If you look back at the majority of Royal Rumble matches over the last few years, you’ll see a common trend. The winner usually becomes pretty obvious a few months out from the event. Sometimes it even becomes a one-man-Rumble, when no one else even appears to be a chance. Examples of this include the three-year stretch of horrible Rumbles between 2013 and 2015 where John Cena, Batista and Roman Reigns were all clear-cut favorites.
The most recent Rumble was a little more unclear, but the closer we got to the date, the more apparent it was that Triple H was going to win. In an age where keeping secrets in wrestling is almost impossible, especially the main-event of WrestleMania, the WWE have be unable to keep much suspense for the Rumble match because the winner is almost always known beforehand… until now?
The Royal Rumble is a month away and there isn’t even a logical favorite. Let’s look at the field. Goldberg and Brock Lesnar have been announced for the match, but you’d assume (whether we want it or not) they’re going to culminate their rivalry at WrestleMania, removing them from the equation. Even if they don’t face each other, Goldberg in the title picture doesn’t really make much sense considering he won’t be a full-time guy, and we’ve already seen a Brock title reign and it wouldn’t work well with the angle they created at Survivor Series.
Finn Balor could return around that time, but he already has a contractual rematch for the Universal Title, so he doesn’t need to win the Rumble match. Kevin Owens and AJ Styles will probably still be their brand’s respective champions, with the only exception being if The Undertaker takes the title off of AJ – assuming that match even happens. Seth Rollins will face Triple H at WrestleMania in all likelihood, removing them both from the equation too… So who is even left?
Roman Reigns is never going to win the Royal Rumble again, they’re simply not going to let that happen, John Cena is probably facing Undertaker, and even if he isn’t, the odds of him being given a third Rumble victory seem quite low. He’s definitely not a favourite, that’s for sure. Dean Ambrose has just fallen out of the title picture and Chris Jericho will probably return to Fozzy. If he doesn’t, he might be the guy to bank on, assuming he isn’t facing Owens at this exact pay-per-view. Bray Wyatt in a heel versus heel match against Styles seems like long odds and he’ll probably be tied up with Randy Orton regardless. They’ll never be favourites for the Rumble, but it might be the year where someone like Cesaro or Sami Zayn do the impossible and headline WrestleMania. If you’re thinking NXT, Samoa Joe is ready to come up, but with both champions heel, that diminishes the likelihood of Joe winning. Shinsuke Nakamura winning and setting up a dream match with AJ Styles or Kevin Owens would be amazing, but since he’s the NXT Champion it seems we’ll have to wait. Could we see a massive return like Kurt Angle or Jeff Hardy? Who knows, it’s all surprisingly hard to predict.
You could make an argument for most of these guys winning the match, but you could also make one against all of them. This is genuinely an open field. Let’s see if we can narrow down the candidates.
We know that WWE is bringing back the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view early next year and once we know which brand is hosting it, we can probably be sure the OTHER brand is winning the Royal Rumble. Early speculation suggests it will be a RAW exclusive event. With Finn Balor likely to be back by WrestleMania, the odds of SmackDown winning the Rumble seem to be better than RAW. AJ Styles as the WWE Champion also means it will probably be a babyface that wins it.
As we’ve already stated, it won’t be Ambrose because his feud with Styles is over and Cena winning the Rumble for a third time, even though another Styles/Cena match would be amazing, seems unlikely. Who does that leave? James Ellsworth – obviously.
So who’s winning next year’s Royal Rumble – I don’t have a bloody clue.