WWE Royal Rumble
Sunday, 7 p.m. ET; Phoenix, Arizona (PPV)
The 32nd annual Royal Rumble card will feature singles and tag-team championship matches in addition to two battle royals, with the winner of each getting a title match at WrestleMania in April. A crowd of about 40,000 is expected Sunday at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Let’s see if we can hit it out of the park with our picks for some key matches (odds provided by BetOnline).
Men’s Royal Rumble Match
Everyone who’s anyone on the WWE roster – unless they are competing in a championship bout on this card – will be in the Royal Rumble match. The goal is simple: Be the last man in the ring, after 29 others have been thrown over the top rope, and you get a title shot at WrestleMania.
Seth Rollins (+100) tops the odds board in this match that’s loaded with stars, from legendary individuals (John Cena, +500) to tag-team experts (The New Day’s Big E, +10000), from the smallest and quickest (Rey Mysterio, +4000) to the biggest and strongest (Bobby Lashley, +5000). But there can be only one winner, and hearing his name announced as such will be, well, music to his ears. He’s the man whom the WWE universe will want to, uh, walk with during his journey to WrestleMania. Pick: Elias (+4000)
Women’s Royal Rumble Match
“Raw’ turned chaotic Monday night when several Royal Rumble participants turned “A Moment of Bliss’ into a free-for-all (just imagine a “Jerry Springer” episode, as painful as that might be). Host Alexa Bliss expressed her displeasure, claiming the disruption would harm her image as a legitimate talk-show host, then announced her entry into the 30-woman battle royal. She wasn’t alone, as Lacey Evans came out for her first on-stage appearance in WWE. She, too, announced her entry into the match and promised a victory.
If Evans wins on Sunday, she will have earned it. The lineup includes Charlotte Flair (-200), Bliss (+1000), Ember Moon (+1600) and Nia Jax (+5000). Evans will have a huge impact on the women’s division this year, and what better way to start than by taking a seat on the throne that most people believe will belong to Queen Charlotte. There’s a huge number by her name, but sometimes you’ve gotta swing for the fences. Pick: Evans (+10000)
Brock Lesnar (-350) vs. Finn Balor (+225)
Brock Lesnar was supposed to defend his WWE Universal Championship against Braun Strowman, but Strowman was pulled from the match after ripping a door off WWE boss Vince McMahon’s limousine. (I hate when that happens.) Strowman then took it a step further, tipping over the limo. (Hello, Allstate?) Enter Finn Balor, who won a four-way match to determine Strowman’s replacement.
“Fit’ Balor is as ripped as anyone on the roster — or, for that matter, anyone in any gym in America – but the 190-pounder is giving away nearly 100 pounds to “The Beast.” That said, Lesnar can’t afford to overlook his opponent. The history book is filled with “David vs. Goliath’ upsets, but it won’t add a new chapter Sunday. Pick: Lesnar
The Bar (+140) vs. The Miz and Shane McMahon (-180)
What Miz wants, Miz gets. He wanted to form a tag-team with Shane O’Mac, and the boss’ son eventually accepted. Now they get a chance to leave Chase Field with the SmackDown Tag-Team Championship belts. Miz and McMahon have been established as the favorites by the sportsbooks, which can’t be too comforting to the reigning champions, The Bar (Cesaro and Sheamus).
Miz will no doubt enter the ring in elaborate garb, contrary to McMahon’s style of blue jeans and sneakers. But what’s really important is what they’re wearing when they exit – i.e., with or without championship belts. Miz and McMahon have not only the title on their minds but also revenge after the beating they took at the hands of The Bar on Tuesday. Revenge is sweet. Pick: Miz/McMahon
Around The Ring
Daniel Bryan (-350) vs. A.J. Styles (+225): This feud refuses to die, and next up is Sunday’s match for Bryan’s WWE Championship. The situation escalated again Tuesday, and Styles is clearly focused on regaining the belt he owned for so long … about as focused as Bryan is on keeping it. Pick: Bryan
Ronda Rousey (-1500) vs. Sasha Banks (+575): Banks reminded us of the punishment she can deliver when she applied the Banks Statement to Natalya — Rousey’s tag-team partner – and forced a tap-out on Monday. Sunday’s Raw Women’s Championship match could develop into a battle of near tap-outs before the winner is finally successful. Pick: Rousey
Asuka (-190) vs. Becky Lynch (+140): Lynch needed to beat Charlotte Flair and Carmella in a triple-threat match to earn this match for Asuka’s SmackDown Women’s Championship. Lynch calls herself “The Man,’ but a bit of outside interference might prevent her from being called “The Champ’ when this one is over. Pick: Asuka