There is less than a week left until the 2015 WWE Royal Rumble and this year it's coming to you live from the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia. The Rumble is one of WWE's most exciting and longest running shows because nearly anything can happen in the titular main event, and this year's edition looks to be especially exciting.
The match begins with two Superstars in the ring, with additional participants entering every 90 seconds. Each Superstar competes until they are eliminated by being thrown over the top rope. The last man standing in the ring is the winner and gets to compete for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania 31.
As of the time of this writing, only ten of the thirty entrants have been announced. It's fair to assume that most of the current male WWE roster will be making an appearance in the match, but there are always surprise entrants. I'll do my best to guess which former Superstars will be showing up to compete for the chance to headline this year's Wrestlemania in Santa Clara, California.
Join me as I preview and predict the 2015 Royal Rumble match.
The reigning Superstar of the Year has to be considered one of the favorites to win the Royal Rumble for a couple of different reasons. Roman made it to the final two of last year's Rumble by eliminating 12 Superstars, breaking Kane's long-held record for most eliminations in a single Rumble match, only to be thrown out of the ring by the returning Batista. In addition to that, Reigns has long been seen as a future champion by those within WWE creative. It's even rumored that Vince McMahon himself wrote Reign's recent cringe-worthy promos.
Winning the Royal Rumble would be a star-making moment for a Superstar that seems to have been destined for success and, until recently, Rumble a victory for The Juggernaut seemed to be a foregone conclusion. In fact, for most of 2014, a Roman Reigns/Brock Lesnar Wrestlemania main event seemed inevitable. But in order for that match to happen, Reigns will have to be even better than he was last year. Does the former Shield-member have it in him?
The 2014 Royal Rumble was defined by the absence of Daniel Bryan. His feud with The Authority (presumably) kept him out of the Rumble match despite him being the hottest Superstar on the roster at the time. Fans loudly showed their disapproval by raining boos down on the #30 entrant Rey Mysterio simply because he wasn't Daniel Bryan. They chanted his name and did the YES! chant in protest. Batista received an equally unenthusiastic response when he won the match. People were _pissed_. They wanted Daniel Bryan, and they didn't get him. WWE went on to course-correct by adding Bryan into the Wrestlemania 30 main event and the rest is history.
Daniel Bryan's return from injury has been a fantastic surprise. For a while, it seemed as if he would never return from his injury and be forced into early retirement. But his performance on last week's Smackdown speaks for itself: The Beard is back! The man who never lost the WWE World Heavyweight Championship has been lobbying hard as of late for a title shot against The Beast Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania and if he's going to make that a reality, he's going to have to be the last man standing on January 25th.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Daniel draw or be assigned a low number for the Rumble match; he still has beef with The Authority and they certainly won't want him to win. If ever there was a candidate to make a historically long run in the Royal Rumble, it's Daniel Bryan considering that he was trained by Shawn Michaels, the first Superstar to start a Royal Rumble match at number one and win. Maybe HBK will give his former student some advice.
Until Bryan's return, Roman Reigns was my favorite to win the Royal Rumble. But a healthy and motivated Daniel Bryan is a force to be reckoned with. Daniel Bryan is challenge that I don't think any other WWE Superstar will be equipped to handle come the day of the Rumble.
United States Champion Rusev
The Hero of the Russian Federation made his WWE debut at last year's Royal Rumble during which he made an immediate splash. Billed as a standout from NXT, it took six Superstars to get him up and over the top rope. Rusev has been on a hot-streak for the ages ever since. In fact, he's yet to lose a match by pinfall or submission.
The future looks bright for the current United States Champion: he's portrayed on television as one of the strongest and fiercest competitors in the WWE locker room and there's no sign of his 'undefeated' streak ending any time soon. A win at the Royal Rumble isn't out of the realm of possibility and would set up one hell of a main event at Wrestlemania, but I wouldn't bet on him this year.
Intercontinental Champion Bad News Barrett
#BNB is back to competing in the WWE following a shoulder injury and he seems to be in good form, but the lack of obvious allies in the WWE will make it difficult for him to make a protracted run in the Rumble.
The mysterious Bray Wyatt will be returning for his second Royal Rumble this year, but with considerably less momentum than he had this time last year when he was the leader of one of the company's top heel factions, The Wyatt Family. A lot has changed since then, though: Erick Rowan and Luke Harper have been "cured" by Wyatt and are now out competing on their own and Bray has been in a months-long feud with the Unstable Dean Ambrose. Wyatt is a fierce competitor and has a history of using supernatural trickery to his advantage, but the lack of a current and obvious storyline hurts Wyatt's chances of winning the Rumble.
Worth nothing, however, are the rumors of Wyatt wrestling the Undertaker at Wrestlemania. If there is any truth to those whispers, the Royal Rumble is a great time to set up that feud. Keep an eye on Wyatt and, as always, follow the buzzards.
The Lunatic Fringe has had an up and down 2014, but he's one of the most popular Superstars in the WWE Universe at the moment. Ambrose is a truly talented performer blessed with both impressive in-ring abilities and a gift for the microphone. On a recent episode of Smackdown, he aligned himself with his former-Shield brother Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan, my two favorites to win the Rumble. This could prove to be a costly mistake if the alliance carries on into the Rumble, where it's every man for himself.
Goldust / Stardust
Gold and Stardust are two of my favorite guys on the roster right now, but neither of them have a chance in hell to emerge victorious at this year's Royal Rumble. Since that's not much of a prediction, I'll venture a guess that one of them will eliminate the other as has happened in three previous Royal Rumbles.
Weeeeeeeeeeellllllll it's the Big Show! The World's Largest Athlete has never won a Royal Rumble match. Don't count on that changing any time soon.
The Big Red Machine needs only to eliminate one person from this year's Royal Rumble to claim sole ownership of the career-record for most eliminations in Rumble history. He's currently tied with Shawn Michaels at 39 and there's no reason to doubt Kane's ability to achieve that milestone this year. Fun fact: nobody in the WWE has entered nearly as many Rumbles as Kane has: the 2015 edition will mark his eighteenth appearance. The next closest? The aforementioned Heartbreak Kid with 12 appearances.
Not Announced, but likely to participate:
The Viper has been out of action in the WWE for a few months now, but all indications are that he will be returning very soon. Orton won the Rumble once before in 2009, so he knows what it takes to survive in this event. There have been rumors that Randy will be returning as a face, so don't be surprised if he turns on any of his former allies from the Authority during the match.
The Celtic Warrior has been on the shelf with an injury for some time now and hasn't been officially announced as a participant. His appearance in last year's Royal Rumble was a surprise return from injury and it would make me very happy if he repeated that stunt again this year. Sheamus was practically made for the Royal Rumble, considering that his whole gimmick is being able to absorb tons of damage and still keep fighting. Look for the 2012 Royal Rumble winner to make a strong showing again this year.
Luke Harper / Erick Rowan
My fervent hope is that Rowan and Harper team back up with Bray Wyatt during the Royal Rumble. Despite being pretty good wrestlers on their own, they are pretty friggin' boring without him. Rowan and Harper have been pitted against each other a handful of times right now, so it doesn't make a ton of sense for them to switch alignment suddenly, but stranger things have happened.
Also, hey, Harper's theme song is one of the better ones that WWE has released recently.
Jimmy and Jey Uso
The reigning Slammy Award winners for Tag Team of the Year and current WWE Tag Team Champions are a shoo-in (shoos-in?) for spots in the 2015 Royal Rumble. They have almost no shot of winning it all, but that's not really the point.
It's a New Day for the high-flying Kingston who will be entering his seventh Royal Rumble match. Kofi has built a career around impressive feats of athleticism at the Royal Rumble matches and there's no reason to suspect that the trend won't continue for another year. In 2013, he used JBL's chair as pogo-stick to hop from the announce table to the ring. Last year, he leapt from the padded barrier that surrounds the ring to the apron. What does the former tag-team champ have in store for 2015?
Big E / Xavier Woods
I'm struggling to come up with something to write about for the rest of Kofi's New Day teammates. There's strength in numbers, so look for the trio to team up if possible. Other than that... no chance.
Ryback had been getting a good push from the powers that be before he was unceremoniously fired by The Authority on Raw a few weeks ago. If he manages to get his job back in time, the Royal Rumble would be a great time for The Big Guy to gain back some of the momentum that he lost after being canned by Steph and Triple H.
The Miz / Damien Sandow
I love both of these guys, especially Sandow. He has been on fire lately as Miz's 'stunt double' and the WWE Universe has finally come around on him as a performer. Although the Miz has main evented Wrestlemania before, I don't expect him to be much of a threat in the Royal Rumble this year.
Here's an oddball prediction, though: If ever there was a time for 'Mizdow' to turn on his glory-hogging teammate, it's at the Royal Rumble. Keep an eye on Mizdow in case he decides to show-up his tag-team partner. Either that, or he'll eliminate himself by jumping over the ropes after Miz gets tossed by someone else. (I will be seriously upset if this happens, by the way.)
Oh Cesaro. I'd love nothing more than to see you repeat your winning performance from Wrestlemania 30's Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale, but we all know that's not going to happen. The Swiss Superman was poised for a breakout 2014 after his surprise win a 'Mania, but WWE's writers have given him nothing to work with ever since. Here's hoping he can use this year's Rumble to reach out and grab one of Mr. McMahon's elusive brass rings.
Diego and Fernando, Los Matadores
El Torito was in last year's Rumble. That was pretty funny. If Diego and Fernando are in it this year, they'll unlikely to be anything more than fodder to feed to the stronger competitors.
The 'new-and-improved' Fandango is terrible. I don't ever want to see him again. I hope they bring back the old Fandango. That is all.
Is there a WWE Superstar more boring than Jack Swagger? No. No there is not. He might be in the Royal Rumble, but he ain't gonna win it.
The World's Strongest Man was built for events like the Royal Rumble. He's strong enough to throw just about anybody over the top rope, and heavy enough to resist being thrown over all by himself. He recently feuded with The Big Show and Rusev, too.
Natty's Husband is a great technical wrestler and has been getting plenty of TV time lately. He doesn't have a shot at winning the Rumble, but I hope to see him at least enter it.
I really want to like Adam Rose, but he's been treading water for so long. In fact, I won't be AT ALL surprised if The Bunny makes more noise during the Rumble than Rose does. I don't want to be a lemon here, but Adam Rose will be dead in the water if he enters the Royal Rumble.
He's one half of the current NXT Tag Team Champions and that has to count for something, I guess. I have this vision of him running out to the ring for the Rumble
File Curtis Axel under "guys that have been out with an injury and will probably return for the Rumble but have no shot at winning it."
I. Love. Bo. Dallas. And I Bo-lieve that the former NXT Champion will be returning from his elbow injury at this year's Royal Rumble. He's also my pick for being the quickest elimination in this year's Rumble. Call it a hunch, but I bet he gets dumped out of the ring while needlessly celebrating.
Another hunch: the new-look Darren Young will make an appearance in the Rumble this year. Don't count on him making much of a splash, though.
Titus is an athletic freak. He's very big and very strong, both of which are qualities you look for in a Royal Rumble winner. But Titus is an also-ran in the WWE and has had trouble breaking out of the rut he's been in for so long. If he's in the Rumble, he'll be a non-factor.
The One Man Band has been out of action and off TV for the past few weeks months because of a legal issue. But the assault charges against him have been dropped and he's apparently clear to return to the WWE.
Konnor and Viktor: The Ascension
The Ascension were really cool in NXT but have been pretty flat since their debut in WWE. The Royal Rumble would be a good opportunity for them to seize some momentum and make a name for themselves.
I want to call Ziggler one of my favorites to win it all this year, but the fact that he was recently 'fired' by The Authority makes that kind of difficult. Instead, I'm listing him as one of the potential surprise entrants in this year's Royal Rumble match. But just know that he's my dark horse pick to win it all this year.
Ziggler has been having a great run as of late and has finally emerged as one of the top talents in the WWE. His work-rate is second to none and you can tell that he gives everything he's got every time he competes. He was a great Intercontinental Champion and stole the show at Survivor Series with a performance that more or less single-handedly removed The Authority from power. Momentum was strongly in his favor before The Authority returned to power and fired him. The WWE Universe has been vocal in their support of Ziggler and that could translate into a successful run in the Royal Rumble. It might take a miracle for him to even compete, but Dolph is a candidate to steal the show on Sunday.
The Blue Meanie
The Blue Meanie is my top pick for WWE Alumni most likely to return for the Royal Rumble. The Rumble is in Philly, the ancestral home of ECW, and it makes sense that a local guy will get tabbed to make a triumphant return to the WWE Universe. Over the past couple of weeks, he's been openly campaigning on Twitter for his fans to help him get a shot at the Royal Rumble.
The Meanie still competes on occasion and actively trains at the Monster Factory. I can personally attest to him being in great shape right now, probably better shape than he's been in for a very long time. He's a Philly guy through-and-through (seriously, I see him all over the place around town. I even bumped into him at Home Depot once which was wild) and the crowd would pop like crazy if the ECW-alum gets to compete in the WWE again. My fingers and toes are all crossed for my pal The Blue Meanie.
The Undertaker has been missing in action since losing to Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 30, but rumors have been ramping up that he and Bray Wyatt will square off at WM31. The Royal Rumble provides an opportunity for the WWE to introduce new feuds or plotlines because anything can happen. If there's any truth to that rumor, we could see the first seeds of the rivalry be sewn Sunday in South Philly.
'Taker has won the Rumble once before in 2007 and a repeat in 2015 would go a long way towards reestablishing The Dead Man as a legitimate threat after his stunning and humiliating defeat at the hands of Brock Lesnar. If the Undertaker does make an appearance, it will be a major surprise to everybody in attendance.
The Vigilante Sting made his first-ever appearance in WWE at Survivor Series when he helped Team Cena defeat Team Authority in grand fashion. When WWE COO Triple H tried to interfere in the Survivor Series main event, Sting appeared out of nowhere and hit Trips with a Scorpion Death Drop. While he hasn't been seen since, Triple H has consistently mentioned (and taunted) Sting. It all seems to be leading up to a match between the two at Wrestlemania. It would be a pleasant surprise to see The Franchise make his first-ever Royal Rumble appearance.
Don't be surprised if WWE again uses the Royal Rumble to showcase and/or debut some NXT talent in a main roster event. Current NXT Champ Sami Zayn, Hideo Itami, Finn Balor, Tyler Breeze, and Adrian Neville would all be great candidates to appear this year. If I have to pick one, my money is on Tyler Breeze.
hahahah just kidding.
Ryan Petzar is a freelance writer and journalist. His work has appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, on Philly.com, Yahoo! Sports, Deadspin, CSNPhilly.com, and more. Email him here: [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Follow him on Twitter: @petzrawr