It’s never too early to speculate about a possible Royal Rumble winner. Here are five early favorites to earn a championship match at WrestleMania.
The weather is finally starting to cool off, and fall is in the air. That can only mean one thing: It’s almost Royal Rumble season!
Yes, as the leaves change color it’s time to start thinking about what kind of shape WrestleMania will take. And the Royal Rumble is one big piece of that.
As we begin to speculate as to who may win the Rumble in 2017, there’s a few things that must be considered. For the first time in several years, the brand extension is in full effect. And that brand extension could affect the traditional Royal Rumble prize.
Currently, WWE has two world championships – the WWE Championship on SmackDown, and the Universal Championship on Raw. With the Royal Rumble winner getting a world title match at WrestleMania, the question needs to be asked: Which title?
If a SmackDown superstar wins the match, for example, will he be able to challenge for the Universal Championship? Does the choice from years past still apply? Does the championship stay with its original brand, or does the new champion take it with him?
All of these questions and more just mean it’s harder to handicap potential winners. But that won’t stop us from trying, will it? Of course not!
Here are five early favorites to win the 2017 Royal Rumble, and go on to the main event of WrestleMania.
The big joke is that Roman Reigns is a walking title opportunity. No matter how many times he comes up short, or how many times he complains about not getting his fair chance, Reigns somehow ends up as the number one contender for a championship.
If that’s the case, why not just have him win the Royal Rumble?
His career stats in the Royal Rumble are pretty impressive. In 2014, he set the record for most eliminations in a single Rumble before making it to the final two. Reigns won the Rumble in 2015 to a chorus of boos in Philadelphia.
He failed to win the WWE Championship at WrestleMania, as Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank contract to defeat Reigns and Brock Lesnar. The Big Dog would eventually become WWE Champion, but he would lose it during the 2016 Rumble match.
Of course, Reigns was forced to enter at number 1, but he survived until the final three. Up until his suspension for a Wellness Policy violation, Reigns was in the midst of the WWE Championship picture. Since his return from the suspension, he’s been on the outside looking in of the world championship scene, but he’s challenged for the United States Championship several times.
A victory in the 2017 Rumble would be the smarks’ worst nightmare, because there’s nothing a smark hates more than Roman Reigns being shoved down his or her throat. But given his history, look, and corporate backing, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for Reigns to get another chance via the Rumble.
Here’s another one to just get out of the way early on.
The Face That Runs The Place may be in a bit of a career slump right now, but the fact is he’s John Cena. At any point, all he needs to do is eat the proverbial can of spinach and BOOM – The Champ is Here.
There’s a few more legitimate reasons beyond “he’s Cena” to consider him as a favorite for the Rumble in 2017. He’s a two time Rumble champion, having won in 2008 and 2013. There’s only one man who’s won it more than twice – Stone Cold Steve Austin (1997-98, 2001). To truly cement his legacy as the most important wrestler to come through WWE, Cena should set as many records and achieve as many accomplishments as possible.
Building off of that last point, Cena is currently a 15 time world champion. Again, he’s one shy of the record – Ric Flair is a 16 time world champion. Every time Big Match John ends up with a world title opportunity, the WWE Universe is reminded of this fact. “ONE MORE WORLD TITLE VICTORY AND CENA MATCHES FLAIR’S RECORD,” yes, we know, JBL.
It’s inevitable for the record to at least be equalled, if not surpassed. And what better way for John Cena to at very least match such a prestigious record than by winning the title at WrestleMania?
Cena has already headlined WrestleMania five times – why not once more to match Ric Flair’s record?
The current United States Champion would be an interesting choice for a Royal Rumble victory. He’s got just about everything needed to make the leap from midcard to main event.
During his first reign as US Champ, Rusev carried an undefeated streak until losing the championship. He then spent some time in the League of Nations, which didn’t really do anyone in the group any favors.
Since the League disbanded, Rusev has built himself back up into a powerhouse to be feared by all. Regaining the United States title was the first step, but the Bulgarian Brute has also shown a new more vicious side.
Not to say Rusev was holding anything back earlier in his career, lately he’s been a force to be reckoned with. The main event scene on Raw is up for grabs, so why not add Rusev to the mix?
Rusev’s history in the Royal Rumble means he’d be a threat in any future editions. In his debut Rumble in 2015, Rusev eliminated six superstars, and spent over 35 minutes in the match. We’ll just skip over his 2016 Rumble appearance, though.
As a prototypical monster heel, Rusev would be a great foil for a babyface champion. It’s unlikely that a WrestleMania main event would end with Rusev capturing a world title for the first time. But even getting to that point would establish the Bulgarian Brute as a bona fide main event star.
With Lana by his side, the sky’s the limit for Rusev. A Royal Rumble victory could elevate him even further.
In recent months, Dean Ambrose has proven that he should be a fixture in the world title picture for a long time.
After winning Money in the Bank, a successful cash-in that night earned Ambrose his first world championship. For the next several months, the Lunatic Fringe represented Raw – and later SmackDown – as WWE World Champion.
Being a former world champion means Ambrose is automatically one of the favorites in the Royal Rumble match. With the prize of the Rumble being a world title match, anyone who’s been to the top of the mountain is always hungry to get back there.
While a member of The Shield, Ambrose was considered by many to be the one destined for great things. Roman Reigns had the look, Seth Rollins had the ability, but Ambrose had the complete package. He was the only member of The Shield to hold a singles title, as he was United States Champion for nearly a year.
Between the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania in 2016, Ambrose really solidified his status as a main event star. His performance in the Rumble as the fans tried to will him to eliminate Triple H was great, even if he came up short. And his match with The Game at Roadblock was built up to the same caliber as a pay per view main event.
Winning the Royal Rumble in 2017 ensures that Ambrose stays in the world title scene. He’s proven he belongs there, so a victory isn’t out of the question.
The only thing that could slow Rollins down along the way was a freak knee injury. The severe damage sustained in what is usually a routine maneuver forced Seth to vacate the WWE Championship. Worse, he had to sit on the sidelines recovering from major surgery for several months.
Upon his return, Rollins immediately jumped back into the world championship scene, but he has come up short at every turn. Well, he did regain the title briefly, only for Dean Ambrose to out-Money in the Bank the former Mr. Money in the Bank.
Most recently, Rollins failed to win the WWE Universal Championship due to interference by Triple H. With The Game turning his back on his former protege, Rollins is forced to turn things up and do it alone.
Rollins made his debut in the Royal Rumble match in 2014, spending over 48 minutes in the match. Conditioning and stamina like that means Rollins is primed to spend a long time in thus year’s Rumble – a characteristic needed if the luck of the draw isn’t so lucky. Interestingly, 2014 was the only Rumble match Rollins has been a part of.
Winning the Rumble would put Rollins right where he wants to be – at WrestleMania, in the main event.