Some hot (and some not so hot) takes on Royal Rumble

We made it everyone! Tonight (Jan. 28) is the night. The speculation, the hearsay, the complete and total guesses all come to end at the conclusion of the 36th annual Royal Rumble live from the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX.

We will know who’s going to WrestleMania and… well, who’s also very likely going to WrestleMania, they just won’t have a World Championship opportunity.

Everyone has their predictions. Everyone has their hot takes. And I’m no different.

There are a few things that I’m expecting to see tonight. Some are a little bit obvious and others might surprise you. Regardless, they’ve been bouncing around in my head all week (or even longer), so I decided to write them out for your enjoyment.

You’re welcome.

Not so bold, prediction: Rhea Ripley will enter the Men’s Royal Rumble Match.

Of the all the women who have declared or qualified for this year’s Royal Rumble Match, so far, smart money says it’ll end up being Rhea Ripley who points at the WrestleMania sign.

Ripley hasn’t lost a televised singles match since May of last year, when she was defeated by her former tag team partner Liv Morgan. Since then, the Judgement Day member has wrestled sparingly, but has still racked up wins against Asuka, Roxanne Perez, Candice LaRae, and even Akira Tozawa.

The 26 year-old is more than overdue for another shot at the main event scene, after her first run as Raw Women’s Champion came to an abrupt end at Money in the Bank 2021. Once again, she would lose gold to Charlotte Flair, which makes Ripley a very interesting choice to win this year’s Rumble match.

Rhea could either choose Bianca Belair, who presumably will retain her title against Alexa Bliss tonight, and kick-start a rivalry that has a world of potential. Or she can take on Charlotte Flair and look to avenge her losses at MITB ‘21 and WrestleMania 36. WWE really can’t go wrong either way.

All that said, there are still well over a dozen spots in the Women’s Rumble up for grabs. Anyone can show up and anything can happen. If I were going to put money on this match (I’m not, too many unknowns), I’m taking the field over any one Superstar.

What I will put money on, is that we see Rhea Ripley more than once Saturday night. The order of the card could play a factor in my prediction, but even if Mami wins the Women’s Rumble earlier in the night, I still think she becomes the 5th woman ever to enter the Men’s Royal Rumble match. Following in the footsteps of Chyna, Kharma, Beth Phoenix, and Nia Jax.

Over the past several weeks we’ve seen Ripley wrestle and defeat Akira Tozawa, body slam Luke Gallows, and tease getting physical with several other male superstars. It just makes too much sense to add her into the mix, even if it’s to help out her boy toy and fellow Judgement Day member Dominik Mysterio.

I’ll even call my shot right now, and say Rhea eliminates Dom’s father from the match, after Rey does the same to his son — a microcosm of revenge for those unwanted holiday visits.

Who eliminates Rhea? Gonna have to be someone who doesn’t mind getting their hands dirty. Solo Sikoa to pay off that stare down between he and Rhea a couple weeks back? How about Brock Lesnar? Could you image Rhea Ripley stepping up to Brock Lesnar? That would be a ton of fun.

Bold prediction: Bray Wyatt loses his big return match.

Ok, before you even start. Yes. I hate myself for even writing this section.

Just for full transparency here, I am someone who has literally broken some of my own possessions when Bray Wyatt has lost matches in the past. He should have beaten John Cena. He should have beaten Randy Orton. He should have beaten Randy Orton, again. And don’t even get me started on the loss to Goldberg at Super Showdown in 2020.

That may or may not have been when the aforementioned breaking of my things took place. I’m also pretty sure I injured my larynx while screaming several words that would make a sailor blush. What can I say? I have a really short fuse from time to time.

Then there’s WrestleMania 31. I will go to my grave believing that the “New Face of Fear” Bray Wyatt should have been the man to end the Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak, not Brock Lesnar the year before. That would have been an awesome passing of the torch moment. But hey, the literal passing of LA Knight from one man to another, into a Sister Abigail at Raw XXX was pretty good too.

But when it comes to tonight’s match, the Mountain Dew Pitch Black Match, I just get the sense that the outcome of it is going to be secondary to the story that’s being told. And no disrespect to LA Knight, who has been phenomenal since making the transition back from his brief stint as Max Dupri, but he’s the secondary villain in this tale. The real terror of this arc is Uncle Howdy.

Who is Uncle Howdy? Is he with Bray Wyatt or against him?

We’ve seen this man attack both Wyatt and Knight over the past several weeks, and without knowing his true motivations, it’s hard to really buy into what I’m typing here. But hey, I did say this was a bold prediction.

I believe whomever Uncle Howdy truly is, he will make himself known to the world at Royal Rumble. Bray Wyatt said on SmackDown last night that we’ll finally meet the man that L.A. Knight’s been looking for… could he be talking about Uncle Howdy? Difficult to say, but I will say this. I personally saw someone arrive at the airport here in San Antonio who’s long been rumored to be the man behind the Uncle Howdy mask.

No. I will not spoil it for you, but I think it’s going down this weekend, folks. Uncle Howdy will reveal himself to the WWE Universe and attack Bray Wyatt once again, allowing LA Knight to pick up the victory.

A win for Knight gives him another big boost in his meteoric rise as the beloved boisterous bad guy on SmackDown. And the loss for Wyatt clears the path to a showdown with Uncle Howdy at WrestleMania and the eventual unleashing of the monster buried deep down inside Bray Wyatt, that he’s afraid to let out.

Bold prediction: Raquel Rodriguez sets a new women’s elimination record

When I had the chance to speak to Bianca Belair on Friday, she mentioned Raquel Rodriguez as someone she’d like to see win the Women’s Royal Rumble Match. Belair knows firsthand just how life changing that win can be and says she’s excited to see that happen for someone else tonight.

I would consider Rodriquez to be one of the favorites amongst an extremely wide open field, but is tonight her night? I don’t think it will be. It’s a year too soon for Big Mami Cool to headline WrestleMania.

Obviously WWE’s top brass sees a lot of potential in Rodriguez as main event level player in the future, but she’s just not where she needs to be with the audience to ascend to that level… yet. A drawback of trying to introduce, or reintroduce, several women on SmackDown at the same time. There’s no shortage of talent on the Blue Brand, but the crowds are still in the “getting to know you” phase with many of these women.

A big time performance from Rodriquez tonight could be just want she needs and I think the Texas native is going to deliver for the hometown crowd.

Eight is the current Women’s Royal Rumble single eliminations record, held by Shayna Baszler and Bianca Belair after they eliminated more than half the field by themselves in 2020.

Royal Rumbles were tailor-made for powerhouses like Raquel. Rodriguez will play that Kane role to perfection tonight, and toss out nine Superstars en route to a second place finish.

Not so bold, prediction: Sami Zayn helps Roman Reigns defeat Kevin Owens

Sami Zayn should be used to screwing Kevin Owens out of winning matches by this point in his career. He just did it again last night on SmackDown. So it’ll be no problem for Zayn to inject himself into tonight’s WWE Universal Championship match and prove to be the deciding factor once again.

Roman Reigns is walking out of the Alamodome as the World Champion and will be walking into WrestleMania 39 to main event night two. It’s done. It’s booked. It’s a lock. If you have any hope inside you that Kevin Owens will shock the world tonight, just go ahead and bury it deep down inside and don’t let it surface.

Sure, on a level playing field, Owens could beat Reigns. But the obstacles will be too great to overcome. KO will fight his way through the Usos and Solo Sikoa and be in line for the win, until the Honorary Uce steps in to pass, what he believes to be, his final test.

It won’t be his final test though. That would be too easy. Ladies and Gentlemen, prepare yourselves for the Return of the Jedi ending.

After Reigns successfully defends his World Championship, the Bloodline will feast on a lifeless Kevin Owens like a pack of wild hyenas. Sami Zayn will reluctantly watch on as his former best friend is assaulted. That’s when The Tribal Chief will turn to Sami and demand he join in on the fun. They’ll prop KO up in the corner and ask Sami to turn to the dark side forever with one final Helluva Kick.

But just like Darth Vader, Sami won’t be able to sacrifice someone he loves to align himself with the evil empire.

Sami Zayn will finally do the right thing and attempt to save his friend by turning on the Bloodline. It’ll be sad. It won’t end well for Sami. Jey Uso will most likely have to be the one to put down the man he passionately defended at Raw XXX. But it will be the start to that white hot baby face run for Sami Zayn that we’ve all been waiting to see.

Who knows, it may even lead to Sami Zayn becoming WWE Universal Champion one day. Fingers crossed on that one.

Bold prediction: Cody Rhodes will NOT win the Royal Rumble


I’m less confident about this prediction after WWE had to bring in extra Cody Rhodes merch because the Superstore here in San Antonio sold out of it this week. Yea, he’s still massively popular and would be a fine choice to win this year’s Men’s Royal Rumble Match. And no doubt, he’s the heavy odds on favorite.

Let’s look at the field. Brock Lesnar always has to be considered a contender to win any match he’s apart of, but there’s absolutely no chance Triple H decides to book ANOTHER Roman Reigns/Brock Lesnar match at WrestleMania. The Beast could very well lead the pack in eliminations, but he’ll eventually get tossed by someone. Bobby Lashley would be a good bet, or someone like GUNTHER would be an excellent choice.

I’m expecting the reigning Intercontinental Champion to have a great showing tonight and eliminating Brock Lesnar could set up a dream showdown sometime down the line. I don’t see GUNTHER winning, however. It’s just a little too soon. But the 2024 Men’s Royal Rumble? Insert eye-ball emoji.

As for the All Mighty, he looks to have a date with Brock Lesnar in Los Angeles. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the dreaded “back from the dead” elimination tonight. After Lesnar is thrown from the match, he’ll come back in and ruin Lashley’s WrestleMania plans.

Many of you will hate it, but that’s the point. Austin Theory could win tonight. And the thought of that happening drives you insane, which is why the kid is money. Heat sells tickets to shows and merch for the babyfaces. Don’t worry too much though.

Theory could win the Rumble one day, but seeing as they just took the MITB briefcase off of him, I doubt they throw him back into the World Title picture this soon. He’ll get close though. Don’t be surprised if he finishes in the final four.

Barring surprise appearances from a few heavy hitters like Stone Cold Steve Austin, John Cena or The Rock, that really only leaves us with two true contenders to win the Royal Rumble.

And I hate to break it to you, Sami Zayn is not one of them. I love Sami. You love Sami. But the story just isn’t there for him to be in the match, let alone with the thing. If the Men’s Royal Rumble goes on before Zayn has had a chance to split from the Bloodline, it would make zero sense for him to enter to try and win at shot Roman Reigns. In fact, no member of the Bloodline should be in the match.

Now, they could do the World Title match first, main event the Rumble and then have Sami win after he turns on the Bloodline, but I still don’t see Roman Reigns allowing that to happen. He’d send Solo Sikoa in to take Sami out and steal his moment.

That leaves us with Cody Rhodes and Seth “Freakin” Rollins.

I feel like many people are overlooking Rollins’ potential to win this bad boy and finally get his name on the WrestleMania marquee. Rhodes is still the more likely option, but WWE has telegraphed his victory with these return vignettes. It seems almost too obvious now. Very similar to Triple H in 2002.

I smell a swerve.

Give me Rollins and Rhodes as the final two competitors in the Rumble tonight, a third rematch without actually doing the rematch. And I think Rollins finally gets one over on Cody. He may not be able to beat him 1-2-3, but he can and will dump him over the top rope to set up Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins at WrestleMania 39.

Cody Rhodes’ day will come. He will win the WWE Championship in 2023. But he’s going to have to pick himself back up after another set back and begin the climb to the top again, because that’s what the American Nightmare is all about.

What do you guys think we’ll see at the Royal Rumble? Let us know in the comment section below. You can follow Rick Ucchino on Twitter and subscribe to the Bleav in Pro Wrestling Podcast Channel for more of his work.

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