WWE Royal Rumble 2023 takes place tonight (Sat., Jan. 28) from the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. It begins at 7:00 pm ET with the Kickoff show leading right into the main card at 8:00 pm ET on Peacock.
Like always, the main talking point coming out of this show will focus on the Royal Rumble winners. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the tough decision WWE has to make on the men’s Royal Rumble match.
Cody Rhodes is the clear favorite among the 19 men who have been officially announced for the match as of this morning. The Rumble marks his return to WWE from a pectoral tear that put him on the shelf way back in June. Rhodes was as hot as it gets when we last saw him in WWE, and is by far the most intriguing potential WrestleMania challenger for Roman Reigns out of everyone on the list. Cody’s quest to win the WWE championship is directly tied to the first promo he cut when he returned to WWE last year, so the story for Cody vs. Roman is right there.
A win for Cody is not a lock, however. We don’t know for sure that Triple H will book him the same way Vince McMahon did last year. More importantly, though, the main uncertainty about who will win this Rumble match comes from two men who are not on the list of official entrants: The Rock and Sami Zayn.
Its been rumored for a couple years now that WWE wanted to book The Rock vs. Roman Reigns in the main event of WrestleMania 39 in Hollywood. Dwayne Johnson is one of the biggest movie stars in the world, so of course WWE would want to make this happen and kick it all off with a Rumble win for The Rock. Dwayne also fits in very well with The Bloodline story, given his family connection with Reigns. The latest reporting indicates that The Rock has too many Hollywood commitments and won’t have the time to get in wrestling shape, so this is not the most likely scenario.
Then there’s Sami Zayn, probably the most over guy in WWE today. He’s been the most entertaining star on WWE television for over a year, going back to his Canadian alpha male shtick with Brock Lesnar in late 2021. Sami has worked his way into The Bloodline to such a degree that Roman Reigns has become paranoid and is now accusing him of trying to take his spot away as the Tribal Chief. What better way to continue that story then by having Sami win the Royal Rumble match and be the fan favorite who actually ends Roman’s never-ending run as the WWE Universal champion? It’s perfect. This is the match that a whole lot of fans want to see at WrestleMania 39 given the way their story has played out.
The main factors working against Sami are that we don’t know if he will even be in the Royal Rumble match, and he doesn’t have WWE’s preferred look for a top star. Sami has gotten over for his incredible character work, and not for being a credible main event level wrestler. There’s a reason why Roman already squashed him in a title match in December 2021. Does WWE really see Sami Zayn as the caliber of star who should main event WrestleMania?
One other thing to keep in mind is that Sami Zayn is not welcome or interested in working WWE’s Saudi Arabia shows, and one of those events is scheduled in May, just one month after WrestleMania. The Saudis are paying WWE 50+ million dollars for each of these events, so the top champion in WWE pretty much needs to be there. That doesn’t mesh well with Zayn’s chance of walking out of WrestleMania as champion, but it doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t win tonight’s Royal Rumble match.
WWE has a very difficult decision to make tonight between Cody Rhodes and Sami Zayn, assuming The Rock isn’t available. My best guess is that WWE doesn’t see Sami Zayn as a WrestleMania headliner, so they will instead go with the very popular returning star from last year who checks off all the boxes WWE wants in a main event act and world champion.
Do you think WWE will pick Cody Rhodes or Sami Zayn (or someone else) to win the men’s Royal Rumble match? Let us know in the comments below, Cagesiders.