There’s a lot of speculation going around about Braun Strowman’s exit from the Universal Title match for the Royal Rumble. The obvious reason why he was pulled was that he’s not ready to get into a stiff match with Brock Lesnar due to his recovering elbow.
On PWInsider audio, Mike Johnson noted that there was another reason why they pulled him out of the match.
He said, “why isn’t Braun Strowman in this match? Well, the obvious reason is that he’s just not physically cleared by WWE’s medical staff to do a big heavy duty match with Brock Lesnar.”
Johnson continued, “however…they also didn’t want Braun to get beaten by Brock and they were not planning on putting the belt on Braun Strowman at the Royal Rumble. So they kind of painted themselves into a corner and then they painted themselves out of that corner somehow.”
This also (likely) means that Lesnar is going to retain his title at the Rumble and likely defend it at WrestleMania. It could also mean that WWE wants to save Lesnar vs. Strowman for a later date, perhaps WrestleMania. Keep in mind that the latest word on WrestleMania plans for Lesnar is that he was going to face Seth Rollins. It’s possible that Vince McMahon has changed his mind but we don’t know that for sure.
The only thing known for sure is that they didn’t want Braun to lose at the Rumble. Dave Meltzer has been reporting for weeks that creative was told to make Finn Balor look strong because he was going to get a push. That would explain why he beat Drew McIntyre at the TLC pay-per-view and why he has been winning matches in recent weeks. I presume the push is so that they can make him look as credible as possible when he faces Lesnar in a couple of weeks.