Historically, the WWE Royal Rumble is filled with today’s Superstars with a fun smattering of nostalgia acts. For months fans debate which wrestler has paid their dues and is ready for the main event of WrestleMania. Or maybe there’s a “next big thing” that has been tearing through the ranks, ready to ascend the throne as new champion. Typically though the Royal Rumble is filled with RAW and SmackDown Live name-stays that we’ve been watching on TV for years. That’s what makes this year’s Rumble so special as 5 of the biggest stars scheduled for the Rumble match as well as the entire women’s roster are Royal Rumble virgins.
Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura, Bobby Roode, Elias and Aiden English (and hopefully Samoa Joe) are all men confirmed for their debuts in the annual 30-man over the top battle royal.
Although Balor, Roode and Nakamura all have had incredible careers worldwide, they’ve never competed in this WWE staple. Roode and Nakamura were battling for the NXT Championship last year at NXT TakeOver: San Antonio while Finn Balor missed the event due to shoulder surgery that kept him on the shelf until after WrestleMania 33. That being said, all three men are riding waves of momentum leading into the annual winter classic. Finn Balor finds himself running with old friends, his Bullet Club “Good Brothers” Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson as the newly christened Balor Club. These men have claimed to be the most dominant 3-man team in the WWE today and they’ve been working hard to prove that. Recently they defeated the team of RAW Tag Team Champions Jason Jordan and Seth Rollins with their partner the WWE Intercontinental Champion Roman Reigns and since Dean Ambrose (and therefore The Shield) is on the injured reserve list, the only team that can challenge the Balor Club’s claim to the throne is SmackDown Live’s New Day. Is Balor too focused on establishing his new stable to succeed in this year’s Rumble? Or will “The Demon King” arrive to secure his spot on the long road to WrestleMania 34.
Shinsuke Nakamura is always on a different level than anyone else. Opponents are constantly baffled by the “Resident Rockstar’s” off-kilter ring presence and offensive style while also struggling to stay ahead of this 15-year veteran’s gameplan. But “The Artist” has never had to gameplan for 30-men at the same time. The concept of the Royal Rumble is foreign to Nakamura as one-on-one competition is prided over all others in his native Japan. But strangely it is this former IWGP and NXT Champion who is favored over all others by Sports Betting Dime. And who could blame them as a Nakamura win may lead to a WrestleMania dream match of epic proportions between “The King of Strong Style” and WWE Champion, “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles.
But out of Balor and Shinsuke it is Bobby Roode whose star is shining brightest, which should be no surprise. Roode is accustomed to success as he’s won around 30 championships in his 20-year career. He conquered NXT easily when he arrived in June of 2016 and captured the NXT Championship less than a year later at NXT TakeOver: San Antonio during Royal Rumble weekend. Roode went on to hold the title through the spring and summer before eventually losing it to Drew McIntyre at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III. But the “Glorious One” would not be deterred as he would sign with SmackDown Live and immediately become involved in the chase for the WWE United States Championship. He eventually achieved his goal and the championship by defeating former WWE Champion Jinder Mahal in a tournament to determine a new US Champion. It only seems logical that this “Glorious” champion would be made for a match where the winner receives an opportunity at championship gold.
And while Elias and English may not have accomplished as much as the other men making their debuts, Elias is currently hitting his stride after a strong match with John Cena on Christmas and a successful run with the Miztourage while The Miz was off during the holiday season. Elias always had the look and the tools while competing at live events in NXT and now that he’s perfected his gimmick, his mic work has grown drastically and he’s built a nice following because of it. Aiden English is a former NXT Tag Team Champion and he’s found a nice spot for himself as Rusev’s “encouragement specialist.” Sure his singing can grate on the nerves but following good showings with Rusev against The New Day and The Usos have proven English belongs in the mix of the tag team title picture.
On the other side of this massive event, the RAW and SmackDown Live women’s locker rooms are stacked to the ceiling with talent. From Becky to Bliss and Bayley to Banks, women’s wrestling is a whole new beast in the wrestling world and the fact that there will be, for the first time ever, a women’s Royal Rumble is testament to that statement. But not only are we getting to see the debut of an entire roster in the Rumble but we’re also going to be treated to WWE legends who never got the opportunity to enter this match during their own careers. Women such as Lita, Jacqueline, Beth Phoenix and Trish Stratus may walk out of the 2018 Royal Rumble with a new title added to their Hall of Fame resumes… Royal Rumble winner.
Being the new guy sucks. Being the new guy in the middle of a 30-man over the top rope battle royal has to be terrifying. But these men and women are already proven commodities in the wrestling world and the 2018 Royal Rumble is just the next challenge they are ready to conquer. It’s absolutely exciting to see who will make the biggest impact, on their rookie attempt, in one of the most important matches of the year.