With the sheer abundance of men and women competing in the Royal Rumble matches this year and four champions who need to watch their backs for potential challengers to their titles, I figured it would be best to examine the each brand’s top contenders separately.
Following up from the list of Monday Night Raw options, let’s turn our attention to the blue brand with SmackDown Live’s possible winners who could end up challenging Charlotte Flair and AJ Styles for their championships, assuming they don’t drop their titles beforehand…
WOMEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH
3. Ruby Riott
As the leader of a heel stable when there’s a babyface champion, Ruby Riott makes more sense to win than anybody else on the roster save for the two other options listed below.
Yes, she’s newer to the mix than someone like Natalya or Naomi, but we’ve already seen Charlotte feud with Nattie and it’s doubtful a match against Naomi would create any buzz whatsoever.
Granted, I don’t think Ruby Riott vs. Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania sounds like a marquee match in any capacity, but that’s why she’s listed as the third option instead of higher up on the list.
In the grand scheme of things, this only makes sense considering the shallow pool of options SmackDown has available, but at least with her being a heel and trying to be a focal point with her stable, she could get lucky enough to outlast the competition.
2. Becky Lynch
When it comes to the legitimate roster on the blue brand, the closest thing to a money match they have for Charlotte is her best friend, Becky Lynch.
Sure, we’ve seen it before on other shows, but that isn’t stopping WWE from doing Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar this year again, isn’t it?
Considering Charlotte is still relatively new as a babyface and it would be retreading familiar ground too much for her to turn heel, it would have to be Becky who becomes the villain in this scenario.
Riveting, right? But if that doesn’t entice you, there’s still one other name on the list that has a much, much better chance at winning.
1. Ronda Rousey
I know, I know, she isn’t on the SmackDown roster, but she’s clearly been training for something at the Performance Center and I don’t buy the rumors that it’s for a match against Asuka whatsoever.
It makes no sense to me that WWE would put the Raw Women’s Championship on Asuka, have Rousey win the Royal Rumble, and go straight to having those two fight at WrestleMania, leaving out every other woman in the company and forcing Charlotte to face one of the weaker options from the SmackDown brand, while Alexa Bliss, Bayley, Sasha Banks and Nia Jax do nothing.
Instead, it’s much more logical that if someone is going to win the Royal Rumble to challenge Charlotte in any capacity, it would be Ronda Rousey, prompting an encounter between the two groups of the Four Horsewomen.
Charlotte would have Becky, Bayley and Sasha ringside to give her support while Rousey would be enlisting Jessamyn Duke, Marina Shafir, and NXT’s Shayna Baszler to accompany her, leading to a title match that also has a showdown on the outside of the ring.
MEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH
3. Dolph Ziggler
Originally, I had Kevin Owens in this spot, but with the announcement of the title match happening instead, I had to replace him with someone else, which was a struggle.
Randy Orton came to my mind, but I started to think about how he just won the Royal Rumble last year, and the likelihood of him doing it back-to-back just doesn’t sound like a bet I would be willing to make.
Then, after browsing the rest of the roster, I figured the only other person outside of my two other picks that makes sense to me is, oddly enough, the man who just walked out of the company in a kayfabe and possibly real sense, Dolph Ziggler.
Admittedly, this is a bit of a stretch, but what if he comes back at the Royal Rumble, determined to prove that he’s above the United States Championship and is worthy of the main event at WrestleMania instead?
Winning the Royal Rumble and going on to be one of the top main matches at Mania with the possibility of him winning the title could be the type of statement they want to make about him being treated with the respect he deserves.
That could be the best way to keep Ziggler happy and employed for an extension on his contract, as he’s clearly not upset about money, but upset about the way he’s been booked, and there isn’t much better than that.
I don’t have a ton of faith in this prediction, but it’s certainly got a better chance of happening than something like Styles vs. Primo Colon.
2. Daniel Bryan
I doubt there’s any chance of this happening whatsoever, but if Daniel Bryan were to be allowed to wrestle again, you know WWE wouldn’t just let him fight someone lower on the totem pole for a random exhibition match—he would be featured prominently as the top star that they know he is.
Given all the teases of Bryan getting more and more involved with the SmackDown talent and how his contract is up in 2018, combined with his history and friendship with AJ Styles, this is easily the biggest match they could produce for the SmackDown side of WrestleMania, including my #1 pick below.
The more they have interactions with each other, the more I start to speculate about it being a possibility—especially with the rumors that AJ Styles will defend the title at Fastlane in a Fatal 5-Way between Randy Orton, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and Shinsuke Nakamura. At that point, who is left to challenge Styles with any significance other than Bryan?
There isn’t much solid confidence on my end that this will happen, as I think it’s more likely WWE will let Bryan go when his contract is up than to let him wrestle, but stranger things have happened in the company, and the more time goes on, the more I think that I want this to happen.
Undoubtedly, this is the easiest call to make as far as predictions go, considering how many times we’ve heard over the past year that Nakamura vs. Styles was a possibility for WrestleMania 34.
With Styles as the champion, Nakamura shoots up to the top of the list, particularly with the Elimination Chamber being a Raw-branded event.