Royal Rumble Match 2015: Rusev, Ryback and Roman Reigns in contention
Will Daniel Bryan be the one? Will there be any shock entrants?
Last Updated: 23/01/15 4:08pm
The iconic 30-man bout takes place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Sunday night and you can see what transpires, live on Sky Sports Box Office.
Daniel Bryan, who has just returned to WWE following a lengthy injury sabbatical, is one of the big contenders to proceed to the main event of WrestleMania 31 on March 29.
But is The Submission Specialist, still hated by The Authority, ready to win such a monumental match - and which other Superstars are most likely to deny him a WWE World Heavyweight Title shot at The Show of Shows?
Read on for our assessment of the main Rumble hopefuls...
The ex-Shield star may be the overwhelming favourite to win the Royal Rumble Match, not just because of his powerhouse form since returning to action after hernia surgery but because he was the true MVP during last year's 30-man melee. Reigns eliminated a whopping 12 Superstars from the bout, shattering the previous best tally of 11 set by Kane in 2001, including his then Hounds of Justice colleagues Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. Those startling statistics helped Reigns reach the Rumble's final two, before he was sent tumbling to the floor by the victorious Batista. Refreshed and reinvigorated, The Juggernaut has made waves in recent weeks, even shoving the gargantuan Big Show over the top rope, and it would take a brave man to bet against him claiming a maiden Rumble win on Sunday.
If Reigns is the big favourite, then Bryan is undoubtedly the fan favourite. When he shouts "Yes!", the masses follow. It has been two years since the submission specialist last competed in the Royal Rumble Match after he was controversially omitted by The Authority in 2014, partly on safety grounds after he had fought a blistering bout with Bray Wyatt earlier in the evening but mainly because they just don't like him. Bryan's Rumble résumé isn't glittering - he lasted 20 minutes in 2011 after entering at No 2, before surviving only seven minutes two years later - but his submission moves will wear his opponents down and his kicks could knock them to the ground. The Washington native is in fine fettle after recovering from neck surgery and edging old rival Kane on Smackdown and he has one huge thing in his favour heading into Sunday: the crowd.
BAD NEWS BARRETT
Mr Barrett loves delivering bad news but it will be good news for people this side of the pond if the Prestonian prevails in Philadelphia. That's because Britain will be one step closer to having its first WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Like Reigns and Bryan, Barrett has spent time on the treatment table recently - a separated shoulder cost the grappler six months of his career - but he returned with aplomb on Raw in December to capture the Intercontinental Championship for the fifth time, albeit with The Authority's help. Barrett is sneaky and slick and his lanky frame will be hard for Superstars to lift, plus, considering he seems to be highly thought of by Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, could be he be given a helping hand on Rumble night? Barrett is probably an outsider but one definitely not to ignore.
At the time of writing, Cesaro is not a confirmed Royal Rumble entrant - his weekend duties currently stretch to teaming with Tyson Kidd and Adam Rose to take on The New Day during the pre-show - but if he does get a gig, expect the Swiss Superman to make a splash. Keep an eye out for his famed swing in particular, a manoeuvre which dizzies his rivals and causes fans to cheer relentlessly. Cesaro, whose other weapons include a potent uppercut and the wonderfully-named Alpamare Waterslide, also knows how to get the job done in battle royals, as he proved at WrestleMania 30. The Lucerne-born strongman lifted The Andre the Giant Trophy after memorably ousting Big Show last up with a body slam, so the pedigree is certainly there. What's not there, perhaps, is form but surely that will go out of the window in a match as chaotic as the Rumble?
No one has been able to pin or submit Rusev since the Bulgarian Brute debuted, alongside his glamorous manager Lana, earlier this year but that may not matter a jot at the Rumble when pinfalls and submissions are out of the equation. If Rusev's rivals think makes their task easier, though, they may have to the think again. The Super Athlete won a battle royal on Smackdown recently to retain the United States Championship, while his maiden appearance in the Rumble, in 2014, was also impressive, with the European only expelled when four men, CM Punk, Cody Rhodes, Seth Rollins and Kofi Kingston, joined forces. For a big lad, Rusev also has great endurance, a trait he perhaps honed in his former career as a rower. Rusev's road to WrestleMania begins on Sunday and may very well end with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Continuing a trend of tipping Superstars with one name leads us to Ryback. The Big Guy's hopes of appearing in the Rumble looked over when he was unceremoniously fired by The Authority on the first Raw of 2015, but after John Cena got him rehired and he won a qualifying encounter on Smackdown to rubberstamp his spot in the 30-man melee, he is ready to go. Standing 6ft 3in tall, weighing 291lbs and, as the WWE fans constantly tell him, being this generation's Goldberg, the Sin City grappler is capable of going on a real tear in the Rumble. Ryback's best finish is the second place he garnered in 2013 before he was outfoxed by Cena and not only will he want to better that but also atone for last year's limp performance, when he lasted a mere 3minutes and 49 seconds and failed to eliminate a single Superstar. Whether Ryback wins or not, though, expect a showdown with Rusev.
There are bound to be a few of these knocking about. Kevin Nash and WWE commentator JBL were shock competitors last time around, while The Godfather, Chris Jericho, Road Dogg, "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan and Booker T have also dusted off their ring gear in recent times. So what surprises are in store in Philly this weekend? Can we expect "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock, Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker or Bret Hart to show their faces? Will any of WWE's highly-rated NXT grapplers, such as Finn Balor, Hideo Itami, Adrian Neville, Baron Corbin, or Tyler Breeze, get to show their credentials on a grander stage? Does Jericho have space in his diary to compete in another Rumble? Will Ron Simmons stomp to the ring and make us all say: 'Damn!'? And what of Sting, the face-pained vigilante who has seemingly made it is his mission to anger The Authority at every turn?
Watch WWE Royal Rumble, live at 1am on Sunday on Sky Sports Box Office or follow our interactive blog at www.skysports.com/wwe.
Royal Rumble booking details
WWE Royal Rumble will be shown at 1am on Sunday, January 25 (Mon) on Sky Sports Box Office (channel 743) and on Sky Sports HD Box Office (channel 752).
WWE Royal Rumble will be repeated on Sky Sports Box Office (channel 743) BUT NOT Sky Sports HD Box Office (channel 752) until 9pm on Saturday, January 31.
Repeats showing will last for three hours, with the final showing BEGINNING at 9pm on Saturday, January 31.
The event is priced at £19.95 for UK customers, €24.95 for customers in the Republic of Ireland.
Viewers can call 08442 410 888 from Tuesday, January 13 to book WWE Royal Rumble. (There may be an additional charge for telephone bookings).
You will be able book WWE Royal Rumble online from Tuesday, January 13 by visiting this link: https://my.sky.com/orderboxoffice/
You can also order WWE Royal Rumble at a later date by pressing the Box Office button on your remote. Select 'sports & events' and follow the on-screen instructions.
Cable customers should contact their local cable operator.