One of the most anticipated days of the year for wrestling fans comes Saturday as the WWE Royal Rumble comes to San Antonio. The event features the beloved Royal Rumble matches for both the men and women and signifies the start to “WrestleMania Season.”
The winners of the Royal Rumble matches punch their ticket to a main event slot at WrestleMania, challenging for a world title. WrestleMania takes place April 1 and 2 from Inglewood, California.
In addition to the Rumble matches, there are two major title matches scheduled for the event. Roman Reigns will defend his undisputed WWE universal championship against Kevin Owens and Bianca Belair will put her Raw women’s championship on the line against Alexa Bliss.
Let’s take a closer look at who our CBS Sports experts predict will come out on top at WWE Royal Rumble, which begins Saturday at 8 p.m. ET from Alamodome in San Antonio and streams live on Peacock.
Men’s Royal Rumble Match
The Royal Rumble is always interesting because every entrant is exciting in their own way but so very few people in the match have a legitimate shot of winning. Still, it remains one of the most entertaining events in all of wrestling because of the variety of personalities and interactions in the mix. Were I to pick who I think should win, the answer would be Sami Zayn. The story of The Bloodline has become very compelling again and Zayn — not Roman Reigns — is the reason why. But I don’t know that WWE higher-ups would view Zayn as someone they want main eventing WrestleMania. There is, of course, the usual buzz that The Rock could return, win and face Reigns at the biggest show of the year. But it just feels as though the most realistic option is Cody Rhodes as the last man standing. His return to WWE was so focused in on his need to win the belt his father never held and then everything was derailed by his injury. But that injury only built his story and grew the Cody Rhodes mythology when he faced Seth Rollins inside Hell in a Cell with his chest a grotesque purple hue. All the video packages ahead of his return have focused on getting his redemption and it only makes sense for that return to see him triumph in the Rumble. Pick: Cody Rhodes wins (Brent Brookhouse)
I anticipate WWE originally planned for hometown hero Zayn to challenge Reigns at the Elimination Chamber event in Montreal, but this storyline deserves even more. The Bloodline angle is lightning in a bottle and Zayn deserves to have his crowning moment. WWE has heavily promoted Cody Rhodes ahead of his Rumble return, making him the favorite and opening the door for great misdirection. Zayn should win the Rumble, team with estranged best friend Kevin Owens at Elimination Chamber and win the world championship in an all-time WrestleMania moment against Reigns. A fantastic underdog story. Pick: Sami Zayn wins (Shakiel Mahjouri)
Women’s Royal Rumble Match
Your mileage may vary on The Judgement Day, but Ripley has been a standout for the group. Her “Mami” shtick with Dominik Mysterio is amusing, she can certainly hold her own between the ropes and she has been positioned as something of a modern-day Chyna — an enforcer that can topple anyone on the roster, male or female. Ripley’s talent was overshadowed by poor booking for far too long. Her almost cartoonish villainy and comparative power make her a perfect foil for Raw women’s champion Bianca Belair, a champion in need of a new challenge as WrestleMania season approaches. Pick: Rhea Ripley wins — Mahouri (also Brookhouse)
Undisputed WWE universal championship — Roman Reigns (c) vs. Kevin Owens
Reigns’ record-breaking run as champion has often felt like it lost steam only for inspiration to strike the writers’ room and get a needed twist, such as Sami Zayn’s emergence as a major player in The Bloodline. Owens would be a great choice to end Reigns’ time as champion, but WrestleMania overshadows every possible result in this match. Reigns is not going to drop the title ahead of WrestleMania. Owens will put up his usual blood and guts fight but come up short, likely as a result of The Bloodline’s numbers simply being too much — even if Zayn has a misstep that leaves “The Tribal Chief” fuming. Pick: Roman Reigns wins — Brookhouse (also Mahjouri)
Raw women’s championship — Bianca Belair (c) vs. Alexa Bliss
Belair is approaching one year as Raw women’s champion. It has been a well-deserved run after her initial reign was cut criminally short in favor of a returning Becky Lynch. Bliss hasn’t returned quite to her former glory and Belair remains a fantastic ambassador for the company. I’d recommend the promotion keep the title on Belair, let her celebrate the one-year anniversary of her reign at WrestleMania, and take the fall for Ripley on the grandest stage. Pick: Bianca Belair wins — Mahjouri (also Brookhouse)
Bray Wyatt vs. LA Knight (Lights Out Match)
WWE has stretched out Wyatt’s on-camera in-ring return far too long. Fortunately, the interactions between Wyatt and Knight have mostly been gold. The only circumstance in which Wyatt loses this match is some weird Uncle Howdy-related swerve. The match is tailored made for him, after all. Knight doesn’t need the win here. Knight was afforded an opportunity to showcase his world-class mic skills after shedding that awful Max Dupri skin. Expect Wyatt to win rather convincingly and move on to a bigger feud, allowing Knight the space to grow into a fantastic midcard act. Pick: Wyatt wins — Mahjouri (also Brookhouse)