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WWE Royal Rumble 2024 preview: CM Punk finally gets to main event WrestleMania

WWE.com

WWE Royal Rumble 2024 takes place tonight (Sat., Jan. 27) from Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, with the main card starting at 8:00 pm ET, live on Peacock and the WWE Network. You may also be able to watch on pay-per-view (PPV) if your cable provider is carrying the event.

CM Punk finally gets to main event WrestleMania

The Royal Rumble match is unlike anything else in WWE, and that’s one reason why this event always ranks among WWE’s most anticipated nights of the year.

The rules of the 30-man Royal Rumble match are simple. Two wrestlers start the match, a new superstar enters the fray at regular intervals, and elimination occurs when a competitor goes over the top rope and both feet hit the floor. The winner of the match is the last person standing after 29 other wrestlers have been eliminated. The winner earns a world title match at WrestleMania.

Here are some of the wrestlers who have been confirmed for the men’s Royal Rumble:

  • R-Truth
  • GUNTHER
  • Damian Priest
  • Shinsuke Nakamura
  • Carlito
  • Grayson Waller
  • Cody Rhodes
  • Bob Lashley
  • Austin Theory
  • Kofi Kingston
  • CM Punk
  • Jim Uso
  • Drew McIntyre
  • Santos Escobar

There are four people who stand out from the pack on this list of participants: Cody Rhodes, CM Punk, GUNTHER, and Drew McIntyre.

Punk and Rhodes are the two favorites. In the case of Rhodes, he’s looking to repeat as the Royal Rumble winner and once again attempt to finish his story with a championship win against Roman Reigns at WrestleMania.

As for Punk, this is his first televised WWE match in nearly 10 years, when he walked out of WWE following Royal Rumble 2014. The internet practically melted down when Punk made his long-awaited return to WWE at Survivor Series 2023. He said he’s back to win the Royal Rumble and finally compete in the main event of WrestleMania. That chip has been on Punk’s shoulder for well over a decade. WWE doesn’t typically book the same wrestler to win the Royal Rumble in consecutive years, so I think CM has a clear edge over Cody tonight.

WWE has laid the foundation for a potential WrestleMania match of CM Punk vs. World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins, so there are plenty of reasons to think Punk will be the man who ends the night pointing at that gigantic WrestleMania sign that he always used to make fun of.

GUNTHER and McIntyre are the main heels who will give Punk and Rhodes a run for their money at the end of the match. The only other person who has a shot to win this thing might be a surprise cameo from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who recently appeared on Raw and teased a WrestleMania match against Roman Reigns.

It sounds like there was originally a plan for Brock Lesnar to return to WWE as a surprise entrant in this match, perhaps to set up a WrestleMania program with GUNTHER. However, all things related to Lesnar may be off the board now after reading the allegations contained in Janel Grant’s sex trafficking lawsuit against Vince McMahon.

Sami Zayn and Rey Mysterio have been out of action thus far in 2024, so they could make their returns tonight as part of the Royal Rumble match. The Rumble is always good for a nostalgia entrant or two as well, so maybe X-Pac will be one of the stars from the past who fill that role this year. Anyone but Hulk Hogan, please.

The rest of the card

Here are the remaining three matches that are currently advertised for Royal Rumble:

Women’s Royal Rumble match

The rules for the women’s Royal Rumble match are the same as the men’s bout.

Here are some of the wrestlers who have been confirmed for the women’s Royal Rumble:

  • Nia Jax
  • Bianca Belair
  • Becky Lynch
  • Bayley
  • Alba Fyre
  • Shotzi
  • Zelina Vega
  • Mia Yim

Becky and Bayley are the two most likely women on the list to win this match, although plenty of hopeful fans are fantasy booking a surprise return and win for Sasha Banks.

In the case of Lynch, she has an obvious WrestleMania 40 match with Women’s World Champion Rhea Ripley to look forward to if she becomes the first woman to win the Royal Rumble twice. Lynch is tied up with Nia Jax coming into this fight, with Jax getting the better of The Man in their recent encounters.

Meanwhile, Bayley’s vision for Damage CTRL is coming to fruition, particularly now that The Kabuki Warriors are the new women’s tag team champions. Bayley wants to complete her group’s run of dominance by winning the Royal Rumble and taking Ripley’s belt at WrestleMania. If she doesn’t accomplish her goal, perhaps the rest of Damage CTRL will make moves to finally boot their leader from the group.

Bayley didn’t seem too happy with her Royal Rumble number. If WWE is planning to turn her babyface for a WrestleMania 40 match with WWE Women’s Champion IYO SKY, perhaps Bayley will make a run as the Iron Woman of the match, only to be tossed out by Lynch or Belair at the very end.

Speaking of Belair, very few women in kayfabe can go toe-to-toe with her in a fair fight, including Becky Lynch, so it will be interesting to see what scheme Damage CTRL comes up with to try eliminating her from this match.

One woman who is heavily rumored to return to WWE tonight, presumably as a surprise entrant in this match, is Naomi. There is also a lot of fan speculation about a Rumble cameo from former Divas Champion AJ Lee. Now that CM Punk is back in WWE, the door may very well be open for AJ to return too.

And what about Jade Cargill? If WWE has plans for her at WrestleMania 40, she could make a big splash by debuting tonight and tossing out the EST of WWE.

WWE Universal Championship: Roman Reigns (c) vs. Randy Orton vs. LA Knight vs. AJ Styles

After Randy Orton returned to WWE at Survivor Series, he made it a priority to go after Roman Reigns and The Bloodline. When SmackDown General Manager Nick Aldis promised to give Randy what he wanted, Randy signed on the dotted line to be on the SmackDown roster. He hit Aldis with an RKO too, of course.

Aldis didn’t exactly follow through on his promise to The Viper. Instead of outright booking Reigns vs. Orton in a title match at the Royal Rumble, Aldis booked a three way match on SmackDown between Orton, LA Knight, and AJ Styles, all of whom wanted a piece of Roman’s ass. The idea is that the winner of the match would go on to challenge Roman for the belt at Royal Rumble. The Tribal Chief didn’t like the GM’s plan or attitude, so he ruined the end of the match and attacked all three men. Aldis responded by booking Roman in a Fatal 4-way match for the belt tonight.

Orton, Knight, and Styles have since taken turns beating the shit out of Solo Sikoa and Jim Uso, though AJ has eaten RKOs each of the last two weeks. Given the way this one has been built up, it feels like it really should be Reigns vs. Orton one-on-one. However, there is a rumor that WWE doesn’t want Randy to take a fall so soon after returning, and that’s why Styles and Knight are in this match.

United States Championship: Logan Paul (c) vs. Kevin Owens

This is Logan Paul’s first title defense since winning the US championship almost 90 days ago in Saudi Arabia.

Owens earned this title shot by defeating Austin Theory, Carmelo Hayes, and Santos Escobar in a tournament. However, Theory and Grayson Waller broke Owens’ hand in the process. KO used the cast on his broken hand to knock out Logan Paul after the YouTube douchebag talked trash about his appearance. Paul threatened to cancel the title match if Oens didn’t take the cast off, so KO obliged. More recently, these two guys brawled at the WWE Performance Center when Paul was being a dick.

Summary

Even after Vince McMahon resigned from TKO / WWE last night, there is still a dark cloud hanging over this event following Janel Grant’s sex trafficking lawsuit that alleges a horrifying culture of abuse in WWE, among other things. Plenty of folks are fascinated to see what will happen during Triple H’s media scrum after this event is over. In that sense, the road to WrestleMania is off to a terrible start for WWE. If you are willing or able to separate that element from your viewing experience tonight, then the men’s Rumble alone should be more than enough to pique your interest, to see if CM Punk finally gets to main event WrestleMania after all these years away from WWE.

What will you be looking for at Royal Rumble?

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