During the time I was away from watching wrestling – a horrible 5 years spent on the island of Lian Yu, the story of which will be told one day in flashback-filled TV show, I’m sure – the one thing I tried to watch every year was the Royal Rumble. While others regard WrestleMania as the pinnacle of the WWE’s year, for me it was always what led to the big show that was far more important. The Royal Rumble was when things kicked off – in a sport with no seasons it was the nearest thing to the first day of the year.

As more and more PPVs – sorry, “live network events” – have been added to the WWE calendar, the Royal Rumble has felt less special, and often only just another chapter in the ongoing storylines that so often miss the target. Worse, winning the Rumble itself has become a stepping stone rather than an achievement, and because of that it’s often terribly predictable. How many of you sat, anger building, as the 2015 Rumble wound to its inevitable conclusion, one where Roman Reigns would win the thing and disappoint all but small children and horny housewives? Last year seemed much the same, but then up popped the owner’s son-in-law to lift our spirits, and remind all us over again why the Royal Rumble is special.

Those moments – those unexpected eliminations, the cameos from exotic foreigners and former roster members, the spectacle of two teammates having to fight, or two enemies having to team up to eliminate that one really fat guy – are what make the Royal Rumble the must-see show of the year. And this year, after we got down with a 2016 which stunned the wrestling world with unpredictability and into a 2017 that looks like being every bit as crazy, could be the wildest yet. Who knows who might appear? They might even have perfected bringing someone back from the dead…

Or, just as likely, it will be predictable again. It’s the not knowing that makes it special – an hour of pure, unbridled joy, an hour of counting down with the timer (not in time, of course), and an hour as often filled with “really?” as often as “YES!”. This year’s shocks might include the main roster debut of Samoa Joe, won’t include the WWE debut of Kenny Omega, should include Tye Dillenger at number ten, and will include that old guy you probably thought was dead – you know, Mantaur or someone.

Everything else is filler, which is why the Rumble itself goes on last. Sure, there are two world title matches (and, yes, I know it’s the Universal title but kindly wind it in), and a host of other stuff, but who really cares about all that? If I had my way – and I’m working on it, slowly but steadily, with an army of dwarves and robots – it would just be the Rumble, for 3 hours, like the one on that New Year’s Eve show from Japan a few years back that had 108 people in it. But, for now, we’ll just have to be content with what we’ve got – all the regulars and The Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, and Goldberg killing all the regulars. It’s going to be rumble-tastic.

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