By Hamish Woodward – Atletifo.com
Every year, AEW host their own unique take on the Royal Rumble/Battle Royale format. Theirs is the Casino Battle Royale, a match where the winner takes home a world title shot at a later date. It features 21 wrestlers, who enter the ring 5 at a time, and the 21st who draws the “Joker” card gets to enter right at the end, alone. The next edition of this match will take place this Sunday, on May 30, 2021.
Previous winners of the match include ‘Hangman’ Page, who won the inaugural match at AEW Double or Nothing; Lance Archer, who went on to challenge Jon Moxley at the AEW Anniversary show; Nyla Rose, who won the first Women’s edition at AEW All Out 2019 and Death Triangle (PAC and Rey Fenix), who won the only Tag Team edition so far.
The Joker card has always proved an exciting opportunity to make a surprise entrance, a shocking returning or an exciting debut. Matt Sydal made his debut as the Joker card in the 2020 edition, hilariously falling from the top rope trying to do his famed ‘Shooting Star Press’ move. Hangman Page won from the Joker spot in the first battle Royale, so there is precedent for the winner to be from that spot.
Who could be the Joker in this year’s edition? Here I’ll discuss who it could be and what I think of their chances.
1. Bryan Danielson
The first name on this list is certainly the biggest. Danielson, the former Daniel Bryan in WWE, left WWE in April after his contract expired, and has been quite on his future since then. The former WWE and World Heavyweight Champion has never won a Battle Royale and it became a focal point of march to win the 2021 Royal Rumble, which he ultimately failed.
Danielson has made it clear he would love to compete around the world, wanted to do a Hair vs Mask match in Arena Mexico and a match against technical whizz Zack Sabre Jr in New Japan. With AEW’s light schedule and willingness for talent to perform overseas, such as Jon Moxley in New Japan, it would be a perfect match for the grappler to wrestle in America for New Japan.
The light schedule would also be ideal for Bryan as the father of two young children, as he has expressed that he no longer wants to wrestle full time to take care of Birdie and Buddy. AEW would offer him the schedule he needs and for him to enter the Casino Battle Royale would instantly make him the biggest star in AEW history
2. Chris Hero
The former Kassius Ohno has been out of action since the pandemic started, when he was released from his position in NXT UK. The veteran wrestler has been a mainstay in independent wrestling for the past 20 years. He has shown himself a top wrestler in matches against a variety of opponents, from Tomohiro Ishii, to Zack Sabre Jr, to Timothy Thatcher. Each match showcased a different facet of his skillset and his experience would prove invaluable for the young talent in AEW.
While Hero wouldn’t be the most exciting choice for the Joker card, he would be an excellent addition to the AEW roster, and if he would win would provide exciting matches against the AEW world Champion, Kenny Omega.
3. Paul Wight (The Big Show)
Standing 7 feet tall and sitting about 5 foot tall when behind the commentary desk, legend of the business Paul Wight has been itching to get inside the ring. Currently a commentator on AEW Dark: Elevation, a return to the ring could be an exciting opportunity for the former World Champion.
Wight, formerly the Big Show, last wrestled against Drew McIntyre after the Wrestlemania 36 Main event. He left the WWE earlier this year, signing with AEW as a commentator, when he realised he would be used as nothing but an enhancement talent, and he was just a number and not an individual.
His inclusion as the Joker could be a fun surprise entrant, with him already confirmed for commentary for the match. The image of the giant standing up from the desk, ripping off his headset and climbing over the top rope to start chopping fools would be a great visual. And as the winner of the second annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, and the true winner of the 2000 Royal Rumble, will anyone be able to throw this giant over the top rope?
4. Rich Swann
One man who needs to enter this match to get revenge on Kenny Omega is former Impact Champion Rich Swann. The former WWE Cruiserweight Champion lost his Impact World Championship to Omega at Rebellion in April 2021.
Swann would be an outside chance. Despite his feud with the AEW World Champion over his World title, he did not feature or was mentioned at all on AEW television, so may bring a muted response to some AEW fans. But his talent and ability in the ring would soon win over the fans, and the story of him earning his rematch with Omega through an AEW match type would be very interesting to see.
5. CM Punk
This is the dream entrant that almost certainly won’t happen. But to hear the opening riff of ‘Cult of Personality’ come through the speakers would blow the roof off the arena at Double or Nothing.
CM Punk has not been seen in a wrestling ring in over 7 years, leaving WWE after the 2014 Royal Rumble, where he was eliminated by Kane. After the match, he had an explosive meeting with Vince McMahon and Triple H, which led to him walking out on the company, never to return.
It would be fitting for Punk, to leave in one Battle Royale and return in another. His return would undoubtable be the biggest thing to happen in wrestling in years. A variety of fresh match ups would be available to him, such as Omega, Moxley or even Orange Cassidy. He has spoken before how he’d like to face Will Ospreay, so this could be one step forward toward that goal.