The 2017 Royal Rumble will air live from the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. The event will feature its namesake match, the 30-man Royal Rumble, to decide the No. 1 contender for either the WWE or Universal Championship at WrestleMania. There are also several title matches featured on Sunday’s card.
Here’s a preview of what to expect at this year’s Royal Rumble event.
Raw Tag Team Championship
Cesaro and Sheamus (c) vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
Former enemies turned friends Cesaro and Sheamus have enjoyed a nice run as Raw’s Tag Team Champions. The European duo defeated New Day, ending the trio’s reign (the longest in WWE history) as champs at Roadblock: End of the Line in December. Cesaro and Sheamus have since gelled as a cohesive unit and put their differences behind them.
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson have stayed in the tag team title picture since debuting in April, despite what many fans believe has been questionable booking. However, the former Bullet Club members still haven’t been given a legitimate push to a title reign, which could change on Sunday.
Winner: Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
Perhaps it’s wishful thinking, but WWE may finally pull the trigger on Gallows and Anderson. If anything, their recent reversed decision DQ victory over Cesaro and Sheamus could’ve been the company’s way of testing the crowd’s reaction. The duo deserves a run as tag champs and Sunday could be their chance.
Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax
Sasha Banks is already established as one of Raw’s top female competitors. The self-proclaimed “Boss” is a 3-time Women’s Champion, with her most recent reign coming in December.
Nia Jax is WWE’s most imposing female monster. She holds a distinct size advantage over Banks, as well as the rest of the Women’s division. Jax has attacked Banks on numerous occasions recently, which left the Boss injured until her surprise retaliation on Monday.
Winner: Nia Jax
If this becomes a one-off feud, expect Banks to win. But with WWE looking to establish another top heel besides Charlotte, Jax should be the victor during Sunday’s preshow. That could advance the feud another month before inserting Banks back into the title picture leading up to WrestleMania.
Becky Lynch, Nikki Bella and Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss, Mickie James and Natalya
There’s plenty going on in SmackDown’s Women’s Division. A returning Mickie James has aligned herself with champion Alexa Bliss to battle former champion Becky Lynch. Nikki Bella and Natalya are fighting over Total Divas, Bret Hart’s attention and John Cena — or something along those lines. And Naomi just wants to be booked in a match.
So how did WWE fit all of these angles on the Royal Rumble card? A pre-show 6-woman tag match!
Winner: Becky Lynch, Nikki Bella and Naomi
Initially, I thought the heels would take the victory. James is an established veteran, but still needs something to go by other than her past accolades. Still, the Lynch-James feud is still in its early stages and should continue beyond this match, so the outcome shouldn’t derail those plans.
There was, however, an interaction between Bliss and Naomi worth noting. The champion deemed the former Funkadactyl “irrelevant” and not worth her time for a match. Sunday’s bout could end with Naomi earning a pinfall and inserting herself in the title picture while James and Lynch battle in an alternate feud.
Rick Swann (c) vs. Neville
Rich Swann is one of WWE’s most exciting young superstars. The 25-year-old former Indy standout has the athleticism and charisma to carry the Cruiserweight Division.
But veteran Neville has looked dominant since making his return and subsequent heel turn. His new edge has made both his character and the Cruiserweight segments more appealing in recent weeks.
The Cruiserweight Division has seen underwhelming results. Fans have seemed disinterested since the Cruiserweight Classic tournament ended. Perhaps its time for another change, especially with Neville’s successful new persona.
Raw Women’s Championship
Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Bayley
Charlotte Flair has never lost a singles match at a pay-per-view event since debuting in July 2015. She’s currently in her fourth reign as Women’s Champion after defeating Banks at Roadblock: End of the Line in December.
Bayley is the true babyface persona in Raw’s Women’s Division. After months of carrying the torch as NXT’s top female competitor, she made her main roster debut in August and has been near the title picture, but taken a backseat to the Flair-Banks feud. This will be Bayley’s first opportunity at a title shot in a singles match on the main roster.
Winner: Charlotte Flair
I just don’t see WWE ending Flair’s undefeated pay-per-view streak with WrestleMania around the corner. She’ll likely pull off a dirty tactic, which has been the case for the majority of her heel run on the main roster. If not, perhaps Bayley’s friend/former rival Banks will turn on the Hugger and interfere out of jealousy, considering she was suddenly excluded from the title picture.
AJ Styles (c) vs. John Cena
AJ Styles, formerly the best wrestler to have never competed in WWE, enjoyed one of the best first years in company history. Styles debuted to a huge ovation during last year’s Royal Rumble match, found himself in the main event scene immediately after WrestleMania, “beat up John Cena” — including a clean victory at SummerSlam, won the WWE Championship and carried the SmackDown Live brand through 2017.
Cena spent the latter part of the year making television and film appearances — proving he’s still WWE’s franchise player from a media standpoint — and immediately re-entered the title picture upon his return in December. The 15-time champion is one victory away from tying “Nature Boy” Ric Flair’s record of 16 World Championships. Plus “recognize” is his new catchphrase.
Winner: John Cena
I’ve honestly gone back-and-forth with this prediction since SmackDown. I mean, it seems like Styles was completely buried by Cena’s promo that more or less said “yeah, you’re great but I wasn’t here so nothing you achieved matters.” He has to avenge that to stay legitimate.
Then again, it’s John Cena. No way he takes a third pay-per-view loss in this feud, right? You’d think WWE wants its biggest name headlining its biggest event of the year. And that’s not me knocking Styles. I wish they’d give him the ball, but I just don’t see it happening. Cena is likely still the company’s choice to headline the title match at the event.
Kevin Owens (c) (w/Chris Jericho (in a shark cage)) vs. Roman Reigns
In what feels like the longest-running feud in WWE, Kevin Owens will once again defend his Universal Championship against Roman (hold your boos) Reigns. But this time, Owens’ BFF Chris Jericho will be held in a shark cage above the ring.
With Jericho confined, surely this means a win for WWE’s future Golden Boy, right?
Winner: Kevin Owens
Perhaps not. With stipulation matches such as these, there’s always a loophole. I don’t see Jericho being stuck in the cage for the entire match. Somehow he’s going to weasel his way out and help Owens retain, though it seems like Owens-Jericho is a match WWE has penciled in for ‘Mania.
The obvious build to that feud would be Jericho costing Owens the championship somehow. But the alternative could be management forcing them into a title match until the friction builds. Also, look out for Braun Strowman to interfere before his Rumble match. He did vow to get revenge on Reigns (and Goldberg) for spearing two weeks ago.
2017 Royal Rumble Match
This is probably the most exciting Royal Rumble match in years. For once, there is no obvious winner. With the brand split, there are several feasible candidates that could win. It could be Undertaker, Goldberg, Strowman, Brock Lesnar, Baron Corbin or any other upper-tier competitors from either show.
There are also several NXT stars who could make an impact. The most obvious is Samoa Joe, who is likely to debut considering he hasn’t competed on NXT television in weeks. A Joe victory would create an enticing angle in which both Raw and SmackDown compete to sign him in hopes of securing the WrestleMania main event. But it’s another surprise entrant that seems to be the most realistic choice to win Sunday’s match.
Winner: Finn Bálor
Finn Bálor has been out of action since injuring his shoulder during his inaugural Universal Championship victory at SummerSlam. But after months of rehabilitation, Bálor could be cleared to return.
Let’s not forget that he was hotshotted into the title picture immediately during his main roster debut. Bálor also has a legitimate gripe with anyone holding what should still be his championship, especially Owens, who claimed the title after it was vacated.
Not only is that something the fans would want to see, but a realistic option if the Demon is cleared to compete at Royal Rumble.