During a recent edition of Wrestling Observer Radio, Dave Meltzer discussed the originally planned Universal Championship match for Royal Rumble 2018 between Brock Lesnar & Finn Balor being cancelled. Below is Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez’s discussion about this situation:
Meltzer: So the Royal Rumble 2018 co-main event was scheduled to be Brock Lesnar and Finn Bálor for the Universal Championship. Obviously, if you watched the show last night, you probably would come to the conclusion that’s probably not the direction they are going to go and if you watched Raw I think that you would’ve emphatically realized that that had to have changed.
What I was told was the official change was actually this morning, but it was definitely talked about yesterday. Vince McMahon felt that Finn Balor wasn’t over enough. And I think that he obviously decided even before because of the way that match was laid out.
Finn Balor wasn’t put in that Survivor Series match to shine. And even though, like the whole match was built around Braun Strowman, the problem with Braun Strowman and Lesnar is this: they’ve already done the match once. They did a clean finish. Vince doesn’t want anyone kicking out of the F5 until WrestleMania obviously.
I mean, they’ve built this thing up forever. So Brock Lesnar beating Braun Strowman at Royal Rumble with an F5, it’s something that’s already been done. It’s not going to help Braun Strowman one bit…to lose that match no matter how they work the match. Plus the first match really wasn’t very good.
Lesnar and Strowman makes all the sense in the world for Royal Rumble 2018, but when you really think it out, it makes no sense at all given where they want to go. They don’t want to hurt Strowman and they’re not gonna put the Universal Title on Strowman because they’ve spent the whole year building up Lesnar and Reigns.
So unless they switch it to Lesnar and Strowman at WrestleMania, which I would say that would be a back-up plan, that you could do if Vince gets cold feet on Roman Reigns but that hasn’t happened yet. So we’re kind of left with a situation where they’re scrambling for a match.
They’ve just decided the match they wanted to do, they’re not doing anymore and what they’re going to do is up in the air.
Alvarez: So Vince booked Finn Balor to get squashed by Kane…..
Meltzer: And next week he got beat up again with the idea that Finn Balor would be rehabbed by the Royal Rumble and then he decided that Finn Balor couldn’t be rehabbed for the role.
Alvarez: So he didn’t even try.
Meltzer: Well, he didn’t. Yeah, he gave up before trying which doesn’t surprise me.
Alvarez: This was like every WWE self-fulfilling prophecy I’ve ever heard of in my whole life. You book a guy to not get over. Then he doesn’t get over. And then you say well the guy couldn’t get over. That’s exactly what happened here.
Meltzer: Yeah this is probably textbook example of somebody ….. we can rehab a guy from being squashed and then before even trying deciding that he’s not over. And this is after, you know, all the teases and all the interviews. I mean there weren’t a ton of them, but there were plenty of them for the last six months where Finn Bálor kept talking about… you know… I want Brock Lesnar, I want Brock Lesnar.
Alvarez: Every Paul Heyman promo he did, he made sure to put over Finn Balor. Even when he’s building up a match with AJ Styles, he’s putting Finn over.
Meltzer: Even when he was building up the match with AJ Styles and saying how phenomenal AJ Styles is, he brought that up. Just last week because last week that was the match. And it was like I can’t go in there and say AJ Styles is like the greatest in- ring performer. Nobody’s comparable to him. I’ve got to mention Finn Balor since Finn Balor’s essentially another AJ Styles.
Even though the decision was made this morning, you had to know just by the booking of it. When I watched that match last night, I mean the first thing I was thinking is that can’t be… I know how Vince thinks. The way that thing was booked at Survivor Series and the way he went out, it was just… that’s not the guy he’s going with a Royal Rumble Championship match.
Although he does funny things. I mean, remember that AJ Styles match with Baron Corbin? Right before the AJ Styles program with Jinder Mahal was going to start and even though the original plan wasn’t for AJ to go and win that championship right away, even though he did.
The fact is the plan was for AJ Styles to be the next challenger for Jinder Mahal and he had Baron Corbin beat him in a completely neat match. I mean, the way he beat him you know. I mean that’s fine if AJ Styles is moving on down the card and trying to build up Baron Corbin.
But if AJ Styles is gonna go for the title now, granted AJ Styles did not get destroyed in the fans’ eyes because they probably saw through it or didn’t accept it or didn’t care about wins and losses that much. And also he wasn’t squashed in the manner Finn Bálor was with Kane. I mean that was like a destruction.
Finn Bálor would be the victim, the real victim of that booking that we talk about all the time.