By Chuck Carroll
Who is going to win the Royal Rumble? For the first time in at least a decade there is no clear frontrunner. There are seven or eight viable candidates that could legitimately win this year’s 30-man over-the-top-rope challenge and go on to the main event at WrestleMania. Will Brock Lesnar cost Goldberg his shot at the title? Or will it be vice versa?
Could WWE have tipped its hat Monday night when the show closed with Undertaker staring them both down in the ring signifying this year’s WrestleMania main event? I believe that is a possibility as plans to have a John Cena vs. Undertaker match are reportedly being altered.
Twenty-two names are confirmed for the Royal Rumble match, leaving eight spots open for surprises and blasts from the past. We should see at least a couple WWE NXT entrants pulling double duty after appearing on Takeover the night before. But will one of those unannounced wrestlers actually win the match? Highly unlikely. The winner is among the names already announced.
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Here are the wrestlers currently entered in the Royal Rumble:
- Baron Corbin
- Big Cass
- Big E
- Big Show
- Braun Strowman
- Bray Wyatt
- Brock Lesnar
- Chris Jericho
- Dean Ambrose
- Dolph Ziggler
- Kofi Kingston
- Luke Harper
- Mojo Rawley
- Randy Orton
- Sami Zayn
- The Miz
- The Undertaker
- Xavier Woods
So who will it be? WWE Insider Scott Fishman of the Miami Herald and Channel Guide Magazine and I break it all down.
RAW Tag Team Championship
Cesaro and Sheamus (c) vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
Scott: I’ve enjoyed Cesaro and Sheamus as a team, but long-term I think it would be beneficial to give Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson the gold. If they lose another title match, I fear it will hurt the challengers. PICK: GALLOWS AND ANDERSON
Chuck: Because this match is on the kickoff show, I think the odds of a title change actually decrease. Because Cesaro and Sheamus just defeated the longest-reigning tag champions in history, it would be detrimental to have the titles change hands after only a month. PICK: CESARO AND SHEAMUS
Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax
Scott: It’s great to see Nia Jax in her first big program on the main roster with Sasha Banks. I can see this one ending in some sort of disqualification to further build this one up a bit more. It’s one way to keep Jax looking strong, yet give Banks a victory. PICK: SASHA BANKS
Chuck: The long build for Nia Jax is finally starting to catch some steam. Putting her in a program with one of the most popular talents on the roster has worked wonders for her. A victory would really give her a boost, but that’s not going to happen here. Sasha Banks gets the win via disqualification. At some point Jax is going to go ballistic, and it will cost her the match. PICK: SASHA BANKS
Natalya, Alexa Bliss and Mickie James vs. Nikki Bella, Naomi and Becky Lynch
Scott: The fact there are three programs just on the SDLive! women’s division is impressive. I’m going to go with the feel-good win here for the faces. Perhaps Naomi scoring the pin to further her new rivalry with Bliss. PICK: NIKKI BELLA, NAOMI AND BECKY LYNCH
Chuck: Welcome back to WWE, Mickie James! It’s great to see Naomi is recovered from her injury and back on the road, but her fans won’t like the way this one turns out. Alexis Bliss, Mickie James and Natalya will take this one. PICK: NATALYA, ALEXA BLISS AND MICKIE JAMES
RAW Women’s Championship
Charlotte (c) vs. Bayley
Scott: I know Bayley will get her big moment by winning the women’s championship. However, I don’t believe it’s happening at the Royal Rumble, with Charlotte getting another PPV win to add to her streak. I think there is more juice left with Bayley in the chase. PICK: CHARLOTTE
Chuck: Charlotte won’t be losing the championship until WrestleMania. Period. But fear not, that just makes Bayley’s payoff all the more rewarding. She’ll get the belt there, but not Sunday. PICK: CHARLOTTE
WWE Cruiserweight Championship
Rich Swann (c) vs. Neville
Scott: The cruiserweight championship needs some sort of spark because it’s been missing since the 205 division started. Neville has really excelled as the bully, and I think has surprised a lot of people. This will be a prime opportunity to really give Neville the ball by defeating Swann. PICK: NEVILLE
Chuck: Fact: Neville was a serious competitor before getting injured. Fact 2: He should dominate the Cruiserweight division. Fact 3: He will. PICK: NEVILLE
AJ Styles (c) vs. John Cena
Scott: AJ Styles and John Cena have tremendous chemistry, so this is one I’m looking forward to watching. Styles has had a nice run with the title on SmackDown, but I’ll go with the leader of the CeNation as much as it pains me to see him tie Ric Flair’s title record. PICK: JOHN CENA
Chuck: I really thought WWE would save John Cena’s monumental win for WrestleMania. I’m just not sure that’s going to be the case any longer. WWE needs at least two signature moments on this show, and Cena capturing the title and tying Ric Flair’s record would certainly qualify. PICK: JOHN CENA
WWE Universal Championship
No DQ with Chris Jericho in a shark cage
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Roman Reigns
Scott: Since my Rumble pick is contingent on the outcome of this match, I’ll go with Kevin Owens retaining against Roman Reigns. Look for some sort of chicanery here, but when the dust settles, Owens is going to remain champion. Maybe the seeds of an Owens vs. Chris Jericho match at WrestleMania are planted here. PICK: KEVIN OWENS
Chuck: No doubt about it. Chris Jericho will be involved here. The shark cage cannot contain Y2J! This is actually a critically important match on the build to WrestleMania. This is where the match between Jericho and Owens will begin taking shape, but I don’t see it being a non-title match. Therefore, Owens retains. PICK: KEVIN OWENS
Royal Rumble Match
Scott: This has been one of my favorite stints for Chris Jericho. The man is in his mid-40s and still competing and entertaining at a high level. He has had a Hall of Fame-worthy career already, but winning the Royal Rumble would top it all off. The fan in me wants that for him. PICK: CHRIS JERICHO
Chuck: Of the 22 names these are the most likely contenders: Chris Jericho, Dean Ambrose, Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, Sami Zayn, The Undertaker. I’m going to eliminate the young blood on the list because they’re not quite big enough to get the pay-per-view buys/network subscriptions WWE is looking for with WrestleMania. Goldberg and Lesnar are out because they’ll have a non-title match at Mania. I don’t really see Randy Orton winning for the same reason as his match against Bray Wyatt won’t be for a strap. That leaves Jericho and Undertaker. Jericho vs. Kevin Owens or Undertaker vs. John Cena at WrestleMania? Since the latter is now questionable, It’s gotta be Jericho. WWE has invested a ton of time into the Chris and Kevin connection, and WrestleMania will be the payoff. PICK: CHRIS JERICHO
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.