There’s no rumble like the Royal Rumble. WWE’s yearly extravaganza of over-the-top-rope mayhem is this Sunday, meaning that sports entertainment is about to have its landscape completely altered.
If there were ever an event to show your friends and turn them into wrestling fans, it’s the Royal Rumble. It’s an event full of surprise appearances, fringe main eventers breaking through, and Kofi Kingston avoiding elimination in increasingly ridiculous fashion, only to lose anyway moments later. (side note – can we finally give Kofi a shot at a world title?)
Last year’s Royal Rumble introduced the first ever thirty-woman Rumble match, which Asuka ended up winning. This year, Asuka is the Smackdown Women’s Champion, which she will defend against “The Man” Becky Lynch in one of the card’s many title matches.
Brock Lesnar will defend his Universal Championship against Finn Balor, while Daniel Bryan puts his WWE Championship on the line against AJ Styles. However, those matches aren’t going to be why we watch the Royal Rumble. We’ll all be watching to find out who is going to main event WrestleMania. As always, I’m going to try to predict each match, hopefully with a bit more accuracy than usual.
- 30 Woman Royal Rumble Match
Usually, the Royal Rumble matches that the PPV are named after end up being the most unpredictable matches of the year. How can anyone correctly predict the outcome of a match with THIRTY different people in it? I’ll show you. Take this one to the bank.
Charlotte Flair wins the Women’s Royal Rumble match.
- Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Finn Balor in a singles match for the Universal Championship
Sorry, internet wrestling community. Finn Balor will put on a great fight here a la Daniel Bryan or AJ Styles at the last two Survivor Series’, but nobody is beating Lesnar until WrestleMania.
Brock Lesnar retains the Universal Championship.
- Daniel Bryan (c) vs. AJ Styles in a singles match for the WWE Championship
Again, this one is fairly easy to predict. Daniel Bryan has been red hot since turning heel and snaking the title away from AJ Styles, cutting terrific promos and generating real heat from the crowd. Halting his momentum here with a loss just doesn’t seem likely, even though it may bolster his heel work.
Daniel Bryan retains the WWE Championship.
- Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Sasha Banks in a singles match for the Raw Women’s Championship.
Like Lesnar, Rousey isn’t going to lose until WrestleMania, let alone to Sasha Banks. Now that I think about it, Raw’s two championship matches are strikingly similar, given that they each feature unbeatable former MMA stars who have absolutely no shot of losing to their internet darling opponents.
Ronda Rousey retains the Raw Women’s Championship.
- The Bar (c) vs. The Best Tag Team in the World (The Miz and Shane McMahon) in a tag-team match for the Smackdown Tag Team Championships
If a title is going to change hands tomorrow night, it’s going to be this one. Smackdown’s tag division could use fresh faces at the top after nearly two years of juggling The Bar, the Usos and the New Day. Miz and Shane McMahon clearly are setting up something for WrestleMania, and this is where that story becomes compelling.
The Best Tag Team in the World defeats The Bar to capture the Smackdown Tag Team Championships.
- Asuka (c) vs. Becky Lynch in a singles match for the Smackdown Women’s Championship
Is it just me, or has Becky Lynch cooled down a bit since winning over the audience so forcefully just a few months ago? Beating down Asuka on Smackdown’s go-home show this past week may have helped The Man continue to look strong, but standing tall before the PPV rarely spells a win come Sunday. It’s looking more and more likely that Lynch will headline WrestleMania against Rousey and Flair, so winning here doesn’t make all that much sense.
Asuka retains the Smackdown Women’s Championship.
- 30 Man Royal Rumble Match
This is maybe the most wide-open Royal Rumble field ever. Last year, I was certain Daniel Bryan would return and win, though it ended up being Shinsuke Nakamura. Neither will be in this year’s match. Seth Rollins and Drew McIntyre seem like the most likely winners, and while the prospect of Roman Reigns returning and winning is a dream scenario, it seems that dream won’t come true with reports that Reigns is not even going to be in Phoenix for the event.
Speaking of rumors, there were rumors that The Rock would make a surprise Rumble appearance and win, though these reports have quieted since Reigns’ leukemia announcement.
It seems fairly unlikely that anyone from Smackdown will win the match, but it’s certainly not impossible. Rey Mysterio stands out as an underdog candidate, because who wouldn’t want to see Mysterio vs. Bryan at WrestleMania?
In truth, this is the hardest match I’ve had to predict, and curveball endings the last few years certainly make the safe pick seem unsafe. Still, I’m going with my gut here.
Seth Rollins wins the Men’s Royal Rumble match.
- Rusev (c) defeats Shinsuke Nakamura to retain the United States Championship.
- Buddy Murphy (c) defeats Kalisto, Akira Tozawa, and Hideo Itami to retain the Cruiserweight Championship.