For only the second time in WWE history, the women will compete in a Royal Rumble match to crown the number one contender to either SmackDown or the Raw Women’s Championship. This year is particularly intriguing, seeing as if the winner actually has potential to the main event at WrestleMania. There hasn’t been the star-power, at least by WWE standards, to generate enough excitement and earn that main event spot, but Ronda Rousey changes that. She won’t be on our list since it’s unlikely she drops the belt, but here are our top five most likely Women’s Royal Rumble winners, plus five dark horses to keep an eye on.
10 Most Likely: Naomi
We wish Naomi was higher on this list. She is so impressive that it is heartbreaking to watch her floundering the way she has been since the last time she held the title. Naomi is possibly one of the most athletic competitors on the roster and has a super cool entertainment factor. That makes her a legitimate champion at any moment. This could have a lot of potential from a storytelling perspective as well. Assuming Asuka retains her championship, the former tag team could go head-to-head. Even more, they could do so one month after competing in the Women’s Tag Team Tournament. The story alone earns her this spot.
9 Most Likely: Mandy Rose
Mandy Rose may seem like a lightweight compared to the rest of this list but make no mistake about her potential. Yes, the gimmick is tired, and her current program is tacky, but it also reminds us of a different blonde fitness model turned wrestler... Trish Stratus had the exact same kind of booking and rose above it. Rose could very do the same, she’s super charismatic and very athletic, her promo skills aren’t half bad either. Vince McMahon is reportedly very enthusiastic about her, for obvious reasons, and this could be the opportunity she needs to get to the next level.
8 Most Likely: Alexa Bliss
Another woman who is getting a tough deal recently is Alexa Bliss. Let’s put the gross topless segment to the side and talk about how well she’s been doing with A Moment of Bliss. She’s been able to take a negative and turn it into a positive with her incredible character and mic work. Bliss may or may not be in a position to compete come the Royal Rumble, we just don’t know. If she is cleared, however, she instantly becomes a favorite. She is one of those characters that WWE is always comfortable putting a title on. Some would say they lean on it too often, but she always feels like a credible champion. This match is no different.
7 Most Likely: Charlotte Flair
You always bet on a Flair, it’s practically their house saying. Charlotte Flair has had a good year, and while she may not be walking into WrestleMania as a champion this year, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, she gets to participate in the Royal Rumble this year instead of watching from the sidelines. Flair will, without a doubt, win a Royal Rumble at some point. The question is if this is the year for her. It could potentially get her out of the Ronda Rousey/Becky Lynch feud. This would make way for Lynch to step up to the main event, securing Flair a rematch against Asuka. Flair is a safe, if boring, choice.
6 Most Likely: Becky Lynch
Becky Lynch is most definitely the fan favorite to win this year’s Royal Rumble. She is the only one on this list who has a championship match earlier in the night, but it only makes sense for her to come up short there. Asuka vs. Lynch isn’t nearly as hot as Lynch vs. Rousey. In order for Lynch to compete in the Raw Women’s Championship, however, she’d have to either get traded to Raw or win the Royal Rumble. That puts her as the most logical choice. It would further the excellent program that started before Survivor Series, make the fans happy, and be a hard-earned jewel on Lynch’s crown.
5 Dark Horse: Ruby Riott
Don’t sleep on Ruby Riott. The former indie darling is very experienced, and it shows in the ring. It may have taken a while for the Riott Squad to meld, but now that they have, they’re a serious threat on Raw. In fact, Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan could very well make a play for those Women’s Tag Team Championships at Elimination Chamber. This is a great moment to raise the stock of the Riott Squad, so a Royal Rumble win for the team’s leader would be huge. The squad also has a unique situation as the only three-woman team in the Rumble. If Logan and Morgan are on board with the overall goal of getting Riott to win, they might be unstoppable.
4 Dark Horse: Sonya Deville
Sonya Deville holds the exact same spot as her Absolution teammate. She’s a serious threat, even if she may not be as established as some of the rest. They’ve been putting a lot of time and energy behind Deville, and she’s been coming to play. This slow burn face turn has required a lot of patience, but Deville seems to know exactly who the character is. She’s ruthlessly loyal but unafraid to call out Rose on her bad behavior, like giving a married man her hotel room key, for example. On top of the storytelling, she’s legit in the ring. Her MMA background comes through without overshadowing the performance aspect. This may or may not be Deville’s time, but it’s coming soon.
3 Dark Horse: Nikki Cross
Meet the newest addition to the WWE main roster: Nikki Cross. She’s coming in with a class of five others, but out of all of them, seems the most prepared to be shot into the title picture. (No offense, EC3.) Cross didn’t come up with her Sanity stable-mates, but it was clearly the best thing for her. Down in Full Sail, she put on great match after great match and continued to find the Twisted Sister character. On the main roster, she’s unlike anyone else, and that can play to her advantage. Imagine Cross vs. Asuka, the two would delight in each other’s ferocity and weirdness. A huge Cinderella story like this could be exactly the thing for the “fresh start” era of the WWE.
2 Dark Horse: Ember Moon
If we’re going to talk NXT, though, we have to talk about Ember Moon. The literal warrior princess was a stellar NXT Women’s Champion and hasn’t quite found her footing on the main roster. It’s clear that they see the potential, she did come very close to winning the Battle Royale at Evolution, only to lose to Nia Jax. What Ember Moon needs is her credibility back. Even when she was NXT Women’s Champion, it had an asterisk next to it because she could only win it after Asuka was gone. If Ember Moon were to win the Royal Rumble, she could right that wrong by challenging and beating Asuka at WrestleMania. It would be unexpected but hugely earned.
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1 Dark Horse: Shayna Baszler
There would be no bigger surprise than an unofficial NXT call up to beat out the established stars on the roster. For that to work though, the wrestler needs to have a certain level of clout. Shayna Baszler is just that wrestler. Through her association with Rousey, she’s involved in many more mainstream conversations than her Performance Center peers. Since coming in second in the Mae Young Classic, Baszler has developed into one of the brightest stars in the company right now. She put on a barn-burner at Evolution against Kairi Sane and became the first two-time NXT Women’s Champion. There’s only so much more she can do in NXT, but if she was called up unexpectedly, took her shot at the rumble and won, it would be a massive deal. The only question then is, who does she challenge?