WWE Royal Rumble 2015: Breaking Down the Rumble Match
Sunday will see WWE will present the 28th installment of the Royal Rumble, which is a widely considered to be the second-biggest pay-per-view of the year. While the card will feature a heavily hyped WWE World Heavyweight Championship match, the Royal Rumble match has the biggest implications attached to it.
Typically occurring in the main event slot, the Royal Rumble match gives 30 Superstars the chance to headline WrestleMania with a shot at the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Given the vast number of top talent on the star-studded roster, predicting an eventual victor could be more difficult this time around than in years past.
With surprises always welcome during the Royal Rumble match, this could be one of the most shocking Rumbles in recent history. With that being said, I will attempt to break down and analyze each aspect of the upcoming contest—in addition to predicting who will end up winning.
While reading, be sure to keep in mind the following question: Who will be the one?
The Most Predictable: Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns has been seen as the next "golden boy" of WWE dating back to the Shield's arrival on the scene in late 2012, but it wasn't until recently that WWE started aggressively pushing him in singles competition.
He made strides over the summer in a feud with Randy Orton, but his progression as a top star came to an abrupt halt when he was sidelined with an injury in September. He's been struggling on the mic since his return at December's TLC event, but he's still considered a strong favorite to win the 2015 Royal Rumble.
In the past few years, the most predictable pick has always emerged victorious in the Royal Rumble. It was strongly foreshadowed that John Cena and Batista would win, and as it turned out, they did. Will Reigns be next in line?
Unlike Cena and Batista, Reigns is a fresh face and a rising star, but based off his recent promos and in-ring work, it's obvious he isn't ready for the main event at WrestleMania; he'll be a top-tier Superstar someday, but now is simply not the time.
A match pitting Reigns against Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 31 has been seemingly scheduled (h/t Wrestling Inc) for some time now, but that was before it was known Daniel Bryan could work the event.
However, predictability hasn't stopped WWE from going with who they want to win before, so Reigns winning is still very likely. That said, WWE must realize that there's a fairly good chance the fans will revolt in the same fashion they did last year when Batista came out on top in the Rumble.
The Most Logical: Daniel Bryan
It was one year ago that everyone was longing for Daniel Bryan to win the 2014 Royal Rumble. After being screwed out of the WWE Championship on several occasions in the final few months of 2013, the Rumble was the perfect place for him to finally reclaim his spot in the main event scene.
Although he never officially announced his participation in the match (he faced Bray Wyatt that same night), fans figured he'd enter anyway. When Rey Mysterio came out at No. 30, the fans in Pittsburgh rioted with chants for Bryan.
Bryan eventually did earn his way into the main event at WrestleMania 30, but only after members of the WWE Universe let their voices be heard. Ultimately, he won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at the Show of Shows, but he was forced to relinquish it a short time later due to injury.
On the December 29 edition of Raw, the Bearded One announced that he will participate in the 2015 Royal Rumble. At that moment, he instantly became the new No. 1 favorite to win it all.
Bryan's journey to winning the world title didn't culminate at WrestleMania last year; in fact, that was only the beginning. He's still due a championship rematch, given he never technically lost it, but you have to know the Authority will never grant him a title match while they're still in power.
All that said, there isn't a more fitting way for Bryan to return to title contention than with a win in the match he should have won last year. Him versus Brock Lesnar for the strap is still the money match at 'Mania, but regardless of who he faces, there is no doubt that it must be Bryan who walks out of Philadelphia as the 2015 Royal Rumble winner.
The Favorite: Dolph Ziggler
Around this time one year ago, there was a chance Dolph Ziggler wouldn't even be a part of the Royal Rumble match due to a concussion suffered earlier in the year. He ended up returning in the Rumble, but he didn't last long before being eliminated by Roman Reigns.
One year later, he is in a much higher spot on the card. He's been receiving the biggest push of his career these past few months, especially following his huge victory in the main event of Survivor Series in November.
The bleached-blonde Superstar was without a job for a short period of time after being fired by the Authority on the January 5 edition of Raw, but he has since been reinstated. He has now set his sights on winning the Royal Rumble and advancing to the main event of WrestleMania 31.
While Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns are the most likely candidates to win the Rumble, Ziggler is also considered a favorite among the fans. He's been on the rise in recent months, and a match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania would solidify him as the main event star he is destined to be.
Much like Bryan, Ziggler has the fan following to be a top-tier player in WWE, but it's up to WWE to afford him the opportunity. Regardless of whether he wins, expect the former Intercontinental champion to have a strong showing in the Rumble and last longer than most competitors, potentially from the No. 1 slot.
The Shocker: Dean Ambrose
Since splitting from the Shield, Dean Ambrose has had a very interesting time. He immediately entered a feud with Seth Rollins but lost each and every one of his encounters against his former friend.
From there, he moved into a program with Bray Wyatt, once again losing all of his matches against the former cult leader. It's put him into a precarious position going into WrestleMania season, as he doesn't have any obvious opponents for the Show of Shows at this point in time.
However, what if all these losses were leading to a win in the 2015 Royal Rumble for the Lunatic Fringe?
It's a bit far-fetched to think WWE would have a long-term plan in place for anyone besides John Cena, but there's still a chance of it happening. Ambrose is far too over with the audience right now to be underutilized going into the grandest show of the year.
He's been absent from the main event scene since Hell in a Cell, but a Rumble win would launch him back into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship picture. With the possibility of Seth Rollins walking out of the event with the title in tow, it'd be fitting for him to defend against the man who could never beat him: Dean Ambrose.
The Long Shot: Bray Wyatt
After a disappointing second half of 2014, Bray Wyatt has bounced back in a huge way in recent weeks. With several wins over archrival Dean Ambrose and a major victory over Daniel Bryan on Raw, Bray Wyatt has the most momentum out of anyone going into the Royal Rumble match.
While he'll be competing in his first Rumble match on Sunday (his one-off in the 2011 Rumble as Husky Harris doesn't count), several past Rumble winners have won the match without any prior experience. Wyatt may be the latest addition to that list if he can somehow emerge victorious in the 2015 Royal Rumble.
Despite the wave of momentum he's currently riding, there aren't many fans who see him as a legitimate threat to come out on top. However, as we've learned previously, you can never count out a competitor, especially someone with as much credibility as the former cult leader.
If Brock Lesnar ends up going full-fledged babyface on the road to WrestleMania, WWE will need more top heels to fill out the top of the roster. If a heel is going to win the Rumble, Wyatt can be considered a major candidate.
He's competed for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship just once before in his career, but it's only a matter of time before he re-enters the title picture. The odds may not be Wyatt's favor, but a victory in the Rumble isn't completely out of the question for him.
The Guilty Pleasure: Ryback
When I named Ryback my "guilty pleasure" to win last year's Royal Rumble, it was a bold claim. It was at a point in his career when he was absolutely directionless, and a win in the Rumble could have gotten him back on track.
While I'm giving this spot to Ryback for the second straight year, his chances of emerging victorious are a lot more likely this time around. He's come a long way in the last year and has found himself in the same spot he was in at the peak of his popularity two years ago.
Since returning from injury in late October, he's gradually gotten himself back over with the audience with his signature "Feed Me More" chant. His "firing" on the January 5 edition of Raw set him back a bit, but now that he's been reinstated, he'll be looking to continue running rampant on the roster, starting Sunday in the Royal Rumble match.
He and Brock Lesnar could have a heck of a match if the Beast Incarnate leaves the Rumble with his title intact. Ryback also has unfinished business with the Authority, so if it's Seth Rollins who walks away with the gold, that'd be a solid story worth telling as well.
The Big Guy has the potential to be a main event player in WWE if utilized properly, and the best time to pull the trigger on him as a world title contender is at the Royal Rumble.
The Dark Horse: Randy Orton
As previously noted, you shouldn't count anyone out when it comes to the Royal Rumble match, especially an inactive Superstar. Both Edge and John Cena returned from injury earlier than expected to claim victory in the Royal Rumble match, and Randy Orton is looking to do the same this Sunday.
Orton was taken out of commission by Seth Rollins on the November 3 edition of Raw after being exiled from the Authority. Due back to action any day now, it seems as if his long awaited return will come in the 2015 Royal Rumble match.
Before being taken off TV, the Viper was hotter than he had been in a long time, and what better way to further that momentum than win the Rumble and advance to the main event at WrestleMania? A victory in the Rumble would give him the one-on-one rematch for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship he has yet to receive.
Of course, Orton is no stranger to the Rumble match; he won it for the first time in 2009 and could join an elite few stars to win it for a second time this year. A match against Rollins at WrestleMania 31 is very likely, but there's a good chance it could be over the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
I wouldn't be a fan of seeing someone win their second Rumble for the third consecutive year, but there's no doubt Orton is a dark horse to reign supreme in this year's 30-man Battle Royal.
The Underdog: Cesaro
For someone as talented as Cesaro, it's mind boggling to think how far he has fallen in the last year. Things were looking good for him coming out of his huge win at WrestleMania 30, but it's unfortunately been downhill for him since.
After parting ways with Paul Heyman over the summer, Cesaro embarked on a lengthy losing streak before forming a tag team with Tyson Kidd. He's been without direction for the better part of the last six months, but a win in the 2015 Royal Rumble could get his career back to where it once was.
Given that he'll be competing on the Kickoff Show earlier in the evening, for him to come back later in the night and emerge victorious in the Rumble would be nothing short of surreal. No one sees him as a likely candidate to win the Rumble, which is why he'll be fighting an uphill battle if he does look to compete in the annual Battle Royal.
It's not as if Cesaro is a low-tier Superstar without any credibility; he's someone who fans are waiting to get behind. They'd be in favor of him winning the Rumble and anxious to see him collide with a fellow Paul Heyman guy Brock Lesnar over the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Even if he doesn't come out on top, it'd be sweet to see him execute his signature swing to a Superstar as they fly over the top rope and down to ringside.
The Most Intriguing: Rusev
Over the last nine months, Rusev has run roughshod over everyone who has stepped foot in his path of destruction. He even unseated Sheamus as United States champion in early November and has held the star-spangled prize hostage ever since.
Needless to say, he'll be a force to be reckoned with in Sunday's Royal Rumble match.
Remember, it was last year in the Rumble match that the WWE Universe got their first glimpse at the Bulgarian Brute. He left a lasting impression during his time in the matchup, setting the stage for his official arrival on the main roster in April.
Given the long list of Superstars he's defeated since his debut, it's apparent Rusev is on the cusp of the main event scene. A match against John Cena at WrestleMania has been heavily rumored (h/t Wrestling Inc) for many months now, and a match against Ryback might also be likely.
However, if Brock Lesnar turns babyface sooner rather than later and walks out of Philadelphia with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship around his waist, a match with Rusev at WrestleMania would be massive—both literally and figuratively.
It'd give Lesnar the chance to end an undefeated streak for the second straight year, and Rusev would be cemented as a star simply being in the same ring as the Beast Incarnate. Of everyone involved in the 2015 Rumble match, Rusev is the most intriguing pick of them all.
The Quick Elimination: Bo Dallas
Every year in the Royal Rumble match, there's always one Superstar who gets tossed out almost immediately, usually someone the entire locker room despises. No one fits that role better than Bo Dallas.
He came a long way as a talent from the moment he debuted in NXT to when he dropped the NXT Championship in February 2014, reigning as champion for a whopping 280 days before being called up to the main roster last spring.
After embarking on an undefeated streak for a few months, Dallas' momentum was cut short when he suffered his first loss at the hands of R-Truth on the July 28 edition of Raw. He was directionless for the remainder of the year before getting sidelined with an injury that has kept him out of action since November.
The original timetable for his in-ring return was six to eight weeks, meaning it's very likely we could see him on Sunday. However, if he does opt to enter the 2015 Royal Rumble, don't expect him to last too long.
Before getting injured, the former NXT champion was an annoyance to every Superstar he stepped in the ring with, regardless of whether they were face or heel. It'd only make sense for him to be thrown over the top rope immediately after entering the ring a la Muhammad Hassan in 2005.
The Legends to Look Forward To: The Dudley Boyz
The best part about the Royal Rumble match is that you never know who might show up. You could see a Superstar returning from injury, a Diva or even a legend making a comeback after a long layoff.
The Royal Rumble has played host to some of hottest returns in history, including John Cena in 2008, Edge in 2010 and Chris Jericho in 2013. We're definitely due for another electric comeback in this year's Rumble, but from who?
The most obvious choices, CM Punk and Kurt Angle, are both out of the question. Punk joined UFC in December and Angle recently re-signed with TNA, so there is zero no chance we see them on Sunday.
However, there have been rumors (h/t Wrestling Inc) that the Dudley Boyz could be making an appearance in the 2015 Rumble. The event will be held in ECW country after all, so a return from the former WWE Tag Team champions essentially writes itself.
It's been almost a decade since we last saw Bubba Ray and D-Von in a WWE ring after they left for TNA in late 2005. Now that they're no longer under contract to the Nashville-based organization, the timing is right for them to make a return.
The NXT Call-Up: Adrian Neville
For the last two years, members of the WWE Universe have been treated to not only familiar faces making a return but also young up-and-comers arriving on the scene.
In 2013, Bo Dallas won an NXT-exclusive tournament to earn the right to participate in the Royal Rumble match. He lasted well over 20 minutes and even eliminated Intercontinental champion Bad News Barrett.
The following year, it was Rusev who made his debut in the Rumble match, laying waste to everyone that was in the ring at the moment he entered. Although his time in the match was brief, it set the stage for the impressive undefeated streak he later embarked on.
There's been a lot of speculation as to who will be the one to get the call-up to the main roster in the Rumble this year. With the NXT roster loaded with more talent than ever before, there's a lot of potential candidates to consider.
Sami Zayn is an obvious choice, but it'd be smart to keep him down in NXT for a little while longer while he reigns as NXT champion. It'd also be too early for the likes of Kevin Owens, Finn Balor and Hideo Itami, who have all debuted on NXT within the last few months.
That leaves Adrian Neville, who has been main-roster ready for quite a while now. An amazing acrobat, he'd definitely leave a lasting impression his first night in, and the boundaries are limitless for what he could accomplish in a Rumble match.
Like Rusev, he wouldn't even need to become a Raw regular until after WrestleMania, but a spot in the Royal Rumble would give fans a small taste of what they're in for when he officially arrives.
The Teaser: Sting
It's not often that we get "teasers" in the Royal Rumble match, but it isn't completely unheard of, either. We were teased with the possibility of a returning Undertaker entering the 2004 Royal Rumble match, but it never came to fruition.
If something similar was to happen this year, it'd be fitting for that person to be Sting; he made his latest appearance on this past week's Raw, once again thwarting the Authority's plans and aiding John Cena in victory.
While it's still unclear as to what Sting's motives are, he could very well be after the WWE World Heavyweight Championship for all we know. Participating in the Royal Rumble match could help him secure a spot in the main event of WrestleMania, only to be stopped by one of the Authority's henchmen.
However, Sting still has yet to wrestle his first official WWE match, so it's unlikely it would be in the Royal Rumble since WWE would want to hype it up in advance. Regardless, there's always the off-chance his music hits and he appears at the top of the stage, long enough to let Big Show, Kane or a member of the Authority get eliminated from the match.
The chances we see Sting on Sunday are slim, but if we do, involvement in the Royal Rumble would be incredibly intriguing, to say the least.
The Comeback Star: Rey Mysterio
As noted, the Royal Rumble match is the perfect place to make a return, but you don't have to be a WWE legend or Hall of Famer to do so. You can simply be a Superstar coming back from injury wanting to make an impact.
In last year's Royal Rumble Breakdown, I dedicated this category to Sheamus, who ultimately did make a return in the Rumble and lasted until the final three. It'd be easy to once again name Sheamus as the Superstar we see return on Sunday, but it seems he may not be ready to return from injury just yet.
Therefore, Rey Mysterio would be a perfect replacement for him as the "comeback star" in the 2015 Royal Rumble.
Last seen on Raw the night after WrestleMania 30, Mysterio has been absent from WWE programming with a wrist injury. He's also had contract disputes with the company that have disallowed him from returning sooner, though it's rumored (h/t Wrestle Zone) he wants out.
Since he'll be under contract with them at least through the spring, they might as well utilize him on TV and give him the last run he deserves. A return in the Rumble would allow him to work WrestleMania season before having one final match at the Show of Shows.
As long as he isn't given the No. 30 spot again, Mysterio would be well-received by the Philadelphia crowd as a surprise entrant in the 2015 Royal Rumble.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is a journalism major at Endicott College. Visit his website at Next Era Wrestling and like his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.