Bobby Lashley and 7 Dark-Horse Picks to Win the 2022 WWE Royal RumbleDecember 12, 2021
Bobby Lashley and 7 Dark-Horse Picks to Win the 2022 WWE Royal Rumble
Even with WWE's Day 1 pay-per-view fast approaching on New Year's Day, fans are already anticipating the Royal Rumble on January 29 and speculating who could win each of the annual Battle Royals.
The front-runners for the men's Rumble as of now seem to be Brock Lesnar and Drew McIntyre. Lesnar will have his rematch with Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship at Day 1, but all signs to him losing once again and earning another shot at WrestleMania 38.
Meanwhile, McIntyre has been quietly building momentum over on SmackDown and could also be in line for another Rumble victory to set up a colossal clash between himself and Reigns on The Grandest Stage of Them All.
As for the women, Bianca Belair and Liv Morgan have the best bets of winning from the Raw brand to avenge their losses to Becky Lynch at Mania. Likewise, SmackDown's Sasha Banks and Toni Storm are strong possibilities given what they've been up to lately.
That leaves several potential Rumble winners who aren't as obvious but could surprise the masses by emerging victorious. These are the seven dark horses to keep an eye on in the men's and women's 2022 Royal Rumble matches.
The All Mighty Era may have ended at the hands of Big E back in September, but Bobby Lashley won't rest until he has the WWE Championship back in his grasp.
That was evident on Monday's Raw when he came out during a commercial break and laid waste to Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens and WWE champion Big E. In other words, Lashley's wrath knows no bounds and could very well lead him back to the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 38 by way of the Royal Rumble.
Lashley was having an exceptional 2021 up until he lost the prestigious prize to Big E. He proceeded to lose multiple high-profile matches, including to Goldberg at Crown Jewel, but he's been heavily protected since returning last month.
That had to have been done by design and could indicate what his immediate future holds. It's possible he'll be entered into the multi-man match for the title at Day 1, but either way, fans shouldn't count him out as a potential victor in the Rumble.
Big E and Lashley had terrific chemistry together as opponents, and they could rekindle their rivalry over the gold at WrestleMania (assuming Big E is still champ by then). The All Mighty had a strong showing in this past year's Rumble and could very well win the whole thing in 2022.
Rhea Ripley's 2021 started so hot that it was only a matter of time before she fizzled out a bit, and that's what we've seen from her in the last few months.
Following her loss of the Raw Women's Championship at Money in the Bank, Ripley formed an unlikely alliance with Nikki A.S.H., with whom she quickly captured the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship. Their reign was unfortunately unspectacular due to the lack of teams in the division.
Now that they've lost the twin titles, The Nightmare would benefit from branching out on her own and shifting her focus back on the Raw Women's Championship.
The women's Royal Rumble is right around the corner, and that would be the perfect place for her to make a major splash. She nearly won last year's installment before being eliminated by Becky Lynch, so it would only be fitting if she was the last woman standing this year.
The only one-on-one interaction Ripley has had with Lynch was on an episode of NXT two years ago. With all that Ripley has accomplished since then, that match would no doubt be WrestleMania-worthy.
Although The Bloodline has been a cohesive unit for a good chunk of time now, it certainly didn't start out that way with Roman Reigns and The Usos.
Reigns' character came to be following a feud with his cousin Jey Uso in the fall of 2020. Uso eventually reluctantly aligned with Reigns, and Jimmy was involved in a similar storyline upon his return to the ring in the spring.
Unlike Jey, however, Jimmy never went one-on-one with Reigns. He initially opposed his brother and cousin but fell in line without much explanation.
The Usos are currently in the midst of a run as SmackDown tag team champions, but that could be coming to an end at Day 1. If so, Jey would be freed up to win the men's Rumble as a long shot and leave fans guessing which championship he'd choose to contend for.
Jimmy Uso isn't the same caliber of opponent as Brock Lesnar or Drew McIntyre would be for Reigns, but they could tell an intriguing story with the three of them, especially with where Jey's allegiance will fall.
Doudrop is still relatively new to WWE's main roster, and although her booking and character development has been all over the place, she still appears to be primed for a top spot in Raw's women's division if her recent rivalry with Bianca Belair has been any indication.
The former Piper Niven struggled to find her footing on Raw until turning heel on Belair. They had a hard-fought match on Monday's Raw that saw Belair win by count-out to keep the feud alive.
For those unfamiliar with her run in NXT UK, Doudrop is a talented wrestler with plenty of potential. She's finally on the right path with how she's been handled lately and should be considered a dark horse to win the 2022 women's Royal Rumble.
She wouldn't have to necessarily stay on Raw if she were to win. Raw women's champion Becky Lynch is expected to hold the gold until WrestleMania, making the SmackDown women's champion a likelier choice.
Either way, Doudrop is a threat to any title and should have a standout performance in the Rumble regardless of whether she reigns supreme.
For the many WWE Superstars who have felt underutilized and poorly handled throughout 2021, Damian Priest is not one of them. In fact, he is among an elite few NXT call-ups in recent years that has actually gone on to great success and arguably better booked than he was in NXT.
From his eventful WrestleMania debut to winning the United States Championship at SummerSlam, Priest's year has been nothing short of stellar. He's also been defending the star-spangled prize against all challengers weekly on Raw and should be primed for bigger and better things soon.
Royal Rumble, which will mark one year for him on the main roster, would be an ideal event where WWE can pull the trigger on a main event push for him, no matter whether he's still U.S. champion by that point or not.
Even at the age of 39, Priest can still very much be a viable a main event player for this promotion. He could have blockbuster matches with either Big E or Roman Reigns at WrestleMania if he were to win the men's Royal Rumble.
An intercontinental or United States champion has never won the Rumble before while in possession of the title, so Priest could make history and kick off his road to WrestleMania with a bang.
One of the constants on SmackDown over the last three months has been the bad blood between Naomi and WWE official Sonya Deville. They've attempted to go one-on-one twice now, and both times, the match was thwarted thanks to Deville and her cronies Shayna Baszler and Natalya.
Deville's animosity toward Naomi has yet to be explained (and likely won't be at this point), but because of how long it's gone on for, the angle has to culminate properly at some point. Naomi winning the women's Royal Rumble would be one way for her to earn a title shot without having to deal with Deville.
A two-time SmackDown women's champion, Naomi hadn't been prominently featured on WWE TV up until a few months ago. She's also spent this entire feud out of the title picture, so if it's going to be the top storyline for the women on SmackDown, the championship may as well be involved come 'Mania.
The longer WWE waits to give fans the payoff, the more it's going to mean when she ultimately gives Deville her comeuppance. Of course, the company needs to get to the next chapter sooner rather than later, and a Rumble win for Naomi could be just yet.
Naomi gains very little from beating Deville in a straight-up singles match, so putting some gold up for grabs and adding the Rumble into the mix presents many compelling storyline possibilities.
Like him or loathe him, it's clear WWE is preparing to push Austin Theory as the future of the company.
He's bounced back and forth between NXT and Raw since 2019 and has seemingly just now hit a stride on the main roster. He's racked up wins over the Mysterios and Jeff Hardy and laid out Finn Balor in emphatic fashion on Monday's Raw.
His backstage segments with Mr. McMahon make it obvious that the powers that be have high hopes for Theory. That might mean him winning the men's Royal Rumble in January isn't out of the realm of possibility.
It isn't necessarily the smartest call at this stage of his career, but he shouldn't be underestimated, either. Depending on what his next few weeks look like, he could be considered a front-runner to come out on top if his aggressive push continues.
Theory has all the tools to be a top talent in the future, but the Rumble could be where he is launched into the stratosphere of superstardom. Time will tell if WWE intends to rush him into being a WWE Championship contender going into WrestleMania and how he'll fare against the 29 other Superstars, but he certainly has a chance to come out on top.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.