The Royal Rumble match has one of the longest and most storied histories of any match in existence. Since 1988, the Rumble match has excited fans with its unpredictability, surprise entrants and incredible moments. Ever since 1993, the winner of the match has gone onto face a world champion at WrestleMania, making the decision to book a Rumble winner more important than ever and, as a result, the match’s winners reads like a list of WWE legends. Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker, John Cena, Triple H, Shawn Michaels... Big John Studd... Sheamus... Lex Luger... Alberto Del Rio. Ok, maybe not the most consistent list, but you know what I mean. That begs the question of which current WWE superstars will one day add their name to this dubious list. They’ll have to be a main eventer, that’s for sure, over, either as a face or a heel, and, most importantly, they’ll have to be believable winners, otherwise the fans won’t be happy and WWE will need to book another Money In The Bank cash-in to save the day. Whilst the name of this article might be slightly misleading, take it to mean that in an ideal world, all of these men would be perfectly suited to win the Rumble match. However, as we know, life don’t go that way, so please don’t sue me if number 12 doesn’t win. Now that I’ve covered myself, let’s begin, shall we?
15 Samoa Joe
Because, if history has shown us anything, Samoans do well in the Rumble.
Samoa Joe was something of a phenomenon outside of WWE. His incredible athleticism matched with his size and power made him a unique attraction in the world of pro wrestling and this is evidenced by his impressive resume outside of Vinnie Mac’s promotion. He’s the longest-reigning Ring Of Honour Champion ever, held the TNA World title once and the X-Division title five times, as well as main eventing TNA’s Bound For Glory (their version of WrestleMania) in 2008. He also performed in the opening ceremony of the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, aged five. He was probably still putting people in submission holds and giving his stuffed animals Muscle Busters. He debuted in WWE in 2015 in NXT and became the first ever two-time NXT Champion in November this year. Yeah, winning the Rumble doesn’t too crazy, does it?
Joe is yet to debut on the main roster, but that could all change very soon and when he does make his first appearance, you can bet the entire landscape of WWE will change. A huge star with massive potential to main event WrestleMania, his power, speed and the fact that he dives through the second rope, not over the top, could create some incredible Rumble moments that culminate in him winning the whole thing. And, as I mentioned earlier, he is of Polynesian descent, which you may think is a joke, but remember who books the Royal Rumble. Oh, Vince.
14 Seth Rollins
Seth Rollins has only been in one Royal Rumble match in his entire career. Just thought I’d let you know.
The Architect has fluctuated between top heel and top face ever since he split up The Shield in 2014. Unfortunately, this was mostly when he was being booked as the other one. As The Authority’s golden boy, Rollins won Money In The Bank and would cash it in at WrestleMania 31 to become WWE Champion. He also picked up a United States title and a second WWE title run before turning face (kinda) after being betrayed by Triple H on Raw. If only we knew why...
Rollins is a great wrestler and has the selling ability to pull off an ironman performance in the Rumble, but also plays the conniving, weasely heel to pull off a sneak victory, maybe coming in at number 28 or 29 and stealing a win. You just know that Rollins was earmarked for the main event of WrestleMania 32 before his injury, so him winning the Rumble and going on to close out the Show of Shows is definitely something WWE will be considering, so expect to see Rollins adding his name to the list of legends that have won this iconic match. Let’s hope he fairs better than the other Shield member that won the Rumble.
13 Dean Ambrose
Couldn’t leave Dean out, could I? I’m not the WWE creative team in 2015.
If it weren’t for a certain Phenomenal wrestler who may or may not be appearing on this list later, Dean Ambrose might have been 2016’s biggest success story. Beginning the year as Intercontinental Champion, Ambrose finished runner-up in the Royal Rumble, had legions of fans backing him to challenge Triple H at WrestleMania 32, but he was shunned in favour of Roman Reigns (ugh) and had a disappointing match with Brock Lesnar at Mania instead. However, things were on the up for Ambrose following this; he had two strong matches with Chris Jericho at the next two PPVS, then won Money In The Bank and cashed in on the same night, winning the WWE Championship for the first time. Despite losing the title earlier this year, Ambrose is still a main event player on Smackdown and looks set to be one of the brand’s top stars for years to come. No amount of James Ellsworth can ever change that.
Ambrose is enough of a top star now that a Rumble win would be completely acceptable. Whilst 2017 won’t be Ambrose’s year, it could come very soon. If he returned to his lunatic ways of old, then an insane run in the Rumble would fit right into his character and his time to main event WrestleMania has most certainly come. WWE have already laid the groundwork for all three former Shield members to become legends and a Rumble win for them will most definitely fit that plan.
12 AJ Styles
BOOM! THEY DON’T WANT NONE! NOPE! THEY DON’T WANT NONE! Love it.
What a year AJ Styles has had in the WWE. From his debut in last year’s Royal Rumble match to his WWE Championship win at Backlash, Styles has gone from strength to strength since joining the company and now finds himself as the top champion, not only in the company, but in the entire industry. Styles’ career was already one of the decorated in the world. Making his name in TNA, Styles was their first ever X-Division Champion and has main evented Bound For Glory many times. He also holds the distinction of having held the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in New Japan Pro Wrestling, as well as leading the influential Japanese stable, Bullet Club. All in all, he hasn’t too badly for someone who turned down a WWE developmental contract 14 years ago.
Styles in so over right now. His incredible in-ring ability matched with his demonish heel character and his air of swagger makes him one of the top performers in the world right now. He is tailor-made for the WrestleMania main event and a Rumble win would sit very nicely amongst his already impressive resume. Wow, can’t believe I’ve picked two former TNA guys to win the Rumble so far. The world truly has gone mad.
11 Kevin Owens
This time it’s an ROH guy! Truly crazy times.
Kevin Owens made him name as Kevin Steen on the independent circuit, working with promotions such as All American Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and, of course, Ring of Honour, where he is a former world champion. Owens signed for WWE’s developmental system, NXT, in late 2014, quickly rising up the ranks by engaging in a feud with an old friend of his from ROH (wonder if he’ll be on the list...), winning the NXT Championship just two months after his TV debut, six months after he signed for the company in one of the quickest rises to the top in WWE history. I guess it’s true what they say about Vince loving big guys, just not in the way you thought.
Owens’ time on the main roster has seen him win two Intercontinental Championships and a Universal Championship too, so it’s clear that WWE have every faith in him to perform in the main event. Whilst his heel persona might suit better to be the champion at WrestleMania rather than the challenger, heels have won the Rumble in the past and Owens has everything it takes to win it in the future. Powerful, ruthless and cunning, Owens could put on an amazing performance in the Rumble match and a headline match at WrestleMania featuring KO would most definitely spell money for WWE. Well, if they find him the right opponent, that is. If they’re looking for ideas, I have a place for them to start...
10 Sami Zayn
...yeah, that should do it.
Sami Zayn is amazing. From his time in Canada to Ring Of Honour as El Generico to his amazing run in NXT, Zayn has wowed crowds with his aerial offence, insane spots and captivating character work. Zayn defeated Adrian Neville to win the NXT Championship at NXT Takeover: R Evolution before being attacked by Kevin Owens (as mentioned earlier) and embarking upon one of the greatest feuds in NXT history. Zayn got injured shortly after this, but reignited the feud at last year’s Rumble, entering at number 20 to eliminate Owens from the match. The two would then put on two amazing matches at Payback and Battleground this year, before moving into a programme with Braun Strowman. Some might say this has been a downgrade, others... actually, most people would call it a downgrade. Oh, Sami.
Sami is the closest thing to Rey Mysterio we’ve had in a long time in WWE. Small, athletic, extremely popular and underutilised on the main roster; sound familiar to anyone? Let’s just hope Zayn’s Rumble win doesn’t come because one of his friends dies. Zayn could definitely go the distance in the Rumble and the pop he’d receive after building an incredible story throughout the match would be truly monumental. Zayn wins the Rumble, Owens has the title, both men headline WrestleMania. Please? Just, please?
9 Bray Wyatt
He only went and bloody did it. He won a bloody championship! Finally!
Bray Wyatt has been on the verge of being a main eventer for so long it’s almost comical. Debuting under his current gimmick in 2013, Wyatt’s first big feud was with John Cena, whom he took on at WrestleMania XXX, albeit in a losing effort. He then had a few matches for the world title in 2014, main evented TLC and took on The Undertaker at WrestleMania 31. Then he had that never-ending feud with Roman Reigns, but we’ll ignore that and talk about his involvement with Brock Lesnar and The Rock in early 2016. Actually, nah, the Reigns thing is too strong. It wasn’t good, people, it really wasn’t. Wyatt’s time in limbo seems to have finally come to an end thanks to his union with Randy Orton and his recent Smackdown Tag Team title victory implies that is finally being primed for the push he deserves. And, thankfully, Smackdown has precisely no Roman Reigns to ruin it this time.
Wyatt’s dominating performance in 2015’s Rumble proves that he can go the distance in the match and this often translates to a victory in the future. Add the fact that Wyatt has two-three (depending on injury) willing followers to help him out and you’ve got a recipe for a Rumble winner for sure. I wonder what Bray would have to say about all this. Something nonsensical, probably.
8 Braun Strowman
Hold on, hold on, don’t leave yet! Please?
Now, I know some of you probably don’t agree with this idea, but this isn’t a list of who I want to win the Rumble, so if you’re going to be angry at anyone, be angry at Braun. Good luck with that. Strowman is an anomaly in modern day WWE in the fact that, when he debuted on the main roster, fans had no idea who he was. He debuted in August of 2015 as a member of The Wyatt Family with no prior exposure on WWE TV (his only other matches had been dark), making him an extremely interesting prospect. Whilst he may have taken some criticism at first, his in-ring ability has come on leaps and bounds over the past year and he now finds himself as one of the most valuable players on the Raw brand. Who’d have thought, eh?
Whilst giants never usually win the Royal Rumble (just ask Big Show and Kane), WWE brass are pretty high on Strowman and, although I personally can’t see him main eventing Mania, perhaps a situation could be arranged where he dominates in the Rumble, but loses later on down the line to forfeit his main event spot. The way Strowman has been booked would make a Rumble win seem plausible and it would certainly illicit a reaction from the fans; after all, not every successful wrestler has to be cheered. I’d be happy if Strowman won the Rumble, not because I like him, but because I’m pretty sure he knows where I live and if he ever found out I was displeased with something he did, that’d probably be the end of me. And no one wants that.
7 Big Cass
A bit confused about this one? Well, let me... SPELL IT OUT FOR YA!
Colin Cassady, or, as WWE insist we call him now, Big Cass, joined WWE in 2011, but the date that’s really important to his story is July 2013, when Cass first teamed up with Enzo Amore. Enzo and Cass are magic together; Enzo’s erratic promos and Cass’ no-nonsense ring work make them quite the pair, in both NXT and on the main roster, and they remain one of the most over teams ever despite have never held a single title between the two of them. Enzo and Cass’ main roster debut came the night after WrestleMania 32 and have enjoyed some decent success, but one man, if the rumour are true, has impressed far more than the other.
Big Cass fills Vince McMahon’s criteria of “big guys what are big” and, according to the rumour mill, Vinnie is pushing hard for Cass to embark on a solo run. He faced Rusev at Roadblock: End of the Line alone and this could be the beginning of something very fruitful for the big man that might one day result in him winning the big one. Whilst his promo work isn’t nearly strong enough to get him into the main event, there’s still time for Cass to learn and, if he does improve, we could definitely one of the realest guys in the room become the last man in the ring at the Rumble. Plus, he’s massive, did I mention that? Massive people tend to do well.
I put the opening line of Rusev’s theme into Google Translate and it came out as “Rusev Rusev hits crease”. Somehow, I don’t think that’s right.
When he’s not “hitting creases”, Rusev is, in fact, a force to be reckoned with on WWE TV, well, at least he used to be. Getting the call up from NXT at the 2014 Rumble, Rusev continued on an unpinned, unsubmitted streak for over a year, collecting a United States Championship in the process. After this, Rusev got hurt a bunch of times and kinda fell off the rails, joining the lackluster League of Nations and failing to win the tag titles a load of times. And let’s not even talk about the whole Dolph Ziggler thing. Eeew.
Rusev needs to get put back on track, because, when used properly, he is something else. Big, strong, athletic and really damn good at being despicable, Rusev has every potential to be a main event heel or, if the crowd reactions are anything to go by, a face. Whilst Rusev winning the Rumble right now wouldn’t be convincing, with the right booking, the Bulgarian Brute could definitely pull it off. WWE seem to be taking him in a decent direction, so maybe the future is bright for the former adopted son of Russia. Remember that time a “US soldier” attacked Rusev? That was funny.
5 Tye Dillinger
If Tye Dillinger won the Royal Rumble from number ten, I think I’d actually die from happiness.
What a story The Perfect Ten’s career has been. He first signed for WWE’s developmental system, OVW, in 2006 as Shawn Spears, winning their tag and television titles in a hugely successful run. He then moved to FCW, where he won the Tag Team Championships with the future Dolph Ziggler (AKA, the most narcissistic team ever), before making the jump up to ECW in 2008. This foray to the main roster was short-lived for Tye as he was released just a few months later. That’s not very “10” is it? That’s a four max. After a few years on the indies, Dillinger re-signed with WWE under his current name and has gone from strength to strength ever since. He’s a mega-star, quite frankly, and one of my favourites, so I really, really hope what I’m writing now actually comes true.
Dillinger has proved himself to be one of the most likeable wrestlers of all time; I always find that, if a wrestler can force himself to turn face by getting the crowd to support him as a heel, then they’re something special. Dillinger is currently down in NXT right now, but a call up could be on the way soon and, if he’s booked well on the main roster and his popularity continues, can you imagine the pop he’d receive if he won the Rumble? Now that’s a ten.
4 Baron Corbin
Another unpopular choice here, but, once again, don’t shoot the messenger.
I don’t get the hate against Baron Corbin, I rather like the guy. Ever since he turned up in NXT in 2012 (debuting in 2013), Corbin has impressed with his menacing look, convincing squash matches and unique style. Despite looking like that weird kid everyone stayed away from in high school (and being about as popular as said kid), Corbin entered the main event scene in NXT, competing in the NXT Championship picture multiple times before debuting on the main roster at WrestleMania 32, winning the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal in the process. Then he feuded with Dolph Ziggler for fifty years. That’s not how long it was, just how long it felt.
Corbin now seems to be in a prominent position on Smackdown Live and is gaining considerable momentum. Another big, mean looking dude who could definitely cheat his way to a Rumble win, Corbin is definitely a main event talent in the waiting and WWE could definitely use his negative crowd reactions to put over an aspiring face character (think Hulk Hogan back in the day). A Rumble win could definitely help Corbin’s destructive persona and think about how this could be used to put over somebody else. I’d like to say this would work, but they’ll probably just feed him to Roman Reigns. Ugh.
Don’t panic, it’s all people you like from now on.
Cesaro made a name for himself in Ring of Honour in the States off the back of a successful career in Europe, teaming there with Chris Hero as The Kings of Wrestling. His WWE career highlights include a United States Championship run, a WWE Tag Team Championship run and basically being the most popular person in the world when he goes on one of his tears. His uppercuts, his suicide dives, the god damn Swing, everything Cesaro does excites the WWE Universe like nobody else. Now, imagine all this, but on a much, much grander scale, maybe even a “Royal” scale. See what I did there?
Cesaro as the plucky babyface in the Rumble would be a sight to see. Going on one of his tears, delivering uppercuts to everybody, multiple swings, some of his crazy power moves, all resulting in Cesaro finally breaking the glass ceiling and winning the big one he thoroughly deserves. If his current popularity continues, WWE will have no choice but to give him his shot and a Rumble win is the least they can give to this incredibly talented man. Ok, fanboy moment over. Back to the list.
2 Shinsuke Nakamura
DOO DOO DOO DOO DOOOOOOOOOOO DOOOOOOOO! DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO, DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO DOOOOOOOOOOO DOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! What a theme.
Who’d have thought I’d be writing about Shinsuke Nakamura in WWE? Not me, that’s for sure. Nakamura joined New Japan Wrestling in 2002 and was hand-picked by the company as one of their “new Three Musketeers” alongside Hiroshi Tanahashi and Katsuyori Shibata; the three men NJPW chose to build their company around. Nakamura won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at just 23 years of age, the youngest ever, and would hold the title twice more, as well as the IWGP Tag Team titles, IWGP U-30 Openweight Championship and the IWGP Intercontinental Championship five times, the most of anyone ever. This was all before he turned up in WWE; where he is a two-time NXT Champion and put on one of the matches of the year against Sami Zayn at NXT TakeOver: Dallas. In short, Shinsuke is a pretty decent wrestler.
Nakamura is a sensation; he is massively popular in NXT and, whilst there is a risk that his popularity on the main roster won’t be as big, he made enough of a name for himself outside of WWE to put good faith in him being warmly received. A dominant display in the Royal Rumble would put Nakamura on the map on the main roster and having him in the WrestleMania main event spells big, big money for WWE. Especially if they’re looking to expand their influence overseas. WrestleMania in Japan, anyone? No? Fine.
1 Finn Balor
Well, since everyone’s saying he’s gonna win this one, we might as well put him on the list.
If Nakamura’s non-WWE activities are impressive, then you’re gonna love hearing about Prince Devitt. Balor wrestled in NJPW between 2007 and 2014, most notably under the Devitt name. He won the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship three times, holding it for a total of 1,010 days (the second most of anyone), as well as six IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships and the Best of the Super Juniors Tournament twice. I just realised that, if you’re not a fan of Japanese wrestling, then none of that made any sense, but it’s good, honest. Balor’s time in NXT saw him reign as NXT Champion for longer than anyone else (292 days) before his call up to the main roster during the brand split. He won the WWE Universal Championship at SummerSlam 2016, becoming the inaugural champion in his first Pay-Per-View match, a feat never before achieved with a world title. Then his shoulder exploded and he had to give up the belt a day later. Dammit, Seth, why can’t we have nice things?
Finn is currently on the shelf and the rumour going around is that his grand return will result in a Rumble victory. Personally, I don’t think this will happen, but there can be no doubt that, one day, Balor will win this match. After all, he is a King. Balor is incredibly talented and incredibly popular; a bona fide future legend of the industry and one way to secure that legendary status is to give him his moment in the Rumble. Also, if he doesn’t win one, people may actually riot. They really, really like Finn.