A lapsed fan's guide to the 2022 Royal Rumble: Will Ronda Rousey return?

The moments that have made the Royal Rumble a legendary event (3:29)

Check out some of the best moments from the Royal Rumble over the years, including Vince McMahon's victory and John Cena's 2008 return to the ring. (3:29)

As a service to fans who have a general interest in WWE but might not have watched a match since Survivor Series in November, or even WrestleMania 37, you're in luck. We're happy to provide this FAQ as a guide to Royal Rumble 2022, scheduled for Saturday night at The Dome at America's Center in St. Louis.

And even if you're a regular WWE viewer, this guide to the Royal Rumble should serve as a valuable refresher -- or at least a lighthearted break in the action.

Why is it that no matter how I'm feeling about the current WWE product, I watch the Royal Rumble without a second of hesitation?

I've meditated on this myself, and have come up with four primary reasons that explain why the Royal Rumble's appeal is unassailable.

1: Structure. The late WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson designed the Royal Rumble match with a simple concept: Take a battle royal and unclutter the ring by having 30 participants arrive in the match at timed intervals instead of all at once. It made the action coherent, but more importantly it added layers of mystery. You didn't know who was in the match or when they were going to enter the fray.

Wrestling is at its best when it surprises us. The very foundation of the Rumble is the unpredictability in the journey, if not always in the destination.

2: Music. Wrestling fans have a Pavlovian response to entrance music. This is well-established. The Royal Rumble is the WWE's greatest symphony, as each new entrant is signaled by their music hitting. The WWE put out a "10 greatest Royal Rumble surprises" countdown. Every time, the crowd goes apoplectic right as the countdown hits zero and the first chords of their theme songs float from arena speakers.

Then there are those times when the music hits and it's unfamiliar, briefly bewildering the crowd before the roar grows even larger. See: The A.J. Styles pop in 2016, when he made his WWE debut in the Rumble.

3: Means of Victory. Watch enough wrestling, and the rhythms of a match slowly reveal themselves. How likely it'll be to end with a pin or a submission or a DQ. More importantly, when it will end. But the Rumble offers a unique means of defeating your opponent -- tossing them over the top rope and having both of their feet hit the floor -- and that breaks up that rhythm. Plus, it gives acrobatically gifted wrestlers like Kofi Kingston a chance to defy gravity with creative spots we haven't seen before.

4: Storylines within the storyline. The Rumble match has a linear story: Everyone is competing for the chance to challenge for a title at WrestleMania. It's basically the NFL conference-championship round of wrestling. But within that main story, there's the chance to tell so many others. It's like watching a Coen Brothers movie: You want to see how the main narrative turns out, but the joy is in the vignettes we experience along the way.

In the Rumble, we watch personal beefs between the participants play out during the action, either within current storylines or based on shared history. And beyond the world title shots, some of the best WrestleMania moments in history have been set up by moments that happened in the midst of the chaos of a Royal Rumble match.

There are also stories and characters that can be elevated by the match itself, like when there's an early entrant who goes on an "iron man" run or, in this edition of the men's Royal Rumble, how far Johnny Knoxville advances.

Or how far he gets thrown when eliminated.

Johnny Knoxville? As in "Jackass" legend Johnny Knoxville?

One and the same. Knoxville used social media to declare his intention to enter the Rumble, and then appeared on SmackDown to promote the release of his new movie "Jackass Forever" next month. Sami Zayn took exception to a non-wrestler claiming he could compete in the Rumble. Knoxville ambushed Zayn after a match, dumped him over the top rope and, in a heretofore unknown WWE bylaw, qualified for the Rumble in the process. He would throw him over the top again a few shows later after electrocuting Zayn with a cattle prod, in what we assume is both a tribute to "Jackass" and The Mountie.

Is Johnny Knoxville going to win the men's Royal Rumble?

Of course not. But if he turns to the camera before he hits the ring and says, "Hi, I'm Johnny Knoxville and this is the Royal Rumble," then it will have all been worth it.

OK, so who is going to win the men's Royal Rumble?

There are some former winners like Sheamus, Rey Mysterio and Randy Orton, although Orton's ensconced in an entertaining tag-team feud with partner Riddle (together "RK-Bro") against Raw tag team champions Chad Gable and Otis (together "Alpha Academy"). It's a goofy rivalry that has involved scooter attacks and a live spelling bee, and it has been one of the WWE's more consistent sources of fun. Mostly because Orton seems to be having the time of his life.

Keeping in mind we don't know all the participants in the Rumble -- remember, surprises are part of the fun -- the other top contenders are recent WWE champion Big E, Kevin Owens and AJ Styles, who most certainly will interact with former tag-team partner Omos. But it might surprise you to know that the favorite might well be Brock Lesnar.

To catch you up on Lesnar: He returned at SummerSlam with a beard and a ponytail, has been wearing more flannel than Raven and recently rocked a cowboy hat to the ring. Then, on the same day he was added to a multiway WWE championship match at WWE's "Day 1" event on Jan. 1, he won the title and threw two shows into chaos. It's been a blast.

Why would Brock need to be in the Rumble? Doesn't he have a title?

Some WWE fans would dream cast a scenario that would have "the reigning, defending, undisputed heavyweight champion of the world" Lesnar winning the Rumble and then challenging Universal champion Roman Reigns in a title unification match at WrestleMania, which would certainly spice up a matchup we've seen once or twice or several times before. The more likely scenario for Lesnar winning the Rumble would be a loss earlier in the night to title challenger Bobby Lashley, necessitating his entrance in the Rumble itself to earn a title shot at 'Mania.

So Lesnar wrestles Lashley. Who is Reigns defending against?

Seth "Freakin'" Rollins. The buildup to this match has focused on their shared history in The Shield, to the point that Rollins evoked the name of AEW star Jon Moxley in a promo. (The "Forbidden Door" apparently being Rollins' mouth.) The big news here is that Reigns' usual insurance policy -- his cousins, The Usos, who are SmackDown tag team champions -- have been banned from ringside. Rollins secured that stipulation by winning a tag match with Owens against the Usos ... because Reigns attacked Rollins as he was lining up for his signature finishing move, the stomp -- causing a disqualification and the Usos' banishment. Which doesn't really seem like a smart tactical decision, but who are we to question "The Head of the Table?"

Who is Raw women's champion Becky Lynch wrestling?

Placeholder ... wait, that should read "Doudrop." Lynch orchestrated this match by interfering in a No. 1 contender triple threat match that featured Doudrop against Bianca Belair and Liv Morgan, who are both participants in the women's Royal Rumble for a chance to advance to WrestleMania and face "not Doudrop." Because of course Lynch is winning here.

Who could win the women's Rumble?

Belair is the speculative favorite, but as usual all bets are off when Charlotte Flair is involved. The SmackDown women's champion entered the Rumble so she could choose her WrestleMania opponent if she wins the Rumble for a second time, like she did in 2020. There's precedent on the men's side, as Lesnar entered the 2020 men's Rumble as champion, as did Reigns, whose title was actually on the line in 2016. But we digress.

The rest of the women's Rumble field is a collection of current contenders and legacy stars like Lita, Michelle McCool and -- rather surprisingly -- Mickie James. Not only is she the current Impact Wrestling Knockouts Champion, and acknowledged as such on WWE television, it comes one year after she was unceremoniously let go last year and had her effects mailed to her in a literal garbage bag.

As usual, it's the competitors that we don't yet know who could have the largest impact. One in particular: Ronda Rousey, last seen in the main event of WrestleMania 35, when Lynch won both the Raw and SmackDown women's titles in a triple-threat match against Rousey and Flair. Since then, Rousey gave birth to her daughter, La'akea, in September 2021. There has been a growing buzz around rumors that WWE has been in talks with Rousey about a return, and a match at WrestleMania 38. Winning this match would be Rousey's ticket to that event.

We've previewed the Royal Rumble and haven't mentioned last year's winner on the men's side yet. Where is Edge?

He's competing in that classic wrestling trope, the mixed-gender tag team match: Edge and Beth Phoenix, both of whom are already WWE Hall of Famers, vs. The Miz and Maryse, in a battle of real-life married couples that have all held world titles in WWE.

Speaking of classic wrestling tropes, they've managed to cram both an interrupted in-ring wedding ceremony and an interrupted in-ring birthday celebration into this feud. Edge objected to the renewal of vows for The Miz and Maryse, harkening back to his old gimmick as a swank vampire and giving them a "Brood bath" of not-blood. (What do you think this is, the Attitude Era?) Edge and Beth later interrupted Maryse's birthday party, culminating in one of Miz's security guard henchmen getting power-bombed through a cake. Also, Maryse hit Beth in the head with a brick.

Was this an effective build?

Let me put it this way: I've never wanted to see two people lose a match more than I want to see The Miz and Maryse humiliated here. Although that could be residual angst from having watched The Miz mugging on "Dancing With The Stars."

OK, bold predictions for the Royal Rumbles?

Rousey returns and wins the women's Rumble to set up the biggest money match Lynch could ask for at WrestleMania 38. Belair eliminates Flair mid-match to set up their 'Mania showdown. Rollins upsets Reigns for the Universal title, ending Reigns' 500-plus-day run as champion, while Lesnar successfully defends against Lashley. Reigns wins the Rumble for the first time since 2015, setting up two interesting possibilities at WrestleMania, against either Lesnar or Rollins. Or maybe ... both, harkening back to one of the most memorable moments in WWE history at WrestleMania 31?

Enjoy the Pavlovian joy that is the Royal Rumble, everyone.