This Sunday night, WWE’s Royal Rumble will set us up on the road to WrestleMania.
At 90min, we (well, some of us), really like wrestling. So what better way to celebrate January’s finest event than to fantasy book the 30-man, over the top rope bout ourselves, using footballers, football managers, football pundits, and whoever we can think of, to tell a monster of a story.
The rules? One person enters the match every 90 seconds, until 30 participants have entered.
The last one standing after 29 have been thrown over the top wins. Simple really.
First Entrant: Liverpool FC
Jurgen Klopp leads his players, backroom staff, tea lady and a small selection of the club’s supporters (YouTube personalities, probably) to the ring as the first entrant.
There’s around 62 people coming down the aisle to a dirty guitar version of You’ll Never Walk Alone by Saliva, but it’s already been cleared with the top brass that they all count as a collective one entrant. Think of them as the modern day NWO. And think of Virgil van Dijk as ‘Big Sexy’ Kevin Nash.
I’ll leave you to match the rest to the remaining 61 NWO members.
Second Entrant: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
You couldn’t write this stuff.
?Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer strolls down the aisle with a beaming smile, completely confident in his own abilities to last from number two in the Rumble match and all the way through to the end. Rey Mysterio and Vince McMahon did it, so why can’t he?
He steps into the ring with the other half full with 62 members of ?Liverpool Football Club, and the match begins as the entire collective pick Solskjaer apart. Roy Keane is on commentary and screaming for Solskjaer to be given time.
The Norwegian’s attacks come in feeble, slow and weak flurries which are easily dealt with by Liverpool’s defence. It even seems his famed counter-attack tactic will be useless here. And even before the third entrant comes through the curtain, Solskjaer is picked up and dumped out of the ring.
Even in poor performance, at least we can consider this a stride forward.
Number 3: Christian Eriksen
Long-serving, talented, but remarkably uninterested.
?Eriksen strolls to the ring with the real-life narrative that his WWE contract is going to expire at 11:59pm on Sunday April 5, 2020 – the night of WrestleMania 36. It’s worked into storyline and the Dane knows he’s still gotta put other guys over because he’s out of contract.
But AEW (in footballing terms, Inter) are out there now, and they offer a much easier schedule and pretty good money. So even though he’s entering a match with 62 members of one team waiting for him, it’s all about participating but not getting injured for Chris.
The future’s bright – he even looks as though he might be able to leave the company early.
Number 4: Steve Ogrizovic
62 years old, but can still go. He’s not fazed by 63 other people in the ring and slides in, broken nose and all, for a good old slugfest with Jurgen Klopp.
James Milner and Jordan Henderson drag the former Coventry ‘keeper to the ground and beat him down a little, before Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson (we did a really good interview with him the other week, ?read that here) pick him up and whip him against the ropes.
Bobby Firmino pops and fly-kicks him over the top. Light work.
Number 5: Fernandinho
He didn’t get much luck with the draw ?last year, ?Fernandinho, coming in at number four. And unfortunately for him it’s five this time around. Another big job for the Brazilian.
?Mohamed Salah runs up to him, only to get tripped full sprint. Fernie throws a few hooks and establishes himself in the match.
In the mean time, several of Liverpool’s medical staff are keeping Christian Eriksen quiet. He’s already getting set for a lengthy stint in the ring lying underneath the turnbuckles.
Number 6: Jamaal Lascelles
Here he is, look. Jamaal Lascelles and his little unexplained piece of paper.
A first Royal Rumble appearance for the ?Newcastle skipper, who is somehow not injured.
Number 7: Pep Guardiola
He’s followed up 90 seconds later by Pep Guardiola, who will provide some timely (but let’s be honest, not very suitable – it’s a wrestling match after all) back up for Fernandinho in the Manchester City quest to stop Liverpool dominating everything – like they currently look like doing.
Pep’s entry has picked up the tempo of the match at least. He’s a bit of a high-flier, even if a little lightweight, and catches Dejan Lovren with a head scissors. Even ‘PowerCube’ Xherdan Shaqiri’s having trouble handling him as Pep briefly cleans house – and Fernandinho and his boss stand tall in the centre of the ring.
The above image of Pep, mind you, is his reaction when the music of the next entrant hits.
Number 8: Adama Traore
Bah gawd, it’s Adama Traore, and lord is he fired up!
Traore races around the ring, slides in and runs the ropes, ducking and weaving every which way to avoid Guardiola’s grasp, before absolutely steamrollering through the emotionally broken City boss and shoulder barging him over the top rope. The crowd go nuts. It was only a few weeks ago Traore ended Pep’s title hopes.
He now locks eyes on Andy Robertson, and threatens to do the exact same thing to the Scot before the multiple members of team Liverpool gang up on him and bring him to the ground. Christian Eriksen looks on pleased that he can continue to rest.
Number 9: Dominic Calvert-Lewin
The ?Everton striker strolls to the ring, and bloody hell is Lascelles pissed.
This is the first time they’ve seen each other since that ridiculous 2-2 draw between Everton and Newcastle the other day, when DCL mocked the Magpies’ centre half with a reaction that seems to suggest Jamaal needs to brush his teeth.
Calvert-Lewin, wrestling under the name Big Calv, enters the ring and Lascelles gets in his face again. They threaten to fight, Big Calv struggles to breathe, and then out of the blue Liverpool youngster Curtis Jones dumps the striker out of the ring – just like he dumped Everton out of the FA Cup recently.
Number 10: Hard Working British Managers Who Just Need a Chance at a Big Club
Oh no, just what we need. An entire heel stable.
Stuart Pearce, Gordon Strachan and Alan Curbishley emerge first, and all give a glance back to the leader of the pack, Big Sam Allardyce, who is clutching his signature gravy boat in his hand.
Remember when Gangrel used to drink blood on his way to the ring and spit it out? It’s kind of like that. Unfortunately Gangrel’s music was cooler and Sam is swallowing the gravy.
They’ve all made it known they want a piece of Klopp, who is still relatively untroubled in the match, and they’re then joined by their ace in the pack and double-hard bastard Mark Hughes, who arrives as the five-pack make it their mission to eliminate all foreign managers at big clubs.
With all their experience and knowhow, they take on all comers (except those who aren’t foreign managers).
Number 11: Ashley Young
Appears to have been brainwashed by his new club, as he shouts “I was Young” and “HASHTAG NOT FOR EVERYONE” on the way to the ring.
Fancies a crack at the Liverpool lot for old time’s sake.
Number 12: Alexis Sanchez
He’s joined by ?Alexis ‘Piano Player’ Sanchez, his new teammate. The two are ready to work hard for themselves and to proudly represent their current club, ?Inter.
The hope is they will be able to establish their love for football (wrestling) again after years of stagnation.
Number 13: Teemu Pukki
Lovely guy and willing to give things a go is Teemu Pukki, despite not being a favourite.
We’ll use this opportunity to clear up who’s in the match: 62 members of Liverpool FC, Fernandinho, Jamaal Lascelles, Adama Traore, Hard Working British Managers Who Just Need a Chance at a Big Club, Alexis Sanchez, Ashley Young, and now Pukki.
Oh and Christian Eriksen is still in there too.
Number 14: Ed Woodward
FFS, does he have to be involved in everything?
Number 15: Antonio Conte
Eriksen is still in there as Conte’s music hits. But as the Dane finally stands up and gets to the centre of the ring, he’s greeted by Woodward – who has been desperate to try and get him to play for Manchester United for months – and Eriksen’s just had enough.
He acknowledges Sanchez and Young, before hopping over the top rope and eliminating himself because, well, it’s just too much now. On his way to Milan, Eriksen gives Conte a nice high five and leaves the arena.
His new manager enters the fray meanwhile, perfectly capable of getting angry.
Number 16: Pontus Kaamark
Every Rumble gets a nice blast from the past, and here’s another one.
Comes out to muted applause and small cheers, as the largely PG audience don’t really have any actual clue who he is.
In the ring, Sanchez and Young are buzzing as Conte sets up a nice little pack with them. The three efficiently manage to dump out Pukki and Lascelles, while Woodward is in there trying to negotiate with Adama Traore. Manchester United’s extensive scouting network fed back to Woodward that he’d been playing well for a few weeks.
Number 17: Mikel Arteta
This is it. This is the moment for the Hard Working British Managers Who Just Need a Chance at a Big Club to finally create themselves an opportunity. Klopp is too protected by his avid supporters and difficult to get to, and Mikel Arteta is all on his own, ready to be fed to the hungry wolves.
Arteta’s not fazed mind. It’s his way or the highway and he’s going to bring the energy – energy that it appears the likes of a few older heads can’t really deal with. And as are the rules in this match, everyone from any one group has to be eliminated in order for everyone to be out. No problem for Mikel.
Curbishley and Strachan are first to go with a double clothesline over the top, leaving three of the five for Mikel to deal with down the line.
Number 18: VAR
It took a while, but it’s here. It has to be here.
The match grinds to a halt. Everybody stops. And now, Video Assistant Referee is going to review every single elimination in the match so far to check whether both feet of each person thrown out has touched the floor. It’s not received well by the crowd, who want to see action.
And it’s also pretty difficult for VAR to enter the ring, as an entire room at Stockley Park has to fit through the ropes, but it manages to do so.
?Number 19: Chris Wilder
Walks in. Kicks VAR high into the crowd. Leaves.
Number 20: Romelu Lukaku
Joins up with his former Man Utd teammates in the ring and helps make Conte’s Inter stronger. They’re preparing themselves to try and down the seemingly unbreakable Liverpool, who are spoiling everyone else’s offence.
Number 21: Peter Odemwingie
Winner of more Premier League Player of the Month awards than several very good footballers, with three. And has a habit of turning up in places he’s not expected to turn up in.
Doesn’t last very long unfortunately.
Number 22: English Media w/ Weird Need to Place Blame on Paul Pogba
It’s ridiculous. Please stop it
Number 23: Tanguy Ndombele
Just happy to finally be involved!
Number 24: Jose Mourinho
Enters the arena pretty annoyed with the entrant before him for participating in the match after he’s not been fit enough to play for Spurs. Throws him out as a result.
Mourinho then spots Southampton coach Andrew Sparkes in the front row holding a sign which says just one word on it in capital letters – ‘IDIOT’ – and Jose doesn’t like the taste of his own medicine.
He rips up the sign and rolls back into the ring, just hoping he can hang with whoever’s left in there.
Number 25: Phil Stamp
Comes down to the ring repeatedly shouting ‘STAMP IT!’ and threatens to stamp all over Alexis Sanchez, who he’s locked his eyes on, because his name his Phil Stamp and his ingenious gimmick involves stamping and/or stamping on things.
Hey don’t blame me for lacking creativity here – Phil made his name in the 90s, when a fella named Sparky Plugg (a NASCAR dude gimmick) and The Goon (an Ice Hockey player) were living it up on the WWE roster with Bastion Booger.
Number 26: Nuno Espirito Santo
Arteta’s joined by Nuno in the ring, and the two decide to join forces to finally eradicate the Hard Working British Managers Who Just Need a Chance at a Big Club.
Wolves are pretty good nowadays y’know, and the two move to take out the Really Quite Hard tag-team of Stuart Pearce and Mark Hughes, and it really gets the crowd going. Sam Allardyce sees what’s going on and panics, picks up his boat and chugs down some gravy before attempting to spit it out in the pair’s eyes.
They’re too quick, and Allardyce is in a world of trouble. Nuno military presses the guy above his head, but all of a sudden Arteta throws a drop-kick into Nuno’s back – sending both he and Allardyce over the top to the outside. The remainder of the gravy spills everywhere.
Arteta stands there in the ring, completely careless about his heel turn. He’s only there to take care of business. But there’s one team in the match who take care of business better than anybody else – and Arteta is bundled out of town by six members of Team Liverpool.
?Number 27: Roy Keane
Jumps out from the commentary table and into the ring. Knows how to scrap and therefore starts to do so.
Elsewhere, Klopp is directing Liverpool and ordering his troops to throw out the deadwood, which Keane manages to avoid for now.
Kaamark (what a shift, fair play mate), Stamp, Pearson and Pukki are all smashed to bits and thrown out of the game, one by one. But wanting to prove a point – Inter’s Conte, Sanchez, Lukaku and Young fancy their chances against the entrant many now feel to be the favourite.
It gets ugly, but you know who wins the battle. There’s 62 of them.
?Number 28: Paul Pogba
Last year’s Royal Rumble match winner has very different goals this time around.
He makes a beeline for the media who’ve been blaming him for every single bloody thing that’s wrong with Manchester United even though he’s been injured over the last few months, and the crowd goes wild as Pogba dumps them out of the match. Finally, they’re silenced.
And clearly not forgetting their past either, Pogba unceremoniously dumps out Mourinho before throwing out a nice PogDance right in front of his old boss. The chapter isn’t over for these two, not yet by a long shot
?Number 29: Bruno Fernandes
Is it? Could it be?
Despite the doubt he actually exists, Bruno Fernandes’ music hits. He’s masked, for some reason – possibly to still not give away whether he’s a real person or not – and he slips into the ring before seeing Ed Woodward.
The two lock eyes, and the person we think is Bruno knows what’s coming.
He just cannot be bothered with it. He hops back over the top rope, eliminating himself, while Woodward does the same with his chequebook in hand. Woodward follows Bruno as he shuttles underneath the ring, and the pair are never to be seen again.
It’s not that Bruno wasn’t tempted by Ed’s money or Manchester United, it’s just that…well…he’s absolutely sick of hearing about anything in relation to “Bruno Fernandes Transfer”.
The Final Entrant: The Match Official w/ Peter Walton
He’s grabbed a bloody microphone. He’s speaking for the referee, who will remain unnamed.
Per the referee’s rule, entry number 18, VAR, was not correctly eliminated after being kicked out by Chris Wilder earlier in the match. It is a room, it has no feet to hit the floor, and thus cannot be eliminated, only destroyed. It’s the ruling of the unnamed official and Peter Walton is validating it, even though the rule is stupid.
VAR re-enters the match, again struggling to get through the ropes, and Liverpool FC are really, really miffed that this might spoil their moment.
The Go-Home Moments
VAR, Match Official w/Peter Walton, Paul Pogba, Roy Keane and Liverpool FC are the final five entrants, and i’ll be honest with you – this is going to be the least dramatic finish to a Royal Rumble match in the history of Royal Rumble matches.
Salah, Mane and Firmino combine to put an end to Keane and Pogba’s hopes of winning, and it’s now just down to Liverpool and the officials – since they are probably the only ones even remotely capable of getting in the way of Liverpool’s charge to winning every competition there is to win in 2020.
And just like that, vanquished. Liverpool stand there, all 62 of them, victorious. Not a glove laid on them, only their fans somehow surprised that they’ve managed to actually win an opportunity at the title at WrestleMania.
It’s going to be a long, inevitable few months until they finally get their hands on the title…
For more from Scott Saunders, follow him on ?Twitter!