It’s that magical time of the year again. The time of year that even non-wrestling fans seem to come out and show interest in the product. The Royal Rumble pay per view marks the beginning of Wrestlemania season, which theoretically is supposed to be the climax of the “WWE year.” All storylines and rivalries are supposed to heat up and become exciting and interesting so that they are “Wrestlemania worthy.”
As opposed to the last few years, which have been total snoozefests, this year’s Rumble match could truly be one of the greatest of all time. I’m not going to rank my possible winners from most to least likely to win, since it truly is a crap shoot. But here is my list of wrestlers that I view as having a legitimate shot at winning this year’s 30 man Royal Rumble match.
John Cena: He is officially in the match, so that means he is going to win it, right? No? Your wrong, of course he will. In all seriousness, Cena is on his way out, and Vince has invested everything into the next man I am going to discuss. Cena was added to the match for star power, but he has no shot of winning.
Roman Reigns: When in doubt, pick Roman. I’m sure there are many out there who like Reigns and would love to see him win, but it is just way too predictable for me. Every damn year this guy dominates the main event scene, without changing things up or improving his promos. The guy can wrestle, don’t get me wrong, but my god is he boring.
He simply cruises along because he has “the look” that Vince McMahon salivates over. Roman needs a heel turn in the worst way, because he simply doesn’t fit the typical babyface mold. He is cocky, smug, and arrogant. People boo him already anyway. If they turn him heel people will get behind him since he would be an amazing bad guy. Whatever. I’m done. Sorry for rambling. A Reigns win would set up the rumored rematch with Lesnar at Wrestlemania that Vince has been waiting for, so it certainly would not surprise me. However, I see at least two other guys with a better chance to win…
Shinsuke Nakamura: If I had it my way, this would be the man to win the Rumble this year. One of the top wrestlers in the world, Shinsuke has been head-scratchling under utilized since getting called up to the Smackdown brand. Creative doesn’t seem to have a clue with what to do with him. Nakamura’s limited English obviously impacts this to a degree, but surely they can find meaningful programs with a wrestler of his caliber. The biggest reason I want him winning the Rumble is that it would set him up for a WWE championship match with AJ Styles. These two have wrestled all over the world, and put on one of the best matches of all time at Wrestlekingdom 10 for the New Japan Pro Wrestling promotion in 2016.
These two in the main event of Wrestlemania for the WWE championship is every die-hard wrestling fan’s dream. Unfortunately, I just don’t have faith in Vince McMahon to make it happen. History suggests that he simply doesn’t have the interest to push a Japanese star with limited English. Nakamura isn’t the stereotypical, meathead wrestler that McMahon generally gets behind (cough cough Roman Reigns cough). In the end, I see the next man as the most likely to win.
Finn Balor: This man is one of the top 10 wrestlers in the world. But my god what a waste of talent. After winning the Universal Championship at Summerslam 2016, the leader of the “Balor Club” has been quiet. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but creative seemingly doesn’t have anything for him. Shocking, I know. After a feud with Bray Wyatt, Balor has been completely wasted, working meaningless matches. He defeated AJ Styles at the Raw pay per view Tables, Ladders, and Chairs in what was an incredible match, but that was a one-off match that only happened because Wyatt was hurt. So why do I think he has a good chance of winning the Rumble then? I view this as the perfect opportunity for creative to start to get behind him. He has a marketable look that McMahon surely loves, and this just seems like the perfect opportunity for him to rise to the top. Also, that would seemingly lead to Balor versus Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at Wrestlemania, an absolute dream match (and it would get us out of the inevitable Reigns/Lesnar match).
Jinder Mahal: Nope. That’s all I have to say. Unfortunately he needs to be mentioned since he was WWE champion for most of the summer and fall of this past year, but that dark period in WWE history is a part in which I would rather forget about and pretend didn’t exist. I’m going to hope and pray that WWE learned it’s lesson and has jumped off the Jinder bandwagon.
Rusev: I don’t see Rusev as having a realistic chance to win, but I wanted to mention him for the simple fact that he has started coming on huge with the fans. Rusev is another wrestler who hasn’t done much of late, but he has recently teamed up with Aiden English, and they are hilarious. Every time Rusev has a mic he claims it is “Rusev Day,” a gag that has caught on in a massive way with the fans, who join in and chant “Happy Rusev Day!” I foresee some “Rusev Day ” goodness in the Rumble match, even if he is unlikely to win.
Surprise Entrant: Part of the appeal and magic of the Rumble is looking forward to seeing what surprises it brings. There is always at least one surprise entrant that no one sees coming. I, for one, still get goosebumps thinking of Chris Jericho’s #2 entrance into the 2013 Royal Rumble to seek revenge against #1 entrant Dolph Ziggler.
I don’t foresee any major surprises this year, but I will include the usual suspects for the heck of it. The Undertaker hasn’t been seen since he lost to Reigns at Wrestlemania, and it is unclear if he actually retired or if he will come back at some point. My guess is that WWE is intentionally leaving the door open in hopes that the Deadman will be ready to go for another match or two. A Rumble appearance is certainly a possibility. The Rock would be another fun surprise, but I don’t see him coming back anytime soon. Triple H is always a possibility. And I would absolutely love to see the Raw GM Kurt Angle be a surprise entrant. The Olympic gold medalist can still go, and it would be a ton of fun to see him go head to head with some of the best. My money would be on Angle and Chris Jericho being surprise entrants.
There are a few wrestlers that I could see as potential “wild card” candidates to win, including Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode, Seth Rollins, or a returning Dolph Ziggler. But in the end, I just don’t see any of these guys as realistic options. As much as I love Joe, Roode, and Rollins, I don’t see how they would fit into possible title matches.
I’m gonna go with Balor as my pick to win it all this year, with Nakamura as a solid #2. I continue to hold out hope that they won’t have Reigns win yet again. I won’t hold my breath, and if I was a betting man I would go with Reigns. Luckily, I am not. Happy Wrestlemania season everyone! Sit back and enjoy the ride!