Ranking the Most Likely WWE Royal Rumble Match Winners After Go-Home Raw
Each year, the Royal Rumble opens The Road to WrestleMania. It's the night when champions are established and challengers are clearly set, notably in the Rumble matches that grant their winners the chance to challenge for the greatest prizes in WWE on The Grandest Stage of Them All.
Last year, Drew McIntyre became the star many always thought he could be by winning the men's match, and Becky Lynch crashed the women's contest in 2019 to solidify her rise to the top of WWE.
Speculation about who will win the Rumble matches defines January, and it can often be the most fun part of WrestleMania season.
This year's Show of Shows has no clear build beyond the four main champions. Roman Reigns, Drew McIntyre, Sasha Banks and Asuka seem set to be the top titleholders all the way to April 10-11.
Who they might face at 'Mania is tough to predict, though. Even after the last Raw before the Royal Rumble, it remains unclear. Could Bianca Belair or Alexa Bliss pull off an emphatic star-defining victory? Will Big E or Daniel Bryan win for the first time? So many names come to mind.
The following are five of the most likely men and women who could win Sunday night's Rumble matches.
5. Bayley, Edge
Bayley stole the show in 2020. While some of her work was overshadowed by Sasha Banks, she was arguably the most necessary wrestler of the year. Especially when WWE had no fans in attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic, she carried all three brands at times.
While Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch have both won the women's Royal Rumble match, The Boss and The Role Model have yet to do so. The SmackDown women's champion cannot enter the match, which leaves Bayley as the most talented wrestler to never win the Rumble who will be competing on Sunday.
Bayley has already faced Banks and Asuka multiple times, but there is always a chance she could challenge Io Shirai for the NXT Women's Championship.
Edge returned to WWE a year ago with a clear message: He was entering the men's Rumble match for one last run at the top.
While it may seem most likely that The Rated-R Superstar fights Randy Orton at WrestleMania 37, The Viper is embroiled in a battle with "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt that could last until The Show of Shows.
Drew McIntyre is already facing one WWE legend in Goldberg at the Royal Rumble, so it could make sense for him to transition to facing another name who helped him get to the top. That is a dream match for the Scot.
Similarly, Roman Reigns vs. Edge is a contest that makes a lot of sense. The possibilities for a win by The Rated-R Superstar are enticing, but there are several options who make more sense given the fact that whoever Edge faces at 'Mania will represent a big match.
4. Shayna Baszler, Shinsuke Nakamura
Shayna Baszler was the odds-on favorite to win the women's Rumble in 2020, and she got close. Since then, though, she has fallen short of expectations at key moments. However, she is still close to the top of the challengers this year.
The Queen of Spades spent a large portion of last year as WWE women's tag team champion with Nia Jax. She has had a spotlight on her but not worked nearly enough on her own. This should be her year to become the dominant technician she was in NXT.
Baszler has yet to have a serious singles match with Asuka or Banks. Both would set up perfectly for a reboot of one of WWE's most talented Superstars.
Few wrestlers had a greater momentum boost before the Royal Rumble than Shinsuke Nakamura.
The Artist more or less won a Gauntlet match to become the No. 1 contender for the WWE Universal Championship, but Roman Reigns got involved to ensure he couldn't emerge victorious.
Nakamura and Cesaro have spent the past couple years close to relevance as a tag team but were largely wasted. Both seem to be on the precipice of returning to prominence on their own. Of the two, The Artist is better set up after a recent face turn to challenge The Head of the Table.
However, the Japanese wrestler has already won one Rumble and has not been built nearly well enough to become one of the few names to win the match twice. He can still find his way to a match with Reigns without winning the men's Rumble, though.
3. Rhea Ripley, Big E
Rhea Ripley has been a revelation since making her NXT television debut in October 2017.
After moving to the black-and-gold brand, she has become one of the biggest stars in any women's division. And talk of a call-up to the main roster has persisted ever since she lost the NXT Women's Championship to Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 36.
This seems to be the right time. On January 6, The Nightmare lost to Raquel Gonzalez in a contest that felt like a passing-of-the-torch moment. She is not involved in the women's Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic and has already lost to current NXT women's champion Io Shirai.
A Rumble win would be a perfect setup for Ripley. Both Raw and SmackDown need at least one more major female star, and she could be a great rival for Asuka or Sasha Banks.
Big E has been on a roll in 2021 after being given a chance to work on his own again following his split from The New Day in the WWE draft last October.
A former NXT champion, he has the talent to be one of the top stars in WWE and won the Intercontinental Championship on Christmas Day.
As a titleholder, he is likely to make it to WrestleMania whether he wins the men's Rumble or not. However, WWE has been setting up a fascinating story with Paul Heyman mentoring Apollo Crews to defeat him.
If Crews was able to defeat Big E with the help of The Advocate, the former New Day man could decide to go after another Heyman client instead.
2. Alexa Bliss and Daniel Bryan
Alexa Bliss dominated Asuka in a singles match on Monday's Raw, showcasing what she can do when possessed by The Fiend and gaining a ton of momentum in the process. However, the contest ended inconclusively.
The Goddess is one of the most decorated women in WWE, but her recent rebirth as a character alongside Bray Wyatt puts her in an excellent position to win the women's Rumble and build toward a match in which she seems destined to defeat The Empress of Tomorrow.
WWE has set this up perfectly, and the only reason it may avoid the story is if Bliss needs to be involved in Wyatt's rivalry with Randy Orton.
While his win-loss record may not be great, Daniel Bryan has set the stage for an emphatic victory. He is one of the most important wrestlers in WWE history, and his victory at WrestleMania 30 is an all-time great moment in company history.
The Yes Man has yet to win the men's Royal Rumble, though. It is a match that often been defined by Bryan purely because fans have taken over the match rooting for him to win in years when he was never the plan. But this year feels like the perfect opportunity.
Bryan is at the tail end of his career. After retiring due to injury and then coming back, he is unlikely to work a full-time schedule much longer.
A win and a WrestleMania 37 match against Roman Reigns would be a fantastic final push for him.
1. Bianca Belair and Brock Lesnar
The Royal Rumble matches are built to establish new talent. And after three big-name stars won the women's contest since its debut in 2018, it's time for a new name to get a major break from it.
Bianca Belair has been established as the odds-on favorite through her slow-build rivalry against Bayley on SmackDown in recent weeks.
The Role Model has defeated her already but only with the help of cheap tactics. Before WrestleMania 37, The EST of WWE seems certain to defeat one of the great female wrestlers in history. Winning the women's Rumble and defeating Bayley would set her up perfectly for an emphatic rise to the top.
Belair vs. Sasha Banks is a money match WWE cannot afford to miss, especially with few other options for the blue brand. While The EST of WWE is not a lock, her victory would feel appropriate.
Brock Lesnar has not been seen on TV since he was crushed by Drew McIntyre at WrestleMania 36. He clearly wasn't interested in wrestling without fans, but he and the Scot still have a big match in them down the line.
With the promise of fans in attendance for this year's WrestleMania in the same arena that will house the Super Bowl, The Beast Incarnate should be ready to return for one of his biggest matches in years.
While he doesn't need to be in the contest, it would be a classic WWE surprise for Lesnar to come back after almost a year and his second men's Rumble match. It would add to the legacy of a man who has been built into an all-time great by the company already.