WWE Royal Rumble 2017 matches: Predictions, card, entrants, time, winners

For WWE, the Royal Rumble on Sunday is a massive opportunity to drastically change storylines and begin the annual Road to WrestleMania with fans enthused for the company's premier show each year. The 2017 edition of the January pay-per-view will be no different with one of the most star-studded Royal Rumble matches in history main eventing the four-hour show.

It is all set to go down Sunday 7 p.m. ET live worldwide on the WWE Network. A special two-hour Kickoff Show will begin at 5 p.m. ET featuring guest Shawn Michaels.

Before we here at CBS Sports get to our predictions for the event, let's take a look at the full Royal Rumble card along with the entrants for the 30-man, over-the-top-rope battle royal set to close the show.

Royal Rumble matches

ParticipantsMatch / TitleStipulation(s)
30 entrants*Royal RumbleOver-the-top-rope eliminations
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Roman ReignsUniversal ChampionshipNo disqualifications, shark cage^
AJ Styles (c) vs. John CenaWorld Championship
Charlotte Flair (c) vs. BayleyWomen's Championship (Raw)
Rich Swann (c) vs. NevilleCruiserweight Championship
Becky Lynch, Nikki Bella, Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, Natalya

Cesaro & Sheamus (c) vs. Luke Gallows & Karl AndersonTag Team Championship (Raw)Two referees (Kickoff Show)
Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax
(Kickoff Show)
* The Undertaker, Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, Chris Jericho, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, Dean Ambrose, The Miz, Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, Big Show, Braun Strowman, Big E, Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston, Cesaro, Sheamus, Big Cass, Rusev, Mojo Rawley, Baron Corbin and eight unannounced entrants
^ Chris Jericho will hang in a shark cage above the ring during the match.


Past winners
"Hacksaw" Jim Duggan (1988), Big John Studd (1989), Hulk Hogan (1990-91), Ric Flair (1992), Yokozuna (1993), Bret Hart & Lex Luger (1994), Shawn Michaels (1995-96), "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (1997-98, 2001), Vince McMahon (1999), The Rock (2000), Triple H (2002, '16), Brock Lesnar (2003), Chris Benoit (2004), Batista (2005, '14), Rey Mysterio (2006), The Undertaker (2007), John Cena (2008, '13), Randy Orton (2009), Edge (2010), Alberto Del Rio (2011), Sheamus (2012), Roman Reigns (2015)

Predictions
Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax (Kickoff Show)
With this not even on the main show and Banks having her injuries as a built-in excuse, there's little reason for her to go over here. This sets itself up as a feud that can continue over the next two months and possibly result in Banks earning herself a chance against Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania. Prediction: Nia Jax wins -- Adam Silverstein

While both need this -- consider Banks keeps losing to Charlotte on pay-per-views -- I think the Nia squash is the route here. She hasn't won a main roster match over any of the big three yet and this is a top-four PPV with a huge audience. Sasha's already got the injury anyway, so it's not like they'd be making her look overly weak while at the same time making Nia look like a legit championship threat. Prediction: Nia Jax wins -- Matt Snyder

Tag Team Championship (Raw) -- Cesaro & Sheamus (c) vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson (Kickoff Show)
Gallows and Anderson are beginning to rebound from the awful comedy gimmick thrust upon them, and this is an opportunity for WWE to have them beat good wrestlers for the titles and build some momentum heading into WrestleMania. Consider this: Cesaro and Sheamus are in the Royal Rumble as singles competitors; Gallows and Anderson are not. A break-up and showdown at Fastlane, perhaps for a shot at the Intercontinental Championship, would make a lot of sense. Prediction: Gallows & Anderson win the titles -- AS

On one hand, I really love the Cesaro and Sheamus team dynamic, and they are very strong champions. On the other, they can't really keep having Gallows and Anderson lose championship matches and maintain any shred of credibility as a championship-level tag team. Maybe keep Cesaro and Sheamus together and feud over the title leading to WrestleMania, where they could possibly loop in New Day, but I think they have to throw the titles on the challengers. Prediction: Gallows & Anderson win the titles -- MS

Becky Lynch, Nikki Bella & Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss, Mickie James & Natalya
I'm a big fan of what WWE has done with its women's division over the last couple of years, but splitting the roster has hurt the relevancy of some of the performers. This match was announced less than a week before the show but is somehow on the main card (likely due to number of competitors) instead of Banks vs. Jax? Talk about irrelevant. This should be a 1-2-3 for James. Prediction: Alexa 

Bliss, Mickie James and Natalya win -- AS
I'd expect each of the six to get in a decent offensive sequence to show off what they can do, particularly Bliss (she's the champion, after all) and James (since he's back after a long hiatus and the fans could use a refresher). Because of this, I'll go with the heels and either Bliss or James getting the pinfall. Prediction: Alexa Bliss, Mickie James and Natalya win -- MS

Cruiserweight Championship -- Rich Swann (c) vs. Neville
Swann is a fun to watch, but Neville is the best cruiserweight WWE has right now, and his recent heel turn makes him the perfect person to carry the division while everyone tries to take him down. I hate that this belt has switched hands so much in its short resurgence, but this is a worthwhile change. Prediction: Neville wins the title -- AS

Bad Neville is a stud and will be an absolute wrecking ball in the cruiserweight division. He has to be the one carrying that title into and out of WrestleMania. Prediction: Neville wins the title -- MS

Women's Championship (Raw) -- Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Bayley
WWE has been promoting Flair as having now gone 15-0 defending the women's title at pay-per-views, a tremendous feat. It would make little sense to have that come to an end at the Royal Rumble when it could happen at WrestleMania at 17-0, whether to Banks, Bayley or someone else. Prediction: Charlotte Flair retains the title -- AS

Bayley is awesome and absolutely deserves her time to shine, especially both here and at WrestleMania. She'll eventually win the title, but they're really driving hard at this "Queen of the pay-per-view" angle with Charlotte. If that PPV winning streak is broken, it won't be here with 'Mania closely down the road and needing that storyline. Prediction: Charlotte Flair retains the title -- MS

World Championship -- AJ Styles (c) vs. John Cena
I've gone back and forth with a prediction on this match for weeks. On one hand, Styles could continue his year-long run of dominance -- he made his debut at the 2016 Royal Rumble -- with yet another victory over Cena as he takes the strap into WrestleMania. On the other, Cena has finally returned to WWE full-time and appears rejuvenated. Whether Cena fails or succeeds in winning the belt, WWE can continue pushing him towards being just slightly less of a babyface. Outside of either Styles or Cena going up against the Royal Rumble winner at WrestleMania, is there any other match for the world title that would make sense at the WWE's biggest show of the year except these two facing each other? It is to that end that I think we either see a rematch or Cena vs. the Royal Rumble winner in April, which would mean Cena tying Ric Flair on Sunday. Prediction: John Cena wins the title -- AS

Styles was the best thing that happened in the company in 2016, maybe save for the Team Kevin and Chris marriage and the ensuing comedy factor. He's been an outstanding champion, and let's hope he gets a big-time match at WrestleMania. But I think Cena's slated for bigger things heading to the biggest event of the year. Prediction: John Cena wins the title -- MS

Universal Championship -- Kevin Owens (c) vs. Roman Reigns (No disqualifications)
The hate for Reigns is not justified. Is he poor on the mic? Absolutely. But he's a damn entertaining wrestler who is stuck with a bad gimmick and no direction from WWE. No matter what you think of him, Reigns walking into WrestleMania with the title is not the answer, though I see a way it could happen. With Seth Rollins not participating in the Royal Rumble and Chris Jericho in a shark cage above the ring, Rollins takes it upon himself to interfere in the match and help Reigns win -- whether this happens after Jericho gets out of the cage or if he never does is of little importance. Rollins would be costing Triple H's hand-picked champion the belt, instigating him even further. But now that I've laid this out for you, allow me to note that I don't believe it happens. Ultimately, Owens finds a way to win and winds up facing the Royal Rumble winner at WrestleMania. Prediction: Kevin 

Owens retains the title -- AS
It's unbelievable how much WWE (Vince McMahon, surely) utterly refuses to listen to the crowd reaction on Reigns and turn him heel. We've already seen him win a Royal Rumble to boos and then win what was then the World Heavyweight Championship to boos at WrestleMania while confetti fell from the sky. Talk about being tone deaf. My train of thought here is it seems inevitable that Reigns will once again win this title again to another round of boos. For weeks, it has seemed inevitable that he'd win at this event, including him losing the United States Championship to clear the way. Instead, I'm getting the feeling that WWE hears the "everyone knows Roman is going win" heat and changes course, leaving the strap with Owens at least until the middle of February. Prediction: Kevin Owens retains the title -- MS

Royal Rumble -- 30 entrants in an over-the-top-rope battle royal

WWE has done a great job building up this Royal Rumble with some serious star power. It seems clear that Braun Strowman will be the dominant performer in the match, though a face-to-face showdown with Big Show should be his undoing. Booking him to win, presumably to go on and face Reigns, would be awful. Similarly, Goldberg and Brock Lesnar will result in each other's eliminations, likely with one going out first and then distracting the other, who gets eliminated by a group of superstars. Finn Balor making his return is expected, but with only eight open slots, I could see that coming Monday night on Raw instead.

The ideal scenario would be Balor vs. Owens at WrestleMania, after all. What keeps bugging me is what reason WWE would have for putting The Undertaker in this match if he's only going to be eliminated. He's not going to face Goldberg or Lesnar, after all, and Strowman doesn't need to eliminate Taker to get some juice. Predictions: Samoa Joe is a surprise entrant, The Undertaker eliminates Randy Orton or Dean Ambrose to win -- AS

I'm beyond excited for this one. So many major players and huge bodies. I think Braun Strowman gets in early and has his moment where he cleans house, maybe about 10 eliminations, but he's not ready to win (yet). Obviously we'll get Goldberg vs. Lesnar at some point, and I'll wager they eliminate each other simultaneously, setting up a final bout at WrestleMania. Triple H and Seth Rollins have to be involved somehow, right? I can't figure out how, but Rollins surely won't miss the event (maybe Triple H interferes to help Owens and Rollins gets involved there?). Ultimately, the path has been cleared for The Undertaker vs. Cena at WrestleMania for the title. Predictions: Finn Balor is a surprise entrant, The Undertaker enters at 30 and eliminates Baron Corbin to win -- MS

WWE

WWE Royal Rumble 2017: Kurt Angle, Triple H And Five Potential Surprise Entrants

WWE Royal Rumble is all about the surprise entrant, and in 2016, Triple H, AJ Styles and Sami Zayn showed up and attempted to win WWE's most prestigious prize.

One of the funnest things for pro wrestling fans to do is speculate about which stars will return or debut in WWE's biggest and often most entertaining match of the year. This year is no different as the 2017 Royal Rumble match is primed to feature a shocking comeback or a memorable debut or two, much like last year's did. After all, a surprise Royal Rumble appearance could be the catalyst for a main event run, like it was for Styles, or a main event spot at the highest grossing and most attended WrestleMania in history, like it was for Triple H.

Will we see a returning marquee star win the Rumble like John Cena did in 2008 or Triple H did last year? Could we see a surprising debut like we saw with AJ Styles in 2016? You bet we will.

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Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
WWE Royal Rumble is all about the surprise entrant, and in 2016, Triple H, AJ Styles and Sami Zayn showed up and attempted to win WWE's most prestigious prize.

One of the funnest things for pro wrestling fans to do is speculate about which stars will return or debut in WWE's biggest and often most entertaining match of the year. This year is no different as the 2017 Royal Rumble match is primed to feature a shocking comeback or a memorable debut or two, much like last year's did. After all, a surprise Royal Rumble appearance could be the catalyst for a main event run, like it was for Styles, or a main event spot at the highest grossing and most attended WrestleMania in history, like it was for Triple H.

Will we see a returning marquee star win the Rumble like John Cena did in 2008 or Triple H did last year? Could we see a surprising debut like we saw with AJ Styles in 2016? You bet we will.

A torn rotator cuff prevented Shelton Benjamin from returning to WWE last summer, and the former Intercontinental and United States Champion underwent surgery in early September to repair the injury.

That's why things could get interesting because a four-to-six month time frame from early September would put him right on target for a Royal Rumble return. Will it happen? Perhaps not, but if WWE had interest in Benjamin as recently as last summer, the interest figures to still be there. It's simply a matter of the dominoes falling the right way.

Benjamin recently took to Twitter to deny any rumors about a potential Royal Rumble return. But come on, this is pro wrestling, where that means little to nothing.

Kurt Angle

Since parting ways with TNA last year, Kurt Angle has hinted time and time again at a WWE return, and he even recently listed a number of WWE stars he'd like to wrestle.

Now that he has been announced as the headliner for the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2017, speculation about a return to the ring has grown to its highest level yet. However, questions remain about whether that is a legitimate possibility or not.

There are, after all, a number of issues that could prevent Angle from ever wrestling again, including his age and his health. But perhaps the desire among fans to see Angle return to action will ultimately override those concerns, much like it did for Goldberg and Lesnar, as WWE decides to do what's "best for business."

Angle is arguably the biggest available free agent who hasn't recently wrestled for WWE, and of all the countless former WWE stars out there, there is no one who would make a more substantial impact than Angle would upon his return to the ring. He has revealed that he signed a contract that will take him through WrestleMania 33, opening up the possibility of an in-ring return during that span.

Like Benjamin, Angle has denied that he has any chance of competing in the Rumble, but if he was scheduled to be in it, would he really tell us? Of course not.

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