WWE’s Royal Rumble event is nearly here, and fans are surely speculating on who will be the last man standing. That man will enjoy the best spot in all of professional wrestling; the main event of WrestleMania. Many have their favorites, and it’s hard to bet against those favorites.
Chief among them is The Undertaker. Taker’s magic can be felt every time he appears on WWE programming, and his most recent appearance sent chills through the industry. Could the legendary Deadman actually win the Rumble and then face AJ Styles or John Cena on April 2?
For that to happen, Undertaker may have to get past Goldberg. The former WCW champion is the hottest babyface in WWE right now, and he would go supernova if he wins the Royal Rumble. The man that once couldn’t get any sort of respect from Vince McMahon’s company is now booked as a true top guy.
That top guy still has heat with the man that he beat in 86 seconds, Brock Lesnar. The Beast Incarnate would love to get a measure of revenge, and eliminating Goldberg from the Royal Rumble would be a great place to start.
Randy Orton and Chris Jericho are two proven main event stars, and there’s potential for either one to win the match as well. There will certainly be some shockers in the bout, which means it’s virtually anyone’s guess as to who will come out on top.
But despite how many likely candidates are booked, there are some that are considered to be long-shots. Punching a ticket to WrestleMania may not be an option for these Superstars, but the fact is that anything can happen in WWE.
As long as that’s the case, then no Rumble participants can truly be dismissed.
#5 Sami Zayn
Sami Zayn’s nickname is The Underdog from the Underground, and that’s a very appropriate title considering his chances to win the Rumble are likely very slim. After all, Zayn has not done much in the past few months besides try to stay alive against Braun Strowman. That hardly qualifies him to walk out with a WrestleMania main event spot after January 29.
But Zayn is a Raw Superstar, which means he would face the winner of Kevin Owens versus Roman Reigns. Considering KO had a career-long feud with Zayn, it’s entirely possible that WWE could decide there’s a very good story to be told at Mania.
Zayn and Owens had a great rivalry, and it’s one that WWE fans will likely not forget. The hate between them was palpable, and the desire to win was obvious. Each man felt he was superior, and the only way to prove that was with one five-star match after another.
Fans became more and more emotionally invested in it with each match. Zayn and Owens put on a clinic every time, and it was apparent that they were meant to be rivals. After considering how good they are together, it becomes obvious that WWE could do much worse than Owens versus Zayn at WrestleMania.
The history is there, the conflict is there, and the commitment to excellence is definitely there. Zayn and Owens would surely deliver a match worthy of Mania, and fans would surely be happy when it was over. WrestleMania is typically a card filled with show-stealing matches, and this match could be one for the ages.
#4 Baron Corbin
Baron Corbin is one of the best heels in WWE. He’s cold, he’s merciless, and he’s oblivious to the fans. He carries a massive chip on his shoulder, and he feels that no one is worthy of the top spot but him. While other heels are busy trying to pop the crowd, Corbin instead just goes about his business and gets heat every time he’s on camera.
However could that persona be enough for WWE to elevate Corbin to the main event of WrestleMania? While some fans may believe it won’t happen, the truth is that Corbin may just be the best fit. He’s not become a made man in WWE just yet, but maybe the time has come to make that happen.
Corbin is very capable when it comes to his ring work, and his ability to draw heat is second to none on SmackDown Live. If WWE does want to move forward with the next generation, then maybe Corbin could lead the charge.
Corbin has stepped up in recent weeks, and he’s shown he can handle the spotlight. His growth has been slow and steady, but now his number has been called. If Corbin is one of the next crops of top guys, then it’s time for him to prove it.
There may be no better way to prove it than to win the Royal Rumble. He already has a win in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, which was perhaps just a precursor of things to come. Corbin has a tremendous upside, and his career could get very hot very quickly with a win on January 29.
#3 The Miz
The Miz took a lackluster run and transformed it into a career defining championship reign. The former Intercontinental titleholder became the best heel on SmackDown Live, and arguably the best heel in WWE. He’s done more with less than anyone else in the company, and he’s earned the success he’s now enjoying.
Miz didn’t have anymore of a spotlight than any other Superstar, but he made the most of what he was given. He maximized his minutes on the mic and in the ring and at this point, no one can deny how much he’s improved. The truth is he was always this good, only now everyone knows it.
So while he may be a dark horse to win the Royal Rumble, his victory would not be that shocking. Miz has proven he can handle the spotlight and he’s also proven he can handle John Cena. If Cena goes over on AJ Styles for the WWE Championship, he could find himself booked against the company’s strongest heel.
Miz versus Cena would be a rematch from 2011’s WrestleMania 27, in which Miz became WWE champion. That match, as well as that Mania, did not receive great reviews from fans overall, and a rematch would be a great way for Miz to redeem himself.
It may not be the marquee match that fans are expecting, but Miz had a great 2016 and deserves a shot at the top once again. He would certainly make the best of it, and there may not be a better time than now to make it happen.
#2 Braun Strowman
The notion of Braun Strowman versus The Undertaker was laughed at just one year ago. Strowman was too new on the WWE scene, and simply being physically big was not enough to warrant a match with the legendary Deadman. But Strowman has come a long way over the past 12 months, and now it’s a match that could actually happen.
But a Royal Rumble win could be on the cards instead. Strowman should be the biggest man in the Rumble other than The Big Show, and the former Wyatt Family strongman could be the last man standing in the end. If that happens, then fans could witness Strowman versus Roman Reigns for the WWE Universal Championship at WrestleMania 33.
Reigns needs a strong heel to work against, mostly because of his struggle to fully connect as a top babyface. Strowman may have gained some respect from the fans, but he’s still hated, and that would allow him to fully heel out on Reigns without fear of a double turn at Mania.
WWE needs more top main event stars, and Strowman is in a prime position to earn that spot. His growth has been slow and steady thus far, and he would have around four more months before stepping onto the WrestleMania stage.
Of all the fresh faces WWE has introduced over the past year, Strowman is one that has shown a great aptitude for the business. He seems to understand his role and is very comfortable in it. With the proper booking and continued improvement along the way, Strowman could be a major player in the coming months.
#1 Finn Balor
The biggest moment of Finn Balor’s WWE career came at 2016’s SummerSlam, where he defeated Seth Rollins for the new Universal Championship. But if he manages to come back at The Royal Rumble, then he could be heading to an even bigger moment.
Working the main event of WrestleMania is the dream of every WWE Superstar, and Balor could find himself in that exact spot if he wins the Rumble. While it’s unknown if he will physically be ready to compete on January 29, the fact is that fans would surely love to see him in the ring again.
Balor was custom made for WWE. His expert ring work, combined with his flair for the theatrical, makes him a perfect fit in Vince McMahon’s company. He was one of the best signings in Triple H’s NXT regime, and he’s ready for the main event stage.
If he’s cleared to return at the Rumble, Balor could win the match then go on to face either Kevin Owens or Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33. Balor has history with KO and with Reigns as well, so a Mania match with either man would work.
Balor’s Demon persona would surely be the character that fans see if he does indeed come back on January 29. It’s a storyline that writes itself, and it’s an angle that could play out to perfection if Balor comes back at The Royal Rumble.
Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Sportskeeda. His podcast, Tom Clark’s Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online here .