PHOENIX -- In 2014, Daniel Bryan's destiny was undeniable, but it took WWE months to set the proper course. The chaos and deafening boos at the Royal Rumble in Pittsburgh showed just how much they underestimated Bryan's fan support, but they ultimately reset their plans and cashed in with an all-time moment at WrestleMania 30.
Sunday night's Royal Rumble proved there's no interest in repeating those mistakes, as Becky Lynch seeded her path to WrestleMania by overcoming impossible odds. Seth Rollins' victory was equally well-received by the fans at Chase Field, though the outcome might seem a tad too predictable for a show that typically thrives on surprises. The journey, the payoffs and the potential to come, however, far outweigh any downside of the destination being a bit obvious.
For Lynch, that was clear in the immediate aftermath of her victory.
"It's the biggest night of my life," Lynch told ESPN shortly after her victory. "And what this means going forward isn't wasted on me."
Lynch's victory came in the most dramatic of performances Sunday night. She was in the opening match of the Royal Rumble pay-per-view, vying for the SmackDown women's championship against Asuka. They had an absolute war, physically pushing each other to their limits, and for once, Lynch lost fair and square on her own in the middle of the ring. It can't be overstated how much that win solidified Asuka as the top woman on SmackDown, something that felt a bit distant in the months since her own Rumble win in 2018 ended in disappointment and the end of her undefeated streak.
Being down only made the triumph sweeter. The odds were so perilously stacked against her in this story that Lynch wasn't even among the original list of 30 women in the match. Lana's injury during the kickoff show prevented her from entering at No. 28, and in a master stroke of continuity and world building, that sliver of opening allowed Lynch to kick down the door and stomp her way through to victory. Along the way, Lynch finally vanquished Nia Jax, and once again got the upper hand on Charlotte Flair despite Jax getting a few extra licks in before she exited.
Some 48,000-plus inside of Chase Field roared when Lynch clinched her Royal Rumble victory. The path seems as clear as it ever was, as Lynch now holds the key to challenging Ronda Rousey and fulfilling the potential of a match that has thus far been lingering unfulfilled. Lynch-Rousey is the rivalry that outshines the rest of what's going on with either Raw or SmackDown, but the possibilities are still vibrant. There are still two pay-per-views to go before WrestleMania. Flair has a legitimate claim to the Rumble win after Lynch was allowed into the match on nothing more than what appeared to be the whim of Fit Finlay. A triple-threat match is fully in play, but Flair still stands as the clearest challenger for Asuka's SmackDown women's championship -- a match that would bring everything in their story full circle in a rematch from WrestleMania 34.
Whether it's Lynch and Rousey straight up, or a triple threat, there's one final hill to be climbed over the next two months.
"It means changing the damn business," Lynch said of her victory. "We're going to main event WrestleMania."
As for Rollins, he took out Braun Strowman, the other prime world title contender on Raw. The choice for WrestleMania seems pretty clear for him as well. Over the last six-plus months, and perhaps even longer, he has been the most vocal character every week on Monday Night Raw about Brock Lesnar's absentee championship reign. He now holds the key to ending such a reign, and the narrative between Rollins and Lesnar is thick, to say the least. WrestleMania 31 saw Rollins cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase mid-main event and steal away with the title before Lesnar or Roman Reigns could do anything about it. The pair never had a one-on-one rematch.
Since that title reign ended for Rollins, he's only had but a few minutes as a world champion over the last four years. As others stepped forward in Rollins' absence, he's had to grind his way back to the top. His Intercontinental championship pursuit and subsequent reign helped crystallize just how far he's come back in the minds of fans. Rollins stands as the man of the people, and the one chosen to give Raw a regular champion back.
Even if, by some strange course of fate, the WWE decides to throw a curveball, the long-shot possibility would be a WWE title feud with Daniel Bryan in the lead-up to WrestleMania. As far as backup options go, it doesn't get much better.
My way too early WrestleMania 35 card:
Raw women's championship: Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Becky Lynch
This is a WrestleMania main event. Let Becky Lynch and Ronda Rousey spend the next few months stoking the fire. Give Bayley, the only one who hasn't faced Ronda one-on-one, a shot at the champion, and then let the original NXT four horsewomen mix it up with Rousey, Shayna Baszler, Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir at Fastlane.
Universal championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Seth Rollins
This feels like a perfect opportunity to close the loop. Lesnar can continue to be an attraction at the odd big show, a la WrestleMania or SummerSlam, but he no longer needs or gets much value from being Universal champion. Give Rollins a chance to be Raw's standard-bearer and bring the title back to the show on a weekly basis.
WWE championship: Daniel Bryan (c) vs. AJ Styles
In order to stretch this rivalry out until WrestleMania, there had to be another wrinkle added to the story. Say what you want about a screwy finish and a yet unexplained run-in from Rowan, but if this is done right, Styles earning a title shot at the Elimination Chamber makes all the sense in the world. As long as the result is light on the low blows, we'll be in for something special.
SmackDown women's championship: Asuka (c) vs. Charlotte Flair
The return match from WrestleMania 34 will mean even more than their first meeting. No matter how Flair earns her rematch, we've already seen how great this match could be with no in-ring build-up. With another year under their belts, this could be a truly special match and a potential show-stealer. Asuka could win and continue to cement her dominance, but I have another finish in mind, so I think Flair will walk out of WrestleMania with title in hand once again.
The Miz vs. Shane McMahon
Shane McMahon and The Miz won the SmackDown tag team titles from The Bar, and celebrated with Miz's dad. It'll all be downhill from here, but at least they had that moment. Once the dissolution happens, it would be nice to see another tag team get a shot at the titles.
With the massive size of the Raw and SmackDown rosters, there will have to be a number of multi-way matches in order to squeeze as many people onto the card as possible. There's no real way of telling who will hold the U.S. championship by April, but this general collection of stars feels about right. Most importantly, it's time to get Sheamus and Cesaro back into the pool of singles competitors.
It's anyone's guess as to who will be the first women's tag team champions, with an Elimination Chamber match to crown the first winners coming next month. Bayley and Sasha Banks are an obvious answer, but having them win at WrestleMania makes for a bigger moment. In this scenario, Banks & Bayley win the titles early in the night, Charlotte Flair beats Asuka and then, to close out the show, Becky Lynch hands Ronda Rousey her first one-on-one loss. WrestleMania goes off the air with the four horsewomen holding their titles aloft.
Intercontinental championship: Bobby Lashley (c) vs. Braun Strowman vs. Drew McIntyre
Braun Strowman will hover around the Universal title picture for part of the next couple of months, but he'll instead get his first taste of singles gold by winning the Intercontinental championship in a battle of behemoths.
Randy Orton vs. Batista
There needs to be at least one big match for the casual fans of the past to be pulled back in for WrestleMania, and this battle between former Evolution compatriots checks a lot of boxes. Batista has wanted to find the right spot for a comeback, and this could also lay the groundwork for a future match with Triple H under the right circumstances.
Cruiserweight championship: Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Lio Rush
While most of the world knows Lio Rush as Bobby Lashley's unbearable mouthpiece, the kid can really go. It would be a new and different kind of challenge for Buddy Murphy, and it would have the chance to be one hell of an energizer early in the night.
If you're going to resurrect the tag team divisions on Raw and SmackDown, give the guys who haven't had a whiff of a real chance at the top a chance to run things and then push them with a match like this.
Getting two of their most talented performers back into the ring and giving all four of these guys a chance in the spotlight is a no-brainer.
WrestleMania women's battle royal for a future title shot and men's battle royal for a future title shot
Give both of these matches more hefty stakes, and people will care. It doesn't cheapen the Royal Rumble, and it gives everyone in these matches a chance to make a major step forward.