With WWE’s Royal Rumble event fast approaching, it’s natural for the mind to wander to who might come out on top of the Royal Rumble matches. With two nights of WrestleMania in Dallas coming, it could mean a main event spot.
It’s happened twice in the past. Last year, Bianca Belair won the Rumble and went on to defeat Sasha Banks to headline night one of WrestleMania 37. Becky Lynch, Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair main-evented the 35th edition of the event in 2019.
There’s no guarantee of this, of course. Flair is a champion, as is Lynch. Only one can headline in a title match unless they put them in against one another. At the very least, the winner of this match will be in a prominent spot at the biggest show of the year.
The field is not yet complete. Only 21 entrants have been made public so far. Most expect the final nine spots to be filled with NXT talent, none of whom are considered to be a serious contender to win. There could be a major surprise addition, but there are no free agent females that WWE would consider the type of star for a featured match at ‘Mania.
With a career-defining spot as a possible reward, let’s look at the top contenders for this year’s women’s Royal Rumble.
THE REIGNING RUMBLE WINNER
Once again, Bianca Belair appears to be favorite. The story on RAW is that Lynch perceives Belair as her biggest threat, despite having beaten the young star a few times. In the three-way to determine Lynch’s Rumble challenger, Lynch interfered to keep Belair from winning.
Could they be leading to Belair winning again and forcing Lynch to face her on the big stage? After having an excellent match with Sasha Banks last year, Belair might have the company’s trust when it comes to topping a major event.
It’s also difficult to figure Belair’s spot if she doesn’t win. With the winner facing either Lynch or Flair, that would perhaps leave an Elimination Chamber victory for Belair to get into a title match. They could use that match to determine the “other” challenger, or they could put her in a lower-card angle. That seems to be a waste of a top talent, however.
We also don’t know if having the Chamber in Saudi Arabia will affect the booking. Will they have a women’s Chamber match there, forcing them to work the match in body-covering outfits and baggy T-shirts? Time will tell.
On the other side, WWE has rarely gone with back-to-back winners in this match. No female has done over the course of the four Women’s Rumbles. Only three have repeated in the Men’s Rumble, and none in this centry. The last was Steve Austin in 1997 and 1998.
Flair is one of the top stars in the entire company. She has a national ad campaign and is always protected in the booking. No champion has won the Rumble and then named their own opponent. Perhaps this is the year to do something new.
The company has made such a point of Flair being in the Rumble as a champion, planting seeds this could be the direction. Who would Flair pick? Perhaps a singles main event with Lynch. This doesn’t seem all that likely, however. They can have two major title matches instead of one if they keep Flair and Lynch separate for now. That seems to make more sense when it comes to selling tickets and gaining attention.
The guess here is Flair will come close, but it will just be a tease. She’ll be eliminated late and the winner will have a choice between the two current champions.
A RETURNING LEGEND
Seven major names from the past have been announced for the Rumble. Several are legends who have been in big spots before. Others will be there mostly for the nostalgia pop. Mickie James, who was cut earlier this year, is the current IMPACT Knockouts Champion and is in as a special guest. It doesn’t seem likely they’d make someone they cut in 2021 a winner.
One other name stands out.
As the company loves reminding us, Trish Stratus and Lita were the first women to main event RAW. Stratus isn’t announced thus far, and Lita never headlined a WrestleMania. She had a confrontation with Flair on SmackDown in which she gave the champion an awkward Twist of Fate and left her shaken.
It’s possible they could be building to Flair facing a legend at Mania as a special attraction. Of all the women in the Rumble currently, Lita getting that extra screen time seems like the next-most likely contender after Belair. She can cut a promo and carry her end of the build-up, so it has to be taken seriously as a possibility.
There are other names that make a run. Rhea Ripley is usually taken seriously in matches such as this. She could be one of the remaining ones, but her momentum seems to be stalled in a feud with Nikki A.S.H.
Liv Morgan has moved up some in the pecking order, but recent results indicate WWE sees a ceiling for her. A top Mania match seems out of her reach for 2022.
If Bayley is healthy enough to return it could be a happy, feel-good story if handled well. There’s little indication that’s a real possibility. Banks would also be a contender, and a strong one, but injuries will keep her from competing in this year’s Rumble.
Belair, Lita and Flair seem to be the top three on the surface. Perhaps there will be twists and turns before the Rumble happens.