CM Punk after a hellacious promo on Smackdown, where he declared his desire to main event WrestleMania for the first time (Picture: WWE)

The biggest Royal Rumble in years is right around the corner, with the unpredictable battle royals featuring jam-packed storylines and Roman’s reign as Undisputed Universal Champion under the most pressure it has ever been in.

WWE Royal Rumble will stream live on BINGE this Sunday at 12pm AEDT from Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida and kickstarts the road to WrestleMania 40.

CM Punk will compete in his first televised match since returning to WWE, looming as one of the favourites to win the men’s Royal Rumble and main event WrestleMania for the first time in his career. Cody Rhodes is also aiming to go back-to-back in his quest to finish the story, while Becky Lynch and Bayley are the two frontrunners to win the women’s Royal Rumble.

Below is The Inner Sanctum‘s preview and predictions for this Sunday’s Premium Live Event.

Biggest certainty: Logan Paul retains the United States Championship

After capturing the United States Championship last November, Logan Paul will embark on his first title defence this Sunday against Kevin Owens.

The Prizefighter earned his opportunity by emerging victorious in a tournament, running through Austin Theory, Carmelo Hayes and then Santos Escobar in the final. However, he competed in his last two matches with a cast on his arm and it has been a focal point of his rivalry with the Maverick.

Owens knocked out Paul with the cast after his win against Escobar and gave his Royal Rumble opponent a black eye, but vowed to remove his cast for their match. The United States Champion got his revenge two weeks later on the January 20 edition of Smackdown, also admitting the embarrassment he felt for receiving a stunner from the Prizefighter at his first WrestleMania.

While the challenger will put up a fight like he always does, Paul is certain to retain his title and it could be due to some shenanigans. The Maverick will then walk into Elimination Chamber: Perth as United States Champion, where he may find himself defending the gold in an Elimination Chamber match.

Surprise prediction: The Rock confronts Roman Reigns

Roman Reigns is set to defend his Undisputed Universal Championship in a fatal four-way match against Randy Orton, LA Knight and AJ Styles at the Royal Rumble. However, the Tribal Chief may also have to start focusing on the man who called him out on the Day 1 edition of Raw; his cousin and the Great One, The Rock.

It sent the entire wrestling world into a frenzy and a much-anticipated dream match between two of WWE’s biggest names seems imminent. If it is going to take place at Elimination Chamber: Perth or WrestleMania 40, the Royal Rumble would be the perfect setting to get the ball rolling after Reigns presumably retains his championship.

If the fatal four-way closes the show over a Royal Rumble match, it would be almost guaranteed The Rock would appear and come face-to-face with the Tribal Chief. A clash at WrestleMania 41 is also possible, with the Great One appearing on ESPN‘s First Take after joining TKO’s Board of Directors and saying he is a, “long gamer” and, “loves the build” regarding a match against Reigns.

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Match of the night: Men’s Royal Rumble match

It is the most unpredictable men’s Royal Rumble match in years, and with an abundance of storylines between certain superstars and the star power that will be showcased, the battle royal is destined to be match of the night.

Particularly on the Monday Night Raw side is where you will find these captivating stories, involving Cody Rhodes, CM Punk, Gunther and Drew McIntyre. The American Nightmare is once again focused on finishing his story, the Best in the World is desperate for his WrestleMania main event, the Ring General wants to go a step ahead from last year and the Scottish Warrior feels his legacy is on the line.

The promos leading up to the Royal Rumble consisting of these four superstars has given the 30-man battle royal so much more meaning and unlike previous years, a minimal amount of entrants have declared and it has further increased the element of surprise.

What must happen: CM Punk and Liv Morgan win their respective Royal Rumble matches

CM Punk has taken WWE and the wrestling industry by storm since returning at Survivor Series, vowing to finally main event WrestleMania for the first time. It is an accomplishment that has alluded him his whole career and a key reason why he was frustrated with his WWE run a decade ago, as he should finally achieve it by winning the men’s Royal Rumble match.

His opponent would hopefully be Seth Rollins and while the Visionary is under an injury cloud, he said he would do everything in his power to make WrestleMania and told ESPN MMA’s DC & RC that he hopes to be back at full strength in a month. A match between the two has been teased since Punk’s return and would be the rightful Night 1 main event, which both superstars thoroughly deserve; provided Rollins is cleared.

Cody Rhodes is also another option to win the men’s Royal Rumble, but may not end up facing Roman Reigns again depending on The Rock. Gunther is a wildcard and was arguably the favourite before Punk returned, but he is still Intercontinental Champion and a collision course with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania is the preferred scenario fans want.

On the other hand, Liv Morgan should win the women’s Royal Rumble match. She has been dealing with injury for the past several months, but should make her return during the battle royal and be the last one standing.

It would compensate for last year’s narrow loss and her story with Rhea Ripley is so rich, as she should face the Eradicator at WrestleMania for the Women’s World Title. The two were tag team partners before Ripley betrayed Morgan to join The Judgment Day, Ripley eliminated Morgan to win the 2023 women’s Royal Rumble and Ripley also wrote Morgan off television last July.

The other two strong candidates to win the women’s Royal Rumble are Becky Lynch and Bayley, with either scenario more likely to happen than Morgan. The Man teased a WrestleMania match against Ripley on the January 16 edition of Raw, while the Role Model has an intriguing storyline unfolding with Damage CTRL that may see her disband from the group and face IYO SKY at WrestleMania.

However, Asuka or Kairi Sane can also eliminate their leader from the battle royal and that can instead be the catalyst for Bayley to depart the very faction she created and challenge the Genius of the Sky.

And a surprise entrant for both Royal Rumble matches…

It has been a long time coming for Bron Breakker to debut on Raw or Smackdown, but the former NXT Champion should be a surprise entrant in the men’s Royal Rumble and give main roster fans a glimpse of WWE’s future.

He should then finally receive his long-awaited promotion after WrestleMania, currently still on NXT and competing in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic alongside Baron Corbin.

Meanwhile, Jade Cargill has been signed with WWE since last September and has not had her first match yet. While it is unclear which brand she will be assigned to, the former AEW TBS Champion could be primed for a surprise Royal Rumble debut and tease potential rivalries.

Pictures: WWE/AEW

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