The annual Royal Rumble pay-per-view is the event that begins the road to WrestleMania every year. This is because the winner of The Royal Rumble match earns the opportunity to compete in the main event of WrestleMania later that year. Of course, it is the person's choice if they want to. They don't necessarily have to, as Randy Orton proved earlier this year when he attempted to turn down the chance to fight for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 33.
The Royal Rumble is a 30-man over-the-top-rope battle royale which usually lasts about an hour. Two men start the match before others then join them every 90 seconds in the order which they would have picked backstage. The best number is thought to be 30, since you would avoid a number of stars who would have been included in the match much earlier. Incredibly, it is the number 27 slot that has produced more winners, as four men headed to WrestleMania after walking through the curtain in the 27th spot. The Rumble is all about numbers, but it is also about talent and endurance since it is traditionally the longest match of the year.
While there are 30 spots up for grabs each year, it is well-known that many of these spots are just used as fillers, or for returning superstars or debutants because WWE enjoys the shock factor. The following list looks at a number of these filler spots. Here are 15 superstars who could find themselves in this year's Royal Rumble match but have no chance of actually winning it.
15 Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler achieved some incredible things throughout his career as a former World Champion and Money in the Bank winner, but the one thing that has always eluded The Showoff is a Royal Rumble win.
Ziggler is definitely nearing the end of his career right now with many reports stating that he could be set to leave WWE before the end of 2018. This means that it is highly unlikely that WWE would want to give away a Rumble win to Ziggler so that he can then leave less than a year later. Ziggler has been part of the company for more than a decade and the company will probably still include him in the match because of this and because he is one of the best sellers that they have. If this is Dolph's last Rumble match, then it is obvious that he will want to go out looking as strong as possible.
Kane has become a legend to many members of the WWE Universe over the past two decades, but unlike his "brother" The Undertaker, Kane has never actually been able to win The Royal Rumble match and go on to main event WrestleMania. The Big Red Machine had a fantastic showing in the 2001 Rumble match where he eliminated eleven men, more than anyone else in history up to this point.
Roman Reigns later went on to break Kane's record and eliminate 12 men in the 2014 Royal Rumble match, but Kane still has a special place in history. Kane made his return to WWE a few weeks ago and will obviously be leaving again soon since he begins his preparations to switch to a career in politics. Kane has already confirmed that he is running for a mayoral seat in Knox County as a Republican next year, which means that it is likely Kane could be retiring from the company in 2018.
13 Randy Orton
The Viper has been one of the biggest stars in WWE over the last generation, but his Royal Rumble win last year wasn't met with the reception that WWE hoped it would gain. Orton has won The Rumble twice now: once back in 2007 and again last year. Even though these wins were 10 years apart, it seems that The WWE Universe was hoping that someone younger from NXT might have been given a chance.
Given that Orton won the match last year and isn't exactly in great form on SmackDown Live right now in his feud with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, it's safe to say that Orton won't be winning the WrestleMania opportunity for a second year in January. Orton is another star who has been talking about retirement and could now be thinking about a part-time schedule in WWE moving forward.
12 Tye Dillinger
Tye Dillinger was the biggest shock inclusion in the 2017 Royal Rumble, as 'The Perfect 10" made his entrance in the number ten slot. Dillinger was only there to make up the numbers last year and for the shock factor that his involvement would add, which meant that he didn't get very far before being eliminated.
This is still considered to be Dillinger's biggest moment of the year since he hasn't gone on to do anything else notable since he was brought up to the SmackDown Live roster. Dillinger was included in a number of United States Championship opportunities, but since he didn't go on to win the Championship, he has been left off the show for a number of weeks. It is hit and miss as to whether Dillinger will even be included in The Rumble next year, but if he is, then he will definitely be another star just making up the numbers.
11 Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are two of the best things on SmackDown Live right now, but the duo has gained themselves a number of enemies backstage over the past few weeks because of their antics off-screen. Owens and Zayn were sent home from The European Tour a few weeks ago and even though WWE doesn't seem to be punishing the two stars for their actions, it is unlikely that the company will allow them to main event WrestleMania after the stunt.
Kevin Owens is a former Universal Champion, he has reached a number of peaks in his career, but he has only been on the main roster since 2015. Owens has become a firm fan favourite over the past few years, but it seems that he still has a long way to go before the company will see him as a star who could main event the biggest show of the year.
10 Seth Rollins
Seth Rollins is one of the biggest stars that WWE has at their disposal right now and it seems that he is being wasted in the Tag Team Division. Rollins hasn't competed in a Royal Rumble match in almost four years; his last appearance was back in 2014 before The Shield originally disbanded.
Rollins missed 2015 because he was part of the Championship match with John Cena and Brock Lesnar before he missed the following year through injury and was banned from The Royal Rumble earlier this year by Triple H. There is still the question of whether or not Rollins will play his part in next year's show, but even if he does, it is unlikely that WWE will gamble on him to main event WrestleMania when they have allowed him to become lost amongst the mid-card recently. Rollins had so much potential when The Shield split back in 2014, but now it seems that WWE's main focus is on his stablemate Roman Reigns.
Cesaro is perhaps one of the best pure athletes in WWE currently. There is a reason he is called The Swiss Superman and there is a reason he is one half of the Raw Tag Team Champions. It wasn't a popular decision to put to main event level stars like Cesaro and Sheamus together to begin with, but it seems that the duo has managed to prove a lot of the WWE Universe wrong in finding success in the Tag Team Division.
Cesaro's main problem is the fact that he can't talk on the mic. This means that Vince McMahon doesn't think that he can connect with the WWE Universe, which in turn means that he will never be seen as a WrestleMania main eventer, which is sad, since The Miz has main evented WrestleMania, but Cesaro hasn't. Given that he already has a title and it's unlikely that he will drop it before the show, Cesaro will have a storyline of his own heading into WrestleMania, so a Royal Rumble win isn't necessary for him this year.
8 Jason Jordan
Jason Jordan is seen by many in WWE as a dark horse heading into next years event, but it is highly unlikely that WWE is going to allow someone like Jordan to win the biggest match of the year when he is still stuck in the Kurt Angle storyline.
Jordan has the potential to be a huge star in WWE and he proved this when he was part of American Alpha. He was never going to get out of this storyline looking as good as he did before he became Kurt Angle's illegitimate son and now it seems that he has become entangled in his father's feud with Triple H as well, which hasn't done him any favours. Of course, if Jordan wanted to prove himself to his father then he should be allowed to win the match, but this is WWE and the company has much bigger stars than Jordan at their disposal.
7 Apollo Crews
Apollo Crews is one of a number of WWE stars who have made their way to WWE's main roster after a successful career in NXT and have been completely wasted. Crews could have remained in NXT to become the Champion rather than being called up to the main roster, becoming part of The Titus Brand and being completely victimized by Samoa Joe over the past few weeks.
It seems that Apollo could be one of the stars that the company chooses to be part of the match because he wins his qualifying match and then is used as a buffer between two bigger talents in the Rumble order. Crews hasn't become the star that the promotion to the main roster should have made him following his success in NXT, which is why it will come as a huge shock if he is even included in the match next year.
6 Dean Ambrose
Unlike his tag team partner Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose has been included in a number of Rumble events over the past few years and was even the runner-up back in 2016 before he was eliminated by Triple H. This is the closest Ambrose has come to winning the Rumble and going on to main event WrestleMania.
Ambrose is the only member of The Shield who hasn't been able to main event WrestleMania yet after Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank contract back at WrestleMania 31 and became World Champion for the first time. Much like Rollins, though, WWE's focus isn't on Ambrose anymore. They are looking straight past The Lunatic Fringe and hoping that this recent Shield reunion will help Roman Reigns to finally be cheered. That means that Ambrose could be another star in the match that will probably be eliminated once again by the eventual winner.
Sheamus is currently one half of the Raw Tag Team Champions, along with Cesaro, but he is another superstar on the current roster who already has one Royal Rumble win under his belt. Sheamus won the match back in 2012 before going on to defeat Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 28 to become World Heavyweight Champion.
Sheamus has since been able to drift into the mid-card and after how badly the fans reacted when Sheamus cashed in his Money in the Bank contract back in 2015 to become World Champion once again. It is unlikely that the company will risk that kind of reaction again. Braun Strowman will be like an unleashed beast in this year's match and it is thought that he could break Roman's elimination record. If he does then there will be a number of victims of Braun and it seems that Sheamus could be one of the men who will be eliminated by The Monster Among Men.
4 Baron Corbin
Baron Corbin already has a Championship; it is unknown if he will be able to hold it and defend it until WrestleMania 34, but this makes him an unlikely candidate for a win in the Rumble match because he probably has his own storyline moving forward.
Baron is another superstar who has been punished by WWE over the past few months since he was forced to cash in his Money in the Bank contract early and lost the match to Jinder Mahal, thanks to John Cena's interference. This was said to have been because Corbin managed to get on the wrong side of backstage officials with comments about concussions and his social media usage. Corbin probably won't be pushed towards the main event level of SmackDown Live for a long time yet, which means that he definitely won't be the man having his hand raised at the end of the match.
3 Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns is perhaps one man that many of the WWE Universe thought would be the odds-on favourite to win the match and go on to face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania. Well, even though that match is highly likely, it seems that WWE is not using the same route as they did back in 2015.
It has been reported that Reigns won't be the one winning The Rumble next year, perhaps because WWE doesn't want the same reaction that the former World Champion received back in 2015, even after The Rock came out to help him. Perhaps WWE has finally learnt their lesson and are now thinking of other ways to make his match with Lesnar happen while a SmackDown superstar is the one who wins the Rumble and goes on to face the WWE Champion instead. It seems that many WWE fans think that Shinsuke Nakamura could be the perfect choice.
2 Bray Wyatt
Bray Wyatt has been one of the most underutilized WWE stars on the company's main roster for a number of years. There was hope that when he won the WWE Championship back at Elimination Chamber in February, things were about to change for the former leader of The Wyatt Family, but they didn't.
Bray dropped the title merely a month later to Randy Orton at WrestleMania and has since maintained a position on the mid-card on the Raw roster. Bray was also recently forced out of action through illness which ruined his feud with Finn Balor as the company pitted Sister Abigail against The Demon. Illness can't be prevented, but WWE will attempt to keep him out of these kinds of positions in future. The fact that his personal life made headlines earlier this year won't tip any balance in his favour either, so it would be wise not to gamble on Wyatt coming out on top next year.
1 Finn Balor
Finn Balor has been in the news over the past week because it was reported that Vince McMahon had decided that Balor wasn't over enough with the WWE Universe to be able to face Brock Lesnar at The Royal Rumble.
Balor has since taken offence to this on Twitter and posted a number of amusing tweets. This has convinced many WWE fans that this is all a ruse so that the company can allow Finn to win The Rumble instead to make it look like he is getting the better of authority. Since WWE already knows that Roman Reigns and Lesnar are main eventing WrestleMania, they need a SmackDown superstar to win the match and go on to face the WWE Champion. This means that it doesn't matter how much Finn tries to get one over on the company. Unless he moves over to SmackDown Live, he doesn't stand much chance of winning the 2018 Royal Rumble match.