Royal Rumble is many wrestling fans favorite event of the season. For all of the pomp and circumstance of WrestleMania, the ever growing Summerslam, and the fading star that is Surivior Series, Royal Rumble provides joy for wrestling fans because it gives them the ability to see so many of their favorite stars, allows for surprise comebacks, and operates under a very simple premise: throw your opponent over the top rope. If their feet hit the ground, they are out. If you win, you get a championship match at WrestleMania.
It’s very simple, and for wrestling fans, the winners of the men’s and women’s Royal Rumble provide the first puzzle pieces for what the WrestleMania card will look like in two months. Everything else comes after that. Nothing else matters in the WWE universe until the winners’ arms are raised. The Rumble is also the most infuriating event for some because it acts as the jump off point for the person that WWE is going to shove down our throats in main events on Smackdown/Raw for the foreseeable future. Sometimes, fans and booking embraces it, but over the past few years, it has become glaringly obvious that the WWE is trying to use the Rumble to shoehorn “their” guy into the main event at Wrestlemania (HHH in 2016), or they are testing the waters to see if the crowd is going to be receptive to a huge push (Shinsuke Nakamura in 2018).
The Women’s side has been more formulaic thus far, with Asuka, the undeniable biggest rising star in the women’s division, winning in 2018. And Becky Lynch, still in her ascendancy to the biggest star in the company, winning in 2019. The bigger issue for the women’s division is what happens after. In 2018, instead of capitalizing on Asuka’s momentum of being undefeated, she took an L to Charlotte Flair. In 2019, Becky Lynch was victorious in the Main Event, launching the moniker “Becky Two Belts” and her place at the top of the WWE food chain. Lynch’s issue was more that there was no place left for her to go after. They had spent so much time investing in making her look good that they hadn’t thought to have good competition in place. This lead to Lacey Evans getting spring boarded into the main event before she was ready and a teaming up with her real life fiancé, Seth Rollins, who had more mixed feelings among wrestling fans, causing Lynch’s popularity to fall in the process.
In fact, whereas the Rumble was the surefire way to get a wrestler over in the lead-in to WrestleMania season in the past, it has become much more of a “hit and miss” proposition over the past 15 years. Nakamura never got over the hump as an upper echelon star. Randy Orton was mostly used as a placeholder because Roman Reigns was being used against the Undertaker that year. Reigns himself famously got booed out of the arena and proved that “not even The Rock can save any situation.” The year before that was Batista, who was destroyed by the crowd for months as a confused WWE was still trying to grasp how popular Daniel Bryan was at the time. 2012 brought Sheamus, who was…whatever. He was okay for what he was, but he was not and is not a main eventer. The year before that was Alberto Del Rio, who was so popular at the time that WWE didn’t even bother to put him on the Wrestlemania poster, even though he was in one of the biggest matches.
In many ways, trying to get the Royal Rumble winner right is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. This isn’t 1989 anymore, where simply putting Hulk Hogan out there was going to elicit huge responses from the crowd, and the fans who didn’t like Hogan didn’t have numerous places to vent. There was no Twitter to bitch that Mr. Perfect deserved it more. You couldn’t jump on Facebook to announce your discontent that Ted Dibiase didn’t get pushed the way you wanted. There was no Bushwackers Tik Tok. WWE sometimes feels like they are trolling their fans, but in many ways, they are trying to simply recreate the Daniel Bryan effect. The issue is, that was an organic moment caused by a great wrestler who could get himself over with the crowd, not needing to be put through the WWE Push Machine. It can’t simply be done again and again. That hasn’t stopped WWE from chasing that.
When they aren’t chasing that, they are chasing nostalgia. There is a (unfortunate) segment of the fan base that complains that all wrestlers nowadays are terrible and don’t know how to get over with a crowd and blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Call it the Jim Cornette effect, where wrestling fans gloss over how bad previous generations of wrestling were and look through rose colored glasses at their favorite eras of wrestling. Wrestlers just do flippy tricks now and can’t talk on a mic. They should be able to get a headlock over with the fans. Dumb, regressive thinking that completely disrespects the wrestlers in the ring, but wrestlers in general, as they have spent years getting better, chasing their dreams, only to be told they are too athletic and too good by A: out of shape wrestling fans who would get winded trying to get into a ring, and B: has been wrestlers who are clinging to their last shreds of relevance by ripping on the current generation.
But I’m going off on a rant, and I digress. The Royal Rumble is the official starting point for Wrestlemania Season, and as such, should be treated as the second biggest event of the year. WWE has capitalized on this by moving it out of arenas and into baseball stadiums. This year, it will be held at Minute Maid Park in Houston. There should be 40k people to see this event, and with good reason. The Royal Rumble is a fun event, filled with surprises that brings entertainment to multiple generations of wrestling fans.
With that in mind, let’s look at the competitors of the Royal Rumble and rate their chances of winning.
MENS ROYAL RUMBLE
Note: As of writing, 25 people have been declared for the Men’s Royal Rumble. WWE usually allows themselves space to allow surprise wrestlers into the action.
OTIS AND TUCKER, HEAVY MACHINERY
The Case for Otis and Tucker: Fairly organically, the duo has put themselves into a position where they are getting genuine crowd reaction. Tucker has athleticism far beyond what his body type would lead you to believe, and Otis has gotten over by just being a genuinely big goofball. They do have longevity and there should be a tag team run in their future with the company.
The Case against Tucker and Otis: Tag team members don’t win this event. It just doesn’t happen. Otis has his own thing going right now with Mandy Rose. It feels like it’s probably not going to get very far as a storyline, but it is kind of a big deal for a tag team not actively in title contention getting screen time every week when they are trying to fit an entire roster on a two hour show. They have their lane right now, and WWE is going to ruin that before either guy gets much singles success. My best guess is that we get the worm out of Otis, and then he is eliminated 20 seconds later.
The Case for Buddy Murphy: Newly aligned with Seth Rollins and AOP, Murphy has his first major title around his waist, having won the tag team titles with Rollins on Monday. Putting him into a faction as important as it is, is a good sign for Murphy in the long term, and a Royal Rumble victory would be a massive stepping stone for a guy who always seemed destined for bigger things than simply being the best wrestler in the 205 Live division.
The Case against Buddy Murphy: Last year, he was wrestling on a preshow match right around the time they were opening the doors to get into the stadium. It’s obvious that WWE still does not value smaller guys like Murphy, nor do they fully know what to do with them. Murphy will inevitably deserve better than whatever his fate is here, and we can all be sure his fate will be another match vs. Aleister Black in the preshow at WrestleMania as people begin to show up to look for their seats, while a disinterested Booker T tries sneaking away to the craft services table before the match ends.
The Case for Ricochet: Ricochet is an obvious fan favorite who risks his body every opportunity he gets so he can try to get over with the powers that be. He is physically incapable of having a bad match. His move sets can drop jaws from the front row to the nose bleed seats. His run in NXT against a wide array of talent proved how versatile he was and what an asset he could be on the main roster.
The Case against Ricochet: Ricochet will never get over properly in WWE. He’s always going to be seen by people like Vince McMahon as a smaller version of Dolph Ziggler. He is the guy you put out there to make the other guy look good. Basically, they all fit the mold of guys like Mr. Perfect and Bam Bam Bigelow, who were ahead of their time with their in ring style, and could always be used to get a good match out of a wrestler, but were never serious contenders for the WWE championship because they don’t fill the proper mold of what Vince McMahon thinks a champion should be.
The Case for Erick Rowan: WWE is investing a ton of energy and television time to get Rowan over. Even though we have been seeing this in some iteration since 2014, and it’s never really worked in the past, they keep rolling tweeks to his gimmick out there. The current Rowan is carrying around a cage with something in it. Nobody knows what, but it seems to really terrify the jobbers who are out there to take quick losses from Rowan on a week to week basis.
The Case against Erick Rowan: Rowan’s character is still in the “beating up jobbers” stage and there is no reason to give him enough helium to be a serious contender in the event. The better bet is that they slow build him, then in four months, get rid of the cage with absolutely no explanation before Rowan loses a preshow match at whatever the June PPV is against someone ridiculous like Zack Ryder, and then retool his character to start the entire process over again. The only way Rowan is winning is if there is a magic potion in that cage that turns him into Steve Austin, circa 1997.
The Case for Nakamura: WWE has shown faith in Nakamura before, giving him the victory in 2018, which was meant to setup the dream match everyone wanted between Naka and AJ Styles at Wrestlemania. There are still iterations out there of the dream match involving Shinsuke that can be played out. Daniel Bryan vs. Nakamura in a best 2 out of 3 falls match in the Main Event at Mania would be something that fans would be clamoring for.
The Case against Nakamura: He is essentially a comedy act now. With Sami Zayn bouncing around as his de facto mouth piece, the group has more often acted as comic fodder for dancing Braun Strowman, or keeping New Day near the main event scene, or both. Shinsuke currently holds the Intercontinental Title, which is back to essentially not mattering anymore, as they don’t seem to be doing anything with it. Nakamura came onto the main roster with such high expectations, but as a whole, it has all felt kind of underwhelming.
The Case for Rusev: Rusev has undeniably been able to get fans on his side for a long period of time now. Rusev Day worked because it was easy to remember, could easy be chanted, and seemed to be a big part in Rusev getting over on his own in spite of rarely being booked in a way to make him look good. He could win the Rumble, tie a bow on his feud with Lashley at Fast Lane, and go on to be very over cannon fodder for Brock Lesnar in the main event of WrestleMania.
The Case against Rusev: Come on. You know they won’t push Rusev. I know they won’t push Rusev. They know they won’t push Rusev. They know we know they won’t push Rusev. And to be honest, they really don’t care what we think.
If You Squint Then Maybe, Sorta, They are Contenders
The Case for Elias: Unlike most guys in the company, Elias can get over or get heat on a moment’s notice. He is a perfect hatchet man to fit into any feud because he can go on stage with his guitar, take some shots at the local crowd, and get booed. He really is a throwback wrestler in that sense, with his ability to get cheap heat casually better than most wrestlers possibly could on their best day.
He has flirted with the main event scene since he came to the main roster, but always seems just off that bubble of being a true contender. An unexpected win at Royal Rumble could be a huge boost for his character and give instant legs to a feud with any wrestler he faced at WrestleMania.
The Case against Elias: Here is the problem, Elias is more of a secondary PPV main eventer. Even if they did have him competing for a title, it would be more as a stand in for the actual main eventer who will get the spot down the road. He doesn’t make sense at WrestleMania just because WWE has never shown any particular desire to make him that guy. The talents is there on multiple levels, but the desire to push him just does not seem to be there.
The Case for Bobby Lashley: Even as dumb as the whole wedding angle has been, and in reality, the only person drawing real heat in all of this is Lana because Lashley is so bad on the mic, this storyline has gone on far beyond its expiration point because WWE has a lot of faith in Lashley. And why not? He is the prototypical big guy, but with a better move set. He has shown flashes that he could be a main eventer since he came back, but it always seems like WWE can’t quite get him on the right page.
The Case against Bobby Lashley: And that is because WWE treats him at almost all times like a quasi-comedy act, which he absolutely isn’t. He showed in TNA that he actually does know how to work a mic, and that he just needs to be put into the right spots to get there. The difference is, WWE very obviously won’t let him go off script, and the script is terrible. As long as he is playing by WWE’s rules, Lashley will never be taken seriously as a main eventer.
The Case for Aleister Black: He has a fully fleshed out character. He knows what he is and is able to play the character well. People who really are able to run with and build their character have often shown to have longevity in WWE, as long as they buy in. Wrestling is littered with gimmicks that could have worked well if the right person had really gone for it, and in turn, there are terrible gimmicks that only worked because the wrestler fully bought in. Val Venis existed for years with a character that might not have lasted two months in the wrong hands.
The Case against Aleister Black: There doesn’t seem to be a ton of momentum for him right now. He’s working amazing matches with Buddy Murphy, but they really don’t mean anything beyond reminding the more hardcore fans how great both guys can be when they aren’t constricted to WWE’s rules about matches all the time. He just doesn’t seem to fit in a main event match with Brock Lesnar. It just doesn’t feel like a big match, because Black is still a couple years away on the main roster from it feeling big.
The Case for Dolph Ziggler: There are some things you can simply rely on in life: Death, Taxes, and Dolph Ziggler being right around the main event scene come WrestleMania time just in case they need him for a big spot. Dolph is the ultimate “break in case of emergency” wrestler because he can handle a mic and have a great match against a CPR dummy in the ring. Ziggler has everything you could ask for in a main eventer. He has the charisma, the mic skills, the in ring work, and the experience to be one of the biggest guys in the sport.
The Case against Dolph Ziggler: Unfortunately, WWE has never used him that way, or not in a number of years at this point. The last time I felt genuinely excited about where Ziggler’s character was going was right after Survivor Series in 2014. They really didn’t do anything with him then, and haven’t put him into a spot to really succeed since then. At his peak, Dolph can very easily be Edge. A guy who isn’t the biggest ever, but can get crowds into a match, cut great promos, and life and feud he’s in. Instead, they have used him more like Rick Martel. Yea, he can wrestle well, he can get heat, he can do his thing, but there is just something about him that will cause him to never get over.
The Case for Drew McIntyre: Drew McIntyre is right there. He is right on the edge of being this mega heel who destroys everyone in his path. He is good on the mic and great in the ring. He was able to shed any possibility that he would be remembered as one of the guys in Three Man Band. When I think of guys who can be great heel champions on the main roster, he is usually one of the first guys I think of.
The Case against Drew McIntyre: He has been pretty much useless since the period where he was saddled as Shane McMahon’s lackey. It didn’t help Drew at all, booking wise, and made him look like nothing more than a henchman, when he could have been establishing himself as one of the strongest heels on the roster. Since then, he has just kind of floated in and out of matches with no real direction of where he is going. If they don’t show enough faith in him to be near the Raw main event, I can’t imagine a scenario where he main events WrestleMania.
The Case for Braun Strowman: Of all the wrestlers I’ve mentioned in this category, Braun seems like the most likely to be able to jump into contender status. He is still the same monster who can stand toe to toe against the biggest guys in the ring. We aren’t that far removed from his incredible run of flipping vehicles and tearing down sets for our amusement. He could win the WrestleMania Triple Threat of Sorts: Winning the Championship, Winning the Andre The Giant Battle Royal, and winning the tag team titles with a ten year old. He hasn’t had a truly great WrestleMania moment, and seems like the guy on the roster most capable of it.
The Case against Braun Strowman: There is nothing particularly intimidating about Strowman anymore. He has been turned in a comedy act of sorts who just runs around the ring every match, knocking people over. He hasn’t had a sniff of exposure in the actual main even scene in forever, and feels too far detached to just jump back into it. They will probably have him as comic relief at some point. Maybe he’ll power bomb Elias into a cake that R-Truth is hiding in or something.
Big E Langston
The Case for Big E Langston: Big E has long been seen as THE guy who would break out from New Day and have the big singles run, but with the surprising rise of Kofi Kingston last year, Langston was largely relegated to cheerleading duties and work in the tag team division. While Kofi had the better story, Big E is no doubt the more prototypical star in the eyes of WWE. He checks all of the boxes that would be needed to make a run towards the championship: great on mic, good in ring worker, long history of being over with the crowd, ability to do promos against the Fiend that would make great TV.
The Case against Big E Langston: No disrespect to Langston, but he feels like a Summerslam Main Eventer more than a WrestleMania Main Eventer due in large part to him essentially acting as a comedy side kick for so long that WWE doesn’t seem like they would be serious about using him in a main event on the biggest stage. He just doesn’t feel like the New Day member who WWE would push in this spot, due in large part to the fact that they continue to not push him in spots like this.
The Case for Roman Reigns: It took seven years, but the company seems to be dialed in properly on what fans do like about Reigns, and have been able to minimize the things people dislike. He’s hovering around the main event scene while not being directly involved in the title picture. If WWE thinks the crowd is ready for a Reigns championship reboot, the Royal Rumble will be the place to find out. Reigns has the pedigree to carry the title for an extended period of time, and you know that Vince McMahon is absolutely rock hard just thinking about a scenario where Reigns gets to spear The Fiend eight times.
The Case against Roman Reigns: They have ruined Reigns character to such a level that it might not push the dial on the fans as much as WWE thinks it will. He has been stuck in a feud with Baron Corbin for…reasons…for months now, and all he has had happen was be humiliated with dog food being poured on him. He seems like the obvious choice to be the guy who can take down The Fiend, but WWE has gone out of their way to not do the obvious choice, and have been buried for it, over and over. Now is as good a time as any to rip the band aid off, give the Rumble to Reigns, and see if him and Fiend can build something great over two months. That’s why I have no faith in WWE actually doing that.
The Case for AJ Styles: There is a way to make it work with him taking down Brock Lesnar in the main event of WrestleMania with tons of interference from The Club. AJ Styles is one of the all-time legends of wrestling and it might be a good time to take advantage of him while he is still healthy, and able to hold the belt on a weekly basis. He has proven time and time again that he can raise his game on the biggest stage, and there is no reason to believe he couldn’t get a three star match out of Lesnar.
The Case against AJ Styles: Styles is essentially working heel right now. Brock Lesnar is working 100% heel right now. While this could be a great match, the booking committee could find themselves trapped in a corner trying to figure out who to get the crowd to support in the math. Lesnar can’t turn face at this point, even with the best manager of all time, Paul Heyman, in his corner to attempt it. That ship has sailed. The Club would be in a tough spot with a face turn because they have momentum towards the top of the card during their current run. It’s not as easy to go heel/face as Big Show made it look the dozens of times he did it. If the crowd doesn’t fall for it, then you are looking at a heel in Lesnar and a guy whose run was poisoned by bad booking in Styles.
The Case for Randy Orton: He could pull into a tie for most Rumble wins of all time. He is one of the greatest in WWE history. His run of excellence is unparalleled. The crowd is very much still into him (I was at the Royal Rumble last year. Only Becky Lynch had a bigger crowd pop than he did), and WWE likes to use him when they aren’t sure where they want to go with a storyline. He can literally enter into a feud with anyone. They could book him vs. Lesnar as a Legend vs. Legend matchup, or let him play up his uncaring, cocky demeanor when The Fiend tries to rattle him. The reason Orton has been so good for so long is because he is very easy to buy into as a main eventer.
The Case against Randy Orton: It just doesn’t seem like he is the move here. Having Orton win would feel like an admission by WWE that they aren’t quite sure what they want to do with their title picture, or worse, know exactly what they want to do, and that involves Cain Velasquez. Orton also might not be healthy. There is no way that the decades on the road hasn’t caught up to him a little bit. He still knows how to work a crowd as well as anyone, and still has the most iconic finisher in WWE today. It just doesn’t feel like his time this year.
The Case for Brock Lesnar: Every time Paul Heyman lays out what Lesnar intends to do, he does it. Lesnar winning would set up the rumored match between him and Cain Velasquez because, why not I guess. Side Note: I’d be infinitely more pissed about the prospect of Lesnar vs. Velasquez in the main event if WWE Network charged fifty bucks for the ppv. The ten bucks I’m going to spend to continue having the network every month will cause me to roll my eyes and move on.
The Case against Brock Lesnar: What’s he going to do, hide in the corner all match? Lesnar hasn’t exactly built himself up as the picture of durability. If he is coming in first, that means he is going to have to handle between 45 minutes and an hour of wrestling. He looked gassed after wrestling Goldberg for three minutes. Rey Mysterio had to do all the work when they fought. It is somehow less believable that Lesnar actually wrestles and wins than it is he gets snuck up on by someone like Velasquez jumping out of the crowd, thrown over the rope, then the two fight outside the ring while security attempts to break them up.
The Case for Baron Corbin: It would be a very WWE thing for them to have Corbin win this, and send the entire crowd home big pissed. A lot of people say that Corbin is good because he is drawing heat, but he’s not drawing actual heel heat. He’s drawing X-Pac heat. He’s drawing “The Genius” heat, where the crowd is just completely rejecting the concept of the character more than anything he even says. His existence defines who he is as a heel. And WWE GETS OFF ON THIS. They are essentially using Corbin to say “Oh yea, you didn’t like Roman Reigns? You booed Roman Reigns? Well you know what we are gonna do, we are gonna make this much much much worse on you! Then what are you gonna do? You are gonna come crawling back, begging for Roman! Muahahahahahaha.” I have every bit of faith that Corbin doesn’t win this, but at the same time, I am deeply concerned he will.
The Case against Baron Corbin: He looks like a dong with a crown on. How are you going to set up a main event with an evil clown facing off against a royal shlong? That’s basically a Jerry Lawler vs. Doink match at an In Your House Pay Per View in 1994. Not a main event at WrestleMania. Beyond that, Corbin can’t raise the profile of a feud. Hell, his existence almost single-handedly killed Becky Lynch’s momentum, and she was the biggest star in the company. Baron Corbin basically filled the Jinder Mahal role of “Guy Inexplicably in the Main Event” to make you feel better about everyone else in the main event.
Did I mention he looks like a fully erect penis who stole Flava Flav’s wardrobe?
The Case for Rey Mysterio: Give Mysterio one last shot at Lesnar in the main event at WrestleMania. We get a huge buildup. The final match in the series between these guys. Mysterio having no chance. Eddy Guerrero vignettes. Rey saying he’s going to do it one more time for his son. Him and his son setting up traps and attacking Lesnar backstage on Raw. Lesnar flipping a car they try to leave in. It would be an epic roll out, and then, at Mania, in the main event, Rey is closing in on the impossible, he goes to hit the 619, and BOOM, his son lays him out with a steel chair. Lesnar hits the F5, as Heyman, with his signature devious smile on his face, looks on. Lesnar, Heyman, and Dominic stand triumphantly in the center of the ring. Mysterio puts his son over and passes the torch to the next generation. Heyman has a guy who he can build up while Lesnar is off television. It works too perfectly.
The Case against Rey Mysterio: BECAUSE it works too perfectly, it never happens. This would be an epic finish with stunned silent broadcasters as fireworks blast off over the triumphant trio’s head. They could tie in so many things, and even though Dominic is green, they could bring him along slowly and build him up in kind of an old school way, knowing he has the pedigree to be a star. But, it’s Wrestlemania, and WWE would never do something like that because the booking is too long term for them. Like a pervert going into a back room of a porno store, WWE is looking for instant gratification. They don’t want to think about Dominic challenging Lesnar for the title in a year or two. They want something that will have people talking that night.
The Case for Seth Rollins: Perpetually miscast as a face, Rollins is shining as a heel on Raw with AOP and Buddy Murphy in tow. It’s obvious that Seth is the guy who WWE intends to lean on every week as THE guy. Acting as a heel messiah is a good fit for him, and is such a spectacular change from his spectacular misuse as being Mr. Becky Lynch through the later part of last year. Rollins could join an elite group of back to back winners and put himself onto the biggest stage of all again.
The Case against Seth Rollins: As noted with others, it would be a tough fit doing a heel vs. heel match in the main event at WrestleMania. Rollins is starting to hit his stride and it would be a terrible idea to turn him now, while Lesnar has probably hit the point of no return when it comes to his standing with the crowd. With the tag team title around his waist, it would seem that he’s going to be held over for the moment in a feud with the Viking Raiders. He could very easily drop those belts, or carry both belts (why not just have AOP win the Tag Team Titles?) through a long stretch of 2020, which could be WWE’s preference, but with such a deep roster and only three hours every week, it probably wouldn’t do a lot of justice to the Raw roster to have one guy carrying half of the meaningful titles.
The Case for Samoa Joe: Joe is ready. Joe has been ready. Joe will be ready. It always feels like we are right on the verge of seeing the big Samoa Joe run. It just seems like it is just beyond our finger tips. Joe has been spectacular in every role he has been put in, and there is no doubt that he would be able to build a Lesnar feud into a big deal. Being portrayed as a legitimate tough guy, Samoa Joe doesn’t look as out of place against Lesnar as some of the people on this list would.
The Case against Samoa Joe: They never pull the trigger on Samoa Joe and it’s starting to feel like they will never feel completely comfortable doing that. Joe is almost filling the Roddy Piper role in WWE. They can put him on the studio shows and he is great. They can put him in to announce, and he is great, he can wrestle and he is great. He can get on the mic and he is great. So why risk ruining him? The WWE thought process seems to be to leave him in a comfort zone and out of any serious contention in the title scene. Also, they have made it tough to believe that Joe can win because he never wins important matches in WWE, and this goes all the way back to when he was brought up from NXT.
The Case for Kevin Owens: Kevin Owens is OVER. The crowd is into him. Everything he does is eliciting a pop at this point. The crowd is ready for him to have his full on Stone Cold run where he gets the title and chases around Seth Rollins all summer with the belt on the line. He’s everything that Samoa Joe is, with the added bonus of title runs to add gravitas to his resume. Owens is one of the guys most likely to see a bump in TV ratings, which is something that WWE has been chasing for a while now.
The Case against Kevin Owens: WWE might be too comfortable with Owens in a long term feud with Seth Rollins that really doesn’t need a belt to have meaning. Owens having a belt is always nice, but he has never really needed it to elevate himself. Having Owens and Rollins going at it through at least Summerslam would give Raw main events to lean on even if Lesnar holds onto the championship through the summer. Owens is always ready to be shot into the title scene and probably doesn’t need a Rumble win to do it.
The Case for Kofi Kingston: After his surprising rise early last year and subsequent Wrestlemania victory, the WWE let Kingston cook with the title for most of 2019, and obviously have a lot of faith in him to carry the title. Kingston is charismatic and most importantly to WWE, he can see t shirts. He is fun enough to have children root for him while still being edgy enough and good enough in the ring to keep Smarks happy.
The Case against Kofi Kingston: After his title run, WWE seemed more than content to let him settle back into the tag team division, with him currently holding the title with Big E. Having him go into a feud with The Fiend doesn’t seem like it would work in the same way that Kingston going up against Brock Lesnar never worked: the size/style of wrestling just doesn’t match up well enough.
WOMENS ROYAL RUMBLE
Note: As of this writing, only 5 women have been declared for the Royal Rumble. I’ve added ten additional women that I believe will be participating. There will be a larger variance of surprise wrestlers in the women’s division, but it’s unlikely anyone not listed below has a real chance of winning beyond an NXT call up such as Shayna Baszyler.
The Case for Sarah Logan: I’ve loved Sarah Logan ever since I was watching her wrestle for Resistance Pro Wrestling a decade ago, and really want her to succeed. She has the talent and could be a really great bruiser in the division. She has been semi-repackaged as a fighter who isn’t interested in wins and losses. She is one of the most experienced wrestlers who can go in and make her mark in a large group in a Rumble.
The Case against Sarah Logan: In case anyone was wondering where Logan stood in the eyes of WWE, as of Tuesday morning, only four women had been announced for the women’s Royal Rumble. On their website, next to the listed wrestlers, they had links called “Spotlight Wrestlers” with bios. Of the four wrestlers announced, three were listed as Spotlight Wrestlers. Only Logan wasn’t listed.
The Case for Dana Brooke: Dana has grown a lot in the ring over the past 18 months which is impressive given her limited ring time. She was able to go viral for a brief moment with her flirtatious chasing of Batista on Twitter. She has shown recently that when she makes her wrestling character and her social media character one in the same, there is a path to her having a real push in WWE.
The Case against Dana Brooke: There is just no momentum right now for her. She is getting some more screen time, but it’s not really amounting to anything, and the stuff with Batista seems to have faded out. It would be great to see her carve out her niche within the women’s division, but right now, she seems more or less stuck in neutral.
Billie Kaye, Peyton Royce, The Iiconics
The Case for Billie and Peyton: They both seem to really understand who they are in the women’s division and their spot in WWE as a whole, and have taken advantage of it for all it is worth. The company trusts them enough to put mics in their hands all the time, and lets them cook to see what they get out of the crowd. They would make a great tandem if WWE wants to run a secondary feud for the title through Mania and then set up a bigger feud with someone else to go through Summerslam.
The Case against Billie and Peyton: They are playing to crickets, and WWE knows it. Their screen time has consistently fallen off, and they seem to be afterthoughts in a division that is already thin on talent. The crowd just isn’t that into them in their current iteration, and they are going to need to tweek their gimmicks at some point if they want to really get over with the crowd.
The Case for Carmella: If R-Truth’s run has taught us anything, it’s that Carmella is great on camera and with a mic when put in a position to succeed, or just generally be goofy and fun. Wrestling isn’t a big concern, even though she isn’t the best in ring performer, her ability to do everything else wouldn’t cause that to hold her back. The moment isn’t too big for her, and she can go in and add a lot of hype for a WrestleMania match.
The Case against Carmella: She has basically been a non-entity in the ring for the entirety of the R-Truth 24/7 run. While she has been great during it, WWE has seemed fairly content to keep her in a sidekick role. It’s not crazy to think that she could rise above it, there needs to be a storyline beyond “Carmella own the Rumble and is wrestling again” for it to succeed.
The Case for Mandy Rose: Mandy had the look that Vince McMahon craves. She is the person you put on television and on posters for events. Her looks can sell, and Vince has shown in the past that if he thinks you can put butts in the seats, then he is going to show a willingness to push you to the moon and prove it.
The Case against Mandy Rose: She is currently in a love interest spot with Otis from Heavy Machinery, which is pretty far from the main event spotlight. She is mostly being used right now in filler spots in the ring and hasn’t seen a significant push in a long time.
The Case for Liv Morgan: As shocking as it was that she was revealed as one of Lana’s lovers recently on Raw, it’s actually a good sign that Morgan is being put in roles that go outside of her Riott Squad beginnings. That she is doing it with upper mid card talent like Rusev and Lashley is obviously a huge step in the right direction for her character, and the faith WWE has for her to keep developing it.
The Case against Liv Morgan: Much in the same way that I don’t think anyone else involved in the Lashley/Lana wedding angle is going to get anywhere near a main event spot at the biggest show of the year, that unfortunately also goes for Morgan. If they keep working her character a little bit, they are going to find a sweet spot for her to get over, but she isn’t quite there yet.
If You Squint Then Maybe, Sorta, They are Contenders
The Case for Nikki Cross: After being left in the WWE wilderness for an extended period of time, Cross has been the only person to emerge from Sanity in NXT to do anything on the main roster. While her crazy side has been turned down too much from her prior personality, she does work well when she is paired with Alexa Bliss. She does have a bit of helium and has risen as much as any woman on the main roster not named Lacey Evans over the past year.
The Case against Nikki Cross: If they are going to have a member of Twisted Bliss win, you know it’s not going to be Nikki. She is well cast at the moment as a side kick, and it would make more sense for her to help out Alexa and then get thrown out of the ring, rather than turn on Bliss and try to get the win. Breaking the two up at this point is a bad idea in general because Cross doesn’t seem to be there yet in terms of being able to stand on her own with a singles run. Cutting her loose now would risk her falling by the wayside in a women’s division that is already fighting for television time below the championship.
The Case for Naomi: She has one of, if not the best intro in WWE today. She brings an undeniable energy and skillset to the division, and WWE has been willing to put the title on her in the past in big moments. Her athleticism can carry her through any feud and is sure to put on a good match if she is willing to take a few chances through the air to get a big pop from the crowd.
The Case against Naomi: She has basically been back burnered for a while now. They are definite questions about whether she can work the mic in such a way that would be needed to get a match at WrestleMania over. While she is athletic, there is always the concern that she is going to botch a big move, as she has in the past.
The Case for Kairi: Put me in the minority perspective here if you will, but I think Sane is being done an injustice by being put in the tag team division. She is a great wrestler with a great look who seems to make her moves look and feel bigger than they are. The women’s tag team titles are such secondary things that a run for the title at Mania would obviously be in reach for Sane, especially if Becky Lynch retains her title against Asuka on the same night.
The Case against Kairi: By completely throwing away the women’s division tag team titles or having Sane and Asuka randomly drop them on Raw while also trying to build Sane up into a title contender doesn’t make even a little bit of sense, and would act as an admission by WWE that the women’s tag titles are meaningless. Sane is going to have to continue to operate in the shadow of Asuka for now.
The Case for Sonya: She has been criminally underutilized in her time on the main roster, and would have been great if she had been kept in NXT to feud with Shayna Basyzler and Bianca Bel Air. The Rumble could be a great reset point for her and give her an opportunity to prove that she can shine in a feud against Bayley for the title. She has all the ability in the world to make a run in the Rumble and show she deserves to be in the upper echelon of women’s wrestlers.
The Case against Sonya: Like so many other female wrestlers not currently in title feuds, she seems to be pushed aside. They would be developing her character on the fly because they have done so little with it for such a long time. There seems to be little or no creative direction with her, which is a shame. They might also be saving her to have her be the first main person Basyzler faces off against when she comes up to the main roster.
The Case for Charlotte Flair: She is quickly turning into the female Randy Orton, and is undoubtedly the highest profile wrestler on the women’s roster to not win the Rumble yet. You know exactly what you are going to get out of Charlotte Flair in a match, and it almost always means she is going to raise the image of the match, and she is going to put on a good match that makes her opponent look good as well. She makes a ton of sense to go up against Bailey for the title, and then going into a feud with Sasha Banks through the summer. Flair is one of the only female wrestlers on the roster who can build up her own feuds on the mic.
The Case against Charlotte Flair: Flair is in a bit of a tough spot, and has kind of gotten tagged as the Roman Reigns of the women’s division. Her winning could really poison the crowd if it doesn’t go right. She also doesn’t need to win here to be in a main event. She is well established as the top wrestler in the division and has the mic skills to insert herself into any feud.
The Case for Natalya: Do I think Natayla goes over at WrestleMania? No. Do I think that WWE sees Natalya as the rock of the women’s division, who can put anyone over and make them look good? Absolutely. In spite of her veteran status in the event, she would obviously still be viewed as an underdog, and fans tend to love to see an underdog pull off the upset in an event like this. Natalya has earned her elder stateswoman role within the company, and this would be a great reward for her.
The Case against Natalya: Natalya, for all her great work ethic and clean in-ring style, doesn’t provide the flash and excitement that WWE is probably looking for to take into WrestleMania. Natalya also benefits as someone who the company seems more than willing to insert into any feud against any wrestler, so a win for her isn’t necessary to get her on the PPV card.
The Case for Nia Jax: It’s been rumored that Nia has been ready to come back for awhile now, and given her status as one of the biggest competitors in the women’s division, the Royal Rumble could be the perfect place for her to make her return, obliterate the competition, then go after a women’s title. While she has been bashed for her in-ring work and propensity to injure her opponents legitimately in the ring, her aesthetic and mauling style make her the perfect person for a match like this.
The Case against Nia Jax: It’s worth wondering if WWE has spoiled on Jax at all with everything that has gone on with her since the last time they hot shot her into the main event scene in the women’s division. It’s also very easy to see them bringing her back in this spot, have her eliminate a bunch of people, then get surprise eliminated by a smaller wrestler, starting a small feud to help work Jax knock the rust off.
The Case for Sasha Banks: If WWE is ready to break apart the Sasha/Bayley duo finally (FINALLY), and have them go against each other at WrestleMania, then Sasha winning the Rumble is the perfect spot to do it. They could also have Sasha win and Bayley lose the belt at the show, setting up Lacey Evans vs. Sasha Banks, but that match doesn’t seem to have as much prestige as breaking up the longtime friends. Banks is a well-known entity in the division, and stands out in big moments.
The Case against Sasha Banks: WWE would have to turn Sasha face to make the feud work, because turning Bayley face at this point makes absolutely no sense. The problem is, turning Sasha face also makes absolutely no sense. Banks makes her role as a heel work much better than trying to pop the crowd. Where Charlotte Flair and Alexa Bliss have shown success working both sides of the mic, Sasha has shown more ability and is a better draw when she is getting heat from the crowd with her smug attitude and mic work. She is one of the biggest stars in the business, but it seems like it would be fitting a square peg into a round hole to get there.
The Case for Alexa Bliss: Bliss feels like a main event wrestler being held in the tag team division while creative tries to figure out what to do with her, and then when they bring her back on the singles circuit, she will feel fresh again. Bliss is able to handle a mic and despite her size is able to hang in the ring with anyone in the division. WWE loves using her to keep the women’s division going on a weekly basis, and enough time has passed that it feels like it’s about time for another title run for Alexa.
The Case against Alexa Bliss: Injury concerns might be destined to sidetrack any extended runs at the top of the card for Bliss. She might be destined for Mr. Perfect status, getting stuck helping make the stars look good because the company doesn’t have faith in her ability to hold a title long term without getting injured and having to write her off television.
Brandon Andreasen is a writer/comedian who co-founded Fancy Boys Club. He recently gave out his 50 greatest wrestlers of all time. Check it out by clicking HERE.