The 32nd edition of WWE’s Royal Rumble takes place this Sunday night on WWE Network. It’s going to be a big night as more seeds are planted on the road to the WrestleMania. The highlights of the event are the 30-man and 30-woman Royal Rumble matches that will each run about one hour in length. The winners of those matches get to challenge a major champion (WWE or Universal Title for the men, Raw or Smackdown Women’s title for the women) to a title match at WrestleMania 35 in April.The venue for the Royal Rumble is Chase Field in Phoenix where the Arizona Diamondbacks play baseball. The hope from WWE is to get about 45,000 fans in attendance. It might not end up being that many people, but it should be a huge crowd. Daniel Bryan, the current WWE Champion, revealed in a recent interview that there was a plan for wrestlers to enter the stadium by coming out through the dugout, so that will look unique.
Over the last week, I wrote a detailed breakdown of the men’s Royal Rumble and the women’s Royal Rumble right here on The Comeback. Have I changed my thoughts on some of those things mentioned there? A bit, but not really. Here’s the lineup:
30 Man Royal Rumble Match – Randy Orton, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Samoa Joe, Drew McIntyre, Kofi Kingston, Big E, Xavier Woods, Apollo Crews, Baron Corbin, Elias, Jinder Mahal, Jeff Hardy, Bobby Lashley, Titus O’Neil, Andrade, Rey Mysterio, Mustafa Ali, John Cena (questionable), R-Truth (#30).30 Woman Royal Rumble Match – Alexa Bliss, Natalya, Bayley, Ember Moon, Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan, Liv Morgan, Mickie James, Alicia Fox, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, Zelina Vega, Charlotte Flair, Naomi, Tamina, Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, Dana Brooke, Lana, Nia Jax, Lacey Evans, Nikki Cross, Carmella (#30).WWE Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Finn BalorWWE Championship: Daniel Bryan (c) vs. AJ StylesRaw Women’s Championship: Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Sasha BanksSmackdown Women’s Championship: Asuka (c) vs. Becky LynchSmackdown Tag Team Championships: The Bar – Sheamus and Cesaro (c) vs. The Miz and Shane McMahonUnited States Championship: Rusev (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (KICKOFF SHOW)WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Kalisto vs. Hideo Itami (KICKOFF SHOW)
What you’ll notice from the two Rumble matches is that WWE has chosen not to list 30 men and 30 women in the Rumble matches. That’s because they want there to be surprises. Braun Strowman isn’t listed in the men’s Rumble match, but I think he’s a lock to be in it.Here are predictions for the show, not including the two Kickoff matches because I think Buddy Murphy and Rusev are going to retain their titles. There just isn’t a lot of excitement about those matches.
10. The Miz and Shane McMahon will become Smackdown Tag Team Champions in their first title match together
The duo of The Miz and Shane McMahon are challenging Sheamus and Cesaro for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles because The Miz is fond of Shane due to his “Best in the World” trophy at the Crown Jewel show in early November. It’s crazy that in a company that sucks at doing long term angles, they have built this up for nearly three months to where Miz and Shane are now a tag team going for the titles.What’s weird about The Miz and Shane team is how is has turned Miz into a face, at least temporarily. I don’t know how long it will last because I think there’s going to be a falling out before WrestleMania, which will lead to Miz attacking Shane and then Shane facing Miz at WrestleMania itself. That’s for down the road, though.I think the result of this match will see something happen where Miz and Shane win in a fluky fashion due to some mistake that Sheamus and Cesaro make. The crowd will likely cheer loudly for a Miz and Shane win too, so I would book it for early in the show. I think the way this has been booked makes it likely that a title change is coming. As I mentioned above, I don’t expect this to be a long-term title reign, but I’m fine with the title change.
9. Asuka will retain her title against Becky Lynch in controversial fashion
The Asuka/Lynch match is tough to predict because I’m not sure what the path is to get Lynch into the WrestleMania main event with Ronda Rousey and Charlotte, which is the plan as far as we know. It’s possible that Lynch could win her title back here and not even be in the Rumble match, but I feel like that’s unlikely since Asuka just won the title last month.What I’m leaning towards for this finish is something like a double countout or double disqualification where the match turns into a brawl and there’s no winner announced. That can lead to Elimination Chamber where Asuka puts the title on the line against Lynch and four other Smackdown women, which could be where Lynch wins the title (if Lynch doesn’t win the Rumble.)The reason I’m saying it will be controversial rather than a clean ending is because seeing Lynch tap out to Asuka would be a mistake. It’s possible that Asuka could win by pin on a counter rollup or something like that, but if it was up to me, Lynch would be kept strong.This should be a great match between two of the best women’s wrestlers in WWE. I just don’t know how it’s going to end and that’s okay too. I like being surprised.
8. Ronda Rousey will beat Sasha Banks to retain the Raw Women’s Title in a very competitive match
This should be an awesome match even though it was thrown together quickly without much build up. The story is that WWE was originally going to do Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair at the Rumble, but then they decided to shelve that and randomly threw Banks back in the title picture after a year of her barely doing anything interesting. I like Banks as a performer and I think she’s very good in the ring. I just wish there was a better build to this match that involved more than Ronda randomly mentioning Banks during an interview.What I expect for the match is a very hard-hitting battle with submission attempts by both women. In the end, Rousey will get the victory after about 15 minutes. They have likely practiced the match for a few days before the show, which is customary for a Rousey match. I have faith in them doing well.I’m interested to see if there’s any interaction by Ronda with Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch at this show. At the last PPV, TLC in December, it was Rousey that showed up to shove a ladder over that cost Flair and Lynch the Smackdown Women’s Title to give Asuka the win. What might happen is they can have Ronda do her entrance after the Lynch match, which could lead to a brawl between the two women to tease a future match. I don’t know if Lynch or Flair will interfere here to cost Ronda the title because I think WWE wants Ronda to walk into WrestleMania with her title.
7. Daniel Bryan will remain the WWE Champion after he beats AJ Styles again
The WWE Title match at TLC was great with Daniel Bryan beating AJ Styles clean after a small package (Bryan is Mr. Small Package – there’s a joke there). The finish was done in a way where it looked like Bryan barely beat him, which led to Styles earning a rematch. I was hoping for is that this would be a Street Fight or a No Holds Barred type of match because then it would feel different from their last match. Perhaps a stipulation will be added before the show, but for now, it’s just a regular match.It makes sense for Bryan to retain the WWE Title. I don’t know what the plan is for WrestleMania, but the rumor for Styles is for him to face Randy Orton for the first time in a feud between them. Perhaps Bryan will be involved in some multi-man match with other top guys from Smackdown. Remember, there’s still Elimination Chamber and Fastlane after the Rumble before we get to WrestleMania, so there’s room for more twists to come.This will most likely be the best match of the night. The story is strong with Bryan getting over well as a heel, and Styles is also very popular with the crowd. It seems like a lock that they’ll get over 15 minutes and the TLC match went over 20 minutes, so if it’s like that then we could be looking at one of the best matches of the year. This feels like the end of the rivalry, which means I’m going to pick Bryan to win in a more decisive fashion this time.6. Brock Lesnar will beat Finn Balor to retain the Universal Championshiphttps://twitter.com/WWE/status/1087516736247582720This is the fourth singles title match on the card where I have the champion retaining. I just don’t think any of them will lose their titles. In this match, the formula will be like Lesnar’s win over AJ Styles at Survivor Series 2017 and Daniel Bryan at Survivor Series 2018. Styles and Balor are similar in body type, and both are wrestlers under six feet tall that are very skilled at what they do, but they look small compared to “The Beast” Lesnar. I also expect a very good match with Balor coming close to winning a few times. In the end, it should be Lesnar with his hand raised in the air.Will Balor be in “Demon” gear for the match? Apparently not. Here’s how he explained it to ESPN:
“I feel like maybe I leaned on ‘The Demon’ too much there in the past as a crutch, and I can assure you that the man who faces Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble will be Finn Balor, the man. I think a lot of people were surprised when I came out at WrestleMania not in demon paint, but I feel like I had a bigger message to spread that day — one of equality and acceptance. Honestly, this match just kind of came about so fast that I haven’t had much time to think about it. I don’t have any new gear, I don’t have any new looks, I don’t have any new ideas right now. … I’m sure I’ll come up with something.”
The story with Balor in “Demon” gear is that he hasn’t lost a match on the main roster when he was all painted up in red. If they paint him up and he loses, then the mystique of the “Demon” gimmick is gone. Save it for another time. This match will be a win for Lesnar.5. Becky Lynch will get her payback on Nia Jax by eliminating her from the women’s Royal Rumblehttps://twitter.com/BeckyLynchWWE/status/1062753374443978752I don’t really have any surprise picks for the women’s Rumble, except maybe some of the women we saw last year like Trish Stratus, Lita, the Bella Twins (maybe just Nikki instead of Brie), and Torrie Wilson. I think it’s better for WWE to feature the women they have on the main roster already, as well as some of the NXT women that deserve to be in this match.Before I get to this point, I need to mention that even though Becky Lynch isn’t advertised for the Rumble, I still think she’ll be in it. We have seen in recent years where guys like Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins were put in the Rumble after they failed to win a title match earlier in the night.A moment they must do in the Rumble is Lynch getting revenge on Nia Jax. The story of Jax breaking Lynch’s nose (WWE repeatedly called it a “broken face”) prior to Survivor Series needs a follow up and the best way to have Lynch get revenge is when Jax is dominating the Rumble. Lynch can run out, punch Jax in the face multiple times, maybe Lynch can avoid a Jax punch, and then Lynch should eliminate Jax. The fans know the story well, so they are going to cheer loudly for a moment like that.4. The women’s Royal Rumble winner will be Charlotte Flair or Becky Lynchhttps://twitter.com/MsCharlotteWWE/status/1087897140863606784Is that a bold statement by me? Nope. Not at all. I’m merely saying what I think is going to happen in terms of a Rumble winner. Last year, the first ever women’s Royal Rumble was won by Asuka, who was the most obvious choice to win that match.As I mentioned in the column I did about the women’s Rumble, Charlotte Flair my pick to win. I think she’s the best choice because they have had her win a lot of matches in her first four years on the main roster and she’s already a 7-time Women’s Champion. Does she “need” to win the Rumble? No, I guess not, but I think for them to get to WrestleMania with the three way match the better story is for it to be more of a struggle for Lynch.https://twitter.com/BeckyLynchWWE/status/1088713048989126656The reason I say it’s a better story for Lynch to struggle is that she’s got the fans’ support more than any other woman in the company. If the fans are pissed about Lynch not winning the Rumble, then that’s going to help Elimination Chamber next month and Fastlane in March. They can find a way to add Lynch to WrestleMania by not having her win the Rumble.If anybody other than Flair or Lynch wins, I would be very surprised. If I had to put a percentage on it, I would go with 48% chance that Flair wins, 47% chance that Lynch wins, and 5% chance for the field if WWE wants to do something else. I’ll share my key predictions in the match one more time:
Final Four: Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Nia Jax, Ember Moon
Most Eliminations: Charlotte Flair
Wrestler That Lasts The Longest: Bayley
Winner: Charlotte Flair
3. The surprises in the men’s Rumble will likely feature NXT stars and some big names that have been on the sidelines
Whenever there’s a Royal Rumble pay-per-view event, one of the things that fans like to do is guess who the surprises will be. I’ll give you five names: Bray Wyatt, Kurt Angle, Aleister Black, Lars Sullivan, and Velveteen Dream.Bray Wyatt – The former WWE Champion has been on the sidelines for several months. I don’t know if there’s an injury or if WWE just wanted to give him a break after his tag team with Matt Hardy ended due to Matt’s injury. To me, Wyatt can be a main event player for years to come, so bringing him back in the Rumble will be a nice way to re-introduce him and remind people of how great he can be. We haven’t seen Wyatt as a singles face wrestler in WWE yet. I think that time is coming at the Rumble.Kurt Angle – The 50-year old WWE Hall of Famer is obviously winding down and not going to wrestle that much anymore, but I think he’ll be in this match to get a legend’s pop. Angle might get eliminated by Drew McIntyre, who beat him in convincing fashion on Raw last month.Aleister Black – He is challenging Tommaso Ciampa for the NXT Title and I don’t expect him to win. Black seems like the most likely NXT guy to debut on the main roster. Plus, he just married Zelina Vega of Smackdown, so that will likely mean he’s got a spot on Smackdown waiting for him. He’s a talented guy that the fans will support.Lars Sullivan – There have been a lot of stories about the NXT big man in the last few weeks. Apparently, WWE wanted to debut him on Raw a few weeks ago by attacking John Cena, but he had anxiety issues. I still think WWE has high hopes for him and hopefully he can shake off the nerves to have an impressive showing in the Rumble.Velveteen Dream – The talented 23-year-old NXT star isn’t in a match at NXT Takeover Phoenix on Saturday, which is a bit of a surprise, but maybe it’s for a reason.I don’t expect The Rock or The Undertaker to be in the match, but of the two men, Undertaker is more likely. If Rock wants to have a match at WrestleMania, he’ll be a part of it. I don’t think he needs to be in the Rumble, though.2. Quick thoughts on the men’s Rumble matchhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McENPwvPBRM- John Cena’s status is up in the air. They announced him for the Rumble, then WWE claimed he had an ankle injury and he is officially “questionable” for the match. The story is fabricated to tease the idea that Cena might not show up to the Rumble and if he is there, he will be dealing with an injury. Apparently, his next movie starts filming next week, so he might be free and if he’s in the match, look for Lars Sullivan to take him out in order to kickstart that planned feud.- Braun Strowman and Drew McIntyre should be considered heavy favorites to win the match, but I doubt either of them does it. What I expect is something like Strowman eliminating McIntyre from the match near the end of it, then McIntyre will go back in the ring and be the reason that Strowman is eliminated. They could do Strowman vs. McIntyre at WrestleMania as a big match since I’m not sure what the plans are for either guy.- Samoa Joe has targeted Mustafa Ali over the past few weeks, which likely means Ali is going to eliminate Joe. That’s just how WWE tends to book these kinds of things. It would be a nice springboard for Ali if he did well in this match and it led to greater things for him down the road.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2Sz2aZ6uuc- Look for Titus O’Neil to slip on his way to the ring to try to replicate the comedic fall he had at Greatest Royal Rumble in April. Whatever they do won’t be as funny as the original fall, but this is WWE, the land of driving a joke into the ground.- It would be cool to see Rey Mysterio mix it up with Seth Rollins. I’d love to see the moves they can do together. They could have a great match together, but it’s not going to happen soon with the guys on different shows right now.- I would be surprised if EC3 wasn’t in the match. The NXT call up is ready to go on the main roster. I’m not sure if he’ll be a face or heel or what his role might be, but I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do.I don’t think the star power for this Rumble is that great, but there’s enough talent in the match to have an awesome match. I think they’ll have a better match than the women do as well.1.
Seth Rollins will win the Royal Rumble because he’s the right choice to be the next top guy in WWE
It seems like there has been more of a focus on Seth Rollins as a top face on the Raw brand over the last two months. Rollins dropped the Intercontinental Title to Dean Ambrose, who dropped it to Bobby Lashley and nobody should be mad about that because it means Rollins can move on to better things.There was also the segment on the New Year’s Eve edition of Raw where Triple H tried to motivate Rollins by wondering if Rollins had it in him to be the top guy in WWE. Rollins fired back saying that he has it in him and it was one of the best promos he has done in a long time. That segment was done for a reason – to try to make it seem like WWE is getting behind Rollins again. Since then, Rollins has cranked up the intensity in his matches while the announcers are talking about him as a bigger star than they have in the past.I mentioned in the men’s Rumble match column that last year’s winner was obvious with Shinsuke Nakamura getting the win. I’m guessing that most people are picking Rollins just like I am, so the question is does WWE do the obvious thing again or do they try to swerve us? After all, Rollins can still get to the Lesnar match by winning at Elimination Chamber (like Roman Reigns did last year) or some other way. He doesn’t “have” to win the Rumble. I just think he should and it’s the best thing WWE can do right now.It wouldn’t surprise me if Rollins did cut promo saying that he is dedicating the match to his friend Roman Reigns, who is out dealing with leukemia, and Rollins is going to win the match for his friend. That will get Rollins even more fan support.If Rollins doesn’t win, then it will probably be a Raw guy like Strowman or McIntyre. I’d say there’s about a 60% chance of Rollins winning, then I’d go 15% each for Strowman and McIntyre, and 10% chance for everybody else.Final Four: Rollins, Mustafa, Ambrose, McIntyre – I originally had Cena in the final four, but I replaced him with Mustafa Ali, who I think will take out Samoa Joe.Most Eliminations: Drew McIntyreWrestler That Lasts The Longest: EliasWinner: Seth RollinsPut Seth Rollins over in the biggest way possible, WWE. He has earned it, he deserves it, and most importantly, the fans want it too.Final ThoughtsI think it’s going to be a very good show with several great matches in the undercard, plus the excitement of the two Rumble matches. I would put the women’s Rumble on in the middle of the show (they got to main event last year) and then the men’s Rumble match would go on last. If it is Rollins that wins as I think, then he should get the spotlight as the guy celebrating when the show goes off the air.You can watch WWE Royal Rumble this Sunday, January 27th at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT on WWE Network with the Kickoff Show beginning at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT. The expected run time is somewhere between four and five hours. If you miss it live, you can watch it on demand at your own convenience. I’ll be back on Monday for a review of the event.