2021 Royal Rumble Preview: Best bets and long shots to win – Sportsnet.ca

The 34th edition of the Royal Rumble will take place Sunday live from Tropicana Field in Tampa, showcasing on the WWE Network.

The Royal Rumble match is always a favourite of wrestling fans, and this year should prove to be no different.

Ahead of the big event, here are six possible winners from both the men’s and women’s Royal Rumble matches, with three best bets and three long shots from each.

Men’s Royal Rumble

The Best-Bet Winners
Daniel Bryan

No wrestler over the past decade has a relationship with the Royal Rumble quite like Daniel Bryan.

In 2014, Bryan was a hot pick among fans to win the that year’s edition of the Rumble. Not only did he not win, he wasn’t even in the match. Fans roundly booed that year’s eventual winner, Batista, in addition to booing poor Rey Mysterio, who happened to come out in the 30th and final spot where fans were hoping Bryan would appear. 2015 was an opportunity for Bryan to procure some retribution, at least in the eyes of the WWE Universe, and while Bryan was at least involved, he was eliminated early.

Bryan has done everything there is to do in the wrestling business, with the exception of winning the Royal Rumble. The time appears to be nigh for Bryan to cross the final frontier of wrestling. If Bryan does win, it will be a major disappointment as no fans will be in the building to bask in the accomplishment alongside their long-time favourite.

Big E

I’ve mentioned this time and time again (most recently on Aftermath alongside Santino Marella, Jimmy Korderas, and Nug Nahrgang), but Big E should have already been WWE Champion. There is no argument to convince me otherwise.

No, he doesn’t lack in charisma. No, he doesn’t lack in wrestling prowess. No, he doesn’t struggle in connecting with an audience. Big E has been ready to hold a top championship in WWE for several years.

His recent crowning as new Intercontinental Champion was nice to see, but totally unnecessary and inconsequential in the grand scheme of his career arc. This man was cast on his own, away from his New Day tag-team partners, on SmackDown with the goal of elevating his solo career. The Royal Rumble is a good as time any to follow through on that goal.

Keith Lee

Where does the future of WWE lie? On the massively broad shoulders of Keith Lee.

There was a rocket strapped to the back of Lee following his first singles pay-per-view match against Randy Orton last summer, where he came out victorious. And then he just kind of… floundered. He won some matches, he lost some matches, he did some interesting things, he did some lame things. All the while, though, he was thoroughly complacent in his presentation.

There is a star waiting to be unearthed with Lee, the only thing to do now is let the man shine through and do his own thing en route to championship glory.

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January 29 2021

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The Long-Shot Winners
Edge

If you weren’t aware, Edge has returned to wrestling and declared that he will be participating in the 2021 edition of the Royal Rumble. This will be the one-year anniversary of the Orangeville, Ont., native’s return to the WWE after resurfacing as a surprise entrant in the 2020 Rumble.

Edge put on a solid showing in his return to the ring, but it never truly felt like the had a legitimate shot at the main event of WrestleMania. Edge didn’t need to win the Rumble in order to garner such a spot, anyways. His name value carries enough weight on its own.

While that fact remains true, WWE is once again delving into a two-night WrestleMania event this year, meaning they’ll need to sell interest to keep fans tuned in for both evenings of wrestling. One of those nights could certainly feature Edge who, if he won, wouldn’t even be the oldest to ever win the Rumble.

At 47, Edge would be second oldest behind only Mr. McMahon, who won the Rumble in 1999 at 53. Edge has declared he wants to reclaim the championship he never lost upon being forced to retire due to injury in 2011, and what better way to accomplish that goal than winning the Rumble and moving on to the ‘Mania main event?

Jay White

It’s the five-year anniversary of AJ Styles making his surprise debut in WWE in the Royal Rumble. Styles was fresh off making the rounds in Japan, capturing the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in New Japan Pro-Wrestling, and leading the globally popular Bullet Club stable. Styles came into WWE and made an immediate impact, capturing the WWE Championship before the year was out.

There is another opportunity to do something incredibly similar with NJPW star Jay White, another former leader of the Bullet Club. White is rumoured to be without a contract at the moment, and after a recent New Japan event, White said he was quitting the promotion.

White is one of the best to have not wrestled in WWE, right now, as was Styles in 2016. The similarities are there, as is the talent in and outside of the ring. It would be a massive shock to the wrestling world, but one that would create immediate headlines, as well.

Pat McAfee

If you’re thinking, “The former NFL punter?” Yes, that same guy.

If you haven’t been watching NXT on Friday nights on Sportsnet 360, you’ve missed McAfee stealing the show every single time he’s been on TV. The punter-turned-broadcaster has seamlessly transitioned into being a sports entertainer. He’s fantastic on the microphone and has more than held his own in matches on the big stage against top stars like Adam Cole and other members of the Undisputed Era.

McAfee is a natural star, and more than stands out amongst other wrestlers in NXT. He would bring name value to the Rumble should he appear, and if he wins… well just think of the headlines. It would be like when Lawrence Taylor wrestled Bam Bam Bigelow at WrestleMania 11, but with an athlete who actually excels as a wrestler.

Women’s Royal Rumble

The Best-Bet Winners
Bianca Belair

Bianca Belair is the future of women’s wrestling in WWE, so a prediction surrounding her victory at the Rumble is as close to a safe bet as you could make.

The women’s division in WWE is deeper than any other women’s stable in pro wrestling, but it has felt somewhat stale at the main-event level over the past 10 months. Belair can reverse that trend by way of winning the Rumble and then setting a new standard of main-event-level talent among the women’s wrestlers in WWE.

Belair has all the tools, now it’s just a matter of giving her the right workshop on which to build her future championship reigns.

Charlotte

In contrast to Belair, Charlotte was, is and will always be at the top of the women’s division, and justifiably so.

Charlotte is consistently one of the best wrestlers in WWE and is capable of holding a main event spot at WrestleMania. Charlotte could become the first woman to win back-to-back Rumbles, and the first to win in two straight years since Stone Cold Steve Austin in 1997-98. As previously mentioned on Aftermath, Charlotte could win the Rumble and then choose to challenge her tag-team partner, Asuka, for the Raw Women’s Championship.

Rhea Ripley

Last year, Rhea Ripley became the first NXT wrestler to defend an NXT championship at WrestleMania. Ripley showcased her main event ability with a big-time performance but, more importantly, proved that she belonged among the elite with a great match against Charlotte.

Ripley is due to break out. She’s accomplished everything there is do in NXT, and now it’s time to move on to the WWE main roster and begin her ascent to the top of the mountain. It starts with the Rumble, which would be a statement victory on the way to the championship gold.

The Long-Shot Winners
Becky Lynch

Generally, the term “long shot” and Becky Lynch aren’t involved in the same sentence. However, Lynch hasn’t been on WWE television since late last spring when she announced her pregnancy. Lynch gave birth in December and could be poised to make a surprise return at the Royal Rumble, creating headlines in the process. Lynch is part of the upper echelon of talent in WWE, and a spot at WrestleMania via a Rumble win would be a great way to glue some eyeballs to the WWE Network.

Four Horsewomen

Stick with me here: each of Ronda Rousey, Shayna Baszler, Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke, the “Four Horsewomen of MMA,” enter the Royal Rumble. Then, three of the four members of WWE’s version of the Four Horsewomen – Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Bayley – enter the Rumble. The two factions square off, with the MMA stable eventually beating down on the WWE stable due to stronger numbers. Lynch returns, entering the ring to help stop the beat down. In the end, though, one of the MMA members wins the Rumble, setting up a match at ‘Mania with Sasha Banks for the SmackDown Women’s Championship.

Any of Rousey, Baszler, Shafir or Duke winning the Rumble would spark major intrigue around ‘Mania with the backstage storylines surrounding who the better “Four Horsewomen” stable is.

Io Shirai

It may seem odd to pick the NXT Women’s Champion as a “long shot” but it’s certainly unprecedented to have a champion enter a Rumble and then go on to win the Rumble.

Io Shirai could set a new precedent with a Royal Rumble victory. Shirai is a future champion in WWE – it’s just a matter of time. She’s carried the torch in NXT for the better part of the last year, including a championship win in a major triple-threat match against the aforementioned Ripley and Charlotte in early summer 2020.

Shirai could catapult her career forward with a victory, while also forwarding WWE’s popularity internationally.

— All photos courtesy WWE

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