Did we do one of these last year? I’m too lazy to google. Anyway, it’s annual starting now.
Every year fans spend the month of January wondering which deserving superstar will get tossed unceremoniously over the top rope during the single most fun match (in theory) of the year, and every year fans watch in grim resignation as whatever flavor of the month Vince has a semi-stiffy for wins the thing and goes on to
main-event midcard WrestleMania while the guy he’s got a perpetual, years-long, raging-boner for closes Mania, thus rendering the Royal Rumble winner and thus the Royal Rumble more and more pointless every year.
Aaaaaanyway, let’s not SO OF COURSE this thing just yet; let’s instead look at the roster and examine who the top contenders are to win the Royal Rumble match this year.
THE MEN’S RUMBLE
NEW DAY, and I don’t just mean Kofi Kingston or Big E as solo-winners, I mean the threesome winning as a collective unit, would be an attention-grabber for sure. They’ve done everything else as a unit, why not this too? Who would compete at WrestleMania? Any of the three, and if they win, they would all be co-champions. This year presents a rare opportunity, where (in all likelihood), neither of the male champions are closing out WrestleMania, so there’s no pressure to have your top-top babyface win en route to the main event, or to have your lesser-top babyface win as a consolation prize for not main-eventing the big show. This year, both brand’s male rosters are on even ground, so shake it up!
THE OLD FEUD
MIZ vs Daniel Bryan was a match everyone penciled in the moment Bryan returned to action. We’ve seen teases here and there but no full-blown feud and match from them in a long time. This has the potential to be an awesome WrestleMania match, if for no other reason than the WWE hype machine is always so good at getting you ready to watch just about anything that one night of the year. Add in the years of backstory, the fact that both guys are doing incredible work, and the fans are all-in and invested in both and you’ve got the recipe for a special WrestleMania moment. No one would have predicted Miz winning the Rumble to challenge Daniel Bryan just one year ago, but here we are and it would be awesome.
FINN BALOR winning would bring to mind those Rumbles where, every now and then, Vince says “here’s one for the fans.” You know he sees no long-term viability with Balor as the champ, but you also know that at WrestleMania, Vince likes to put down his sword and actually let the fans have some fun without being force-fed too much of what they don’t want. The absence of Roman Reigns has left a hole at the top of the pyramid on Raw and there are a handful of guys just waiting to step up who could easily become the top guy in the eyes of the fans. Finn Balor may not be someone Vince wants to pin the company’s future to, but as a stopgap, in a WrestleMania where the men are going to play second-fiddle anyway, this would be a pleasant surprise indeed.
SETH ROLLINS is probably the most “total package” guy on Raw right now, with the credibility to dethrone Brock Lesnar and run with the world title for years to come. For one thing, he’s already proven he can do it as a long-term heel champ a few years back. For another, he’s over like rover, and unlike Braun Strowman (probably the only other babyface legitimate enough on Raw to be champ), he has the skill in the ring to work long, main-event style matches with anyone on the roster. By default he’s Raw’s top babyface anyway; why not seal the deal with a Rumble win and Mania victory?
THE WOMEN’S RUMBLE
MANDY ROSE is fine enough; I have nothing against her necessarily, but the buzz that Vince is presently enamored with her has me preemptively annoyed. This Rumble has the most “don’t over think it” winner the company has seen in years. You have to go back to 2014 when the company underthought things, and went with Batista over Bryan. Before that, you can go back to 2012 when Jericho was the obvious choice…so obvious in fact that Vince SWERVED US ALL BLAH BLAH BLAH by going with Sheamus. It was the worst bit of “you thought this but nope it’s that” at the Rumble since 2000, when the Rock was the obvious winner but instead Big Show of all people won. It’s only once or twice in a wrestling generation that a Rumble comes along where the one perfect winner is right in front of everyone. The worst thing Vince can do is say “the obvious winner is too obvious; let’s SHAKE THINGS UP!” and give the Rumble to someone “who needs it” as opposed to the one who ought to win by every logical metric. This year Mandy Rose could easily be the “swerve” winner and that would be bad.
CHARLOTTE FLAIR wouldn’t be bad. It wouldn’t make me go crazy and fist pump or anything, but I would at least understand it on a kayfabe and a smart level. She’s got beef with both Rousey and Lynch, has credibility on the show, and name value with mainstream publications that love to post Rumble winners like it’s actual sports news. My problem with it would be two-fold; it would create a triple threat at Mania, which is fine enough but this Mania feels like a Rock vs Austin WM17 situation, where you could add Triple H and it would make sense, but leaving it one-on-one just feels right, more epic and timeless. Charlotte winning would be okay and the match that followed would be great, but history would probably look back on it a little more dimly.
THE BECKY LYNCH
BECKY LYNCH is the only choice here. She’s Steve Austin, circa 1998. When someone is as hot as Becky is right now, you go all-in. You don’t 50/50 book it, or take her popularity for granted. You don’t say “well she’s hot enough that she can get in the title match some other way; let someone else who needs it win the Rumble.”
You don’t give the Rumble to someone who needs it. This isn’t King of the Ring.
You give the Rumble to the hottest non-champion main-event act, because that’s who ought to be challenging for the Title anyway. Give Becky the Rumble. Don’t overthink it. She has the momentum, she has the obvious storyline with Ronda. She has the fans on her side. Give her the Rumble, the Stone Cold in 98 push and the Mania main-event victory. Stop trying to water her down to help the not-so-over folks float along.
Go. All. In.
Anything less, no matter how good it may turn out, will be looked back on in wrestling history as a waste and a missed opportunity.
Those are the names for this year. Who are you looking at as a potential winner? Let us know in the comments below!