Who is the early favorite to win the 2018 Royal Rumble?
With the Royal Rumble just over two months away, it’s fair to begin pondering who could win the Royal Rumble Match itself and move on to a title match at WrestleMania.
Like many years in the past, there is an open field in 2018. But through basic deduction, we can get an idea of who might be coming out on top, helping us to narrow our view for when the show gets on the air from Philadelphia on Jan. 28.
Let’s work under the assumption that Brock Lesnar is holding onto the Universal Title until at least WrestleMania. If anything, he’ll have at most one more title defense — potentially at the Royal Rumble itself — with Finn Balor as the likeliest opponent. That knocks Balor out of Rumble-winning conversation, while establishing Lesnar as Raw’s champion heading into WrestleMania 34.
Unless you’ve been watching something else on Monday nights for the past few months, the Lesnar vs. Reigns collision has seemed inevitable. The Beast has already taken down all of Raw’s other top contenders, including Samoa Joe and Braun Strowman, while it’s unlikely Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose would hop their Shield brethren in line.
With the release of the WWE’s PPV schedule for 2018, Raw was revealed to be hosting the first single-brand PPV of the year, Elimination Chamber, in late February. What match could be better (aside from the Royal Rumble Match, of course) to determine a No. 1 contender to Lesnar and his belt than the Elimination Chamber Match? That all but knocks out anyone from Raw — which would almost assuredly be Reigns — from winning the Rumble itself. Plus, remember what happened the last time Roman would the Rumble in Philly?
So if Raw is out, that leaves us with SmackDown Live. Any number of men could be holding the belt come April, but the current title holder, A.J. Styles, is the best bet.
Let’s work with Styles as champion in our scenario: who would be the best WrestleMania opponent for the Phenomenal One? Kevin Owens would make for a great rivalry and likely a fantastic showdown at the WWE’s premier event; Randy Orton owns the pedigree and the merit to draw another WrestleMania main event; but there’s really only one man for the job — Shinsuke Nakamura. It would be a WWE dream match, which the company could cash in on a global scale. After seeing how well Lesnar and Styles jelled at Survivor Series, the possibility of Nakamura/Styles in New Orleans would set the wrestling world on fire.
Nakamura’s current booking couldn’t be any further from having him near the title picture, but it wouldn’t be the first time the WWE has run out of booking for a superstar prior to the Rumble. What better way to reward him for a brutal second half of 2017 than opening 2018 with a Royal Rumble win?
There are always outside possibilities, with this being the WWE and all. Who’s to say Triple H doesn’t win the Rumble again? Or maybe Kurt Angle? You’d be shocked, but Adam Cole winning would send the crowd into a frenzy, while John Cena winning would create the opposite reaction. All bets are off come the Royal Rumble.