The greatest betting event in professional wrestling officially rings the starting bell on WWE’s road to Wrestlemania, as 30 male and 30 female stars compete for a spot in the main event at the ‘showcase of the immortals’ in the 37th annual Royal Rumble.
The rules are simple. Two wrestlers start in the ring, with another entering the match every 90 seconds. Eliminations occur when a competitor is thrown over the top rope and both feet touch the floor, with the last person standing crowned the winner.
With a match against a WWE champion of their choosing in the main event at Wrestlemania at stake, there promises to be high drama and more than a few surprises on route to crowing a men’s and women’s winner this year. We preview the action and assess the contenders below.
Men’s Royal Rumble
The Favourite – CM Punk
Although the Royal Rumble is synonymous with surprises, these tend to come in the form of wrestlers making surprise returns from injury or superstars of the past returning for one night only. With some notable exceptions, it’s fairly rare that the winner is a complete shock, with both the men’s and women’s Rumbles being won by the betting favourites (Cody Rhodes and Rhea Ripley) last year for example. With that in mind, it’s fair to discount some of the bigger-priced contenders in both markets and focus mostly on the betting favourites.
At the top of the market in the men’s match is CM Punk (4/7). A true fan-favourite, his recent return from a near 10-year hiatus from WWE after a particularly public falling-out with the company broke all their social media engagement records. As a result, he’s riding the crest of a wave of fan support and the Rumble will be his first televised match since returning to the company.
Much of Punk’s story, both now and before his absence, focused on his desire to headline Wrestlemania, something he’s never done before. He also clashed with World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins on a recent edition of Monday Night Raw, setting up a potential future clash. His storyline route to glory here is pretty strong, the stars have aligned for him to finally take his place at the top of a Wrestlemania card and he’s favourite here for a reason.
Will anyone be able to stand in CM Punk’s way? Well, there are a few other names in the market that could logically see their hand raised.
Cody Rhodes (9/4) won this event last year, before losing his Wrestlemania title match to current Undisputed Universal Champion Roman Reigns. The son of legendary wrestler Dusty Rhodes, Cody’s storyline is centred on him becoming the first member of his family to win a WWE world championship and ‘finishing his story.’
It has long been mooted that Cody will once again face Reigns for the title at Wrestlemania this year, but there are other ways this could come together without Rhodes winning consecutive Royal Rumbles. It could well happen but approach this price with caution.
Another man rumoured to be in line to face Reigns at this year’s Wrestlemania is Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (6/1). The two men are real-life cousins, sons of wrestling’s famous Anoa’i family, with Johnson teasing a potential clash between the two during a surprise recent appearance on Raw.
All of this, plus Johnson’s increasingly close relationship with WWE (he recently joined the board of their parent company, TKO) make him potential value to win the Rumble at 6/1. However, put simply, The Rock is a made man and can walk into any WWE main event with little to no questions asked. Punk or Rhodes would benefit a lot more from seeing their hand raised on Saturday night and Dwayne has another easy storyline path to the main event should WWE need it.
Women’s Royal Rumble
The Favourite – Bayley
Another performer who is a firm crowd favourite, Bayley has been acting in a heel role over recent months (a ‘bad guy’ for any non-wrestling fans that are somehow still reading) as leader of the Damage CTRL faction. Her spot as a 1/1 shot at the top of the market is likely for two central reasons.
The first is that her storyline seems to be pointing towards a big match with current WWE Women’s Champion, Iyo Sky. Although the two are currently allies as members of Damage CTRL, recent TV broadcasts have positioned Bayley as growing increasingly isolated from the group, with it seeming to be just a matter of time before the group turns on her. Perhaps Bayley’s win on Saturday night becomes the catalyst for Iyo and the rest of Damage CTRL to finally turn against her and set-up a Wrestlemania grudge-match for the title.
The second reason is that fans and observers alike feel that Bayley is well-overdue her flowers. She played a central role in WWE’s women’s revolution as one of a number of female wrestlers who’s fantastic in-ring ability helped to see the women’s division presented as equal to the men’s division by WWE. In recent years Bayley has also helped to establish other female talents such as Iyo Sky and Dakota Kai, endearing her to fans even more. Bayley deserves her big moment and a Wrestlemania main event.
So will Bayley win the Royal Rumble? It would make a lot of sense. But there’s one at a slightly bigger price that might be worth a look at…
Already firmly established as one of WWE’s top stars, Becky Lynch (5/2) has had a reasonably quiet year by her lofty standards. She’s a former Royal Rumble winner, and therefore a former Wrestlemania main-eventer, as well as a former six-time world champion. But there’s a lot of ‘former’ in that sentence and wrestling is all about the here and now.
Lynch has been away from the title conversation all-year but a Wrestlemania showdown with current Women’s World Champion Rhea Ripley has been touted for months, with WWE fanning these flames by having the two enter into a verbal duel on the January 15th episode of RAW.
As much as Iyo Sky vs Bayley is a good Wrestlemania main event, Ripley v Lynch is more of the calibre WWE looks to book for their premier event. No female wrestler has won the Royal Rumble twice and with the glass-ceilings she’s shattered in her career thus far, it wouldn’t be surprising for Becky Lynch to smash this one too.
A few others worth a mention are newly-signed Jade Cargill (6/1) who is yet to make an in-ring appearance since joining from rival promotion, AEW. Sasha Banks (also known as Mercedes Moné) (12/1) would likely be a shorter price if she were a WWE employee, rather than a free agent. Keep your eye on her price over the next few days, if rumours start to grow about her making a surprise return this could shorten. If she’s in the match, there’s a real chance she could win.
BACK CM Punk to win Men’s Royal Rumble 1pt at 4/7 (⭐
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BACK Becky Lynch to win Women’s Royal Rumble 1pt at 5/2 (⭐
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