By Chuck Carroll
(CBSNewYork/CBS Local) — WWE presents the 32nd edition of The Royal Rumble on Sunday from Chase Field. For the second time in as many years, all eyes will be on the women’s division, as 30 female Superstars will be taking part in the over-the-top-rope signature match, with an opportunity to headline WrestleMania at stake. And two title matches, featuring Ronda Rousey and “The Man” Becky Lynch, only cement the women’s division as the show’s headliners. Both enter the pay-per-view as the biggest stars of their respective brands, and many expect the two will wind up in the main event of WrestleMania in a couple months from now against Charlotte Flair in a Triple Threat Match.
Outside of the women’s division, six other matches are featured on the card, including the men’s Royal Rumble and the undersized Finn Bálor challenging Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship in a David vs. Goliathesque match.
Here is how oddsmakers see the card shaking out, along predictions from myself and wrestling journalist Aaron Oster of The Baltimore Sun and Rolling Stone.
(Note: All odds as of Friday morning.)
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2019 Women’s Royal Rumble Match
Odds: Charlotte Flair (-200), Becky Lynch (+150), Alexa Bliss (+1000)
Chuck: If plans stick for a Charlotte vs. Becky vs. Ronda Rousey triple threat match at WrestleMania, one of them has to win here. Barring a massive upset, Rousey will retain her title, which takes her out of the running. There’s been scuttle of Becky losing her match against Asuka and then winning here to punch her ticket to Mania, but I don’t see that happening. I’m going to play the odds here and go with Charlotte. Also, it’s great to see Alexa Bliss returning to the ring here. Pick: Charlotte
Aaron: We know it’s one of these two, right? There’s no way WWE swerves us and goes with a SmackDown woman to challenge Asuka. So the question is who. My response? Why not both. It’s been 25 years since we had a true tie in the Rumble (no, 2000 doesn’t count), and what better time to do it than now? Set up that triple-threat match that we all want at WrestleMania with Ronda Rousey in a fun way. Pick: Co-winners: Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch
2019 Men’s Royal Rumble Match
Odds: Seth Rollins (-125), Braun Strowman (+400), John Cena (+800)
Chuck: There is a reason that this is the match I most look forward to every year. One way or another, there are surprises. Whether it’s a shocking return, a winner nobody saw coming, or a heel turn, the odds are strong there will be at least one OMG moment. So, picking a winner can be difficult, but the favorite here is Seth Rollins, as he’s still penciled in to face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania. A win here makes that an easy path, so why complicate things? Interestingly, oddsmakers at multiple books have Kenny Omega listed in the top 10 favorites. That would certainly qualify as this year’s big surprise, but don’t waste your moment. It ain’t happening. Pick: Seth Rollins
Aaron: I tried to come up with a scenario where Rollins doesn’t win this match. Maybe the reason Braun Strowman was pulled was so he could win the Rumble. John Cena suddenly has a kayfabe injury. Is that so he can overcome the odds at the Rumble and face Daniel Bryan? Those sound fine, but Seth Rollins has been calling out Brock Lesnar for a month. It’s a clean storyline that can also involve Roman Reigns and his quest to rid WWE of Brock Lesnar. It’s perfect for WrestleMania. Thus, Seth Rollins is the winner. Pick: Seth Rollins
RAW Women’s Championship
Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Sasha Banks
Odds: Ronda Rousey (-1500), Sasha Banks (+700)
Chuck: I cannot see Rousey dropping the title until WrestleMania. The build to this match has been solid and took a nasty turn on social media with both women trading vicious verbal jabs and a few expletives. Some wondered whether they were legitimately shooting on each other or whether it was just to build hype. I think it was a mix of the two. Rousey came out victorious in the war of words, and she’ll do the same here. There’s a chance we could see Charlotte and/or Becky get involved somehow. Pick: Ronda Rousey
Aaron: Look, I’ll give WWE credit for making this match interesting. They have built up Sasha in a short amount of time, to make her seem like a credible threat for Ronda, to the point where there is a seed of doubt. But when it comes down to it, the big match we expect at WrestleMania is more important if Ronda is undefeated going into it. Thus, she has to win here. Pick: Ronda Rousey
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SmackDown Women’s Championship
Asuka (c) vs. Becky Lynch
Odds: Asuka (-190), Becky Lynch (+140)
Chuck: The fact that “The Man” enters the match as the underdog tells you that there’s a good chance she won’t be winning her title back. If she did, she would need to drop it again before WrestleMania, and I can’t see them playing hot potato with the belt. It’s plausible to think Charlotte gets involved and costs Becky the victory. That would build not only to the Rumble match itself, but also to the rumored triple threat dream match in a couple months. Pick: Asuka
Aaron: This one is tricky to book, simply because it’s hard to see Becky Lynch taking a clean pin. So how do they get to the end of this one? The easiest way is for Charlotte and/or Ronda to get involved with the match. It also gives a true impetus for Becky to pick Ronda, if she needed more fuel. There is a path where she wins the belt and you could have both champions in the match at WrestleMania, but it’s hard to see them going that route, especially since Asuka just got the belt. Pick: Asuka
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Finn Bálor
Odds: Brock Lesnar (-350), Finn Bálor (+225)
Chuck: With Braun Strowman reportedly still unable to compete following elbow surgery last month, the decision was made to put Bálor back in the spotlight. The move has been well received by fans, but their expectations for an upset win must be lowered. The Beast should win here in a short, but competitive match. Don’t expect a Suplex City annihilation, but do expect a Lesnar victory to set up a date with Seth Rollins at WrestleMania. Pick: Brock Lesnar
Aaron: As much as I’d love to find a way for Finn Balor to win this match, he was put into the match at the last minute. He was probably put into the match specifically because Vince McMahon wanted to protect Braun Strowman from another loss. So what about that hints at a Finn Balor win? I do think it’s going to be competitive though, so he has that going for him. Hopefully he remains relevant after the match. Pick: Brock Lesnar
Daniel Bryan (c) vs. AJ Styles
Odds: Daniel Bryan (-250), AJ Styles (+170)
Chuck: The new Daniel Bryan is on a roll, and it would be a shame to end the title run now. Negative reaction to Bryan’s heel turn is a testament to how good he is as a performer. Not many people can go from unquestioned fan-favorite to scum of the earth in just a matter of weeks, but he did. Look for him to retain and a fresh WrestleMania opponent to surface on Tuesday. Pick: Daniel Bryan
Aaron: The new Daniel Bryan is just too good right now to drop the belt. It’s way too early for him to drop it here. I suppose you could tell me that there’s a way that AJ Styles wins by DQ or count-out, to extend the feud a little bit, but with the Elimination Chamber coming up, a screwy victory for Daniel Bryan seems more likely. Pick: Daniel Bryan
SmackDown Tag Team Championship
The Bar (c) vs. The Miz & Shane McMahon
Odds: The Miz and Shane McMahon (-300), The Bar (+200)
Chuck: This one is interesting, as it’s the only contest where the champions will enter the ring as underdogs. As good as the talent in SmackDown’s tag division is, it is growing stale, and perhaps WWE senses that it’s time to pair the titles with fresh faces. Shane O’Mac and The Miz have been working well together, and giving them the gold will give the reset button a much-needed push. I expect for them to win, and then the clock will begin counting to the inevitable split. Will we see the former tag partners settle a score at WrestleMania? Pick: The Miz and Shane McMahon
Aaron: There’s a part of me that really wants Shane to be the face in peril in the match, finally crawl his way to the corner, tag Miz in for the ultimate hot tag, only for Miz to hit him with the Skull Crushing Finale. It would be one of the best Miz moments ever. Plus it would make sure we don’t get any more really cheesy segments that aren’t really helping anyone. However, I think that the natural storyline progression is to have Shane and Miz win here, and Miz to turn on Shane closer to WrestleMania. Thus, I’ll go with it. I just hope they’re wearing matching gear. Pick: The Miz and Shane McMahon
WWE Cruiserweight Championship Fatal 4-Way Match (Kickoff Match)
WWE Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Kalisto vs. Hideo Itami
Odds: Buddy Murphy (-195), Hideo Itami (+425), Kalisto (+500), Akira Tozawa (+700)
Chuck: 205 Live has fallen off the map over the last six months, and viewership on the WWE Network is reportedly slumping badly. WWE is taking steps to stop the slide by returning the show back to its post-SmackDown time slot and adding Aiden English to the commentary team. A title change would also help drum up some interest. Daniel Bryan recently built Hideo Itami up as “dangerous” competitor and warned him against coming to SmackDown. Coincidence? I think not. Pick: Hideo Itami
Aaron: When Buddy Murphy first won the belt, I thought it would just be a temporary thing. As it turns out, though, he’s been excellent in his role as a heel on top of the cruiserweight division. So good that I think whoever beats him could get a huge rub out of it. You could make the case for Hideo Itami here, as his push has come suddenly and pretty strongly. I just think that you can really build up a face and make something out of the moment if done right. So I’ll say Buddy Murphy retains, so we can get that moment. Pick: Buddy Murphy
United States Championship (Kickoff Match)
Rusev (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Odds: Rusev (-400), Shinsuke Nakamura (+280)
Chuck: I’m a little surprised that Rusev is as heavily favored as he is, but I still can’t him losing. The build to this match has been okay but hasn’t set the world on fire, and it’s not a surprise that it got bumped to the kickoff show. Look for this one to end cleanly with the champion retaining. Pick: Rusev
Aaron: Isn’t it amazing that one year ago Shinsuke Nakamura was winning the Royal Rumble and now he’s on the preshow? While I’d love to see him actually get a decent win on PPV, I just don’t see it here. Rusev didn’t win the belt just to immediately drop it back. Pick: Rusev
Odds courtesy of BettingOnline.ag and 5Dimes.
Chuck Carroll is a former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality who now interviews the biggest names in wrestling. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.