Half of the fun of the Royal Rumble PPV is picking the winners of the Royal Rumble match itself. But the COVID Era has wreaked more than its share of havoc on the wrestling business. We don’t have crowd reactions to go on (not that WWE cared about them anyway). Ratings aren’t super reliable either, considering the no-crowd presentation just isn’t for everybody. It’s hard to figure out who’s over, who might be the next “guy.” So it’s harder than ever to make Royal Rumble 2021 predictions.
Luckily, I’ve watched every WWE pay-per-view for the last 207 years. Wait. Let me check my notes. Right. I’ve watched every WWE pay-per-view for the last three years or so. So there’s just enough data and trends to study for me to at least make some educated guesses. Give me a few minutes to dig through the scarred tissue of my psyche brought on by WWE PPV in the Coronavirus Era and see what I can come up with.
And here we go. Focusing on the men’s Royal Rumble, let’s run through our Royal Rumble 2021 predictions.
Most Likely Winner – Keith Lee
So this one makes perfect sense based upon Keith Lee effortlessly making us bask in his glory. It’s perfectly logical, and it makes all the sense in the world. So you can probably toss any Royal Rumble 2021 predictions that say, “Keith Lee will win the Royal Rumble” right out the window.
But we’re not going to do that. Because when something makes sense and seems the most likely, science says it has to be the probable outcome. The fact is, Keith Lee was a big, big deal in NXT. And WWE has managed to pull off something astonishing. Well, for WWE anyway. They didn’t completely screw up Keith Lee’s aura when they brought him up. WWE came close to screwing it up. Really, really close. As in, he had a PPV match with Randy Orton at Payback 2020 and beating the Viper clean only to be immediately forgotten.
Lee’s chances of winning diminished somewhat with news in late 2020 that WWE was sending him back to the Performance Center. Allegedly because Vince McMahon thought his in-ring style needed some more polish. But even that doesn’t push Lee to the bottom of our list of Royal Rumble 2021 predictions. It might actually bolster them. Because Vince likes big men constructed primarily of red meat and whose veins flow with protein shakes. And Keith Lee fits that bill. He already has the charisma, but Vince has a certain style of wrestling he likes to see in the ring from his big dudes. Lee’s trip to the PC might simply be to refine the style.
Indeed, Sporskeeda reported in December that part of the reasoning for sending Lee to the PC was because of “potential pushes in the future.”
Keith Lee is Vince’s dream of a “next top guy.” And that makes him the likeliest choice to come away from the Royal Rumble match with a ticket to WrestleMania. But he’s not the only possible choice. That’s why this story is bout Royal Rumble 2021 predictions, plural.
Likely Winner – Daniel Bryan
We already covered all the reasons why Daniel Bryan should win the Royal Rumble match. But this is about Royal Rumble 2021 predictions. More science, less subjectivity. Well a little more science and a little less subjectivity. I actually become less credible every time I try to qualify it, don’t I? Anyway.
Daniel Bryan is the likeliest guy from SmackDown to win the 30-man over-the-top battle. Not just for nostalgia purposes, but mainly because everybody else on that roster is either otherwise engaged at Royal Rumble 2021 or because they just don’t have the star power or down-the-road upside to justify it. Kevin Owens is already challenging Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship at the PPV. And former winner Seth Rollins just doesn’t have the same shine anymore. The guy is a great heel, but he hasn’t found “it” as a heel yet.
Similar story for AJ Styles. The guy is, well, phenomenal. But WWE just doesn’t seem as invested in him anymore. His days as WWE Champion are long behind him, and he’s essentially the new Sheamus. Except he has a legitimate resume. WWE uses him to make up-and-comers seem real.
Daniel Bryan has the pedigree to carry him to the top without risk of the fans rejected him. He is the evergreen WWE superstar. Whatever you do to push Daniel Bryan through the roof, the fans are going to be happy with it. Because he’s been there before. But it’s not just experience. It’s because we never really got to see a proper run with Daniel Bryan on top of the company. The COVID era is a painful time to be on top, because wrestlers thrive on that reaction, and they thrive on that pop. But for a guy with fewer days ahead than behind like Daniel Bryan, now is the time to be the top guy.
Bryan is a solid choice and ranks near the top of our Royal Rumble 2021 predictions.
The Longshot – The Miz
I know, I know. This is also ground that we’ve covered before. But that was fantasy booking when I looked for a loophole to get Daniel Bryan into the WrestleMania main event. Having said that, there’s history to back up this possibility as well when it comes to our Royal Rumble 2021 predictions. And that history is also seeded in ground that we’ve covered before.
WWE holds its fans in utter contempt.
Royal Rumble 2015 was the WWE Chairman spitting a Vince McLoogie right into the fans’ faces. “You don’t like Daniel Bryan, you like Roman Reigns. And if you don’t, we’re going to make sure you do, because you always liked Roman Reigns, and you just didn’t realize it yet.” Then there’s WWE’s horrible and inconsistent booking of the Fiend. We wanted the Fiend to beat Seth Rollins. So Rollins got DQ’d in a Hell In A Cell match against the Fiend. We wanted the Fiend to beat Goldberg. But the Crown Prince and his money likes the 90s. So Goldberg played superhero and squashed him.
And then there’s Baron Corbin. Baron. Freakin’. Corbin. The living embodiment of what Vince McMahon does not understand about how fan reactions work. Baron Corbin is being booed, therefore Baron Corbin is over as a heel. No, no, you insane, addle-minded craptrillionaire. Nobody booed Baron Corbin because he was so effective at making us hate him. Or because we wanted to see our brave hero defeat him. We booed Baron Corbin because we literally didn’t want to see him anymore. The fans’ heat for the Miz is somewhere in the middle.
That’s what makes him our longshot pick in our Royal Rumble 2021 predictions. At present, the Miz holds the Money In The Bank briefcase. Something that’s been passed back and forth from Otis to Miz to a reversed cash-in and back to Miz. The thing got passed around more than the WCW World Championship in 2000. It’s something we hate to see, and it’s something we’re rapidly losing interest in. What do I have from recent WWE history to convince me that WWE won’t double down by having the Miz cover his bases by carrying the MITB briefcase and a guaranteed title match from winning the Royal Rumble?
The longer I go on about this, the more I realize it’s not as much of a longshot as I think it is. And now I am sad.
Images courtesy of WWE.