WWE Royal Rumble 2020 has a clear favorite in Roman Reigns, but Kevin Owens is one of many … [+]
WWE has established some clear frontrunners for both the men’s and women’s Royal Rumble, but this might be the year an underdog pulls off a monumental upset.
On the women’s side, Shayna Baszler is the overwhelming betting favorite to win just the third-ever women’s Royal Rumble match, likely to set up a highly anticipated singles match against Becky Lynch at WrestleMania 36. For the men, the odds favor Roman Reigns to win his second Royal Rumble match, likely fueled by reports that WWE is considering doing “The Big Dog” vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt at its biggest pay-per-view of 2020.
Although a Royal Rumble win for Reigns certainly seems like a sensible move given that Reigns has stayed away from the world title picture over the past year but has gotten a renewed main event push as of late, there is no obvious WrestleMania main event this year as there has been in previous years. In fact, the entire card may still be up in the air. In 2019, fans could see Seth Rollins’ Royal Rumble win coming from a mile away, and the same was true of Shinsuke Nakamura in 2018 and Randy Orton in 2017. While many expect Reigns to win the Royal Rumble to set up a match with Wyatt, it’s certainly possible that Reigns earns that title shot another way, and with no clear WrestleMania opponent lined up for Brock Lesnar—who will likely still be WWE Champion come Mania time—this year’s Royal Rumble is wide open.
Here are five dark horses who could shock the world by winning the 2020 men’s Royal Rumble match.
Aleister Black would make for a fresh face in the world title picture.
The booking of Aleister Black on the main roster has been spotty at best, and though he certainly hasn’t been pushed to the moon on Raw, he’s also yet to lose a singles match on the main roster.
One reason why Black has been protected in that regard is that he has a huge backstage supporter in Paul Heyman, who has been working hands on with Black in an effort to develop his character. Heyman’s influence has obviously worked wonders for the career of Lesnar, and even though Black isn’t viewed to be on Lesnar’s level as a draw or overall attraction at this stage of this career, Black does have a relatively clean slate on the main roster. Despite some shoddy booking, Black still generates strong reactions from the crowd, and as one of the best pure strikers in WWE, he would make for one of the most believable WrestleMania foes for Lesnar of anyone on the Raw roster.
It’s no secret that Lesnar thrives when working with considerably smaller opponents—see his matches with stars like Finn Balor, AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan, etc.—and a match between Lesnar and the underrated Black could be quite the spectacle if WWE ignites a stronger push for Black in route to WrestleMania. While Lesnar is typically involved in “bigger” matches at WrestleMania, we saw at WrestleMania 32 when he faced Dean Ambrose in a bout that didn’t involve a title that WWE isn’t afraid to put him in a perceived “lesser match.”
Although Lesnar vs. Black may not sound like a huge match to some, it would ignite a sizable push for Black—who seems to be in the favor of WWE officials—and feels much more fresh and exciting than other options. Thus, the right circumstances could make Black, a clear long shot (with his best odds being 14/1), a surprise Royal Rumble winner.
Kevin Owens is now the top fan favorite on Raw.
WWE was once said to be leaning toward doing Lesnar vs. either Cain Velasquez or Tyson Fury at WrestleMania 35, but neither of those matches sounds particularly appealing, which could explain why WWE reportedly won’t be doing either of those matches after all.
Of all the other options on the babyface side of Raw at the moment, the most popular pick would clearly be Kevin Owens, who—after Seth Rollins’ surprising heel turn—has essentially assumed the role as the top favorite on the red brand. Arguably the best all-around performer on Raw, Owens has earned the favor of fans almost instantly as a babyface, and based upon how the crowd is reacting to him these days, he could do what Kofi Kingston did last year and force his way into a WrestleMania world title match against Lesnar, whether that comes by eliminating Lesnar or winning the Royal Rumble altogether. That, after all, is a bout that sounds both appealing and fresh, and it would reward Owens for getting so over so quickly in his new role.
There’s also no doubt that Owens winning the Royal Rumble would be more widely accepted by WWE fans, who time and time again have expressed their disdain for the pushes of part-time stars. A Royal Rumble win for either Velasquez or Fury sure sounds like an absolute disaster waiting to happen, whereas a victory for Owens actually sounds quite intriguing, especially in comparison to a potential Fury or Velasquez bout that likely wouldn’t be very good from an in-ring perspective or a storytelling perspective, either.
WWE officials have to hear the strong crowd reaction Owens generates each and every week, and if he keeps that up, then he may force his way into the coveted spot as Lesnar’s WrestleMania opponent.
Ricochet would make a great “underdog” opponent for Brock Lesnar.
Ricochet is yet another WWE star who has been plagued by start-and-stop pushes, but he’s still pointed out himself earlier this year that he had—at least at one point—likely won more matches than anyone on Raw.
In other words, Ricochet is booked better than you might think, and we may know why. Much like Black, Ricochet has a big supporter in Heyman, who views him as a star who can be a huge draw among teen fans. Indeed, it’s believed that Ricochet was a big ticket-selling draw in NXT while he’s also been a viewership hit on Raw, which is no surprise given that he’s been heralded by many as “the future” of WWE. The one thing holding Ricochet back is his subpar mic skills—a problem he even admits he has—but as a once-in-a-generation type of in-ring performer, he could be a massive star with the right booking.
While it may take some time for Ricochet to develop into a well-rounded performer like it did with great in-ring talents such as Daniel Bryan and Sami Zayn, he is already generating one of the best crowd reactions in all of WWE and would make for the ideal opponent for Lesnar, who has put on classic match after classic match with stars similar in stature to Ricochet. WWE desperately needs to create new stars, and Ricochet is one of the very few names on the main roster who is both young enough and unblemished enough to benefit in the short and long term from a blockbuster win over Lesnar.
To get there, why not have Ricochet eliminate Lesnar or even win the Royal Rumble? That’s a much better option than Lesnar vs. a part-time star or a name from the past, isn’t it? Plus, WWE set the stage for this bout when Lesnar embarrassed Ricochet on Raw, which means that Ricochet—despite being a 33/1 long shot—is emerging as a logical surprise winner.
Braun Strowman has unfinished business with both of WWE’s world champions.
If you look at the current landscape of SmackDown, Bray Wyatt—assuming he’s still WWE Champion come WrestleMania 36—will likely have two realistic possible opponents at the pay-per-view: Reigns or Braun Strowman.
With Wyatt already feuding with Daniel Bryan, it stands to reason that one of SmackDown’s other top babyfaces—The Big Dog or The Monster Among Men—has the best chance at challenging “The Fiend.” Reigns is the most obvious choice to face Wyatt at WrestleMania 36, but WWE reportedly has big plans for Wyatt that might include a lengthy undefeated streak. So, here’s a question: Is WWE really going to have Reigns win the Royal Rumble only to lose to Wyatt at WrestleMania 36? Probably not, which likely means that Reigns would beat Wyatt or that he won’t face him at all.
If it isn’t Reigns vs. Wyatt, there are slim pickings for WWE on the SmackDown side because there isn’t another babyface who’s pushed to be on anywhere near the same level as Bryan, Reigns and Strowman. A match between Wyatt and Strowman could be a very intriguing option both because of their history together in the Wyatt Family and because they’ve never feuded. In that regard, a Strowman/Wyatt rivalry could feel fresh and have a strong backstory behind it, which, of course, is a rarity in WWE these days, and it’s a feud Strowman has said he’d love to have.
Though WWE has been somewhat hot and cold with the push of Strowman in recent months, he remains one of WWE’s most popular superstars and a strong candidate to overcome the odds and win the Royal Rumble, with his best odds coming in at 15/1.
Rusev is now one of the most beloved babyfaces in all of WWE.
Rusev is a huge long shot to win the 2020 Royal Rumble at 40/1, but he has gotten a significant push in recent months, one that has elevated him to a spot as one of the top babyfaces on Raw.
“The Bulgarian Brute” has yet to re-sign with WWE, and the company has reportedly made inking him to a new deal a “top priority,” which might very well coincide with an even bigger push in route to WrestleMania 36. In the recent past, we’ve seen WWE put titles on stars like Shinsuke Nakamura, The Revival and Rey Mysterio amidst reports that they could be looking to leave WWE, which could certainly try to tempt Rusev to stay by doing the same. Rusev is a main event caliber performer and continues to generation some of the loudest crowd reactions in WWE, so it’s certainly a possibility that his sizable push catapults him up the card the way it did for Kofi Kingston last year.
That would make Rusev a sentimental favorite to potentially win the men’s Royal Rumble for the first time in a move that would likely be widely accepted by fans and could set the stage for Rusev vs. Lesnar or Wyatt in two matches that would feel exciting and come across as a welcome change from the also-ran matches we’ve seen at the top of the card in the past. WWE is running out of believable foes for Lesnar, and Rusev is one of the few stars in the company who could make for a formidable opponent for “The Beast,” even though he’s been hampered by recent losses to Bobby Lashley.
Might Rusev’s recent rise take him all the way to the top of the card?