WWE Royal Rumble 2018: B/R Expert Match Picks, Predictions and Analysis
The Royal Rumble pay-per-view is always a favorite among the WWE Universe, but this year's event on January 28 has more to look forward to than usual with the first 30-woman Rumble match.
As of this writing, WWE.com only has four matches listed in addition to the two Royal Rumble bouts, but past PPVs have shown us management is more than willing to add new matches on the fly.
Here is a full rundown of the card as it stands:
- Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan vs. The Bar (Raw Tag Titles)
- The Usos vs. Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin (SmackDown Tag Titles, Best of 3 Falls)
- AJ Styles vs. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens (WWE Title Handicap match)
- Brock Lesnar vs. Kane vs. Braun Strowman (Universal Championship)
- Men's Royal Rumble
- Women's Royal Rumble
Bleacher Report's lineup of writers will go through each feud and provide predictions for all of the matches. Our group is made up of the following:
- Anthony Mango (AM) (@ToeKneeManGo)
- Kevin Berge (KB) (@TheBerge_)
- Ryan Dilbert (RD) (@RyanDilbert)
- Yours truly (CM) (@BR_Doctor)
Stephanie McMahon will join the announce team for the women's Rumble match, and we can expect to see plenty of surprise appearances from legends in both the women's and the men's bout.
Women's Royal Rumble
Q: If you were booking this match, who would you have win the first women's Royal Rumble and why?
KB: I will never miss a chance to go to bat for Becky Lynch getting some much-needed recognition.
While Asuka's match with Bliss is already more or less certain, SmackDown's field is wide open, plus the first-ever female Rumble winner should be someone who needs the boost and has earned that spotlight. Lynch winning fills every need WWE has in the women's division.
Prediction: Asuka dominates, last eliminating Lynch.
AM: Given the lackluster options available to the SmackDown roster, I would go with Ronda Rousey winning to set up a match with Charlotte Flair.
This is of course presuming Rousey appears. She told TMZ Sports recently that she'll be in Colombia during the Rumble, but it wouldn't be the first time WWE fans have been intentionally misled to heighten surprise.
Both Rousey and Flair could have their respective other three horsewomen ringside for the match. Raw will be more than fine with Alexa Bliss, Asuka and Nia Jax, but SmackDown needs some pizazz, and it won't come from the current crop.
Prediction: Rousey wins the Royal Rumble.
RD: Asuka is the smart choice here. She's fresh and bursting with potential and is the only woman WWE has booked as a dominant force of late.
Prediction: WWE gets too cute for its own good and goes with McMahon jumping in from the announce table to win.
CM: Hands down it would be Lynch. Not only has she been booked the worst out of the Four Horsewomen over the past year, but she is also one of the most popular and talented wrestlers on the roster.
Having her win would make the majority of the WWE Universe happy, which doesn't seem to happen too often these days.
Prediction: Asuka wins by last eliminating Jax.
Men's Royal Rumble
Q: What is the better strategy for WWE, building a new star with the Rumble or trying to make the biggest WrestleMania main event it can by giving the win to a main event player?
KB: The Rumble has always been an opportunity to make new stars, but it is always important WWE think ahead on planning out WrestleMania's card.
I hate to see part-time talent appear and steal a win, but, if a new star is going to win the Rumble, they have to be ready to take the next step. This year, there are too many new stars who could easily be worthy of that honor for WWE to just take the safe route.
Prediction: Balor wins, last eliminating Reigns.
AM: If there is a larger than life main event to be booked, that's always going to be the better option, but since we've already seen Reigns vs. Lesnar before and it didn't go over well at all with the crowd, that would be a mistake to do again this year.
If Shinsuke Nakamura ends up fighting Styles, he has to win this and not some random other No. 1 contender's match, because this will mean so much more. If Daniel Bryan is in the match, though, that match means significantly more and has to take priority.
Prediction: Nakamura wins the Royal Rumble unless Bryan is cleared to compete.
RD: WrestleMania will be huge no matter what. WWE sells gobs of tickets before the main event is even announced. It's smarter to elevate a fresh face and try to make a new marquee star.
Prediction: Nakamura wins his first Rumble and sets his sights on Styles.
CM: The last time WWE used the Rumble to build a new star was in 2011 with Albert Del Rio, but he wasn't exactly a fresh-faced rookie.
WWE needs to do something radical and have a completely unexpected person win the match. It would give a monster push to someone who is not already in the main event scene, and it would surprise people after so many years of predictable results.
Prediction: Cena wins and attempts to become the first 17-time champion at WrestleMania.
Q: WWE may add more matches to the show as it airs to fill time. Book one extra bout for the Royal Rumble and explain why it would help the PPV.
KB: This would be the perfect opportunity to have Charlotte vs. Bliss 2. With every woman needed to fill the Rumble match, the champions have been left out in the cold, but their rivalry would make it easy to sell the second chapter with each woman looking to prove she is the champion more worthy to be challenged by the Rumble winner on the Grandest Stage of Them All.
AM: Since the Cruiserweight Championship situation isn't going to be addressed until after this event, that prevents anything decent and worthwhile from happening with the 205 Live crew to resolve that.
Instead, give them some sort of scramble match where the winner gets a spot in the Royal Rumble later that evening. This can be done on the pre-show and it would not only showcase the division, but it would make it seem like they're actually fighting for something instead of just having a random exhibition.
RD: A Royal Rumble qualifier between Mustafa Ali, Cedric Alexander, Hideo Itami and Jack Gallagher. The cruiserweights lost their spot on the card thanks to Enzo's absence and could use a showcase with high stakes until the vacant title situation is sorted.
CM: Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt should never have had a match before the Rumble, but since WWE booked it for Raw 25 and failed to live up to the hype of the feud, I would book them in a rematch on Sunday.
They need more time to tell a complete story than what they were given on Raw, and fans of both Superstars would be happy to see them given the spotlight at a major event.
AJ Styles vs. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens (WWE Title)
Q: Regardless of who you think will win, what is the best long-term booking decision: Styles retaining against two talented competitors, or Owens and Zayn becoming the first co-WWE champions and why?
KB: The best thing for everyone involved in this story is to just move on. Owens and Zayn as co-WWE champions is a ridiculous idea attached to a ridiculous feud that does no favors to any of the three men in this story. WWE will be best off with Styles heading into ‘Mania as the undisputed champion of SmackDown.
Prediction: Styles survives and makes Owens tap out.
AM: The moment Owens and Zayn would win, everybody would be curious how it would work. By the next episode of SmackDown, we would have our answers, and it would start losing its appeal already.
In no time, it would become a mess, so since this is WrestleMania season and WWE can't afford to stumble with potentially bad decisions, it's safer to stick with Styles as the champion.
Prediction: Styles retains the title.
RD: Owens and Zayn sharing the belt feels too gimmicky. Styles has proved he's a rock as a champ and is a good fit for WrestleMania's upper tier.
Prediction: Styles hangs on to the title due to Zayn and Owens' infighting.
CM: I think the more interesting outcome is Owens and Zayn becoming co-champions. Styles doesn't need the win to build credibility because everyone already knows he is one of the best in the world. This would open the door for some interesting title matches in the future.
Prediction: Owens and Zayn become co-champions.
Brock Lesnar vs. Kane vs. Braun Strowman (Universal Title)
Q: Many people feel WWE has become too predictable with the booking of Brock Lesnar as universal champion. How do you think WWE will book the finish to this match? Let's see how many of us think it will end the same way.
KB: Lesnar will be taken out by Strowman early in the match, probably through an announce table just like in their multi-man clash at SummerSlam, but The Beast will return late in the match and run roughshod over both men with an endless series of suplexes.
Strowman will likely be made to look good by almost taking the win, but Lesnar will get Strowman out of the way and F5 Kane for the win.
Prediction: Lesnar will not lose now with his clash with Reigns so near.
AM: Not only will Lesnar end up pinning Kane, but he should, given the circumstances. If I had it my way, he and Goldberg wouldn't have been fighting for the title last year to begin with, let alone building to Reigns vs. Lesnar, so this has definitely been predictable and Strowman has been forced to not receive his fully earned push because of those plans.
Here's hoping WWE doesn't at least make it worse by having Strowman take the fall.
Prediction: Lesnar retains the title.
RD: If Kane doesn't take the pin to keep Strowman looking strong and keep Lesnar champ, I will be Shocked Undertaker Guy-level stunned.
Prediction: Lesnar wins a disappointing clash.
CM: Kane is obviously in this match to take the pin so Lesnar can retain his title and Strowman can continue to look strong without the belt around his waist.
Prediction: Lesnar wins.
Q: WWE always has a few legends booked in the Rumble match to add some fun. Which past Superstars would you be most excited to see return for one more Rumble and why would they make a good addition to the match?
KB: The women's Rumble will need more surprise entrants and returning legends just to fill out the 30 spots, so it makes sense to look in every direction for who is worthy of such a spot.
If Trish Stratus is able, and I would be surprised if she wasn't, she has to be in the first-ever women's Rumble match. Her legacy in the business makes her the ideal competitor to make one more big appearance in the ring, with Lita hopefully also appearing for one last clash of the rivals.
AM: Ignoring people who are either retired like Shawn Michaels or tied up at another company like Cody Rhodes, a few names that spring to my mind are Damien Sandow to toy with The Miz, Kharma to put over Nia Jax, Batista for star power, Carlito to gauge the fan reaction for a potential Colons stable and maybe just for the randomness of it all, Bob Holly.
The more, the merrier! All former Superstars who return always make good additions to the Royal Rumble, as the nostalgia wave hits strong.
RD: Trish Stratus. She's a Hall of Famer who would boost the prestige of the match, and it would be great to see her mix it up in this new and improved era of women's wrestling.
CM: Lita would make an amazing addition to the women's Rumble match, but I am holding out hope for a surprise Undertaker appearance during the men's match.
The Usos vs. Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin (SmackDown Tag Titles)
Q: Would Gable and Benjamin's journey to the titles have been better had they remained babyfaces, or has turning heel helped them stand out?
KB: I honestly don't think it matters. While they are talented wrestlers, Gable and Benjamin are too nondescript to have success on a brand dominated by large personalities like New Day and The Usos.
They could be heel or face, but they just need writers to come along that play to their strength, which has seemingly been a struggle with the team.
Prediction: The Usos finally put down the threat of Gable and Benjamin with 2-0 win.
AM: Unless WWE were willing to go all out and push them from the start, which didn't happen anyway, it wouldn't have mattered if they stayed babyfaces.
Turning heel has helped a bit, since it's worse to be a face with no cheers than a heel with no boos. Just ask The Hype Bros how their face run went.
Gable and Benjamin just don't seem to resonate as a team and would probably be better off as single stars.
Prediction: The Usos retain their titles.
RD: They haven't developed their characters much with the half-hearted heel turn. They don't have much momentum to speak of as a result.
Prediction: The Usos win a show-stealer.
CM: It's hard to say because we haven't seen enough of either side of their personalities, but given the choice, I would have kept them babyface. Their style of wrestling is more geared toward getting pops from the crowd, not cheating.
Prediction: Gable and Benjamin pull off an upset to officially win the titles.
The Bar vs. Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan (Raw Tag Titles)
Q: Once this feud is over, which Raw tag team would you like to see get a shot at the titles next and why?
KB: It has been a long road, but it is now The Revival's time to shine. They "paid their dues" on Raw 25, and they need a big win to set them on the right path. Pair Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson with Jordan and Rollins, and the heels will prove why they were one of the most enduringly brilliant parts of NXT.
Prediction: Rollins and Jordan continue to find a way to win together.
AM: I not only want to see new challengers, but also new champions. Give me The Revival and The Balor Club at WrestleMania with The Bar, Jason Jordan and Seth Rollins all staying away from the title picture.
I'm sick of those pairings, and I feel like The Revival and The Good Brothers are far too talented to have been ignored for so long.
Prediction: Jordan and Rollins retain their titles.
RD: The Revival could and should be a division centerpiece. The smashmouth squad kills it in big matches against anyone WWE throws at them.
Prediction: Rollins and Jordan get a fluky win despite some miscommunication between them.
CM: The Revival will be a force to be reckoned with in 2018, and WWE may as well begin their push with a tag title reign that kicks off at WrestleMania with a win over The Bar and one other team from the Raw division.
Prediction: Jordan and Rollins retain, but they will come close to losing due to their lack of trust in each other.