The annual Royal Rumble event, one of the most anticipated annual events on the WWE calendar and a company staple in the month of January, takes center stage on Sunday as the road to WrestleMania 37 opens up. The victors of the men’s and women’s Royal Rumble matches will, as usual, earn world championship opportunities at WrestleMania 37 in April.
In addition to the two Royal Rumble matches, there are two world title matches currently confirmed for the event. Roman Reigns will defend the universal championship against Kevin Owens in a Last Man Standing match, and the legendary Goldberg will return to the ring for the first time since WrestleMania 36 to challenge WWE champion Drew McIntyre.
The Royal Rumble will begin at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, Jan. 31, with the show expected to last anywhere from 3-4 hours, not counting the kickoff show, which starts one hour prior to the main card at 6 p.m. CBS Sports will be with you the entire way on Sunday with live results, highlights and analysis.
For now, let’s take a look at how our experts believe the Royal Rumble will play out this Sunday.
2021 WWE Royal Rumble predictions
Women’s Tag Team Championship: Asuka & Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax
It was ridiculous to put the titles on Asuka & Flair in the first place, and given that each are embroiled in separate singles storylines, it makes even less sense to keep the straps on them. Baszler & Jax were operating perfectly fine as champions and had a nice storyline setup with Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke. With the muscle friends now healthy and back in action, it would be hysterical — albeit depressing — for WWE to flip the titles back to the heels, but I think that’s exactly what they are going to wind up doing, completely eliminating any value from the champions’ current title run. Pick: Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler win the titles — Adam Silverstein (also Brent Brookhouse)
SmackDown Women’s Championship: Sasha Banks (c) vs. Carmella
Carmella has done a good job in her current heel run, and there’s no denying that she has improved as a performer. All that said, Banks is finally enjoying a title reign where she has managed to actually defend the title. It’s hard to see her run coming to an end against Carmella in what has been her first real storyline after winning the belt from Bayley. Banks is an appealing champion heading into WrestleMania, and a match featuring her in the champion role feels like a bigger deal than one with Carmella. It doesn’t feel like there’s much mystery to this one. Pick: Sasha Banks retains the title — Brookhouse (also Silverstein)
Universal Championship: Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens (Last Man Standing match)
As fun as a swerve Owens win would be, it just feels entirely unrealistic to expect WWE to cut off Reings’ run ahead of WrestleMania. Reigns has been the best attraction in the company since returning at SummerSlam and Owens has provided a good foil in recent months, but he’s never really seemed a threat to beat Reigns for the title. A Last Man Standing match does provide some outs to keep Owens strong (interference from Jey Uso), but he’s not leaving as universal champion. Pick: Roman Reigns retains the title — Brookhouse (also Silverstein)
WWE Championship: Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Goldberg
Fans were rightly enraged when Goldberg emerged on Legends Night to challenge McIntyre, particularly given the fact that the storyline to create the match did not make a shred of sense. With McIntyre out two weeks due to COVID-19, the temperature of fan resentment cooled down but so did any actual interest in this match. Though Goldberg has defeated heel Kevin Owens and “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt for the universal title twice — and WWE is building this championship as the lone world title Goldberg has never conquered — it would make absolutely zero sense to put him over the company’s top male babyface that it has spent the last year building. This should be a short match with McIntyre overcoming an early barrage of offense from Goldberg to retain the title and keep it at least until WrestleMania. Pick: Drew McIntyre retains the title — Silverstein (also Brookhouse)
Women’s Royal Rumble match
There are plenty of viable options to win the match, but none that accomplish what a Belair win would. She’s a big time talent who just needs the right storyline to fully break through to being a main event player. Belair showing off her strength and athleticism again in the Rumble while outlasting every other woman immediately establishes her in the title picture far better than her current awkward rivalry with Bayley. Pick: Bianca Belair wins — Brookhouse (also Silverstein)
Men’s Royal Rumble match
If there’s one thing WWE loves to do, it’s give legends main spots at the biggest PPV events of the year. That’s why Goldberg is facing McIntyre, that’s why Goldberg held a world title ahead of last year’s WrestleMania, that’s why The Rock’s name was tied to Reigns for WrestleMania before the lack of a sellout live crowd seemed to tank that. Edge wasn’t returning to be a full-time talent, but it seemed he was ready to be in big spots throughout the year. If WWE wants to take a big swing on an underdog to face Reigns at WrestleMania, Edge would tick a lot of the boxes they’re looking for. Daniel Bryan would also nicely fit the bill, but there’s an itch in the back of my mind saying Edge gets the feel-good moment and the Mania slot. Pick: Edge wins — Brookhouse
Edge announcing his return to WWE and entry into the Royal Rumble on Raw felt like a wasted surprise moment even if that’s what we got last year at this very event, but it did add a level of intrigue to the match because Edge (as predicted above) would make a ton of sense as a Royal Rumble winner and future McIntyre challenger. However, prior to Edge’s announcement, I believed that WWE would move in its best possible booking direction, which is putting Bryan over in the match as the WrestleMania challenger of Roman Reigns. There is a ready-made storyline between Bryan and Reigns dating back to 2014 when Bryan made his long-awaited return at the Royal Rumble only to unceremoniously be eliminated as Reigns went on to win the whole thing. Fans revolted, and that moment was the catalyst to continued dissatisfaction with Reigns as a face.
Seven years later, with Reigns now a heel, WWE can easily reach back and play off that storyline. We saw interactions between Bryan, Reigns and Jey Uso a couple of months ago, and I believe those were planting the seeds for the Road to WrestleMania. There are other legitimate possibilities to win this match, but Bryan makes the most sense by far. He could still earn a shot at Reigns through the Elimination Chamber, but why waste the perfect storyline? Pick: Daniel Bryan wins — Silverstein