The other day, a few of the Last Word on Pro Wrestling staff got together and made some bold predictions on winners and surprises for the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble match tonight. Now, we’ve got together and put out our thoughts on the Men’s Royal Rumble match!
Eric Thompson: When Roman Reigns was holding the Intercontinental Title, it could have gone in any direction. After dropping the belt at Raw 25, there is no doubt in my mind, he will come out on top. Will there be surprise entrants? Sure. Nostalgia pops, big-name debuts and returns from injury will undoubtedly happen. It is what we expect from the Rumble. But at the end of the night, we’ll see Reigns with his hand raised in victory.
Marilee Gallagher: Since 2013, Vegas’s favorite entering the Royal Rumble has won every single year and as of Friday afternoon, that favorite was Roman Reigns. Reigns winning the rumble at this point makes perfect sense. He just dropped the Intercontinental Championship, and while he will likely have a rematch for the belt somewhere between now and Wrestlemania, Reigns’ focus and story needs to shift to the one that’s been building since last Mania, between him and Brock Lesnar. The problem however, lies in the event’s location as the last time the rumble was in Philadelphia, Reigns won, and the crowd was not happy. Would WWE pull the trigger on that again, or would they go with Shinsuke Nakamura, the current #2, to set up the Wrestle Kingdom 10 rematch of Nakamura and likely-to-still-be WWE champion AJ Styles? Nakamura and Reigns have gone back and forth as the favorite to win and odds could very well shift back Nakamura’s way over the next two days. And if that happens, place your money on the King of Strong Style, but as it stands now, unfortunately for the people of Philadelphia, it looks like Reigns will once again point to the Wrestlemania sign by the end of the night.
Alex Richards: The obvious favorites for this are the big hitters like Roman Reigns and whoever loses the two title matches. My favorite for this year has to be “The King Of Strong Style” Shinsuke Nakamura, despite it being his Rumble debut he has more than enough pedigree to outlast his opponents.
Moritz Risch: Shinsuke Nakamura is the widely considered the betting favorite for this years Royal Rumble. This event is the most fun to watch for me, because I’m looking forward to the surprise comebacks and debuts every year. It is not so much about the winner, but the reaction of the fans and performance of the athletes. This show could mark the debut for Ricochet and War Machine. Nakamura needs to win this one, they need to pull the trigger on him or he is lost in the mid card. By WrestleMania, he will be 38 years old, which really is the last chance to promote him as a top face.
Dan Niles: This year is one of the most unpredictable despite the fact that Roman Reigns is expected to clash with Brock Lesnar again at WrestleMania for the WWE Universal Championship. This is a chance for WWE to do what they didn’t do last year and that’s launch a new star. Finn Balor would benefit from one of the biggest wins of his career but Smackdown Live is going to take the win again. Shinsuke Nakamura hasn’t been the hit WWE wanted just yet but the long awaited Styles vs Nakamura rematch can be a reality with the right booking. Nakamura eliminating Cena last would be an unforgettable Royal Rumble moment.
Rich Laconi: This year’s iteration of the Royal Rumble has two interesting threads running through it and those threads address two different camps of thought as to who should walk away the winner. One one side, you have what seems to be a build to a Brock Lesnar/Roman Reigns Wrestlemania match. Lesnar has been positioned as nigh invincible, waiting for be vanquished as his cache has grown. Reigns has history with the building, winning first Rumble in Philadelphia and was derided shortly thereafter. He has since toiled away at a safe distance from the title for the most part, gaining more support after reuniting with the Shield. After dropping the Intercontinental title on Monday Night RAW’s 25h Anniversary show to the Miz, Roman is free to win the title and set up an epic showdown with Lesnar. However, there’s a large swath of fans who would love to see AJ Styles face off against Nakamura, recreating their NJPW encounter. As fantastic that would be, the stage seems to be set for Reigns getting the duke here Nakamura could easily work his way to Styles without winning the Rumble-there’s simply too much invested in Roman for him not be the one to dethrone Lesnar.
Jamie Greer: With Raw having Elimination Chamber in a month, the red brand has opportunities to align it’s Championship match at WrestleMania that Smackdown Live doesn’t have. Shinsuke Nakamura needs something big to happen to him on the main roster soon or else he’s going to be stuck in the mid-card with the majority of the WWE Universe unsure why he’s so special. Picking up the win and heading to WrestleMania to face his NJPW adversary AJ Styles would do just that.
Jamie Greer: The landscape for surprises is far richer with the Women’s Royal Rumble – with their full main roster entered, there’s still 11 open spots. But both Raw and Smackdown have far more than 30 male wrestlers combined, so space for surprises is going to be few and far between. There’s always a chance we get an ECW star with it being in Philly, but the Dudleyz already got their pop on Monday at Raw 25 – everyone else just seems unlikely (although Tommy Dreamer is always up for a one-off). “Cowboy” James Storm could be a huge surprise for tonight, but he could be the surprise for Bobby Roode’s US Open Challenge rather than the Rumble itself. But with Kassius Ohno losing to Velveteen Dream last night, it just may be time for the Knock Out artist to move on up to the main roster where he’s got far more options for a man his size.
Alex Richards: The best part of any Royal Rumble is the surprises. Who will ever forget AJ Styles debuting, John Cena returning from injury or Kharma making an appearance. This year, the big question is will Daniel Bryan be cleared to enter the rumble, could we see Goldberg come back? Or will Ronda Rousey make the jump from MMA and debut in the women’s Royal Rumble? The WWE PC recently took in a class of recruits featuring international superstar Ricochet, who would love nothing more than to debut here.
Rich Laconi: On the men’s side, there are few opportunities for surprises. Ethan Carter III and Bobby Lashley are two names that could be added after departing Impact. With the recent RAW episode, some names like MVP or Chris Jericho could also make one time appearances for a pop. Either way, both Rumbles should feature at least a few surprises that will make the crowd in the arena and at home happy and nostalgic.
Marilee Gallagher: A much smaller field announced from last year, only 17 men are confirmed to be entering the Royal Rumble. Of those 13 remaining spots, probably six or seven will go to main roster talent like a Seth Rollins or Sami Zayn. The remaining six-seven spots should see a combination of NXT debuts, legends, and perhaps brand new or welcome back signings, like a returning Bobby Lashley or repackaged Derrick Bateman, better known as EC3. Roderick Strong is a good NXT name to look out for especially given that he’s not booked on the TakeOver: Philadelphia card. Another possibility could be someone like United Kingdom champion Pete Dunne, who was pulled from an event overseas due to a WWE obligation for the weekend. Or Hideo Itami, who is a regular on 205 Live now. And while legend appearances are always fun, don’t expect more than one or two for this one. Someone like Christian could be a possibility or Daniel Bryan. Or perhaps someone to bring back the ECW vibe in Philadelphia in the form of Tommy Dreamer or one, or both, of the Dudley Boyz.