For the last few years, the Royal Rumble match has been a predictable affair. John Cena, Batista, Roman Reigns and Triple H were all heavily tipped to win the 30-man over-the-top-rope battle royal months before their victories took place.
But for 2017, all that has changed. There are some big names missing from this match either through injury or by being double booked. Then you’ve got names like Goldberg who’s entering his first Royal Rumble match since 2004 and Brock Lesnar, who is only making his 3rd Royal Rumble match appearance in 2017. All that put together means this could be the most unpredictable Royal Rumble in years. With a championship match on the line, the question is, who will be pointing at that Wrestlemania sign this January?
First let’s look at who won’t be in the Royal Rumble match.
Kevin Owens has been booked in a match at the Royal Rumble against Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship. Those involved in a title match at the Royal Rumble tend to not feature in the battle royal itself so we can safely presume these two won’t be entrants. A relief for any wrestling fans worried that the crowd reaction towards Roman Reigns will hijack the Rumble match for the third year running.
We can presume the same will apply for AJ Styles and John Cena who face off for the WWE World Championship at the Rumble. This would mark the fourth year in a row that Cena has not featured in the Rumble match itself.
Finn Balor is currently recovering from a shoulder injury he suffered at Summerslam and is unlikely to return until at least Wrestlemania. Zack Ryder recently injured his knee on Smackdown so he will not be in the match either.
Top 10 Most Likely Winners
With the names mentioned above eliminated from the equation, time to look at my picks for the 10 most likely winners of the 2017 Royal Rumble match…
10) Sami Zayn – Zayn had possibly the feud of the year with long-time rival Kevin Owens. What better way to continue this storied rivalry than by featuring it as a marquee match for the title at Wrestlemania? Then again, Sami hasn’t been booked like a main eventer since Battleground and is probably going to be jobbing to Braun Strowman in the near future. Would WWE want to rehash a rivalry that took up a lot of TV time in 2016? Especially considering the lack of depth in the roster. You’d have to consider Sami an outside bet.
9) Baron Corbin – Corbin has been slowly making his way up the card since he was drafted to Smackdown. He was just involved in a triple threat WWE World Title match and his push doesn’t look like it’s ending anytime soon. I think Corbin is a bit of a dark horse in this match even if he is still an outside bet to pick up the win.
8) Seth Rollins – Ever since he returned back in May, Seth Rollins has been in the title picture. Seth has pre-existing heat with current champion Kevin Owens and a long history with challenger Roman Reigns. The idea of Rollins trading to Smackdown to face AJ Styles would be intriguing and set up a dream match in many people’s eyes. The only issue with this train of thought? Seth Rollins looks almost certain to face off with Triple H at Wrestlemania. Unless Triple H somehow picked up the title at Fast Lane, Seth wouldn’t face him if he won the rumble. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if Triple H caused a Seth Rollins elimination from the match.
7) Braun Strowman – Strowman’s been on a tear since the start of his singles push in July. It reminds me of Kane’s initial run of destruction when he first debuted in 1997. Rumor has it that Braun will face Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania. If Reigns picks up the Universal belt in San Antonio, what better way to set up that match then to have Strowman win the rumble? Strowman is still a bit green although he has improved massively in recent months. Would WWE trust him in a match for a major title at their biggest event of the year? I can easily see the Strowman-Reigns match happening but I expect it’ll be for the United States Title.
6) Dean Ambrose - An Ambrose rumble win could set up a match with his old Shield Brethren Roman Reigns. Or Ambrose could get another shot at AJ Styles. Maybe even Ambrose could go after a man he has pre-existing beef with – John Cena. Cena and Ambrose weren’t the best of friends during the run-up to the No Mercy PPV. Is Wrestlemania the time for them to meet one-on-one? Or will Cena be a bit preoccupied with other things in Orlando?
5) Shane McMahon – This one is a bit of a curveball but Shane-O-Mac has been pretty heavily featured in WWE programming since his return early last year. When he’s on the card, it’s in a prominent position as he was at Wrestlemania 32 and Survivor Series. If WWE have a match for him at Wrestlemania, it might be with AJ Styles. Styles is lacking babyface challenges for his title and a match with Shane would ensure Styles doesn’t get lost in the shuffle on a busy Wrestlemania card. I’m not too sure about Shane’s health following that spear he received off Roman Reigns so there’s every possibility Shane may not even be cleared to compete.
4) Brock Lesnar – The Beast will be returning after that humiliation by Goldberg at Survivor Series. You can bet he will be out for blood and Lesnar will leave a path of destruction at the Royal Rumble. Brock seems destined to face Goldberg at Wrestlemania. This could still be a title match if one wins the Rumble and the one picks up the belt at Fast Lane. Although that would guarantee that a part-time champion walks out of Wrestlemania. Considering the backlash from some fans after Lesnar’s last part-time reign in 2014, WWE might be a bit reluctant to do that again.
3) Goldberg – Goldberg beat Brock Lesnar in 86 seconds. In kayfabe, that basically makes him god. I wouldn’t be that surprised to see Goldberg win the rumble considering how he was booked at Survivor Series. But I think if he faced off against Kevin Owens or AJ Styles it would be a weird pairing. I could see how Goldberg vs Reigns or Cena could work but Bill’s most likely pairing for Mania is a rematch with Brock Lesnar. As mentioned before that could be a title match but it would guarantee a part-time champion.
2) The Undertaker – There have been a lot of rumors about a potential AJ Styles vs Undertaker match. Many thought this would happen at the Royal Rumble before Cena was announced as AJ’s opponent. Could it actually be the plan for Wrestlemania? There have been even more rumors about Undertaker taking on John Cena at Wrestlemania which has the potential to be a championship match. Perhaps the Undertaker could enter the Rumble match to setup that encounter. There’s been a lot of talk about the Undertaker’s health and it’s confusing to work out whether he’s injured or not. I would very much doubt that we see Undertaker in the Royal Rumble match unless he’s winning the whole thing.
1) Chris Jericho – It looks like we’re heading for Jericho vs Owens at Wrestlemania. Seeing as KO is the current owner of the Universal Title, it would make sense for Jericho to win the Rumble and challenge Owens at Wrestlemania. It would also give Y2J the one milestone he’s never achieved – Royal Rumble winner. The closest he ever got was in 2012 when he was runner up. Jericho will be involved in the title match at Royal Rumble as he’ll be suspended above the ring in a shark cage. For all we know, this involvement could mean he doesn’t even enter the Rumble match itself. It will be interesting to see whether Jericho’s place in the Rumble is confirmed in the next couple of weeks. If it is, I make Jericho one of the hot favourites to win it all.
So who do you think will win the Royal Rumble match? Of course it could be someone I’ve not mentioned. Finn Balor’s shoulder could have miraculous healing powers or we could get a surprise entrance like The Rock, Triple H or CM Punk (lol). I guess we’ll have to wait until January 29th to find out for sure.