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.
Except it’s definitely not. Enjoy.
1. Dejan Lovren
First entry. He is, notably, the best defender in the world (that’s actually his gimmick in this btw). It’s Liverpool’s own Dejan Lovren.
No, this is not one of the years where one of the favourites for the whole match comes in at number one, despite what Dejan might say.
2. Sergio Ramos
Wouldn’t you just know it.
Crowd goes nuts. They never thought they’d see this again, and especially not within a year of the Champions League final…which Real Madrid won against Liverpool in Kiev. But here it is.
Ramos walks to the ring slowly, and steps through the ropes. His entrance music quietens, the lights come up, and the crowd lose their minds as the two centre backs – though both monster heels at present – go face to face.
Lovren tells Ramos he actually meant to say what he said in that Instagram post, and he doesn’t regret a thing. They exchange punches. Ramos protects his gorgeous face. Lovren, seeing that he could cause some damage, doesn’t give a toss. He grabs Ramos by the arms and throws 17 close range headbutts, before the Spaniard escapes.
Ramos re-composes himself and the pair go back and forth, but are interrupted.
3. Richard Keys
That moment where two sworn enemies unite to get rid of someone completely insignificant so they can continue fighting? That happens with entrant three.
Ramos and Lovren look at each other, then glare at Richard Keys in unison, before grabbing him by his hairy hands and launching him over the top.
In every Rumble match, an entrant appears early on who has the stamina and the smarts to go the distance, directing who does what and when, while he or she almost always fails to win the thing in the end.
2019’s workhorse is Fernandinho. In at 4, the Brazilian enters, gets in the mix and has a few flare ups, but also allows the real stars of the match to have their spots to shine. When they do, you’ll generally find Fernie laying down and chilling underneath the bottom rope or in the corner.
He’s getting on a bit now, but he lasts the longest of anyone in the match, at an excellent 61 minutes 12 seconds.
(N’Golo Kante, you shout? Oh come on, he is the absolute obvious choice, so no.)
5. Ashley Barnes
Not every Royal Rumble entrant can be a star. It takes the shine off the others.
6. Mohamed Salah
“GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY! HERE HE COMES! HE’S HERE! BAH GAWD! IT’S KING MO!”
Jim Ross and Gary Neville are on commentary. JR does his wonderful best to put over the Egyptian, who charges to the ring knowing it still contains Sergio Ramos, who is still avoiding Dejan Lovren’s angry fists.
As Salah enters, Ramos gets the better of the Croatian, finally eliminating him. He turns around to a stunned Salah, who now realises “balls, I’m on my own and this guy really hurt my shoulder last time” and Ramos sees another opportunity. He charges towards Salah and grabs his arm at the first time of asking, attempting some weird Spanish version of an arm bar.
Unlike in Kiev though, Salah wriggles free, before flying across the ring and striking Ramos with a number of aerial manoeuvres. The Liverpool supporters in the crowd love it, singing “MO SALAH! MO SALAH! MO SALAH! FLYING THROUGH THE AIR! NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA…”
That’s enough to spur him on. A dazed Ramos picks himself up using the ropes and leans against them, but Salah hits one final attack and clotheslines him over the top. There are people taking their shirts off in the crowd now, swinging their King Mo gimmick tees above their heads.
Then follows a gasp. Salah’s only gone and hit a 450 splash over the top rope and onto Ramos, clearly forgetting he’s eliminated himself in the process. The two continue fighting on the outside and into the crowd, with Lovren still around to support his bestie.
Sets up a decent WrestleMania match, mind.
7. Morten Gamst-Pedersen
The first ‘legend’ to enter the match is former Norwegian international Morten Gamst-Pedersen. He’s still playing nowadays, at Tromsø, where you could initially sign him from on Championship Manager for a pittance.
He left Blackburn in 2013 (WTF?) but let’s be honest, nobody has heard owt about him since 2011. Always nice to see an old face though.
Buzzer goes off, no music hits. Nobody enters. So we’ve written our own question mark as entrant number 8 is a mystery, and will remain one until later in the match.
Keep your eyes open.
9. Anthony Martial
With Fernandinho, Ashley Barnes and Morten Gamst-Pedersen the only ones in the ring by entrant eight, it’s time to add some more star power.
It’s Tony Marshall, baby. He’s going to do well in this one.
10. Krzysztof Piątek
Milan’s new signing enters so the next section can work effectively.
11. Paul Merson (w/ Jeff Stelling)
Jeff Stelling comes out with a microphone. And just like he would on Soccer Saturday, he introduces the next entrant, Paul Merson, into the match with a smart quip.
An overly excited Merse walks down the aisle furious as he sees a 37-year-old Morten Gamst-Pedersen tied up in the corner with Krzysztof Piątek, knowing full well he cannot pronounce their names. That doesn’t stop him running his mouth as enters the fray.
Lasts about three minutes. Merse is not cut out for this.
12. Aboubakar Kamara
Bit mad, bit of a loose cannon, could probably cause some real damage here.
Aboubakar Kamara, elevated in stature by his time as The Villain of Fulham FC, runs to the ring and enters the fray.
He even interrupts as Fernandinho is eliminating Morten Gamst-Pedersen, just so he can take the glory for himself. Unfortunately, he messes up a bit and the Norwegian escapes. Kamara turns his attention elsewhere and Fernie finally finishes the job.
13. Kevin Prince Boateng
Seems like he’s turning up everywhere at the moment, so it’s perfectly logical he’s found his way into the Rumble match.
Ends up thrown over the top by Paul Merson. It was Merse’s only elimination, which came about after Jeff Stelling had asked for his thoughts on Arsenal’s transfer policy from ringside.
14. Luke Shaw
Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial’s left-sided pal, liberated again at Manchester United, enters at 14.
Shaw and Martial stick together and watch each other’s backs for a large chunk of their spells in the ring.
15. Paul Pogba
The stable is complete.
There’s a massive pop from the crowd as the one and only Paul Pogba emerges from behind the curtain. He dances on his way to the ring like he’s got a bit too much energy from not running around much for the last two years.
Drops Shaw a high five and pulls off some kind of convoluted handshake with Martial as he enters the ring. There’s some real strong Manchester United representation here now.
Together, they finally throw out Ashley Barnes, who has been in the match far longer than anyone would care to admit. The crowd love it.
16. Mike Ashley (w/ Rio Ferdinand)
Shocking turn up for the books, this one.
Even more shocking, probably, is the fact that Rio Ferdinand is flanking Newcastle owner Mike Ashley as he walks to the ring. Given Rio’s boxing (and football) background you may think this’d be the other way around, but not a chance. Rio’s weird support of Ashley on BT Sport and social media tells us otherwise.
Ashley is not impressed with the Man Utd trio, and lays them all flat with some Great Khali-style clubbing blows. Fernandinho has a pop, but Ferdinand trips his feet as he runs to the rope. Ashley takes advantage, and pulls off a monstrous powerbomb.
17. Francis Coquelin
Ashley’s reign of tyranny continues through the next entrant, as he absolutely flattens former Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin.
Remember that time Eden Hazard sent Coquelin tumbling in his wake? Well, this is worse. Much, much worse. Ashley sends him from pillar to post, from corner to corner, knocking him back down every time.
Unfortunately, it ends, after a minute or so of torture, with Mike Ashley getting the Coq out.
Who could stop him?
18. Rafa Benitez
RAFA BENITEZ COULD STOP HIM.
Surely he could. His life has been made absolute hell on earth since 2016 by Mike freakin’ Ashley. All those times he’s been given nothing to spend in transfer windows? All those times it looks like Newcastle are going to be sold, but it all ends up as a lie? This is the moment for Rafa, after years of pent up frustration.
Big Raf steps in the ring, and goes nose-to-nose with his boss. He’s had absolutely too much of this life, and bah gawd he’s started swinging.
With everybody else flat on the ground, Rafa starts getting the better of his fellow big man. The crowd are on their feet, they’ve been waiting for this moment. Ashley teeters on the ropes. Rafa lines him up for one big clothesline over the top…
And Aboubakar Kamara comes in to take the glory.
Rafa’s incensed. His moment was taken away from him. Kamara slips under the bottom rope and runs away, Rafa gives chase.
He heads for the aisle, running back where he came from, and then…
19. Aleksandar Mitrovic
Mad Dog Mitrovic’s music hits.
He hasn’t forgotten about that penalty, mate. He hasn’t forgotten about the training ground incident. He hasn’t forgotten at all.
Kamara is frantic. He’s being chased by Benitez and Mad Dog – on the same page again after Benitez farmed him out on loan to Fulham before selling him permanently in the summer – but Kamara’s a tricky customer.
He’s evaded them both and gotten back into the ring.
20. Claudio Ranieri
Dilly-ding, dilly-f*cking-dong. It’s Claudio Ranieri.
No two ways about it, this is the end of Kamara’s spell in the Royal Rumble. He’s made Rafa Benitez irate, and his actions over the last few weeks hasn’t endeared him to Claudio and Mitro either.
The three of them edge closely to the ring and stand on the apron, in unison, just like The Shield used to, before thrusting themselves through the ropes and giving Kamara precisely zero chance of escape.
He’s thrown over the top rope eventually, and the match continues.
So, who’ve we got?
The Man Utd stable have gotten back to their feet, while a newly formed trio of Ranieri, Mitrovic and Benitez seem to think their chances are stronger if they stick together. Poor Fernandinho and Piatek are lone rangers, so there’s eight men in the ring.
They’re joined by a ninth. It’s the largely underwhelming sight of Bayern Munich’s Rafinha. Who knows how he got in there.
22. Graeme Souness
Graeme, you are outnumbered.
He’s well up for a scrap with Pogba, but the United midfielder is pretty well flanked by his mates here. Even the hard-as-nails Sky Sports man doesn’t have the answers.
Souey’s pretty angry mind. He manages to land a few shots at Pogba and scream in his face that he’s “massively overrated and a disgrace to the Premier League”, but Martial and Shaw help Pogba scoop him out with relative ease.
They follow that up by dumping out Piatek, because they remember he’s been in the match far too long.
23. Unai Emery
Will come in to the match and put in a largely respectable shift, but not tear up any trees.
24. Jussi Jääskeläinen
Another Premier League legend incoming.
Jussi Jääskeläinen, eh? He was a very good goalkeeper back in the day. He’s not a good wrestler though, and gets thrown out after a couple of minutes by Fernandinho.
25. Martin Pringle
It just gets weirder.
Martin Pringle. Cor. Martin Pringle. Of Charlton fame.
He’s managing Eskilsminne IF in his native Sweden nowadays, and he’s sent back there relatively sharpish by Unai Emery.
26. Jose Mourinho
Stealing The Undertaker’s music for the benefit of this match, the gong tolls as Jose Mourinho enters at 26. This spells bad news. For everyone.
It’s especially bad for the Man Utd trio of Pogba, Martial and Shaw, who are all horrified to see the man they thought they’d gotten rid of turn up to ruin their night.
The three stand there, motionless, bound with fear, as he steps in the ring. Jose throws out a knackered Fernandinho, and Rafinha follows. Shaw and Martial, seeing Jose steaming through the field, decide to attack.
It’s no use. Jose’s defence is too strong. He blocks everything. Shaw is sent flying, and a still-distracted Martial is tossed out by Mitrovic, who is still floating about. It doesn’t look good for Paul Pogba now.
27. Mesut Ozil
Fresh off of a Fortnite sesh, Mesut Ozil strolls to the ring fresh in the knowledge that his current and former managers are already in there.
He’d go after Emery for inexplicably dropping him from the Arsenal team for months on end, but truth be told he’s not actually that bothered. An angry Emery stares him down, so Ozil pops himself over the top and walks back out of the arena.
28. Frank Lampard (w/ Every Manager in the Championship Except Marcelo Bielsa)
Frank Lampard knows something’s up, so he’s come out at 28 looking to do something about it and brought the 22 other managers of Championship clubs with him.
Why 22? Well, because he knows Marcelo Bielsa is somewhere. He’s hiding, spying, waiting for his opportunity, and Frank is not going to have any of it. He doesn’t want to win this match, he just wants to catch that pesky Argentinian red handed.
The other managers search the arena, and the savvy Daniel Farke has found him. He’s found Bielsa in the 10th row with a beanie and prescription sunglasses. No fake moustache though, that’d be a cliché.
Farke and co. carry the Leeds United boss to the ring, and dump him inside so Lampard can finally exact some revenge and eliminate him.
Yes, he was the mysterious entrant number 8.
Typically, Mourinho then throws Lampard over the top as he mouths off at Bielsa some more. Every man for himself, Frank.
29. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Mourinho has cleaned house. If he’s somehow finished as a manager, he’s certainly just getting started as WWE’s top heel.
Mitrovic? Gone. Benitez? Gone. Claudio Ranieri? Gone. He’s taken them all out one by one, and he’s biding his time before finally getting that sweet, sweet revenge on La Pioche himself. That is, until the saviour arrives late in the day.
Ole dispatches a prone Emery, before turning his attention to the condition of his future Man Utd captain, and the man who has been trying to ruin him for the past 30 months. Mourinho is not afraid, but he is no match for this feel-good wave brought to the match by the Norwegian king of Old Trafford.
Solskjaer’s attack is too much for Mourinho’s defence, and the Special One is gone. Solskjaer and Pogba embrace as they defeat the super-villain. And just the two of them remain.
30. Mauricio Pochettino
The final entrant. He gets to the ring, knows full well that Ole Solskjaer is standing in his way, and makes a beeline for him.
It’s a battle so frantic, they go total Family Guy Peter vs The Chicken style and fight all over the place, but their momentum carries them both over the top rope and to the floor. It leaves a stunned Pogba on his own in the centre of the ring, now realising just what this means.
31. Your Winner: Paul Pogba
He didn’t throw anybody out to actually win, but it’s Paul Pogba who has his hands raised after one of the most epic Royal Rumble matches you’ll ever see.
To celebrate, Paul tries that old Triple H taunt where he raises his arms and spits water all over the place, before going back to dancing to his entrance music.
Congratulations, Paul. And if you’ve managed to get this far, thank you. Thank you very much.