For wrestling fans, we’ve entered the most wonderful time of the year: WWE is officially on the road to WrestleMania. Starting with the WWE Royal Rumble, every show feels a little more intense, (almost) every match more significant. This Sunday’s show will likely clarify the company’s path to the Showcase of the Immortals, which is currently difficult to predict.
The main draw, the Royal Rumble match, always dominates the discussion heading into the event. Of course, there are some safe bets for the winner of this year’s men’s match like Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and even Braun Strowman. But rather than focusing on these obvious choices, let’s zero in on ten under-the-radar candidates who could emerge victorious at the end of the battle royal.
(10.) King Corbin
Heading into the WWE Royal Rumble, King Corbin could be categorized as either a predictable choice to win the match or as a dark horse. After all, he’s the reigning King of the Ring, he’s consistently featured on WWE Friday Night SmackDown and Vince McMahon clearly has a soft spot for him. Right now, he’s in a prominent feud with Roman Reigns, and the two stars will continue their rivalry in a Falls Count Anywhere match on Sunday. Given that Corbin won their meeting at WWE TLC 2019, it’d be shocking if he defeated the Big Dog two pay-per-views in a row. But it’s certainly possible, given Corbin’s track record. If you assume that Reigns wins their match, Corbin could still have a remarkable showing in the Rumble itself, though that doesn’t mean he’ll be the one left standing.
(9.) Big E
Big E is a member of a group of WWE superstars who have all the potential in the world but, for whatever reason, they haven’t fully realized it yet. While he’s been quite successful as a member of the New Day, he hasn’t gotten a chance as a legitimate singles star in a few years. WWE Friday Night SmackDown commentator Corey Graves, amongst many others, has repeatedly petitioned for a Big E singles run. (Graves made the case for Big E as recently as last week’s episode of SmackDown.) He’s got an unmatched combination of charisma and athleticism. In classic wrestling terms, he’s got “the look,” and then some. Of anyone on the roster, Big E might be the best candidate for a rapid rise to the top.
That ascension doesn’t have to be catalyzed by a Big E victory on Sunday. He could eliminate Brock Lesnar and kickstart a feud that’s based around Lesnar’s dominance of Kofi Kingston. Even a breakout performance in the Rumble could help take Big E’s career to the next level.
(8.) Kevin Owens and (7.) Samoa Joe
Almost anyone involved in Seth Rollins’ feud with Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe could be a candidate on this list. (That’s why we’re lumping them together.) Last year, Owens seemed poised to become a fan-favorite in the mold of Stone Cold Steve Austin. Owens’ momentum has cooled a bit but an impressive showing on Sunday could take him to the top of the red brand. Plus, it could be used to build his rivalry with Rollins. It’s easy to envision Owens closing in on a victory, only for Rollins and his “disciples” to eliminate him. Either way, WWE RAW sorely needs a main event babyface and Owens could fill that role perfectly.
Likewise, Joe recently returned from injury and became a central figure in this feud. A dominant showing in the Royal Rumble could remind everyone how remarkable Joe is and set the Samoan Submission Machine up for a successful year. On the other hand, maybe newly crowned WWE RAW Tag Team Champion Buddy Murphy will continue to blossom by proving himself on Sunday. All of the competitors involved in this story stand to benefit from the Royal Rumble match.
(6.) Keith Lee
After an astonishing performance at WWE Survivor Series, Keith Lee vaulted into superstardom on NXT. It’s easy to predict a similar spotlight on Lee during the men’s Royal Rumble match. As of this writing, Lee is slated to challenge Roderick Strong for the NXT North American Championship on this week’s episode of NXT. Could Lee win the title before he wows the WWE Universe on Sunday? It’s certainly possible. Lee has proven that his potential is truly limitless. Some fans predict he could even get a moment where he squares off with Brock Lesnar himself during the Rumble. Anything can happen in the most famous battle royal in sports entertainment. So it’s not crazy to predict that, even if he isn’t the victor of the match, Lee will be a winner by the end of the show.
(5.) Rusev and (4.) Bobby Lashley
As of last week, the feud between Bobby Lashley and Rusev had been somewhat evenly matched. Lashley won their matches but, time after time, the Bulgarian Brute managed to leave the Almighty One lying during other segments. Then, on this week’s episode of WWE RAW, Lashley and Lana quickly defeated Rusev and Liv Morgan in the main event. At this point, it seems clear that Lashley is ahead of Rusev. On Sunday, for the first time since his return to WWE, Lashley could take the next step and become a legitimate star. He might not win the Royal Rumble match but a dominant showing from the Almighty One could continue his climb up the card on the red brand.
As for Rusev, he has still benefited from the feud. The fans have rallied behind him during the love triangle with Lashley and Lana. Despite the in-ring losses, Rusev is one of the most popular competitors on WWE RAW. An outstanding performance in the Royal Rumble match could get Rusev back on track and potentially distance him from this storyline.
(3.) Shorty G
Of all the superstars on this list, Shorty G might be the most unrealistic of them to win the Royal Rumble match. But defying the odds is what the Rumble is all about. Since he changed his name, the man formerly known as Chad Gable has consistently shown that he won’t let his relatively small stature deter him from chasing his dreams. As one of the few stars who regularly appears on SmackDown, it’s fair to think that the Powers That Be could see big things in Shorty G’s future. His match with Sheamus at WWE Royal Rumble will be telling, as it might affirm Gable’s standing as a potential breakout star.
If nothing else, Shorty G has a chance to stand out from the pack on Sunday and prove, once and for all, that size doesn’t matter.
2. Aleister Black
Other than obvious picks like Reigns, two superstars seem like underrated favorites to win the Royal Rumble match. First, Aleister Black has quickly become one of the most impressive, credible competitors on the WWE roster. He swept a series of three outstanding matches with Buddy Murphy, and he’s been dominating other superstars for months. With his knockout finisher, Black Mass, and unique in-ring skillset, the future looks bright for Black.
It’s unclear what’s next for Black after his feud with Murphy. Even if he doesn’t win the Rumble match, a Rumble showing where he dishes out some Black Masses would continue to solidify him as a top star on WWE RAW.
1. Drew McIntyre
Drew McIntyre is a borderline obvious pick to win the WWE Royal Rumble match. For weeks, he’s been positioned as one of the favorites to win the contest. He picked up a significant victory over Randy Orton and AJ Styles two weeks ago and his Claymore Kick rivals the Black Mass as one of WWE’s best finishers. Like Big E and others, McIntyre has the look, the charisma and the other attributes you’d hope for in a top star.
But WWE has been inconsistent with the way they’ve handled the Scottish Psychopath. It seemed like 2019 would be his year, but he spent most of it one of Shane McMahon’s henchman. On Sunday, WWE has the chance to show that they believe in McIntyre and want him to be a top star. Plus, win or lose, he’s one of the most believable stars WWE could pair with Brock Lesnar, who needs a new adversary.
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