Liam Hoofe takes a look at the Superstars who could potentially win the 2018 Royal Rumble…
The Royal Rumble is one of the most exciting events on the wrestling calendar. The event, which sees 30 men compete in an over the top rope battle royal for the chance to compete in the main-event at WrestleMania is an unpredictable affair and as we learned last year, the favourite may not become apparent until the final days leading up to the event. So, with speculation running riot, let’s take a look at several superstars who could win this year’s event.
This couldn’t happen, could it? It seems that right now, in the eyes of the WWE, Shane McMahon is the biggest star on SmackDown. The commissioner of Tuesday nights has opened pretty much every edition of SmackDown since about September and has been involved in and around the main event for each week’s show for just as long. Shane is currently raging war against both Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, and who is it that is competing for the title at the Royal Rumble? Oh yeah, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.
The chances of this happening are incredibly slim but right now, I wouldn’t put it past the WWE – it’s not like the McMahon clan have shied away from winning Rumbles in the past. The Shane Vs Owens and Zayn angle is going to come to a head at WrestleMania, and while there is a chance Shane will face Bryan, I don’t see the latter being cleared to compete. Let’s just hope the WWE has more sense than this.
Another booking decision that would be absolutely suicidal for the WWE right now, Randy Orton walked away from last year’s event as the winner, so surely he won’t get another big victory? Dave Meltzer recently mentioned that the current belief is that a SmackDown star is winning the rumble and that Randy Orton could be considered as a candidate. When you look at the current SmackDown main event scene, it is easy to see why someone would come to that conclusion. Orton Vs AJ is untapped territory for the WWE, and Orton is not really doing anything of any real interest at the moment. Could they give it to The Viper two years running? Let’s hope not.
Finn Balor is experiencing his first mini piece of momentum in the WWE since returning from injury on the Raw after WrestleMania last year.Finn’s 2017 run was difficult for fans to watch, with the former New Japan star being booked to look terrible week after week on Raw. His recent role as the head of the reunited Balor Club could provide him with a new lease of life in the WWE though, and a run on SmackDown Live couldn’t come at a nicer time.
If rumours are to be believed, then Balor lost his title shot to Brock Lesnar at The Royal Rumble because Vince McMahon doesn’t think he is over, or legitimate enough to face Lesnar but the same can’t be said for him competing against AJ Styles at WrestleMania, after all, The Demon King already has one PPV victory over the WWE Champion under his belt. Finn could utilise The Club to his advantage in the Rumble, before immediately jumping ship to SmackDown the following Tuesday and challenging AJ for the title at WrestleMania.
Braun Strowman may be competing for the Universal Title at the Royal Rumble but there is little to no chance of him beating Brock on the night. Regardless of that though, Braun remains one of the most over wrestlers in the WWE today and surely it is only a matter of time before he ends up winning one of the company’s top prizes. While rumours do suggest that Brock Lesnar will be defending his title against Roman Reigns at this year’s Mania, the company could always pull a swerve and have Braun walk away victorious at the end of the month.
Roman Reigns competing for the title at this year’s WrestleMania has to be the worst kept secret of all time in the WWE. The company’s booking over the last year has been fairly transparent, and a rematch from WrestleMania 31 is appearing more and more inevitable by the week. The only real question is how Reigns is going to earn his title shot. With February’s elimination chamber PPV being a Raw-exclusive, the current train of thought is that Reigns will away victorious from the notorious structure but knowing the WWE’s booking trends, and the way they try to make Reigns look invisible this time of year, you shouldn’t rule out him being forced to defend his number 1 contendership on the show, with the company wanting him to look as strong as possible heading into Mania.
A man who is increasingly becoming a real dark horse in this Rumble race, Dolph Ziggler has seen his odds slashed several times in the last few weeks, and the longer he is absent off the television, the more fans think he could just pull this off. While I am of the thinking that the ship has sailed with Ziggler, there is one possible scenario that could really work. If Ziggler were to win the Rumble, then simply come to the following SmackDown, tell the fans they don’t deserve him, and then just disappear off television once again, finally returning at Mania, then we could have one of the most original, and interesting builds to a Mania match in recent memory.
Ziggler’s recent move with the US title certainly grabbed some people’s attention, and if he could repeat that once again, only this time with higher stakes, then there is a possibility that this might just work.
Until John Cena Vs The Undertaker is confirmed for this year’s WrestleMania, then this result can not be ruled out altogether. John Cena’s placing on this list requires little to no explanation, he is, after all, John Cena. Cena is staring down the barrel of a record-breaking 17th world title reign, and it seems improbable that the company would want to give this away on a pay-per-view that isn’t WrestleMania. Cena’s current ‘free-agent’ status would also allow him to tease who would be his rival before, of course, revealing that he wants one more match with AJ Styles on the grandest stage of them all.
If you asked most fans who they want to win the Royal Rumble this year, Shinsuke Nakamura would be their answer. The former NJPW star has had a bit of a rough ride so far in the WWE but a show-stealing WrestleMania bout with AJ Styles would put all of that to rest. Ever since AJ and Shinsuke squared off at last year’s Money in the Bank PPV, fans have been wanting to see the two go one on one, and right now, this is the best possible match the WWE could do at WrestleMania. The bookies currently have Shinsuke as their odds-on favourite, and he is definitely the fan’s preferred choice for victor. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by, WWE.
Who do you think will win this year’s Royal Rumble? Let us know in the comments below, and let Liam know on Twitter @liamhoofe