The Royal Rumble remains one of the most anticipated events on the World Wrestling Entertainment calendar each and every year, and it is also serves as the unofficial start of the WrestleMania season. For those reasons, fans around the world anticipate what will occur before and after each Royal Rumble, and that is again the case heading into the 2018 edition of the event. History will be made in Philadelphia this year, as the WWE is planning the first women’s Royal Rumble to ever occur under the promotion’s umbrella. There are also a plethora of exciting potential storylines on both major brands, not to mention NXT, that will begin to play out either at or immediately after the Royal Rumble, and all of that makes January 2018 an exciting month for passionate WWE followers.
Those of you hoping that a former WWE Champion who currently serves as an on-air authority figure for the SmackDown brand will return to action may be a bit disappointed, but that individual nevertheless will be involved in a major storyline up through WrestleMania, at least. Multiple tag teams that established themselves in developmental and NXT are expected to get runs on the main roster. Last but certainly not least is the rumored WrestleMania main event that, as of the typing of this piece, hasn’t been changed according to experts. History tells us that fans attending the Royal Rumble and/or WrestleMania this year will likely boo even the thought of this match, but that apparently isn’t stopping Vince McMahon and others from pushing forward and sticking with the original plan. The Big Dog is claiming his yard… again.
15. Daniel Bryan vs Shane McMahon Won’t Happen
The WWE has done well to tease, for quite some time, a feud between Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon, as the two leaders of SmackDown have, in storyline, not been on the same page since late 2017. By all accounts from respected pro wrestling journalists, Bryan is still not cleared by WWE doctors following his forced retirement due to issues stemming from head injuries and concussions he suffered over the years, and that isn’t expected to change through and past the Royal Rumble.
That doesn’t mean the WWE would have to scrap this feud, though, as the company could eventually book a match that features a wrestler such as Kevin Owens or Sami Zayn representing Bryan facing McMahon at WrestleMania. That makes sense, as McMahon is expected to perform at the biggest show of the year.
14. John Cena-Undertaker Build
The old saying teaches us that fire causes smoke, and the smoke represented by rumors that Undertaker and John Cena will finally have a WrestleMania match in 2018 isn’t going anywhere ahead of the Royal Rumble. There are several ways for the company to build this match between these two legends. It’s possible, for example, that Undertaker could eliminate Cena from the Rumble even if The Phenom isn’t in that match.
Cena, meanwhile, could act offended that Undertaker essentially stated during the Raw 25th anniversary show that he has beaten everyone there is to defeat at past WrestleMania events. We are keeping fingers crossed that Undertaker is as healthy as possible and will be able to have a better match with Cena than he had with Roman Reigns at last year’s WrestleMania.
13. The Revival Get Pushed
WWE fans who have followed tag team act The Revival since their days in NXT were probably more than a little bummed to see the duo taken apart by The Balor Club and D-Generation-X members at the Raw 25th anniversary show. One night does not ruin an act in WWE.
In fact, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer recently explained that the WWE actually sees newer acts merely working with legends of the company as a way to push those performers. It’s long been suggested that Triple H is high on The Revival, and the Raw brand is going to need a new heel team once The Bar is taken out of the championship picture, if even for a little bit. We are looking forward to seeing The Revival get the push the team deserves after the Royal Rumble.
12. Titus Worldwide Chases Gold
The team of Apollo Crews & Titus O’Neil, members of the Titus Worldwide faction, may not be your cup of tea, but you can’t deny that they’ve gotten over among fans during editions of Raw due to some big wins, most notably against The Bar. Assuming that Sheamus and Cesaro will win the championships from Jason Jordan (more on him later) and Seth Rollins at the Royal Rumble, The Bar will need a new team to feud with ahead of WrestleMania.
Crews and O’Neil would make for the perfect team. They’re over, they’ve won matches against The Bar, and a team such as The Revival isn’t quite ready for that opportunity. We wouldn’t be surprised to see Titus Worldwide get a shot at the titles before WrestleMania ahead of facing The Revival.
11. Big Plans For The Miz
According to the recent news, The Miz’s victory against Roman Reigns during Raw 25 was all a part of his monster push he’ll continue to receive heading into WrestleMania. Word backstage is that the company is extremely high on The Miz and that he will be heading into WrestleMania hotter than ever with a major marquee match for the event.
Rumors have swirled pertaining to possible opponents, since it is labelled as such a huge match, naturally Daniel Bryan’s name has come up multiple times as a rumored opponent, such a match would certainly fit the bill. Among other rumored names also features the highly over Finn Balor, such a matchup would also be intriguing for the event. There have even been rumors that suggest he will defend his title against The Monster Among Men – that would fit the “huge” billing. It remains to be seen who his opponent is going to be, though nonetheless, expect The Miz to gain even more heat in the upcoming weeks.
10. Brother Nero!
Wrestling fans who followed the journeys of BROKEN Matt Hardy and Brother Nero, Jeff Hardy, in Impact Wrestling were delighted to see Matt unleash his WOKEN character while feuding with Bray Wyatt. This story is missing something, however, due to Jeff being sidelined because of injury.
Never fear, though, as the nefarious Brother Nero showed up at the Raw 25th Anniversary show off-camera to sing his infamous Obsolete song. Along with Vanguard 1 and the Hardy compound being teased via social media, it seems the WWE is all-in on allowing the BROKEN Hardys to portray the gimmicks they made famous in Impact, meaning we may see a match at the Hardy compound in the spring of 2018. Here’s hoping King Maxel gets to earn a pinfall.
9. Shayna Baszler is NXT
Perhaps Triple H is merely attempting to swerve us in interviews and at press events, but it sure appears that he views Shayna Baszler as the next face of the NXT women’s division and the woman who should hold that brand’s title for some time. No disrespect meant to Ember Moon, who had to wait until Asuka was called up to the Raw brand to win the NXT championship, but fans attending the NXT Takeover: Philadelphia show will have a hard time believing Moon has the goods to beat Baszler and retain the title.
Baszler is the heel the NXT women’s roster has needed since before Asuka won gold, and we look for her to lead that division into the spring and summer months following the Takeover and the Royal Rumble events.
8. Authors of Pain to SmackDown
It was rumored in late 2017 that former NXT Tag Team Champions the Authors of Pain would be called up to the main roster and added to SmackDown before the end of the year. That, obviously, did not occur, as the Authors were kept in NXT en route to a championship match at the Takeover: Philadelphia event.
It is rumored the Undisputed Era will reign on that night, which would leave the AOP with little, if anything, to do beyond a farewell match on the developmental brand. The NXT tag team division needs a shake-up and an injection of life following the Royal Rumble. There’s no question the Authors would make for a nice addition to that roster, and the team could have excellent matches with the Usos and the team of Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable.
7. Triple H Prepares For Kurt Angle
Unless the WWE changes plans at the last minute, something that reportedly occurs more often than casual fans realize, Triple H and Kurt Angle are both going to need something to do following the Royal Rumble. With Braun Strowman reportedly going in another direction at WrestleMania, the company could go back to the rumored match of Triple H and Angle.
It makes sense, with Angle serving as a babyface authority figure on Raw who clashes with Stephanie McMahon, the wife of Triple H. We would love to see Angle have one more WrestleMania showdown before he retires from in-ring action, for good, but we just hope the WWE doesn’t bring back the love triangle story involving these three. Leave the memories alone, WWE writers, and just have these two wrestle over control of Raw.
6. Jason Jordan Goes Full Heel
It’s been quite difficult for the WWE to create true heels hated among supposed “smart” fans who read newsletters and follow behind-the-scenes storylines via the Internet. With that said, Jason Jordan is quickly getting good amounts of heat during Raw shows for being the supposed son of Kurt Angle and an obnoxious individual who was paired up with Seth Rollins because Dean Ambrose suffered a legitimate injury.
Jordan and Rollins are rumored to lose their tag team titles either at the Royal Rumble or soon after that show, and these two will likely feud en route to a WrestleMania bout. Both athletes have the physical goods to steal the show at ‘Mania, which is why we’re looking forward to this rumored storyline even if the promos between them may leave much to be desired.
5. Johnny Wrestling Shocks the World?
Johnny Gargano, affectionately known as Johnny Wrestling, is one of the most over babyfaces on that brand, and he will compete for the the NXT title against Andrade Cien Almas at the TakeOver: Philadelphia show. While it may be too early for Gargano to get the belt, don’t be surprised if he earns the gold en route to a feud with former partner Tommaso Ciampa.
The hope is that Ciampa will be able to return from injury in March ahead of WrestleMania and the next Takeover event, meaning the company could book Gargano versus Ciampa even before Ciampa officially returns to action. NXT writers have, in the past, loved telling the story of the underdog babyface taking on a dastardly former best friend, and this tale already began in 2017.
4. 205 Live Reset
It’s a difficult time for those tasked with running the 205 Live show. Enzo Amore, probably the worst overall wrestler on that roster, was fired following serious accusations, and that brand is expected to get its own General Manager after the Royal Rumble.
Dave Meltzer reported that the Live 205 GM will be a known name who currently isn’t featured on television shows or on the roster, in general, and the rumored storyline is that the GM will help reset 205 Live to help it gain momentum before WrestleMania. It’s possible, and maybe even likely, Live 205 is doomed to fail. Per reports, however, the WWE isn’t giving up on the Cruiserweight division just yet. A reset, one that features a respected wrestler such as Neville or Ricochet carrying the brand’s flag, is needed.
3. Ronda Rousey vs. Asuka
Days before the 2018 Royal Rumble, former Ultimate Fighting Championship Women’s Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey told TMZ Sports she will not be in the Rumble or at the event, in general, due to filming obligations. It’s possible Rousey was told to say this to swerve fans, or the WWE may hold off on her debut until after the Rumble and ahead of WrestleMania.
According to the rumors, Ronda is done shooting her movie as of February, leaving the option open for a WrestleMania storyline. We can easily see the scenario of Asuka defeating Alex Bliss for the championship at the Raw PPV before WrestleMania and defending that title and undefeated streak against Ronda Rousey. That be something, it remains to be seen however.
2. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. AJ Styles
Shinsuke Nakamura and Roman Reigns are favorites to win the 2018 Royal Rumble, but neither necessarily needs to be the last man standing to earn a future match for his brand’s top title. In late 2017, the WWE teased that Nakamura could battle with A.J. Styles over the WWE Championship during the current year, and that storyline continues to be rumored leading up to the Rumble.
Those who follow only the WWE and don’t pay attention to New Japan Pro Wrestling or other promotions haven’t seen Nakamura and Styles compete against each other, making it a dream match for this year’s WrestleMania. Nakamura and Styles could produce a five-star classic, and Shinsuke winning the gold at the biggest show of the year could serve as a coronation for SmackDown’s most charismatic figure.
1. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns
Don’t yell at us or send us threatening messages, WWE fans who are sick of seeing the company push Roman Reigns as the Big Dog and as the alleged top babyface of the Raw brand and in the company, in general. We are only delivering the message here.
It was roughly one year ago when Vince McMahon and others behind the scenes decided that Brock Lesnar vs. Reigns would be the main event of this year’s WrestleMania, and Reigns losing the Intercontinental Championship at the Raw 25th Anniversary show put him in place to win the Royal Rumble and challenge Lesnar at WrestleMania. Regardless of what occurs at the Rumble, we believe this storyline will play out leading to the final match on the ‘Mania card, a bout Reigns will probably win.
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