How do you make a case for someone who is the prohibitive favorite to win this year’s Royal Rumble? Well, because it’s not his first time in this position.
Daniel Bryan is absolutely the favorite to win the Royal Rumble match this year and he should be. He’s the biggest star in the match, has a built in story already, and he just flat out deserves it. We’re seven years removed from the infamous 2014 Royal Rumble, where fans booed winner Batista out of the building because it wasn’t Bryan. We’re six years removed from the even more maligned 2015 Royal Rumble, where Bryan was eliminated early on in the match and led to eventual winner Roman Reigns (more on him in a bit) being booed out of the building so badly that not even a return by The Rock could save him.
The fact of the matter is that I don’t need to do much arguing in support of Bryan, but I will because it wouldn’t be the first time he’s been screwed in this setting. It is very possible that WWE swerves everyone and has Sheamus, The Fiend or Edge win the match to spite the obvious choice. It would be dumb, yes, but we aren’t exactly dealing with the brightest bunch when it comes to doing what’s right in the moment. Daniel Bryan being a prime example of that.
Leading up to the Rumble, WWE has done an excellent job of positioning Bryan as the winner of the match. Jey Uso’s heel turn to join his cousin’s side came against Bryan. Bryan them disappeared for a while, coming back with a slightly new look, and he’s been involved in prominent stories on Smackdown Live leading up to the PPV. In recent weeks, he’s helped make Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro feel like legitimate stars and potential Rumble winners. He has cut a great babyface promo about the match itself, and has been loud, but not too loud about his position heading into the battle royal. I legitimately would not change a thing about this. Instead, I’ll just talk about what should come next.
Bryan should win the match and immediately make his intentions known that he wants to face Universal Champion Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania 37. Let him cut a fiery promo where he brings up Jey Uso’s attack and really make this personal. Say that Uso tried to take him out and take the career that he fought so hard to get back. Let Bryan really tug on the heartstrings and talk about how he scratched and clawed his way back to win the Rumble match that he’s been screwed out of before and earn his rightful place in the main event of Wrestlemania once again.
And then, Reigns’ music hits. Reigns has not forgotten about Bryan. The man that was responsible for Roman being booed in the first place. Reigns cuts a calm, yet angry promo tearing down his challenger. He reminds him that it was Reigns who won the 2015 Royal Rumble and then the match at Fastlane to solidify that spot. Reigns can boast about the fact that he’s only gotten better since then while Bryan had retired and come back to little success. It’s important that Reigns shows his cocky side, but hint that he is still angry about what happened all those years ago. Make. This. Personal.
Leading up to the match, the Usos should be a thorn in Bryan’s side. How do you rectify that? Nakamura and Cesaro. The two have appeared as babyfaces in recent weeks and on Bryan’s long road to Mania, they should take their personal issues with Reigns out on Jey and his returning brother, Jimmy. Still, Roman gets his hands on Bryan at one point and viciously beats him down. Make this bad. Have legitimate doubts for whether Bryan, a man still only a few years from returning out of retirement because of severe concussion issues, will be able to make it to Wrestlemania.
What happens in the main event will have to wait for a different day.
Daniel Bryan winning the Royal Rumble is so obvious, yes, but it’s the best possible outcome for the match. I rest my case.