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What the WWE Royal Rumble told us about WrestleMania

Did you think Roman Reigns would be wrestling for a title at WrestleMania? Think again.

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WrestleMania season is the biggest part of the wrestling calendar, and this year's started with a bang at last night's Royal Rumble.

Fans usually have a good idea of who will be wrestling who at WrestleMania a few months out. This year, though, was a mystery. WWE did a great job at not making this year's WrestleMania card obvious, which made the Royal Rumble plenty of fun.

The Royal Rumble, which aired on the WWE Network, sees 30 participants duke it out. It starts with 2 wrestlers in the ring, with 1 jumping in every 2 minutes. Wrestlers are eliminated by being tossed over the top rope, and the last man standing earns a world championship shot at WrestleMania.

Fans didn't just find out who'll be competing for a title though, as this year's Rumble gave a sneak peek at most of the 'Mania show. Strap yourselves in, we're about to party like it's 1999.

The Viper Strikes

WWE

Many WWE fans complain that the company relies too heavily on part-time superstars. Guys like The Undertaker, Triple H and Brock Lesnar rock up every few months, headline the biggest shows and leave the full-time roster looking like B-grade players.

Well rejoice, because none of these part timers won the Royal Rumble. Instead, that nod went to 12-time world champion Randy Orton. You may remember him as the man who got damn near cut in half by Brock Lesnar last summer.

Here's what you need to know about Orton: He's been a top star in the company since 2004 but has faded to the background a little in recent years. He now wrestles on the SmackDown brand, where John Cena is champion, and is in a faction with the wicked Bray Wyatt.

Odds are, we'll see Orton take on Wyatt for the title at WrestleMania. That's just how these things work out in pro wrestling; factions are made to be dramatically broken up.

There is an outside chance we'll see Orton face Cena, a thought sure to put a shiver up most people's spines. Nothing against either legend, it's just that they've wrestled each other a preposterous amount over the years.

Either way, we'll find out Orton's opponent for sure at the Elimination Chamber show, which takes place on the WWE Network on February 12.

The Phenom Reigns

WWE

Roman Reigns is the most controversial pro wrestler on the planet today. Since 2014, the WWE have tried desperately to get fans to embrace him. That effort soured many, who resented him for being the "chosen one," the heir to John Cena as the face of the company.

When Reigns entered the Rumble as participant No. 30, the boos were deafening. The collective groan was at the thought of him headlining his third consecutive main event -- but Randy Orton put a stop to that.

Instead, it looks like Reigns will be taking on The Undertaker. It was Reigns who tossed Undertaker over the top rope, and the two exchanged a tense staredown afterward.

"It's my yard now," Reigns told 'Taker.

The 51-year-old Phenom is 23-1 at WrestleMania. He's slowed down in recent years, but his matches between 2008 and '13 were regular WrestleMania show stealers.

Fans have an undying loyalty to The Deadman. They'll now have one more reason to boo Reigns, especially if the polarising performer changes Undertaker's WrestleMania record to 23-2.

Could this signal a character change? If the WWE is having trouble getting fans to accept Reigns as a hero, turning him into a villain would make sense. But don't count on it, as it's a change the company has been reluctant to make for over 3 years.

Hero or heel, expect big things from Roman Reigns at WrestleMania.

A Beaten Beast

WWE

Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt and Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns are big matches, but there's a good chance neither of those will main event WrestleMania.

That honour may instead be reserved for Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg III. Their storyline continued in the Rumble, when Lesnar dominated everyone until Goldberg's number was drawn. In a matter of seconds, Goldberg eliminated Lesnar.

Lesnar, a former UFC Heavyweight Champion, is the WWE's most expensive asset. In 2015, he was paid $6 million for just a handful of matches, according to Forbes. He went over 3 years without being pinned until last November, when he was beaten by a returning Goldberg in under 2 minutes.

Behind the scenes, Lesnar pushed the idea that Goldberg should defeat him to build to a big money match in 2017, Wrestling Observer journalist Dave Meltzer reported.

Lesnar was on to something, as their first match at Survivor Series created huge buzz; they were the talk of the wrestling world until the end of the year.

After the Royal Rumble, their rematch is all-but confirmed. We don't yet know if it'll be for a title, but at this point it's the biggest match WrestleMania 33 looks to offer.