The post-match angle at the 2023 Royal Rumble was a good way to end a premium live event that was overall average, and it was a launching point for a potentially great WrestleMania main event.
Roman Reigns beat Kevin Owens to remain undisputed Universal champion. The Bloodline then brutally attacked the latter after the match, even handcuffing him to the ring ropes. Sami Zayn had enough and instead of hitting his real-life, longtime friend with a chair, he turned on Reigns.
The Bloodline turned on Zayn, effectively kicking him out of the stable, but Jey Uso, who had been a supporter of the “Honorary Uce,” walked out on Reigns, Jimmy Uso and Solo Sikoa.
Where WWE goes from here will have to be viewed on the company’s weekly television. But there are four paths for the company to go. Below are those potential scenarios starting off with the least desirable to the best outcome.
Multi-man tag match
It’s first important to address the elephant in the room. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson did not appear at the Royal Rumble. He apparently was nowhere near San Antonio and simply was working and preparing for the second relaunch of the XFL, according to his Instagram post. It’s unknown if Johnson will be able to free up some time to wrestle at Inglewood, Calf. for WrestleMania 39, but the possibility seems unlikely.
With that being said, WWE could play it safe and just have a trios match at the first night of WrestleMania 39. Zayn, Owens and Jey Uso team up to take on Reigns, Sikoa and Jimmy Uso. This would be very underwhelming and wouldn’t really do much to elevate anyone. All it would serve is to have the six main players in the storyline together in the ring.
Where WWE goes with Jey Uso will be important in trying to predict where things go. Perhaps he will be convinced to stay with his Anoa’i family members in multiple community theater-type segments. The Usos still are the undisputed tag team champions, as of Monday. So that would need to be resolved.
Would WWE go crazy with the “Free Bird” rule and have Jey Uso and Zayn hold one set of tag titles and Jimmy Uso and Sikoa hold the other set? The two teams then face off to re-reunify the tag titles at WrestleMania. Zayn did fill in for Jey Uso last Monday when he was taken out due to a storyline injury in a tag team championship match.
If Uso does rejoin his brother, then that could set up a Owens and Zayn versus The Usos at WrestleMania for the tag team championships. Winning a title at WrestleMania is a big moment, but would it be satisfying to see Zayn simply win the tag team championship? The history of WWE would say no.
Championship title match
There’s also another elephant in the room, Cody Rhodes won the men’s Royal Rumble match. The former AEW star came in at No. 30 and returned to ring for the first time since June 5, where he wrestled with a torn pectoral. Rhodes had some interaction with Dominik Mysterio in the match, but the most important thing will be his likely match against Reigns.
How WWE handles this along with The Bloodline story will be key. If Johnson and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin are not in the world title plans this year, there should only be one choice: Split the world titles. Rhodes should challenge for the WWE Championship because Zayn should be the one to dethrone Reigns for the Universal Championship, the belt he has held longer.
A question fans should ask themselves is: Where is this storyline leading to? Reigns has established himself as a top star, and whoever beats him should get the rub of also being a main-event star. WrestleMania 39 can do that with Rhodes and more importantly Zayn.
The latter has not been seen as a top star in the company, but if he were to challenge Reigns in a one-on-one match and beat him, that would do wonders to elevate his status in the company. A key line from Reigns in the post-match segment Saturday was regarding how he helped him get to the top and away from segments with the cast of “Jackass.” Zayn can prove him wrong and win the world title.
It would be a mistake for WWE to book a triple threat or fatal four way match. Reigns must not only lose but take a clean defeat and be pinned in the match. It would mean nothing if someone else were to be pinned as a way to get the titles off Reigns but give him an excuse.
The goal for WWE should be to elevate stars that can carry the company beyond WrestleMania 39, so it will need to execute its plans correctly by the time April 1 rolls around.