Royal Rumble 2019: Seth Rollins And The 5 Most Likely Winners.WWE Royal Rumble 2019 will determine the future of several of the company’s biggest stars, ranging from Brock Lesnar to Braun Strowman to Daniel Bryan.Of utmost importance at the pay-per-view, however, is the 30-man Royal Rumble match, an over-the-top battle royal that results in the winner earning himself a guaranteed match for either the Universal or WWE Championship at WrestleMania 35. The 2018 Royal Rumble was won by Shinsuke Nakamura, who ultimately failed in his quest to win the WWE title from AJ Styles, while Randy Orton won the 2017 Royal Rumble and then went on to defeat Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania 33.
Most years, fans have a pretty good idea of who will win the Royal Rumble long before the match takes place, and this year is no different. Based on a slew of backstage news reports and betting odds, there appear to be only a handful of stars who have a legitimate shot at winning the Royal Rumble and the WrestleMania title shot that comes along with it, though we can never officially count out WWE pulling off a major surprise.
Here are the five favorites to win the 2019 Royal Rumble.
Note: Betting odds are from Odds Checker and are current as of time of publication.
A popular fantasy booking scenario many fans have talked about on social media would see The Rock replacing Mixed Match Challenge champion R-Truth as the No. 30 entrant in the Royal Rumble.
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That theory stems from reports that The Rock was originally slated to win the Royal Rumble and go on to face Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania 35. Although that match is probably out the window now, The Rock, who was the original betting favorite for the bout, has still been linked to a potential Royal Rumble return because The Rock reportedly wants to work WrestleMania 35 and has said himself that he “can’t wait” to be back in a WWE ring. In fact, The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar was recently penciled in as the betting favorite to headline WrestleMania in a bout that would presumably be for the Universal Championship, which necessitates a win for The Rock.
Rest assured that if The Rock does enter the 2019 Royal Rumble, he’s a virtual shoo-in to win it, at least in part because that could allow WWE to do “The Beast” vs. “The People’s Champion,” a match that was once considered to main event WrestleMania 30. While a Lesnar vs. Rock match might not sit well with WWE’s diehard fans who don’t want to see a part-timer vs. part-timer title match close WWE’s biggest pay-per-view of the year, Lesnar’s drawing power combined with The Rock’s fame could make that match a massive draw for the event.
If WWE can land The Rock for one last improbable match, it would be a wise business move to do just that and to build the show around him as well. And based on a recent tweet from WrestleVotes, a win for The Rock isn’t nearly as far-fetched as it might seem:
Drew McIntyre has, at times, been the No. 1 betting favorite to win the 2019 Royal Rumble, propelled by reports that he is in line for a massive push and has the backing of both Vince McMahon and Triple H.
Rumors are running rampant, however suggesting that McMahon and Triple H differ in regards to what they believe the Universal title match at WrestleMania 35 should be. McMahon apparently wants McIntyre to challenge Braun Strowman for the title at WWE’s flagship pay-per-view, presumably with Strowman defeating Brock Lesnar at Royal Rumble and McIntyre winning the 30-man battle royal to earn that match against “The Monster Among Men.” With Strowman removed from the bout with Lesnar, however, one would have to think that “The Scottish Terminator” is no longer the front-runner to outlast 29 other superstars and get a WrestleMania title match.
There is plenty of unfinished business between Strowman and McIntyre, whose feud never really got any closure, and even with Strowman out of the running to win the belt at Royal Rumble, it stands to reason that he’s still one of the favorites to win the Royal Rumble match. WWE, for everything it’s done wrong in recent months, has done a good job of booking McIntyre, who stands out from the rest of the pack of Raw as a freakish athlete, strongly pushed and well protected star who represents everything that the company’s future should be.
If there was ever a rising star who would make a ton of sense as the Royal Rumble, it’s McIntyre, who is both ready to be a world champion now and capable of carrying WWE down the road.
SmackDown has really been turned on its head over the past several months, and two of the most notable changes on the blue brand are the heel turn of Daniel Bryan and what appears to be a babyface turn for The Miz.
The Miz has been linked to a potential face turn for two months now, and though it looks like Miz’s ongoing turn may lead to a WrestleMania feud with a heel-turning Shane McMahon, there is an already built-in narrative for the WWE title that could work really well: A face Miz challenging a heel Bryan after winning the Royal Rumble. The Miz, after all, is one of WWE’s most over superstars and one who has entered that territory in which he’s getting cheered because he’s so good at what he does, which could facilitate a face turn because WWE already views him as a great public ambassador for the company.
At one point, The Miz vs. Bryan was one of the betting favorites to headline WrestleMania 35, and given how hated Bryan has already become as a heel as well as the fact that The Miz is one of the top betting favorites to win the Royal Rumble, we could certainly see a situation where we finally get the culmination of the great Miz/Bryan feud but with the heel/face roles reversed. That would be a great way to end their rivalry once and for all, and it would also be a tremendous way to elevate The Miz, who deserves to be back in the world title picture after last being a part of it way back in 2011.
Much like Bryan has been throughout his career, The Miz finds himself in a great position on the card but as a bit of an underdog to leapfrog other high-profile stars in order to win the Royal Rumble. If we’re thinking logically here, though, a victory for Miz makes more sense than just about any other possible winner would.
There has been a lot of uncertainty regarding John Cena’s status for the Royal Rumble, as one report notes that he was advertised for the pay-per-view solely to sell tickets but won’t actually be there while WWE.com has said he’s injured, which is believed to be a work.
But even though Cena was out of action for the vast majority of 2018 and has noted that he’s unable to wrestle while filming, it’s difficult to envision him not having a big role at WrestleMania 35 as long as he’s under contract with WWE. Cena, after all, has been involved in a substantial Mania match every year since 2005, except at WrestleMania 32 when he was injured, and this year should be no different, especially when you consider who is holding the WWE Championship.
There isn’t an obvious WrestleMania 35 opponent lined up for Daniel Bryan (assuming he holds the title until then), and as one of the biggest babyfaces in WWE, Cena would make a fantastic opponent for Bryan at a time when Bryan has solidified himself as perhaps the best heel in the entire company. There is plenty of history between Bryan and Cena, such as Bryan’s rare clean win over Cena at SummerSlam and their high-profile relationships with the Bella Twins, and Cena figures to be involved in a substantial WrestleMania match once again after facing The Undertaker at WrestleMania 34.
With Cena in route to becoming a massive star in Hollywood and Vince McMahon loving the added exposure that brings to WWE, a Royal Rumble win for Cena would be a logical move that would both set up a highly anticipated match and storyline of Cena trying to win his record-breaking 17th world title and also put the spotlight on perhaps its biggest mainstream star. Again, it’s not clear if Cena will even be at Royal Rumble, but then again, it’s also not clear that he won’t be.
After the crowd turned on Seth Rollins’ match against Dean Ambrose at TLC and infuriated Vince McMahon in the process, there is speculation that McMahon may reverse course and choose not to have Seth Rollins win the Royal Rumble.
Rollins has long been one of the betting favorites to win the match, as Triple H is reportedly pushing for Rollins to defeat Brock Lesnar for the Universal title at WrestleMania 35. That scenario would likely come to fruition via Rollins winning the 30-man battle royal, but McMahon apparently would rather see Drew McIntyre vs. Braun Strowman for the title, which might necessitate a Royal Rumble win for McIntyre. There are certainly arguments for either McIntyre or Rollins winning the Royal Rumble, but it is, of course, hard to argue against Rollins winning it.
Although he has cooled off a bit in recent months due to some questionable booking, Rollins has been Raw’s most popular singles star for much of the last year, establishing himself as a top five merchandise seller and generating some of the loudest crowd reactions in all of WWE. It seems that the majority of fans would be more than satisfied with Rollins winning the Royal Rumble and then slaying “The Beast,” and after Rollins lost the Intercontinental title at TLC, there are certainly plenty of signs that indicate that WWE will move forward with plans to elevate Rollins back to world title contention.
Rollins assuredly deserves that based on the tremendous 2018 he had and the loud pops he continues to get, and for now, he remains the clear front-runner to be the No. 1 contender for the Universal title come WrestleMania 35. The only real question is whether or not he wins the Royal Rumble to get there.
Blake Oestriecher is an elementary school teacher by day and a sports writer by night. He’s a contributor to @ForbesSports, where he primarily covers WWE. You can follow him on Twitter @BOestriecher.