By: Brian McDonald (@sackedbybmac)
30 men will enter the 2018 WWE Royal Rumble—and for the first time 30 women in a separate Royal Rumble match—but the number of logical choices to win, and go on to challenge for either the Universal Championship or WWE Championship at WrestleMania 34 are far fewer.
How many wrestlers really have a chance to win WWE’s most famous match in 2018?
I’ll cap the list at nine.
In case you weren’t aware, Elimination Chamber will be February’s Pay-Per-View, and this year that show is a Monday Night RAW exclusive.
Why is that important?
A six-man match like Elimination Chamber gives WWE a chance to take the title off current Universal Champion Brock Lesnar while still protecting him in a loss. So, when thinking about a potential Royal Rumble winner, worrying how to book a story line against Lesnar isn’t a necessity.
Reminder: The Heel Turn Podcast will have a LIVE Pay-Per-View special this Sunday, January 28th. Kyle King and Brian McDonald will be live on SportsRadio 610 from 10pm-midnight to recap the WWE Royal Rumble. Those live PPV recap shows will continue each Sunday after a WWE PPV through this year’s SummerSlam. Call us at 713-572-4610 to weigh in and give your opinion on the show.
Honorable Mentions: Dolph Ziggler, Baron Corbin
9. Jason Jordan
Jason Jordan winning this match wouldn’t excite me, but it wouldn’t be shocking either.
As the story line son of RAW General Manager Kurt Angle, part of Jordan’s character has been to receive extra opportunities that he hasn’t earned. That on screen story has fueled something similar to a 2015 Roman Reigns feeling among fans that the push is too early, hasn’t been earned, and it’s not something the WWE Universe wants.
That feeling has led to incredible heat for Jordan, which WWE creative could turn up to 11 by booking him to win the Royal Rumble and putting him in the main event of WrestleMania.
If he has great heat, they might as well use it.
8. Samoa Joe
Unfortunately Samoa Joe’s last six-months has been very start-stop with injuries slowing him down, but if he’s able to go, Joe would make an excellent choice to win the Royal Rumble.
His inactivity means there isn’t much reason within current WWE story line to make him the winner, but with two months between the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania, WWE creative would have plenty of time to write and tell that story.
For my money Samoa Joe is one of the best workers in the company, one of the best heel promos in the company, one of the most believable characters in the company, and one of the few guys who can credibly and logically defeat someone like Brock Lesnar 1-on-1 without having to massively suspend disbelief.
Samoa Joe was a two-time NXT Champion, and was in the main event for three straight PPV’s during the summer of 2017, so clearly decision makers have belief and confidence in him.
7. Shinsuke Nakamura
His character has gone a little stale recently and he’s not involved in a hot story line, but who wouldn’t want to see Shinksuke Nakamura against current WWE Champion A.J. Styles at WrestleMania?
They have plenty of history during their time in Japan—their Wrestle Kingdom 10 match was a classic—that could serve as the foundation of their story line, and more importantly putting them together nearly guarantees the main event will be a great match.
6. Braun Strowman
I’m leaning towards the idea that Braun Strowman will win the WWE Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble by pinning Kane. That would obviously take him out of the Royal Rumble match later, but if he doesn’t win the title, then he immediately becomes a favorite to win the Royal Rumble match.
Strowman checks all the boxes for a Royal Rumble winner: He has a hot story line, he’s been at the main event level recently, and his size makes him credible both in the Royal Rumble and against any opponent at WrestleMania.
Strowman’s anti-hero, one man against the company, baby face push a couple weeks ago on RAW when Kurt Angle fired him was telling. On a much smaller scale, that’s a Stone Cold Steve Austin type push. It seems WWE has heard the cheers for Strowman which started organically, and they are now responding to those cheers.
Nothing is guaranteed, but it would seem odd to book Strowman in that manner, and then not put the title on him soon.
5. The Miz
Recapturing the Intercontinental Championship will probably keep The Miz out of the world title picture until after WrestleMania. If you’re aware of backstage news, then you’re probably not surprised by that since his wife is due to give birth to their daughter right around WrestleMania, and putting him in the main event while his availability is in doubt would be risky.
The Miz deserves another WWE Championship or Universal Championship run, and they should book that this year. He’s the best heel on the roster, consistently delivers great promos, and he’s the most capable performer in terms of adapting his character to stay fresh that I’ve seen since Chris Jericho.
Simply put, he’s AWESOME!
4. Daniel Bryan
Who is the current WWE Champion? A.J. Styles of course.
Who put Styles in a 2-on-1 handicap match at Royal Rumble to defend that championship? SmackDown Live General Manager Daniel Bryan.
The story line reason for hostility between the two is there, with Styles questioning the decision making of Daniel Bryan and wondering where his loyalties lay, so it wouldn’t take much work from creative to write their feud.
Also, who wouldn’t want to see a WrestleMania match between Styles and Daniel Bryan? Not only would it likely be a classic match, it would be nice to see Daniel Bryan get another main event run after injuries cut the last one short.
That’s the key, health. WWE shouldn’t put him back in the ring without clearance, but IF he’s healthy, making him the Royal Rumble winner makes a lot of sense.
3. John Cena
Another option that wouldn’t be my favorite choice or excite me that much, but the reason here is simple and obvious: Give John Cena the WrestleMania main event spotlight to win World Championship No. 17, and break the record held by WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair.
2. Finn Bálor
One of the questions many WWE fans have asked over the last 10 months has been, when would Finn Bálor be put back into the Universal Championship picture after his return from injury?
He was the first Universal Champion, but had to drop the title due to injury, so like many fans I’m curious to see what WWE creative had planned for that title run for Bálor, and hopefully see it play out now.
He gets reaction, the Bálor Club story line is hot, and he’s a great performer in the ring, so hopefully another Universal Championship reign is just a question of when and not if he’ll win it again.
Speaking of the Bálor Club, the addition of Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson into the story line makes it even easier to put the title back on Finn. There would be obvious skepticism about how logical and credible it would be for a man the size of Bálor to beat Brock Lesnar, but having two guys to run interference eases those concerns, protects Lesnar in a loss, and could help set up a heel turn for Bálor Club.
Probably won’t happen, but it could work and it’s a choice that would excite the WWE Universe.
1. Roman Reigns
Yet another choice that wouldn’t excite me, but we all kind of expect the Royal Rumble winner to be Roman Reigns right? Especially after he dropped the Intercontinental Championship back to The Miz, freeing up his schedule to jump into the Universal Championship picture.
If you believe backstage rumor and innuendo, Vince McMahon wanted to put the WWE Championship on Reigns at WrestleMania 31 when he faced Brock Lesnar, but changed his mind last minute because of the heat on Reigns, and ultimately put the title on Seth Rollins.
Since then, McMahon has always hoped to re-do his original plans for WrestleMania 31 by putting over Reigns by defeating Lesnar for the championship at WrestleMania.
It just so happens that Lesnar is the current Universal Champion, so those plans could already be in place.
Listen to the current episode of The Heel Turn Podcast to hear their picks for every match at this year’s Royal Rumble, and don’t forget that they’ll be on SportsRadio 610 LIVE from 1opm-midnight after each WWE PPV, including the Royal Rumble on January 28th.