For the first time in recent memory, the potential winner of the Royal Rumble match is so far up in the air. The WWE is in a good predicament in terms of where they can go booking wise with whomever is victorious in the 30-man battle royal. The past few years the outcome has been fairly predictable, but this year there are numerous superstars who could potentially win and guarantee a main event match at WrestleMania 33. There will sure to be twists, turns, surprises and debuts in the Alamo Dome. In no particular order, here are five candidates who could win and how it would impact WrestleMania 33.
A Royal Rumble victory is the only thing missing from the Hall of Fame resume of Y2J. This could be the catalyst for a feud with Jericho’s best friend, Kevin Owens. The breakup was teased weeks ago, but it was all a scheme by the best friends. A lot of attention will be paid to Jericho earlier in the night as he will be suspended above the ring inside a shark cage during Owens’ Universal Championship defense against Roman Reigns. Eventually these two will have to go their separate ways and Jericho winning the Rumble to set up a WrestleMania showdown for the title (should Owens retain) would be pure money.
If Balor is healthy and cleared, this would be the perfect time to bring him back. Winning the Rumble would be a great way to return and earn a match for the championship he never lost. He had to relinquish the belt a night after defeating Seth Rollins at SummerSlam last year. No matter who is the Universal Champion heading into WrestleMania, the story is already written. Balor can cut promos saying for the last four-five months, he has been training extra hard to be cleared for the Rumble so he can have a shot at reclaiming his belt. The roof of the Alamo Dome would blow off if he were to return and enter the Rumble.
It has been rumored that the Royal Rumble could be when Samoa Joe makes the jump from NXT to Raw or Smackdown Live. He is beyond ready and it would be a nice surprise entrant. He could come in a clear house, show off his power, and even have showdowns with the who’s who in the WWE. If you aren’t familiar with the work of Joe, or have only witnessed his NXT run, do yourself a favor and YouTube his work from ROH and TNA. He has a history with AJ Styles and the two would put on a great match on the grandest stage of them all. A match with John Cena has been a dream match for the past decade and a match at WrestleMania between the two could be huge for Joe.
Regardless of how old The Undertaker is or how good (or bad) his health actually is; he is still a top draw. Despite his WrestleMania streak not being intact, his match at Mania is still a big-time attraction. If John Cena heads into WrestleMania as the WWE World Champion (which he would tie Ric Flair’s 16 championship reigns) it could finally set up the match fans have been wanting for years. The story could be career versus title and that would be a huge draw. It was rumored that Undertaker could face AJ Styles at the Royal Rumble, but that obviously isn’t the case. A match between the two at WrestleMania would be great as Styles is one of the very best the business has to offer.
The big man is a monster and is picking up the nuances of inside the squared circle rather quickly. He is a believable monster who is powerful, but also very agile for his size. If Strowman is the winner, Roman Reigns would likely have to be the champion heading into Mania. This would be the perfect match for the two and could even be a match without a championship at stake.
The Miz had arguably the best year of any WWE superstar in 2016, so it would be fitting if he was rewarded for his performances. He is the ultimate heel and would be a perfect foe for Cena, should he win. Even if Miz doesn’t win, he should come out to Daniel Bryan’s music, to get even more heat from the crowd. Baron Corbin also had a great 2016 and is a heel who doesn’t care about the “cool heel” reception. He is true to his character both inside and outside of the ring. Sami Zayn had to defeat Seth Rollins to gain entry into the Royal Rumble match. If he wins, he could play the perfect underdog, especially if Stephanie McMahon keeps throwing obstacles in his way. A match at WrestleMania against his former best friend Kevin Owens would be a great story and add in a match for the championship would add even more depth to the story.
Since Brock Lesnar is likely to face Goldberg at WrestleMania, those two cancel each other out by process of elimination, so it is unlikely either win the Rumble.
Expect to see Tye Dillinger to come in at the No. 10 spot as his gimmick is the “Perfect 10.” Don’t be surprised if recently announced Hall of Fame inductee Kurt Angle makes his return to the WWE in the Royal Rumble match. There will probably be other surprise entrants and that is part of what makes the Royal Rumble such a fun match.