Nakamura's time coming? Bold Royal Rumble predictions sure to go wrong

Shinsuke Nakamura will finally have his big moment at the Royal Rumble, setting up a massive clash with AJ Styles at WrestleMania. Nick Laham for ESPN

When Survivor Series went off the air, we were left with the site of a confused Braun Strowman taking his anger out on Triple H.

While RAW teammates, Strowman did not much care for the games Triple H had played at the conclusion of the match. He turned on teammate Kurt Angle, an ostensible swerve that made us think he was siding with SmackDown's Shane McMahon, before ultimately taking out his brother-in-law with a pedigree.

Yeah, it was a whirlwind, but the outcome opened up a lot of possibilities as the 2017 comes to a close and the Royal Rumble nears.

So what should we expect at the Wells Fargo Center when 30 men compete for an automatic shot at the WWE or Universal championship?

Our intrepid staff makes some predictions:

Setting up Styles-Nakamura

The last time the Royal Rumble was in Philadelphia, Roman Reigns won, and the entire building full of fans nearly melted down. If we are getting Reigns versus Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania, it would make a lot more sense to make whomever is going to challenge for the WWE championship the winner, and not repeat history.

In terms of who could do it, if AJ Styles is still holding the title heading into New Orleans. Now is the time to make Styles versus Shinsuke Nakamura happen. -- Tim Fiorvanti

Did we mention Nakamura?

All right, people, bear with me here. Elimination Chamber in February is a Raw PPV, and Brock Lesnar is probably not doing the chamber match. If the Elimination Chamber is for the Universal title match against Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania, then the Royal Rumble winner should go to Smackdown, right? And that's why I'm picking Nakamura.

WWE has kept Nakamura looking strong, including a standout performance in the Survivor Series elimination match. And his road to WrestleMania, where most likely WWE champion Styles will be waiting, is the biggest match Smackdown has to offer. -- Sachin Chandan

Watch out for big, bad Braun

This year's Royal Rumble match will become a playground for the Monster Among Men -- Braun Strowman. He will truly be let loose, breaking the single-match elimination record (currently held by Roman Reigns with 12) and emerging victorious. In the main event, Reigns will beat Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship, and a massive triple threat match between the three behemoths will be made for WrestleMania.

Adding Strowman should appease the fans who have been lamenting the long-rumored Lesnar-Reigns singles match. Strowman will continue his path of destruction on his way to winning the Universal championship. -- Nicholas Irving

Braun will dominate, but not in the Rumble match

Whether he wins or is eliminated by 25 men, I see the 2018 Royal Rumble as another opportunity for Braun Strowman to stand out. He was the lone man standing at the end of Survivor Series, and now he looks like he'll be a player in the Triple H-Kurt Angle feud.

Where once it seemed like Roman Reigns was the one and only choice to face Brock Lesnar for the Universal championship at WrestleMania, now that future is cloudier. But I think it's more likely that Strowman will get a premier win over Triple H at one of the biggest events of the year. -- Matt Willis

Jordan to show true colors

When Jason Jordan was expelled from the RAW Survivor Series team by way of a pedigree from Triple H, many predicted he'd play a role in the outcome of the five-on-five men's elimination match Sunday. That didn't happen.

That won't be the case at the Royal Rumble. I predict that despite Jordan's apparent conflict with Triple H, the whole dispute is a facade. Look for Jordan to join forces with the authority figures and set up a rivalry with his storyline father, Kurt Angle. Perhaps it's revealed that Angle wasn't his father to begin with and the whole scenario was a setup by Triple H and Stephanie McMahon to drive Angle out of his general manager role. Oh, the possibilities. -- Sean Coyle

Charlotte will regain her women's SmackDown title

Well, this means she has to lose it in the first place, no? That'll happen before 2017 comes to a close. Whether it happens at Clash of Champions or before is unknown, but somehow, some way, Carmella will finally cash in. We've predicted ad nausea when and how she will do it, but so far, crickets when the opportunity presents itself.

Charlotte will need her title back heading into WrestleMania, where someone more intriguing will be waiting. Ronda Rousey, perhaps? Or maybe to a lesser extend Nikka Bella. Nonetheless, it's going to be Charlotte against Carmella at the Rumble. Book it. -- Matt Wilansky

Mysterio will return

Rey Mysterio hasn't appeared on WWE television since April of 2014. Royal Rumble 2018 will change that.

Mysterio's last Rumble appearance didn't go so well. He infamously entered 2014's match at No. 30 when the entire crowd wanted Daniel Bryan to come out instead. You can expect the exact opposite reaction if he shows up at next year's event.

It's no secret Mysterio is currently a free agent. Lucha Underground just recently finished airing its third season and announced a fourth, but there's no word yet on whether Mysterio is scheduled to appear in future seasons. WWE could use a proven name to bolster its lackluster cruiserweight division (especially if Neville doesn't return).

Mysterio has said his current regimen has been reduced by about 75 percent compared to his WWE schedule, which is no small matter for a 40-plus-year-old with multiple knee surgeries. Still, even in a smaller role, Mysterio can make a huge difference. -- Michael Wonsover

It's time for a women's Royal Rumble

This is far from a unique idea, but I think it's the right time.

The evolution of the women's division in the WWE continues and while main eventing WrestleMania may be the ultimate goal for those on the roster, it's time to cross another huge idea off the list.

2018 should be the year of the first women's Royal Rumble. The roster is completely stacked with talent - both on the main roster and in NXT - and a 20-25 woman effort should be easy to bring together. The best part of the puzzle here would be the ability for the winner to choose her opponent at WrestleMania.

Oh, and Asuka should win. -- Andrew Feldman