Cody Rhodes Predictability Is Good and More Bold Takes for WWE Royal Rumble
WWE kicks off its Road to WrestleMania 39 Saturday night at the Royal Rumble, a fan-favorite pay-per-view that has a long history of surprises, momentum-building performances and iconic moments.
We already know Cody Rhodes will return in the men's Rumble match and is instantly the favorite to win it. Unlike in years past, though, that predictability is a good thing.
Ahead of the first WWE PPV of 2023, let's dive deeper into a victory for The American Nightmare and more with these bold takes for the show at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Cody Rhodes Wins and It's Absolutely the Right Call
Cody Rhodes suffered a torn pectoral muscle last May and has since worked toward a singular goal: Return at the Royal Rumble, win the men's match and earn a shot at the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship at WrestleMania 39.
It is a story fans have watched play out in video packages in recent weeks ahead of his comeback, and it's one that should commence with The American Nightmare outlasting 29 other Superstars come Saturday night in Texas.
It is a predictable tale, but it's also one that makes sense.
Rhodes has stated from day one what his motivation for returning was, but he was derailed by injury. Now that he's back, he can refocus on the job at hand and set himself up for a WrestleMania main event with the win.
In years past, fans have rejected predictability, such as when WWE forced Roman Reigns and Batista on them as the obvious favorites to win the men's Rumble. The difference between those two and Rhodes is that they were on TV every week leading up to the event.
The former All Elite Wrestling executive vice president is making a triumphant return, which has been a focal point of the build for the show as a whole. There will be excitement and anticipation for his entry in the match, making it a different atmosphere than the one his fellow Superstars endured in the mid-2010s.
Given the rest of the field, and assuming the creative team does not do something asinine like entering the wildly popular Sami Zayn into the match, the crowd will be behind Rhodes and greet his victory with the reaction it deserves.
Raquel Rodriguez Goes the Distance But Comes Up Just Short
It is clear that WWE officials love Raquel Rodriguez.
The 32-year-old has been presented as a breakout star and, more importantly, protected creatively. Even when she loses, it happens in a way in which she is either cheated or puts up a lengthy fight before succumbing to an injury suffered backstage at the hands of her opponent.
Rodriguez almost never loses straight-up and has won far more than she has lost since arriving on the main roster in April 2022.
In her home state of Texas come Saturday night, she will enjoy a breakout performance.
Don't be surprised if she enters the women's Rumble early on, likely in the first 10, and lasts all the way until the final handful of competitors. She might even be the last woman eliminated by the eventual winner.
Either way, Rodriguez is someone Triple H and WWE Creative have carefully booked. Look for them to make an emphatic statement about how they view her when she takes on the role of the Iron Woman of the women's Rumble.
LA Knight Spoils Bray Wyatt's In-Ring Return
Let me talk to ya.
LA Knight is going to beat Bray Wyatt Saturday night and wreck the former WWE and universal champion's return to the squared circle.
Knight catchphrases aside, there is reason to believe the former NXT star is going to upset Wyatt and earn the biggest win of his career to date.
Wyatt has been dominant in this rivalry, consistently getting the better of his rival all the way up to Monday's Raw, where he and The Undertaker left the loudmouth villain lying. It has been a one-sided program that would doom Knight if he lost decisively in San Antonio.
Furthermore, there is the X-factor that is Uncle Howdy.
He did not make his presence felt at Raw, but he has been a major player in the program and likely will appear in some form or fashion Saturday night.
The Pitch Black gimmick is the perfect setting for that to happen and would present a scenario in which Wyatt becomes distracted by this entity he has attempted to fend off, allowing Knight to score the tainted victory.
Is that the most effective booking? Probably not. Wyatt should win in his first match back, if only because the above scenario is the kind of booking that helped lead to his WWE departure in 2021 in the first place.
Yet, Knight is fairly over as a heel, and sacrificing him to be gobbled up by Wyatt feels like a mistake.
He wins here, Wyatt continues toward a showdown with Howdy, and the creative team look for ways to avoid the similar booking traps that plagued The Eater of Worlds during his previous runs.
Rhea Ripley Becomes Rare Heel Rumble Winner
Charlotte Flair was sort of a babyface when she won the 2020 women's Rumble match so the argument can be made that Rhea Ripley would make WWE history as the first heel to win if she has her arm raised on Saturday night.
Which, she absolutely will.
The Nightmare has been a breakout star, using The Judgment Day to become one of the most intriguing characters on Raw. She is physically dominant, has a great look and has found comfort in that persona.
More importantly, Ripley has been the subject of several teases with Raw women's champion Bianca Belair for a future title program, almost as if it has been known for months that is the direction WWE Creative wants to go with the red brand title at WrestleMania 39.
Considering the 26-year-old was the last woman eliminated from the women's Rumble in 2021, it would be appropriate for her to channel her momentum into winning this year's match and setting up a showdown with The EST of WWE on wrestling's grandest stage.
Ripley has spent her entire WWE career trying to find herself. She has done that as the dominant Mami of The Judgment Day, and now she can channel her efforts into achieving in-ring glory and winning a second title on The Grandest Stage of Them All.
This difference? This time, she is ready for it.
Gunther Dominates With Most Eliminations
Gunther has been one of the greatest benefactors of the Triple H regime, finally being treated like the unbeatable force he was as WALTER during his time in NXT UK.
Look for that roll to continue Saturday night when he not only enters the men's Rumble, but also becomes the most dominant competitor in it.
A match that will likely feature Brock Lesnar, Bobby Lashley and Omos will see The Ring General claim the most eliminations.
Those eliminations will include The Beast Incarnate, setting in motion one of the fiercest showdowns for the WrestleMania 39 stage.
Fans already buy Gunther as a top-tier competitor because Triple H and WWE Creative have treated him as such. A strong showing in the men's Rumble will only help with that, especially if the Lesnar scenario plays out.