The two biggest annual dates on the WWE calendar are the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania. Sure, SummerSlam is often looked at the second most important show of the year. The Rumble matches themselves, however, have a format that lends them to casual fans enjoying the show, not to mention that the implications of WrestleMania world title shots make these events immediately important to wrestling history. There’s a reason why WWE has been able to book Royal Rumbles for stadiums more often than SummerSlams. It’s an exciting, often surprising, and more often than not very good annual event.
So what about 2019? Contrary to recent years, when main events like Roman Reigns vs. Triple H and Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar (twice) were largely telegraphed, the field feels relatively wide open. Rumors are swirling about potential big returns from past legends, or non-wrestlers getting drafted into the proceedings. Nonetheless, questions remain as to who will main even the show, not to mention how the undercard will shape up.
This article takes a look at ten early reports and rumors related to the 2019 Royal Rumble, as well as ten for WrestleMania 35. A lot can still change, including injuries and shifts in creative direction fueled by fan reactions or Vince McMahon’s whims. Nonetheless, this is the word that has leaked out from a variety of sources, or that fans are beginning to intuit based on what has been reported thus far, or what we’re seeing on Raw and SmackDown Live now, several months out.
20 Royal Rumble: Andrade Cien Almas Wins
Word is that Vince McMahon has been extremely high on Andrade Cien Almas. The interest makes sense given McMahon’s reported interest in building his next Latino star to appeal to that target demographic. Moreover, Almas purportedly won him over, in particular, with his stellar outing opposite Daniel Bryan on SmackDown.
Reports suggest that McMahon may be eyeing Almas to win the men’s Royal Rumble match. In a single world title scenario, that might seem far fetched, but with two world titles in play, it’s not altogether out of the question that Almas could get featured to this degree.
19 WrestleMania: Finally, The Rock Has Come Back
Word broke this summer that The Rock is itching to get back into a WWE ring, and specifically that he’s eyeing a return for WrestleMania season. Rock is one of the very few part time legends WWE is beholden enough to to shift plans and make space at the tip-top of the card based on his interests. As such, there’s little doubt he’ll be working WrestleMania, and likely as not in the main event.
But whom will Rock work with?
Some early rumors suggest Roman Reigns in an attempt to get Reigns over opposite the biggest star available.
Other fan theories indicate that The Great One might reprise an old issue with Brock Lesnar or with Triple H at the biggest show of the year.
18 Royal Rumble: John Cena Returns
John Cena has scarcely been seen in WWE as of late as he seems more focused on his budding acting career. He was at Super Show-Down and odds are he’ll work the Crown Jewel event from Saudi Arabia. But when will we next see him wrestle in the States?
For the present moment, WWE doesn’t necessarily need Cena in the ring, and Cena doesn’t necessarily need to be wrestling. Still, WrestleMania season is when WWE tends to tap into all of its resources. If Cena’s comments in interviews are to believed, he still considers himself a WWE Superstar first and foremost, so an appearance as a spoiler in the Royal Rumble—either a surprise or a pre-announced return—could nicely set him on his road to WrestleMania.
17 WrestleMania: Ronda Rousey Vs. Cyborg
Ronda Rousey’s first year campaign in WWE has, for the most part, been a smash success. She started with her excellent debut performance at WrestleMania 34, followed by demonstrating steady progress and commitment to her craft in matches opposite Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss.
The tricky thing about booking Rousey is that, with her UFC credentials behind her, and looking fully competent in the ring, it’s difficult to buy any full time roster member beating her. Rousey does have some unfinished business, however, with Cris Cyborg. Theirs is an MMA dream match that was never realized based on timing, respective weight classes, and Rousey’s sudden fall from grace. Cyborg is reportedly open to getting into a WWE ring and may be the biggest, most credible threat WWE could book for Rousey at WrestleMania.
16 Royal Rumble: Brock Lesnar In The House
After Brock Lesnar lost the Universal Championship at SummerSlam, the conventional wisdom was that he was going to be absent from the WWE landscape for months. Critics thought he’d probably stay away until he had his UFC fight with Daniel Cormier, and the outcome of that fight might have shaped how long it would be before he returned to WWE.
WWE swerved fans when Lesnar came back at Hell in a Cell, just a month after his loss. It became clear he was back as a special attraction for the Crown Jewel event in Saudi Arabia. Will that be the last we see of him?
Lesnar is demonstrating a willingness to still work WWE dates while training for his MMA comeback.
As such, it’s not too much of a reach to think of him entering the Royal Rumble, or otherwise working a headlining singles match in the build to WrestleMania.
15 WrestleMania: Shawn Michaels Retires (Again)
Shawn Michaels got the rumor mill buzzing when he cut a promo on Triple H’s behalf in the build to The Game’s match with The Undertaker at Super Show-Down. Theories emerged about Michaels working The Deadman himself in Saudi Arabia this fall, or else at WrestleMania.
Nothing is official yet, but there are a lot of suggestions HBK is getting back in the ring for at least one match, and possibly a short run. Michaels hasn’t worked a match since WrestleMania XXVI, and if he is coming back for a limited time, it would make complete sense for Mr. WrestleMania to wind things down yet again at a ‘Mania, this time in New York/New Jersey.
14 Royal Rumble: Charlotte Flair Wins
Charlotte Flair has been on the front end of a lot of WWE history, including winning a match for the newly rechristened Women’s Championship at WrestleMania 32, winning the first ever women’s Hell in a Cell Match and main event, and being the first person to defeat Asuka in WWE.
Conspicuously missing from her list of accomplishments was participation in the first women’s Royal Rumble.
The move made storyline sense, as Flair was SmackDown Women’s Champion and thus didn’t have to compete for a WrestleMania title shot. However, it was an odd for both her and Alexa Bliss, as two of the top women’s stars in WWE, to sit out such a historic match. WWE may well make up for it in spades this January with Flair not only participating in, but winning the Rumble to set up a big WrestleMania 35 match for herself.
13 WrestleMania: Roman Reigns Breaks A Record
In main eventing his fourth consecutive WrestleMania in New Orleans, Roman Reigns made history, tying Hulk Hogan for the most consecutive WrestleMania main event matches (Hogan headlined WrestleManias 5, 6, 7, and 8).
There’s no sign of Reigns slowing down now, as his win over Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam firmly positioned him as the top star in the company, and it’s entirely possible his Universal Championship reign will extend straight to WrestleMania 35.
Whether he gets the nod for a dream match with The Rock, WWE really tests fans’ patience with another Reigns-Lesnar match, he blows off his issue with Braun Strowman, or a less predictable scenario arises, the odds are Reigns is closing the show again.
12 Royal Rumble: Chris Jericho Enters The Fray
Chris Jericho has spent most of his time in wrestling in 2018 hanging around New Japan, feuding with Kenny Omega, and going so far as to win the promotion’s Intercontinental Championship. Jericho’s one off appearance at the twenty fifth anniversary episode of Raw, and his consideration as a replacement for Shane McMahon at WrestleMania 34 each indicated he’s not done with WWE yet, though.
It’s unclear if Jericho will ever work for WWE full time again, but a surprise appearance at the Royal Rumble would be right up his alley, and potentially set up Y2J for a WrestleMania program.
11 WrestleMania: Daniel Bryan Vs. The Miz
Daniel Bryan and The Miz have had one of the longest feuds, brought up under the most diverse contexts in recent WWE history. Their issue dates all the way back to 2010, and WWE readily acknowledged their history, ranging from the original NXT run, to feuding over the US Championship, to issues when Bryan was the GM over Miz on SmackDown, to the current iteration of their feud.
The story doesn’t seem over yet, as The Miz has gotten the better of Bryan under spurious circumstances as of late, and has yet to get his comeuppance.
One approach to the story that’s gathering steam among critics is the idea that Miz will win the WWE Championship in the months ahead and wind up defending against Bryan in a WrestleMania showdown come spring.
10 Royal Rumble: A Club Invasion
WWE has reportedly been pursuing Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, and The Young Bucks from the Bullet Club aggressively, both to capitalize on a hot act, and to keep them from gathering any more steam as potentially legitimate threats to WWE’s business. It’s not entirely clear any of these parties would agree to a WWE deal, as none of them necessarily need WWE—they’re making good money and enjoying their creative freedom.
If WWE does score some or all of these talents, though, there may be no more effective way to introduce them en masse than with an invasion at the Royal Rumble, either working together as formal participants (perhaps with AJ Styles, Finn Balor, or The Good Brothers joining in), or storming the ring unofficially to create chaos and eliminate someone WWE wants to protect.
9 WrestleMania: The Undertaker’s Last Stand
Many fans thought they were witnessing the retirement of The Undertaker at WrestleMania 33 after he lost the main event and removed his signature garments in front of the fans. He wound up working WrestleMania 34, though, in a short, less formalized match with John Cena, and has gone on to be a presence for WWE’s international stadium shows.
We’re at the point now when just about any Undertaker match could be his last.
Given his connection to WrestleMania though, rooted in the streak, it makes sense enough that he would wrap things up with one last ‘Mania match. There’s a certain poeticism, too, to him doing so with one more win at WrestleMania 35, which would be his twenty fifth WrestleMania victory for his career.
8 Royal Rumble: The Shield Explodes
Whether Dean Ambrose turns heel this winter, before the Royal Rumble, during the Rumble match, or it doesn’t happen at all, the possibility remains that this PPV, and particularly its signature match will be the setting for an explosion between Ambrose and Seth Rollins, if not Roman Reigns.
While the three have presented a united front since reuniting, the fact is that all three are now former world champions, and after the luster has worn off of their comeback tour, there will come a point when Ambrose and Rollins’s characters wouldn’t be content playing Reigns’s backup. Entry into the Rumble would set up both men to pursue a title shot (if not all three men, if Reigns drops the title before that show), and either intentionally or unintentionally causing each other’s elimination would be a time-honored way of kickstarting, or furthering a rivalry to lead into WrestleMania.
7 WrestleMania: Johnny Gargano Finally Wins The Big One
Johnny Gargano has been chasing the NXT Championship all year long, as well as seeking revenge against his friend turned arch-rival Tommaso Ciampa. These roads converged when Ciampa wound up winning the title ahead of his friend when he beat Aleister Black. From there Ciampa retained the title in his first defense against Gargano at TakeOver Brooklyn IV.
Gargano is on the short list of the best talents in NXT, if not all of WWE, today. Moreover, his rivalry with Ciampa is arguably the best NXT has ever produced. It would be only fitting for WrestleMania weekend to set the stage for Gargano to finally put away his former tag team partner, and finally realize his goal of capturing the belt.
6 Royal Rumble: Kavita Devi’s Main Roster Debut
Kavita Devi has made her presence known in both Mae Young Classic tournaments. She’s one of the biggest women in the field with impressive height, and a heavyweight style.
While she’s not entirely polished, she did show progress from 2017 to 2018, and it seems like only a matter of time before WWE brings her up to the main roster.
Devi may not be ready for her full time call up in January, but she could quite reasonably be a developmental talent brought in as a unique spectacle, and dark horse threat for the women’s Rumble. Particularly for her size, she could be an effective threat in that setting, and it’s a good environment for WWE to test the waters on how far she’s come.
5 WrestleMania: Braun Strowman Vs. Triple H
WWE seemingly set the wheels in motion for a Braun Strowman vs. Triple H program at Survivor Series 2017. The duo won the main event for Team Raw, only for Strowman to tire of Hunter's heel machinations, and lay him out.
Some rumors suggested a Strowman-Triple H match at WrestleMania 34, but The Game got sidetracked with Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle, and Strowman was shuffled into the Raw tag title picture. Would WWE go back to this now?
It’s not as obvious of a match as it once was, with both men now being heels and Triple H getting wrapped up in legends feuds with the likes of The Undertaker. Still Strowman is over enough, and Hunter is a big enough star that either could realistically transition to a face role by spring and get this match-up back on track.
4 Royal Rumble: Kurt Angle Returns To The Ring
Rumor has it that Kurt Angle getting sent home by Stephanie McMahon, in a kayfabe imposed vacation, was intended to let Angle fully focus on his training for another comeback to the ring. A return feud with Baron Corbin would make storyline sense given their confrontations as co-authority figures on Raw. There’s also the possibility, if it looks like Angle’s body would hold up, of him reviving his old rivalry with Brock Lesnar.
One way or another, the Royal Rumble is known for its surprise entries, and Angle would make a doozy of a Rumble participant, particularly if he lays low until then. Moreover, whatever engagement he has in the Rumble may well set him on his path for a WrestleMania singles bout.
3 WrestleMania: Charlotte Flair Against An Arm Breaker
Charlotte Flair has been the subject of a lot of WrestleMania 35 rumors since before WrestleMania 34. Pundits originally pegged her to lose to Asuka in New Orleans, and perhaps set up a rematch between them for a year later, or a Triple Threat with the two of them and Ronda Rousey.
Since Flair beat Asuka cleanly, it seems WWE may have set her up as a solo challenger to Rousey, perhaps after winning the ‘Mania title shot at the Royal Rumble.
The rumors of WWE recruiting Cris Cyborg for a match with Rousey may put those plans off for a year. Flair’s backup plans? Asuka has been kept reasonably strong, and WWE always could book that rematch. Alternatively, if Becky Lynch maintains her momentum, it’s not inconceivable that she and Flair could take a break from feuding, then finally end their issue in New Jersey.
2 Royal Rumble: The Men’s Rumble Returns To The Main Event Spot
It made sense for the 2018 women’s Royal Rumble to main event the show. Having a women’s Rumble at all was historic, and eventual winner Asuka was a buzz worthy star on the rise. All that, and the moments after the Rumble saw Ronda Rousey arrive in WWE, in so doing quickly establishing herself as the most famous female professional wrestler on the planet.
The one thing this scenario was lacking was WrestleMania stakes. Sure, Asuka won a WrestleMania title shot against Charlotte Flair, but that match was never going to main event WrestleMania over Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar, or even AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura. While there’s a better shot at women main eventing WrestleMania 35 with Rousey in the mix, it’s still a long shot, and it will still make sense to perceive the men’s Rumble as the bigger match for now.
1 WrestleMania: Bam Bam Bigelow Goes Into The Hall Of Fame
The Hal of Fame induction ceremony has lost a bit of its luster. Given the proliferation of podcasts and documentaries, the speeches at this event can now feel redundant, under developed, and sort of quaint, rather than the unique peek behind the scenes they once represented.
Just the same, earning an induction remains one of the highest honors in the wrestling business, particularly for those talents who aren’t foregone conclusions. Bam Bam Bigelow stacks up well among non-headliner candidates to go into the Hall, and given that the event is returning to the New York-New Jersey Metro region, there may be no better time to honor The Beast from the East who came out of Asbury Park, and turned heads in NYC.