Many of the competitors who fought to get to this point stood in the ring on Raw alongside the company’s chief brand officer when she made the announcement. Since then, the field of 30 women is starting to fill out with a little more than half the slots taken, leaving the door open for surprises and nostalgic additions.
Of course, there is only one "first-ever" in the history books. For the men it was “Hacksaw” Jim Duggen, who won the inaugural Royal Rumble in 1988. Now, 30 years later, fans will tune in to watch which female Superstar walks away with the honor and a title shot at WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans.
Naomi talks to us about the E! reality hit, being one of the competitors in the first-ever Women's Royal Rumble match, and more.
There are a number of women who could win this inaugural event. Here are five contenders for being the last woman standing.
Nia Jax is an imposing and dominant figure in the women’s division, yet has never won a championship like her peers. The cousin of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and costar on Total Divas certainly has come close on countless occasions. With this being the first-ever Royal Rumble, it would be a nice feather in the cap for someone who hasn’t been at the top yet, a person who can build on the accolade and use it as a stepping stone to the next level. It did so for the likes of Shawn Michaels, Batista, John Cena and “Stone Cold” Steven Austin, to name a few.
Plus, Jax is embroiled in a storyline with Enzo Amore, as well as with best friend and Raw women’s champ Alexa Bliss, so there is a built-in reason for her to win. At WrestleMania it could be a battle of the besties. I can see a story playing out similar to what WWE did with Triple H and Batista heading into their Mania showdown. Whether Jax ends up winning or not, chances are good for her to do some serious damage in there.
From NXT to Raw, Asuka’s winning streak has gone on since she arrived in the country from Japan in 2005—an impressive feat, especially in today’s day and age. Her credentials and the way the company has been presenting her make the “Empress of Tomorrow” a big favorite.
The last few weeks, champion Bliss has tried everything in her power to manipulate best friend Jax to take out Asuka. She also posted a non-title loss against Asuka, which can set the stage for a title-versus-streak match at WrestleMania. At the same time, the other women can see Asuka as a viable threat given her history. There is strength in numbers with members of the Riott Squad and Absolution in there. Time will tell if the 29 other participants are ready for Asuka.
Ronda Rousey conquered MMA and the UFC, and speculation is that the lifelong fan is ready to turn her attention to the WWE. The pieces have been coming together for this to become a reality since she appeared at WrestleMania 31 with The Rock to even the odds against Stephanie McMahon and Triple H. Even Rousey’s busy schedule, including getting married and filming movies, has not cooled the speculation. She appeared at the Mae Young Classic with fellow Four Horsewomen, hinting at some future involvement with Becky Lynch, Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Bayley.
There was talk of Rousey training at the WWE Performance Center, and she was spotted having dinner with Triple H a few weeks ago. What better way to introduce a crossover star the caliber of Rousey than when all eyes are on the women’s division? Members of the WWE Universe may not appreciate the newcomer winning on night one with the company, but it would become big news. And the company loves getting that mainstream media attention. Rousey versus SmackDown Live women’s champion Charlotte has been viewed as the dream match. There is also the potential for an encounter with Asuka. Possibilities are endless, and that is the fun and unpredictability of the Rumble.
Bayley captured the imagination of everyone during her time in NXT. Unfortunately, WWE hasn’t really gotten the handle on translating on the NXT main roster to viewers of Raw. Criticism has been directed at the company for veering away from what made the character special and resonate with fans. This could be a prime opportunity to get her back on track. Bayley has faded into the background over the past few months, so a Rumble victory could put her at the forefront once again.
The former champion is a sentimental favorite, a Superstar one can’t help but cheer on—which is perfect for an environment such as this. If she doesn’t win, the hope is she lasts a good amount of time to showcase her toughness along the same lines as a Daniel Bryan. Fans love underdog stories, as seen with the ascension of not only Bryan but also past Rumble winner Rey Mysterio. It’s less of a sure thing, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing to see the Hugger make the impossible, possible.
Okay, bear with me here. This one is more of a hypothetical. I don’t think Stephanie McMahon will be in the Rumble, let alone win. However, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to see a McMahon win a Royal Rumble. Her father Vince McMahon did it in 1999. She is also, believe it or not, a former women’s champion. Can you imagine the heat in Philadelphia as they witness Triple H raising the hand of his wife?
Maybe she pays off one of the participants or, as she celebrates, someone like Ronda Rousey comes out to take her back to reality. The social media attention—most likely backlash—would be off the charts. It would be right up there with when James Ellsworth climbed to grab the briefcase in the first-ever women’s Money in the Bank ladder match. This would be one of the most controversial moments in WWE. But, as they say, controversy creates cash.
WWE Royal Rumble, Sunday, Jan. 28, 7/6c Live on WWE Network and Pay-Per-View