Five Favorites for the WWE Men’s Royal Rumble


A firm childhood favorite, the Royal Rumble brings back a flood of warm memories for many WWE fans, instantly transporting them to simpler times. Even people who’ve been jaded by professional wrestling will flock back to watch the Royal Rumble match.

However, during the 2010s, Vince McMahon seemingly decided to do everything in his power to rid the Rumble of its magic: a string of winners that the audience didn’t care for coupled with badly-received matches began to tarnish the annual extravaganza. Several of these matches didn’t even have contenders that the fans were invested in.

Cut to 2024, and WWE is the hottest it’s been in years. With Triple H in charge, the promotion had a resurgent 2023, seeing an uptick in business and even receiving critical acclaim. They even took home the WrestlePurists’ Promotion of the Year award. The roster is now teeming with babyfaces that their fanbase loves. Here are five candidates would be narratively-fulfilling choices to win the men’s Royal Rumble match:

CM Punk

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During his initial run with WWE, CM Punk made it no secret that his ultimate aim was to main event WrestleMania. Ever since his stunning return at Survivor Series, he’s emphasized that his on-screen motivation hasn’t changed.

Following his electrifying staredown with Seth Rollins on RAW, it’s evident that current plans call for Punk to challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship at Lincoln Financial Field in the closing match of Night 1. Now that The Rock looks likely to take Cody Rhodes’ spot at WrestleMania, Punk is the overwhelming favorite to win the Men’s Rumble match.

Punk’s success helped pave the way for the reigning World Heavyweight Champion and numerous other wrestlers from the independent scene to get into the WWE system. The Chicago native also played a role in getting Rollins his break on the main roster as a member of the Shield.

However, since Punk’s acrimonious departure from the company, their relationship has seemingly deteriorated. That seemingly deep-rooted animosity combines with Punk’s complicated WWE history and Rollins’ propensity to defend the promotion, presenting the opportunity to not only build to a massive WrestleMania match, but tell a long story with multiple chapters.

Even though he has other strings in his bow, Punk broke out as the rebel rallying against the machine at a time when fans were disenchanted with the WWE product. Times have changed and the promotion has been in lockstep with its fans over the last year.

As a result, the creative team will have a somewhat delicate balancing act to plot out this feud while keeping Punk as a babyface without taking away from the sprinkling of magic that’s surrounding these characters.

Cody Rhodes

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A couple of months ago, Cody Rhodes would have been the favorite to become the first person since ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin to win consecutive Royal Rumble matches. However, the return of The Rock has thrown a spanner into the works, putting his hopes to “finish the story” in doubt. Even still, Rhodes remains a candidate for Saturday’s Rumble victory.

Rhodes has been the biggest babyface in the industry since returning to WWE and was the company’s MVP during a successful year. His failure to beat Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 39 devastated his legions of fans, who have since persevered with him in his quest for redemption. That’s seen him overcome Brock Lesnar, the Judgment Day in various combinations, and the reinvigorated Shinsuke Nakamura.

While there is a large contingent of weekly viewers who are hoping for Cody Rhodes to have his Rocky II moment — rather fittingly — in Philadelphia, The Rock wouldundoubtedly bring a score of lapsed fans back to the product, which may be tough to resist after years of chasing this matchup.

Roman Reigns is also closing in on Hulk Hogan’s reign of 1474 days, and Triple H — a wrestling history buff — will be loath to pass up on the opportunity to hit this milestone.

Drew McIntyre:

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Some of the most iconic villains in fiction have sympathetic origin stories and justifiable motivations, such as Marvel’s Magneto or Gollum from Lord of the Rings, which lend them pathos and let the viewer look at how differently the protagonist with a similar background could have turned out. It is often the means these villains employ to achieve their ends that lead them down a dark path.

Drew McIntyre was denied his crowning moment at Clash at the Castle in front of an adoring audience and his family by the Bloodline. When Jey Uso — who wasn’t present at the show — moved over to RAW looking to turn a new leaf away from his abusive family, the Scotsman held him guilty via association when the other babyfaces took kindly to Jey.

What’s since followed is one of the greatest heel turns in professional wrestling history as McIntyre has gradually descended into villainy. His character arc has been ushered forward by his thirst for revenge and inability to beat Seth Rollins on two occasions. All the while he’s never lost sight of his moral compass, which has guided his increasingly unjustifiable actions.

Sami Zayn — currently off TV nursing an injury sustained at the hands of Drew McIntyre — is the perfect foil for the former WWE Champion. Much like McIntyre, Zayn’s crowning moment was stripped away from him by the Bloodline. However, the former El Generico has resisted the urge to turn to the dark side and has instead become the protagonist of WWE.

McIntyre winning the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania before eventually dropping it to Zayn would be a reward for his character work and an incredible story. Following the 38-year-old’s electrifying interaction with CM Punk, the possibility of a triple-threat-match with the two of them and Rollins might not be off the table either.


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The longest-reigning Intercontinental Champion in history, Gunther has managed to establish the title as one of the most prestigious prizes in professional wrestling. He rounds out a solid top four contenders, each of which would be solid choices to win the Royal Rumble.

While he’s known for some of the best in-ring performances of the past few years, Gunther has also found his voice on the microphone, even thriving in WWE’s backstage segments. The Austrian star is almost certainly in line to have a world title run in 2024. While the prospect of a rematch with Chad Gable or a dream match with Brock Lesnar might be likelier, you can’t rule out the possibility of WWE going all in on him at WrestleMania 40.

Gunther’s reign as Intercontinental Champion is nowhere near the point of diminishing returns, and there is an argument to be made that there is little purpose in having him suffer a high-profile loss before he gets his hands on a world title. He’s more than worthy of earning a spot in the main event of WrestleMania and is the easily safest bet on the WWE roster to have the match of the night.

The Rock

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Most thought that chances of The Rock returning to the ring were slim after he turned down the opportunity to perform at WrestleMania 39 in Los Angeles, but the weekly television has now begin to suggest that he may wrestle Roman Reigns at Lincoln Financial Field in what should, and probably would, be his final match.

There was some speculation that The Rock would take on Reigns at the Elimination Chamber, but a recent report from Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter has ruled out the possibility, cementing WrestleMania 40 as the likely destination for such a clash.

While this is a long shot, the easiest way to set up that title match would be having The Rock win the Royal Rumble. His schedule and the fear of an injury might keep him from putting on his wrestling boots at Tropicana Field, but he could always an enter at number 30 and have a short, impactful cameo before winning.

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