wrestling / Columns

Who Should Win The 2024 WWE Men’s Royal Rumble Match?

January 24, 2024 | Posted by Blake Lovell
WWE Royal Rumble Image Credit: WWE

WWE is set to embark upon its most anticipated Men’s Royal Rumble Match in years.

Business is booming, and there are a plethora of interesting routes to take on the road to WrestleMania 40.

Who are the top contenders to win the match? Who are the wild cards? Who should win?

Let’s explore the options.

The Longshots

Image Credit: WWE

LA Knight‘s rise is undeniable. He’s already had a shot at Roman Reigns, and now he gets another shot in the Fatal-4-Way match at the Rumble. If we’re to assume he’s losing, there’s the possibility he gets one more opportunity by joining the Rumble match itself. There’s also a scenario where keeping him out of it makes more sense to avoid an unhappy crowd after his elimination from the match. Either way, Knight winning isn’t a realistic option in this crowded WrestleMania season.

Randy Orton joins Knight in the Undisputed Universal title match. Many expected Orton to get a one-on-one match against Roman Reigns, but WWE decided to add more possibilities with the four-way showdown. As noted in my previous column on The Rock vs. Cody Rhodes debate, I love the idea of a Cody vs. Orton blood feud in the future for the World title. Multiple things have to happen to get there: Cody needs to win the title, and Orton needs the fans to turn against him so he can play the heel. Neither are happening at the Rumble, so Orton is out as a potential option.

MJF has traded one Khan for another and…..just kidding, I couldn’t resist.

The Wild Card

Image Credit: WWE

The Rock could change the entire dynamic of the Royal Rumble. If he enters the match and doesn’t win, what’s the payoff? We know Reigns won’t be in there, so there’s no setup for a future match unless someone from the Bloodline eliminates Rock. How much value is there in Cody or anyone else eliminating him? It’s highly unlikely there’s a future singles match between Rock and anyone other than Reigns, though an interaction with Cody could add to the build to WrestleMania. From a storyline standpoint, there may not be the upside here compared to other options. The bigger issue is risking a potential injury. You can easily get to Rock vs. Reigns without the Rumble, so there’s no reason to put that in jeopardy for little reward.

The Contenders

Image Credit: WWE

Gunther went start to finish in the 2023 Royal Rumble before being eliminated by Cody Rhodes. It’s clear how valuable the long-reigning Intercontinental Champion is to Triple H’s long-term booking plans, and another Iron Man performance is likely. WWE also teased a future Gunther vs. Seth Rollins match on Raw. However, a Rumble win may have to wait another year….where he could the favorite in 2025.

Drew McIntyre is doing the best character work of his career. He has built as legitimate case to win his second Rumble, and there would be a storyline reason for it. McIntyre has made his hatred clear for top babyfaces like Rollins, Cody Rhodes, and CM Punk. He blames them for a lot of things, and he’ll do anything to take back his rightful spot at the top of the WWE food chain. McIntyre has to be among those who could win it.

CM Punk is an obvious contender. His rivalry with Rollins has been brewing since his return at Survivor Series. If Rollins is able to battle through injury compete at WrestleMania 40, then he’s going to be defending the title against Punk. If you connect the dots, Punk winning to set up that match is one of the top options on the board. Some have argued that McIntyre could be inserted to make it a triple threat, but McIntyre vs. Sami Zayn seems more probable barring Rollins being sidelined.

Cody Rhodes is here to finish the story. He won the 2023 Rumble but couldn’t convert it into a title win. Now, he returns with the goal of venturing down the same path to try to topple Reigns once and for all. Cody is easily one of the favorites and a repeat victory guarantees him that opportunity. This lead-in to the final chapter writes itself.

The Final Four (Or Five)

Image Credit: WWE

Sometimes, there’s a surprise or underdog in the final four.

I’d vote against that in this edition of the Rumble. WWE has too many interesting stories going on to not go with a final four filled with star power and backstory.

What potential combinations meet that criteria? Here are two options:

Option 1 is Cody Rhodes, CM Punk, Drew McIntyre, and….Brock Lesnar.

Option 2 is Cody Rhodes, CM Punk, Gunther, and….Brock Lesnar.

The reason for the difference in the two is how WWE chooses to evolve the WrestleMania 40 storylines for McIntyre and Gunther. There seems to be lots of momentum towards a Lesnar vs. Gunther match, and having Lesnar eliminate him would make for the better setup for the match rather than the other way around. Gunther wants revenge and gets it in a one-on-one brawl in Philadelphia.

In the second option, you can have Zayn eliminate McIntyre prior to the final four to build to a WrestleMania match, while still having Lesnar eliminate Gunther to set up their match. I tend to think Triple H would like the continuity of having Cody and Gunther in the final four in consecutive years.

Either option would be filled with suspense based on the participants, and there’s so much WWE can do with it to give fans the most memorable final sequence in Royal Rumble history.

The Winner

Image Credit: WWE

Cody winning back-to-back Rumbles would be a great story.

However, there’s more storyline suspense if Cody comes up short. That would leave fans doubting whether he’ll get an opportunity to finish his story at WrestleMania 40, or if The Rock will steal his spot against Reigns.

That puts Cody in a must-win scenario in the Men’s Elimination Chamber Match next month in Australia. It raises the stakes. He has to be victorious, or his story becomes another what-might-have-been tale.

If that’s the direction for Cody, then all eyes turn to CM Punk.

Isn’t it wild to think Triple H would book Punk to win the Royal Rumble? After all, the last time Punk reached his WWE peak – for my money, that’s Money in the Bank 2011 – the current Head of Creative defeated him two months later at Night of Champions in a puzzling booking decision that derailed Punk’s momentum.

But hell froze over, and it’s a different time and place in their relationship.

To borrow a quote The Game himself, Punk winning is best for business.

The reason why is that it directly plays into the story WWE has told since Punk’s music hit in Chicago last November. No one wants him here. Not Rollins, not McIntyre, and while he may not flat-out say it, not even Cody.

Yet, this guy gets fired from his former company, walks right back into the place he publicly berated, and is handed a Royal Rumble win to guarantee him the main event spot at WrestleMania that he complained about not getting for years?

That is storyline gold.

The late Jerry Jarrett had a plaque on his wall that said “personal issues draw money,” and boy, would a lot of wrestlers in the back have personal issues with Punk if he’s the last man standing.

Though, this time around, the punches can be thrown inside the ring instead of outside of it.

The Rumble victory puts him one step closer to holding the World title – a prized possession that many of his peers believe they deserve more than him. Rollins and future Punk opponents would have all the reasoning they need to call out Punk’s hypocrisy, which would create compelling on-screen segments for fans to get invested in.

It can also ignite the spark on a future Punk heel turn, which we all know is coming.

The thing about turning someone heel is that is doesn’t have to be done in a single segment. Punk’s WWE return promo was “off” and “insincere.” He followed it up by saying he’s in WWE to make money, not friends. There were the verbal exchanges with Rollins and McIntyre, who both said things about him that were true. And then Punk said he’s going to do to Cody what The Rock did to him many years ago….while also daring to state that he’s more of the “The American Dream” than Cody.

If Cody is one step away from finishing his story, and Punk eliminates him by any means necessary?

Hook, line, and sinker.

CM Punk has always been about what’s best for CM Punk, and where fans went wrong is believing anything different. That’s a story you can sell, especially if he then goes on to defeat an injured Rollins at WrestleMania 40.

Choosing a Rumble winner can sometimes be all about the road to that year’s WrestleMania and nothing more. This year, it could be the launching point for a variety of money-drawing feuds in 2024 and beyond.

A Punk win would set off a chain of events that could lead to months and months of must-see WWE television.

After all, there’s just something right about CM Punk vs. The World.

Sign me up.

Who do you think should win the Men’s Royal Rumble Match? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! You can follow me on Twitter @wrestleblake for more wrestling thoughts.