SK Exclusive: Roman Reigns replaced Finn Balor as Royal Rumble #30th entrant
What’s the Story
Roman Reigns replaced Finn Balor in the Royal Rumble this Sunday, as revealed on our Podcast, “The Dirty Sheets.” The story was initially told to me by a mutual friend but has since been confirmed by other mutual friends involved with the UK wrestling scene, plus my sources tied to the WWE.
The change came after Finn Balor was declared “not ready” to return to the ring, following a medical last week. You can listen to the Dirty Sheets breaking news podcast below.
In case you didn’t know...
Finn Balor hasn’t been seen in WWE since the night after SummerSlam 2016, when he was forced to relinquish the WWE Universal Title, due to a shoulder injury. Finn sustained the injury the night before, at SummerSlam, during his WWE Universal Title match against Seth Rollins.
The injury was sustained when Seth Rollins power-bombed Balor into the ringside barricade outside the ring. It had been originally said that Balor would return in six months time, however, reports had been circulating lately on the internet that Balor’s recovery was ahead of schedule and that he may return for the Royal Rumble match.
However, he did not return on Sunday and a number of fans were extremely disappointed when Roman Reigns appeared for the second time that night, as he came out at number 30, despite failing to win The WWE Universal Title earlier on in the night. You can see just how disappointed some fans were in the video below:
The heart of the matter
Despite the fans anger at Reigns being No. 30, many wrestling experts have rightfully concluded that Reigns came out at 30 to guarantee Randy Orton’s win got a positive reaction, rather than him setting up his program with The Undertaker in the middle of the match, showing that the WWE is clearly aware of Reigns’ unpopularity.
Had Finn Balor been cleared, this spot may have occurred earlier on in the Rumble, where there were definitely 15 low key minutes that could have benefited from a high spot. Finn Balor was scheduled to face Undertaker at WrestleMania and Roman Reigns was programmed to face Braun Strowman.
This is the third time that The Undertaker’s WrestleMania opponent has changed. The Undertaker was originally pencilled in to face John Cena until those plans were scrapped by Vince McMahon in December.
Despite Finn Balor not being cleared and Roman Reigns replacing him as The Undertaker’s WrestleMania opponent, the WWE still went through with the finish to have Braun Strowman cost Reigns the WWE Universal Title match at the Royal Rumble.
This finish was meant to set up Reigns vs. Strowman at WrestleMania. It is now likely that Reigns will go through Strowman at WWE Fastlane on route to The Undertaker. It will be interesting to see if The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns results in a Roman Reigns heel turn at WresteMania 33.
There is no information regarding what Strowman or Balor will now do at WrestleMania. I believe Strowman could simply win the Andre the Giant Battle Royal and be re-built as a monster again, erasing memories of a Fastlane loss to Reigns.
It’s much harder to see what they will do with Finn Balor, as the projected WrestleMania card looks pretty full. Balor has a huge future in the WWE and many WrestleMania matches ahead of him. It may be more beneficial to save his return as one of the highlights of the Raw, the night after WresteMania.
Although it is a shame for Finn Balor that he could not make Royal Rumble, Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker is the bigger match, and I say that as someone who has worked on the same shows as Finn and is a bigger fan of Finn Balor than Reigns.
However, Roman Reigns has a bigger WWE pedigree and this is one instance where his negative crowd reaction will be a positive thing. The Undertaker evidently isn’t in the best shape, but with the crowd 95% behind him and heavily invested in the match, it will mean Roman and ‘Taker won’t have to do very match to give off the illusion that they are having a classic match, much like Rock vs. Hogan at WrestleMania 18.
Especially if Roman Reigns is allowed to go with the flow and play the heel in the match. I believe that we saw subtle signs of a turn at the Royal Rumble, based on Reigns’ demeanor in the match.
A Roman Reigns turn seems like the most logical move right now, but the WWE rarely do what is logical when it comes to guys they want to shove down people’s throats. Despite his great look and decent matches, the Roman Reigns project has clearly failed and it is now time to go in a different direction with it.
Roman Reigns should turn heel in the final match at WresteMania and defeat The Undertaker. He would leave Orlando with unparalleled and nuclear heel heat.
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