Returning stars? Vets coming out of retirement? Exciting up-and-comers? The former UFC bantamweight champion? Who will be in the first ever women’s Royal Rumble?
One of the best things about the Royal Rumble match is that it’s so big, there almost always has to be at least a few surprise entrants. Whether it’s up-and-coming superstars making their main roster debut, retired and veteran performers looking for one last run at glory, top shelf Superstars returning from injury, or the elusive wild card entry that changes the entire complexion of the match, the speculation leading up to that last entrant is one of the best parts of Rumble season. With this year bringing the first ever women’s Royal Rumble, and the current roster of female superstars across both brands not currently a champion (Charlotte, Alexa Bliss) or bringing a life into the world (Maryse, Maria Kanellis) adding up to 19 women, the question becomes: who are the other 11 participants in the women’s Royal Rumble? Let’s take a look at the field as it stands right now:
- Alicia Fox
- Becky Lynch
- Dana Brooke
- Liv Morgan
- Mandy Rose
- Mickie James
- Nia Jax
- Ruby Riott
- Sarah Logan
- Sasha Banks
- Sonya Deville
The additions of Absolution and the Riott Squad may have shored up the week-to-week rosters of Raw and SmackDown with cannon fodder, but there are a few contenders to be found on the current rosters. Asuka is a clear favorite, and you can likely expect good runs from Paige, Nia Jax and Sasha Banks, but do any of those women lead to a killer WrestleMania match? Well, the Empress of Tomorrow does. Asuka/Charlotte would be awesome, but they’re on different shows and WWE seems likely to hew to brand loyalty in this scenario. If Asuka wins (as the Vegas odds would suggest) we’re likely either heading for another multi-woman scrum or a pretty shocking debut between now and Mania. Speaking of “shocking debuts”….
The Obvious Choice: Ronda Rousey
So the elephant in the room is Ronda Rousey and whether or not she will be in the Rumble. It was reported several months ago that the former UFC Bantamweight champion had reported to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando to train for a proposed tiff between the WWE’s Horsewomen (Bayley, Becky, Banks and…uh…Flair) and her own crew of MMA horsewomen (Rousey, Shayna Baszler, Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke), but not much has been heard of “Rowdy” Ronda since. While every one of those women not named Baszler is probably not ready for an appearance at a major wrestling show, Rousey is still likely to make an appearance at the Rumble, and was, until recently, the odds-on favorite to win. If Asuka isn’t in the match (say, she wins the title between now and the event), it likely telegraphs a Rousey win, but that’s far from a lock.
The Longshot: Gail Kim
There aren’t a ton of options for non-WWE heavy hitters to pop up in this match. Rosemary and Taya Valkyrie are with Impact, and Kharma (aka Kia Stevens) seems to have settled into life as an actress rather than a wrestler. Still, the biggest longshot that would turn the most heads is Gail Kim, who left TNA as the Knockouts Champion late last year to ostensibly retire. I doubt she’d do the Rumble since she doesn’t seem terribly fond of WWE these days, but if they put enough zeroes on the check, you might get to see Gail Kim purposefully eliminate herself from yet another WWE battle royal.
The Obvious Choice: The Bella Twins and Stephanie McMahon
Nikki and Brie may be semi- and sort-of-retired respectively, but they do enjoy a good WWE payday, and with this being an all-hands-on-deck situation, you can expect to see both Bellas in the Rumble. Shoot, Nikki could even be considered a dark horse candidate to win the whole thing, if we’re honest. Still, I won’t mind seeing Nikki and not-Nikki make a deep run in the match so long as they eliminate the inevitable appearance by Stephanie McMahon. Whether it’s her own doing or the work of WWE creative, you know there’s no way the first women’s Rumble won’t somehow be about the Billion Dollar Princess.
The Longshot: Trish Stratus
While other legends like Lita, Eve Torres and Beth Phoenix are pretty likely to appear in the Rumble, Trish Stratus is the longshot that is both super far out there and still possible (unlike AJ Lee, who is a clear ‘No”). Stratus was originally set to face off with Asuka at NXT TakeOver: Toronto (Trish’s hometown), but learned she was pregnant as she started training for her return. This lead to Mickie getting the call and eventually a spot on the roster. Still, it’s been a few months, that’s plenty of time for Trish to get back into shape — at least for one more match.
The Obvious Choice: The Iconic Duo, Nikki Cross, Bianca Belair
If you’re going to have a developmental league, you’re inevitably going to raid its talent to throw bodies into your battle royale — and with 11 spots to fill, you figure some of NXT’s biggest names will find their way into the ladies’ Rumble. Ideally you want performers who are over enough to make a grand entrance, talented enough put on a bit of a show — and in a place to take a loss when they’re done. There’s no one better suited to that than the Iconic Duo. Peyton and Billie are good in the ring, pretty popular and lose all the damn time. Other women who fit the bill include Sanity’s Nikki Cross, the up and coming Bianca Belair or Lacey Evans, and maybe a few Mae Young Classic competitors like Dakota Kai, Abbey Laith or even the winner of the Mae Young Classic, Kairi Sane.
The Longshots: Toni Storm, Piper Niven, Ember Moon, Shayna Baszler
I don’t think Ember Moon is the kind of performer who can take a loss as a champion. She needs to be protected, so don’t expect to see her in the Rumble. Ditto Shayna Baszler. She’s only just debuted and needs to maintain that badass air, so she shouldn’t be tossed over any top ropes against her will. Elsewhere, MYC Standouts like Toni Storm and Piper Niven are pretty unlikely given the fact that they don’t live in the States. Jazzy Gabert, on the other hand, is unlikely for another reason: the bulging vertebrae that prevented the German powerhouse from signing with the WWE in the first place.
So who wins?
Honestly, this is Asuka’s match to lose, but if she doesn’t enter for some reason, and Rousey isn’t ready for TV, who’s going to WrestleMania? From the current crop of performers, there are realistically four options. On Raw, I could see Paige sneaking out a win, though her recent injury scare casts some doubt on that option. Nia Jax could make a decent winner, but that only makes sense if they’re heading toward Nia/Bliss at WrestleMania. Given Asuka and Alexa are already getting into it, it seems unlikely that Alexa will be holding that belt in April. On SmackDown, your options are clearer. Becky Lynch is a perennial babyface who everyone loves and would make a great “first ever” winner in future video packages and hall of fame speeches. Elsewhere, Nikki Bella is inexplicably popular and well loved by the brass at WWE, and seems like a safe/inoffensive corporate pick.
Who do you think will be in the first ever women’s Royal Rumble? Let us know in the comments below.