Once 2019 rolls in, the WWE landscape will change in a big way all over again.
That’s because the biggest battle royal in all of professional wrestling kicks off at the start of the year – the Royal Rumble. 30 men and 30 women will compete in their respective matches in order to earn a major championship opportunity at WrestleMania 35.
The titles that will clearly be contested for are the Universal, WWE, Raw Women’s, and SmackDown Women’s championships. Several marquee bouts will be fought for each of those prized titles on the very same evening that two Royal Rumble matches take place. The results that transpire during this PPV will most certainly influence the match card for WrestleMania 35.
But for now, let’s focus on the 2019 Royal Rumble. Here’s my thoughts on who I think will prevail at the first major WWE event of the year.
Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Kalisto vs. Hideo Itami (Fatal Four-Way Match for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship)
Predictions & Winner: Buddy Murphy’s been running wild as the Cruiserweight Champion for a good while now. He defeated Cedric Alexander for the title and has gone on to defeat Mustafa Ali and the same man he took the title from during subsequent title defenses. In a one on one situation, Murphy has come out with his championship still intact. But now he’s being thrown headfirst into a harrowing predicament – instead of defending his title against one challenger, he has to defend it against three other 205 Live competitors. Akira Tozawa, Kalisto, and Hideo Itami are those three challengers.
Even though the odds look like they’re totally not in Murphy’s favor, I’m still placing my bets on him retaining. Just look at the three men he’s set to lock up with – Tozawa, Kalisto, and Itami aren’t exactly near the top of the food chain on 205 Live. They may be talented individuals, but their current status doesn’t really present them as viable challengers. This match is nothing more than a minor speed bump on Murphy’s Road to WrestleMania 35. I think Murphy’s holding onto the title here so he can go on to face a more serious threat at the “Grandaddy of ‘Em All.” Murphy’s goin’ all the way here, folks!
Rusev (c) (with Lana) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (WWE United States Championship)
Predictions & Winner: After holding down the US Championship during an uneventful title run, Shinsuke Nakamura relinquished it to “Rusev Day” in 2018. Of course this hasn’t sat well with “The Artist,” who’s gone on to sneak attack the new champ and talk down to him all the while. The next meeting between both men for SD Live’s secondary title will take place at the 2019 Royal Rumble. In a show full of title matches, this encounter happens to be one of bouts I’m most excited about (yes…I’m not joking.)
One of the more underrated aspects of the current WWE landscape is the awesome chemistry between Nakamura and Rusev. Every time they lock up, they put on a surprisingly great match. That’s going to be the same case here. I’m guessing WWE wants to give Rusev and his rabid fanbase something to enjoy for the first few months of the year, at least. And Nakamura’s much too cold to do anything with the US Championship at this point, to be honest. The title’s clearly staying on Rusev once this match wraps up.
The Bar (Cesaro and Sheamus) (c) vs. The Miz and Shane McMahon (WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship)
Predictions & Winners: The pairing of The Miz and Shane ‘O Mac has been…interesting, to say the least. The Miz has taken a liking to his boss and made every attempt to make Shane an integral part of his latest run on the Blue Brand. Both men have actually competed alongside each other and made the most of this random “strange bedfellows” storyline. But now they have a serious challenge on their hands – the current SD Live Tag Team Champions, The Bar.
I think this match is being used to push a future matchup between The Miz and Shane at ‘Mania 35. Why, you ask? Because these kinds of storylines tend to end in the overenthusiastic heel getting pissed at his clearly uninterested partner and turning on him. This one’s clearly going in that direction. Miz’s anger will start to stir here because Shane will be the one to eat the losing pin from any member of The Bar. Then the wheels will obviously start to turn and further build up Miz’s eventual turn on Shane. This match is nothing more than a storytelling device that’s being used to build up to The Miz vs. Shane McMahon at WrestleMania 35. The Bar’s easily going to retain their titles here.
Asuka (c) vs. Becky Lynch (WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship)
Predictions & Winner: “The Empress of Tomorrow” vs “The Man” has now been made official! Kinda funny how they let the cat out of the bag weeks ahead of Becky Lynch claiming her title shot. Guess the whole “no more immediate rematches” rule changed Becky’s situation, so she had to fight for it. Watching Asuka run wild again as her old self is refreshing, plus getting to see her lock up with the hottest Superstar in wrestling (male or female) is quite the treat. This one will easily turn into one of the most outstanding bouts of the entire evening. I’m envisioning a fair and balanced match here since Ronda Rousey already sent a warning shot last year. I don’t see her showing up here to do the same thing all over again.
At one point, I figured ‘Mania 35 would be the perfect stage to showcase the Four Horsewomen war. But now I’m starting to see the Road to WrestleMania for the ladies act out a bit differently. I get the feeling that Lynch will find herself involved with Rousey in some capacity at WrestleMania 35, so it makes more sense for Asuka to retain and leave Lynch to handle her feud without the title. Lynch is over with or without the SD Women’s Championship, so she’ll be fine going into the big show in April. Asuka’s knee deep in her rebuilding stage and this title run is pushing it along nicely. I’m going all the way in for Asuka here.
Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Sasha Banks (WWE Raw Women’s Championship)
Predictions & Winner: This might be the year, guys! 2019 may be the year where two of Raw’s most beloved women’s wrestlers get rebuilt back to the legendary status they acquired while in NXT. The two women I’m alluding to are Bayley and Sasha Banks. After a pretty disappointing 2018 for both women, I think the big changes the McMahon clan are looking to put into place will benefit both ladies. The proof is in the pudding when you look at how Banks got herself a match with the current Raw Women’s Champion in the first place. She knocked off former #1 Contender Nia Jax and even threw verbal shade at Miss Rousey all in one night. “The Boss” is back!
Bayley’s big 2019 moment should be coming at some point, but right now we’re focusing on Banks. Banks has never faltered in the ring – even when she was involved in a lame “best friends turned enemies” storyline alongside Bayley, she still worked at a high in-ring level.
With Rousey as her next opponent, Banks will be even more motivated than she usually is and showcase “The Boss” of old. Rousey’s match performance quality has stayed at a high level ever since she debuted, so it’s easy to envision her putting on an excellent barnburner with Banks. Banks won’t be some random pushover, either – she’ll give Rousey everything she has and then some. But it will all be for naught in the end. Rousey’s definitely retaining here. I just can’t see Rousey walking into this year’s WrestleMania without the title in hand.
Daniel Bryan (c) vs. AJ Styles (WWE Championship)
Predictions & Winner: What an insane start to 2019! Vince McMahon had a pretty intense meeting with the former WWE Champion to prep him up. His pep talk and out-of-nowhere slap to AJ Styles caused him to flip out and suddenly attack WWE’s big boss. The heightened anger that AJ sported in that moment definitely made it clear that a new fire has ignited within him. That change in character certainly worked to AJ’s benefit since it helped him become #1 contender again. I figured the match’s other participants (Samoa Joe, Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio, and Mustafa Ali) would make for a fresher and more interesting challenge against Daniel Bryan. But I’m not mad at getting another Styles vs. Daniel PPV matchup.
Both Superstars put on an amazing match at TLC. Bryan pulled out a retro Bret Hart maneuver and nabbed the win with a shocking Small Package. It may have been a sneaky tactic, but it still gave the WWE Champion bragging rights since he beat the former champ without any low blow shenanigans. But now that AJ’s tapped into an angrier and even more intense part of himself, I’m expecting an even better rematch this time around.
AJ will make it his mission to work over Bryan’s ankle, while Bryan will most likely strike at AJ’s neck with suplexes and his legs with stiff kicks. All of this will obviously be done to set up each man’s finishing submission – both will be utilized to an extra punishing degree at several points of the bout. Once Bryan realizes his submission work won’t get the job done, he’ll revert to his heelish ways once again. I’m pulling for a Bryan victory hear via some sort of cheap heel tactic.
Brock Lesnar (c) (with Paul Heyman) vs. Finn Bálor (WWE Universal Championship)
Predictions & Winner: Well, damn…this development came out of nowhere. Here I was thinking that Braun Strowman was walking into the Royal Rumble against Brock Lesnar and walking out as the new Universal Champion. In a move that’s clearly an excuse to get Strowman off of the show due to his still injured elbow, he’s been taken out of the match and “fined” for the strongman disrespect he showed towards Mr. McMahon’s limo. Because of that shocking occurrence, a Fatal-Four Way Match was set up between four of Raw’s top contenders – John Cena, Baron Corbin, Drew McIntyre, and Finn Bálor. And the man who came out on top is Bálor, someone who’s been deserving of a Universal Championship opportunity since 2016.
I’m overjoyed at the fact that the running joke surrounding Bálor not getting a Universal title match since he relinquished it will dissipate. I’m also happy to see Bálor get a major push at the start of the year (this whole situation is better than everything he’s done in 2018). This match is going to be a case of Lesnar actually giving a damn and putting his best foot forward during a PPV title bout.
We should all know by now that Lesnar produces his best in-ring efforts against smaller challengers (Roman Reigns, AJ Styles, and Daniel Bryan are clear proof of that sentiment). To be honest, this matchup sounds far more interesting than another big hoss battle between Strowman and Lesnar. I’m expecting a MOTY candidate here. Bálor and Lesnar sounds and looks like a huge mismatch on paper, but c’mon folks…this is wrestling. This David vs. Goliath will be incredible and most likely end with Lesnar retaining once it’s over. Let’s just hope Bálor goes “Demon Mode” and at least looks good in defeat.
2019 Women’s Royal Rumble Match (30-Woman Royal Rumble Match for a Women’s Championship Match at WrestleMania 35)
Predictions & Winner: The ladies from every section of WWE are ready for another go-round at the Royal Rumble! For the second attempt at this big marquee battle royal, I’m expecting it to be just as good or even better than the inaugural installment. Besides all of the announced participants, I can see a few NXT entrants and a few surprise legends pop up as well. Depending on who competes at NXT TakeOver: Phoenix, we’ll get to see a mix of the victors and losers from that event pop up here. It seems like a safe bet that Shayna Baszler and Bianca Belair will run in to compete during this female battle royal. As for the women I see going far in this match, I’m going with Nia Jax, Nikki Cross, Lacey Evans, and Charlotte Flair.
The Free Agent ladies need a good showcase of their skills before they become an official member of Raw or SD Live – the Royal Rumble is the perfect chance for them to do just that. The other ladies I mentioned are in a good spot on their respective shows, so it makes sense for them to also have a respectable showing. But I know you’re all here to find out who I thinks going to become the ultimate victor. I shall be selecting…”THE MAN!” Becky Lynch is going to shock us all by running into this big bout after being defeated at the hands of Asuka hours before. Even after competing once before on this evening’s event, she’ll still decide to enter the Rumble and find a way to win it all. This surprise win will provide the perfect setup for Becky challenging Ronda for the Raw Women’s Championship at ‘Mania 35.
2019 Men’s Royal Rumble Match (30-Man Royal Rumble Match for a World Championship Match at WrestleMania 35)
Predictions & Winner: I have a gut feeling that the Men’s Royal Rumble will be placed back into the main event spot this year. Their female counterparts were in the midst of making history at the 2018 installment of the show, so it made more sense for them to headline. With so many brands to lift potential entrants from, this Men’s Royal Rumble Match could be the most exciting entry in recent memory. Besides a throwback entrant here and there, I’m placing my bets on a few NXT and NXT Superstars joining the fray. Ricochet will pull off something amazing that will rival Kofi Kingston’s amazing elimination saves. Pete Dunne will brutalize numerous members of the main roster. Matt Riddle will get his time to shine on a main roster show. And EC3 will finally make his main roster in-ring debut.
Now when it comes to the entrants we already know about, it looks like Seth Rollins, Andrade, Samoa Joe, Bobby Lashley, and Drew McIntyre will dominate. Each of those top picks have the highest chances of being the last man standing at the closing moments of this battle royal. I get the feeling that a Raw Superstar is taking the big W this year for the Men’s Royal Rumble Match. I’m predicting a situation where the last two men will proudly represent WWE’s main roster rivalry – Rollins and Andrade. Both men will engage in an amazing closing stretch that will make this match even more memorable. The one man who’ll end up winning it all will be Rollins, who’ll then go on to challenge Lesnar at ‘Mania 35 and look to reclaim the top spot he once held on Raw.