The anticipation of Sunday’s Royal Rumble has reached a fever pitch.
Only a few hours remain until WWE reveals critical pieces of its long-term plans for 2020, as the winners of the women’s and men’s Royal Rumble matches will set in motion two high-profile title matches at WrestleMania 36 and setting up other feuds in the rest of the matches on the card.
Evaluating the odds for this year’s Rumble appears to be relatively simple. Roman Reigns is the favorite to win for the men and Shayna Baszler is the favorite for the women, according to Bovada. (The full odds are at the bottom of this page.)
But will it really be that predictable?
Full match card
- Men’s Royal Rumble match
- Women’s Royal Rumble match
- WWE Universal Championship match: “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Daniel Bryan (strap match)
- WWE Raw Women’s Championship match: Becky Lynch (c) vs. Asuka (with Kairi Sane)
- WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship match: Bayley (c) vs. Lacey Evans
- Roman Reigns vs. King Corbin (falls count anywhere match)
- Shorty G vs. Sheamus
- WWE United States Championship match: Andrade (c) vs. Humberto Carillo
With the pay-per-view fast approaching, let’s look at the potential for winners, losers and surprises.
WWE must address the Daniel Bryan question
First and foremost is Daniel Bryan.
Bryan challenges Universal champion Bray Wyatt in a match he is destined to lose. There is too much at stake in Wyatt’s title reign for it to end now, as he has yet to even scratch the surface of his “Fiend” character as champ. But Wyatt’s big matches have a history of being underwhelming, so this will be a critical encounter with Bryan, even if we already know how the match will end.
WWE needs to make one of two decisions: Either have this match take place after the men’s Rumble, or have Wyatt decimate Bryan to the point where it definitively ends any and all speculation that he will be a surprise entry in the Rumble.
Fans have been unsuccessfully calling for Bryan to win the Rumble since 2014. If there are no plans for Bryan to be in the Rumble, then WWE needs to clearly define that at some point during the show.
Will crossover MMA stars make an impact?
WWE champion Brock Lesnar is the number one entry into the men’s Rumble.
This is a smart move by Vince McMahon and Co., since the man who throws Lesnar over the top rope and eliminates him instantly becomes a new challenger for Lesnar’s title. And the person most likely to do that is Cain Velasquez.
Velasquez signed a lucrative deal with WWE this fall but has been off-camera since he was booked to lose to Lesnar by submission in less than three minutes at the Crown Jewel show in Saudi Arabia on October 31.
Velasquez needed time to rehab injuries and learn WWE’s in-ring style, which is what he has been doing for the past two months. A return at the Rumble, and subsequent elimination of Lesnar, will build to a high-profile match between the two at WrestleMania.
On the subject of MMA stars, two of the favorites for the women’s Rumble are Shayna Baszler and Ronda Rousey.
In terms of long-term storytelling, the best choice is Baszler. Her 416-day run with the NXT title came to an end in December when she dropped the title to Rhea Ripley. As a two-time NXT champion and standard-bearer of the division, Baszler has accomplished what she set out to do and exceeded that, but now needs a new challenge and new opponents. The best place for that is on Raw opposite Becky Lynch.
Baszler has unfinished business with Lynch dating back to November’s Survivor Series, where they were part of the main event in a triple threat that also included Bayley. The finish saw Baszler make Bayley tap, so the story between Baszler and Lynch remains unresolved. That match came off as disjointed and never hit its stride, so it is possible that there are hesitations regarding whether to main-event WrestleMania 36 with a headline of Lynch-Baszler. But a match that can certainly headline ’Mania is Lynch against Ronda Rousey.
Even if Rousey’s return is brief, the feud can transition back to Lynch-Baszler after Rousey leaves. There are few stars in the world that draw mainstream attention quite like Rousey, and she adds a believability and legitimacy to any match in which she is involved.
If Rousey returns, she should dominate and win the Rumble, then call out Lynch for a match at WrestleMania.
Sasha Banks would be a breath of fresh air
Charlotte Flair also has an outside chance of winning the Rumble.
Flair and Becky Lynch are the alpha and omega of the entire division, but some separation would be best for them. As great as both are, WWE is running the risk of having the two wrestle each other too often.
Instead of Flair, an option for a WrestleMania match against Lynch should be Sasha Banks, who would be an incredible antagonist to the beloved Lynch. Banks does not garner the mainstream attention of Rousey, but in her defense, no one else does, either.
With Flair having been distanced from the title picture over the past three months, Banks would be a great surprise choice to win the Rumble.
Are any big surprises in store?
Surprises are an integral and important part of the Rumble.
Two names that have been rumored for the Rumble are Paige and Edge. With the exception of CM Punk, Edge would be the biggest possible star to return. Mike Johnson of PWInsider has been on top of any potential of Edge news, and he also reported that Naomi, Nia Jax and Ruby Riott will all be on-hand for the show, meaning all three of them could return in the Rumble.
Where would Edge fit in today’s WWE current landscape? He would certainly add to the draw of WrestleMania 36, and WWE could use him as a modern-day Roddy Piper. In 1989, as Piper began winding down his full-time career, his “Piper’s Pit” talk show segment served as the perfect way to build to new matches. The extremely charismatic Edge could add a lot to WWE programming in a similar role.
A return by Cain Velasquez, and subsequent elimination of Brock Lesnar, would also be significant. But do wrestling fans want to see Lesnar-Velasquez at Mania? WWE will have a few months to make that work.
As backwards as this sounds, CM Punk returning here would be bad business for WWE. A surprise appearance would limit the significance that should be attached to his in-ring return to the company.
Punk’s final in-ring appearance for WWE took place at the infamous 2014 Rumble, won by Batista. That was the night the crowd was hungry for Daniel Bryan to have his Rumble moment, but he was not even included in the match—and the crowd in Pittsburgh voiced its displeasure by booing the 30th participant, legendary babyface Rey Mysterio, upon learning Bryan would not be part of the match.
Punk suffered a concussion in that Rumble, which led to some fascinating testimony during his 2018 trial after WWE doctor Chris Amann filed a defamation lawsuit against him. Punk was concussed in that Rumble after getting hit by a clothesline from Kofi Kingston. While in his concussed state, he refused to come out of the match. He was finally eliminated by Kane, who was sent to the ring to make sure Punk exited the match.
In a 2018 interview with Sports Illustrated, Punk commented that discussing a Royal Rumble match under oath in front of a courtroom was similar to being trapped inside a Twilight Zone episode.
“The Twilight Zone is a good way to put it,” said Punk. “That would have been about the time I starting doing my best to not cry on the stand. I was forced to watch myself get a concussion over and over again. It really, really sucked.”
If Punk ever returns, that moment deserves an incredible build-up with a long runway, much more than just a surprise Rumble entry.
Another part of Rumble lore is who lasts the longest in the match (“The Model” Rick Martel seemed to always shine in this department) and who can accumulate the most eliminations.
Keith Lee and Rhea Ripley are my picks for most eliminations, though Brock Lesnar is an obvious choice since he is entering first. My choices for longest time spent in the ring are Sasha Banks and Drew McIntyre.
Speaking of in-ring time, it will be interesting to watch Lesnar. Known for making only a few appearances and working short matches, Lesnar’s endurance will be tested as he should be in the Rumble for at least 40 minutes.
As for the winners, I’ll start with Roman Reigns.
The only other plausible choice is Drew McIntyre, but it isn’t his time just yet. WWE has done a tremendous job priming Reigns for a title run since his return from leukemia. Winning the Rumble puts him in the position to dethrone “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania 36.
Shayna Baszler is my other pick to win—unless Ronda Rousey returns, in which case there is no better choice.
Rousey and WWE make a great pairing. She would fit in perfectly on SmackDown, with her presence on the show pleasing Fox executives, and she would instantly add a main-event match to WrestleMania 36.
How to watch
Date: Sunday, Jan. 26
Start time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Minute Maid Park, Houston
Live stream: WWE Network
Men’s Royal Rumble
- Roman Reigns -350
- Brock Lesnar +200
- Drew McIntyre +450
- Cain Velasquez +550
- CM Punk +600
- Edge +750
- Kevin Owens +900
- Bray Wyatt +1500
- Daniel Bryan +1800
- Finn Balor +1800
- Keith Lee +1800
- Aleister Black +2500
- Braun Strowman +2500
- John Cena +2800
- Tyson Fury +3000
- AJ Styles +3300
- Ricochet +3500
- Tommaso Ciampa +3500
- Randy Orton +4000
- Samoa Joe +4000
- Seth Rollins +4000
- Andrade +4500
- Big E +4500
- The Rock +4500
- Kofi Kingston +5000
- Lars Sullivan +5000
- Matt Riddle +5000
- Adam Cole +5000
- Rey Mysterio +5000
- Rusev +5000
- The Miz +5000
- Baron Corbin +6600
- Mustafa Ali +7000
- Velveteen Dream +7000
- Bobby Lashley +10000
- Dolph Ziggler +10000
Women’s Royal Rumble
- Shayna Baszler -500
- Charlotte Flair +200
- Sasha Banks +800
- Ronda Rousey +950
- Rhea Ripley +1500
- Lacey Evans +2000
- Kairi Sane +2400
- Becky Lynch +3000
- Nikki Cross +3000
- Alexa Bliss +3500
- Liv Morgan +3500
- Nia Jax +3500
- AJ Lee +4000
- Ruby Riott +4000
- Asuka +4500
- Bayley +4500
- Carmella +4500
- Mandy Rose +4500
- Paige +4500
- Sonya Deville +5500
- Io Shirai +5500
- Candice LeRae +6500
- Dana Brooke +6500