The Royal Rumble. Any fan of professional wrestling knows just how exciting this yearly WWE pay per view is, with the main event of the night, the Rumble itself, being one of the most anticipated matches of the entire calendar year. 30 Superstars, one entering the ring every 90 seconds, elimination occurring when you are thrown over the top rope with both feet touching the floor, with the last man standing getting a world championship match in the main event of the biggest show of the year, WrestleMania, in April. Perhaps the best part about the Rumble is the sheer unpredictability of the match, in terms of who will be in it, who will make the biggest impression, and, of course, who will win and earn that coveted championship match.
Conner Fleegle’s Royal Rumble Predictions
Before breaking down this year’s Rumble, lets take a brief look at the city which will serve as the show’s host. This year’s Royal Rumble comes to us from the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Whether it’s watching ECW, Ring Of Honor, or House Of Hardcore in the cozy 2300 Arena or the Royal Rumble and other big name WWE pay per views in the much bigger, more modernized Wells Fargo Center, Philly fans are well known for being some of the most passionate and vocal fans in all of professional wrestling.
This adds to the atmosphere both positively and negatively, as evidenced three years ago when Roman Reigns won the Rumble match and was booed out of the building, both because the fans weren’t happy with him winning and because fan favorite Daniel Bryan was eliminated so early in the match. No doubt the Philadelphia crowd will make themselves well heard from this year as well. And while in theory all 30 men in the Rumble match have a chance to win and earn that title shot at WrestleMania, the reality is that only about a handful can be considered true favorites.
Who Realistically Can Win The 2018 Royal Rumble?
Honorable Mention: Samoa Joe
Samoa Joe was initially going to be much higher on my list, but unfortunately, word has come out that he is dealing with a legitimate injury, and with the Rumble only two weeks away, it seems increasingly likely that he will miss the event that he was expected to debut at a year ago. It’s a shame, because Joe had a great 2017 and looked poised to build on that opening up 2018, but it appears as if WWE fans might have to wait yet another year for Samoa Joe to make a Rumble impact.
5. Dolph Ziggler
Yes, this is a dark horse prediction on my part, but there actually is reason to believe Ziggler has a chance. Dolph Ziggler is arguably the most misbooked superstar in the history of the WWE. Ziggler has the looks, the charisma, the talent, the mic skills, and the willingness to do absolutely whatever the company has asked him to do since debuting his character on the main roster in September 2008. And while Ziggler has had a mildly successful WWE career, the former two time World Heavyweight Champion has been relatively lost in the talent shuffle that is the WWE over the last handful of years.
So, why does he have a chance to win this year’s Rumble? Well, his contract with WWE is set to expire in a few months, and the WWE knows the kind of talent Ziggler could potentially bring to another promotion if he leaves the WWE. The company gave Ziggler something to think about when they booked him to win the United States Championship for the second time at Clash Of Champions in December, but then he relinquished the championship just two nights later and has not been seen on WWE programming since. My guess is he winds up in the Rumble, and with how he has recently seen an upswing in booking, and with a contract expiration/renegotiation looming, it would make sense if the WWE gave Ziggler a push by letting him win his first career Rumble match and giving him something further to think about come contract time.
4. The Miz
Since April 2016, The Miz has been on arguably the greatest stretch of his professional wrestling career. The superstar and former WWE Champion turned movie star won the Intercontinental Championship for the fifth time in his career the night after WrestleMania, then reunited with his wife Maryse on TV every week and went on to elevate the IC Title to a level we haven’t seen in a long time. That, combined with his dramatically improved work on the microphone, notably his unscripted tirades on Talking Smack, allowed his momentum to continue all the way through 2017.
Now that he has returned to RAW from filming the next installment of The Marine, it would be a logical time to allow The Miz to keep riding his two year wave of momentum all the way to the main event of WrestleMania by having him win the Rumble. He’s got the microphone skills to battle with anybody, plays the role of heel perfectly, and he knows how to elevate a championship and make it bigger and better than it already is. Of course, all of this could be for not if the WWE chooses to have The Miz keep elevating the Intercontinental Championship by having him take it from Roman Reigns on the 25th Anniversary edition of Raw on January 20th, but more on that other guy later.
3. Baron Corbin
Baron Corbin is a rather interesting case. His overall ring ability has been getting better and better as he gets more ring time, and after lacking significantly for quite a while, his skills on the microphone have finally started to improve as well. The WWE seemed really high on him in 2017 when Corbin won the Money In The Bank contract over the summer, but then seemingly lost faith in him when he unsuccessfully cashed in his contract on the last Smackdown before SummerSlam due to interference from John Cena, who then went on to defeat Corbin 5 days later at SummerSlam.
Eventually, Corbin won the United States Title, holding it for 70 days before losing it in a triple threat match involving Ziggler and Bobby Roode. Aside from losing a US Title qualifying match to Roode on the next Smackdown after Ziggler relinquished his title, Corbin has been unheard of since dropping the title. Could WWE finally be back on the Corbin train that seemed to be steamrolling through the first half of 2017 by making him win the Rumble this year and take the next step at WrestleMania? I think it’s a strong possibility, especially because I think someone from Smackdown will be winning the Rumble, thanks to the circumstances surrounding the next superstar on my list.
2. Roman Reigns
Ah yes, Roman Reigns. Anybody who knows even the slightest thing about the WWE knows about the meteoric push that Reigns has been on since The Shield broke up the first time back in 2014. Reigns has already held the WWE Championship three times, won the Rumble in 2015 when it was last in Philadelphia, has been one of the last three men left in the last three Rumble matches in a row, and, to top it all off, has been in the main event of WrestleMania for three consecutive years. But up to this point, Reigns has yet to get his hands on the top championship now exclusive to RAW, the Universal Championship.
But Brock Lesnar has held the championship ever since winning it from Goldberg at last year’s Wrestlemania, the same show which saw Reigns in the main event in a non-title match against Undertaker, defeating the Deadman and becoming only the second wrestler to ever defeat Taker at Mania. The first? That would be Brock Lesnar. If WWE wants to continue the meteoric push Reigns has been getting, it only makes sense for Reigns to be the one to take the championship off of Lesnar at this year’s WrestleMania, and giving Reigns the title in the main event of his fourth consecutive Mania would cap off the push, as well as draw mega heat from the fans, most of which still boo Reigns out of the building every week.
There is a reason, however, why Reigns is number two on my list instead of being a lock for number one. Even after the Rumble is over, there’s still over two months until WrestleMania rolls around. It’s no secret that Reigns will face Lesnar at Mania for the title, so why should they let Reigns win the Rumble when RAW still, in theory, has over two months to write a storyline in which Reigns becomes the number one contender? Also, remember earlier in this article when I mentioned the Philadelphia crowd? Well, when Reigns won the 2015 Rumble in Philadelphia, the crowd was very unhappy, and even a special cameo from his cousin, The Rock, couldn’t save Roman from getting booed out of the building. With the Rumble being in Philly this year, it makes me wonder if the WWE would have Roman win the Rumble again when they are still blindly trying to push him as the top face in the company. With this being said, even though I would not be surprised to see Roman standing tall when the night is over, there’s one superstar who, to me, is an even bigger lock than Reigns is to win this year’s Royal Rumble match.
And The Winner Of The 2018 Royal Rumble Match Is……
Shinsuke Nakamura is in the short discussion for being one of the best professional wrestlers in the entire world. Best known for his days spent in New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he was the youngest ever IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Nakamura has only enhanced his reputation as one of the best wrestlers in the world since signing with the WWE back in 2016, winning the NXT Title and spending a successful year with NXT before debuting on the main roster in April of 2017. Since then, Nakamura has challenged for the WWE Championship and had some good feuds along the way. Recently, Nakamura has been involved in a couple of tag matches, but nothing too significant, which can be said for almost everyone on Smackdown right now, save for a handful of wrestlers. It could be that the WWE is saving Nakamura to make a big impact in two weeks at the Rumble.
But perhaps what Nakamura has going for him the most right now, and the biggest reason why he should be considered the odds on favorite to win the Rumble, is ironically something he can’t control: the fact that AJ Styles has been hotter than the sun on Smackdown for over a year. Styles has proven time and time again that he, like Nakamura, is in the short discussion for being the worlds best professional wrestler. Styles has been involved in some of the best feuds the company has had over the last year, and, most importantly, Styles is the current WWE Champion. Assuming Styles gets past his handicap match at the Rumble against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, the past history Styles and Nakamura have would make for a perfect future encounter at WrestleMania. They already put on a highly acclaimed match for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 10 as part of New Japan, and the two have been running into each other and teasing an encounter on WWE programming off and on for the last nine months. In short, the groundwork is there to have these two meet on the grand stage of WrestleMania in front of a worldwide audience. Whether Nakamura takes the title off of Styles or not is anybody’s guess, but the fact is that, in order to make this dream match happen, Shinsuke Nakamura will win the 2018 Royal Rumble match.
So, what do you think? Will Shinsuke Nakamura be leaving Philadelphia as the number one contender for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania? Will Roman Reigns stand tall again? Or will we all be surprised? Sound off in the comments section below or feel free to drop us a line on Twitter @sports_stack!