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Dolph Ziggler is a serious threat to win the men’s Royal Rumble match

One of the fun things about any Royal Rumble event is trying to predict who will win the Rumble match, because that superstar is normally given a huge spotlight on the upcoming WrestleMania card.

As far as the men’s Royal Rumble match goes this year, it’s really hard to say with high confidence who Vince McMahon will choose as the winner. But one thing many fans did not expect to see was Dolph Ziggler’s name pretty high up on the betting odds. That might seem crazy on the surface, but it’s really not all that far-fetched.

First of all, things on the Raw side seem fairly predictable as far as the Universal Championship match at WrestleMania 34 is concerned. Roman Reigns will most likely defeat Brock Lesnar for the title, and so Reigns is a logical choice to win the Royal Rumble match. But Roman has already won the Royal Rumble match once before and even The Rock was swallowed up by the ensuing boos. This year’s Rumble event will take place in Philadelphia, same as in 2015 when Roman previously won it. Considering the steroid allegations currently in the news, fans in Philadelphia will probably be even more hostile towards Roman now than they were in 2015.

That doesn’t mean Vince is going to run away from Roman. Reigns has main evented 3 straight WrestleMania events, including a win over the Undertaker. Vince has continued to press his foot on the gas pedal regardless of some memorable fan backlash along the way. Roman is a smart pick to win the Rumble, and every other Raw superstar has a pretty low chance as a result, outside of maybe Braun Strowman.

Things are not so clear on the SmackDown side of things. AJ Styles is a babyface WWE Champion. Shinsuke Nakamura has been picked by many fans as the guy they hope wins the Royal Rumble and faces Styles at WrestleMania. But I’m pretty skeptical about Nakamura’s chances. Unlike say Braun Strowman, there isn’t much in Nakamura’s booking that indicates Vince is going to give him a huge push. Nakamura has wrestled on 7 WWE pay-per-views and has only won 2 matches, with the last such win coming way back in July 2017. He has basically played second fiddle to everyone else as Orton’s tag partner in the Bryan/Shane versus KO/Zayn feud. Nakamura already lost a match in the Mixed Match Challenge. If Vince is planning to have him win the Royal Rumble match, he sure has a strange way of showing it.

Of course the Royal Rumble match could be used as a way to heat Nakamura up quick, but that isn’t how Vince has selected his most recent Rumble winners, which include already established top stars like Randy Orton, Triple H, Roman Reigns, Batista, and John Cena. Furthermore, Nakamura is a babyface, and it seems like a babyface versus heel match-up would be more likely at WrestleMania than a match featuring two good guys.

The heel side on SmackDown currently has Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn challenging AJ Styles for the WWE Championship at Royal Rumble 2018. Vince rarely ever uses the same championship pairing at both the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania. The only examples I can think of where he did this are in 2000 (HHH vs. Cactus Jack at the Royal Rumble, Foley then also challenged Triple H in a Fatal 4-way at WrestleMania) and 2004 (HHH vs. HBK at Royal Rumble, HBK then challenged HHH in a 3-way at WrestleMania). Maybe 2018 is the year that will happen again and this whole story culminates in a 4-way match between Styles, Owens, Zayn, and Shane at WrestleMania 34 for the WWE Championship. Even if it does happen this way, Shane McMahon would probably be the one who wins the Royal Rumble match, not Owens or Zayn.

With Owens and Zayn unlikely to win the Rumble, what top heels are left? It feels like Jinder Mahal’s time at the top has come and gone, and another match between him and Styles seems either stale or simply too soon to happen again. Mojo Rawley just lost a televised match to Bobby Roode in the US Title tournament, which doesn’t seem too promising for his short-term prospects of a big spotlight match at WrestleMania. Baron Corbin is a big dummy who drops the ball at the worst times. Rusev sometimes struggles to beat Breezango.

And then there is Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler shockingly won the US Title but then walked away from it, presumably because it is beneath his level. The idea that he would happily return to either challenge for that same title or to do something even lower on the card doesn’t make any sense. It only makes sense for him to return if there are bigger stakes and a bigger reward. A victory in the Royal Rumble match would give him the spotlight he’s been looking for. Vince had a specific story in mind when he had Ziggler walk out a month ago. A WWE Championship match at WrestleMania 34 pitting AJ Styles versus Dolph Ziggler could very well be what this is all leading to, whereas Ziggler returning simply to challenge Booby Roode for the US Title makes the entire walk out story look pointless.

I know, it sounds really crazy. Do I think Dolph Ziggler is going to win it? No. I would still pick Roman Reigns or maybe even Shane McMahon (I’m trying not to vomit, but he is an established top star just like the most recent Rumble winners) before I settle on Dolph. But Dolph might be next on my own personal rankings of who is most likely to win. It makes the most sense for a SmackDown heel to win it, and with Kevin Owens challenging for the WWE Championship at Royal Rumble 2018, that leaves Dolph Ziggler as the most likely winner among the SmackDown heels.

Save us, Y2J?

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