The Royal Rumble, the WWE’s first network special of 2020, takes place on Sunday at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas.
Ahead of the event is a rundown on what to look for and some predictions on might unfold on the first steps on the road to WrestleMania 36 in April in Tampa.
Men’s Royal Rumble
The inclusion of Brock Lesnar, the WWE World Heavyweight champion, in this match has certainly spiced things up.
Starting at No 1 the Beast Incarnate is a formidable presence. But he will not win. He is in here to set up his WrestleMania title defence and whoever eliminates him is likely to be that person.
This writer is going with Drew McIntyre as being the person for that job.
The WWE having been building him in recent weeks and having McIntyre be the one to put out Lesnar would be a huge moment and give him a legitimate claim to be No 1 contender for the Raw title.
Lesnar could then take his revenge by coming back to throw McIntyre out and kick start a fierce rivalry.
As to who wins the Rumble, it is hard to look beyond Roman Reigns.
He has not been in the title picture since his return from leukaemia 11 months ago, although he has still been booked strongly.
The win in the elimination match at a Survivor Series felt like the start of the Reigns push reigniting and he stands tall, eliminating Baron Corbin and Seth Rollins last, to head to the main event scene in Tampa and a likely showdown with Bray Wyatt.
To add jeopardy, expect Reigns to beat Corbin earlier in the night in their Falls Count Anywhere match, but for Corbin and his cohorts Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode to beat him down post-match to put him in doubt for the Rumble.
Reigns, of course, will not only recover to compete, but will prevail.
Prediction Roman Reigns wins
Women’s Royal Rumble
Now this one is harder to call. This match has had little build, which leaves itself open to some surprises.
The WWE so far have played down any NXT involvement which sets up nicely the chances of Shayna Baszler not only competing, but winning it.
The former NXT Women’s champion had a big win at Survivor Series as she defeated Becky Lynch and Bayley in a triple threat and that victory ought to be the precursor to her winning the Rumble.
A clash for the Raw Women’s title with Lynch at WrestleMania 36 books itself. There was great heat between the pair ahead of Survivor Series and that can be built on here.
Add in Ronda Rousey is legitimately best friends with Baszler outside the ring, and Lynch pinned Rousey at WrestleMania 35, and you have a great narrative.
Sasha Banks is another possible winner to set up a SmackDown Women’s title match with Bayley, but they could get to that without needing Banks to triumph on Sunday.
Charlotte Flair should be a contender, but she seems to be lacking creative direction at the moment and her presence here is likely to be so she can be eliminated last by Baszler.
Prediction Shayna Baszler prevails to set up a feud with Becky Lynch
Bray Wyatt v Daniel Bryan in a strap match for the WWE Universal Championship
This is a rematch from Survivor Series where Wyatt’s The Fiend persona won clean.
Bryan since then has moved to full babyface and will have the crowd firmly behind him in Houston.
The Fiend still remains hugely over with crowds though, with merchandise sales also doing very well for WWE.
It would be a massive shock if Wyatt dropped the title here. It feels like him facing Reigns at WrestleMania is a lock and to change course now would be odd.
Bryan will get a strong match out of him, but he is not going over. There is definitely another title run as a babyface in Bryan’s WWE career, but it just won’t happen on Sunday.
Prediction Bray Wyatt retains
Becky Lynch v Asuka for the Raw Women’s Championship
Asuka beat Lynch 12 months ago when she was SmackDown champion, before Lynch went on to win the Rumble.
This rematch makes sense and Lynch has worked tremendously hard to sell the fact that the loss to Asuka still bothers her.
It is sad WWE have had to work so intensively to make Asuka feel a threat as it shouldn’t be that way.
It was their appalling booking of her, jobbing her twice to Carmella in 2018, and then treating her as an afterthought on the way to WrestleMania 35 by having her losing the title to Flair in haphazard fashion, that damaged her.
Asuka is one of the WWE’s best female talents and she will give Lynch one of her best matches since becoming champion on Sunday.
Lynch is winning, but hopefully WWE remember to book Asuka better going forward so they don’t have to do this much work to re-establish her next time they want her in the title scene.
Prediction Becky Lynch finally gets her win over Asuka
Bayley v Lacey Evans for the SmackDown Women’s Championship
This is an awkward one. Bayley is struggling as champion. She wasn’t great as a face on the main roster and the turn to the dark side has not worked either sadly.
Evans is doing well as a babyface but this might be too soon for her to be given the gold, especially as she is still a work in progress in the ring.
Interference from Sasha Banks helps Bayley retain, either with a cheap win, or a disqualification, but this feud goes on.
Prediction Bayley retains
Andrade v Humberto Carrillo for the United States Championship
Andrade has just won the US title from Rey Mysterio and it feels like the WWE have big plans for him.
This feels like the start of a rivalry and so the champion retains, with help from Zelina Vega, to remain with the belt heading towards WrestleMania.
Prediction Andrade stays as champion
Roman Reigns v King Baron Corbin in a Falls Count Anywhere match
It was surprising initially to hear these two were having a match, given Reigns is a big favourite to win the Rumble itself.
But expect this match to open the main show. It won’t likely be a long one either.
Reigns wins to avenge his loss at TLC in December, but as mentioned above, Corbin orchestrates a beatdown of his opponent post-match to lay jeopardy on the outcome of the Rumble.
Reigns starts the night beaten up and ends it celebrating winning the Rumble for a second time in his career.
Prediction Roman Reigns wins
Sheamus v Shorty G in a singles match
The only non-Rumble match without a title on the line. This is almost certainly on the kick-off show.
Sheamus has returned to the ring after a long spell out with injury and this is effectively a chance to remind people of how vicious, as a heel, he can be.
The former world champion is a future opponent for Reigns so Shorty G will bounce around and sell for him to make him look as strong as possible.
Prediction Sheamus gets an emphatic win
Royal Rumble is on the WWE Network and the show begins at 4am UAE time, with the pre-show starting things off at 2am.
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