The Favorites and Long Shots to Consider in WWE Royal Rumble 2022 Matches

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2022

The Favorites and Long Shots to Consider in WWE Royal Rumble 2022 Matches

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    The 2022 Royal Rumble is upon us, and so is the Road to WrestleMania 38 in Dallas.

    With the annual premium live event comes excitement, intrigue, mystery and anticipation as fans wait to see what surprises and creative direction WWE has in store for them.

    Who are the favorites to win the show's titular 30-Superstar matches and cash their tickets to the biggest show of the year? 

    Which two competitors are long shots worth keeping an eye on?

    Find out now with this preview of the Peacock presentation.

Men's Favorite: Roman Reigns

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    If WWE is looking to avoid a Champion vs. Champion match between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns at WrestleMania, one of them is probably going to have to drop their title Saturday night in St. Louis. Considering Lesnar just won his at the Day 1 pay-per-view earlier this month, it is unlikely to be The Beast.

    What better way for Reigns to suffer both a downfall, laugh it off and remain the face of the place with a shocking entry into the Royal Rumble and a win to set up his showdown with his rival?

    It is the sort of booking that is both genius and infuriating, if only because fans will be expecting anyone else, only for the top star in the company to come from out of nowhere and steal the win from a Big E or Kevin Owens.

    Such a creative decision will result in backlash from some fans, but in a year where there is no obvious winner, going with a sure thing like Reigns rather than wasting a Rumble win on someone who will not ever have a realistic opportunity to build on it is the right call.

    Do not be surprised to see The Tribal Chief standing tall to close out the pay-per-view, even if it's not with his Universal Championship.

Women's Favorite: Sasha Banks

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    Sasha Banks' return on Friday's SmackDown immediately catapulted her to the forefront of favorites to win the Women's Royal Rumble match.

    The Boss has teased a rivalry with Charlotte Flair dating all the way back to the post-draft episode of SmackDown, but there has yet to be a single high-profile battle between them. After again mixing it up with The Queen in her return, look for Banks to either win the Rumble or be one of the last remaining competitors involved. 

    This will help her build momentum and set the stage for that long-awaited showdown with Flair. 

    The impending return of Bayley and a potential comeback for Ronda Rousey may throw a wrench into those plans, but even as late as this week's SmackDown, it appeared as though Banks vs. Flair was the most likely creative direction, absolutely making The Boss a favorite to win.

Men's Long Shot: Sheamus

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    The Celtic Warrior won his first Royal Rumble on January 29, 2012.

    In St. Louis.

    Since then, he has captured world titles, headlined major pay-per-views and been one of the most respected and decorated stars in modern WWE history. He has also picked up considerable momentum heading into Saturday, winning a handful of televised matches, including what was essentially a two-on-one handicap match back at Day 1.

    It is difficult to find a scenario in which Sheamus fits for WrestleMania, especially with Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns seemingly a sure thing for The Granddaddy of Them All, but The Celtic Warrior has been featured just enough to be on the minds of fans as the company produces one of its most wide-open Rumble matches in quite some time.

    If a win is not in the cards, do not be surprised if Sheamus has one of those long, ironman performances that teases a win for the former WWE and world heavyweight champion.

Women's Long Shot: Mickie James

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    WWE loves making history. It loves touting that it made history, and rightfully so. Saturday could bring with it a historic scenario in which Mickie James, current Impact Wrestling Knockouts champion, enters and wins the Women's Royal Rumble match.

    Never before has a competitor from another promotion entered and won a match with the prestige of the Rumble. James, one of the most respected names in women's wrestling, is very much capable of kicking down the forbidden door and settling some unfinished business with the company that unceremoniously released her a year ago.

    A match between James and Charlotte Flair, or even Becky Lynch, would capture the attention of the wrestling world, if for no other reason than the rarity of it. WWE barely acknowledges the existence of other promotions, let alone highlighting their stars and titles in the manner it has with James and the Knockouts Championship.

    In turn, James has repeatedly been hyped up by Impact Wrestling for her appearance on WWE's premium live event.

    It has been a refreshing change of pace and one that can continue Saturday with an otherwise improbable victory for the future Hall of Famer.

Men's Favorite: Kevin Owens

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    On the surface, Kevin Owens does not seem like much of a favorite to win the Royal Rumble, but when you take into consideration some of the pieces that will fall into place Saturday night, the likelihood of him challenging for a major title at WrestleMania increases.

    Owens is currently on-screen as the best buddy of Seth Rollins.

    The same Rollins who will challenge for and, in this writer's opinion, defeat Roman Reigns to become universal champion. That immediately sets up a scenario in which two back-stabbing scoundrels like Rollins and Owens are on a collision course to the biggest show of the year and a matchup for the top title on the Raw brand.

    If you factor in Owens' 2020 victory over Rollins on the grand stage, and the fact that The Visionary will be eager to avenge that defeat, you have all of the creative you need to get fans invested.

    Who else, if not Owens, could realistically win it from Raw?

    Big E, who now looks to be back on SmackDown following this week's episode of the blue brand? Maybe a dark horse candidate like Damian Priest, but that is way more far-fetched than the recently re-signed KO being rewarded for his loyalty to WWE.

Women's Favorite: Bianca Belair

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    Bianca Belair exploded into the stratosphere following her win in the 2021 Women's Royal Rumble, and a victory Saturday would etch her name in the history books alongside some of the greatest and most recognizable professional wrestlers of all time.

    Only Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin have gone back-to-back in Rumble matches, making the feat rarefied air. A win for Belair in St. Louis not only would make her the first woman to win two Rumbles, but it would also place her alongside those industry icons and establish her as one of the undisputed top stars in sports entertainment.

    With speculation running rampant about the possibility of Ronda Rousey returning Saturday night, The EST's chances certainly take a hit. Still, the awe-inspiring athlete is among the handful of women with a genuine shot at making the 30-woman match hers, and every eye in the building should be on her as she attempts to rewrite the history books.