As Gordon Bombay once said, “hockey should be fun.”
Shouldn’t writing about hockey be fun, too?
With WWE’s Royal Rumble happening Sunday night from Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, that gives me the opportunity to write about two of my favorite things: hockey and pro wrestling.
The idea here is to take the Blackhawks roster and construct a 30-man battle royale, just like the WWE event that will take place during Sunday’s game against the Blue Jackets, and decipher who comes out victorious.
One common factor linking hockey and professional wrestling is the high risk for injury. So before we get into the rumble itself, here are some key names missing from the card:
The most noticeable name missing from the list of entrants is the captain himself. Much like Stone Cold Steve Austin, Toews has helped lead his team out of dark times and through the glory days. Without Toews, the Hawks feel a lot like WWE during Austin’s absence.
The third overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft was sidelined with an injury sustained during the World Juniors last December. The excitement around Dach resembles that of the fans during John Cena’s 2004 campaign (yes, there was a time when everyone loved him). Hopefully, Dach’s potential will mirror Cena’s as well.
Fun Fact: Dach was born on Jan. 21, 2001 — the same day as that year’s Rumble.
Predicting Seabrook’s timetable for return is like trying to figure out when The Undertaker was going to make an appearance.
Let’s just say that Nylander is beginning to look like the Ted DiBiase Jr. of the Blackhawks.
Royal Rumble Match
First two entrants: Duncan Keith (1), David Kampf (2)
Final Entrant: Nicolas Beaudin (30)
First Elimination: Brandon Pirri
Anton Lindholm, Matthew Highmore, Brandon Pirri, MacKenzie Entwistle, Michal Teply, Wyatt Kalynuk
In every Royal Rumble, there are placeholders, the jobbers needed to fill out the card. Some of them may end up having solid careers down the line but, for now, they know their roles. Poetically, Pirri is the first to go.
David Kampf, Mattias Janmark, Ryan Carpenter, Carl Soderberg, Lucas Wallmark
Much like the Shelton Benjamins or Hardcore Hollys of the world, this group displays consistency night in and night out. Their veteran presence is important but they don’t have the star power to go the distance.
Ian Mitchell, Philipp Kurashev, Brandon Hagel, Lucas Carlsson, Adam Boqvist
Nearing the halfway point, we get to see some high-flying action from the new kids. While fans are just getting a glimpse at the skillset of this group, I wouldn’t rule out the potential for one of them to become a future champion. It’s not hard to see Hagel’s speed and work ethic equating to a Ricochet-esque performance. Pretty soon, we should get some “Happy ‘Rashev Day” shirts printed.
Nikita Zadorov, Calvin de Haan, Collin Delia, Pius Suter
Midway through, the match is truly up for grabs. No doubt, this is a tough foursome. Delia, much like Bobby Lashley, has shown flashes of greatness in multiple stints with the team, but has lacked consistency. Zadorov, in true Ryback fashion, has the size and the look, but at times has stifled himself while lacking the fundamentals of his peers. While it may be early in his career, I imagine plenty of fans flaunting their “Pope Pius XXIV” signs.
Andrew Shaw, Malcolm Subban, Patrick Kane, Dylan Strome, Dominik Kubalik, Nicolas Beaudin
The top ten is always a mix of fresh entrants and competitors who have been hanging in for quite a while. Kane draws comparisons to Shawn Michaels in his prime: a true showman, a star who sells out arenas and while logging the most minutes. Subban, much like Bo Dallas, has great expectations based on the accomplishments of his brother. Shaw, in true Rob Van Dam fashion, is a fan favorite who has returned after spending time with another organization. While known to be reckless at times, he recently overcame serious injuries and will have to execute with precision in order to come out victorious.
Connor Murphy, Duncan Keith, Kevin Lankinen, Alex DeBrincat
The final four: the moment the fans spend all night waiting for. Relatively green as a professional, Lankinen has played at a high level since his teenage years and in recent showings, has put the Hawks on his back. He’s a powerhouse in net and although he’s the newest of the group, he’s quickly becoming a key player and a fan favorite. (Kevin Owens, anyone?) What DeBrincat lacks in size, he makes up for in skill. Much like Rey Mysterio, he may seem like an underdog but no one wants to go toe-to-toe with him.
And then there were two...
Connor Murphy, Duncan Keith
Here it is: the Blackhawks Battle Royal comes down to two ironmen. In one corner, you have Duncan Keith, our very first entrant. A lot like CM Punk, Keith is beloved by the Hawks faithful and, while he may not look the part of the stereotypical star, he oozes a coolness that can’t be taught. The future Hall of Famer is known for leaving it all out there. Opposite him is Murphy, is a sleeper pick who quietly goes about his business. Since coming over from Arizona in 2017, he has been one of Chicago’s most consistent players. With a Daniel Bryan-like confidence, it’s clear that work ethic, sound fundamentals and passion have led to Murphy’s on-ice success.
Winner: Connor Murphy
Yes! Yes! Yes! Murphy has been leaving everything he’s got on the ice since his first game in a red sweater. He’s got a high hockey IQ and doesn’t make many mistakes. These qualities — along with endurance and consistency — are typically what make up a royal rumble winner. Furthermore, to get a new guy over with the fans, it often takes the help of a certified legend, like one, Duncan Keith.
While I’d love to see CM Punk return and face off against Daniel Bryan in the Rumble, this is probably the closest I’ll ever get. One thing I learned from writing this is that it would be a lot of fun to be a part of the creative team for a pro wrestling event.
It’s too bad that pro wrestling isn’t scripted, they’re missing out on some solid storyline opportunities ...