Tuesday, January 23, 2018

So, Uh, Who's Winning the Women's Royal Rumble?

Is the women's Rumble ready for Asuka?
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Yesterday, I covered the morass that is the men's Royal Rumble match, in that I could see a possible four competitors taking the victory, which is about three more people than you can expect to win in a given year. The unpredictability has gotten folks excited for the match, but the amount of mystery around the winner of the first ever women's Royal Rumble is at least comparable if not more so. Okay, so that's not entirely accurate. Most people think that if Ronda Rousey signs with WWE before Sunday that she's going to win the match. The problem is that no one knows the status of contract negotiations. She's been training at the Performance Center. One Horsewoman buddy, Shayna Baszler, is receiving a god-push in NXT and another one, Marina Shafir, is engaged to NXT wrestler Roderick Strong and is also around the Orlando periphery. But all reports seem to lean towards the two sides not being close enough on a contract for her to appear Sunday.

To be completely honest, I'm okay with Rousey not appearing in the Rumble match. Hell, I don't really need to see her in a WWE ring, even though I feel she'd have a much greater than non-zero chance of being good at wrestling if she did. With her out of the equation, it feels like the women's Rumble is wide open. Then again, not all competitors in the match are created equal. Who has the best chance to win? I've narrowed the field down.

Asuka - Asuka, much like Roman Reigns, feels like the prohibitive favorite from the RAW side in that if all other scenarios fall through, she's the one most can see winning as a default. Her undefeated streak has put her on a collision course with the RAW Women's Championship, although most smart money saw her winning the strap either before the Rumble or at the event to set up a clash at Mania with Rousey. The fact that Asuka is in this match and not in a straight-up title match might be the biggest signpost that Rousey's arrival is not going to be in time for the Rumble. In fact, it muddles things enough to throw reasonable doubt at an Asuka coronation Sunday. Even if Rousey signs in time and appears in the match, it's not a guarantee that either one will win, because what better way to set up a match at Mania than by having both of them cost each other in said Rumble match. Again, Asuka feels like the most logical choice to win the first ever women's Rumble match, but it's not enough of a slam dunk to give way to her completely.

Nia Jax - Jax isn't that farfetched an answer once you realize that, one, neither Women's Championship match will garner the headline grabbing attention at Mania that the presumed Reigns/Brock Lesnar match will, and two, Rousey is not a lock to challenge for the RAW Championship at Mania should she sign for the event, especially if Charlotte Flair retains the Smackdown title through the next couple of months. Jax/Bliss has a built-in story to it, which is the most important component to any set-up for a match at WrestleMania. Additionally, the first ever 30-man Rumble match in 1989 was won by Big John Studd, who was a classic WWE HOSS archetype. Jax is the biggest female competitor on the roster, and if WWE wanted to set a tone for future matches that size matters, Jax would be a perfect first winner. Her recent arc also satisfies another classic WWE coronation trope of making someone a contender out of nowhere. Granted, this method of building has been done more with Money in the Bank, but remember the relative lack of marquee attention either women's match will get comparatively speaking to the major men's main event. I'm not necessarily endorsing that gap in prestige, just stating what I fear is the truth.

Nikki Bella - WWE's obsession with part-timers and guest stars in marquee matches at WrestleMania opens up the opportunity for either one of the Bella Twins to win. Neither has been confirmed yet, but of all the guest stars rumored for entry into the match, they both seem the most obvious. Nikki feels more of a threat to win because she's actually worked more recently and higher up on the card. Honestly, I wouldn't hate it either. She's already proven that she's a solid-to-great worker when she lets loose, and really, she'd fit in a main event-level match against any potential opponent: Rousey, Asuka, Flair, or otherwise.

Becky Lynch - Lynch seems like an off-the-beaten-path pick that isn't realistic until you realize the one NXT Horsewomen match the company really hasn't mined yet was her vs. Flair. Well, to be honest, Lynch vs. Bayley was never really fully explored either, but right now, Bayley is in a bit of dire straits, while both Lynch and Flair remain strong on the Smackdown brand. It wouldn't have the pizzazz of an outsider winning and challenging for the title, but it would have a lot of history and an easy story to build, so much so that it makes enough sense for me to talk myself into it happening. A Lynch win would be a good attempt for WWE to vindicate its NXT starmaking abilities, and provide an organic, full-time historical figure for its first-ever women's Rumble Champion.

Stephanie McMahon - I'm saying this out loud in hopes that it never happens. Please, don't judge me or blame if it does happen. Know that this will be the worst, most self-serving option, and WWE will be unforgivable if it decides to allow McMahon to brand this match as "historic" just as another offering of vanity to the family altar.

Sasha Banks or Bayley - Neither one is all that hot right now in terms of booking momentum, and for as well as RAW has booked other wrestlers, it has failed the two biggest stars that NXT has ever known. Granted, the ace in the sleeve is having them face off on a big stage. While Banks/Bayley at Mania this year might not have the same cache as it would have with a whole year of main roster build, remember, WWE rarely thinks of its marquee men's matches more than a couple of months in advance of Mania anyway, or if it does, well, "plans change." WWE likes to try and revive flagging acts by putting them in big matches, and while I don't think WWE will do the "have one win the Rumble and another win the title" thing in advance of Mania, I can't shake the feeling that the option's on the table either as a dark horse.

The Field - Honestly, I'm not sure anyone not listed has a real shot of winning unless WWE really wanted to make amends to Bull Nakano for the shitty way it fired her years ago. Otherwise I got nothing but preemptive apologies for putting the thought of anyone but Rousey winning this thing. It's been a fun exercise, but WWE's boner for mainstream attention demands that Rousey be given a platform at Mania, and, well, unless you're a huge fan of hers from the MMA days, it's not really something to look forward to. Sorry.