberg! 

Spear. Spear. Spear. Jackhammer. You know the drill. He throws the Usos out, tosses Cody out, and then turns to face Sami Zayn, who grabs the top turnbuckle and pulls himself up. And just to really dig the knife in, Goldberg spears Sami almost immediately. Goodbye, Sami, and screw you, fans, as Goldberg points to the WrestleMania sign. 

The next night on Raw he opens the program by saying lightning doesn’t strike twice. Roman can’t beat him again. That somewhere along the way, everyone—including himself—forgot who in the hell he is! 

When he came back in 2016, he says, he did it for his family. But Roman took that blueprint, and created the Bloodline. And at WrestleMania he’s going to show Roman what it really means to fight for your family. 

And to just really burn the company to the ground, he teams with Sonberg at Elimination Chamber to defeat the Usos. As for WrestleMania, Vince keeps the belts on Roman and hopes Dwayne has a clear schedule next April. – Tyler West

Solo Sikoa

What If…?: 2023 Men's Royal Rumble match edition


Roman Reigns has had two world championships since WrestleMania. The Usos have had two tag team championships for nearly as long. Sami Zayn is the talk of the wrestling world, and Paul Heyman is reaping the rewards of his steadily held-together stable.

Solo Sikoa, meanwhile, has been lurking.

Calm and collected as if he isn’t one of the most recent additions to the WWE main roster, Solo is effortlessly cool, ironically reminding us of a younger, Shield-Era Roman Reigns. He’s the heavy of his team, and the Tribal Chief can see it. So, to ensure that whoever Roman faces at WrestleMania is truly worthy, Roman sends Solo into the Rumble to clean house. Roman doesn’t expect his rookie cousin to win, but he can at least be a menace.

Solo enters at number 15, just like his cousin did nine years ago. Solo stalks down the ramp toward a crowded ring, and he’s right on time to save his brother, Jimmy, from elimination. To punctuate this save, he throws Jimmy’s attacker (I don’t know, Angel Garza?) out of the ring. Then, he does the same with four other men, bringing his number of eliminations to five in quick fashion.

For the rest of the match, Solo comes through in bursts, rushing into the spotlight whenever Jimmy and, eventually, Jey are in danger, and capitalizing on other near-eliminations, including getting the official bonus of eliminating Kofi Kingston. Until Cody Rhodes comes out at number 27, Solo doesn’t even sniff the wrong side of the apron, but things get dicey until the final five.

Solo, Jey, and Sami stare down former tag champs Cody Rhodes and Drew McIntyre, and the brawl is on. Jey goes after Cody while Sami jumps to help Solo with Drew. Even as Sami breaks away to save Jey, Solo is still able to topple Drew for his 12th elimination, but he’s shocked as he turns to find that Sami has accidentally eliminated Jey. The two former rivals in Sami and Jey stare at each other in shock until Cody dumps Sami over the top rope.

It seems inevitable, but Cody has trouble putting Solo away. However, Cody rocks him with a Dusty Rhodes-esque punch. Then another punch. Then another. Then, after some flair, the Bionic Elbow — none of which takes Solo down. Cody goes for a Disaster Kick, but as he hops off the ropes, Solo catches him in Samoan Drop position and hastily dumps Cody over the top rope, breaking Roman’s personal elimination record and winning in his first attempt at the Rumble — another thing Roman couldn’t get done.

Of course, Roman ignores Sami’s stammering as Zayn unwittingly babbles on about all the ways that Solo is better than Roman. Solo tells Roman that he does still acknowledge the Tribal Chief, and he had no intentions of locking himself into a match with the only world champion. Roman doesn’t hold anything against Solo, but rather, he’s elated that Solo has made good on the tribal elders’ intentions: he is here to keep the Tribal Chief strong. It may not be the Anoa’i family feud that people expected for WrestleMania, but Roman tells fans to rest assured that Roman Reigns will be defending both the WWE and Universal Championships against Solo Sikoa at WrestleMania.

Along the road, Solo and Roman are tight-knit as they try their best to keep the Mania main event strictly between the two family members, with Solo even busting into the Elimination Chamber to ensure that Roman once again pins Drew McIntyre to retain his championship. However, in a rare Raw main event, Roman Reigns and Solo Sikoa lose a tag team match to McIntyre and Rhodes as Rhodes and McIntyre gang up to beat Solo, with Rhodes getting the pin. As a result, Rhodes and McIntyre get to fight on the following week’s Raw, with the winner facing Roman for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania while Solo still gets his Universal Championship shot.

Roman spends the next few weeks embarrassing Solo as Reigns gears up for his “real” title match against Rhodes, but on the go-home SmackDown before WrestleMania, Solo lets loose and beats Roman down. When they fight on Night 1 of WrestleMania, it’s going to be a true beatdown.

And it is one, though Roman still squeaks by after choking Solo out. However, it’s the beating that Solo puts on Roman that allows Cody Rhodes to beat Roman for the WWE Championship the following night at WrestleMania. The story isn’t a coronation for Mr. Sikoa, but it still allows him to play a crucial role in the beginning of Roman Reigns’ downfall.

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