It’s never too early to start thinking about the future, especially when talking about big and important moments and decisions. The next Royal Rumble may be more than a full month away, yet fans of WWE can rest assured Vince McMahon has already been thinking about it for months in line with this sort of thinking. Not only that, but Vince also already has some very specific plans for WrestleMania, which is exactly why the Rumble is so important—it doubles as an announcement for the potential main event.
Since Vince is obviously planning ahead for his most watched shows of the year, the pro wrestling audience should probably follow suit and start thinking about the future, as well. Especially in the modern era, many fans feel the Royal Rumble is even better than anything the so-called Grandest Stage of Them All could offer anyway, making it perhaps the most highly anticipated single show of the year. Given this extreme importance, barely over a month doesn’t even feel like enough time to truly speculate.
If you haven’t been doing any thinking about the Royal Rumble at all yet, don’t worry, because we’ve got you covered. Nothing is set in stone yet, and rumors leading towards the event have been all over the map, but certainly wrestlers have been booked in a way that makes them more likely to win than others. Keep reading to see who that is with our list of 8 wrestlers who could win the 2018 Royal Rumble match and 7 who definitely should not.
15 COULD WIN: Finn Bálor
Proving just how unpredictable and ever changing pro wrestling can be, not that long ago, it was rumored that Finn Bálor almost definitely wouldn’t win the Royal Rumble. Granted, this is only because he was tentatively booked to challenge Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship at the event. Plans change, though, presumably because Vince McMahon just didn’t think Bálor was ready for the spot. It could be argued that this also makes it unlikely Bálor could win the Rumble, but the counter to that thought is that a huge win like this might be what it takes to solidify the Demon King as a main event superstar. It is true that Finn’s been on a downslide since returning from injury and feuding with Bray Wyatt, and defeating 29 of his coworkers in one match could undo all the damage he’s suffered, putting him back on top.
14 SHOULDN’T WIN: Jinder Mahal
After six long months of boring failure, Jinder Mahal finally lost the WWE Championship he never deserved to hold. In theory, this means Vince McMahon and his executives all came to their senses and realized The Modern Day Maharaja wasn’t working out as a main eventer. Unfortunately, in these tumultuous times we live in, McMahon has known to make utterly baffling decisions that essentially laugh in the face of his most vocal fans. The only thing worse than Mahal’s terrible, plodding reign as WWE Champ would be him going over the entire roster then heading to the main event of WrestleMania. Vince has been known to troll the crowd recently, and this would definitely upset a lot of people, but not in a good way, so it should be avoided at all costs.
13 COULD WIN: Dean Ambrose
When a Superstar proudly calls himself as such, he better be able to adapt to a little chaos. Dean Ambrose proved he has that ability in 2016, when he was the runner-up to the Rumble, and taking it one step further in 2018 would further solidify the fact. The recent reunion of The Shield would be the perfect backdrop for Ambrose’s second chance, as the group could work together into the pivotal last moments when it all blows up. Alternatively, they could have nothing to do with one another all match long, only for one of the members to sneak out a win and leave the fallout for later. Not that it even matters, as the more important part would be WWE finally acknowledging that Ambrose is the most popular member of the group with the most upside. Of course, the fact a win would send that message might be why he’s less likely to get one than some others on this list.
12 SHOULDN’T WIN: Bray Wyatt
Two or three years ago, when Bray Wyatt’s family was at its peak, he would have made for a perfect winner to the Royal Rumble. Hell, he wouldn’t have even been all that bad in 2017, and it probably would have gotten his feud with Randy Orton off to a much better start if he had. Unfortunately, Bray didn’t win the Rumble last year, and that feud with Orton did happen, shattering his prospects in WWE possibly forever. There’s still a chance that Wyatt could recover sometime in the future, but no wrestler has come out of the last year looking worse than the so-called new Face of Fear in sports entertainment. It’s also worth noting that if Wyatt couldn’t win with his various family members backing him up, it almost wouldn’t make sense for him to somehow pull it off all alone.
11 COULD WIN: Seth Rollins
The only more logical way the Royal Rumble could lead to an explosion of The Shield than Dean Ambrose winning would be his brother-in-arms Seth Rollins beating him to victory. It was Rollins who broke up the Shield the first time around, so he could just as well trick Ambrose and their partner Roman Reigns again in the pivotal moments of the 30-man contest. With Rollins’s history, it’s also very easy to see how his victory could lead to dissension and distrust amongst The Shield’s members. That said, WWE could use his victory as a legitimate swerve simply by letting it happen and keeping the Hounds of Justice together for a long time to come. Ultimately, none of that is all too important when compared to the simple fact Rollins is a great, popular wrestler, and taking a legitimate path to the WrestleMania main event is the one thing he’s yet to accomplish, so maybe it’s about time he did it.
10 SHOULDN’T WIN: Triple H
It may seem a little unnecessary to put the WWE COO Triple H on this list. His increased backstage presence has greatly diminished the time he spends in the ring, and there’s a solid chance he won’t even participate in this year’s Royal Rumble. Then again, the dude won the whole shebang almost two years ago, and we really wouldn’t put him past it to make another comeback and steal the spotlight once again. At this point, The Game is wrestling maybe two or three televised matches per year, and were one of them a Royal Rumble victory, audiences around the world would be seriously upset at his uncontrollable ego. Not that this is anything new, but most fans are hoping that with HHH gaining more power backstage, he won’t be so obsessed at looking like a star in the ring. However, this is HHH we’re talking about, so there’s really nothing stopping him.
9 COULD WIN: Shinsuke Nakamura
Let’s face it—the King of Strong Style’s short stint on the main WWE roster hasn’t quite gone as well as most would have hoped, at least as of yet. After putting on all-time classic matches in New Japan, then coming pretty close to that a couple times in NXT, Shinsuke Nakamura has mostly been confined to meaningless midcard matches and one terrible, racist feud for the WWE Championship where he repeatedly came up short. The one thing that could turn it all around for Nakamura and put him right back on top would be a Royal Rumble victory. There’s also the issue that AJ Styles is reigning as WWE Champion as of this writing, and though that may change before WrestleMania season, if it doesn’t, Nakamura may be the absolute best choice for his opponent, should Vince truly want the show to go out with a bang.
8 SHOULDN’T WIN: Baron Corbin
Truth be told, the odds of Baron Corbin winning the Royal Rumble aren’t especially high. Notwithstanding a few high profile feuds here or there, which he inevitably lost, Corbin has thus far never excelled high enough above the midcard to make the main event of WrestleMania. However, WWE has been slowly building the guy up, with Vince McMahon presumably impressed by his size and charisma, and ignoring the fact crowds simply aren’t responding to his work in the ring. While those same qualities do make him a viable Royal Rumble winner, his shortcomings are too vast for Corbin to end up in such an important role so soon into his career. It would be fine for Corbin to put in a good showing and use the notoriety to gradually reach a higher status, and maybe even win the Rumble in 2019, but it’s just too early for him to do it just yet.
7 COULD WIN: Bobby Roode
Oh, how “glorious” it would be if Bobby Roode were to win the Royal Rumble. In truth, Roode is a bit of a dark horse candidate, only having recently been called up to WWE from NXT. However, he reigned dominantly as NXT Champion for long enough it’s clear the company sees big things in the guy. Things have been a little lightweight since he was called up to the main roster, only feuding with Dolph Ziggler and appearing in low profile matches. Of course, all of Roode’s glorious potential is still within him, and all WWE needs to do is capitalize on it with a major win. Still, given the way he’s been treated lately, there’s really no guarantee they’re going to give him the honor. Even so, a strong showing in the match could do volumes for his career even without getting the win.
6 SHOULDN’T WIN: Roman Reigns
Rumor has it Vince McMahon’s proposed end game for WrestleMania 34 has been the same for some time now: Roman Reigns versus Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship. That being the case, Reigns could almost be a lock to considered the Royal Rumble, unless WWE decides to let a SmackDown superstar win it and bring Reigns-Lesnar into the fruition in some other way. Hopefully, they’ll be going that second route, because nothing would infuriate an audience more than Roman Reigns defeating 29 of his co-workers yet again. Unlike his partners Ambrose and Rollins, Roman doesn’t even have the potential of a Shield explosion at his side, because fan vitriol towards his lack of charisma overrides any positive qualities he may possess. Vince isn’t going to change overnight, though, so the odds of The Big Dog stinking up the joint for a second time are unfortunately high.
5 COULD WIN: Kevin Owens
Despite WWE giving their best effort to make Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn two of the biggest jerks in wrestling, they’ve made a cardinal mistake by slotting them against the SmackDown Live authority figures. This anti-establishment attitude is exactly what created some of the company’s all-time biggest stars, and the Royal Rumble is usually their place to shine. All the confusion could be done away with during an epic showing from either member, slowly dragging them back into the face side while everyone on the roster nonetheless hates them. That’s exactly the way Steve Austin turned into the biggest star of his era, and while we don’t necessarily expect WWE to go the same route with Owens or Zayn, the point is that they’ve laid the groundwork to do so at the biggest show in January. Too bad they probably won’t.
4 SHOULDN’T WIN: Randy Orton
Only a select few wrestlers have won more than one Royal Rumble, and only “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan have managed to pull it off twice in a row. Even so, in most cases, the most recent Royal Rumble winner is always a frontrunner to pull off a major victory again the next year, and in 2018, this means we could see another dominant performance from Randy Orton. And oh boy, would that be terrible. Orton winning the Rumble last year was a massive failure to begin with, his ensuing feud with Bray Wyatt easily one of the worst in modern memory. His talents have only continued to diminish from there, and let’s not forget he was just a bland boring nobody with a good look for a whole decade before then. Orton has never deserved the attention Vince McMahon and company give him, so let’s hope they don’t shine a spotlight on him yet again in the near future.
3 COULD WIN: Samoa Joe
The past year has been a bit of a roller coaster ride for Samoa Joe. After debuting on the main WWE roster in a major role, Joe has bounced up and down the card, at times getting extremely close to the Universal Championship, only to come up short in his efforts at winning it. One thing that’s remained true no matter what is that Joe can be a dominant monster when the time is right, and no match is better suited for him to pull it off during the Royal Rumble. Joe is absolutely the sort of unhinged monster who could easily take on all 29 other Superstars in the match by himself, enduring their punishment while dishing out his own and tossing them all over the top rope. Of course, that’s only necessary if he’s number one in the match, and the later he enters, the easier it is for Joe to destroy the competition in destructive fashion.
2 SHOULDN’T WIN: John Cena
Regardless of the fact he’s semi-retired, appearing in more Hollywood blockbusters per year than wrestling matches, John Cena is still considered the Face of WWE and treated like the company’s most popular superstar. In fairness, that’s because he is, at least using popular in its literal sense, meaning made for mass public consumption. Die hard wrestling fans are getting a little tired of his act, though, especially since he started showing up in WWE for short bursts of nothingness before running back to Hollywood after stealing all the spotlight. People have been saying the same things about The Rock for decades, yet Cena somehow didn’t get the picture, nor have his employers. While we totally understand the shock factor and monetary value in Cena winning the Rumble and main eventing WrestleMania yet again, it would annoy the hell out of anyone watching their programming every single week.
1 COULD WIN: Braun Strowman
This time last year, many WWE fans were hoping and maybe even expecting Vince McMahon to use the Royal Rumble to solidify Braun Strowman as a bona fide solo star. Although that’s not quite what happened, Strowman has nonetheless used the past year to make quite a significant name for himself in the wrestling industry. In fact, 2017 may have been a little too soon for him to pick up the victory, but in 2018, there’s little doubt in our minds Strowman would be the best man for the job. Crowds are rapturous for the guy’s destructive brand of mayhem, and the cheers only get louder each time he causes a serious ruckus on a major scale. If ever there was a wrestler suited to enter the Rumble early on and eliminate literally everyone in his path en route to WrestleMania, it’s the Monster Amongst Men. Unfortunately, there’s a good chance he’ll miss the Rumble entirely, as he's now stuck in a match against Brock Lesnar he has little chance of winning.