According to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer (subscription required), the planned match between WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar and challenger Finn Balor is no longer the direction for the Royal Rumble, and it appears that WWE isn’t going to do the program at all.
Meltzer made the comments on his radio show, saying that Vince McMahon made the change after coming to the conclusion that Balor wasn’t “over enough” — aka popular enough — for a match against Lesnar. As of now, there appears to be no firm direction for Lesnar at the Royal Rumble, but Meltzer indicated a rematch with Braun Strowman could be in the future.
Balor tweeted the following on Wednesday afternoon, and notice the subtle capitalization spelling out OVER.
Balor certainly didn’t out of his way to mention any names, but it’s possible this is a dig with the comments coming out just a day prior.
The current WWE plan still appears to be for Lesnar to face Roman Reigns for the title at WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans.
The report on Balor not being over enough for the match is an intriguing paradox, as both Meltzer and his co-host Bryan Alvarez noted that WWE hasn’t even been using Balor correctly if they wanted him to be more popular with the fans. Recently Balor has been in pointless feuds with Elias Samson and Bray Wyatt, and the company even had him get destroyed by Kane in a match on Monday Night RAW a few weeks ago.
Contrast that to what WWE did with Samoa Joe, Braun Strowman, and even AJ Styles in a short time before their matches with Lesnar. Those three were clearly built to be credible threats, and as was the case with Styles, the size of the competitor didn’t have to be important to make that threat credible. Styles had an awesome match with Lesnar at Sunday’s Survivor Series, and both wrestlers came off looking better for it.
Instead of doing something similar with Balor, WWE marginalized him ever since his return from a brutal shoulder injury that happened at SummerSlam of last year. Balor became the first ever winner of the Universal Championship at that event, but he had to relinquish the title due to dislocating his shoulder in the middle of his match with Seth Rollins.
Ideally Balor should have a claim to the title that he never officially lost, but WWE has rarely played up that angle. It’s unfortunate too, as Balor has been a solid mover of merchandise for the company, and a match with Lesnar could have been something that helped put him over the top, even if he lost the match.
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