Royal Rumble 2021: A New Hope
By Ryan Satin
FOX Sports WWE analyst
Can you believe it’s already time for the Royal Rumble?
Yes, one year ago, a stadium full of fans was cheering for Drew McIntyre and Charlotte Flair as they captured the 2020 Rumble matches to receive title shots of their choosing at WrestleMania.
You all know how it went from there, though.
The world shut down not long after due to the pandemic, and WrestleMania was forced to undergo a change of scenery. An event that was supposed to take place in front of more than 60,000 fans at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, instead happened in a warehouse known as the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, without one fan in the building.
Well, maybe one fan. That really big one on the ceiling.
Nonetheless, it was in stark contrast to the usual spectacle people had come to expect from the event. For many fans, the announcement that WrestleMania was relocating also served as a harsh reality check of what was to come in the next year.
I know, personally, this was when the whole thing finally felt real. The worried text messages from my mom telling me to stock up on groceries suddenly seemed like something I needed to take seriously.
Oh, how I wish I had listened to her text messages about toilet paper.
Anyway, WWE eventually adapted in the face of the pandemic, with the addition of the ThunderDome, and now fans are on the verge of returning at WrestleMania 37 – which will actually take place at Raymond James Stadium this year.
The reason I mention all of this is because the 2021 Royal Rumble, Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on the WWE Network, isn’t just the beginning of the usual "Road to WrestleMania."
In a small way, because fans will be back for the first time at "The Show of Shows" in March, it feels like the beginning of our lives returning to some sort of normal.
I realize we still have a ways to go before we’re out of this, and I’m probably sounding way too optimistic here, but vaccines are rolling out, businesses are safely reopening as much as possible, and it feels like we’re starting to get closer to the finish line.
Fans returning in a safe manner, even if it’s just one night for now, gives me hope that we’re not all going to be stuck inside forever. I miss human interaction, and it will be nice to see some of it between wrestlers and fans on WWE TV in a few months.
Therefore, in turn, I’m eager to see who will win both Royal Rumble matches this year so we can officially start the Road to WrestleMania.
Without fans in attendance to determine who is truly over right now, though, it’s difficult to predict whom the company will put in the headlining matches at WrestleMania.
Will WWE take a chance on someone new?
Will they repeat some of what they intended to accomplish with last year’s show, now that fans will be there?
Will they surprise us with something unexpected?
The Royal Rumble match winners are my favorite thing to predict under normal circumstances each year, but all these factors in 2021 make this even more interesting. Because of this, I broke my predictions into three categories.
— Who I want to win
— Who I think will win
—The wild-card options
Let’s start with the women.
Who I want to win: Bianca Belair
I agree with the general consensus among most of the online wrestling crowd. Bianca Belair should win the 2021 Women’s Royal Rumble match.
After a breakout performance in last year’s Rumble, Bianca has continued to show she’s a star on NXT, Raw and SmackDown. Now is the time to pull the trigger on shooting her to the top.
Winning the Royal Rumble and going on to main event WrestleMania can make someone overnight.
WWE shouldn’t feel the need to polish Belair before giving her that opportunity. Two years of waiting around will only diminish her potential star power.
Give Bianca the ball, and let her run with it ASAP. The reward will far outweigh the risk if they put the machine behind her.
Who I think will win: Charlotte Flair or Bayley
As badly as I want Bianca to win the Royal Rumble, I have to recognize that a WrestleMania main event is a big honor that might go to someone more established.
Bayley had the feud of the year with Sasha Banks in 2020, without fans in attendance for any of their matches, so one more between them in front of a stadium full of people kind of seems necessary.
As for Charlotte, her big Royal Rumble win was diminished last year when she was forced to challenge for the NXT Women’s title in front of zero people afterward.
Whatever the original story they had planned, things clearly changed at some point, and Charlotte was written off TV a few months later to undergo a procedure.
Now that she’s back, it wouldn’t surprise me to see WWE make last year’s win feel more meaningful by making Charlotte a two-time Royal Rumble winner.
Wild card: Ronda Rousey
Remember when I questioned if WWE could pull off something unexpected? This is what I had in mind.
Ronda Rousey has seemed to be training these past few months, and my wrestling brain hopes it’s for an inevitable return.
You can hate on me all you want for saying this, but I’ve missed seeing "The Baddest Woman on the Planet" on WWE TV.
If she were to return at Royal Rumble to set up a WrestleMania match, I certainly wouldn’t be mad about it.
As for the men's match ...
Who I want to win: Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan vs. Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 37 makes all the sense in the world.
The story has been slowly building for a while, and Bryan is the perfect foe for "The Head of the Table" at such a big event.
Daniel’s specialty is making his opponents look like a million bucks, and Roman needs to have the best WrestleMania match of his career this year to show that he isn’t the one-trick pony fans used to think he was.
I have no doubt Daniel is the guy to give him that match.
The thought of these two finally facing off again at the first show in more than a year with fans sounds like a no-brainer. The electricity in the building would be off the charts with these two on opposite sides of the ring.
Who I think will win: The loser of Drew McIntyre vs. Goldberg on Sunday at the Royal Rumble
Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is Goldberg.
If Goldberg is unable to defeat Drew McIntyre for the WWE title on Sunday, I fear he will then enter himself in the Royal Rumble and win the match – and go on to challenge Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship (like he was supposed to do last year).
If Goldberg does defeat Drew McIntyre for the WWE Championship — gulp — I think Drew will enter himself in the Rumble match after, win and go on to challenge the 54-year-old former WCW star for the WWE Championship in a rematch at WrestleMania.
Either way, Goldberg’s track record in recent years makes it hard to not factor him into my WrestleMania thought process.
Wild card: Brock Lesnar
The less realistic option here is Brock Lesnar returning in the Royal Rumble match and winning. I like this option a lot.
Lesnar has reason to go after both top titleholders in WWE.
Drew McIntyre embarrassed him at WrestleMania last year and caused "The Beast" to go into hibernation. Meanwhile, Roman Reigns is in possession of his advocate now, and we don’t really know where Brock stands on the matter.
If he were to oppose the pairing, a match between Roman (as a heel) and Brock (as a face) would be a fantastic main event for WrestleMania 37.
Do you agree with these predictions?
Tag me on social media @RyanSatin, and tell me who you think will win the Royal Rumble matches this year.