2018 WWE Royal Rumble predictions: Expert picks, match card, rumors, location

WWE's first major pay-per-view of 2018 will kick off the so-called "Road to WrestleMania" as the Royal Rumble will go down Sunday night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Though not every title is on the line, the show should set the stage as WWE heads down its most important stretch of its year heading into the "Showcase of the Immortals," WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans.

So what will we see Sunday night in Phillly? Our CBS Sports experts break down the entire card, starting with the three-match kickoff show and running through the end of what may wind up being a six-hour pay-per-view when all is said and done.

Be sure to stick with CBS Sports for full coverage of the 2018 Royal Rumble on Sunday night. Subscribe to the In This Corner with Brian Campbell Podcast for instant reaction from the show and complete coverage of WWE each week.

2018 WWE Royal Rumble predictions

Kalisto, Lince Dorado & Gran Metalik vs. TJP, Jack Gallagher & Drew Gulak (Kickoff Show)

Adam Silverstein: With no cruiserweight championship match on the show, this was booked. A ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ is all I can really give it. Perhaps some of the other cruiserweights -- cough, cough ... Cedric Alexander -- will be in the Royal Rumble itself. This result is meaningless. Pick: Kalisto, Dorado & Metalik win

Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson vs. The Revival (Kickoff Show)

AS: Though The Revival got a squash win over unnamed jobbers two weeks ago, it appears as if they may be squash match fodder themselves here. It would make little sense for The Balor Club to be in the middle of a push and for Gallows & Anderson to lose this match under any circumstances, which is why it will probably happen. Pick: The Revival win

United States Championship: Bobby Roode (c) vs. TBA (Kickoff Show)

AS: The U.S. Open Challenge returns as Roode will defend his title against a yet-to-be-announced opponent on the kickoff show. Considering following are not announced for the Royal Rumble -- Jinder Mahal, Mojo Rawley, Dolph Ziggler -- it would make sense to be one of those three. Of course, Roode already had a program with Ziggler and beat both Rawley and Mahal on his way to winning the title. Who knows?! Pick: Roode retains the title

SmackDown Tag Team Championship: The Usos (c) vs. Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin (2-of-3 Falls Match)

Brian Campbell: For as red-hot as this feud started off with Benjamin and Gable executing a subtle heel turn in believable fashion, the last few weeks have stalled out due to uneventful booking. Still, the potential for this to be a memorable match remains high. The Usos remain on such a good run that taking the belts off them makes much sense unless this feud continues into WrestleMania. Pick: The Usos retain the titles

AS: The rematch to the rematch, this one should be the end of the feud (if The Usos retain) or just the start should we get new champions at the show. The stipulation leads one to believe it might be the latter as it plays into the hands of the "technicians" in Gable & Benjamin. Plus, if The Usos simply retain again, who is really left on SmackDown except the Bludgeon Brothers, who have completely been off TV since a couple of squash matches a few weeks ago. Pick: Gable & Benjamin win the titles

Raw Tag Team Championship: Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan (c) vs. The Bar

AS: Sheamus & Cesaro finally get their title rematch at the Royal Rumble, though the Rollins/Jordan team looks to be together for a while and likely needs the championship in order for their program to make sense. Then again, they could also drop the titles and immediately start a feud. With Jordan seemingly injured and the division needing to move on from a pairing that was supposed to feature Dean Ambrose, I think we see two title changes in the tag team division. Pick: The Bar wins the titles

BC: Here's to hoping this is the end of Rollins' feuding against Sheamus and Cesaro, which has been going on in some form since July. Jordan remains the best thing going from week to week on Raw, and the evolution of his unsteady union with Rollins has been perfect. With Ambrose scheduled to be out for most of 2018, there's no reason to blow up this championship pairing just yet, especially considering Jordan and Rollins have each planted seeds that a heel turn of some kind could be in the cards. WWE has a lot of directions it can go over the next two months in order to finish telling the Jordan-Kurt Angle story and Rollins' involvement only makes things feel more important. Pick: Rollins & Jordan retain the titles

WWE Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn (Handicap Match)

BC: For a feud originally dominated by the involvement of SmackDown authority figures Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan, both have taken more of a back seat in recent weeks. With the focus back on the participants, there has been enough teasing about the possibility of an unusual co-WWE championship reign between Owens and Zayn to believe it's a direction we are likely headed. And with one more pay-per-view in March (Fastlane) to go before WrestleMania, it's very likely Styles could also win the belt back, setting up a spin-off feud between "best friends." But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. The psychology of this feud hasn't been sound, including why Bryan justified making this a handicap match to begin with (and why Styles agreed to face both Owens and Zayn on the go-home episode of SmackDown). But one thing to look out for Sunday is whether the heel behavior repeatedly shown by Styles during Tuesday's main event proves telling regarding his future. Pick: Owens & Zayn win the title

AS: No way. No way can WWE bastardize the greatest title in sports entertainment history further after letting it sit on the shoulder of Mahal for six months. Co-champions? Are you kidding me?! This utter disgust toward the idea may be tainting my prediction here, but I simply do not see how this happens. If it does, it would have to come as McMahon tries to help Styles from getting screwed, but that feud literally happened exactly one year ago. I just don't see it. No way. Pick: Styles retains the title

Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Braun Strowman vs. Kane

AS: This match has never made sense. Getting Lesnar and Strowman together in the ring is not normally a bad thing, though this build has been an absolute mess. Is Kane simply there to take the fall? Will Lesnar once again go over in the build to an obvious rematch with Reigns? Anything else would be a legitimate shock, though I suppose Strowman could win the title only to lose it back to Lesnar or setup a triple threat at WrestleMania 34. Ultimately though, I think WWE and Vince McMahon stick with their Lesnar-Reigns plan with Reigns winning a shot at Elimination Chamber. Pick: Lesnar retains the title

BC: Anything but a Lesnar victory here would be a major surprise considering the plans we think WWE has had for a full year of matching "The Beast" against Roman Reigns at WrestleMania. The ending of Monday's go-home episode of Raw seemed to confirm that as Strowman stood tall after slamming Lesnar through the announce table. Not only has the build to this feud been an incredible disappointment (save for Strowman's comical moments of destructive violence), the inclusion of 50-year-old Kane has been nothing short of gratuitous, annoying and transparent. "The Big Red Monster" is only in the match to protect Strowman from having to lose clean to Lesnar again. It ultimately begs the question of why WWE even booked this feud to begin with and why it stubbornly stuck with it in the face of negative public response. Pick: Lesnar retains the title

Women's Royal Rumble
Entrants (17/30): Asuka, Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, Sarah Logan, Sasha Banks, Nia Jax, Bayley, Naomi, Natalya, Sonya Deville, Mandy Rose, Mickie James, Tamina Snuka, Lana, Carmella, Becky Lynch, Dana Brooke

BC: With 12 spots still not yet announced, the prospect of surprise returns and reveals remains high. Nothing has produced more buzz than rumors of former UFC champion Ronda Rousey making her official debut. While an appearance of any kind from Rousey has become both expected and highly anticipated, it could prove smarter for WWE to delay the reveal of her first match to WrestleMania and simply have her perform a run-in of some kind on Sunday. Either way, it wouldn't be out of the question to see Rousey escalate upon the seeds that were planted by WWE in July for a Four Horsewomen feud against Charlotte Flair. One could also guess Hall of Famers like Lita, Trish Stratus and Beth Phoenix could make an appearance, along with Stephanie McMahon. 

As far as who will win, the huge tease of late surrounding Asuka has felt a bit too obvious. Considering titleholders Flair and Alexa Bliss aren't expected to be in the match, the biggest remaining name to give the historic victory to is Sasha Banks. This could also plant the seeds toward a WrestleMania feud against Asuka should she defeat Bliss for the Raw title over the next two months. Pick: Banks wins

AS: Right on here. We are being led to believe Asuka is literally the only person who can win this match, but little do we forget that Banks just ate a clean loss to Sonya Deville on Raw a couple weeks ago. You know what that means! The truth is that Banks needs to win this because WWE needs its first women's Royal Rumble winner to be marketable and able to carry herself on the mic. I like Asuka a ton and think the language barrier is a bit overstated with her, but she's not the right person to win the first-ever women's Rumble. Lynch is definitely another legitimate option, and it would force a friend vs. friend feud with Flair at WrestleMania. In terms of the special entrants, Lita is a must. Truthfully, Stratus really should be one as well. It would be cool to see NXT trainer Sara Del Ray get a chance, but with the fans not knowing her, that's a longshot to say the least. Awesome Kong/Kharma is who I would pop to see. Pick: Banks wins

Men's Royal Rumble
Entrants (18/30): Roman Reigns, The Miz, John Cena, Finn Balor, Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura, Elias, Baron Corbin, Matt Hardy, Bray Wyatt, Aiden English, Rusev, Titus O'Neil, Apollo Crews, Tye Dillinger, Big E, Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods

BC: It's difficult to handicap this match without at least acknowledging how much the betting odds have changed of late in Daniel Bryan's favor. A Bryan return would not only be massive news unto itself, him winning the match could give Philadelphia fans the pop they were denied three years ago when Roman Reigns won (and was infamously booed). But it's difficult to call this a lock considering Bryan's real-life health concerns, although a match of this kind could protect him from taking dangerous bumps. Outside of Bryan, the biggest question mark is whether WWE is audacious enough to go back to the well in Philly with a Reigns victory. Considering how much the previous year's booking has done to create more cheers for Reigns, this seems like a gamble that could backfire spectacularly. If Reigns doesn't win, setting up a WrestleMania main event match against Lesnar, it's much more likely the winner will be used to face Styles for the WWE championship instead. 

Under that frame of thinking, Nakamura has to be a favorite. WWE teased the idea of a Styles-Nakamura feud during last June's Money in the Bank match, even referencing their history in Japan. This seems to be the safest and most logical idea. But don't count out Dolph Ziggler and the fact that his current storyline -- which saw him win the United States title just days after publicly complaining his lack of a push, only to see him give it up and disappear from SmackDown -- seems to be building toward something big. Pick: Nakamura wins

AS: Ditto to literally everything above. BC and I are on the exact same page entering this match. Reigns winning would be a true disaster, though it would perhaps be comical to see WWE attempt to reinvent the finish from three years ago with Rusev sneak-attacking Reigns after the match was presumed over. Rusev being so damn over makes him a darkhorse here as well, one that really nobody is talking about. As far as what I want to happen? I'd book Balor going over and the Styles challenging him Monday night, flipping the script with Styles wanting a rematch after falling to Balor at TLC. Balor would have to forego his long-awaited opportunity at Lesnar but would do so considering the budding rivalry. Most importantly, however, WWE needs to get its surprise entrants right this year, especially if it's winner is going to be lackluster. I was originally going to pick Nakamura as Brain did, but WWE announced late Sunday that the winner gets the chance to face a champion from either brand at WrestleMania, which makes me think Balor really has a chance. I'm going to stick to my guns, however. Pick: Nakamura wins

CBS Sports Staff

Adam Silverstein joined CBS Sports in 2014 as college football and golf editor. He also helps lead pro wrestling, boxing and mixed martial arts coverage. Adam still maintains that Tim Tebow could have... Full Bio

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