I’ve talked, at length, about the importance of setting appropriate expectations in the past. I’ve written on and on about how, if you expect one thing and get another, you’re going to have a bad time.

This seems like common sense, sure, but try telling that to fans of professional wrestling this time of the year. With the Royal Rumble upon us, it’s time for all of us to fantasy book ourselves into a frenzy… only for that frenzy to end in disappointment.

It’s not as if it’s hard to figure out why that’s the case. We’ve gotten exciting rumbles before, for example when John Cena and Edge returned in 2008 and 2010 to win their respective rumbles after being out with injuries. Shawn Michaels went bell to bell. Stone Cold Steve Austin eliminated Vince McMahon. It’s been known, on occasion, to deliver.

But, to fall prey to recency bias, it’s been some time since that’s been the case. Since Edge’s return (which couldn’t have been that incredible – he’s the only winner I’ve picked right in the last ten years), we’ve had a very pedestrian run of winners: Alberto Del Rio, Sheamus, John Cena, Batista, Roman Reigns, HHH, and Randy Orton (who also won in 2009). None of those very surprising and, with the exception of Del Rio, none of them did very much to elevate new talent.

Now, that’s not to say that can’t happen this year. As we know, anything can happen. But it seems like the WWE seems to have three main approaches when it comes to the Rumble. Coincidentally, the oddsmakers for this event (they know it’s fake, right?) seem to agree that the most likely possible outcomes correlate pretty heavily to the three strategies for booking the Rumble.

  1. Setting up a marquee Wrestlemania main event. See: John Cena in 2013, Batista in 2014, Roman Reigns in 2015. If the WWE wants to go this route, they’ll put Roman Reigns over in the main event
  2. Pushing talent to a new stratosphere of stardom. See: Alberto Del Rio in 2011. Shinsuke Nakamura fits this bill pretty perfectly for 2018.
  3. A completely out of left field return or debut. See: Cena in 2008, Edge in 2010. If, for whatever reason, the WWE wants to blow our socks off then Daniel Bryan would be the guy.

Now, I can’t see the future, but the WWE seems to be dead set on making Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar as the main event this year. Logic would dictate that, based on that information, the WWE would make Reigns win and be done with it.

However, this is the part where I remind you for probably the tenth time that this, is in fact, a scripted event. If the WWE wants Reigns to main event, they can simply have him walk out on Raw tomorrow night and claim his title shot. People could boo, sure, but no one could really stop it. And that’s why, for the second year in a row, I’m going to make the mistake of assuming that the WWE will figure out that pushing a new star over an existing one is a good idea and that using Reigns popularity to launch Nakamura will be the finish.

As I alluded to earlier, the betting sites seem to agree, which means that it’ll be twice as painful when Philly is booing the shit out of the Big Dog for the second time in four years.

Official Pick: Shinsuke Nakamura