Ah, the Royal Rumble. The one time of the year where people aren’t sick to death of seeing old wrestlers take spots from the younger ones. The time of year where throwing people over the rope becomes harder than Samoan Dropping the Big Show. The time where WWE can use the slogan they’ve come up for this year’s WrestleMania. The first of many, many, many, many, many, many, many times. All in all, the Royal Rumble is one of the best WWE Pay-Per-Views of the year (if not the best) and is often the site of some truly special moments. Big matches, huge storyline moments, surprise returns, this show usually has it all, but what can we expect from the next instalment of WWE’s January tradition? Did someone say wild speculation? I hope so, because here at 15 bold predictions for the 2018 Royal Rumble.
15 Kurt Angle, Triple H And Shane McMahon All Enter The Rumble
Because WWE just loves to make “new stars”...
At Survivor Series 2017, there was a worryingly low number of young stars in the main event: a traditional 5-on-5 Survivor Series Tag Team Match. In fact, of the final five people left in the match, only one had debuted within the last ten years (Braun Strowman) and three of them were all wrestling for the WWE in the 1990s. So, the whole NXT thing is going pretty well then, obviously.
This worrying trend is likely to continue during the Rumble match and will likely involve the three of the final four of that Survivor Series match – Triple H, Shane McMahon and Kurt Angle. The three men (who are all in their late 40s, by the way) are seemingly embroiled in some convoluted plot regarding Angle’s leadership of Monday Night Raw. WWE seems to have put this story on the back burner for now, but it’s likely that they’ll want to reignite it in time for WrestleMania, and the Rumble is the perfect time to do this. Expect a significant increase in the number of dads entering the Rumble this year, whether you like it or not.
14 SAnitY Debuts
Are NXT call-ups in the Rumble even a surprise anymore?
The last two Royal Rumbles have seen NXT stars get their first taste of the main roster. Last year, it was Tye Dillinger – yes, I know he’d been on the main roster before as other gimmicks, but WWE has forgotten all about those, so I’m electing to do the same. The year before that saw Sami Zayn make his main roster debut and we’ve also seen the likes of Rusev and Bo Dallas appear in the match as NXT performers. So, it stands to reason that we’ll be getting another call-up this year, or, better yet, how about four call-ups?
SAnitY have been brilliant ever since their arrival in NXT just over a year ago. The stable – comprising of Alexander Wolfe, Killian Dain, Nikki Cross and their leader, Eric Young – have had high-profile feuds in both the tag team and women’s divisions of NXT, competed in a WarGames match and ended the undefeated streak of The Authors of Pain to win the NXT Tag Team Championships. Not bad for three hairy weirdos and a Scottish lady. The group recently lost their tag team titles, so they have little left to do on the developmental show. A spot in the Rumble for Young or a run-in during another match would be a perfect way to debut the group, and fans would go wild to see this incredibly popular group make their way to the main roster. But who would they feud against first? If only there was a spiritual cult leader or recently “Woken” individual somewhere in the WWE. If only.
13 Triple H Costs Braun Strowman
Who’d have seen this coming, eh?
Going back to Survivor Series 2017 again here, as we bring you a moment that was as surprising as it was beardy. After Triple H betrayed both Kurt Angle and Shane McMahon (even though he was on Angle’s team) to help Team Raw win the match, he and the other sole survivor, Braun Strowman, posed at the end of the match. Strowman, who, like most of the audience at this point, was sick of Triple H’s interference, took his revenge on The Game. He grabbed him by the throat and, after Trips tried to fight back, delivered two huge Running Powerslams to leave Survivor Series standing tall. Well, technically, he would have done that too. The dude is huge.
This could be a throwaway moment to get Strowman over, but I’m a dreamer and I like to believe that is actually leading somewhere; particularly to Strowman facing Triple H at WrestleMania. Triple H has put over young stars at the last two WrestleManias (well, he tried to put Reigns over, but he’s only human) and he could be set to do it again this year, but something would need to happen to set that match up. And it could happen at the Rumble. Strowman could go on a tear, throwing out three or four guys, including Triple H and looking like a contender to win the whole thing. Then, from out of nowhere, Triple H could come back down to ringside, distract Strowman and cause him to be eliminated, setting up the grudge match at Mania. Some people may not want to see this match, but I think it could be a pretty interesting fight, if the correct story is told in the build-up. At least Strowman will be doing something at WrestleMania this year, as opposed to last year, where he, umm... what did he do, again?
12 Rob Van Dam Is A Surprise Entrant
I guess you could say this moment would be... one of a kind.
The Royal Rumble match is known for its surprise entrants. It’s as big a part of the Rumble’s DNA as spots are to a leopard, fins are to a shark, corruption is to public officials. John Cena in 2008, Edge in 2010 and who could forget the most memorable of all the surprise Rumble entrants – Haku in 2001. Really? You don’t remember him being in the ring for 2:51 before being thrown out by Steve Austin? And you call yourselves wrestling fans.
One of the best ways to utilise the surprise entrant gimmick is to give the spot to someone who is from or has ties to where the Rumble is being held. In 2018, the Rumble is taking place in Philadelphia, which, in wrestling terms, is associated with only one thing – ECW. Philly is where ECW was born and is still very much associated with the promotion to this day, 16 years after it went bust. The last time the Rumble was in Philadelphia, ECW legend Bubba Ray Dudley, entered the match, so, for this year, I’m predicting that one the promotion’s best-loved sons will be returning to remind everyone that he is and forever will be the whole freakin’ show. Rob Van Dam is still active on the independent scene and hasn’t been in WWE for over three years now. To see RVD back in the WWE and to have it happen in Philly of all places would be a truly special Rumble moment. Wow, if all my predictions for this event come true, the average age of a Rumble match competitor is going to be about 46.
11 John Cena Is Announced
Gotta sell them tickets.
It’s evident that John Cena’s full-time WWE career is slowly winding down. Cena’s burgeoning film career, combined with his age, indicates that the 16-time world champion’s time with the company is coming to an end. However, before Big Match John rides off into the sunset once and for all, WWE will make sure to milk him for everything he is worth – and he is worth a hell of a lot.
Love him or hate him, Cena is one of, if not the, most recognisable names on WWE’s roster right now. WWE has made use of this already this year, booking him in matches at the last three of their Big Four Pay-Per-Views – Survivor Series, SummerSlam and WrestleMania. It makes sense, then, that Cena will make an appearance at the first Big Four show of 2018. It also makes sense that Cena will be advertised before the show, in order to guarantee ticket sales for this huge event, so expect that video package to be airing on WWE TV some time in the near future. It’s just a matter of which brand he’ll be appearing for. Seriously? Who does he work for?
10 Neville Returns
Gravity might have forgotten him, but we haven’t.
Neville hasn’t been seen on WWE Raw since the 2nd October episode, following his apparent “walkout” on the October 9th edition of the show. Neville, who had apparently been frustrated with his lack of direction on Raw, allegedly left the arena after finding out he was going to be losing to Enzo Amore that night. I don’t blame him. The thought of merely working with Enzo would be enough to make me leave a job.
Even though the former King of the Cruiserweights hasn’t been seen on WWE TV for well over two months now, he’s still employed with the company, so a return for the Newcastle-native could very much be in the works. If this is going to happen, then there truly is no better time to do it than the Royal Rumble, where Neville can interrupt a Cruiserweight title match (in a similar style to when he debuted for the Cruiserweights) or maybe even enter the Rumble match itself, getting him away from the division that has imposed a glass ceiling on such a talented performer. Although, if recent rumours are to be believed, the negotiations regarding Neville’s return aren’t going very smoothly. Expect to see a WrestleMania 33 rematch between Neville and Austin Aries in Ring Of Honor some time soon.
9 Hideo Itami Wins The Cruiserweight Championship
Oh, Hideo. What could have been.
Keeping with the Cruiserweights now and a man who could very much end up on the same career path as Neville. Hideo Itami, formerly known as KENTA in Japan, was one of NXT's brightest stars at one point and was an even bigger star in his native land. Sadly, through a number of serious injuries, Itami missed a large portion of NXT’s golden period throughout 2015 and 2016 and, when he returned, it wasn’t nearly with as much momentum as he’d once had. If you think that’s sad, you just wait till you here what WWE have in store for him next.
In late November, it was announced that Itami would leaving NXT to join the Cruiserweight division on 205 Live. Great. A man who was once considered for the NXT Championship is now going to be in three-minute matches on Raw every week. My theory is that Itami will become Cruiserweight Champion very soon; the Cruiserweight title has been passed around a lot lately (who am I kidding, that’s been happening since it was created) and the last three holders have all been performers who were stars outside of the Cruiserweight division, like Itami. I’ll agree that it doesn’t make much sense to put the belt on Itami so soon after his debut and with no real storyline build, but remember, this is the Cruiserweight division we’re talking about here, so there doesn’t have to be a reason for anything. Ever.
8 Carmella Cashes In
Because it has to happen at some point, right?
Carmella has held the Money in the Bank briefcase since the inaugural Women’s Money in the Bank ladder match way back on the 18th June. Ok, so technically she’s held since the June 27th edition of SmackDown Live, but I’ll eat a plate of cockroaches before I acknowledge that James Ellsworth won the first Women’s Money in the Bank ladder match. What a stupid angle that was.
Carmella has now held the briefcase for over 170 days, the fourth longest of any briefcase holder in history. WWE haven’t really done much with Carmella since she won the briefcase, but having her cash in at the Rumble could be a great way to start a new storyline in the build up to WrestleMania. Charlotte could defend the title against whoever, then have Carmella cash in after the match to set up a Carmella vs Charlotte storyline heading into Mania. Maybe Carmella could enlist the help of the newly-debuted Riott Squad to beat down Charlotte after her match, solidifying her as a top heel and stacking the odds against babyface Charlotte. I mean, they have to do something cool with The Riott Squad, surely. Surely?
7 Paige Becomes Champion
Have you heard – she’s baaaaack.
After nearly a year and a half of absence from our screens, the original anti-Diva, Paige, returned to Monday Night Raw a few weeks ago and brought along some pals from NXT in the form of Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. This new trio, going by the name Absolution, have since run roughshod over the red show, attacking numerous competitors and threatening several others, as they attempt to achieve their agenda of... umm... what is it they want again?
Confused motives aside, Paige is now the hottest act going in the women’s division on Raw, which, in theory, makes her a prime candidate for a title reign some time soon. Yes, I know that both her and Alexa Bliss are heels, but it would definitely fit Paige’s new character to take the title from Bliss; Paige is aligned to no one but herself and Rose and Deville and will take on anyone she needs to become the champion. Perhaps a multi-person match at the Rumble could avoid Bliss taking the fall. Paige could hold the belt until WrestleMania, where she could defend it against the only woman fans would want to see win big on such a grand stage – Alicia Fox. Wait. Hang on. Asuka. I meant Asuka. Easy mistake to make.
6 “Woken” Matt Hardy And Bray Wyatt Have A House Of Horrors Match
If this were to happen it would be WONNDERRFULLLLL, YESSSSSSS.
Ok, so, I know plenty of you will be hesitant to agree with my opening status, based on the last House of Horrors match, but hear me out, ok? Matt Hardy, much to the delight of his fans, has finally gone Brok- I mean, “Woken”, on WWE Raw. Phew. Almost had a lawsuit on my hands, there. The gimmick that enthralled fans across the world and made TNA bearable for the latter half of 2016 has finally arrived in the big leagues and fans are keen to see what Hardy does next with his wild alter ego. Well, I say alter ego. I think even Matt forgets it’s a character sometimes.
Hardy’s first feud under the “Woken” persona has been with Bray Wyatt and, according to the rumour mill, one of Wyatt’s old gimmick matches could be brought back for this feud. I’ve read that WWE are planning on pitting Hardy and Wyatt against one another in a “Compound” match, similar to the one The Wyatt Family and The New Day had back in 2016. However, I think WWE will go one better (or worse, depending on your view) and have the two face off in a “House of Horrors” match, similar to the match Wyatt had with Randy Orton at Payback earlier in the year. Whilst the first match didn’t exactly set the world on fire (although I’m sure plenty of people would agree that being set on fire would actually be more pleasant than watching this match), just remember who else is involved here. Hardy changed the game in TNA with his “Final Deletion” and “Delete and Decay” matches, matches that were shot in a similar style to the House of Horrors. With Hardy in charge of the creative direction and with his trademark Broken charm, this could be one of the best things on the Rumble card if it happens. Especially if Senor Benjamin makes his return. I love that guy.
5 Ambrose Teases a Heel Turn
Come on, guys, it’s gotta happen at some point.
Ever since Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins reformed as a tag team in the summer of 2017, fans have been anticipating their eventual breakup. Alongside Roman Reigns, the two men are huge singles stars on Raw, so having them fight in the tag team division isn’t beneficial to WWE, especially their breakup can generate a super-hot feud leading into WrestleMania season.
The current rumour is that Ambrose will be the one to turn his back on The Shield this time around, mirroring what Seth Rollins did to the group back in June 2014. WWE could then just play out Rollins and Ambrose’s excellent feud from that year, only this time with Rollins as the betrayed babyface and Ambrose the heart-breaking heel. Following a tag team loss and tension between the two, Ambrose could be the one to eliminate Rollins from the Rumble. Whilst this could initially be portrayed as Dean just taking care of himself in the Rumble match, it could definitely sow the seeds of an eventual split from Rollins and a WrestleMania programme pitting the two former tag champs against one another. The Rumble is the perfect place to start building to WrestleMania, so, if WWE wants this to be one of the marquee matches at the Show of Shows, they better start building to it quickly.
4 Roman and Brock Square Off
Not this again.
Like the sun rising, the grass growing or Vince McMahon oiling himself up before a match, there is nothing we can do to stop Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar from taking place at WrestleMania 34, no matter how much we may not like it. Admittedly, fans have begun to warm to Roman recently following The Shield reunion, but there are still many members of the WWE Universe who want to see Roman nowhere near the main event picture. If you want to know who these members are, just look for males aged between 18 and 35. You’ll soon find them.
In any case, Reigns is going to face Lesnar at Mania 34, that much I can pretty much be 100% sure of and, to make this happen, they need to confront one another at the Rumble match. As I have mentioned, the Rumble is the place where the seeds of WrestleMania matches are sown. If Roman vs Brock is going to be the main event of WrestleMania, then two have to at least interact with one another on this show. Maybe Brock will cost Roman his chance in the Rumble match, leading to Reigns winning an Elimination Chamber or some such match to advance to Mania. Perhaps Roman will get involved in Brock’s title defence. Or maybe the two will just brush shoulders backstage. Whatever happens, expect to see these two squaring off at some point over the course of the evening. Maybe they could carpool to the show together. Storylines have started over less in the past.
3 Brock Lesnar Vs. Jason Jordan
Okay, I may have come up with this idea before the whole Strowman and Kane thing, but I’m going to explain it anyway.
Despite initial concerns regarding the “Jason Jordan is Kurt Angle’s son” reveal, the former American Alpha man seems to have finally settled into his role. After months of Miz-fighting, suplexing and veg-throwing (what the hell was that about?), Jordan finally seems to have direction regarding his storyline father, and his petulant millennial act is one of the better things about Raw right now. It’s certainly better than seeing Finn Balor take on jobbers every week.
Jordan’s current gimmick is that he whines to his dad that he doesn’t get any opportunities, only to back out of those opportunities when they’re finally given to him. Jordan could exploit his father’s position of power to weasel his way into the Universal Championship match at Rumble, maybe making it a Fatal 4-Way between him, Lesnar, Kane and Strowman. In the build-up to the match, Jordan could talk a big game, but, when the actual match rolls around and he’s in the ring with three human killer whales, he could make like American Alpha and split. Jordan would end up taking the pin from Lesnar here to protect everyone else in the match, only to berate his father afterwards, adding further fuel to their WrestleMania storyline. In my opinion, this would be a great to protect the other members in this match, whilst also progressing Jordan’s character, contributing to multiple storylines in the course of a single match. Don’t get your hopes up, though. Jordan will probably end up in a match with Bo Dallas after throwing eggs at him.
2 AJ Styles Vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
I think the internet might actually explode.
When the world’s coolest Dad, AJ Styles, and the man with bullets for knees, Shinesuke Nakamura, stood opposite one another in the 2017 Men’s Money in the Bank ladder match, the crowd reaction registered on the Richter Scale. These two men, who have never faced each other in WWE, made big names for themselves in New Japan Pro Wrestling and put on a brilliant encounter for Nakamura’s IWGP Intercontinental Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in January 2016. Ever since both men were signed to WWE shortly after this match, fans have been crying out for a rematch, only this time, with much higher stakes.
Whilst the ideal setting for this match would be WrestleMania, WWE has a habit of blowing big matches before their time. For reasons I’ll get into later, I think WWE is building to a different match for AJ at WrestleMania, so, if they want to do Nakamura vs Styles on a stage, then the Rumble is probably their next best bet. Whilst this match could potentially wait until SummerSlam, there’s no telling whether AJ will be WWE Champion at that point and this feels like a match that should be for the big belt. WWE need a title match for the Rumble card and they know from the fan reaction already that Styles vs Nakamura would generate real interest. As sad as I would be to see this WrestleMania-worthy match on a lesser stage, I’m still exciting at the prospect of seeing these two wrestling machines go head-to-head one more time. Or, you know, these two will just have a match on a random episode of SmackDown. Please, WWE, be sensible.
1 Sami Zayn Or Kevin Owens Wins The Rumble
Because I’m really struggling to think of someone else who could win the Rumble.
Since Sami Zayn turned heel at Hell in a Cell and aligned with friend-turned-enemy-turned-friend, Kevin Owens, the two have been feuding with Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan and basically anyone with an ounce of authority on SmackDown Live. Despite a stupid pre-show tag team match with Breezango at Survivor Series, the duo did get involved in that show’s main event, attempting to cost McMahon and Team Smackdown the match. Then they got chased away by Shane McMahon wielding a chair, because, as we know, all Canadians are afraid of chairs.
This feud, though it may not seem like at the moment, is the main event storyline on SmackDown Live, for the sole reason that it involves a McMahon. You tell me that isn’t always the way. Just try. In theory, then, this should mean that Owens and Zayn should be receiving a big moment pretty soon. And what bigger moment than a Rumble win. If either man wins the Rumble, setting up a WWE Championship match at WrestleMania, then there are infinite possibilities for some interesting storylines. Zayn/Owens threating to take over SmackDown by winning the title, the other man becoming jealous of the Rumble winner and slowly turning face, maybe even a triple threat. Either way, we get Styles vs Owens/Zayn (or maybe both) at WrestleMania, which I very much agree with. It’s got to be this, or else we might end up with Owens and Zayn vs The Ascension on the WrestleMania kick-off show.