Wrestlemania 34 Spotlight: Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal

It’s Wednesday, which means it’s the third day of Wrestlemania Spotlights! Today I want to write about a match that seemed to have so much potential on paper the first time or two it was made, but has dissolved into… well, into a joke. I’m talking of course about the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal.

I mean, seriously, has there ever been a more obvious filler match on the Wrestlemania card? It’s not even funny. It’s very easy to forget both that this match is happening, and that last year it was won by Mojo Rawley, with a little help from Rob Gronkowski. Being in this match is a very bad sign, because it’s WWE’s way of getting everyone on to the show. If you’re not in a featured match, you’re in this one. It’s that simple.

That’s not to say there can’t be success stories. Last year the entire SmackDown tag team division was in this match, and look at how great The Usos have been since. But for every Uso turnaround, there are 15 people who are in the same spot and one or two who have left the company.

A year ago, The Usos were only near the top of a weak SmackDown tag division. Now they’re the best team in the company, and Tag Team Champions. But they are the exception to the rule.

And the concept started so promisingly. Cesaro won the first ATGMBR, making a Wrestlemania moment in the process by lifting Big Show over the top rope. The next night, he aligned with Paul Heyman as his new advocate. Long term, that didn’t really work out, and maybe that was already the beginning of the end of the Battle Royal’s relevance.

The next year Big Show won the trophy, which seemed fine at the time. It was another accolade to give to an established veteran, who was apparently coming to the end of his career. But if there were any issues over the Battle Royal win being given to someone who didn’t need it, that should have been rectified the next year when Baron Corbin won on his first match on the main roster.

But the Lone Wolf had the same issues as Cesaro going forward – his subsequent push went nowhere. And that didn’t just hurt Corbin, that hurt the gimmick. Because the first three winners of the Battle Royal all did nothing as a result, so what was the point of people entering and fighting to win if it was meaningless?

I mean, we all know how this turned out.

Then we have last year. Braun Strowman was in the match, and was a huge favourite to win. Sami Zayn was in the match, and would’ve gotten a great ovation had he won. But instead the final two were Jinder Mahal and Mojo Rawley. And the guy who would be WWE Champion within a couple of months didn’t even win. It. Was. A. Joke.

But was it irrecoverable damage? It’s certainly going to take something big to come back from that. I suggested in my fantasy booking columns that someone like The Miz win it, and brags about the trophy in the same way he does with the Intercontinental Championship. He made the mid-card title seem important, I’d like to see what he could do for this match.

The other way would be to have someone win it as the start of a monster push. If someone like Samoa Joe won it, or even Braun Strowman last year, it could mean something again (if it ever did in the first place).

Braun was the obvious pick last year for a reason. That he didn’t win, especially in hindsight, is a travesty.

But alas, there isn’t anyone currently announced who could fill that role. Breezango, The Revival and Heath Slater & Rhyno can all be ruled out because they’re in tag teams. Mojo Rawley, Zack Ryder, Goldust and Tye Dillinger don’t have the credibility to make the match mean anything, admittedly sadly in some cases. That leaves us with Baron Corbin, Matt Hardy and Dolph Ziggler.

As noted, Corbin has won it before, and he has suffered badly from his stop/start pushes over the last 18 months. He’s not the right choice to win, even though on paper he’s the best option with his size, his offence and his character.

“Woken” Matt Hardy is an interesting one. It remains to be seen how far Vince McMahon is willing to go with his woken wonderfulness, but potentially it could work. You would have to imagine that it would be part of a larger story with him, maybe leading to a deletion royale at the Hardy compound?

That would be absolutely… DELIGHTFUL yeeeaaaasssss

Ziggler suffers from the same stop/start nature as Corbin, but ironically because he’s been doing it longer he has more credibility and would be more likely to be able to move past his current level. It’s already happened to him several times before when he’s looked like a lost cause – he was never going to be a main event player, and then he was the sole survivor at the 2014 Survivor Series, forcing the Authority out of power. He was a veteran being used to put others over, and then he should have main evented a PPV against The Miz in late 2016. Maybe he’s due another go in 2018 having just signed a new contract.

But to be honest, I think it’s far more likely that an unannounced entrant wins the whole thing. Samoa Joe, Big Cass, Jeff Hardy, Big Show – they’re all apparently returning from their various injuries imminently, and all would be genuine threats to win. If I had to pick one name right now, I’d go for Cass. It would be a fresh reintroduction to the fans for him, in an environment that would hide his limitations.

Vince sees superstar potential in Big Cass. He’s a good shout to win the ATGMBR.

And there’s also the NXT factor. Nobody picked Corbin to win two years ago because nobody knew he was going to be in the match, but as soon as I saw him in the ring I called his victory. Most of the time NXT talent has been used for numbers, and also to give them the experience of that sort of atmosphere.

So who could show up from the yellow brand? Last year we had Killian Dain, so I’m not sure if he’d make another appearance. Drew McIntyre could return if the plan is to promote him to the main roster straight away, and if he does he’d also be a good pick to win. Adam Cole made an unexpected appearance at the Royal Rumble after an Extreme Rules match the night before, so I wouldn’t rule anyone out this time around. Lars Sullivan? Velveteen Dream? Johnny Gargano? EC3? Kassius Ohno? It could be literally anyone. But unless it’s McIntyre, I don’t see them winning.

I definitely feel like this will be one of those matches that I build up as something that can be great, that can lead to something incredible, and then Rob Gronkowski shows up and ruins it. But who knows? My pick is Big Cass, but it could be anyone. Nobody would’ve guessed Corbin before the show, and even fewer would have guessed Rawley. On paper that unpredictability is a great thing, but based on this match’s track record… I’m not so sure.


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