WWE Royal Rumble Preview, Predictions, and Reckless Speculation
While WWE doesn't have an Opening Day, but the Royal Rumble always feels like a jumping off point for the new wrestling year. After a routinely sluggish November, WWE will finally begin it marches to WrestleMania this Sunday, and there is a lot to talk about.
60 Superstars will enter their respective Rumbles for the right to face a WWE Champion at WrestleMania 35 but there are only a couple names who feel like they actually have a chance to win. Seth Rollins is an overwhelming favorite for the men's Rumble while Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair (or both) seem to be the most logical winners of the women's battle royal. However, WWE reserves the right to swerve us all, and given the state of flux that has been the last few months, we've been taught that nothing is guaranteed.
So let's get into things. Not just the two Rumbles but the other matches and major narratives that will ultimately drive WWE in 2019.
Who Will Win Each Rumble, and Who Are You Personally Rooting For?
Connor Casey: Seth Rollins wins the Men's and Becky Lynch wins the Women's. I wouldn't mind seeing a wrinkle or two getting thrown in there (Balor showing up as The Demon and winning, Lynch and Charlotte Flair both winning at the saw time a la Lex Luger and Bret Hart), but WWE has made a habit of overthinking the Rumble result by trying to steer away from the obvious winner. This year it's okay to go with what's expected.
Ryan Droste: I agree with Connor in that WWE has gone the route of overthinking the Rumble a lot in recent history and the way the stories have played out following the Rumble. Sometimes the most obvious winner is the best decision and I think they go that wrote this year. I've got Seth Rollins and Charlotte Flair winning the men's and women's Royal Rumble matches. Personally, I'd love to see Rollins win it and am most excited for that.
Jack Snodgrass: Rollins and Flair. I like the idea of Flair and Lynch having a controversial finish that leads to them both "winning" but WWE will have Elimination Chamber or Fastlane to get Lynch involved.
Oh, and I'll be rooting for Elias.prevnext
Give Your Best Suprise Rumble Entrant
Connor Casey: Velveteen Dream. In the past few years WWE has let one or two NXT guys pop up in the Rumble ahead of their eventual call-up. This guy has enough charisma to steal the entire match, so seeing him show up would be a blast.
Ryan Droste: I also think Velveteen Dream is basically a lock considering he doesn't have a match at NXT TakeOver and is one of the most main roster ready guys on the NXT roster. I think he gets a long run in the match if he's in it at a surprise.
Jack Snodgrass: I'd like to say Hulk Hogan, but I wouldn't mean it. Velveteen Dream seems like a lock, but I'll go with Bray Wyatt.prevnext
Who Would Be WWE's Worst Idea to Win the Rumble?
Connor Casey: Having Charlotte Flair win the Rumble outright. WWE has come dangerously close to 2015 Roman Reigns territory with Flair a few times now, and having her get paired up with Rousey without Lynch being involved would feel like a major waste of an opportunity.
Ryan Droste: Randy Orton, no question. That's not to say that Orton hasn't been good over the last year because he has. His RKO out of nowhere on Samoa Joe Tuesday night was awesome. However, there were some reports that Styles/Orton could be the WWE Championship match at WrestleMania and I'm just not feeling it. Also, an Orton victory would tie him with Steve Austin for most all time (3).
Jack Snodgrass: Braun Strowman would be pretty bad. Not that he's boring, it would just make the last few months all the more confusing.prevnext
Pick the Iron Person for Each Rumble
Connor Casey: Drew McIntyre. The big Scotsman has "Future World Champion" written all over him, but he hasn't won any televised matches since the start of 2019. They've probably got something big planned for him at WrestleMania (my money is on a match with John Cena), and having an impressive showing at the Rumble would be a nice step in that direction.
Ryan Droste: This is a really tough question. I feel like if Rollins is winning it, he'll be in there a while. On the women's side, I could see Bayley getting a pretty long run in the match.
Jack Snodgrass: Andrade, the uncrowned king of WWE needs to formally introduce himself with some pay-per-view magic—Dean Ambrose and Apollo Crews are my back up picks. And, I could see Mandy Rose hanging around for a while without ever actually eliminating anyone.prevnext
In a Year, Shinsuke Nakamura Went From Rumble Winner, to Pre-Show Participant. What Happened?
Connor Casey: It was a number of things. His feud with AJ Styles started out strong but fans got sick of it really quickly after it started becoming all about who could kick who in the groin first. On top of that he never got his hands on the title despite numerous opportunities, and his sudden United States Championship win felt like a consolation prize. There was a moment there where it looked like they were going somewhere interesting with him being an Anti-American who was holding the US Title (similar to when Kevin Owens first got it in 2017 and moved to SmackDown) but then they inexplicably kept him off television for weeks at a time. The man deserves better.
Ryan Droste: There's no denying that Nakamura hasn't achieved what was expected of him while part of WWE's roster. Some of that can be accredited to his booking, but a whole lot of it also falls on his shoulders. He's had a bit of a reputation for taking it a little slow while in WWE. For a guy who had all kinds of match of the year contenders in NJPW, his time in WWE has fallen far short of that level and expectation. His heel run last spring was a breath of fresh air and was the hottest he's gotten while on the main roster, and I think not having him defeat AJ at that moment and giving him a run with the title was probably the biggest flaw with his booking that you could point to. All in all, he's just never really connected like you would have expected him to.
Jack Snodgrass: I love Nakamura, like to the point of tears. But the language barrier is real. While that means pretty much nothing to me, I think that a lot of the WWE fanbase was hesitant to fully invest. I also think that he was horrendously booked and that expectations were at an unreachable level for him and Styles. Him losing 13-straight WWE Championship matches, too, really hurt his credibility.
I weep for Shinsuke.prevnext
What Are the Chances Finn Balor Beats Brock Lesnar?
Connor Casey: Not very likely. In the 39 world title matches that have taken place at a Royal Rumble event, the title has only changed hands six times. Given how they continue to promote Lesnar as the unstoppable monster, he'll likely keep it until WrestleMania where a babyface can finally overcome him. I'm still expecting it to be a good match though.
Ryan Droste: Very unlikely by any reasonable logic, but I have this unexplainable feeling that he might walk out champion. The rationale for it that I can see is that Brock vs. Strowman has to happen, and that match doesn't need the title to be successful. In fact, you could make the argument that making that a title match would be a mistake. So you could have Lesnar lose, perhaps even have Strowman cost him the title, and move those two right into a feud heading into Mania season while also having Balor move into a long term program with Rollins. The drawbacks here would be Balor vs. Rollins would be a babyface vs. babyface match, which isn't something WWE likes to do. Also, Balor eluding to the fact this week that he won't use the Demon face paint at the Rumble would seem to paint his chances of winning as being pretty bleak. A loss would explain why he's not going to come out as The Demon.
Jack Snodgrass: Zero is the answer. But I think it will be a fun match that hopefully elevates Balor.prevnext
Predict the WWE Championship Match for WrestleMania
Connor Casey: This one is weird because for as good as SmackDown Live's midcard looks right now, nobody feels primed to lock horns with Daniel Bryan outside of Styles. I'd go with The Miz, but it feels like this tag team gimmick with Shane McMahon is going to turn into a one-on-one match between the two at Wrestlemania. I'd love for it to be Samoa Joe as a call-back to their days in Ring of Honor and that match could tear the house down, but WWE doesn't like to pair heels up together.
I'll pick Rey Mysterio. I know it'd be a great match and Rey has looked amazing in his recent series of matches with Andrade.
Ryan Droste: If AJ Styles wins the title from Bryan, we're probably looking at the rumored Styles/Orton match. If Bryan retains (which is my pick), there are some enticing options, the best would maybe be John Cena. If Rollins were to win the Rumble, that would leave the Elimination Chamber to determine the WWE Championship challenger and Cena, being a free agent, could work that show and win. There'd be the obvious storyline from Total Divas/Total Bellas they could play up here. Outside of Cena, a Bryan/Joe match would be great as well.
Jack Snodgrass: Bray Wyatt vs. Daniel Bryan.prevnext
Who Will Have the Better 2019, Asuka or Sasha Banks?
Connor Casey: Banks will likely wind up being Women's Tag Champions with Bayley and, if that division is treated anything like the men's tag teams, get ready for a year of disappointment. I'm betting they keep Asuka either as champion or in the title picture for a good portion of the year after Becky Lynch (likely) gets traded to Raw in the next Superstar Shake-up, so she's my pick.
Ryan Droste: The Rumble is a very interesting show for Banks in that she gets to prove that she belongs at the top of the women's card after a year that has been disappointing. While Rousey is likely to retain against her, the intrigue is watching Banks put on a show in the ring to give the decision makers something to think about. She absolutely should be a featured part of the women's division and I think she's going to prove it. I'm going to say Banks here, though I agree with Connor that the odds the women's tag team division stays in a featured spot is quite low. However, if we assume that Banks and Bayley win the belts, that will eventually probably turn into a split and feud that could be quite good.
Jack Snodgrass: Banks by a mile. While Asuka may carry WWE gold into 'Mania, she's not going to have a compelling opponent. With Flair and Lynch seemingly destined for Rousey, Asuka and her SmackDown title will reek of B-Show-ness.
But Banks looks to be on the verge of a renaissance after nearly two years of obscurity. I see her sniffed both the Women's Tag Team Championships and eventually singles title by year's end.prevnext
Most Likely to Show Up on Sunday: The Rock, The Undertaker, or Batista?
Connor Casey: Big Dave! After hearing that Triple H was back to working out after his surgery, my guess is that they're still pushing for that singles match at WrestleMania. Having Batista show up at some capacity at the Rumble would be a nice start to that.
Ryan Droste: It sounds like The Undertaker might sit WrestleMania out this year and The Rock's schedule is always crazy, so I'm going to go with Batista. The time is right for him to come back for a WrestleMania match. Well, actually, the time was right several years ago when he was begging to come back and they didn't do it for so long. Make it happen already!
Jack Snodgrass: I really want to say The Rock, but I know that's a lie. I think Batista is very likely.prevnext
What Match Will Main Event WrestleMania 35?
Connor Casey: Ronda Rousey vs. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair. It's the perfect time to have a women's match in the main event and Rousey is the only one with the worldwide star power to pull it off.
Ryan Droste: The women's match for sure. The women's division has been carrying WWE television now for several months and the Lynch/Rousey dynamic is more than worthy of main eventing such a significant show. Personally, I'd rather have a Rousey/Lynch singles match but I also know the reports now have been for quite some time that it will be a triple threat involving Charlotte. If the reports are true that Rousey is going to be taking some time off after WrestleMania, and now word has gotten out, it makes sense to have Charlotte in there so that the winner isn't so obvious. That way, the fans won't know if it's Charlotte or Becky who will win, rather than a singles match with Ronda about to take several months off and it being obvious that Lynch will emerge victorious. With that being said, WWE can't be too happy about word leaking about Rousey's pending absence with such a big match on the horizon.
Jack Snodgrass: It all depends on if Rousey defends against both Flair and Lynch. If it's just a singles match, then I can see WWE being reluctant to give that spot to someone not named Brock Lesnar. WWE will have to chose between further establishing the Universal Championship or giving a history-making moment to some highly deserving women. If there's no triple threat with Rousey, then it will be Lesnar vs. Probably Rollins.prev