The WWE doesn’t lend itself well to gambling. Matches are extensions of stories and when you think of it more like scripted entertainment than a sporting event, betting doesn’t make a lot of sense.
The lone exception is the Royal Rumble.
WWE fans love betting on the Royal Rumble because even though only a handful of the 30 competitors have a realistic chance to win, by definition, it’s still the most unpredictable match of the year. And it just so happens to be the one with the highest stakes: a championship match at Wrestlemania.
Royal Rumble pools are fun if you have a watch party. Drawing numbers out of a hat and rooting for your numbers adds something extra. But the best action is looking at the odds online.
Last year’s odds were quite telling. The week before the event, there was still legitimate speculation as to who might win. Then, all of a sudden, Randy Orton became the favorite. Someone got inside information and the odds completely shifted in the Viper’s favor.
This year’s odds are telling as well.
Oddschecker.com, which aggregates betting lines across several different sites, has Shinsuke Nakamura as the favorite as many believe that the WWE will pull the trigger on Nakamura’s true championship push at the top of the card with either AJ Styles or Kevin Owens (and Sami Zayn?) set to put on an incredible match at Wrestlemania.
Roman Reigns’ odds shot up after he lost the Intercontinental Championship at Raw 25 as many believe that a(nother) Royal Rumble win will finally put in motion what the WWE has been setting up for the past year: a championship match against Brock Lesnar in the main event of Wrestlemania.
And then there’s the guy that’s No. 3 on the list, going off at 4:1 to win it all: Daniel Bryan.
Ever since Daniel Bryan retired in early February of 2016, I’ve refused to let myself hope that he’d ever come back in any capacity, whether it be with the WWE or on the independent circuit. If you were a true fan of Bryan’s you didn’t want to see it either, the biggest reason being the multiple concussions he suffered.
Not only did he suffer concussions, he was having post-concussion seizures. And the more you got to know Bryan, with his wife Brie and his new daughter Birdie, you wanted him to get out of working in the ring so that he could live a full happy life and grow old with his family rather than being someone whose brain deteriorated so much that he would lose everything mentally long before he was done physically.
Lately, there’s been hope for Bryan. He says that he’s been cleared by his doctors and independent doctors to return to in-ring (whether there would be any limitations upon his return is a mystery). He’s been adamant about how the only doctors that won’t clear Bryan to return are WWE doctors. Even then, they may be taking their orders from WWE CEO Vince McMahon, who may not want a preventable tragedy involving Bryan to happen on his watch.
Bryan’s also been overtly public about the fact that his contract with WWE ends in September of this year. Now, this is an independent contractor agreement that he or the company can end at any time without penalty. But Bryan is likely making a lot of money to NOT wrestle and to be an on-camera presence in the company. So it could be that Bryan wants to ride this lucrative deal out and plan ahead before returning to the ring.
In any case, it’s likely put up or shut up time for WWE if they’re ever going to pull the trigger on Bryan’s in-ring return.
If he can’t be part of the WWE’s plans for Wrestlemania this year, then he likely doesn’t want to be part of the company’s plans afterward with the end of his contract so close.
He can work a lighter schedule, make a ton of money, and be more in control of his career and time with his family.
But if one of those Royal Rumble countdowns hits zero and Daniel Bryan’s music starts playing, you can bet the reaction will be one of the most intense in WWE history.
Whether WWE wants to be a part of that moment? We’ll find out on Sunday.