The end of 2016 means the road to Wrestlemania will soon begin at the 2017 Royal Rumble is fast approaching. Every year, it seems as if there are only one or two possibilities for who will win the Rumble and go on to face the WWE champion at Wrestlemania. Thanks to the 2016 brand split, the list of potential winners has opened up exponentially. With two championships in play, there are several different directions the WWE can go to get there Mania championship matches in place. Throw in February's Smackdown Elimination Chamber pay per view and things get even more wide open. The Smackdown champion at Rumble could be null and void by the time March rolls around.
When deciding who can win the 2017 Royal Rumble, it's best to work backwards from the rumored Wrestlemania 33 matches. In compiling the list I took several things into consideration that may or may not be true. While Roman Reigns is always an odds-on-favorite, I am taking his Universal championship match as a sign that he will not be included in the Rumble. Another star who did not make the list is Finn Balor. While he would be a great choice, I am (perhaps foolishly) taking him at his word that he will not be healthy enough to compete by January. Seth Rollins has yet to win a Rumble, but he is clearly headed to a showdown with Triple H; one that has nothing to do with winning the Rumble.
With those things in mind, here are the only 5 men who can win the 2017 Royal Rumble.
There has been talk that Y2J is actually a favorite to win the Rumble and go on to face his BFF, Kevin Owens for the Universal Championship at Wrestlemania 33. I see the logic, but I can't believe it's possible. There are 100 different ways to get to an Owens and Jericho match without giving the 46 year old a Rumble victory that could be better served for other superstars.
The leader of the Familia De Wyatts is finally on a hot streak! With the tag team championships in his back pocket, this would be a perfect time to catapult him through the roof with a Royal Rumble victory. For the Wyatts to truly reach the apex of their dominance, Bray has to be the one holding the WWE Championship.
There is still no word on how long Randy Orton will be a part of the group, but it stands to reason that Bray will never be as popular as he is with the apex predator in his back pocket. Wyatt winning the Rumble and then challenging for the WWE championship at Mania is the next logical step in his ascension.
All signs are pointing to Brock Lesnar eliminating Goldberg, thus crushing his dreams of "one more title run," and thus giving Goldberg a reason to want to wrestle Lesnar one final time at Wrestlemania. Since this is the most predictable outcome imaginable, it would be amazing for the WWE to call an audible and let Goldberg actually get the chance to win the championship at Wrestlemania from, say, Roman Reigns - Spear vs Spear!
We know Lesnar will get his win back against Goldberg eventually, but it can wait. Goldberg has gotten the best crowd response of any returning superstar in ages and his Survivor Series performance made us all believers. Let Goldberg shock the world and win the 2017 Rumble!
No one has been more protected since the brand split than Braun Strowman. He's been counted out once (during the survivor series) and pinned zero times. Not pinned as in had a three count made against him, but pinned as in covered by another human being for any length of time.
If Roman Reigns is able to win the Universal championship in his match with Kevin Owens at the Royal Rumble, Strowman winning the battle royal would make sense. Strowman has been rumored as Reigns' most likely Mania opponent and this would be a logical way to get there.
History is not on the big man's side, though. While "giants" are always valuable attractions in the Rumble, they are generally used to put other wrestlers over. Only three wrestlers over 6'6" have ever actually won the big event - Hulk Hogan, Undertaker, and Big John Studd.
Strowman will either win the entire thing or be eliminated by Sami Zayn in the most shocking moment of the night. There is no middle ground.
The face that really runs the place is coming back to Smackdown next Thursday in Chicago. If the rumors are true that Cena is heading to Wrestlemania to win his record tying 16th World Championship, a win at the Royal Rumble seems the most logical way to get there.
As of now, the WWE has two clear options for Cena getting the coveted record. He could either face current champion, AJ Styles or engage in the rumored career vs title match with The Undertaker. For the second to happen, Taker will need to show up on Smackdown fairly soon to set his aim on AJ's championship.
Cena already has 2 Royal Rumbles under his belt, having won in 2008 and 2013. A third victory would give him the most by any superstar in WWE history. Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, Batista, and Triple H all have 2.