It’s one thing to predict the winners and losers at Royal Rumble 2023, but how about taking a guess at the match order for the event?
Royal Rumble takes place tonight (Sat., Jan. 28) from the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, with the main card starting at 8:00 pm ET, live on Peacock (in the U.S.) and WWE Network (everywhere else).
WWE has announced five different segments for the main card of this event. Here is my subjective view of how important each of these five segments rank, ordered from most important to least important.
- Men’s Royal Rumble
- Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens
- Women’s Royal Rumble
- Bray Wyatt vs. LA Knight
- Bianca Belair vs. Alexa Bliss
Both Royal Rumble matches would normally be under serious consideration for the main event spot, but that’s not the case this year. A lot of that has to do with the sad state of the women’s Royal Rumble match during this month’s build up to the bout. As of yesterday morning, only seven women were announced for the match. A few more names joined the list last night, but WWE’s message that the women’s match isn’t nearly as important as the men’s match has been loud and clear all month long. The women’s match needs a lot of help.
The only other match that at least has the tiniest sliver of a chance to main event is Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens, because the WWE Universal championship is on the line. This is extremely unlikely to happen, though. Ever since WWE added a second Rumble to the card in 2018, a Rumble match has always been placed in the main event spot. The men’s Rumble has been the main event four years in a row, and will likely do so again in 2023.
Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens
The key to figuring out the rest of this card is where to place Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens. Roman Reigns opened the Royal Rumble card in both 2020 and 2022, and it could very well happen again this year. However, when Owens and Reigns fought each other at Royal Rumble 2021, their match was placed right before the main event, sandwiched between the two different Rumble matches.
Roman Reigns said that Sami Zayn will have his “final test” tonight. Does there have to be a backstage segment between Sami and Roman at some point tonight in order to clarify what that means? Does Roman need to have a talk with Sami about how Sami defied his orders by showing up on SmackDown this week? If any of these conversations need to happen before Roman’s match, then Roman’s match won’t open the show. If these conversations need to happen after Roman’s match, then his match probably will open the show.
The point is, Roman’s match placement depends on how you think his story with Sami will play out tonight. I think there are more interesting possibilities for Sami later in the night if Roman’s match opens the card, so I’m putting Reigns in Segment 1.
That gives me the following card:
Segment 1: Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens
Segment 5: Men’s Royal Rumble
I didn’t consider the women’s Royal Rumble match for the opening spot because WWE has never opened a card with a Rumble match. The main question is if it will go in Segment 2 or Segment 3.
In order for Segment 3 to be viable for a Rumble, a very long match would probably need to go in Segment 4, in order to provide more time between the two Rumbles in Segment 3 and Segment 5. Neither Wyatt’s match nor Belair’s match are a good fit for that role, so I’m putting the women’s Rumble in Segment 2 (if I saved Roman’s match for Segment 4, then the women’s Rumble would make more sense in Segment 3).
The remaining two matches (Belair vs. Bliss, Wyatt vs. Knight) are somewhat related to each other, given the involvement of Uncle Howdy in each one. Therefore I can see them being booked like a package deal in Segment 3 and Segment 4. Segment 3 is a tough spot to be in following a Rumble in Segment 2, so I’ll put the less important match in that spot. In this case, that means Belair goes in Segment 3.
It would help if I knew what kind of setup was required for Wyatt’s Pitch Black match. There’s a scenario where that match needs to go in Segment 1, if it requires a complicated set up that makes the most sense to do before the main card begins.
So here is my final prediction for the match order at Royal Rumble, along with guesses on the bell-to-bell match times:
Segment 1: Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens (20)
Segment 2: Women’s Royal Rumble (59)
Segment 3: Bianca Belair vs. Alexa Bliss (9)
Segment 4: Bray Wyatt vs. LA Knight (11)
Segment 5: Men’s Royal Rumble (57)
That’s my prediction for the match order at Royal Rumble. What’s yours?