With WrestleMania XXXIII behind us, you can be sure that the WWE is planning its next “Showcase of the Immortals,” which means they’re also planning the winner for 2018’s Royal Rumble. Here are our top picks for the winners of the 2018 Royal Rumble. When choosing a Rumble winner, remember a win is about more than going to WrestleMania, it’s also about a wrestler’s legacy such as winning back-to-back Rumbles, or winning the most Rumbles ever. Also, the Rumble is not about long-shots. A mid-card wrestler may last long in the Rumble but historically speaking, the Rumble winner has been a main eventer or an upper card wrestler about to enter the main event. Keep that in mind as we make our picks:
- Roman Reigns: The WWE Universe may hate Reigns but the WWE continues to push him and rumor has it he’s being groomed for the main event at next year’s WrestleMania. Roman is the clear favorite.
- Samoa Joe: The WWE has an entire year to build Joe up as a credible challenger. By 2018, he should be in place for a main event run and a Rumble win will cement it.
- A.J. Styles: “The Phenomenal One” is going to be in the title picture for a long time. He’s the kind of wrestler who would benefit from a Royal Rumble win.
- Finn Balor: “The Demon” looks to be on track for another world championship reign and if he isn’t champion going into the Rumble, he’s a good choice to both win the Rumble, and win the world belt at WrestleMania. His recent concussion could be bad luck or a sign he’s injury prone. If it’s the latter, don’t pick him.
Possible but Unlikely: All of these wrestlers are upper card or main event players but they’re long-shots when it comes to winning the Rumble.
- Seth Rollins: Rollins would be higher on our list but the injury-prone Superstar makes it difficult to bank on him wrestling on a consistent basis.
- Shinsuke Nakamura: Will this New Japan Pro Wrestling legend find the same success as A.J. Styles? Now that Nakamura is on SmackDown, we have time to find out.
- Kevin Owens: The WWE hasn’t been afraid to put Owens in the main event (and hold the Universal Championship) despite questions about his drawing power.
- Braun Strowman: The WWE continues to build Strowman up as a monster but the WWE seems like it’s using him as a wrestler to feud with others rather than battle for titles. He’ll go far in the Rumble but he won’t win it.
- Dean Ambrose: The WWE seems to feel Ambrose is over without a world title. That could change but don’t count on it.
- Brock Lesnar: Lesnar has no need to win the Rumble since he’s usually WWE Champion. The only reason to have him win would be to add it to his accomplishments.
- John Cena: It’s not a question of whether Cena needs it, it’s a question of whether he wants another win to tie “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s record three wins.
Wrestlers to Watch Closely: Longtime WWE fans know how mercurial the company is in pushing wrestlers. Today’s rising star could quickly become a mid-card comedy act. The following wrestlers have potential to move to the upper card but the WWE has been uneven with booking them. If they have momentum after Survivor Series, they may be a sleeper.
1. Bobby Roode: The NXT Champion is a proven commodity and the WWE seems like they’re big on him. A Rumble win would be a great way to build him up and thrust him into the main event.
2. Baron Corbin: Corbin’s been getting a slow build since he won 2016’s Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Don’t be surprised to see Corbin hold a secondary belt like the Intercontinental or U.S. Championship and if he does, he’s a contender.
3. Big Cass: While Enzo and Cass are over in the tag ranks, the WWE has been hinting at giving Big Cass a singles push. He has the size and charisma to give him a shot but can he stand out on his own?
4. Sami Zayn: Zayn is a wrestler who could see his career slowly move upward. The WWE has been inconsistent with his booking but he shouldn’t be ruled out.
5. Rhonda Rousey: Rumors continue to fly that she might enter the WWE. If so, she wouldn’t be the first woman to compete in the Rumble, but she could be the first to win.
Unlikely to Win Because They Don’t Need a Win.
1. Bray Wyatt: Wyatt is at the point where he doesn’t need a Royal Rumble win. If the WWE doesn’t treat his SmackDown Championship reign as a fluke, you can be sure he’ll win the title on his own.
2. Randy Orton: Orton got his second Rumble win and there’s little reason to give him a third. He has more world championships ahead of him but it won’t be through a Rumble win.
3. Matt Hardy: If Matt takes on his “Broken” Matt Hardy gimmick, you can’t rule out a Rumble win but it seems more probable the WWE would give him a world title in a regular match.
4. Jeff Hardy: Again, if Jeff adopts the “Brother Nero” gimmick, it’s likely he’ll be in the world title picture again. However, he has no need to win the Rumble.
5. Triple H: Triple H’s semi-retired status (and two-time Rumble winner) negates any need to win the Rumble again. It’s not good for business so don’t expect to see it unless there was another injury epidemic like last year’s Rumble.
6. Chris Jericho: With Y2J taking another sabbatical, he may not even be back for the 2018 Rumble. He’s in a position of helping to get people over which all but rules out a Rumble win.
7. The Big Show: Like Chris Jericho, the Big Show seems content putting people over. A Rumble win would do nothing to help someone else get over.
8. Kane: Kane is still an upper card player but he too is more of a supporting player who helps get younger wrestlers over.
9. Shane McMahon: Shane likes lacing up the boots (or in his case, sneakers) once a year for WrestleMania.
Not Ready for the Main Event (Yet): All of these wrestlers would need a big push over the next year to see them win the Rumble.
Cesaro . Big E, Kassius Ohno, Dolph Ziggler, Kofi Kingston, Karl Anderson, Luke Gallows.
Never Going to Happen: These wrestlers are all talented, but they’ve fallen out of the main event or aren’t going there any time soon. Picking any of these wrestlers is like betting on the Buffalo Bills to go to next year’s Super Bowl.
Jason Jordan, Mojo Rawley, Tye Dillinger, James Ellsworth, the Miz, Jinder Mahal, Sheamus, Chad Gable, Bo Dallas, Curt Hawkins, Apollo Crews.
Curtis Axel, Darren Young, Enzo Amore, Erick Rowan. Fandango, Goldust.
Heath Slater, Jack Gallagher, Jey Uso, Jimmy Uso, Kalisto, Mark Henry,
Konnor, Neville, R-Truth, Rhyno, Rich Swann. Titus O'neil, Tyler Bate,
Tyler Breeze, Viktor, Xavier Woods
Don’t Call It a Comeback
1. CM Punk: Hell would have to freeze over but it’s done so before with wrestlers like the Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan coming back despite Vince McMahon vowing they were through. If Punk returned, he’d be a heavy favorite to win.
2. Kurt Angle: If the WWE were to do a comeback angle for the 2017 Hall of Famer, he would jump to the top of the pack. He seems content acting as RAW General Manager though.
3. Batista: He’s not pulling in the same box office as the Rock (yet) but his last WWE experience was bad so it seems unlikely he’d come back unless the WWE threw a lot of money his way.
4. The Rock: The Rock is still a bankable star but as he ages and his career continues to soar, we’re skeptical he’d commit for more than one match a year.
5. Shawn Michaels: HBK has teased the fans with talk of a comeback but he seems content with his legacy as it is.
Don’t Even Bother Calling It a Comeback: Is it possible these wrestlers will return? Sure. It’s also possible Cleveland will get a second NFL franchise.
1. Undertaker: A return from retirement is about as likely as Paul Bearer returning to manage him.
2. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin: Austin supposedly has one match left in him (if any) so why would the WWE waste it on the Rumble?
3. John Bradshaw Layfield: JBL might come back for one or two matches but a full-time return seems out of the question.
4. Mick Foley: Mick may be able to wrestle a couple matches after he returns from hip surgery but don’t expect the WWE to waste those matches on the Rumble.
5. Daniel Bryan: It would be wonderful to see Bryan return but it would be incredibly risky given his history of concussions and other injuries.
6. X-Pac: X-Pac returning to the WWE and winning the Rumble would be nothing short of divine intervention.
7. Ric Flair: Don’t waste your money. Flair is done in the ring.
8. Hulk Hogan: The Hulkster’s ability to pass a physical seems remote. His chance of winning the Rumble is even more remote.
Anything Can Happen in the WWE: To quote Mick Foley, “Fairy tales can come true, they could happen to you-BUT THEY WON’T!”
1. Donald Trump: WWE Hall of Famer Donald Trump brings the unknown quantity of the U.S. Secret Service with him. Should he enter the Rumble, Superstars will be dodging bullets and tasers as “The Donald” goes for the win. Chances are he’ll be in a match with North Korea’s “Fat Boy Kim” before entering the Rumble.
2. Vince McMahon: A win here would be the ultimate abuse of power.
As the saying goes, anything can happen in the WWE but Vince McMahon is notoriously conservative when it comes to running his company. The three biggest X factors in wrestling are injuries, salacious behavior, and the WWE’s Wellness Policy (for substance abuse). A wrestler getting hurt, getting criminal charges, or getting caught with drugs (including performance enhancing drugs) could see their main event spot given to someone else (with the exception of Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns).