January’s nearly over and you know what that means, we are almost on the road to WrestleMania. Every year around this time, WWE starts hyping WrestleMania’s card via the Royal Rumble. Possibly one of the most fun events of the year, the Royal Rumble historically has determined the WrestleMania main event by awarding the winner a championship opportunity. Things may not be so cut and dry this year with the popularity of Becky Lynch vs. Ronda Rousey, but regardless, the winner of the men’s Royal Rumble match will have a shot at either the Universal or WWE championship. There are a few easy favorites, but there are also a few fun dark horses.
10 Most Likely To Win: Drew McIntyre
Long ago, Drew McIntyre was known as the Chosen One. His athleticism, stature, and natural charisma made him a seemingly sure thing. Things didn’t go so well the first time around but now that McIntyre is back, he’s returned to his place at the top of the mountain. It was obvious the plans for him and Dolph Ziggler were short-term, and now that he’s kicked the Show Off to the curb, he could be seriously looking at a title contention very soon. Winning the Royal Rumble is a way to propel him into that true main event scene on the biggest stage, especially if McIntyre comes out on top.
9 Most Likely To Win: Braun Strowman
Until this past Monday night, Braun Strowman was the one challenging for the Universal Title. It’s unclear why exactly they took Strowman out of the match, it could be because Braun is not 100% healed or because the feud has cooled off between him and Brock Lesnar. Either way, it puts Strowman in a position to enter the Royal Rumble and earn his way into a championship match at WrestleMania.
In any Royale-style match, Strowman is an automatic favorite. He always performs well in them and even broke the record for most eliminations at the Greatest Royal Rumble. If he does win, this WrestleMania match becomes do or die for him. For a superstar with the deck stacked in his favor, WWE has been oddly gun-shy with him. Hopefully, this won’t be a repeat of his Monster in the Bank run.
8 Most Likely To Win: AJ Style
AJ Styles debuted at the Royal Rumble three years ago and since then, he’s had an impressive career, including a lengthy run as WWE Champion. Styles just dropped the belt to Bryan, and given that it was the catalyst to Bryan’s heel turn, the pair could easily pick back up where they started.
Styles is always a credible contender to any championship, but recent events may bump him up in line. His contract is coming up soon and undoubtedly, AEW will try to get their old stablemate in business with them. WWE could give him the WrestleMania match against Bryan to sweeten the pot. The two consistently put on strong matches and could do a lot with the biggest stage of them all.
7 Most Likely To Win: The Miz
Speaking of challenges for Bryan, there’s one that stands out above the rest. That, of course, is Bryan’s long-term rival: The Miz. The two wrote an incredible chapter of their story this past year when they finally went one-on-one for the first time since that explosive episode of Talking Smack. Since then, they’ve swapped places, and now Bryan is the heel and Miz, surprisingly is the face. The Miz has had a storied career and he deserves a big moment like this. The crowd has really come around to The Miz since his reality show made him come off as more relatable than reprehensible. Him winning the Royal Rumble may actually be a crowd-pleasing choice.
6 Most Likely To Win: Seth Rollins
Seth Rollins gets the number one slot for a few reasons. One, he has proven himself over the last year as someone who can consistently put on incredible matches no matter where he is on the card. Two, he’s never held the Universal Championship, which is a travesty. Three, he’s probably the most over full-time babyface WWE has right now. WWE must understand that Raw most certainly is Monday Night Rollins. Rollins is easily the fan favorite to win and considering that it’s been a rough few months for the Universal Championship, we really could use it. Rollins is also uniquely positioned to be a Royal Rumble iron man by entering at number one and outlasting 29 other opponents.
5 Dark Horse: Big E
Every couple of years, rumors start to circulate that WWE is breaking up the New Day. So far, they’ve always been false, and Big E, Xavier Woods, and Kofi Kingston have only gotten stronger as a team. Still, it’s a distinct possibility that the team is disbanded to push Big E as a singles competitor. Don’t forget, Big E was an NXT Championship and has a ton of potential. If that’s the goal, the Royal Rumble is an excellent way to get them there.
They’ve said from the start that if one of them wins, all of them win the Royal Rumble. How true would that hold if it actually happened? It would be sad to give up the power of positivity, but it could be a hugely entertaining program going into WrestleMania season.
4 Dark Horse: Pete Dunne
Meet the longest reigning champion of the modern era. Pete Dunne has held the United Kingdom Championship for over 600 days. After a hard-fought victory at NXT UK Takeover: Blackpool against Joe Coffey, there’s no denying that Dunne is one of the best champions WWE has seen in a long time.
It also begs the question, what now? Dunne can’t stay in NXT, he must drop the belt soon. If mishandled, it could really do a number on his momentum. Alternatively, if he walks into the Royal Rumble with the UK Championship and wins an opportunity at the WWE Championship, his transition could be seamless. It could also give us Dunne vs Bryan, and then we’d find out who the world’s toughest vegan really is.
3 Dark Horse: Andrade
Another smart, though unexpected pick is Andrade. A relative newcomer to the SmackDown scene, Andrade is a seasoned veteran with plenty of accolades in his past. Recently, rumors have started to circle that Vince McMahon himself is very impressed with Andrade. That trust can be seen when you look at the opponents that Andrade has been put in the ring against in recent months. Rey Mysterio, Daniel Bryan, and most recently, John Cena. He is very close to sniffing gold in WWE. Andrade also has the single most effective manager in WWE today in Zelina Vega, who adds so much credibility and would kill on his pre-WrestleMania promos.
2 Dark Horse: Kevin Owens
It’s been a minute since we’ve seen this lovable bad guy in WWE. Kevin Owens has been out with a knee injury since October, but rumor has it that he’s returning by end of February. Of course, WWE always overestimates their superstar’s returns to add to the drama, so the Royal Rumble could be totally feasible. A returning superstar always makes for a great Royal Rumble winner, as the crowd is excited to see them for the first time in months. Owens’ unique personality and crazy work ethic have always earned him the respect of the crowd, if not always their love. A win here would be huge for the show as well as Owen’s own career. If Finn Bálor is successful in winning the Universal Championship, this becomes an even better option, as the two have a storied rivalry dating back to NXT and beyond.
1 Dark Horse: Kenny Omega
It’s no secret that Kenny Omega is the hottest free agent in wrestling, or that WWE gave him a very generous offer. At this point in time, it does seem more likely that Omega goes to AEW with the rest of his Bullet Club/Elite stablemates. However, should WWE be able to sway him with their financial capabilities and massive platform, he will probably debut at the Royal Rumble. In which case, he suddenly becomes a very strong pick for the winner. If they’re going to convince Omega to go into direct competition with his friends, they cannot let him get lost in the transition. The best way to avoid buyer’s remorse is to strap a rocket to him and immediately shoot him straight to the moon. In terms of a fresh start, there’s no one quite like Omega in WWE.